People are not helpless against the storm. While the winds howl, the thunder rages, and the waters rise, people can find shelter when they act together in the face of collapsing economies and ecological crises. Shelter can take the form of robust mutual aid networks and solidarity economies by which people empower and support one another to sustain themselves outside the constraints of the capitalist system.
Those within the community can share their knowledge and talents, letting people know what they are willing and able to do, and what sorts of non-market goods and services they are willing to accept in exchange. Plumbing and repairs in a home reclaimed from a bank or a building liberated from a landlord; gleaning and sharing unsaleable goods cast off stores and markets. Learning to grow and distribute our own food as we traffic between the urban and the rural through community gardens, neighborhood potlucks, Occupy Farms. Legal and tactical skill-shares among those being hunted down by the debt-collectors and Repo Men. Forming industrial co-ops in which managerial decisions are made by workers in their own collective interest rather than for the profit of a Boss. Medical care provided to those who have put their body on the line in a protest or encampment. Self-generated energy-systems for those who want to opt out of the fossil-fuel economy that is destroying the very basis of life on earth.
The specifics of a solidarity economy vary based upon those participating and the resource-landscapes of particular areas. But the focus should always be on creating communities of sharing and mutuality. Such communities are not based in charity, or simply giving things away for free.
They present, rather, a way for people to use their talents and skills — regardless of economic worth — to build social bonds that subvert the way capitalism has warped and colonized our human relationships.
In constructing a solidarity economy, it is always prudent to reach out to local organizations and see what sort of meaningful work can be done for them in exchange for what they, in turn, can provide for you. Even people who have never heard of mutual aid will understand it on a fundamental level. Against private accumulation and self-interested gain, we advocate the communal support of life, the reciprocal donation of resources, and the passing-along of good will across space and time. Starting a conversation about mutual aid with friends and partners can create a space in which to challenge the relation of their work to the constraints of paternalistic State and well-meaning 1% donors.
The powers that be are counting on our efforts to construct alternative economies to founder, especially since the current system has made us feel isolated and alone in the face of crises. Debtors are encouraged to think that they failed, individually, to fulfill their promises, even though going into unpayable debt is a structural condition of life under capitalism. Tenants feel they must acquiesce to the negligence of the landlord. Consumers think they must buy into an endlessly developing energy economy based on the burning of fossil fuels. Workers imagine themselves in a perpetual competition to work harder and for less against their fellows at home and abroad in the name of economic growth.
As long as the system isolates and pits us against each other, successful strikes against capitalism are impossible. Thinking and acting alone, we suffer alone. But creating a unified front disrupts this ongoing pattern. We are forming debtors’ unions, energy coops, food networks, strike committees, and more. When we develop sustainable networks based on mutual aid and solidarity, we will realize that, as terrifying as the storm of the current system makes itself out to be, the power it wields is minuscule compared to the torrential deluge that we, the 99%, are capable of unleashing against capitalism itself.