Monday, 23 March 2020

Ashes Of Disaster.

        "From the ashes of disaster grow the roses of success". We are certainly facing a disaster on a gigantic scale.. We can see it as disaster and just try to get through it, or we can see it as an opportunity. Mutual aid groups are forming up all over the world, not just in UK. As the present economic system crumbles and creeks as it nears collapsing point, we can with mutual aid groups start to create an alternative to the exploitative capitalist system. Power can move to the communities, mutual aid groups can link up and grow, communities can start to sort out their needs and not wait for our lords and masters to create a dependency on their power institutions. The present economic system is practically on its knees, let's make sure it can never rise again and replicate the inequality, corruption and injustice of the past. By coming together in mutual aid groups, with a long term view, we can grow the roses of success from the ashes of this disaster.  

       With the shutdown of businesses, schools and countless other institutions, millions of people are facing loss of income, housing and access to basic survival resources, including food. Confronted by popular pressure and the specter of civil unrest, states have begun to undertake a “disaster socialism” of uneven and often contradictory aid measures. Still, conditions of emergency are intensifying by the hour and the current biopolitical regime faces an existential crisis.
Under such circumstances, the need for self-organized infrastructures of mutual aid, care and resilience could not be clearer. In the coming weeks and months, rent strikes and other acts of collective refusal are on the horizon. How could these works of mutual aid flow into the construction of a dual power situation? As the system collapses, can physical bases of autonomy and solidarity transform our relationship to the state?
      At Woodbine, an autonomous space and organizing framework maintained in New York City since 2014, this is what we have been preparing for — to mobilize our networks, skills, knowledges and energy to coordinate and provide for each other, while simultaneously building the longer-term capacity to face an uncertain future.
Digital organizing
      Although the severity of COVID-19 crisis is unprecedented in recent memory, many people in New York City seem primed for the moment, as if they have been waiting for a crisis of this magnitude to arrive.
       Last week, Sandy Nurse, a co-founder of the MayDay Space in Bushwick and a candidate for New York City Council tweeted: “Movement folks: we know how to mobilize quickly and effectively. Time to get in formation. Start the conversations now w/ local social networks & hubs on collaborating what safe direct support may need to look like, & what does scaling-up and cross-neighborhood collab[oration] look like.” We shared her post across our social media platforms and received immediate responses from friends and strangers alike reaching out to collaborate.
      Experienced community organizers and newly activated neighbors alike have joined a dizzying flood of online coordination, from social media posts to Google docs, Zoom meetings and Signal threads. Just yesterday, a Google doc titled “Mutual Aid NYC” migrated to its own website, where hundreds of individuals are making plans for autonomous mutual aid and disaster relief on a local, place-by-place basis. This avalanche of online discussion, from resource guides and social media “hot takes,” shows that there is much popular insight about how to to navigate the crisis. But questions remain as to who, how, when and where these calls for action will be taken up.
Legacies of mutual aid
        There is a long history of radical mutual aid that links service provisioning with the construction of dual power. In New York, this has been led by organizations like the Black Panthers, the Young Lords, ACT-UP, and, in more recent years, Occupy Wall Street. Today, various decolonial and abolitionist formations have been established that involve mutual aid including Take Back the Bronx and NYC Shut It Down, which is already adjusting its Feed the People (FTP) program to the present crisis. These mutual aid projects exist alongside informal activities of interdependence, care and support that many communities already practice on a day-to-day basis. Now, New Yorkers are mobilizing these informal networks in more deliberate ways, aiming, for example, to connect vulnerable tenants with volunteers.
       The local experience of Hurricane Sandy provides an important example of both the possibilities and the limits of a crisis moment like the present. The self-organized “Occupy Sandy” was a city-wide infrastructure of spontaneous, self-organized disaster relief after the hurricane struck in 2012. Many leftist observers suggested that Occupy Sandy offered a prefigurative glimpse of disaster communism,” an alternative, cooperative response to so-called “natural” disasters.
        However, in practice, Occupy Sandy functioned largely as a supplementary service provider within the void left by the state’s negligence. It never came close to becoming a sustained political formation, let alone one capable of forcing concessions from the ruling class. Most importantly, Occupy Sandy demonstrated a collective capacity to directly confront catastrophe. It served as a crucible for relationships, projects and spaces in the subsequent decade ⁠— including Woodbine itself.
        Understanding the legacies and continuities of mutual aid are crucial to acting in the current moment. However, none of us have faced the surreal condition of social distancing. What does organizing in real life mean now and what are our expectations of safety and responsibility?
The dilemma of “social distancing”
         As online attempts at mutual aid unfold, we must address the matter of real-life contact and physical space along with their ethical, medical and logistical dilemmas. While recognizing the urgency of “social distancing,” how can we prevent state-mandated isolation and quarantine measures from becoming tools of political demobilization? What does it mean to normalize quarantine as a necessary condition during an emergency? And what are our expectations when it comes to responses from the state?
        We know that there are experienced and trusted organizers all around us, and we also know there are dormant organizing frameworks and relations that will need to be revived and reactivated. We know that we will need to share skills and practices with groups throughout the country. There are many others out there — at home, online, wanting to help, to volunteer, to contribute — with skills, knowledge and resources beyond which any of us realize. There will be the need not only to provide for our friends, but also our neighbors and community members.
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