Mutual Aid and Revolution by Andžejs Jenots is another article in the zine I’ve been writing about, We Gather Here Today in Disservice of the State, from Des Moines Mutual Aid (DMMA). I think of Mutual Aid as revolutionary because it represents a paradigm shift from capitalism. I recently wrote Mutual Aid is the Quaker way of being in the world.
This article addresses a weakness of Mutual Aid that I’ve been aware of, which is “to the extent that mutual aid is an activity resulting in products and services, financed by groups of workers who exist because they (or a large enough share of them) sell their labor power to the enemy class for a wage, mutual aid is the redistribution of a share of those wages.”
But there is much more to Mutual Aid than providing products and services. As Jenots says below, “one of the central tasks of mutual aid is less about doing something for the sake of doing something, and more about thinking and noticing.” Des Moines Mutual Aid is very skilled at noticing and responding.
At present most of the food we distribute comes from sources that paid for the materials and labor to make it. We got it because its freshness date had expired. I envisioned a time when wheat, for example, was grown by farmers who gave it to those who make bread, which is distributed without charge. The farmers and bakers would be among those who received the bread. This is not as naive as it might seem, because capitalism is collapsing. We need to be thinking about and working toward what we want to replace it.
As Jenots goes on to say, “it is clear what the main weakness in this is: all (class-independent) mutual aid activity is constrained by the wages of its participants and donors.”
Mutual aid is not infrastructure for running away or carving out a small plot of land – literal or figurative, it is infrastructure for driving a spear into the heart of capital and sustaining an effort to do so. Mutual aid is a basis for preparedness for future revolutionary events, including for the allocation of all of the skills and capabilities whose aims will be redirected from profit-making to something else as a result of the widespread clarity gained in a revolutionary situation. Even though we can say little in detail about a coming revolution, we know that it will be a conflict between classes, and that will mean strain on dependencies between those classes. To the extent we now depend on the enemy class for the organization of the production of goods and services (and in many ways, we do), someday we won’t be able to anymore. However, the fight will no longer belong only to `we unhappy few,’ these early-to-consciousness revolutionaries, with our meager skillsets. It will become everyone’s domain…
The task of revolutionary mutual aid is to re-link production with distribution when and where capitalist social relations no longer do….
One of the central tasks of mutual aid is less about doing something for the sake of doing something, and more about thinking and noticing – understanding the trajectory capitalism is taking in order to understand the needs it will create and the means, methods, technique, skills, expertise, etc. which finally become available to us as they are expelled from capitalism.Andžejs Jenots, Mutual Aid and Revolution