Many contemporary political trends are focussed on the negative. That is, a fight to prevent neoliberal measure. The anti-austerity movement, for example, is focussed on fighting cuts to public services and welfare – the prevention of worse-than-now. This is an integral fight. The closure of public services is impacting millions across Europe and America, and the end to the welfare state is only going to increase inequality. But this fight is exhausting – and for many, impossible because of the destructive nature of these cuts in the first place.
The problem is that we always rely on politicians and people in power to provide the solutions. We spend hours lobbying and pushing for legislative changes. There are wins, but they are not as common as we would like. And so, many smaller cuts get completely glossed over and the minority who suffer are just left to deal with it.
But. But – what if we stopped relying on politicians? What if we started created the solutions we need right here, together? After all, we are continuously chanting “we are the many, they are the few”. And if there are so many of us, why can’t we start building our own solutions?
Let’s take an example. During the development of trade unions and early workers strikes, one of the key problems was starvation. Workers who had been out of work would often feel compelled to return to work in order to feed and clothe their families – or face watching their children die. Out of that problem came a community solution – community or workers kitchens. These were run by the community at cost prices. The bulk buying meant that prices could be kept low enough for many to be able to feed their families – in and out of work.
With over a million people using food banks – a solution could be to restart these kitchens. They could even run through the use of donations or anti-waste campaigns. Or guerilla farming. Of course, finding a location to house this kitchen is difficult with prices of land and rent having increased since those days – but there are many ways we could fundraise and redevelop these spaces. But we would need to work with the poorest rather than thinking we can find solutions for them.
High housing costs could be cut though collective buying/take over of empty buildings – migrant workers often use this system to ensure that they have somewhere to sleep (though that often means overcrowding). Or even building your own. But taking over spaces and levying our political and media power against the council is easier than fighting with them to providing the solution that, so many times, is out of their hands. Organising ourselves by taking what we want is doing what the Tories do best – but in reverse. Not for the rich, but for us.
Of course, the legal system is going to work against us. Of course the police and government is also going to work against us. But it is much harder for authority to stop things from happening when you just go do them than when you ask to do them.
The simple fact is – the future is now. If we keep just fighting, we are losing an uphill battle. To find solutions, we need to show that they work and that they are possible. We need to create the future as we want it, not request it.
Because, by asking, we are accepting and reinforcing the authority of the few and the rich. We are openly playing an inferior role. And we’re not inferior. We are the many. This is our land, our homes, our spaces. And we need to claim them.
So – if you have a couple hours spare a week, engage in your community. Work out simple solutions. And do them. Because you can.
Let’s hark back and pick the anti-globalisation movement that has led to the austerity we face now. Let’s reclaim the commons.