Anarchist Towns: Anarcho-Syndicalist
This is the sort of communism-lite that I could see myself being party to in a free society, depending on how one defines its various terms. This may also speak to the depth at which I’ve explored the ideology too, so… something something grain of salt. Please correct me, politely, and link me to good FAQ/intros to the ideology where I get things wrong.
Anarcho-syndicalist theory was born of the unionization and liberalization of the 1700’s, particularly that of the union movements in France and Spain. This ideology is heavily focused on the worker union as both the means of freeing people from governments and of organizing society after the removal of government.
“Anarchists desire a federation of free communities which shall be bound to one another by their common economic and social interest and shall arrange their affairs by mutual agreement and free contract.”
The means of organization of an Anarcho-Syndicate society shall be through a federated or dispersed union system. Workers and non-workers alike shall come together to decide on the matters of importance to them. These free and voluntary societies, networks of groups, and federated representations will serve to provide means for people to care for each other, ensure that individuals are not abused, and generally set up the systems of customs and behavior. This abuse ranges from things against common law to the movement’s ideals against unearned ‘rent’. This rent includes the profits leaders and bosses make from exploiting labor, landlording, and usury. Some of these mechanisms will remain, like credit or living in property tended by another, but the unearned profits will be removed such that the costs of interest or rent are solely based on the benefits provided by the lender or ‘landlord’ instead of the prices the holder is able to extract from the lendee or renter by excluding them from being able to own such things. Communities and unions are free to differentiate on their approach to the mechanisms of providing goods to their people, parceling out land, and offering credit but it is likely that they would be focused on paying for these things from the community. It would then work that the lendee or renter would pay the community back for the value they received.
Expanding beyond a single community could take place through a combination of cooperatively competing syndicates pledging reciprocity or a federated system to network disparate community unions. Some syndicates will be more concise in their approach to what is considered means of production/wage slavery and others will be looser. This allows differing opinions, approaches, and cultures to flourish within a blooming of a thousand ideas. Anarcho-Syndicate society will determine its rules through community action rather than from above, by the sword.
Worker’s guilds and merchant unions forged strong bonds many hundreds of years ago when famine threatened the town and the cooperation of guild leaders and merchants saved many from starvation. The friendship grew and grew, building up the strength of the united workers into a force that eventually dominated the triumvirate council by threatening work shutdowns and stoppages. As the town was already well oriented to community organization and unionization, it wasn’t a difficult transition for the people now that they held the power.The main difference had been a change from the merchant-focused contract law being countered by union organization to a system of federated unions representing all people equally. There was some push back from the landed, the rich, and the powerful but they were overcome mostly through social pressure.
After the first few rich owners started to see that they would not lose their own homes and would still be able to earn a comfortable living, if they had skills and experience, they quickly joined to salvage what they could. Without all the social discomfort and feelings of subconscious guilt, many were happy for the changes in retrospect. Each victory added to the glory of the people, pushing them to improve the lives of their fellows ever more. Cultural norms adjusted to the unionized organization seen today.
Centered around syndicate rule, everything here is decided collectively by syndicates of the people. Unions divided along trade and geographic lines send representatives to a larger, overall town group to decide larger issues. Local issues are left to whatever union is most relevant, with those outside the union having equal representation on anything that may affect them. While this may seem like it would lead to chaos of all stealing from all, it has balanced around a relatively hands-off approach. People take care of each other, giving what they can, and when one person abuses another, they bring up that abuse to the rest of the community. Decisions are rendered in terms of restitution to any aggrieved parties, even including the time that such a decision costs the community.
This radical activism has no truly set rules or laws, but common law and empathy will keep outsiders from running afoul of the community before learning its standards. The only claims for property ownership or exclusion will come from personal use and property can become open to claims for community inclusion if someone can make a fair case for needing access to its means of production. Everyone in the community gets an equal say, and the usual method of enforcing compliance is with social ostracism of the offending party. Particularly egregious offenders may eventually be denied access to the means of production or even run out of town.
Multiple syndicates in each industry compete with each other with the rivalry like sports teams or siblings to provide the best goods using the least labor and materials. They are not truly competitive in a cutthroat sense but in a manner that the town wants to encourage a broad range of opinions to ensure the best outcomes for all. All property is owned by collectives of free associations of people so all costs are internalized. No one unfairly profits or losses from the labor of another. Private property or homesteads are considered possessions of people so long as they maintain regular usage and control over the area. This is subject to general approval of the community through their local unions, but cultural norms are to avoid doing this except for the most flagrant abuses. Continual abuse or exclusion of others from one’s productive assets is liable to having other individuals make a case for syndication of that asset in a union.
Goods are produced along a modified price system, where costs and labor required for a good being the marker of price. Goods found to be detrimental to the community are increased in price, if anyone wishes to produce or sell them, according to the costs they impose on third parties. All resident’s needs are taken care of by distributing a portion of union proceeds, according to whatever agreement they have with their local union and immediate neighbors.
All across this town are fancy and important community buildings nestled alongside manicured roads in between sturdy, attractive homes. Thanks to focus on group efforts and land stewardship in the hands of the community, there are a lot of grand developments. People cannot leave grand swathes of land or deed to their children, except what their children can personally use; instead, the townsfolk have taken to leaving a legacy behind in the public works they support. Ornate carvings, over-engineered structures, immaculately maintained objects, and hand-crafted artisanal goods are all laden with stories of the heroic forebearer that left them in the care of society. A second benefit of the towns philosophy comes from a melding of the new and the old. Ownership of these spaces falls to unions, which have been adeptly designed to balance the experience of the old and the innovation of the young. The guild halls and community gather places are truly wonders to behold.
The people in this town are at the same time wild and varied, but also homogenous and tame. Freed from the constant drain of the leeches of capitalism, people need work significantly less to attain a higher standard of living for all. This puts people at ease to expand their social circles, engage in voluntary community improvement, and flourish in their hobbies. These divergent impulses are balanced by a strong ethic of community involvement and collectivism in representation through union representation. Where basic needs and common rules are concerned, everyone has a say. The culture and norms are collectively decided, bringing most people closer to a neutral middle ground on these issues than might otherwise be expected. The unique mix of conservative norms and freedom of pursuits has resulted in a quiet passion, most often seen in the fierce eyes and relaxed speech of these folk.
6 People You Might Meet
- This tall blond, attractive woman in her thirties works with callous hands at her loom while loudly complaining of being accused of hoarding access to her loom she built with her own hands. Her colorful language is mostly ignored by locals who shake their heads, mumbling about selfishness and greed. Marina Olson is amiable and sweet, assuming the topic doesn’t drift towards her loom situation.
- A tattooed, pale, rail-thin elf is making the case for the syndication of people’s bodies to anyone who will give him the time of day. Kaldari’in Hiskatoilaz can make fair use of their corpses and they can’t own them after death. To deny him use of these idle means of production would mean that they were body-owners in perpetuity, removing his ability to provide for himself and relegating him to an occupation he dislikes.
- Barthur Malscroggin lives just on the border of the town, miserly looming over his land and building holdings. Everything but his personal residence has been reclaimed by the townsfolk. He is still quite, understandably, bitter but will never admit out loud that he is happy he can relate to people now, and has managed to make a few friends among his former tenants.
- Mismatched, eclectic pieces of clothing adorn the wiry, short frame of Punt. He is an exiled pariah from the lowest caste of a nearby land. He is almost constantly smiling, happy to proclaim this town heaven on earth. His mind is quick and he is already well on his way to full standing in a blacksmithing and metallurgy syndicate.
- Tedward and Allisa Young are calm and carefree new parents. With the help of the community and guaranteed parental support from their local syndicates, they were able to get a house and the material support to raise their triplets. The two of them are polar opposites. Tedward is a deadpan comedian and hardworking stoic. Allisa is a free-wheeling socialite.
- An old rat catcher, Karina Methodalli, plods along, exhausted, complaining about how no one is interested in taking up her work with all these new syndicates popping up. “Young people these days are more interested in the flashy ideas of liberating their fellows and providing for all. They just aren’t interested in the dirty, necessary work of crawling under houses and smashing rat skulls” she’ll mumble, while shaking a fist in the air.
6 Things That Might Happen
- Some creepy stalker follows a member of the party, leaving notes making a rambling incoherent attempt to prove the need to syndicate access to their body. Claims they aren’t making full use of it at night. “Dreaming is theft.”
- Six idealist youngsters are starting up a new syndicated effort with a realistic, and scalable solution to a common plague. Their special mixture of alchemy, home remedy, and low-level divine magic is just the sort of novel tinkering that would have gotten them banned, blacklisted, and burned at the state in most other societies. They’re looking for other talent to join on, secure more supplies for their work, and spread the word.
- A middle-aged adventuring survivor is looking to syndicate her way into the party. She makes a pretty good case. She’s a jack-of-all trades type with some arcane spells, divine spells, medium armor, pole weapon, and some trap finding skills. Starting an adventuring syndicate with her offers an easy in with the town but comes at a risk that their treasure hoards might be partially confiscated or redistributed.
- A rigger syndicate is facing flak from their institutionalized cargo shipping union brethren in the kingdom next door. They are being embargoed until they accept a collective bargaining agreement by the state-sponsored riggers guild. They are desperate at this point, as the town needs to move their goods and get supplies, but they are understandably worried about submitting to coercive authority linked unions. In the long term they could probably go without and shift some production but short term this will cause issues. Diplomacy, skulduggery, and charity are all viable solutions.
- Dirty rags shroud this bent and frail half-orc. With a sympathetic gleam and distant eyes, the half-orc appeals for help as someone unfairly turned out of their former business by these revolutionaries. The sociopath lies easily, beseeching the players to right the wrongs committed and return property from the hands of the greedy ones who took it. The scheme will start pointed at the most evil and malevolent individuals in town, as the half-orc slowly steps up the requests until the players are in over their head. After that, the half-orc may disappear with the stolen wealth and leave the party to answer for their crimes.
- A religiously motivated group moves in and syndicates the production of eggs. They are so difficult and onerous to work with that no one outside their group wants to join their union, but the eggs they give out are so plentiful and tasty that no one raises a complaint. Eggs have been getting steadily larger, and people think something is up but can’t quite put a finger on it.