In 1902 anarchist theorist Peter Kropotkin published Mutual Aid a Factor of Evolution. In this work, a response to social darwinist ideas, Kropotkin showed how co-operation is just as an important a factor in evolution, and a benefit to different species, as competition.
Myself and those I live with have found that mutual aid (which can also be called solidarity or co-operation) has in fact been the only way we have survived capitalist austerity. By sharing money and resources, when necessary, we have found it essential. This includes paying the rent and bills, and other things such as food and medical costs. Of course it depends on how much an individual is able to contribute. Someone who doesn’t earn a lot, or who has health problems, perhaps, is less able to contribute, but can still do so- which is what matters. Contributing can simply be doing the housework or shopping if an individual is not able to hold down a job, which in fact there are not enough of.
By sharing, for example- the rent and bills, as equally as we can, these things become cheaper for the individual within the group and there is no begrudging because everyone matters and each of us contributes. It is mutual respect.
This gives us a sense of security and the added benefit of better emotional health because we have our own support network. This is because there is no secure social safety net anymore. On our own we would find life much harder, financially and mentally. In fact getting by would probably not be possible. This is the disgusting and absurd reality of the cruelty of the capitalist system. However, this situation forces us to help each other, and so, in a strange way, brings out the best in us. There can be disagreements, or tensions (as we are still dependent in some way on the capitalist system) but these are sorted out as none of us benefit from any serious disagreements. Our well-being is first and foremost to us and, compared to an individual existence in this society it is certainly a nice way to live.
In an emergency, such as someone needing urgent medical help (which can cost money sometimes) we all pull together and help that vulnerable individual. For instance, because there are a few of us living together, whilst some have to go to work there is always someone who can assist a hospital visit for example or cook a nice meal for everyone else. Another benefit of this way of living is that if someone has had a bad time at work , or is having a difficult time in general, there is always someone to discuss this with , so you are never alone with your problems. Also, because of the way we think, we all have a good understanding of what effects the capitalist system, including the workplace, has on people. Understanding is crucial.
It helps that we are all like-minded and therefore we are never lonely and regularly have a good laugh together, and certainly good conversations. We have found, during this awful time of cruel austerity, that for us, living this way is very advantageous on many levels. We certainly haven’t suffered the same isolation and hardship during this time of austerity, and indeed lockdown, as those on their own. Many people could benefit from living this way, especially when people in this society are so isolated.
“in the long run the practice of solidarity proves much more advantageous to the species than the development of individuals endowed with predatory inclinations.”
“under any circumstances sociability is the greatest advantage in the struggle for life.”
Peter Kropotkin, Mutual Aid.