an introduction to the commune

By Joe Thorne

The Commune is a political project incorporating a newspaper, a series of pamphlets, and a series of open discussion forums.  It is a group organised round these activities; small at present, but growing.

We are feminist, anti-capitalist, internationalist; against the structure of this society, based as it is on mass powerlessness, overwork and war.  We are for change from below, through mass direct action, and a society where everything is held in common.  Based on a broad conception of the working class, including all those who are divorced from social power and rely on exploitative work, state income support, or debt, we say that the liberation of the working class is the task of the working class itself.

We are not a political party, nor the embryo of such a party.  We exercise no internal discipline; but instead promote the independent, critical, mutual development of all those interested in anti-capitalist ideas, movement history, and the challenges of the political present.  We are not interested in people for the ‘work’ they will do for ‘us’; and no ‘loyalty’ is due us beyond that justified by our contribution to the class struggle.  We are an open, pluralist group; each with our own interests and priorities – and we are beholden to no single tradition, whether Marxist or anarchist.

This paper is not the organ of a central committee, it promotes no secret agenda.  It is a cooperative effort, designed to disseminate news of struggles against capital, and promote an idea of communism which – in terms of its present method and final form – comes from below.  It is open to engagement from all who share our draft platform – which can be found on the ‘about us’ section of our website.

As activists, we are engaged in struggles at work, around housing, against war, against the myriad forms of social oppression.  But for us, militancy – whether at work or in the social movements – is not enough.  The ideas that people have are important because they determine their willingness to fight, and the methods they use to do so.  They are the final target of political activity, and therefore its passing trajectory.  The twentieth century shows us revolutions which did not replace capitalist society, but recomposed it.  Militants were beaten or co-opted – in some part, but for many other reasons – because their conceptions did not match their bravery.  Furthermore, communist politics – the dream of total, international, social liberation – can be a motive force in itself.

The Commune aims to offer an alternative voice on the left.  We are, however, committed to the real movement; we are not for abstention.  While we have no timeless loyalty to any of the traditional movement organisations, unions, parties or campaigns (and advocate alternate forms of struggle when appropriate), we want to contest our ideas as part of the movements as they are.

We do not produce our paper as a pale parody of the major left groups.    For us, it fulfils two positive political functions.  First, it compels us, as a group, to engage in a regular appraisal of the social and political changes of the present, and to find a way to express the significance of these events in a way that means something to participants, or potential participants, in such changes.

The modern mass media expresses in its assumptions and priorities the ideology of capitalist society.  It presents politics as a Punch & Judy show of elected officials, and the immense majority as passive spectators.  The second motivation for our paper, therefore, is to challenge that ideology – to act as, independent, anti-capitalist media.

Such a publication can only succeed if it has the active engagement of a layer of its readers.  That means, it can only succeed if people who value such a project are willing to support it by subscription, and by critical comment.  We are open to contributions; and anyone interested in contribution or distribution, on whatever scale, will be welcomed as an equal participant.  At present, we organise by email, phone, and quarterly national meetings.

We are not, and will never be, perfect: what we do is the best we can given the constraints of work, family and study, and the limits of our numbers.  We are interested in collaboration with all those interested in a critical communism – or socialism, if you prefer – from below.

This is a personal view from a member of the commune, it is not a formal position of the organisation.

8 thoughts on “an introduction to the commune

  1. It seems you are libertarian communists – me too.

    I am just confused by some lines in texts by you.

    Your description of the organization in the society around workplaces do not mention the multi layers of direct democracy (with accountable, recallable, rotated delegates), of world commune of grass root communities.

    It is not clear enough that after the revolution ALL able people will contribute work: will contribute according to ability and will get according to needs.

    I wonder what is your opinion on the system I describe in a scince fiction style of the year 2100 – 50 years after the revolution at: http://ilan.shalif.com/anarchy/glimpses/glimpses.html

    Ilan S.

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  2. We are not l’ibertarian communist’-some comrades may well describe themselves individually as such but we do not label ourselves in such a way as an organisation.

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  3. Hi Ilan, We don’t all define as libertarian communists, but several of us do.

    The above text is not really about communist society. There are several such texts on the site, by different people, which express different views. In my opinion, communist society will abolish work. For each to “contribute according to ability and will get according to needs” doesn’t sound that bad, but it could mean anything in practical terms.

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  4. I cannot see how communist society or any society can abolish work, that human labour. It will certainly abolish employment – wage slavery – but we will still need to enter into creative labouring activity, especially in its early phases. There is no doubt a more planned use of technology and organisation of production will vastly change the nature of our labour and time spent in certain activities.

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  5. Hello There
    When you say are opposed to the bosses do you mean you support Cooperatives?
    I feel the same way. Do think Workers should be paid the Same? I do.
    Jimmy

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  6. Hi Jimmy, we do oppose the bosses, but are not particularly for cooperatives: we are for the class struggle. Sometimes workers take over their workplaces, like Zanon in Argentina or Prisme in Dundee, which is cool when it happens. But this is no solution for most people. Cooperatives are not necessarily more radical or anti-capitalist.

    In The Bolsheviks Come to Power (1978, 259), Rabinowitch recounts that in the Preparliament session on October 24th, 1917 the cooperative organisations “pledged full support to the government in the adoption of decisive steps to suppress the revolt in the capital”. The famous Mondragon co-op in Spain has actually acted aggressively as a boss against striking workers in factories it owns outside Spain.

    This said, under communism (no market, no state), there would be “workers self management” in the sense of fundamental autonomy at the base of production.

    There is more debate on cooperatives here: http://libcom.org/library/participatory-society-or-libertarian-communism

    Equality as a demand is understandable, but it is both impossible under capitalism, and not the only problem. Much work is pointless and alienating. For example: https://thecommune.wordpress.com/2010/08/18/a-zero-hours-contract-for-thousands-and-thousands-of-hours/ Why not think beyond equal wages, to equal power, and hence to the abolition of class society?

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