A report from the network meeting of Austrian communes, January 2015

Although there has been a loose network of intentional communities in Austria for some years (Austrotopia) this has been a mixture of co-housing projects, religious and spiritual communities and attempted eco-villages. The number of egalitarian, political communes in
Austria has been very small, although the Longo Mai group at Hof Stopar has been consistently active in the south of Kärnten (Carinthia) since 1977. In 2011 there was the first
tentative attempt to get members of housing and work collectives together organised by the
association for the non-commercial allocation of resources for collective and emancipatory
utilisation – Ko.Sy., and held at the Wieserhoisl Hofkollektiv. At that meeting it was clear that
there were quite a number of people interested in collective forms of living and working, but
no collectives apart from Wieserhoisl and Hof Stopar. This has changed in the years since
that meeting, with the foundation of the Hofkollektiv Mühle community in Nikitsch
(Burgenland), the „Land in Sicht“ (Land in sight) community in St. Radegund near Graz
(Steiermark/Styria) and the Hofkollektiv Zwetschke near Zwettl in Lower Austria. In
addition, there are one or two groups in the process of formation. Members of some of the
communes met together during the first Austrian „Los geht‘s“ meeting in summer 2014 and
spent an afternoon exchanging ideas and collecting quite a list of topics that they would like
to discuss with one another in the future. They also decided to hold a further meeting at the
start of 2015. This has now taken place with attendance from 15 adults and 4 children from 7
projects (six Austrian groups, one German).
The meeting was held from the evening of Friday 9th. January until Sunday afternoon (11.01)
at the Mühle in Nikitsch, a collectively organised seminar centre with a small holding near
the border with Hungary. Attendance was limited to members of the existing collectives/
communes plus members of the Ko.Sy., as the participants were interested in an exchange of experience and ideas between people living and working in collective structures, rather than with people curious about communal life. It has been agreed that the „Los geht‘s“ meeting should be for the wider community movement. A further Los geht‘s meeting will probably take place next year, 2016.
Most people arrived on the Friday evening, and we had an informal planning meeting to
decide on some framework for the following day, organising a plan for cooking and looking
after the children, and listing topics for discussion. Most of the topics had already been
gathered at the Los geht‘s meeting. The list included international networking, contact with
the Kommuja network in Germany and with the Longo Mai network, setting up a network
homepage and an internal email list, insurance, an extended communal/solidarity economy
between the groups, management of daily life (structures, rules etc), working together on
projects, exchanging products and expertise, listing resources and skills, dealing with
relationship problems and dysfunctional group dynamics, and various other subjects. After
this planning session, most of those present played an entertaining game together and
After breakfast on Saturday we got off to a fairly punctual start with a session where the
community members introduced themselves and said something about the projects they are
members of. Many of the people know each other already and know something about the
other collectives, but some of us were new to each other, and it was useful to hear the latest
news from the communities.
During this introductory session it became clear that one of the common problems that we
confront is that of group dynamics and relationships/partnerships in the communities,
especially when couples separate.
After lunch, one of the Nikitsch group gave a guided tour of the commune and told us a bit
about the history of the buildings and what their plans for the future are. It was then proposed
that we should discuss the question of separation and the influence that an end to a couple’s
relationship has on the wider group as our next topic. However, this subject was too
emotionally charged and too fresh for the people concerned, so the afternoon session was
discussion and exchange of information about internal structures, rules and communication
methods in the collectives – basically how the collectives function on a day to day basis.
After the evening meal there were informal chats and discussions.
On Sunday, the first part of the morning was concerned with some practical questions and
with the proposal to have a further network meeting in the autumn. This will probably take
place at Hof Stopar. Then some of the people participated in a mediation process to help a
couple in one community who are experiencing problems in their relationship which in turn
is having a negative effect on the development of the community. This mediation process was coordinated by the two members of the Ko.Sy. collective syndicate who were present.
The time spent together was really too short, but the meeting was a successful start to a more structured and continuous network between the Austrian communes. It helped cement
existing contacts and friendships, and was the beginning of new relationships between the
groups and their members. There are still very many topics to discuss and explore, so there is willingness and enthusiasm for future meetings and improved networking.

Homepage Information and Contact
Hof Stopar (German)
http://www.prolongomaif.ch/les-cooperatives/autriche/ (French)
Hofkollektiv Wieserhoisl (German)
Land in Sicht (German)
Hofkollektiv Zwetschke (German)
Ko. Sy. – Kollektives Syndikat (German and some English)
Hofkollektiv Mühle Nikitsch Email: muehlenikitsch(ed)a1.net

In this report I have mixed the terms commune, collective and community to describe
the projects mentioned. The Longo Mai group calls itself a cooperative (Kooperative),
most of the others call themselves Hofkollektiv. The term Hofkollektiv means „farm
collective“ although „collective smallholding with a communal economy“ would be a more
accurate term for the communities which use this name. In Germany, groups of a similar size and with similar libertarian, egalitarian and ecological ideas often call themselves
„Kommune“ – commune. In Austria, the term kommune was brought into disrepute by Otto
Muehl’s „Friedrichshof“ commune in the 1970s and 1980s and so is not generally used.