What is Mutual-aid?
(Inspired by Dean Spade and "People's Guide to Capitalism")
"Mutual aid is collective coordination to meet each other’s needs, usually from an awareness that the systems we have in place are not going to meet them. Those systems, in fact, have often created the crisis, or are making things worse"
- Dean Spade, "Mutual Aid: Building Solidarity during this crisis (and the Next)"
Capitalism has forced the individualistic mindset upon the population, constantly being put in competition with each other, and avoiding helping the vulnerable. This mindset is not only immoral but unnatural. Throughout human history, people have constantly worked collectively in order to survive. Exchangeability and profiting were not factors to necessities (whether that'd be food, shelter, or clothing) as it was fundamental for survival. The errors of capitalism are heightened even further with the deadly pandemic we are currently. In a system that isolates its people into atomized communities and forces dependency onto systems that focus on profit first before the people - helping each other out is radical resistance. Through crisis, there is opportunity of helping someone or a group of people in need.
An example of this is the survival programs created by the BPP (Black Panther Party) with their most popular program being the Free Breakfast for Children Program established by 1968 and was attacked relentlessly by the FBI and J. Edgar Hoover. As previously stated, helping the vulnerable and each other is a radical act.
For more information on Mutual-aid, read Mutual-Aid: Building solidarity through this Crisis (and the Next) by Dean Spade or watch a video by Second Thought on Mutual-aid and Dual Power:
How is this different from Charity?
There are many different factors from Charity to Mutual-aid work, there is a common saying that says "Solidarity Not Charity!"
Mutual-aid is rooted into the community, is fundamentally horizontal, and has open arms for anyone who is struggling, whether that'd be with money, food, or lack of housing. Charity, on the other hand, is a top-down system that is privatized with their members being donors rather than the people themselves. Charity for this reason creates distinctions on who they want to give money to such as immigration status, sobriety, following curfews, participating in job training, etc.
To quote Dean Spade, "The humiliation and degradation of doing required work assignments to get benefits too small to live off of, or answering endless personal questions that treat the recipient like a fraud and a crook, are designed to make sure people will accept any work at any exploitive wage or condition to avoid relying on public benefits. Charity makes rich people and corporations look generous while upholding and legitimizing the systems that concentrate wealth"
To summarize, charity wishes to create a relationship built upon dependency rather than fixing structural issues or directly benefiting the community it claims to help.
Here are the differences between local councils, charities, and mutual-aid projects:
Where can I find mutual-aid networks?
To find mutual-aid organizations to support or join in your area, go to mutualaidhub.org