My experience has always been how slowly justice related things change, even then the changes are incremental, often don’t persist. A lot of that is the disconnect between a committee (slowly) making decisions, which too often don’t have practical steps to implement the change. And often are really disconnected from those who the change was intended to benefit.
Even though the concept of Mutual Aid couldn’t be clearer, it marks a radical departure from the above. Getting away from the vertical hierarchy (above) has all kinds of benefits. Those interested in helping and those needing help are no longer separate, as in “us” versus “them”. Mutual means everyone involved working together to help solve a problem that is affecting everyone.
Mutual Aid always involves action. The Black Panther’s free breakfast program drew in large numbers of people to help and fed thousands of children. The photographs of this are remarkable, showing everyone clearly enjoying what they were doing. FBI Director J Edgar Hoover recognized how effective the Breakfast for Children Program was.
In the span of just a few weeks, the coronavirus has completely changed life as we know it, while also exposing the vast array of contradictions firmly entrenched within capitalist society. America has been laid bare as to what it always has been, a settler-colonial project that is the sole property of those who own it, as John Jay, one of the ‘Founding Fathers’ once argued.
In this moment, everyday people have to seize the initiative and get organized; before a new normal takes hold and the State can re-solidify its authority. The Trump administration will try and do this through blunt violence and police orders, as already the national guard is streaming into various cities. Democrats and the neoliberal media on the other hand will push for the country to “come together” behind Joe Biden – assuming that the November 2020 elections even are held.
If poor and working people see within the coronavirus not only a pandemic that will possibly leave in its wake a massive death count, but also the very real crisis that is modern industrial capitalism, then we must mobilize for our own interests, push back, and actually fight. This means demanding not only bread and butter: free housing, access to food, an end to evictions, and clean water: but also building new human relationships, new forms of actual life. This means creating ways of meeting our needs, making decisions, and organizing ourselves and solving problems outside of the State structure and the capitalist system.
Towards this end, we are encouraged by the explosion of grassroots and autonomous mutual aid projects that are springing up across the US. Not since the early stages of the Occupy Movement have we seen this growth of spontaneous mobilization in the face of a crisis. These efforts must continue to organize themselves, grow, network, and deepen their connections within working-class and poor neighborhoods.Autonomous Groups Are Mobilizing Mutual Aid Initiatives to Combat the Coronavirus – It’s Going Down
As it says above, “In this moment, everyday people have to seize the initiative and get organized; before a new normal takes hold.”
Des Moines Mutual Aid (DMMA) is seizing the initiative now, providing food for those in need, and supporting those who are houseless. DMMA is working with Des Moines Black Lives Matter to collect winter clothing.
I’ve been working on this diagram for some time now. Capitalism has created all kinds of problems, and is not sustainable. In the latest iteration, Mutual Aid is where we need to be now.