Over the past three months, starting with the pandemic and expanding into the current rebellion, there has been a beautiful flowering of mutual aid. These projects grew from the seeds of already-existing collective care. Indeed, “mutual aid” wasn’t invented by radical social theorists, even if anarchist geographer Peter Kropotkin gave name to this striving in his 1902 book Mutual Aid: A Factor of Evolution. It has been a lived practice stretching across centuries, because reciprocal, egalitarian, voluntaristic cooperation works, which was exactly Kropotkin’s point. Mutual aid, in fact, allows us to supply each other with life—not merely to survive, but crucially, to thrive—versus the disastrous structures of violence and death that are now being so powerfully challenged.
Astonishingly, thanks to the fiery resistance on the streets of late, we’re seeing the old world begin to crumble faster than any of us could have imagined. In the rubble of destroyed precincts and burned-out cop cars, people are using imaginative forms of mutual aid to take good care of each other in ways and on a scale also unimaginable just a couple long months ago. And it’s not just in a few big, already-radical cities. This uprising and the mutual aid springing up around it are happening everywhere, in midsize to small towns, suburbs and villages, and rural areas and regions, and there too, mutual aid is key.
Yet not all places are equal. A few cities and communities across Turtle Island—whether, say, because they are at the heart of the uprising, are in the media spotlight, or already had a lot of radical infrastructure—have disproportionately big amounts of people power, materials, and money. Others have little to none.
Happily, part of the beauty of mutual aid is its rhizomatic structure, allowing it to grow continuously and horizontally so as to support continual new possibilities of social solidarity, dignity, and freedom. We can grow our non-hierarchical sensibility by becoming more interdependent, more cooperative—connecting and sharing across distance.
We want to encourage all self-organized spaces, projects, social struggles, and movements to radically redistribute our collective abundance of mutual aid beyond our immediate geographies, and thus also cultivate stronger relationships and even bonds of love in this time of so much promise. Do you have more than you ever dreamed of, for instance, in your medic supplies and bail funds, to take just two examples? How about finding communities in your region or ecosystem that lack one or both, and regifting some of it to them? Are you in a tiny town that needs medic supplies and bail funds, and yet nobody outside your community knows that? How can you better “take care, give care” in a way that doesn’t stop at the “borders” to your big city?
For our part, Mutual Aid Disaster Relief (MADR) is happy to connect folx and mutual aid whenever possible. If you’re part of a small, emergent mutual aid effort that is having difficulty meeting the survival needs of people in your community, please reach out to us for backup and support at [email protected]
So let’s turn to each other, far and wide, and ask, “What would you like to receive?” “What could I gift you?” (or, “Here’s what I could gift you!”), and “How can we better find and mutually aid each other, friend?”