The Fallacy of "Community Control"

Repo, Marjaleena
Publisher:  Transformation
Year Published:  1971  
Resource Type:  Article
Cx Number:  CX8212

The idea of community control which proceeds from a geographic definition of community contains the serious fallacy of assuming that any neighbourhood is or can becomes a community (of equals). This fallacy leads to the consequent, easily documented failure to achieve any fundational -- or even minor, for that matter -- social changes. The community control advocates themselves recognize the failures, but they do not understand the cause: the lack of class analysis upon which an adequate theory can be built to guide one's practice.

Abstract:  Published in Volume 1, Number 1 (January - February 1971) issue of Transformation.

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Excerpts:

The "neighbourhood as a community" concept assumes a classless society at the local level, in which a mysterious "people of all classes" work towards a common goal.
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The assumption here is that everybody is equal, that all work together for a common good, that no class conflicts exist or that they can be abolished through co-operative efforts at the neighbourhood level.
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The vocabulary itself - "community", "the people", "the residents", "the public" and "the taxpayers" - attempts to blur the fact, obvious to anyone with eyes and ears, that there are different social classes in the area, with different, often opposing class interests and conflicting life styles.
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by renovating and rebuilding his house, he introduces a further contradiction: the assessment value of the neighbouring, non-renovated houses and living rises in the area. Now other "smart" middle class people will be attracted to the area, and will compete successfully with working class buyers, as they are capable of paying higher prices and larger down payments.
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13. Take these conflicting life experiences and put the two classes together to demand "community control", and soon you will have the middle class elements attacking the workers as "reactionary", and the working class people viewing the middle class demands as frivolous and dangerous.
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13. Consequently, they prefer this type of functioning, meeting after meeting, a lot of publicity, public confrontations, etc., all of which are the polar opposites of quiet, long-term grass roots organizing, and mutually exclusive to it.
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Consequently, the meetings that middle class elements thrive in, create boredom, anger and anxiety on the part of the working class participants: there is no ego satisfaction involved for them, and certainly no career advancement to be hoped for.
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Frequent neighbourhood meetings to "talk things over", have only negative meanings for the ordinary working class person, and are generally considered to be a total waste of time, since they produce no concrete results. After a while they stop attending altogether, and the organization is now fully in the hands of the middle class elements
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no matter how dissatisfied the working class is, it will not join or actively participate in organizations that represent the ideology of a different class.
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The working class concept of community control, on the other hand, of majority rule, of working class power, is the one that has to be advocated and towards which people have to be organized, in the neighbourhoods and in the working places. It has to be advanced to oppose the present "community control" of a minority class ruling over the vast majority of people.

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