Neighborhood Solidarity Leagues
Looking at recent racist attacks, we can identify a trend. The victim is routinely attacked while in isolation. Indeed, isolation is the weapon of the enemy, whether isolated and attacked at a gas pump, or brought in to the isolation of the boss’s office to be laid off, the working class is only ever consistently defeated when it is scattered and isolated. Breaking through this isolation is our task. Individuals are fundamentally unable to defend themselves. Humans are a socially based species. Individuals, therefore, require a community, dare I say a class, to defend them. Specifically, then, I will be writing about the necessity of forming neighborhood defense leagues for the purpose of protecting the physical well-being of its members. Whether you are an undocumented immigrant looking for defense against ICE raids, a minority fearful of police violence, or a woman afraid of going outside at night, the knowledge that your neighbors have your back in an emergency is empowering.
The creation of a neighborhood defense league is very likely to be out of the reach of most people. The existing infrastructure and sense of solidarity is lacking. The task, then, is to work towards the establishment of networks of communication, transportation, and support which will eventually become the basis of a defense league. The first two listed networks are a consequence of the third, organizing your community around an e-mail list, for example, does not make much sense. Using an e-mail list to distribute information about an upcoming meeting regarding recent ICE raids does make sense. The first two networks are tools to support the third which, in turn, is meant to become the basis for higher forms of organization.
Oftentimes communists find it difficult to organize people because they lack a practical point of reference. The challenge I raise to you, dear reader, is to find a practical point of reference. This practical point of reference is nothing else than a network of support. For the past few decades, the left has largely abandoned the task of supporting communities in ways somewhat “outside” of the system to the Democratic Party and various NGOs. It is time to reclaim that role for ourselves.
To be incredibly concrete, I will share with you my efforts on this front. I am aware of an organization local to me that works as legal team for undocumented immigrants when they find themselves facing ICE. Oftentimes they are successful at preventing minors from being deported. These minors, however, have more often than not missed school time due to being in jail pending ICE charges. This is, of course, piled on top of an environment in which public schools have been the target of massive budget cuts following tax breaks given to businesses. These two factors put together create a situation where students can easily fall behind. Myself and two others have stepped in and begun the process of helping these students academically while also taking some time to speak with them about the role of ICE and the police, the reason why schools are underfunded etc. In the process of supporting these students, we will need to create a network of communication to establish times and places to meet, as well as a network of transportation to ensure everyone can arrive in a timely fashion. Once the habitual usage of these networks embeds itself, other forms of organization are enabled to spring up from these communication and transportation networks.
Having established this practical point of reference, it becomes far easier to get people organized, because now they are organizing for something. In my case, I could potentially recruit more people to help us tutor these students, or lend us a space to use for tutoring. These people, and likely the students, can then potentially participate in other networks such as a network to communicate the presence of police in the hopes that the youths we are all tutoring can avoid being profiled and jailed with the threat of deportation. Additionally, it isn’t hard to imagine being able to mobilize this network of people to protest the imprisoning of any of its membership given that we have an organic connection to one another, rather than simply protesting because we don’t like police violence in general.
So what type of support network should you personally make? The most obvious example, in the workplace, should be a trade union, but other than that I can’t really answer that specifically. You need to do a bit of legwork and determine what the needs of your community are, and what resources you are capable of mobilizing to meet those needs.
In my case, I and my friends were successful in school, so we’re trying to utilize those skills in our favor. Creating a free tutoring program for students attending underfunded schools might be something you can do where you live too, just ensure that you politicize this education. The students should be made aware of why capitalism has failed them and forced them to rely upon extra-help. Maybe a free breakfast program like the old Black Panther Party is more what you are capable of doing, include some kind of pamphlet with meals, or address the folks gathered to eat like that old Star Trek episode. Get creative, reach out to your community and organize them around an issue that you are capable of tackling, mobilize the existing resources and politicize them. Hopefully we will be able to link-up separate projects in a meaningful way one day. The Democrats and NGOs have been at this game for longer than we have, we have a lot of lost time to make-up for.
The next obvious question is, where does the defense league come in to this picture of support networks? In an ‘ideal’ world we wouldn’t even need to have that conversation. We could form our trade unions, get better wages, support our communities in ways capitalism cannot, reach the limits of social benefit that capitalism can provide, transcend it peacefully to a worker’s administered capitalism, reach the logical ends of that, and find ourselves nicely in a classless stateless society. Unfortunately we know that won’t happen. We are all too familiar with “the incessant encroachments of capital.” Unions get their strikes broken violently, and in my case, it is likely that groupings of minorities will be targeted for racist hate crimes upon the ascendancy of Trump.
The challenge that will face your support group will depend upon the specific type of support group you have organized. But it should always be kept in mind that our organizing efforts must be in response to a genuine need. We cannot organize an all-white neighborhood with the principle that we should defend ourselves from racist violence. They aren’t under threat of racist violence. You cannot organize them to defend themselves from it.
If our organizing efforts are simply based on “nice ideas” rather than “material necessity,” our organizations will be fragile and break at the slightest difficulty. This being said, it should be clear that the problems your group responds to will crop up out of the tendencies of capitalism, and this fact should not be ignored. Generally speaking, these support groups begin with the same purpose, to establish a better life by improving some facet of that life. Capitalism will tend to assault the attempts at having a better life. The logic that must be made clear to all members of that group is that a better life cannot be achieved while capitalism exists. It is at this point, and this point alone, that communism ceases to be “a nice idea” and becomes “a material necessity.”
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