Projekt A was an anarchistic network of self-managed communal housing groups, self-managed businesses and political initiatives based on the ideas of Horst Stowasser. Started in 1989, its most well-known and successful location was in Neustadt an der Weinstrasse in Rhineland-Pfalz, Germany. There were two other german projects and one outside Germany. After a crisis in the mid-nineties some of the participating groups came to an end, but part of the project in Neustadt continues to exist today.
The idea of Projekt A
The idea of Projekt A was put forward by Horst Stowasser in a 100 page book of the same name in 1985. The book was self-produced by Horst and about 1,500 copies were distributed from person to person rather than through official channels of bookshops. The book put forward the idea of “project anarchism”: this was to be a libertarian network of individuals, groups, initiatives and projects, and would unite the three sectors of living, working and politics. Up to that time, the german “alternative movement” had concentrated on starting self-managed collective enterprises, the commune movement had emphasised living and working in a group, and the anti-authoritarian left had proposed networks and federations of like-minded political organisations. The Projekt A was to be an attempt to join all these forms in one project. It would be decentralised, federative and autonomous. The various “component” projects would support each other, following the principle of Mutual Aid. Furthermore, the idea was that the project was to be situated in a small town, and that people and groups who were interested should move there. This would create an ever growing anarchist culture in the location which would show people that alternatives to patriarchal nuclear families, to hierarchical capitalist businesses and to commercial culture were possible. In the following years, local, regional and national meetings were held throughout Germany, an internal bulletin was published and distributed, and camps and cultural events were organised. In 1988, 3 possible locations were decided on, including Neustadt an der Weinstrasse.
Projekt A in Neustadt
The idea of Projekt A began to be put into practice in Neustadt in 1989. There were already a couple of dozen people in the town who were interested in the idea and who wanted to try to put it into practice. Some of them were already involved in 5 self-managed collectives there, so there was, from the start, an economic basis to the project.
As legal structure, an association (Verein) was founded, the WESPE e.V. (Werk Selbstverwalteter Projekte und Einrichtungen – Work organisation of self-managed projects and institutions). There were monthly assemblies for decision making, regular breakfast meetings and evening discussion groups, and various “councils” dealing with themes such as administration, finances, publicity and building work.. In addition, the communal housing groups, collectives and political/social initiatives had their own meetings and organised leisure activities.
By autumn 1990, the project in Neustadt involved about 80 people. They lived in 8 communal housing groups and also individually. There were 11 self-managed collectives, including a carpentry and joinery shop, an organic-food shop, a bookshop, a transport firm, a bike shop, a bar, a publishing studio, an environmental laboratory, an antique dealer and a firm making measuring instruments. However, there was no agriculture or horticulture. There were 9 political and social initiatives, including an anarchist documentation centre (anArchiv), a culture group, a transport policy group, a newspaper and publisher, an environment group, a health project and a music group.
By 1993, there were 14 self-managed collectives, a dozen housing projects and a similar number of intiatives. About 100 people were involved at this point. All involved projects were organised along basis democratic priciples.
Crisis and decline
As the project began to be sucessful, large numbers of “purists” began to join it. Many believed that they knew the “correct” way forward, and criticised the project in Neustadt as being neither radical nor anarchist enough. It was too bourgeois and not involved in class struggle. This lead to many people leaving the project and a decline in the number of housing groups and collectives.
Sources – all in German
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