Economics/Class Relations

Commonist Tendencies: Mutual Aid Beyond Communism

By Jeff Shantz

As capitalist societies in the twenty-first century move from crisis to crisis, oppositional movements in the global North (which have been somewhat stymied (despite ephemeral manifestations like Occupy) are confronted with the pressing need to develop organizational infrastructures that might prepare the ground for a real, and durable, alternative. More and more, the need to develop shared infrastructural resources—what I have termed infra-structures of resistance (Shantz 2009)—becomes apparent. Ecological disasters (through crises of capital), economic crises, political austerity, and mass-produced fear and phobia all require organizational preparation—the common building of real-world alternatives. Confronted with these challenges, in the period of crisis and opportunity, movements of the global North have been largely perplexed by questions of how to advance, to build strength on a sustainable basis in a way that might pose real challenges to states and capital. Caught in cycles of repeatedly chasing after the next big momentary thing (Occupy, Idle No More protests in Canada, anti-pipelines demonstrations), they spin out largely symbolic manifestations or mobilizations that gain some attention but make few advances against states or capital. There are no guarantees that crisis will lead to success for movements seeking positive social change. At the same time, fascists, fundamentalists, and corporatists of various sorts find openings and opportunities, often supported by promotional capital (such as the Koch brothers) or governments seeking a social barrier against constructive resistance. Movements of the Left, of various tendencies, have been searching for the momentum that was lost after September 11, 2001 shifted the terrain of opposition and contestation in much of the world. Energies have been turned toward media critique, civil liberties defense, anti-war opposition, and confronting the racist abuses of the war on terror. These are, of course, all-important pursuits, but they are defensive rather than constructive.


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