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Utopia in Berlin?: The Village Project’s Creative Attempt to Create an Anarchist Community amidst Barbaric Western Society by Jonathan Vogel

May 10, 2011

Berlin-Kreuzberg, Germany — On one damp, cold spring afternoon, about forty or so locals meet in Marienenplatz to discuss the creation of a commune in Berlin. Mariennenplatz is located in Kreuzberg quarter of Berlin, a part of the city that stands out for being working-class and multi-culturaland the stage of radical political movements.1 At about 15:30 plates of pesticide-free vegan cooked food is laid on the nearby table, signaling a small meal break before meeting could proceed.

Known as the Dorfprojekte, literally- “the village project,” this project consists of about forty Berlin-natives who make up a loose association of “systemkritisch” people, or in other words, people who are critical of the current socio-political-economic system and seek an immediate alternative. The idea for the project originated in 2007, when a group of Berliners decided to put their personal thoughts onto paper. And so emerged the difficult-to-translate, 2007Institute for a Re-purposed Utopia.

Expressed in its own words, the groups’ goals are to, “..have life’s basics things shared, cooperatively operated and economically produced... [and] create an all-accomplishing society that lives from the idea of many interdependent human beings.”

Such a society sounds like what an anarchist society strives to be— in fact, that is exactly the group’s intent. Under a category entitled “radically ecology,” the groups observes, “ since we see ourselves as a part of an ecological-anarchist movement, we want to try out a climate-neutral way of living, which means that energy-guzzling products that have already been produced will be recycled.”

The project also strives to be promote resistance, as is apparent from its “resistance-platform” description that includes “direct-action storage facilities” and a “project office” to store signs, food-containers, books and first-aid kits.

But perhaps what is the most fascinating is its observations on what it refers to as “self-organized production, and non-commercial usage of land” An interesting principle to be tested is that of “need and non-need based production.”

…[T]he idea behind this is to construct working places that are open to the public and serve not only our needs but also are able to meet the needs of many other human beings…the idea that Man [sic] should not only produce things for himself, but rather for beyond his own needs. In this way, products could be used by others for whom the creation of such products is either not possible or not desired.

In order to guard against the re-occurring Rousseuan phenomenon of land once common becoming privatized,2 “public gardens, corners and forests would exist..with which it could be possible to guarantee that the usage of land would be free from market-forces and room for real, ecological methods of subsistence.”

To subsist might require co-operation with commercial industries, but the pioneers have hope that this will help to strengthen and ensure the subsistence of the village project. In exchange, goods on a “piece-for-piece” basis could be offered, and in this way,

wage-labor would be rendered superfluous, since one would receive everything without a charge and at the same time a self-organized work in opposition to wage-labor could be successfully put into practice.

At this point, one might be wondering what kinds of products the village will produce? And the proposals are, as one would expect, quite satisfying. The Primary production would consist,

of “a garden development, tree school…animal housing, perma-culture area; a textile workshop for working with the raw-fibers, wood shop, healing-product shop, Herb shop, soap shop, paper and printing work shop, bakery, tofu-kitchen, a kitchen for producing beer, wines, oils and other organic food and drink.


Not unaware of the challenges to this alternative community, the members of the Dorfprojekt anticipate the difficulty of how one can reconcile the “outer” and “inner”-ness of this new society
The group insists that,

contact and cooperation with Berlin co-ops, communes and house projects are encouraged…and miscellaneous stations, work sites, communal lands and other spaces should enable a multi-faceted trade and exchange of means of living and other products.” And that in the future, “more houses (at least four) should be offered near Berlin with arable flat-land.”

Autonomous communities have a long, but unfortunately marginalized-presence in the dominant re-tellings of history. In Spain during the first half of the 20th century, workers apart of the Confederación Nacional de Trajabo organized anarchist societies based on mutual aid and self-management, although the late-stage disputed-subsumption3 of this movement with the liberal-reformist government at the time and crushing defeat at the hands of General Franco of Spain overshadowed this community’s presence leading to its marginally located position in today’s discourses. Going back as far as 18th century France during the early stages of the French revolution, over forty “sects” emerged—which were autonomous, self-managing divisions of Paris that made decisions over local matters and even of national matters such as those relating to war and peace.4 Other self-managed societies that do not receive the amount of attention that they deserve are the Spanish Mondragon association (est. 1951), the Zapatista Movement of Chiapas (est. 1994) and the Argentinian self-managed industrial factory (est. 2005), and recently uncovered the people of the Southeast Asia or Zomia.5

What these communities have to teach the present generation is that, alternative ways of organizing societies are possible, have the potential to be successful, and should inspire the future generations to take it upon ourselves to demand a self-managed life. When will we realize that we live in a time when we are capable to “strip off the mystical veil of the life-process of society” and as a “free association” of peoples, “consciously regulate this process in accordance with a settled plan.6

1See, e.g., stressfaktor.com for list of recent demonstrations against gentrification and right-extremism

2“the first man [sic] who, having fenced off a plot of land, thought of saying ‘This is mine’ and found people simple enough to believe him was the real founder of civil society. How many crimes, wars, murder, how many miseries and horrors might the human race have been spared by the one who, upon pulling up the stakes or filling in the ditch, had shouted to his fellow men, ‘… the fruits of the earth belong to all’” (Jean-Jacques Rousseau, On the Origin of Social Inequality)

3It is generally accepted that the Spanish Anarchists made concessions to the so-called “Popular Front” of anti-Franco forces, and that the primary cause of their loss is the superiority of military might of Franco’s military (which was supported by Fascist Italy and Germany, the same country that would in the next few months launch the world into its second world war [ed: i.e. in late 1939).

4Murray Bookchin “Forms of Freedom” 1985. on Anarchists of France of the 18th century

5Cf. “On Refugee Anti-Statism: A Review of Scott’s The Art of Not Being Governed” (this volume)

6Marx, Capital, Volume I

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5 Comments leave one →
  1. November 13, 2014 4:50 pm

    Hi

  2. November 13, 2014 4:51 pm

    Ebola is great (: I may die soon though. XOXOXO

  3. November 13, 2014 4:52 pm

    I’m gonna give someone my Ebloa, watch out. (;

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