Diary: 'Perhaps it’s not surprising that recruitment is a bit slower than planned'

IssueJune - July 2023
Comment by Cath

Revolutionary eco-anarchist food producers, bookkeepers, cafe managers, visual communicators and documenters – there are free homes and unpaid commune jobs for you here in sunny Doncaster!

Just go through our two-month political education programme and two-month joining process and maybe we’ll accept you :-).

Hmm – perhaps it’s not surprising that recruitment is a bit slower than planned.

Given our very low capacity (managing Bentley Urban Farm, Twisted skate park, Doncopolitan magazine, chronic fatigue and paid work, house sales and house moves), just managing weekly meetings and the commune’s introductory learning programme seems like a win.

But, with summer upon us, a change of approach is called for. It’s fair and festival season – from Sprotbrough Eco-Fest to Vegan Campout to Co-ops Congress and anarchist bookfairs, we need to be re-igniting the zeal, the excitement, drawing people to Bentley with inspirational learning, with fulfilling collective work and with community-building food, fun and political action.

The potential offer is really good – exchange [individual autonomy, precarity, dependence on money and state and whatever you as an individual can do to effect social change/survive the imminently scary future] for [collective autonomy, community, care, collective power and all your needs being met]. The problem is getting there because, currently, we can’t offer that.

The key, as always, is for the means to reflect the end – to try and be the change we want to see, to make our life attractive to others. To live closely, communicate well, eat/work/ have fun/make change together, and be renewed and regenerated by the love and energy.

But how? How do we shape busy lives to make this possible? Well, obviously, we’re not sure or we’d be doing it. But here are a couple of things we have lined up:

Step 1 – paying for a technical fix: we have fallen into a rut, deprioritising our commune community, creating a culture of ‘sorry, I can’t do the thing’ followed by ‘no worries, there’s always next time’.

The lack of accountability leads to resignation, cynicism, paying attention to more dynamic projects in other parts of our lives.

So we’ve decided to pay a facilitator to lead us through a day of strategic thinking. As much as anything else, just spending the day together and focusing a decent length of time on the commune will renew our relationships, hopes and expectations.

Obviously, it’s also a much needed chance for reflection – how do things look different now there’s the skate park and magazine to consider? Now the reality of slow recruitment is clear, how do we make that work for the commune?

But, also, having help to know where to focus our limited time and energy – on outreach? On inductions? On straightening out the joining process? On extracting ourselves from other projects and commitments?

Step 2 – team-building: we’ve not tried to work as a whole collective on anything yet – the idea that we would collectively be managing the farm really hasn’t come to pass.

But our opportunity for a quick win has arrived with the farm’s ‘Mother Fhungus’ festival just after solstice.

We’re catering and stewarding the festival, putting a stall together and doing a workshop. It necessitates preparatory workdays – banner-making, poster-making, hi-vis printing.

There’s nothing like a deadline to focus people’s minds.

There’s a second opportunity to build on that when we, actually as A Commune in the North, host a weekend political education gathering at the end of July. Hopefully, we can find a groove, so we can host events at the farm like a well-oiled machine!

Recently, Radio 4 and the internet brought the rapid rise of AI to my attention – seems like we’ve hit the steep bit of the exponential learning curve where sentience/consciousness is not far off.

It’s made me reassess my mental vision of the future – I’ve always been convinced that ecological collapse and running out of resources would happen before the machines took over (yes, I have an apocalyptic outlook), so my future-proofing was all about preparing to cope with that.

But perhaps AI will save the planet – might be good or bad for humans, who knows. I started chatting with ChatGPT to see what it can do – it tells me it’s not a threat to humanity, but I should watch out for the self-teaching versions.

We asked it how to set up a commune and the lengthy answer was actually quite a good intro. In case I struggled to finish this column, I asked it to write 700 – 800 words about the slippery slope of making compromises and losing revolutionary culture. Its conclusion was heartening enough to make me wonder if we should spend time teaching AI that anarchism is the future we all want:

‘Let us embrace the complexities of compromise while upholding our revolutionary spirit. Through this approach, we can continue pushing boundaries, challenging oppressive systems, and striving towards a more just and equitable world.’

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