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Liverpool Indymedia

The Self Managed Community

IFL | 04.04.2005 22:53 | Analysis | Social Struggles | Liverpool

By taking control of our own communities, and deciding for ourselves how we should manage them, we are not only getting rid of the parasites who cause our problems but also starting on the path to a new type of society where each of us can be free to live our lives as we choose.

These are a few ideas which are open to being added to, changed, and adapted to reflect the needs of particular communities. Despite the efforts of politicians and professionals to lump together working class communities as problem areas to be policed, those of us who live in these communities often see things differently. For us the problems we encounter daily are often not of our own making. Poverty, inadequate housing and crime are problems that come with the way society is structured. By taking control of our own communities, and deciding for ourselves how we should manage them, we are not only getting rid of the parasites who cause our problems but also starting on the path to a new type of society where each of us can be free to live our lives as we choose.


This is action to benefit all of us living in a community not simply those with the loudest voice, the more threatening manner or the most money. Some of the ideas may seem unrealistic at first glance, but most of them have worked in one form or another before.


The people who live in a community are the ones who know best when it comes to improving that community.

Organisation in communities can only benefit all residents if it is from the base upwards. Beginning with the individual, household, street and outward to the wider community.

All residents, from the youngest to the oldest, should be encouraged to offer their opinions and solutions.
Some people may feel intimidated or frightened by the idea of speaking in community assemblies. Alternatives such as written contributions or a clearly acknowledged advocate could be a way of encouraging people to participate while their confidence grows. If certain people choose not to participate that is their decision and should be respected.

Even the most well meaning of community workers, social workers, and other professionals to be found in our communities are working to an agenda set for them. If they live in the community then they should participate as individuals with their own, and the communities, best interests at heart.

Activists, be they anarchist or otherwise, who endorse community action and wish to participate by moving into a community should do so with the long term interests of that community in mind, and not selfish temporary lifestylism. They are there to help empower, not to dominate or exist as a group seperate from the community.


A community meeting place is essential to any community transformation. This kind of social centre can act as the focal point for community action, bringing together all groups within the community in a safe space. To be able to do this the centre should ideally be located in a central position where it can be easily accessed by the community, but also difficult to access for those, like the police, who are likely to threaten the community from outside. In the early stages of action chances are an ideal location will be difficult to find. Using empty or unused buildings (see Housing below) is the perfect opportunity to show what is possible. Accurate information about the legality of reclaiming property should be distributed as widely as possible. Not just in libraries, waiting rooms, dss offices, busses, trains, but also through local free sheets and internet/intranet forums. The sharing of information and experience should be seen as another essential part of any community action

As well as being a meeting place the centre or centres could also act as a community resource and distribution point ( see Distribution & redistribution below ). A few examples, amongst many, are a community food coop, a swap shop and a practical resource centre where people can share their practical hands-on experience with others.


Community assemblies are the forums where local decisions are made. Decisions which have a direct impact on the whole community. While the obvious areas of decision making are likely to be things such as transport, housing, crime, social care etc., as self-management develops in the community other issues such as what types of workplaces the community wants are likely to become more pressing. The more people realise they can manage their own communities the more likely they are to realise they can also self-manage their workplaces.

The form of assemblies is likely to be dictated by the size and geography of a community. However it should be argued that one overiding principle of the assembly is that anyone who has something to say is allowed the time to do that. Likewise if the meeting is to be structured then the role of chairperson should be rotated to ensure the assembly is not dominated by any one person or group. People who have no experience of this type of meeting should be encouraged to become actively involved.

While ideally people would attend assemblies in person, in reality this may not always be possible. The use of community radio and local intranets are some examples of how assembly proceedings could be relayed to people in real-time. Local internet systems could work particularly well, allowing people to feed back their views directly to an assembly.


Poor housing, shoddy repairs, lack of choice and long waiting lists are some of the issues faced by working class people. Rather than appealing to landlords to improve things another option is to create resident action groups. These can be independent groups rather than the resident/tenant groups set up by landlords. Using forms of direct action to highlight issues around housing is a move away from appealing for help towards empowering people to demand something is done. This sort of politicisation of a community can be seen as the first stage. Once a community begins to organise for itself then the options for other ways of organising housing and repairs for themselves is a step closer. The use of rent/mortgage strikes is one way residents could begin to flex their collective muscle ( see Community Defence below )

Reclaiming empty or unused buildings is another strategy that could be used to practically address the lack of housing in a community. Rather than relying on landlords to allocate property those who need it should be encouraged to recover and make use of empty buildings. Information on the legal issues could be made widely available, and the sharing of the skills needed to successfully reclaim a building could be one of the things on offer at the social centre.


Creating a community food coop is one way of not only bonding a community but also a positive way of offering good, affordable food and other goods. In the early stages this would probably involve the coop buying goods directly from fruit and veg markets, from wholesalers or directly from the producers ie. farmers. While the production of all the goods a community needs is unlikely to be done locally, the growing of fruit and vegetables is one thing that could be produced in the community.

Wasteland and other unused land could be reclaimed by the community and seeded for popular small scale food production. It's likely the skills needed in growing food are already present in a community with people who already enjoy tending to their gardens, growing their own food or currently paying for an allotment.

As local authorities seem intent on selling off land currently used by schools and nurseries etc., a community moving onto this land and using the play grounds or playing fields for other uses such as food production is a way of people not only spoiling a local councils plans, but also directly benefitting themselves.


Creating new methods of distribution is essential if a community is to effectively manage itself. The distribution of locally produced food via a free-shop is one way of achieving this. Other goods which are not produced locally will need other methods of distribution. The idea of swap-shops, where people can take items they no longer use and look for items they need, is one method of re-distribution which is practical and simple to organise; a bring and buy without the use of money.

Another method of distribution is a 'tool pool' where essential community items can be shared as and when they're needed. This could start with the items needed for producing food locally, and then spread to other items the community decides would be best distributed in this way. For example local transport, such as bikes, is one area where the idea of a 'pool' has worked before.

The distribution of information is another area where local and direct community alternatives can work effectively. The facility to create local news sheets is now available to anyone with access to a computer. Experiments in 'pirate' and activist radio stations have also begun to make the idea of local community radio stations a reality. Likewise experiments in linking communities via a community intranet show the possibilties for further distributing information.


Communities are, of course, made up of individuals with a whole variety of different health and social needs. In the early stages of a community managing itself most of the medical needs will still require people using medical facilities outside of the local area.

There are however some areas of social care which people can organise for themselves. One example of this could be a local meals service, where those who are unable to cook for themselves have meals cooked for them at the social centre and delivered by volunteers. Another idea is for street volunteers who agree to take responsibility for checking that people in their street or building who are housebound are okay. Some of these ideas for social care are just common sense things which people already do for each other now. In other cases it's a matter of building on the care networks which have always existed in working class communities.

Child care is another area where care networks are often already in place. Extended families have often shared child care responsibilities in working class communities. Creches and after-school groups are an area where those with young children can organise for themselves, involving people they know and trust.


Most, but not all, crime is a result of the type of society we live in now. Inequality breeds crime while the police feed off it. In encouraging a community to self-manage one of the essential requirements is that those who feed off crime, the police, are dispensed with, and community alternatives developed.

The use of mediation, someone independent bringing together the aggrieved parties, is one way of the more popular ways of dealing with community disputes. The use of mediation could be extended to include other anti-social behaviour. Initially, however, persistant anti-social behaviour like drug dealing, loan sharking etc. is likely to require a more direct community approach. This could take the form of those affected joining together to inform the person or people that they are not wanted in the community and should leave. A community united in condemning anti-social behaviour can be a powerful deterent. Where the people involved are known to be violent or carrying weapons then a less direct, but equally confrontational approach may be taken. It's certainly not unknown for the likes of drug dealers and loan sharks to trip over balconies in working class communities. It's not a pleasant thought, but sometimes the misery and suffering inflicted by these individuals forces people to more extreme solutions.

While the help of professional mediators may be welcomed in a community, many of the skills needed for mediation could already be there. People who have brought up a family, with all its problems, are the perfect example of this.

If a community decides they would feel safer with people checking on certain trouble-spots then a possible solution is for a street to organise a rota of residents who would feel comfortable in doing that. Perhaps each night a different person from each street could get together with, say five others from neighbouring streets, until any trouble calms down. Taking the dog for a walk, and helping your community!


Community defence is about people joining together to collectively deal with politically motivated attacks on themselves. If a community decides to organise a rent or mortgage strike then it's likely that landlords and banks will employ bailifs and police to try to disrupt it. A good example of the type of community defence that could be used here is the anti-poll tax groups who defended people in the community when they were threatened by bailifs.

As a community grows in confidence, and starts to assert its own self-management not only in the community but in workplaces then more particular forms of community/workplace defence are likely to be discussed and decided on.

*This article was originally published as an extensive post on a UK bulletin board in 2002. Shortly after the author was banned from posting there. It was then published on the internet under the heading "Some Ideas For Community Action". The author received feedback from as far a field as Australia, Canada, the USA and Germany, but strangely nothing from the UK. The article is now published under a Creative Commons copyleft license.*

- Homepage: http://cornersoul.com


Hide the following 7 comments

No feedback

05.04.2005 07:41

You comment at the end that you received no feedback, the reason is simple. Most people do not want to live in the way you have described. I think this is something those who favour communal existence have never really come to terms with. They presume that they need only inform the rest of the world of the "benefits" of this lifestyle and we'll all come a flocking.

Well I have to tell you no we won't. This certainly is not how I wish to live and neither do any members of my family or friends.

As a final point your views on crime, punishment and anti-social behaviour are just plain silly.


Here's an idea

05.04.2005 09:04

"but also difficult to access for those, like the police, who are likely to threaten the community from outside."

. . . .. and when your touchy feely ideas on stopping loan sharking and drug dealing fail (as they will) do you still think obstructing the Police will be a good idea ?

Brother of policeman

Community not Commune

05.04.2005 11:39

Hi, it is not about living in a commune and sharing every aspect of your life with others. Rather, this is about neighbourhood communities and localised areas having people take control of the ways in which their neighbourhood is improved. For example, in an area very close to me, there have been a series of violent muggings and burglaries which the police will do naff all about. It would only take a small group of people to form a citizens patrol which would make all the people, including themselves, feel safer on the streets at night. This is one way of improving things for everyone, when people feel safe, they want to continue to live in and improve the community, it can form friendships and gets people talking about other things they can do locally. I hope that in the future we can all live without feeling threatened to walk to our friends house a few streets away.

mail e-mail: moirastirland@hotmail.co.uk

Agreed but...

05.04.2005 12:13

When i see the words community organising it can mean two things either
1) this person has a grasp of how capitalism penetrates our everyday lives and sees the need to confront it on this level, combined with a good understanding of the social factory and the way in which the proletariat is robbed blind of our time and wealth both in the workplace and in the community. Therefore they are argueing for community organising within the districts and residential areas of our cities.
2) this person is a naive liberal hippy type with some vague idea of how it would all be lovely if we all lived in little villages or some other malthusian lunacy.

Assuming this is an example of 1, which appears clear form the text, then i think plenty of people would like to live like this, it would improve the situation of people no end and would also go towards protecting the more vulnerable members of our society.

I grew up not knowing more than two people on my street, how can we ever change society if we do not even know each other. For example, in paris 68, it was communities and districts in the city that fueled the revolt, if i don't know more than one person down my road, how can i hope to find any common interest with them?

I think the problem i would have here is perhaps the food co-ops idea, while allotments remain an institution with some limited connections to the working class, food productuion seems to be somewhat idealist and actually reductionist. Supermarkets and large food distribution centres are infinitely preferable to local farmers and other petit bourgeois elements, what supermarkets need are stronger unions within them. This is where the community organisation would help, because if all large retail outlets were being organised simultaneously in an area you'd have more chance of establishing success.

Today an average sized town is about 200,000 people, which is 50,000 odd homes, seperated into about say 10-20 residential areas each with about 2-5,000 homes in it. Surely it would make sense to have community assemblies within these area to attend to local issues and to protect communities and individuals from predatory corporations.

In a time when the govt is effectively going to demolish 400,000 homes in the north in order to drive up house prices, it seems all the more important that we form community resistance. It isn't fun, it isn't a load of glamourous G8 summit hopping shite, its slow and its hard work, but its what we should be doing not having a carnival witha bloody crap samba band.


Allmost agree...

05.04.2005 22:51

Hi Lefty,

I allmost totally agree with you (apart from the supermarket thing, but Im too tired to argue bout that at the moment, sorry!) it seems pretty obvious to me too that this is an example of 1) and not hippy 2). I support it totally, at this stage it is imperative that our resistance etc becomes more 'real' and not so centred around symbolic and substitutionist action. However, why does everyone who supports real community struggle have a go at G8/samba band etc etc types? Im involved with both and working my arse off for both. I have great comrades in my commuity and also in dissent! etc etc. Why does it allways have to be 'either or'? I think it is important (perhaps not AS important as comunity struggle but still...) to resist these gatherings of the global state capitalist planners. And do you have a go at people who form normal sorts of music bands/theatre groups etc etc? No? So why do it when they are also politicaly active? I just dont get it...
One major reason im involved with Dissent! etc is because it was seeing mass summit actions on the news that got me involved in this malarkey to begin with, so if those mobilisations hadnt happened I never would have started organising in my community as I do now - so therfore I support it, just not at the expense of other forms of struggle.

Anyway, for the G8 types, see www.dissent.org.uk

For community types theres a community organising themed meeting in London on June 18th. Contact Hackney Independents or Haringey Solidarity Group (?) for info or see www.enrager.net (yeh, I know...) and the 'organise' forum.

Cheers, love n rage.


The pwers that be wont allow it!

06.04.2005 11:02

Government’s have always been obsessed with controlling working class communities. They know, and history tells them, that if they allow working class people to become too empowered they will be in trouble, so they use local government, i.e. council officers and all the various community outreach agencies that work with them to control poor working class communities through various community participation methodology which on close observation is an antithesis of a community being empowered and an antithesis to democracy. Conformity is the name of their game and to achieve this they divide the community up into many small groups, this is called divide and rule. Central government want a passive domesticated working class community. To achieve this all the structures that councils put into place within a community concerning community consultation, participation and empowerment are oppressive and have evolved in such a way as to allow outside vested interests to impose their agendas onto the community. The outside vested interests are big business whatever that business may be. It’s a massive issue and I am surprised that no one has bothered to write a book about how oppressive local government is and how it works with central government to oppress large working class communities.

I am in the process of writing moor stuff to put onto Indymedia. I also have a web site: www.whistleblower.nstemp.com and I am involved with the people on this web site www.tenantsactiongroup.pwp.blueyonder.co.uk There is quite a lot of stuff on this web site.

My friends at the Tenants Action Group and myself have already made one film documentary about housing and burnt it onto DVD. You can have a copy of it if you ring me on 07770-478756. We are now in the process of making another one about the misuse and abuse of ASBO's by service providers to silence dissidents, demolition and the destruction of communities through unnecessary demolitions. We will also be discussing the power of the Housing Associations, now known as Registered Social Landlords (RSL’s), and how they actively work with the city councils to destroy terraced housing and move tenants around like cattle. On close observation these RSL’s have practically no tenant democracy and have never put structures into place to adequately involve their tenants in the decision making process. Also they have never bothered to look at the issue of antisocial tenants and putting structures into place within their RSL’s to address the issue of antisocial tenants. We at TAG believe that when the City Council working with the RSL’s want to demolish terraced houses they know that they will come up against stiff opposition from homeowners so to further encourage homeowners to except Compulsory Purchase Orders the RSL's board their properties to furhter create an eviroment of blight and because they have no structures to properly monitor new tenants antisocial tenants slip in. It only takes one antisocial tenant family to destroy the confidence of a whole street and to adversely effect many other streets and roads close to where they live.

At this present moment there is a crime wave here in Edge Hill (an area which is due for massive demolition and a designated £62m New Deal for Communities initiative area) and the police know who the people are who are doing it but stand by and do nothing, it is rather sinister. Practically all of the CCTV cameras that were put into this area by the New Deal people have been broken by the criminals and drug pushers and the New Deal people have never bothered to fix them, claiming that it is a waste of time because they just get broken again. We have also looked closely at why British people actively participate in their own subjugation by local government service providers and RSL housing officers

Mike Lane
mail e-mail: -

this may interest you...

15.04.2005 21:18



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