The Conversation, “Mutual aid: can community fridges bring anarchist politics to the mainstream?”

By Oli Mould, Adam Badger, Jennifer Cole, and Philip Brown, January 18, 2022

Since the start of the pandemic, communities throughout the UK have rallied to help vulnerable and isolated people. Churches, charities, football clubs, mosques, local councillors and groups of concerned neighbours have distributed food, home-learning technology, emotional support and everything in between.

These initiatives come together under the broad banner of “mutual aid”. This term, coined by anarchist philosopher Peter Kropotkin, explains how the survival and evolution of the human race depend on us working together, as opposed to Darwinian notions of “survival of the fittest”.

COVID brought mutual aid – a concept with a long, radical history in communist and anarchist politics – to the mainstream. But many people delivering mutual aid during the pandemic may have misunderstood its mission. Much of the supportive work was done by existing charities and faith groups, but as direct giving, rather than mutual sharing.

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