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context, mutual aid structures have been built in times of crisis, hardship, and when existing civic institutions have withdrawn from a given community.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
Form to be a Shopper: https://forms.gle/2MJR9hCw8efHWaJv8
If you want to support other members of the San Diego community throughout the COVID19 crisis, please consider becoming a solidarity shopper by filling out the form above. You will be contacted by one of our organizers and, if there is an at-risk individual in your neighborhood who needs help with their groceries, paired with them to help with their grocery shopping needs.
Form to Receive Help Shopping: https://forms.gle/9CbG1JbKYwff6zHb6
If you need shopping support during this crisis, please fill out the above form to receive help. One of our organizers will contact you to match you with a shopper from your area who can fulfill your shopping needs. If you need financial support, please indicate “Yes” on the form. Our chapter has limited funds available for financial assistance.
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.
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/