The AAO, also known as the AA-Kommune, was a austrian/german commune started by the austrian artist, Otto Muehl, which existed from 1970 to 1978 when the organisation officially dissolved itself. Some AAO communities broke up, others continued until 1991, when Muehl was sent to prison. It consisted of a number of groups, both urban ( e.g. Vienna, Berlin) and rural (e.g. Friedrichshof in Burgenland). It was the forerunner of the commune on La Gomera and of ZEGG. At its peak it had about 600 members spread out through Austria, Switzerland and West Germany. During the seventies it was one of the most influential communities in the german speaking area, but also one of the most controversial.
The community was based on the ideas of a return to nature, breaking down the repressive functions of the nuclear family through free love and free sexuality in the community and on the ending of private property. The so-called action-analysis, partly based on the ideas of psycho-drama, primal cry and Wilhelm Reich, was central to their communal life. Members took part in “Selbst Darstellungen”, Self-Presentations, where they acted out their problems and characteristics in a dramatic and exagerated way. The AA-Kommune had a number of communal businesses (farming, house clearance, shops, cafes, seminars) and the commune members (except mothers) had a duty to work in them. Many of the commune members adopted a sort of communal uniform of short hair and dungarees; a contast to the long haired and colourful members of most other communities of the period. The children born in the commune were seen as communal children and raised together.
The AAO began as a small group in a house in the Praterstrasse in Vienna. The members had single rooms and had private money. The had a communal purse for shared costs. They had shared evenings for discussion of problems and for organisational matters.
By the middle of 1972, two further groups had started in Vienna, and they decided to buy the Friedrichshof in Burgenland together. They began to experiment with communal “free” sexuality instead of monogamous couple relationships. Private bank accounts were terminated and a completely communal economy started. In August 1973, the decision was taken by men and women to give up long hair and distance themselves from “hippy communes”.
In March 1974, the first group of 15 members began the renovation and extension of the Friedrichshof. The smaller groups then existing in Vienna and Berlin began to dissolve and move to the Friedrichshof, so that a group of 50 members came into being there.
During 1974, AAO members began to hold seminars about the AAO in West Germany, and they made a film about the technique of “Self-Presentation”. The first “communal” children were born in this year. The communal purse was extended to communal work and production, and work within the commune for wages was abolished. Work was in groups and there was the attempt to break down professional roles. During summer 1975, over 500 people visited the Friedrichshof.
New AA communes were started in Berlin, Krefeld, Heidelberg and Geneva. In October 1975, the members of the west german AA communes decided to all move together, and a group of 60 members came into being in Berlin. Further AA communes were started in Bremen and Munich.
The end phase:
From 1978, the possession of some private property was conceded to members. In 1979, the concept of communal property was done away with. The energy which had been in the movement ebbed away, as did many members. In 1986, 200 members went with Otto Muehl to the island of La Gomera in the Canaries, where they started a new community under Muehl’s leadership.
Muehl in prison:
In Austria in 1991, Otto Muehl was sentenced to 7 years in prison. He had been found guilty of various sexual and drug offences, including the sexual abuse of children in the commune. Later, he claimed that many members of the commune had also been guilty of abuse of minors. He was released from prison in 1997.
Before the trial and imprisonment of Otto Muehl, the AAO had been heavily criticised as being an authoritarian group, offering oversimplified answers to complex problems, closed to criticism and elitare. Christian churches and other critics defined it as a “Psychosect”. (See Cults)
German language documentation of the criticism can be found at the AGPF – Aktion für Geistige und Psychische Freiheit side about Muehl and the AAO.
“Alternative Selbstorganisation auf dem Lande“, Klaus-B. Vollmar, Verlag Jakobsohn, Berlin 1977.
“AAO – Pro & Contra” Anthology of texts by various authors, AA Verlag, Nürnberg, 1977.
“Heumarkt “, Klaas Jarchow & Norbert Klugmann, Rotbuch Verlag, Berlin, 1980.
“Die Diktatur der Freien Sexualität“, Andreas Schlothauer, Verlag für Gesellschaftskritik, Vienna, 1992. (Out of print, but available as etext at:AGPF
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