[ Vol. 3, No. 1, May 6, 1971]

Communal Archaeology

So you think that this communal blossoming is a new hybrid, a crop never before grown in this land. We have discovered another crop of communes that was grown in the last century, on the same soil, from the same type of seed. Two books have been unearthed which describe 85 communes, associations and phalanxes occuring over a period of 30 or 40 years. History of American Socialisms (1870), by John Humphrey Noyes, covers the bulk of them, which were created in the midst of two great national socialistic excitations peaking around 1826 & 1843. However, these were all failures, most of them kicking off within their first two years. The other book, The Communistic Societies of the United States (1875), by Charles Nordhoff, describes visits to about ten successful religious communes, averaging around 50 yrs. old at the time of its writing. The books only overlap in their description of the Oneida Commune, which was formed & led by Noyes. The failures, as listed in the Noyes book, can all be attributed to "Human Depravity," or the members just not measuring up, in cloud-levels, the the heavenly outlook needed for Communism. The successful communities were governed completely by religious inspiration, which solved the problem of depravity by "preparing some for Association by making them better, and shutting off others that would defeat the attempts of the best," according to Noyes. He also relates the Socialist movements which formed so many of the communes to the Revivalist movements which turned on the nation during the same period these waves seem like the spiritual & social revolutions of nowadays, & the Secrets of Success seem to spring, then & now, from the commingling of the juices of these two aspects. There are differences, of course, between our communes & those of the last century we inhabit the magical margins of the Surplus Society, while they were made up of Common People, who had to work hard for economic survival, though their toil was lessened by communal living. They were also much larger, averaging between 100 & 200 members & 1000 acres of land, & required more organization. There is much to be seen thru this historical looking-glass, & Kaliflower will in the future reprint the most interesting sections of these books. But we seem to know even less about the comings & goings of the communes that get KF than those of a century ago. We are doing so little learning from each other we must write, write, write about all the lessons we learn in Maya's School of Hard Knox, so that our communes will live to write their own histories. We can't afford to leave it up to newspaper reporters like Nordhoff, because of the devouring demon that the mass media have become. Let your artists, your writers & dreamers create pages that expose your lives to the many-eyed face of the communes!


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