Mutual Aid is getting a lot of attention because numerous Mutual Aid efforts have been successful in responding to survival needs, when the political system failed spectacularly.
As Richard Wolff writes below, “neither (political party) dares blame private capitalism for social problems like unemployment and pandemic casualties. A solution would be a genuinely level political playing field. It would include a new political party that criticizes and opposes the capitalist system because of its responsibility for critical social problems.”
Locally, Des Moines Mutual Aid works in the areas mentioned below–free food distribution, shelter, bail and support for those arrested advocating for change, and providing personal protective equipment.
Popular anger finally exploded in 2020 in the form of widespread and sustained protests for racial justice, forcing white Americans to reckon with their privilege and the face of stark inequality.
Indeed, 2020 must be remembered for Black Lives Matter: for the neighbors who put on their masks and showed up for one another, for the revolts against state violence, and the mutual aid that blossomed even in an era of social distancing. We will soon put 2020 behind us, but the power built by our movements this year will continue to grow. There was far too much organizing in 2020 to fit into one article, but here’s a snapshot of activism that defined a year when everything changed.
While the mainstream media focused much of its attention on property destruction and clashes with police during the revolts of 2020, activists everywhere harnessed the collective power of the protest movement to better their communities. Mutual aid flourished during the uprising in Minneapolis, for example, where Truthout reported on street corners and empty shops that transformed into free markets, and a hotel taken over by houseless activists and their allies.
Rooted in anarchist thinking and a longtime practice among leftists of all stripes, mutual aid became a household term in 2020 as the capitalist system proved incapable of responding to the COVID-19 crisis. Across the country, people organized mutual aid groups to deliver food and supplies to people who could not leave their homes during the pandemic. As historic wildfires threatened communities across the U.S. West, Black Lives Matter activists in Portland shifted gears, temporarily halting protests to focus on mutual aid. As the pandemic hit new peaks this month, Brant Rosen explored mutual aid within the Hannukah tradition, urging readers to resist COVID by caring for each other. As Noam Chomsky pointed out in an interview with Chris Steele, there is a long history of mutual aid in the U.S. and across the world — and it is key to our survival.Politicians Failed Us in 2020. Our Movements Built Lasting Power, by Mike Ludwig, Truthout, December 26, 2020
A basic social reality of the United States is its capitalist economic system that organizes enterprises internally into a small minority (employers) dominating the majority (employees), with markets to distribute resources and products. Like capitalisms everywhere, the U.S. version crashes recurringly. Variously called crises, recessions, or depressions, they have happened, on average, every four to seven years throughout capitalism’s history. The 2020 crash is second only to the Great Depression of the 1930s in its social impact. That fact alone demands major policy interventions on the scale, at least, of what was done then (including the creation of Social Security, federal unemployment insurance, the first minimum wage, and the creation of millions of federal jobs). Moreover, the 1930s were not simultaneously a time of deadly viral pandemic. Given the uniquely immense challenge of 2020’s two crises, no remotely adequate policies were undertaken nor even contemplated by Trump, Biden, Republican or Democratic establishments. They just don’t get it.
For both Republican and Democratic establishments, political strategies are similar. Each endorses, privileges, and supports private capitalism. Each blames the other party for negative results that flow from the social dominance of private capitalism. Neither dares blame private capitalism for social problems like unemployment and pandemic casualties. Instead, each has its preferred set of scapegoats to blame. Republicans blame immigrants, foreign trading partners (especially China), non-whites, pro-abortion rights activists, mainstream media, liberals, and socialists. Democrats blame Russia and Russians, China, gun enthusiasts, white supremacists and racists, Fox News, and Trump and his supporters.
A solution would be a genuinely level political playing field. It would include a new political party that criticizes and opposes the capitalist system because of its responsibility for critical social problems. It would break the political monopoly run by Republicans and Democrats just as many economic monopolies have ended in the nation’s past. Today’s crises, inequalities, divisions, and the sufferings of so many deserve no less. Yet the political monopolists want to keep their control.THE DC POLITICAL MONOPOLY JUST DOESN’T GET IT By Richard D. Wolff, Counterpunch, December 26, 2020
Mutual aid is not only about addressing the crisis at hand but also about undoing the injustices of colonialism and imperialism and, using an intersectional framework, working to ensure racial, gender, economic, health, and environmental justice.
After Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005, while federal, state, and local agencies left people stranded without shelter or food, groups including the Common Ground Collective worked to provide housing, clothing, health care, and legal services to those in need. The organization was cofounded by former Black Panther Malik Rahim, drawing in part on the Black Panthers ten-point program, which offered free breakfast programs and free health care and legal clinics, and advocated principles of mutual aid.
Amid the pandemic, communities have sprung into action. With the economic fallout and lack of federal “survival checks” (as U.S. Representative-Elect Cori Bush, Democrat of Missouri, refers to them instead of “stimulus checks”), people are not only calling for an extension to the federal eviction moratorium, which expires at the end of 2020, but also taking action to keep people housed. In NYC, Mutual Aid NYC sprung into action. A multi-racial network of people and groups, it aims to share food, material and other resources “to support each other interdependently.”COVID-19, the Climate Crisis, and Mutual Aid. Mutual aid is not only about addressing the crisis at hand but also about undoing the injustices of colonialism and imperialism, by Tina Gerhardt. Progressive, December 19, 2020