Two weeks of Intentional Communal Living

The following report by former ICD secretary, the late Sol Etzioni, who was a member of Kibbutz Tzora, was copied from CALL No. 19.

It was a most stimulating experience to participate in the International Communal Studies Association Conference and the following International Community Meeting, held at the ZEGG commune in Eastern Germany, in the summer of 2001.

The Conference, with some 170 participants from 20 different countries, was a successful mix of academics, from many different backgrounds and fields of expertise, together with members from all the varied types of communal living. Apart from the mass of information gathered, it was most impressive to meet the great number of intelligent, thinking and feeling people, who take communal living seriously and were a pleasure to be with.

Getting such a diverse crowd, including quite a few anarchists at heart, through the complex but well-planned Conference programme of over 60 papers was no easy task. This was done with good-humored firmness by ICSA's retiring President, Bill Metcalf of Australia. (His successor, Prof. Tim Miller of the US, will have a hard act to follow.) The behind-the-scenes work of Christa Falkenstein and other ZEGG members also deserves high praise.

For the first time ever, the Conference was held at a commune, a most successful innovation. It's hard to imagine a better venue than ZEGG. Their warm-hearted welcome to all - some members even giving up their rooms, their multiple facilities - on what was once a Stassi training centre, the insight they gave into their communal life style, their unforgettable singing at all odd times. All these together contributed tremendously to the success of both the Conference and the Meeting... Actually, ZEGG was a controversial choice, largely but not only because of the 'freed love' aspect of its world outlook. (It could well be that some participants were disappointed in this respect.) As a result, a number of prominent communal groups - not only religious ones - didn't take part in either the Conference or the Meeting, much to my regret. Despite this, two members of a Hutterite commune did come and participated actively, and survived apparently unscathed.

The immense variety of the forms of communal living and the aims of their members, was represented by various papers and especially at the Communities Fair. At this, a variety of communities and communal organizations displayed themselves visually and verbally. (My own presentation included the International Communes Desk, my kibbutz and some aspects of the kibbutz movement, including its contributions to Arab/Israeli relations.)

The ICSA Tour, giving a glimpse of three other German communes, was the ideal culmination of the Conference. The choice was inspired, showing very different forms of communal living: artistic-ecological Ufa-Fabrik in the heart of Berlin, politically-minded ultra-economically-communal NiederKaufungen, and newer rural eco-village Sieben Linde. And, no less important was the time for serious talking among the participants of the tour.

The week long International Communes Meeting was very different: smaller, younger, far less intensive, far less organized and far less formal. Altogether, some 70 members of various forms of communal living in 19 countries came - including someone from a group of communes of a new religion in Siberia! At the sessions, which were attended by no more than half that number, we got to know one another, exchanged experiences and techniques, and heard about a great variety of life styles and communal activities. (How many variations on the same theme can the human mind - and heart - invent?) Socially, the ICM was very successful, but the hopes of some to set up a roof body of communal living were by no means fulfilled.

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