STAFF NEWS & ANALYSIS
A Communist Utopia (Funded By Capitalism)
By Joe Jarvis - October 23, 2017

When is a commune not a commune? When it only exists because of capitalism.

But that doesn’t stop it from having just enough communist ideals to make it a very restrictive place to live.

Twin Oaks is an “intentional community” in Virginia. It is one of the oldest successful communes in America because it’s not really a commune. They manufacture hammocks that sell for up to $100 each, and make tofu for Whole Foods.

They have a sales and marketing manager who oversees each business. And they provide extra incentives to do the work no one else wants to do.

One member actually expressed concern that Amazon plans to drop Whole Foods’ prices.

“Well, then we can’t sell our tofu for as much,” he said.

Maybe the Whole Foods workers should seize their means of production to stop the exploitation.

I was all set to tear apart Vice’s piece on this little commune. But I ended up just giggling. Vice correctly pointed out that it isn’t really a commune if it is funded by capitalism. The people who live there have stepped out of a typical “capitalist structure” for their lives. But they were only able to live their alternative lifestyle because they do so in a capitalist world.

And the same member admits that capitalist ideas have won. He acknowledges that capitalism is required for their commune to exist. So it seems a little funny that they know a market system is required for their livelihood, yet they employ a communist style of internal governance.

That means 100% taxation and no individual control over how the products of your labor are spent.

But as much as they don’t want to admit it, there is still a hierarchy of sorts. They give extra to those who work extra. They have managers to oversee the businesses. And they have two types of members: provisional, and full.

In the philosophy of a commune, it might make sense for the workers to take home little to no pay, and forfeit control of their property. But consider that the “commune” brings in $600,000 per year in profits.

Members don’t pay to get into the community, and they don’t get anything when they leave. This means it is hard to see a member’s time there as an investment in the future unless their future is at Twin Oaks.

Like a typical factory job of the proletariat, they are unable to amass capital and stuck in their position.

They are required to work 40 hours per week. They have quotas to hit for work, with some extra incentives thrown in for extra hard workers. Producing more than your quota means you get to keep some of the product of your labor. Not exactly to each according to his need, from each according to his ability. But that is what is required to make their for-profit “commune” work.

So doesn’t that make it a business? It seems like members are basically typical proletariat workers, except that they don’t make any money. They forfeit total control over their lives and get to be taken care of by mother corporation.

And from a capitalist perspective, it makes perfect sense. If the company profits were broken down by person, it would $60,000 each. But you know their food, housing, health insurance, and other provisions aren’t costing the business anywhere close to that.

For a member, it seems like quite the hefty price to pay for the simple luxury of not having to worry about paying the bills on your own terms. Twin Oaks gets full-time workers for a fraction of what it costs most companies.

The Twin Oaks bylaws state:

You don’t pay to join. You don’t get anything when you leave. The Community supports you while you’re here. Twin Oaks Provides for its members on the basis of need or equality. Equality is a fundamental community value which informs the property code. We try to avoid displays of wealth which may give rise to envy. With the exceptions described below, we expect members not to use outside income or pre-existing assets during their membership in Twin Oaks.

So all you can take with you when you leave are the skills you gain. They do seem to teach some–relatively menial–skills. Also, if full members decide to move on, they get $50 from the leaving fund (which actually seems more insulting than getting nothing).

They don’t expect you to give them all your property upon arrival. But they do encourage lending your cars, large equipment, and even money to the community for the time of your stay. These will be returned when you leave, without interest.

They do require all “unearned income” be donated to the community.

Unearned income includes interest on bank accounts, dividends on stocks and bonds, income on investments, social security, disability payments, pensions, and child support for a child living at Twin Oaks. Unearned income is the property of the Community.

As such, they discourage anyone with much wealth from moving into the community.

And any spending you do while you live at the commune must be approved by other members.

Oh, and they also expel any “undesirables.” Failing to give your unearned income to the community would be a reason for expulsion to be considered.

Ironically, their website states there are “classes of membership.” As much as they claim to want to avoid hierarchy, they still have provisional members and full members. Basically, the community can vote anyone out. There are a few steps and procedures, and some suggested reasons for the oustings, but the process comes down to mob action.

They also aren’t exactly accepting of “pensioners” because they can’t work as hard, and therefore might sap more from the community than they give. The community does offer health insurance, so maybe that’s why they are a tad on the discriminatory side towards old folks.

So basically, it is not a commune, and it is not a free market. It is the worst of both worlds. An extremely restrictive community that makes money off their laborers. You give your labor, and “unearned income” to the community, and you get a place to live, food, and health insurance.

The central “government”–which in this case is a corporation–owns all the means of production, controls all the wealth of the citizens, and provides for all their needs.

In that sense it is technically a success, but only because they have a source of income from a non-communist outside world.

The big takeaway: communist “utopia” exists (if your idea of utopia is surrendering your freedom in exchange for a safety net). But only inside a capitalist world.

But hey, these people are doing it all voluntarily. If that’s the life they want, so be it. I can accept their commune because it doesn’t place any obligations on me.

A free market does not rule out the possibility of little separatist communities that behave much like communes. It’s just that they can only exist because of the larger capitalist structure of society.

The opposite is not true; you can’t have little capitalist break-outs in a communist world. In fact, you can’t even have communist communities in a communist world. You can just have starvation, oppression, and the entire collapse of productive society.

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  • Libertarian Jerry

    I have nothing against the above arrangement of a commune,or coop.or Kibutz or whatever you want to call groups of like minded people who share the same values and worldview. What I don’t like and will resist as much as possible is the worldviews of collectivists of all stripes who wish to ram their worldviews down my throat with legislation,laws and taxes and then go on to use the power of the state backed by guns to force me to accept and pay for their collectivist worldview and philosophy. I would rather go Galt.

    • Col. E. H. R. Green

      ” I would rather go Galt.”

      I have, and I have never looked back.

  • robt

    FDR and Eleanor’s catastrophe of Arthurdale West Virginia is instructive, whereupon in today’s money the equivalent of a half million dollars per ‘cottage’ was spent, eight times over ‘budget’ in the height of the Great Depression to create a commune to be the model for the rest of America, though it proved unsuitable for its intended purposes. Rather than self-sufficiency, all but one person in the project ended up as a government employee. But Eleanor still thought it was a great idea.
    https://mises.org/library/peculiar-history-arthurdale

  • john mcginnis

    Are our sensibilities that tender these days? Call this ‘commune’ what it is — Sharecroppers. Nothing in, nothing out and a lot of sweat in between. Only thing missing is 40acres and a mule.

  • RedFishBlueFish

    You didn’t cover the main mystery… Where does all the money go? To the single manager?

    • NobodysaysBOO

      democracy IS a PIRATE SHIP!
      guess who gets the treasure.
      jim Jones doe’s capitalism?

      or just the kabutz is showing.

  • Number 6

    They don’t like accepting old people, so what happens when you’ve worked all your life within the commune but then become too old to work ? are you just kicked out with no “savings” to support you in your old age. Or indeed if you decide the commune is against you and leave, with no savings from your years of toil you’ve got no choice but to stay or live on the streets, its nothing short of slavery albeit with the illusion of choice at the entrance.

    • Charles Barton

      … or if you’ve become disabled…

  • georgesilver

    I love the way you join Communism with Capitalism at the hip and make Capitalism sound like a dirty word. There is no true Capitalism only Corporatism.
    I really would like to know what the real aim of the Daily Bell propaganda is and how large the backing organisation is.

    • Number 6

      Thats not the way Im reading it, the way it sounds to me is here’s a communist commune which has no Free trade within it, but hypocritically cant survive without relying on the free trade outside of it. Its just demonstrating that communism cant survive without capitalism, in the same way the Soviet union couldn’t survive without Wall street and the government they controlled stealing money and technology from the capitalist system and giving it to the soviet union on the sly, where is the agenda in that point ? Its just common sense to anyone who understands basic economics.

      Would you be happier if the Daily Bell did an article on professor Antony Sutton: Wall street and the Bolshevik revolution” Showing the unholy alliance between communism and corporatism, because I’d like to see such an article too.

      There are a lot of shills around, but anyone who does an article on whether or not nuclear weapons exist, the gangs number one fear weapon for government and even world government, like the daily bell has done in the past is not one of them imo.

      • georgesilver

        I just want them to say who they really are and who backs them. I actually know but I want them to admit it. The idea they put across is that the Daily Bell is a little voice with innocent writers trying their best in a corrupt world to wave the flag of the ‘little man’. All complete nonsense as they are just another tentacle of a a huge propaganda machine that tries to control the narrative.

        • Number 6

          But it doesn’t help your cause when you say things like

          Quote “I love the way you join Communism with Capitalism at the hip and make Capitalism sound like a dirty word”

          When thats clearly not whats being said. There are a lot of shills out there who pretend to oppose the mainstream but don’t and they come in many different flavours, most are easy to spot because they promote the ultimate end goal namely communism, but obviously they want to control all sides, take Stephen Molyneux for example despite preaching Anarchco capitalism, he insists 9/11 happened exactly as government and the media said it did, clearly not what he purports to be. Other shills will say it was the deep state illuminati reptilian shape shifters the goal to make people who question government look deranged. But I dont see any of that here, An extremely well written Article about not letting people tell you who and what to believe no matter how emotionally charged the subject or how many people the mainstream claimed died, and do nuclear weapons really exist ? Being two notable examples. Most people here have their own opinions they don’t agree with everything they read, so if its propaganda to some end funded by who exactly, they are wasting their time.

      • JohnnysZone

        The writers who questioned nukes and other memes are not onboard of the Daily Bell anymore.

        • Number 6

          I cant see the author of the articles which questioned the nuclear narrative, it just says Daily Bell staff.

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