Memo from Dick Tropp, May 1978

Some Reflections On May 11th White Night

To Dad

The point [Gene] Chaikin made about our structure being self-defeating: do we create situations by our procedures and practices that make us vulnerable?

The more ‘secretive’ we need to be, the more vulnerable we are to ‘defectors.’ If our structure is more able to be publicly examined, then we are less vulnerable. Suppose we had to function AS IF there were “guests” here among us all the time? What would we have to change in our public functioning in order for the guests to be able to see it all and not be shocked or feel we are ‘bizarre?’

We need to look at what parts of our public activities: work hours, housing arrangements, public meetings, system of rule and punishment, educational classes, use of P/A system, public rhetoric, etc. would need to be modified so the people here on the project could have guests and visitors here. What kinds of things do we talk about amongst ourselves, kind of language we use, etc. that would be ‘offensive’ to guests?

Once we are able to modify our public functioning so that it would not risk divulging our secret practices, etc., then we would be much safer. Under such circumstances we could be wide open to public view without appreciable risk of people making any judgments about us.

The more we are able to be open about public activities, the safer we will be from defectors.

But this will still not keep us from functioning as we need to, I feel. We need to maintain a significant measure of PRIVATE secrecy about our plans, beliefs, functioning. Such ‘private secrecy’ is not observable by any guests, and is not manifest in the day to day life of the community, the observable, ostensible way we conduct our affairs.

I think we need to go over the aspects, one by one, of our public functioning to see how they can be modified or re-presented or in some way revised so that they can allow us to function without problems while under intense observation by outsiders. If we can do this, I think we will be able to largely eliminate the “self-defeating” quality of the community structure here, in terms of the vulnerability to having ‘defectors’ or people who come as ‘guests’ seeing or hearing the wrong things. This will also make it much more possible for us to refute any ‘tales’ of defectors, etc. concerning our community – because we will be able to point to our public functioning and show that it is not what these people say it is.

I think it is significant that the first thing that was mentioned in yesterday’s meeting was immediate dismantling of the “boxes” or isolation units. This is precisely what I mean – we need to do a lot of this sort of modification. Outsiders should be able to walk around the project, observe meetings, etc. I personally think we are too finicky about the conditions here. Even the housing situation, while overcrowded, is not outlandish or inexplicable. In fact, given what we’re trying to do, it’s quite understandible [understandable] and can be justified.

Note on above: what I’m saying is that we learn to operate as if ‘guests’ were always here to view our public life style.


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As you said at the end of the meeting, we need to function on a “day by day” basis. While this is true, I think that without a sense of a possible future, it’s going to be hard to build in the necessary motivation for achieveing [achieving] production goals for the community.

I strongly suggest that, while continuing to function on a “day-to-day” basis, our community begin to implement some short and long range production planning, of the sort that the Soviets did and which they found to be the key to motivation and building community initiative.

I suggest that we, as a collective, begin to make 6-month, one-year, two-year and 5-year plans. That we look at every phase of the project, see what we’re doing now, what we need to get together to plan for increased production (especially in agriculture and livestock), and SET GOALS. Not vague goals, but SPECIFIC goals, down to how many bananas and pineapples we are going to produce next year, etc. As we do this, as we QUANTIFY the production goals, we can build into the community a desire to MEET THE GOALS, to work hard for them. We can set in motion CAMPAIGNS to meet certain goals, campaigns that can at times MOBILIZE the whole community on special assignments.

I don’t think we’ve done that at all systematically, and it should be our task to do it. This will also help the children to get themselves together.

Finally, again, it will provide a kind of psychological balance for the effect of white nights on the kids – they will develop the determination to sacrifice for the collective, but also have the accompanying sense that we are building something, and not just going from one day to the next. I’m afraid that if we don’t do this, many of the young people will be confused about what they will sacrifice their lives for, though maybe here I’m too short-sighted.