The Launching of Solidarity House Cooperative, and Our Communal Space

by Matt
September 14, 2018

In July of this year, the Solidarity Collective acquired, through a personal loan and the good fortune of being in the right place at the right time, the property known as Holliday Mansion, consisting of the large house shown in the picture (11-12 rooms in the main house depending on how you count them, a tower room, and a 3-bedroom basement apartment), a large Quonset hut, four additional apartments (one adjoining and three adjacent) and some small storage sheds. The house was built in 1878 and was a neglected (and over time, abused) historical treasure. Beyond the significance of its acquisition for our mission, its restoration will be a service to Laramie and Wyoming.

Those who have been following our progress in the last two years via our Facebook page and my earlier post here know that the purpose of getting this property was to create an egalitarian intentional community–a commune for shared living space and cooperative work space, food production, and a place where people could ground their activism and creativity in promotion of a better world.

It is significant that we’re doing this in Wyoming. As far as we know and as far as the Fellowship for Intentional Community reads, we are the only egalitarian/left community in the state. Two other intentional communities in early stages of formation, one in Cheyenne and one in Casper, are non-egalitarian; still, it’s interesting to see them cropping up at a time when Wyoming’s fossil fuel economy is in near-freefall and the political culture of the state is becoming more heterogeneous. We think there is a place for our radical cooperative model in Wyoming, but recognize that it needs to be materialized and lived so that people may see its possibility.

Although we’re pluralist about this cooperative economics and culture thing, we bring some basic agreements into Solidarity Collective:

  • we’re committed to cooperation and resource sharing, are practicing partial income-sharing now with a commitment to full income-sharing when all the elements are in place for it
  • we’re feminist, queer- and trans-positive, supportive of everyone’s gender and sexual identities
  • we’re committed to anti-racism and anti-fascism and we also incorporate our own reading of the Seven Principles of Unitarian Universalism (and the proposed 8th Principle on anti-oppression), although only some of our members are UUs.

There are about twelve people working high-gear on restoration and the financial maintenance of the property–these include core members, family of core members, active supporters who intend to become core members, and active supporters who are just really happy to know we’ve materially actualized a commune here.

That work is formidable and will be a long-term project. The large house has been through many cycles of ups and downs over the past 130 years, and to put it diplomatically, the previous owners and residents left us much work to do. The entire property needs to be re-painted, there is a long list of carpentry work to be done, individual rooms need detail work, parts of the plumbing system need replacement, and even the dirt on the grounds (there is a large pasture are in back) needs to be cleaned of years of being treated like a waste disposal facility.

Until we can do some soil remediation, our food growing systems will have to be independent of the pasture. Planning for vegetable operations and a greenhouse is underway. We have six laying hens now, and hope to raise as many as 40 more next spring, with other animals joining the farm as opportunity grows.

The end goal is a thriving collective, likely through conversion to a trust, but in any case the house and structures and land will exist to provide low- and no-cost, ecologically sustainable living and work space for as many people as it makes sense to live here.

We’ve also launched Solidarity House Cooperative, a worker-democratically-owned and operated production company. Support for our work through this production cooperative is one of the foundational structures of the communal system we are building.

The purpose of Solidarity House Cooperative is to create content, and help others create content, for the promotion of cooperative economics, law, policy and culture. We have initially created three separate podcasts, between which we will produce 8-10 new episodes every month.

Solidarity House: Besides interviewing advocates and activists from all over, we also let the audience into the house to hear about our restoration, governance, and commune-building efforts, our day to day life in an intentional community, and our music! Pilot episode is here and on Podbean.

Cowboys on the Commons: In-depth interviews on cooperative law, economics, policy, and culture. Pilot episode will be released in four days and will be updated here.

Solidarity Wyoming: News and interviews about Wyoming politics and culture. This isn’t your parents’ Wyoming. Pilot episode is here and on Podbean.

We emphasize cooperative economics, law, policy, and culture, through research- and interview-based content. We produce and record original music, and have the capacity to produce podcasts for other organizations and individuals (I have been doing this on contract for three different organizations over the past three years), and seek collaborative relationships with other cooperative content producers and organizations.

There are many ways to support Solidarity Collective, but the easiest and most mutually beneficial way is to subscribe to Solidarity House on Patreon for $5.00 or more per month. Subscriptions directly support the restoration of the house and land and its conversion into an egalitarian ecovillage whose facilities will be available to all cooperative activists regardless of what personal resources people have.

For those wanting to take a deeper dive into support for our group, mission, and principles, Yana Ludwig offers courses and workshops on many of the principles that guide us: conflict resolution, guerrilla consensus, cooperative economics and culture (I lend a hand with the classism stuff), and starting an intentional community. Both in-person and, in some form, remote options exist for these workshops, so if you’re interested, contact Yana, who’s been doing this stuff for a long time. Her book Together Resilient: Building Community in the Age of Climate Disruption was the Communal Studies Association’s 2017 Book of the Year and is available here.

Please consider this my personal ask.¬†Producing, and helping others produce, content promoting cooperative policy and culture is my life work. When I’m not doing it, I don’t feel right. When I am doing it, I can work all day with a smile on my face. My job is to help show that humans can share their stuff, take care of one another, and take care of the earth. After several years of doing this work for other organizations, I think I’ve found a way to turn it into a democratically-owned enterprise, and support many people’s work. I would love your help!

This post is also a call for interested people to send us inquiries about membership in Solidarity Collective and residency on our communal land. The easiest way to connect with us to that end is to join our Facebook group, but if you don’t Facebook, we are still pretty easy to find.

Beyond all that, this post heralds the news that we are landed, active, and unstoppable. It’s time to create an alternative system in the middle of a place that desperately needs one. We’re here and we’re doing it.

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