Mutual Aid in San Diego: Why Here, Why Now?

What is Mutual Aid?

Mutual aid is an organizational strategy with the goal of building the strength and resilience of a given community through the reciprocal exchange of goods and/or services. The core value that undergirds mutual aid projects is one of reciprocity, as opposed to charity, where aid typically flows only in one direction. 

The practice of mutual aid has existed since hunter-gatherer societies, where individuals within a collective unit provided various skills to contribute to the success of the whole. In a more modern context, mutual aid structures have been built in times of crisis, hardship, and when existing civic institutions have withdrawn from a given community. Some more recent examples of mutual aid can be found in early 20th century American society, the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, and Chiapas, Mexico.

If you have spare resources or time, if you have a particular skill, you can offer them, knowing that you have a community to support you when times get harder. If you need resources or a service, you can receive them, knowing that you will make valuable contributions to your community’s well-being when the moment arises. Whether a person gives or receives mutual aid, they are helping nourish the social ties that connect and give strength to every individual, and the community as a whole.

DSA San Diego’s Mutual Aid Efforts in Response to COVID19

As socialists, we recognize that our power comes from our ability to stand together and support one another when our livelihoods are threatened and our very lives hang in the balance. That is why the Libertarian Socialist Caucus (LSC) of the San Diego chapter of Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) began the current mutual aid project in the face of the intensifying crisis caused by COVID19 and the structural failures of the country’s social, economic, and political system. Recognizing the inability of the “free market” and the government to effectively respond when people are in urgent need, DSA San Diego created a shopper program and a GoFundMe to provide financial help for vulnerable community members. 

Following mutual aid principles, DSA San Diego’s LSC matches those who are currently healthy and have the time and means to assist with members of the San Diego community who are at-risk or otherwise vulnerable. We strive to pair individuals together who come from geographically close neighborhoods and ensure that every individual’s needs are met without overextending our most crucial community resource – people. Financial aid is provided not out of sympathy, but out of solidarity and knowledge that our community’s power is only as strong as our most vulnerable.

Pandemics like COVID19 illustrate the false dichotomy of “givers” and “takers” that today’s society presents us with. One who is sick today could help others once healed tomorrow; one who is healthy today could fall ill and need help tomorrow. Whether you are in need or can provide help now, your involvement builds the collective capacity of our shared community to face the struggles of today and tomorrow.

Resources – Where to Act Now

Join the San Diego DSA Mutual Aid Network

Sign up Form: https://forms.gle/dxp3WHcQxPWk4Q5r8

GoFundMe: https://www.gofundme.com/f/dsa-san-diego-mutual-aid-fund

Join our San Diego mutual aid network to receive and give support by filling out the form above. If you want to support others, checkmark the “to be volunteer shopper” option. You will be contacted by one of our organizers. We will connect you with those who need groceries delivered to their home. They will give you a list of items they need and funds to pay the groceries.

If you need groceries delivered, checkmark “to get groceries delivered” option. We will pair you with a volunteer shopper in your area who will get the groceries and deliver them to your door. You will need to transfer money to them to pay the groceries. If you need monetary aid to pay for groceries, please checkmark “to receive monetary support”.

Please only fill out the form once, unless your area, contact information, and/or your desired role in the network has changed.

The mutual aid network also has a Discord server. Discord is a messaging platform we use you to connect everyone in the network. Through Discord, we can support each other beyond just groceries. You can meet others in your area to share resources and tackle common challenges you all face. Help us build a mutual aid community by following the Discord Invite link above. You will need to create a Discord account, if you don’t have one already. We also recommend installing the Discord App on your smartphone or computer. If you need recurring help, please make new requests through the Discord. Do not use the signup form.

If you have spare funds, please consider contributing to our chapter’s GoFundMe page. We use the funds raised to help vulnerable members of the San Diego community purchase groceries and other supplies.

Have questions about the San Diego DSA Mutual Aid network? Email us at: sandiegodsa.ma@gmail.com

Additional Resources

Comprehensive List of COVID-19 San Diego Community Resources: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1mHMjAQrT_KmlCgTWKZ2F5jjNqxEzIgM7lBPnn0O5ZO8

More on Mutual Aid (LSC): https://dsa-lsc.org/mutual-aid/

Connection Between Mutual Aid Strategy & Building Dual Power (LSC):  https://dsa-lsc.org/2018/12/31/dual-power-a-strategy-to-build-socialism-in-our-time/

Mutual Aid: A Factor of Evolution (Petr Kropotkin): https://theanarchistlibrary.org/library/petr-kropotkin-mutual-aid-a-factor-of-evolution 

Mutual Aid Syllabus (Bid Door Brigade/Dean Spade): https://bigdoorbrigade.com/2019/08/29/first-draft-of-mutual-aid-syllabus/