Monday, March 23, 2020

Mutual Aid to Self-Determination

Mutual Aid to Self-Determination

-Joaquin Cienfuegos

In a crisis is when the ruling class shows its true nature. The one thing capitalists care to safeguard in these times is its system and market above all else. While people die from a pandemic we have not seen in our lifetimes, and people get laid off and are unsure of how they will survive and feed their families -- the state shuts down most means for poor people to survive trying to control the virus. All this comes at no surprise, but these class contradictions become magnified during times of crisis. With all that is happening it is clear what is to blame for the ills plaguing humanity and our planet has always been capitalism.

There is no safety net for those at the bottom. Only the rich can afford to take weeks to months off from work, have jobs that give them a salary to work from home, or have savings to fall back on. Majority of people don't have basic health care to even get tested for COVID-19. Yet the state expects us to fall in line with whatever mediocre plan they have to control disease. They expect us to stay home if we do not serve in jobs that are needed to keep their system running, or are healthcare workers. We are expected to pay rent on stolen land, as well as self-quarantine and just buy groceries or get them delivered. They are cutting public transportation and many service jobs. The economic and health care plans that are being offered to us is not enough for us to survive and it seems like a band aid solution to a problem that has no cure, which is this system.

All this, while their media spreads fear instead of educating the public. This is the norm though: keep the people afraid and while they over-consume out of panic. Even then, who is able to afford buying and stocking up on supplies, when most people live pay check to pay check and in poverty. I'm not a conspiracy theorist, but one thing in history has been clear, that in times of crisis, the fascists have used the opportunity to consolidate their power, as well as implement repressive laws they can use to target communities and people they wish to eliminate and subjugate; in example, homeless, people of color, migrants, elderly and others.

The question is what can we do? I wrote something a few years ago I want to re-share, that is relevant today, titled, “Beyond Survival.” Capitalism is the crisis, and the state will not save us. All we have is each other, and we can see this with all the mutual aid projects popping up or that have been in place for years ( ). The challenge before us, is that we need to have infrastructure in place so we are not just reacting when crisis happens. At least for me, that is not strategic, and is short sighted.  Our tactics also get coopted by the right and liberals alike, and other opportunists with their own agendas. Our goal should always be a better world.

Infrastructure, means building within our communities and beyond, so we can truly be self-sufficient. We can provide what we need eventually for each other (basic needs like food, clothes, shelter, healthcare, and “work”), and not rely on the system. It means working with indigenous people and learning to be on the land. That also means fighting to protect the water, and the people.  It will mean changing our relationship to the land. Otherwise we will always be at the mercy of capitalism and every crisis created by it.

We Can live in a world where people can truly feel involved in solving a crisis like the one we are living under now. Where we can work together to feed, house every one and have health care for every single person. Where people can take time off and and be guaranteed a livelihood (not just professionals). Those things are possible, but not under capitalism, and it won't come from democrats or republicans. WE have to fight to make it a reality, and it will take an actual revolution to bring this about, nothing less.

"My intent is not to spread panic, panic is detrimental. I want to promote the proactive approach of preparedness for our people. I want to strongly encourage our people to truly value and take responsibility for our lives (meaning to rely less on the government and more upon each other),  become more proactive and learn about these strategies and skills related to them. Then determine which one works best for your situation and start to plan, prepare and execute your plan."

-Sakej Ward

Beyond Survival

“No queremos sobrevivir, Queremos Vivir” “We don't want to survive, We Want to Live”

By Joaquin Cienfuegos

 The question of survival can mean many different things to people.  In the movement, it has come to mean what Huey P. Newton meant when he said, “survival pending revolution.”  It has also come to mean, learning to live off the land and break one's dependency on this system of colonialism and capitalist-imperialist white supremacy.  While I am not trying to undermine anyone's struggle here, I feel that the movement places more energy on the former, fighting to survive within a racist/sexist oppressive genocidal society.  I want to discuss mainly what we intend to do, and hopefully get to a situation where we are not just surviving, and we can actually live.

 In the major cities in the u.s. Empire, oppressed people are forced into a situation where we are existing in a state of crisis.  We are always just trying to survive, because we do not have any resources that are our own, we are not self-sufficient, self-determined, or sustainable whatsoever.  We are dependent on the system and those in power for our basic needs we need to live: food, clothes, shelter, jobs and education.  For anyone striving to be free, this is an unfavorable position to be in strategically.   It forces us into a situation where we are reacting, and to those in power, this will always give them the upper hand.

 This is not to say that fighting for better living conditions isn't necessary, it definitely is.  Collectively we need to figure out how to connect these struggles to a larger vision, so we don't get bogged down in a reactionary relationship to our oppression and our struggle for freedom.  What we need to deal with is the professional activists, opportunists, and politicians/political careerists who wish to keep us in line with a form of struggle that is safe and keeps their non-profit or opportunist/political aims safe and payed.  They wish to keep us resisting in a non-threatening way.  This speaks to the cooptation of of the “survival programs” or the “serve the people” programs of the Black Panther Party and other revolutionary organizations of the 60's by corporations/Non-Profit Industrial Complex, due to the effectiveness of those programs.  The fact that J. Edgar Hoover and the Counter Intelligence Program, saw the Free Breakfast Program as the “largest threat to national security” speaks to that.  The difference, however, between the BPP (Black Panther Party), and these Non-profits or other organizations who claim to JUST provide services to people, is that the BPP at least for a long time had a revolutionary program/strategy that connected their programs to a larger vision of a different world.

 Later the BPP leadership went down a reformist path and turned “survival pending revolution” programs into just survival, thinking revolution was too far off in the future.  Today many organizations feel the same way, if they even use revolutionary rhetoric, some are straight up open about reformist aims, or just careerist goals as well.  While some might have good intentions in providing services to the people, many just hope to serve themselves or their pockets.  These folks benefit from the fact that survival not only is a necessity but people's nature is to fight for survival, so this struggle is inevitable.  They act as a cushion for the boot of those in power to prolong our rebellion.  This is part of the privilege of living in the first world, or in the belly of the empire.  There has to be this this facade, that the people are being fed, and are being taken care of, if not by the government, than by their middle-men, the NGO's (and others like them).

 So this type of survival, is one that is controlled, and when we become comfortable, then we build a dependency on this system.  This is very common in the empire.  People get into this unconscious (or conscious) way of relating to the state, without it they will not be able to live, and some will even fight to protect this way of life.  Other comrades subconsciously get caught in this cycle of just reacting to the state, and what it brings down on our communities, and get involved only in this activism.  Many people are stuck in this phase, and can't seem to get out of it; nothing gets built, and nothing really changes.  Our communities, really just struggle to get by... to survive.

 We have to learn how to be human again, this battle is one where we not only decolonize ourselves and our minds, but decolonize our condition, working with all indigenous people to do so.  Recognizing again that we are on stolen land, and work with the rightful keepers of the territory we are on.  This is a different type of survival, and it doesn't just mean doing what is sufficient for our people to live, but doing what is necessary to ensure the next seven generations, and prepare the ground so our children can do the same.  It means that we have to fight, not just to survive, but to drive the colonizer and its system out of this continent and get rid of their way of life.  This will mean learning the “survival” skills that are necessary, these are the valuable warrior skills that will connect us back to the land and our culture.  This is how we will learn how to live, how to be human, and how to live outside of this system.  This is a necessary step for the survival of not only indigenous way of life but humanity as a whole.

 We will not fight to replace this system with another set of oppressors, who also represent the colonizer way of life.  We have to build autonomy, which for that you need land, and you need to have a relationship to it and those who are the rightful caretakers of it.  Having a relationship to the land means many different things, along being able to protect it, because it gives you life.  Fighting for autonomy means going beyond just surviving, but being truly independent of the state and the system.  The only way to go beyond just fighting to survive, and actually live, is to build autonomy while destroying this system and driving out their colonial rule.