Everything for Everyone: An Oral History of the New York Commune, 2052–2072
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Intimate, at times confrontational, dialogues address the localized but globally oriented insurrections that brought down capitalist, white supremacist states throughout the world. Based on years of reporting, Schneider chronicles this economic and social revolution — from the taxi cooperatives in Colorado that are keeping Uber and Lyft at bay; to the mayoral administration in Jackson, Mississippi, that is giving citizens control over their economy; to the French hacker who is building a cooperative version of bitcoin; to the electricity coop members who are propelling an outdated system into the future.
As another historian, working for the Mid-Atlantic Free Assembly, tells them: “There is a deep link between human subjectivity and the labor process that we’re just beginning to unravel, twenty years after the end of the commodity form. Science fiction has not denied these historical forms of the commune space in its futurisms, whether the scientific hopes in Kim Stanley Robinson’s Red Mars series or autonomous communities in Ursula K.The fictional oral history of a commune yet to exist imagines what forms human agency could take to change their world and their circumstances, how it could be contingent and polyphonous, always in process of unfolding and becoming. From the internet to service and care, more and more industries expect people to live gig to gig, while monopolistic corporations feed their spoils to the rich.
And indeed the revolution does not start in the US—it starts in the Andes, and in Palestine, with one character taking part in the struggle to disband settlements once the Israeli state is no longer propped up.
Histories locate our antagonisms in the past, leaving the people of today behind as destitute shells. By the middle of the twenty-first century, war, famine, economic collapse, and climate catastrophe had toppled the world's governments. To imagine new worlds then, to appropriate such a view, is an impulse that can only be recognized after the horse is dead, after social relations are organized by communicating and coordinating with each other, after capitalism stops organizing our vision for us. A pluralist approach to a systemic economic vision gives us the ability to treat, with rigor, the question of institutional design at different levels, rather than assuming that one economic model holds the solution to all our problems.
Schneider’s account invites us to imagine a movement fragmented in its history and full of moments of hidden potential and rediscovery, despite co-ops’ inefficiency alone to exact systemic change: “co-ops are not an end in themselves.Faced with a multiplicity of cooperative economic institutions that happily coexist with each other and our existing economic system, and that lack a shared commitment to socioeconomic transformation, Schneider himself comments that “portions of the commonwealth have trouble noticing each other. At a certain point, it might have been better to simply say there was a war, we won, and to make way for discussing the fantastic Alternative Land Projects turning streets into farms, or the biologists designing new animals to help bolster ecological growth in flooded cities. In a carceral world, such style is a demand — one’s “fight mode was all about frontin’” — but in struggling with one another on the streets, even confusion can be an intimate political statement. This mistake has political consequences, because our focus needs to be on changing the system, not just replicating models. One of the many historical gems in Everything is an eye-popping quote from 1930s socialist Norman Thomas: “The only effective answer to the totalitarian state of fascism is the cooperative commonwealth.