Meandering on the semantical-historical communism and commons - Peter Linebaugh

The story begins at Blue Mountain Lake in the Adirondacks when, at a gathering of cultural workers for the commons and through no wish of their own, Peter and George Caffentzis were asked to speak about violence and the commons. Accordingly, following dinner after what had been a chilly October day, they settled into armchairs by the fire and explained to the gathering that way back in the day (history) the commons was taken away by blood and fire and that, furthermore, as we all basically knew, it was still violently happening which ever way you happened to look. Indeed, this violent taking-away, or “expropriation,” was the beginning of proletarianization and thus of capitalism itself!

Submitted by Jason Cortez on March 25, 2014

George added that he thought that there was a difference between the commons and ‘the tradition of communism’ which began in the 1840s. Peter (that’s me) wasn’t so sure about that, thinking that it was earlier, and that in any case there was considerable overlap. He said something about Cincinnati and promised to get back to everyone. So, making good on that promise, here’s what I had in mind.

Not far from Blue Mountain Lake, on the western side of those ancient mountains, is Whitestown, N.Y., known to you already perhaps as the location of the Oneida commune where property was once communistically shared. But that particular utopia wasn’t established until 1848, after our story had well begun. Our story continues with two brothers, Augustus and John Otis Wattles, who left the Oneida Institute, a Presbyterian outfit, in 1833 in 1836 respectively. Their destination was ‘the gateway to the west,’ Cincinnati, the fastest growing city in north America at the time, a.k.a. Porkopolis, a meat market in more senses than one, where people slaughtered swine and hunted man, woman, child.

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