Sunday, February 05, 2006

Anarchy is Not Narcissists' Utopia

Anarchism is not Utopia for those suffering from chronic adolescence or Narcissistic Personality Disorder. Anarchy is not a vehicle for those lacking self-control, the vapid or the narcissistic that see it at the ultimate in me-ism.

Too many, including many who call themselves anarchists, understand anarchism as the ultimate realization of the American ideal of rugged individualism. Too many think that Anarchism means doing whatever one fancies to do no matter how tasteless or pointless it is, so long as it harms no one else - like acting like a pussycat or prancing around in red leotards on TV. No! Authentic anarchy means being free to act like a pussycat and prance around in red leotards on TV, but choosing not to absolutely freely, because there are better and more socially serving things that one can do with one's time and energy.

In reality, there is no such thing as doing whatever one wills without harming anyone if the actions taken are not society-serving, because the time spent acting like a pussycat or prancing around in red leotards is time that was not spent righting a wrong, feeding the indigent or giving succor to the infirm. The money spent on those shows was not disbursed to relieve suffering.

Anarchy is a non-state in which every individual is free to do as he or she wishes, but freely wishes to do that which is for the benefit of all insofar as she or he is able. It is bearing the brunt of social responsibility willingly, without having to be compelled to do so.

The ultimate freedom is being strong enough to take on the yoke of the welfare of others willingly, fully voluntarily and with joy without the need of any compulsion to do so.

Doreen Ellen Bell-Dotan, Tzfat, Israel

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Anarchy in Praxis – Getting off the Ground

It was asked of me on

"It's not clear from the material below what praxis you suggest for the achievement of an anarchic, that is, free society."

I responded:

In my opinion our first order of business is forming cooperatives. Cooperatives may be as simple as the food purchasing cooperative in my home town, Tzfat, Israel, that was formed by vegetarians who discovered that rather pricey organic whole wheat flour is considerably cheaper if bought in bulk, rather than by the kilogram, as it is sold in stores. Large sacks of the flour were purchase cooperatively and upon arrival each member of the cooperative took the amount of flour his or her family purchased home. I believe that they found it was worthwhile to purchase other foodstuffs in bulk as well.

When I was learning at Stony Brook University I belonged to a vegetarian co-op that also pooled its resources, purchased food and prepared it together. It was lovely and there should be more models of cooperatives on college campuses, even as there should be more in cities, towns, villages and farming communities.

I read in an American women's magazine some years ago about a few families who are good friends that came to the conclusion that pooling their resources for purchasing and preparing dinner would be cost effective, provide variety, decrease the work load of each family having to make dinner separately and would be just plain fun.

In all of the examples above we see the rudiments of cooperative living. They have not pooled all of their resources in every sphere of their lives, but are on the way to more sharing than Western society provides, greater independence and cost effectiveness. This can be a good way to start on the road to greater cooperative activity.

Let's move on to a model of a genuine collective. The model that I should like to proffer is that of Kibbutz Tamuz, which is an urban kibbutz in Beit Shemesh, Israel. Beit Shemesh is close to both Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. Thus, there are ample opportunities for the members to find work. My husband and I visited Kibbutz Tamuz when it was still a young kibbutz. I would say that was about fifteen years ago. We were then members of an established, traditional kibbutz. Traditional kibbutzim are not located in towns. They are individual settlements. A number of attempts to establish urban kibbutzim had failed. We heard that Tamuz was doing well and we wished to visit them. We were very pleasantly surprised. The then young members had purchased a small apartment building and, with the support of the Kibbutz Movement, renovated the building and were living communally, working in the environs and pooling their resources. Kibbutz Tamuz is still alive and well, I am delighted and proud to report. You can read more about them on this site: Go the small letters under the photos that says Kibbutz Tamuz…and press on the words Kibbutz Tamuz. You will be taken to the English part of the site. When some thirty-five people pool their resources they exert a great deal of economic power – more than would thirty-five individuals and their purchasing power is respected concomitantly.

When we were living on Kibbutz K'far HaChoresh, we experienced how the State and businesses related to the Kibbutz Movement. The Kibbutz Movement, as a whole, was worth many billions of shekels and when representatives of the Kibbutz Movement were sent as emissaries to the government to represent the interests of the kibbutzim or to purchase goods and services we were treated like billionaires by government representatives and businesses, including banks, alike. We, after all, were billionaires – collectively.

Each kibbutz belongs to one of the few kibbutz movements, each of which has slightly differently ideological thrusts. All of those movements, in turn, belong to the United Kibbutz Movement that is the liaison between the kibbutzim and the government. The United Kibbutz Movement does not govern the individual kibbutzim. It exists as the representative of the kibbutzim to others. The kibbutzim send representatives to their own movement and the kibbutz movements, in turn, to the United Kibbutz Movement.

The government of each individual kibbutz is the weekly General Meeting of members. Most of the deliberations of the General Meeting are open to all, but only members can vote and some sensitive and personal issues are decided among members only. Everything from the purchase of expensive machinery, to matters of how to raise children, to deliberating a member's request to go to university or learn to play an instrument, are decided at the General Meeting by the members. The kibbutz, run by the General Meeting, was as anarchic as ever a society was.

Unfortunately, when they came of marriageable age, many of the kibbutz children married people from outside of the kibbutz who could not care less about the ideology of the kibbutz and abused the wealth of the kibbutz, even as they undermined the anarchic communalism. I digress and write this because it is critical that this mistake not be made if the kibbutz movement is to be revived and succeed.

While outside of Israel there is no Kibbutz Movement to provide support to fledgling kibbutzim, be they rural or urban, it is entirely possible to begin kibbutz-like cooperatives. The Movement was successful in many ways. To this day there are kibbutzim that are thriving and living according to kibbutz ideals.

A great deal of research was carried out, and is being carried out, on the kibbutzim and anyone interested in learning about that model can easily avail himself or herself of the data. While research on the kibbutzim was carried out by all of Israel's universities, I would recommend the interested researcher in beginning with the following site: . Efal is the Study Center of the United Kibbutz Movement - TAKAM. That is where kibbutz members themselves study about the kibbutz. Yad Tebenkin is the Research and Documentation Center of the United Kibbutz Movement. A commune like a kibbutz is a comprehensive commune, involving every sphere of Human life and activity. In response to an inquiry as to the praxis that I would recommend, I would wholeheartedly recommend founding settlements similar to kibbutzim, adapted to your own societal and economic needs.

This article has been linked to:

Doreen Ellen Bell-Dotan, Tzfat, Israel