Utopias

1 June 2017Review

Verso, 2016; 160pp; £8.99

Echoing the opening lines of The Communist Manifesto, Peter Frase opens this book with the claim that ‘two spectres are haunting the Earth’: ecological catastrophe and automation.

The first is a crisis of scarcity – of fresh water (think melting glaciers), fish (think ocean acidification and overfishing), habitable places to live (think rising sea levels and rising temperatures) and so on. The second is a crisis of abundance – the prospect that our technology could soon…

1 April 2017Feature

Finding common threads in different lives, different organisations

Caroline Kempster (left, behind vegetables) and two fellow members of Trinity Wholefoods in the shop. Photo: Trinity Wholefoods

In the summer of 2005, Rebecca Dale had three young children, Nik (3), Ben (2) and Katherine (six months old). She had been working as a research fellow at Warwick University, increasing co-operation between industry and the academy, especially within the automation industry.

Now she needed a new job that could fit in with her commitment to her…

21 July 2014Comment

Jeff Cloves confesses to extremism ...

When you read in the press, hear on the radio, see on the telly, or otherwise encounter someone banging on about ‘extremists’, you realise, don’t you, dear readers, that they are referring to the likes of you and me.

And what is my extremism? Like yours, it’s wide-ranging but at the mo my uppermost desires are: the removal of all nuclear weapons from the UK, the abolition of the monarchy, the house of lords and public schools, the disestablishment of the church of England…

8 February 2013Review

Five Leaves, 2012; 240pp; £9.99

Utopia is the second of Five Leaves’ annual journals and features contributions from 23 writers, essayists, songwriters, poets – some living, some dead – loosely based on the subject of utopia; although Utopias (plural) might read more accurately.

Books about Utopia(s) are always necessary, but with our supine parliament and the monumental lack of inspiration and aspiration exhibited by its constituent MPs, how absolutely necessary this one is now. Mike Marqusee’s opening essay is…

13 August 2011Feature

Utopia - no place, a never-never land beyond the realm of everyday experience, a dream world that is unattainable, a fantasy vision to which people might like to fly in their dreams and escape the chains of reality.

Utopian was the pejorative term also used by Marxs associate Freidrich Engels to dismiss the work of early nineteenth century socialists like Robert Owen and Charles Fourier, who were naïve enough to believe that you could create a world based on the values of…

13 August 2011Feature

More than 350 years ago, Gerrard Winstanley and the Diggers called for the total reapportioning of land in the name of the poor, hungry and landless. Andrew Bradstock discusses the Diggers' contemporary relevance for activists today.

It is astonishing that the Diggers are still being talked about, and even inspiring action, at the dawn of the twenty-first century. It is true that they caused quite a stir when they first appeared in 1649, and that in Gerrard Winstanley they had someone able to put their position clearly and persuasively in print. But so short-lived were their communities, so total their defeat, and so quick to fade into obscurity their members (including Winstanley), that few who observed them at the time…

13 August 2011Feature

In this experimental article on visions-based on the writings of anarchist Gustav Landauer and the lyrics of 1970s German rock band Ton Steine Scherben - Andreas Speck argues that while visions should guide us, provide us with energy, and stimulate our imaginations, they shouldn't turn us into slaves to our ideals.

Visions - a difficult topic during times of war and of increased militarisation and marginalisation of peace activists, but perhaps then, even more important.

In this essay I want to explore visions from a personal perspective. I will base this “experiment” on the writings of Gustav Landauer (a German anarchist who was born in 1870, and murdered in 1919, at the end of the anarchist Munich Soviet Republic), and the music and songs of Ton Steine Scherben, a (Western) German anarchist (…

13 August 2011Feature

This is not in any way intended to be a definitive statement - more a pointer to some of the more significant developments in the theory and practice of community.

6 th Century BCE: Pythagoras founds Homakoeion, a vegetarian commune based on intellectualism, mysticism and equality of the sexes. Also, followers of Buddha in India join together in ashrams to live in a productive, spiritual manner.
2 nd Century CE: Essenes communes, based on the morality of the Hebrew Bible, flourish in…

13 August 2011Feature

Fiction George Orwell, 1984 (New American Library Classics, 1990. ISBN 0451524934, 268pp).
Orwell's prophetic view of the future of the world is a chilling dystopia in which totalitarian control and conformity prevail. Aldous Huxley, Brave New World (Harperperennial Library, 1998. ISBN 0060929871, 268pp)
In exchange for crime being virtually non-existent in Huxley's imaginary utopian world, there is an absence of personal freedom. Margaret Atwood,The Hand-maid'…

13 August 2011Feature

“If you went beyond this point they would have shot you” Barbara tells us as we walk past lampposts painted with military looking red and white stripes. “Down there you can see our love huts,” she gestures towards a row of small triangular wooden structures just big enough to hold a double bed, cosily set amongst the pine trees.

“Inside them , you're contained but also in nature - it's a beautiful place to make love” she says, a broad smile stretching across her serene round face.…

13 August 2011Feature

The rain freezes as it hits the windscreen, creating a 1970s dappled frosted glass effect not very useful when you're driving in ice rink conditions on thick snow. It's pitch dark and it would really help to see where we are going. The camper van is encased in a layer of ice that gets thicker with each lashing of freezing rain and added to that the heating doesn't work inside. Not a very Utopian setting. Welcome to Serbia.

We are on our way to the northern industrial town of…

13 August 2011Feature

“Of course another world is possible... As a matter of fact, thousands of people are experimenting with new ways of organising themselves for a more just, less destructive society: look at the Zapastistas in Mexico, the occupied factories in Argentina, the Landless peasants in Brazil”.

How many times have we heard or spoken these words? How many times have we felt the uplifting sensation of possibility given by these wonderfully inspirational examples of true democracy in action? But…

13 August 2011Feature

Sadly our Utopian tour has ended. We’ve been back in London a few weeks and most of our friends have (quite expectedly) asked “So, how was it?”

We never thought that answering this simple question would be so difficult. And yet, how to relate, describe, depict an experience that has changed our lives? How to, without talking our interlocutors into boredom or sounding a little like one has been touched by some “revelation”, express the inspiration, the hope, the energy, the motivation…

13 August 2011Feature

There’s an icy February wind pushing us around what feels like a walled medieval city. Eventually we find a small arched opening in this strange city within a city; we step inside.

Suddenly we are in a town where looking at the stars is more important than having street lights, where cars are banned and there is no tarmac, where bicycles and pedestrian weave through the streets freely.

Seconds ago we were in the centre of a Copenhagen in a different universe; now we’re…

13 August 2011Feature

In this interview Lauren Kelley talks with one of the Atlantis community's founders, Jenny James about the aims of the community and how the murder in July 2000 of two young community members at the hands of Colombian paramilitaries has impacted their ideals.

Most of us have a grand vision, but few of us dare to make our dreams reality. In the 1970s the Atlantis community formed as a therapy community, by the `80s they had ecological communities in Ireland and Colombia. However, their dream was shattered when they lost 6,000 acres of land and two of their young adults at the hands of a band of FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces Columbia) paramilitaries.

 

Lauren Kelley: How did the Atlantis community come to be established in Ireland…