What sources do we have for our vision of community and for the change we want to help make happen in the world around us? What are we building on and what are we part of?
The Federation of Egalitarian Communities (FEC) is a group of secular, income-sharing, egalitarian communities in North America. Twin Oaks, where many of us have lived for several years (and where we live now) is the largest FEC community, with just under 100 members. It has existed since 1967. We know what a successful income sharing community looks like. There are things we will do differently, but there is also a lot about Twin Oaks that we like and plan to emulate. We’ll also borrow from other FEC communities including Acorn, Sandhill, Living Energy Farm and the Possibility Alliance. We plan to stay closely connected with Twin Oaks and to become part of the Federation of Egalitarian Communities.
Beyond our connection to the FEC, we look to indigenous cultures. Indigenous people were living communally and in healthy relationship with this land for thousands of years. Besides policies of military conquest and removal, our government specifically demanded (for instance through the Dawes Act) that indigenous people not live communally – not sharing land, labor and resources in common.
Ultimately we think the indigenous values of living in harmony with the land and with each other will prove to be stronger and longer-lasting than the values of capitalism, unexamined technology and militarism. With this in mind we look to indigenous nations past and present for guidance in our goals of living well with each other and with the land.
Landless Movement (Movimiento Sem Terra): Movimiento Sem Terra is a major nationwide movement in Brazil. Over a million people are living in landless movement communities. Brazil’s constitution, in recognition of gross inequality in land ownership and land access, mandates land reform and gives some legal rights to squatters who settle on unused land. The Brazilian government however has been very slow to actually enact any land reform policies; people in the landless movement have made it happen by occupying and forming communities on unused lands owned by rich landowners. They have been able to gain legal title to the land in many locations. The communities are united in statewide councils and a national council.
The Ejido System: Land reform was a central issue in the Mexican Revolution of 1917. One of the results of the revolution was the creation of the Ejido system, whereby landless farmers could, using a legal process, expropriate land owned by wealthy landowners to create Ejidos, or communally used agricultural lands. Using land in an Ejido is contingent on continued use. Land use rights can be handed down to one’s children but cannot be sold, developed, or used as collateral. Ejidos are not conducive to speculation. The ability to create new Ejidos was suspended in 1991, in connection with the start of the North American Free Trade Agreement.