A Countercultural Religious Left response to the Dominant Culture’s Religious Right
A. Allen Butcher • The School of Intentioneering • Denver, Colorado • November 4, 2020
For definitions of terms and explanations of concepts see the glossary at the end of Part 5.
Toward an Age of Equality – Part 4 of 5 – Time-Based Economics
Non-Monetary Labor-Gifting and Labor-Sharing
Frank and Fritzie Manuel state that while Marx and Engels used the term “utopian socialist” as “an epithet of denigration to be splashed onto any theoretical opponent,” they then point out that Marx’ and Engels’ Communist Manifesto itself is utopian, and that, “on occasion even they might lapse into utopianglossolalia.” (Manuel & Manuel, p. 699) For an example there is Engels’ preface to the German 1883 edition of the Manifesto in which he states that the “… oppressed class … can no longer emancipate itself … without at the same time forever freeing the whole of society from exploitation, oppression and class struggles—this basic thought belongs solely and exclusively to Marx.” This is at the same time another slur against communitarian society, a cooptation or appropriation of utopian wishful thinking, and a justification for violent extremism by Marxist communists. (Tucker, p. 472)
Robert Owen brought the labor notes idea to America with his communal experiment at New Harmony, called by the present author a “class-harmony community” as it was comprised of one or a few owners [note: Owen answered to a board-of-directors] with others as workers. However, every attempt to use forms of labor notes in intentional communities through the 19th century in America (as in Canada, England, Wales, Ireland, and Scotland), such as at New Harmony in Indiana (1825-27), and at Kaweah (1885-92) and Altruria (1894-5) both in California, resulted in the labor notes system being the first thing to be abandoned as the communities began to fail.
It was Josiah Warren (1798-1874), called by his biographer the “first American anarchist,” who would be inspired by his time at Owen’s New Harmony community to develop the labor notes idea into a successful time-based economic system in America, although as a labor-exchange system as developed in England and not as a communal economy. Donald Pitzer refers to Warren’s labor exchanges as the “Time Store Cooperative Movement” (1833-63), involving first his time-store at New Harmony, then in Cincinnati (1827-30), then the Equity Community (1833-5) and Utopia (1847-51) all in Ohio, and Modern Times (1851-63) in Long Island, New York. Other people adapted Josiah Warren’s Time Store model in Ohio and in Philadelphia, PA, where it was called the “Producer’s Exchange of Labor for Labor Association,” yet always as exchange systems, not for communal economies. (Cress, pp. 72-3; Pitzer, pp. 120, 130 n.68, 489)
By Pitzer’s count, there were a total of 29 Owenite communities: nineteen in the U.S., one in Canada, and nine in England, Scotland, Ireland, and Wales. They developed collective childcare systems and pre-schools, and at various times and to different degrees, experimented with communalism. At twelve years Modern Times was the longest lived. The intentional communities created by Owen and those applying his theories are called by the present author “class-harmony communities” since they involve both an owner-class and a worker-class, while most of the communities in which Warren participated were more like cooperatives or land trusts in which workers were also owners. (Pitzer, pp. 122-3) The class-harmony form of intentional community has existed since the time of the ancient Greek philosopher Pythagoras, with the largest class-harmony community today, known to the present author, being Ganas on Staten Island, New York.
As Kenneth Rexroth explains, Josiah Warren anticipated many of the French anarchist Pierre-Joseph Proudhon’s (1809-65) theories. Proudhon published What is Property? in 1840, popularizing the phrase, “property is theft.” Karl Marx’s criticism of Proudhon assured Proudhon’s reputation as the founder of anarchism. Yet as Rexroth explains, Warren’s work predated Proudhon’s, saying that, “Warren not only anticipated Proudhon, but he was a far clearer thinker and writer, and a man who believed in testing all of his theories in practice. Marx was right about Proudhon. He was a confused thinker and a confusing writer and far from being a practical man.” (Rexroth, pp. 226, 238)
Murray Bookchin writes that Proudhon’s anarchism envisioned the exchange of products without competition or profit, with small craftsmen and collectively-owned industries organized into local and regional federations with minimal or no delegation of power to a central government. This is the basis of Bookchin’s theories of “confederal municipalism,” which he later called “communalism” in his 2015 book The Next Revolution, confusingly using the French political definition of the term referring to governmental subdivisions like neighborhoods, city wards, or boroughs, as opposed to the more familiar English economic definition meaning commonly-owned property. The educational organization created by Bookchin and friends called the Institute for Social Ecology continues Murray Bookchin’s confusing word choice, probably intended to emphasize the first use of the theory in the 1871 Paris Commune.
Pierre-Joseph Proudhon created a “mutual credit bank” using “labor-value certificates” which neither charged nor paid interest, similar to Warren’s time stores which functioned as Rexroth writes as “an interest-free credit union [with] loans in labor and commodities and eventually money.” (Bookchin, pp. 20-1; Dolgoff, p. 67; Hyams, pp. 85-6; Rexroth, p. 238)
While Edward Bellamy never stated the sources for the ideas which he included in his utopian fiction Looking Backward published in 1888, it is entirely possible that he was familiar with Josiah Warren’s publications, primarily his 1847 book Equitable Commerce, since both lived in Massachusetts in the 1860s and ‘70s, and Bellamy was known to have an extensive library.
Not until Kat Kinkade developed the vacation-credit labor system at Twin Oaks Community in the summer of 1967 would a successful communal labor-credit system be invented. Edward Bellamy had included a time-based “credit card” system in his Looking Backward utopian fiction, and from this the Harvard psychologist B. F. Skinner got the idea that a community could use ledger accounts for managing individual labor contributions with no form of exchange of anything like coins or scrip [i.e., paper bills]. In his utopian fiction Walden Two (1948) Skinner wrote, “Bellamy suggested the principle in Looking Backward.” (Kinkade, p. 45; Skinner, 2005, p. 46)
Warren, Bellamy, Skinner, and others have also suggested rewarding labor differently for different types of work in communal society. For about ten years Walden House in Washington D.C., Twin Oaks Community in Virginia, and East Wind Community in Missouri all experimented with “variable-credit labor systems” from 1966 until about 1976, rewarding some work done with more labor-credits than other work, until members decided to value equally all labor that benefits the community. It is an important lesson to keep in mind that variable compensation for labor is an aspect of monetary economics, while being both impractical and anathema to time-based economics, which values all labor equally, from childcare to corporate governance.
Building upon Skinner’s idea of ledger accounts, Kat Kinkade’s brilliant innovation, called by the present author the “vacation-credit labor system,” involves the whole community agreeing to set for themselves a weekly work quota that all members agree to meet, with vacation time earned when a member works over-quota. Working “under-quota” requires making up the difference in following weeks. This time-based economy, called at Twin Oaks simply the “labor-credit system,” became as Twin Oaks member Mala stated to a reporter, “the glue that keeps this community together.” (Mala, quoted in Rems, 2003) Different versions of the vacation-credit labor system have since been adopted by other communal groups, many of which have been or are networked in the Federation of Egalitarian Communities (FEC).
It is phenomenal how for 140 years the thing that was usually given up first when communal groups failed, their time-based economy, became the most important thing that now makes them successful! Kat Kinkade essentially created the first complete alternative economic system to that of monetary economics, existing now over 50 years, with versions practiced in a number of different communal groups, and sadly, very few people outside of the egalitarian communities movement know anything about it! It would seem that such an achievement would be worthy of much pride and promotion, yet most people think nothing of it. Reporters, academicians, and even members of the communal societies come and go and rarely ever understand the significance of the vacation-credit labor system’s place in the centuries-long effort to enable economic and gender equality.
While feminism may be the primary organizational ideal of the communal societies comprising the Federation of Egalitarian Communities, as the Indiana University psychologist Jon Wagner wrote in his 1982 book Sex Roles in Contemporary American Communes, “They have deliberately eschewed charismatic leaders and monolithic ideologies in favor of a pluralistic ethos, rational social planning, and participatory democracy.” In her correspondence with Wagner, Kat Kinkade wrote, these communities “ … make a strong point of absolute sexual equality, … This idea is fundamental to our idea of ‘equality,’ and equality is fundamental to our approach to changing society. There is no platform of our ideology that is more central.” Wagner points out that these egalitarian communities make a point to avoid sexist language by using the gender-neutral word “co” and the possessive “cos” for third-person pronouns, as coined in 1970 by Mary Orovan, a feminist writer in New York City. Jon Wagner concludes, “These communities may be among the most nonsexist social systems in human history.” (Wagner, pp. 36-8)
Extending equality in America from the political system to the economic system was the whole point of Bellamy’s Looking Backward, which was immensely influential around the end of the 19th century. Today, the time-based, labor-credit system innovations made by Kat Kinkade have successfully enabled the very thing that has eluded social reformers and revolutionaries since the early Industrial Revolution—a truly egalitarian economic system—which would seem to be exactly what Winstanley, Morelly, Owen, Warren, Proudhon, Marx & Engels, Bellamy, Skinner, Bookchin, and many others have sought!
While the vacation-credit labor system is the most advanced form of time-based economy, there are also much less involved and structured time-based economies in use. Volunteerism can be considered the simplest time-based system, often justified as “giving back” and “paying it forward.” There are also many time-exchange systems, often computer-assisted, like Time Dollars, and many alternative currencies facilitating the exchange of services as well as commodities. During the Great Depression it was found that labor-exchanges were utilized far more than alternative currencies. (See chapter VI:7 in The Intentioneer’s Bible) At the beginning of the Industrial Revolution in England many self-help, solidarity, and mutual aid projects began among the population, since government had not yet understood the necessity of social welfare programs. These had various names, like “Friendly Societies” and “Odd Fellows.” What was so odd about the Odd Fellows? It was the practice of helping others for mutual benefit within a dominant culture of competition, thought to be odd even at the beginning of the Industrial Revolution in the 18th century! In response to the Industrial Revolution came the entire cooperative movement, including consumer, producer or worker cooperatives, the labor union movement, mutual insurance companies, and many more initiatives, many of which are still with us. One might expect that initiatives arising today will also become established anti-capitalist programs in the future, a likely contender being the Mutual-Aid Network (MAN), which is using easily accessed online tools such as Zoom for group communication and Slack for small and large work-group coordination.
Egalitarian Religion: Answer to the Anguish of the Ages Caused by Patriarchy and Property
In his 1965 book Utopias and Utopian Thought Frank Manuel compared the imagining of, and the attempts to build utopian or ideal societies, as being like “dreams generated by denied needs and repressed wishes.” In his analogy Manuel suggested that as people project their denied and repressed lifestyle desires into utopian fiction writings and into their designs for intentional community, they are essentially responding to the problems of their contemporary culture, saying “… the utopia may well be a sensitive indicator of where the sharpest anguish of an age lies.” (Manuel, 1965, p.70)
While repressed and denied cultural desires and needs have been expressed in different ways through the ages, much of the distress can be attributed to the anguish caused by the negative aspects of patriarchy and property. These two sources of personal anxiety and cultural stress are closely related, and it can be said that patriarchy as a lifestyle was specifically created to affirm and justify private property held by men, including women and children as well as material wealth.
The answer to the anguish of the ages is to provide the option of choosing a common-property lifestyle over the dominant culture’s emphasis upon the private-property lifestyle, or a specific balance of the two, and to provide the option of choosing a gender-partnership over the dominant culture’s emphasis upon patriarchy. People typically need to know that they have choices in order to be happy with whatever they choose. The freedom to choose is often more important than the particular choice, because people’s needs and desires change with time and circumstances.
In matriarchal cultures family names and wealth were both passed down from mother to daughter, while men often did not even know which children of the village were their own, since a woman’s brothers helped to raise her children, not the children’s biological fathers. While women ruled the domestic scene men ran the businesses. Evidently, not all men liked that cultural arrangement, so some adopted patriarchal culture to enable men to control women’s reproduction in order to assure that men would be able to pass their private wealth to their biological sons. This is a simplistic explanation for why the dominant culture is what it is today, while there is certainly much more to be said, although I’ll keep it brief in this paper!
While the switch from matriarchal to patriarchal culture happened at different times around the world, for Western Civilization the change is thought to have begun with three large migratory waves from about 4400 to 2800 B.C.E., of Proto-Indo-European, patrilineal, semi-nomadic, militaristic, mounted warriors from the Russian steppes north of the Caucasus Mountains into the lands of peaceful, sedentary, matrilineal cultures from Ireland to Chinese Turkestan. These invaders, named “Kurgans” by Marija Gimbutas after the Russian word for their burial mounds, where most of the evidence of their culture is found, imposed their hierarchical culture upon the “equalitarian Old Europeans” and other peoples they encountered. The only surviving indigenous Old European culture today is the Basques of the western Pyrenees Mountains of northern Spain and south-western France, home of the Mondragon Cooperatives, who have maintained much of their ancient language and culture. (Gimbutas, 1991, p. 348; Gimbutas, 2001, pp. xv-xvi, 53)
A little more recently, just after 2000 B.C.E., Abraham, from the polytheistic Sumerian city of Ur in Mesopotamia, joined a back-to-the-land movement headed for Palestine, where his descendants, the Hebrew Tribes, Israelites, or Jewish people, made patriarchy into a monotheistic religion, later to inspire patriarchal Christians, Islamics, and others.
With the change from matriarchy to patriarchy the cultural pendulum essentially swung from one extreme to the other, while today we may hope for a happy medium in order to enjoy a cultural partnership of the genders. For men, DNA tests now take care of the need for proof-of-paternity, while women are continually making advancements in their rights and freedoms, such as with the recent “MeToo” movement.
In the same way that more than two millennia ago the Jewish priests, in order to replace matriarchy with patriarchy, re-mythed earlier stories of the Goddess, the Creatress of the Earth and Queen of Heaven (Eisler, p. 85), who according to myth instructed women in the domestic arts of agriculture, food processing, pottery, weaving, healthcare, child-raising, and language, people may now re-myth the Judeo-Christian-Islamic stories and traditions to affirm a gender-partnership culture affirming a Partnership Spirituality. Such a gender-equal culture may combine all the masculine aspects of God, Jesus, and priests, along with the feminine attributes of the Goddess and priestesses found in women’s spirituality, to create a new binarian monotheism in the same way that trinitarian monotheism (i.e., Trinitarian Christianity) was created: We say it is so, then for us, so it is!
Women and men creating a partnership culture have the potential for ending the anguish of the ages caused by the imbalances of male-gender-dominance and exclusive male property ownership. Gender equality is not a new idea since many traditional cultures had a form of binarian polytheism, as they honored both gods and goddesses, such as the Mongols and some Native American tribes affirming both a male sky-god and a female mother-earth goddess. (Weatherford, 2004, pp. 20, 33)
With an egalitarian, binarian spiritual-religious foundation, people may more likely be able to construct and enjoy an egalitarian political-economic system, with or without the use of money. As explained in the previous section “LIVE FREE!,” non-monetary, time-based economies go the furthest toward valuing income-generating labor and domestic labor equally.
In the earlier section, “The Communal Ideal of 19th century Marxist Communism Realized in 20th century Egalitarian Communities,” I explained that the second stage of Marxist communism as a projected classless, moneyless utopia already exists in the Federation of Egalitarian Communities, with member communities now over fifty years old. Marxists typically do not accept that communal societies like those in the FEC represent what Marx and Engels talked about with regard to the second and end stage of communism, since they disparaged intentional communities of all types, and because the largest FEC groups are only about a hundred adult members. The scale of intentional communities is much smaller than that of nation-states, and even smaller than any micro-state like Vatican City (population 800), so it could be said that Twin Oaks and other intentional communities are nano-states nested within nation-states. Yet since utopian communal societies are internally moneyless and classless they are the closest thing to Marxist utopianism, attained without a prior stage of violent revolution!
The Federation of Egalitarian Communities (FEC) skipped the violence of Marxist communism and went straight to the second level of the proverbial Marxist classless society and moneyless economy, which is essentially the model of the non-monastic communal society inclusive of children.
**End of Part 4 of 5**
Portions of this article were previously published in the author’s 2016 e-book The Intentioneer’s Bible
(see: Amazon.com), and other portions are to appear in the author’s forthcoming book.
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