Why Our Commune Crumbled

Patsy Sun explains why she thinks her rural, anarchist commune, "Freefolk" disbanded after a year and a half. Originally titled "Revisited" in the May/June 1970 issue of Mother Earth News.


| May/June 1970



commune

Communes come and communes go. Why, when so many are started with such good intentions, do they so often fail? Here — with  love —  is the reason why one community crumbled.


Illustration By Jane Bevans

Freefolk community is abandoned except for the winter birds and the snow rabbits and maybe the deer have come back, now that we people are gone. We left over a year ago. Gradually the others did too. I've meant to write about it all since then, but it took time to heal some wounds and then we got into some other things ...

Freefolk was a small, rural anarchistic commune that some of you know of, maybe, and others don't. It flowered briefly for a year and a half, then died out the way a lot of communes do that you hear about and then after a while don't hear about anymore.

I like to think of our attempt there as part of a larger experiment. Somehow what we discovered may help others who want to learn and live together in community.

There were times at Freefolk when love bloomed, when we sang together, worked together as sisters and brothers, felt in us the power of our Mother Earth. There were also times when we didn't speak to each other, or care enough to reach out when someone clearly needed us. Because we lived a life peeled down to the good necessities; because we lived without the shelter of all these institutions that protect and separate people from each other; the high times were really high ... and the bad times pretty ugly. Eyes stopped meeting, hands stopped reaching and we became strangers living in the same house.

A lot of people think communities flop because of economic hassles or pressure from the outside. We didn't find that to be true. Through highs and hassles the work did get done. We ate well and kept reasonably warm (though sometimes friction kept us from getting things done as well as we might have.) With a minimum of effort we were able to maintain open and friendly relationships with our neighbors. I guess I can't say why "communities" flop, but I have some ideas about why Freefolk isn't there anymore.

Partly from necessity, partly because we didn't appreciate our own needs for separateness (what some people call privacy, but that word always reminded me of bathrooms), we attempted to live too closely. Each family or individual had a sleeping place of his own, but in the long Minnesota winter we just couldn't keep all those shacks warm all day. So we had to spend most of our waking hours together in the community room (10-by-20 feet, wood stove, table, chairs, sink) with three toddlers who had a harder time learning to share than we did.





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