Chapter Six: HereNow Erewhon


      An increasing number of applicants for admission passed the screening and training procedures and possessed the skill set the group had agreed on. The cooperative members decided on Juanita Juarez as the next person to admit into provisional membership. With her addition, the group now included sixteen members.

      Jose Chavez had been one of the two members of the committee interviewing Juanita, and it had been evident that he was impressed with her. Juanita joined Nina Webb in the cooperative health clinic, setting up a hypnotherapy practice. At the weekly and special group meetings it became apparent that Juanita was more personally interested in Abraham Cole.

      Emily Blake had been attracted to Jose for some time, though he hadn't seemed to be much aware of it. Their continuing work together on real estate projects threw Emily and Jose together, and it wasn't long before they were seeing each other privately.

      As functions of the Cooperative Commonwealth Community (CCC) came on line, the group appointed each member to specific work assignments.


Cooperative Commonwealth Community - Work Assignments
Person Primary Assignment Secondary Assignment

Diotima Mason

Manager, Information Enterprises

Editor/publisher of Newspaper

Elbridge Henry

Overseer of Cooperative

Manager, Screening and Training

Julia Mercer

Manager, Educational Enterprises

Instructor/Teacher

Patrick Mercer

Manager, Computer Enterprises

Investment Expert System

Melissa Thompson

Manager, Accounting/Bookkeeping

Economics Specialist

Joel Thompson

Manager, Law Enforcement Enterprises

Intelligence Specialist

Elizabeth Collins

Manager, General Store

Local Politics

Fred Collins

Manager, Food Production

Associate Overseer and Local Politics

Nina Webb

Manager, Health Services (Clinic)

GP/Obstetrician/Gynecologist

Rick Webb

Manager, Telecommunication Enterprises

Radio/TV Anchor

Joan White

Manager, Legal Enterprises

Associate Overseer and Local Judge

Darby White

Manager, Cooperative Politics (Mayor)

Investment Expert System

Emily Blake

Manager, Real Estate Enterprises

Educational Enterprises

Jose Chavez

Manager, Service Enterprises

Automotive and Electronics Specialist

Abraham Cole

Manager, Maintenance Enterprises

Plumbing/Masonry Specialist

Juanita Juarez

Nurse/Practitioner

Alternative Health Care/Hypnosis


      At a general meeting of all Outlook members, they decided that the work-positions of Overseer, Manager, and Specialist were essential in the coordination and control of the overall operation of the community. In other words, the members had themselves decided on how to structure their work relations and would continue to make crucial decisions as the situation changed and new problems arose.

"We have tried to show that [commonwealth] is nothing other than people's conscious self-organization of their own lives in all domains; that it signifies, therefore, the management of production by the producers themselves on the scale of the workplace as well as on that of the economy as a whole; that it implies the abolition of every ruling apparatus separated from society; that it has to bring about a profound modification of technology and of the very meaning of work as people's primordial activity and, conjointly, an overthrow of all the values toward which capitalist society implicitly or explicitly is oriented." 1

      Of intense interest to the group was the report by Joan White and Elizabeth Collins on the development of a general store. Guy Francesco, the former town mafia honcho, had forced the Outlook Mayor and Town Council members to give a 30-year/no taxes deal to the area All-Mart store. Six months ago, Joan had filed a law suit on behalf of the Outlook Town Council against the fraudulent tax deal and a recent verdict rendered by the California State Supreme Court ruled that the no-tax deal was null and void.

      Over a month ago, All-Mart had announced that it would leave the area, so now, Joan and Elizabeth announced, all the cooperative had to do was wait until All-Mart left and then buy their old store site at pennies on the dollar. Emily had researched the situation from a real estate point of view and announced that she had watched the property go into bank repossession and was now recommending that CCC buy the property merely for back taxes of $100,000.

      The All-Mart building was almost brand-new, so it was an excellent site for the CCC general store. Group members agreed to buy the property and within a short time the CCC General Store was up and running, including an auto service department and a cafeteria. Many of the former All-Mart workers were rehired by CCC at much higher wages than All-Mart had paid.

      Before setting up the CCC General Store, Elizabeth and Joan had visited the food coop stores in Ashland, Oregon and Astoria, Oregon to learn as much as possible about cooperative sales and merchandising.


External Attack

      The notoriety of the All-Mart suit brought some unwelcome publicity for the cooperative and the group discussed what fallout there might be and how they would respond to it. The trouble appeared in an unexpected guise when Darby White, as mayor of Outlook, was summoned to appear before a state assembly investigating committee.

      From the start of the session it was clear that the area Assembly Representative, a Republican, had heard of CCC and would try to do what she could to attack the cooperative. She asked Darby if he was the head of a communistic cult and read off all the names of the cooperative members she'd been able to find. Fortunately, Joan had done a thorough job of making sure all the CCC legal papers were in order, so Darby could quite calmly answer the political hack's accusations with the facts.

      Joel Thompson had identified a person who clearly represented some agency trying to pry into CCC affairs. The man had applied for membership and been turned down because he not only possessed none of the requisite capabilities but asked inappropriate questions about CCC. He had shown up at the first presentation meeting and hurled verbal accusations at the group during the question and answer period. This same person showed up at the assembly investigating committee, testifying that he had tried to join the cooperative but had been illegally rejected on the basis of ideological bias. The Assembly committee found it difficult to understand what he meant by "ideological bias."

      Nothing immediately accrued from Darby's being summoned before the committee, but CCC members decided that they would begin forthwith to unseat the area State Assembly representative. They decided that Rick Webb should run for the position because he had training in public speaking and political campaigning. With some help from Fred's Sacramento FBI buddy, Joan White was able to unearth criminal connections the representative had had with Guy Francesco. During his campaign, Rick found that there was a great deal of animosity toward the incumbent representative, and when news of her illegal connections with Guy Francesco was exposed, Rick won the election by a landslide.

      At their next membership meeting, the group took up the issue of what kind of housing the CCC enterprise should have. "When we started the Outlook community, we found it necessary for us to move into any kind of housing available," Emily said, "but now that we're moving on to the next phase of our community development, we need to re-think what kind of housing fits with our general needs and principles."

      "Some of us," Jose stated, "might think exclusively in terms of living in separate houses, because that's what we've always seen as the 'American dream.' But as we've discussed before, a genuine community should involve complete sharing of our lives, including where we reside."

      "Since the group tasked Jose and me to research community housing," Emily continued, "we've examined how historic and contemporary communities selected their form of residence. It seems to us that a genuine community should reside in communal housing units. This allows for a maximum of sharing of our lives and avoids waste such as having separate recreational rooms, other areas, and appliances and equipment for each person or couple. We've found a highly suitable property just outside Outlook that we could make into our first communal housing complex. We need this amount of room, since for each one of us there are continually at least three others participating in apprenticeships or in training of some sort.

      "The site was formerly a private college and contains just the buildings we need for communal living: coop apartments, classrooms, assembly room, cafeteria and kitchen, indoor swimming pool, a gymnasium, and recreational rooms and lounges. The group sponsoring the private college went broke, so we can get this entire one hundred and thirty acre property at a very reduced rate."

      Diotima jumped into the discussion. "As with many of you, Elbridge and I have lived pretty much the hermit existence during our marriage. We've grown accustomed to living alone and don't appreciate rude intrusions or needless noises. But we realize that a real community must involve all of us living in shared housing units that allow for desired interaction as well as guaranteeing essential privacy. This group has discussed before that we don't want to live in barracks or dormitories, with, for example, public bathrooms and showers. So it's particularly serendipitous that Emily and Jose have found a facility with coop apartments in which we can retain essential privacy while residing with the community."

      "What's the need for communal living?" Joel Thompson asked. "Melissa and I prefer living by ourselves--we always have."

      "But we've also discussed the advantages of communal living," Melissa replied, looking about the group, "and if we're all going to be complete parts of this community, then it should involve our living together as well as working and making decisions together."

      "I can see some of the advantages Emily outlines," Joel said, "but I wonder if we aren't getting a little too close to the pattern of communes if we require that we all live together. What about the freedom to live where you want? What about people driving you insane because they're always around?"

      "Capitalists speak about the freedom for each of us to work for our own individual interest, Joel, to the utter disregard of any others," Abraham Cole stated. "Moving away from a capitalist way of life involves joining our lives in all ways that produce increased harmony and connective intelligence. We really can't be a genuine community and live separate lives in distant housing units. It doesn't mean that we all become cloyingly dependent on each other or drive each other insane with over-attention. But as I see it, if we're going to develop as a community, we'll need to live together in communal housing."

      "If we find we're getting on each others' nerves," Melissa continued, "then we'll have to solve that problem. I haven't found any persons in this community too dependent on others. I think we're not as close to each other at present as we could be because most of still live in separate houses or apartments. I agree with Abraham and the others, to become a real community we'll need to share a common residence."

      After extended discussion, the group agreed that they would look into the property Emily and Jose had found, and recommend in general that all cooperative commonwealth communities reside in communal housing. Persons owning private homes sold them through Emily and with the money realized, Emily was then able to purchase the property she had described. Within six months all members of the Outlook community were living at the new residence which they titled New Harmony.


New Harmony, Indiana, Founded: 1825




To Chapter Seven




Notes:

1 Cornelius Castoriadis, "On the Content of Socialism III," 1958