A Proposal for the Creation of a Confederation of Community Houses
This proposal has been inspired by my experiences with the Zapatistas and the Haudenosaunee. The Haudenosaunee Confederation is based on a clan system. The Clans are extended families which live together in the same area of a community. They meet and make decisions by consensus on matters involving the health, food supply and housing for the clan. On a broader scale the clans and nations within a Haudenosaunee community meet together in counsel and make decisions by consensus. I like to think of the community houses as clans and the proposed confederacy as a Haudenosaunee council with only some differences. The Zapatista influence comes from the way the Zapatistas preform the tasks of governance. The Zapatista government is run entirely by volunteers. The volunteers are organized to provide specific services for the community like providing health care or education etc. So I think we could do the same through working groups under the confederacy in a model that looks something like this:
Fig.1 Model of the Community House Confederacy Showing it's Structure
Membership: For the proposes of the confederacy I think community houses should be defined as any house that organizes by consensus and has four to twenty people. The reason for this is that I feel the confederacy should harbor a strong culture of consensus and I do not feel that a house of less than 4 could throughly fosters a culture that would hold the values for working towards a group decision that includes a diversity of perspectives. More than twenty members from a house would produce an imbalance within the confederacy towards the interest of that house and that house would likely not be working well by consensus. I also believe that membership to the confederacy should be restricted to people living in community houses. The reason again being that people who don't have consensus based lifestyles will likely not express a culture of consensus.
The culture of consensus I think is something important to mention. This is the culture that is nurtured by the Haudenosaunee Confederacy and it differs from the culture of liberal democracy, socialism and communism. There is no room for ideologies within a consensus based political process. Ideologies are too intellectual and restrain people from communicating from their heart as opposed to from their heads and the books they've read. Those who adapt a culture of consensus go through an ontological shift from basing their views on theory to basing their views on raw experience and sense. In this way the nature of the discourse within a consensus based forum changes from looking like a debate to looking like a community healing circle. That does not mean it will be all lovey dovey but that people express themselves openly, whether that be open rage, sadness, joy or happiness. The goals of consensus discourse also differs from other traditional discourses. The goal being to come to a workable agreement within the organization as opposed to achieving the triumph of our own ideas over those of others. For me personally I've been finding it hard to set aside my competitiveness and fully adapt the culture of consensus.
Another important attribute to consensus based organizations or any other for that mater is assumed trust. It is very difficult for me in Canada to trust the people I work with in radical organizations due to the fact that Canadian society is laden with spies and infiltrators of all sorts. However my time with the Haudenosaunee taught me that trust is the very matrix with binds an organization together and is especially important when it's consensus based. To avoid the mistrust which tares organizations apart and leads us to be reluctant to accept proposed solutions from people we are unsure about we must assume trust until solid evidence suggests otherwise. What is more destructive to our organizations and movements than spies is our own suspicions and paranoias. So having consensus involved in the spaces we live in builds a tangible trust between people and lays the foundation for a strong organization. This is another reason for the restricting membership to only people who live in community houses.
Political immaturity is another source of potential problems within the confederacy. I find many new arrivals to consensus based organizations are eager to wield their new found political empowerment. This usually expresses itself in people bringing personal issues and personality conflicts into the organization. Moreover, sometimes there are attempts to coop the organization for the personal causes of new comers. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but it can derail long running strategies of organizing that has been effective for the organization. The Haudenosaunee addresses this issue by having an adoption process which includes an education in the political processes of consensus as well as an education in the confederacy's traditions and protocols. I figure by restricting membership to individuals who live in community houses, the houses will provide that educational process and this will allow for the confederacy to operate smoothly. Then it will also be up to the houses themselves to decide on new members to the confederacy.
The Confederacy: The function of the confederacy as I'm proposing it would be to network people with similar interests then develop working groups around those interests. I am not sure whether any decisions would need to be made by the confederacy or if it could be just an open forum where people can propose ideas for working groups and find others interested in joining those working groups or for existing working groups to find resources the they might need. Ultimately the confederacy can provide the backing required for the creation and maintenance of a wide variety of collective projects.
The Working Groups: I envision the working groups working on a board variety of projects. Everything from guerrilla gardening and radical art to medical and educational projects. We could start a free university with discussion groups and courses on any subject matter of interest. We could have a medical clinic involving Mds as well as herbalists, nutritionist and reicky people. From these working group the emergence of specialized community houses could happen. With this we would maximize the utility of the spaces we control for radical projects and develop all the services we would expect from a anarchist government. We could even begin home production of a wide variety of products and collectivize the marketing for these products, in a home run store or website so that we could develop an autonomous economy that does not depend on capitalism. I believe these ambitions are within our means but would require regular active participation to carry them out. I see these projects being worthwhile and rewarding enough to provide the incentive for that regular participation.
Political continuity is an important goal for any organization. I could see the Community House Confederacy standing a good chance of lasting. One reason being is that it would be rooted in our daily lives and operate in the spaces we control. This would give our activism a new nature. Instead of reacting to a government that sets the political agenda we would become pro-active in forming our own institutions and providing our own services. Also, the working groups would meet and carry out projects in our own homes that way they would be more accessible and convenient, instead of organizing outside of our homes which makes staying in bed the day of meetings very tempting. Moreover, the community houses embeds political organizing into our lifestyles and the confederacy will hopefully deeper this phenomena. This confederacy makes more sense to me than the soviet soviets because it could fuse sites of residence with sites of political and economic activity to fully develop a complete living experience governed by consensus as is seen within the Haudenosaunee Confederacy and their confederacy has lasted almost a thousand years now. It has been preserved by a strong culture of consensus that makes living under domination an impossibility.