Vocabularies for Struggle

By the Blind Field Editors |

Against the backdrop of “love trumps hate”—a key phrase of the liberal anti-Trump lexicon—it is worth asking what can be done with the concept of love.

For our part, we understand love to be a feeling which precedes and informs all truly political activity, including revolution. What distinguishes revolutionary love from reactionary love is a practice of solidarity-of-differences. For them, “it is the love of White, of those that are recognizable as White, which supposedly explains [a] shared ‘communal’ visceral response of hate.” [1] For us, love is experimental, constitutive, in flux. Much as the feeling of love is not revolutionary without a context of concrete activities of solidarity, the sentiment “love trumps hate” does not carry forth a set of direct actions in the present. It is in this sense that we turn to the idea of mutual aid.

In response to the urgency and fear of worsening circumstances in the United States, we have seen a transition from protest to resistance, and from speech-acts to mutual aid. This transition kicked off this past weekend, with spontaneous blockades and occupations of airport terminals occurring within hours of Trump’s executive order on immigration. Here we see the possibilities of a revolutionary love, grounded in the concrete activities of mutual aid.

However, there are many more areas of contemporary life which also demand forms of mutual aid adequate to this dystopia. The following is a non-exhaustive list of ideas to be taken up, modified, and proliferated in forms appropriate to local contexts. In many localities there may be similar efforts already underway: in most of those efforts, incisive critical thought is needed, alongside bodies and time, in order to draw the links between aid for our fellows and what we describe here as revolutionary love.

  1. What does a real sanctuary look like? Sanctuary cities are ill-defined and unevenly applied concepts, but even at their most rigorous these municipal guidelines do little to protect vulnerable populations. Like “love,” the idea of “sanctuary” could prove a site for mobilizing new forms of mutual aid and community self-defense, including rapid-response groups to defend against ICE raids, safe-houses, neighborhood discussion groups, and support-groups for victims of sexual assault.
  2. Erase borders Trump’s promise to build a wall is not a departure from the history of US-Mexico relations but the logical endpoint of an ideology of racist nationalism and settler colonialism. Groups like “No More Deaths” have worked for decades to prevent the needless deaths of immigrants forced to cross into the US under dangerous and remote conditions. These journeys, and the harm-reduction efforts to protect them, will not cease with a “wall” but merely become that much more dangerous as federal agents and vigilantes alike are emboldened by Trump and Trumpism.
  3. Community self-reliance In addition to growing our capacity to defend the most vulnerable in our communities, we should be thinking about how to extricate ourselves from the flows of resources that render us dependent on capital and the state. Mutual aid on this terrain might consist of free food distribution, free health clinic collectives, community gardens / agricultural commoning, tool co-ops and bike projects, and much more.
  4. Anti-gentrification It is worth recalling that Trump initially became famous as a real estate developer, helping to “re-develop” New York at the dawn of neoliberalism. In the current moment the majority of American cities are dealing with a housing crisis precipitated by neoliberal “market” solutions and ramified by the ascent of Airbnb and the app-ification of everyday life, rendering all experiences as commodified and available to the highest bidder. Such logic is at the heart of the fascistic individualism for which Trump is the standard bearer. Mutual aid includes ensuring that our neighbors can continue to be our neighbors.
  5. Solidarity networks The slogan “an injury to one is an injury to all” encapsulates the sentiment that we must be there for one another. But how are we to know when one of us has been injured? We envision locally administered rapid-response networks capable of soliciting immediate and massive responses when the state or right-wing vigilantes attack. The “spontaneity” of response at airports this past weekend is illustrative of how effective this model can be for generating direct action for mutual aid. [2]

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Don’t tell us not to hate.

Hatred of capitalism is a basis for revolutionary love. We insist on a concept of love which makes use of hatred. We insist on a version of mutual aid that includes punching nazis.

We will see the language of solidarity deteriorate. A rapist ascribes to solidarity in moments of opportunism. Solidarity is not lost in the moment of accusation—solidarity was lost in the act of rape. Part of the task of mutual aid—in reaching toward the possibility of solidarity-of-differences—is the recognition of ‘unity’ as contradictory without revolution.

Contradictory ‘unity’ will take on ambiguous forms through a long struggle. We see great hope in this moment of great despair. In The Dispossessed, Ursula Le Guin’s vision of an egalitarian society based on mutual aid is flawed, experimental, ‘ambiguous.’ Says Le Guin of imperfect utopia:

We know that there is no help for us but from one another, that no hand will save us if we do not reach out our hand. And the hand that you reach out is empty, as mine is. You have nothing. You possess nothing. You own nothing. You are free. All you have is what you are, and what you give.” [3]

As we face — and refuse to neglect — the conditions of crisis unfolding, these concepts of mutual aid, revolutionary (not reactionary) love, and ambiguous utopia should be increasingly vital to the articulability and imaginability of struggle.

 

With love from the Blind Field editors…

***

Works Cited

[1] Sarah Ahmed, “Affective Economies,” The Cultural Politics of Emotion. Routledge: New York, 2015.

[2] We’d like to thank Kyle Lane-McKinley for his contributions to this non-exhaustive list.

[3] Ursula K Le Guin, The Dispossessed: An Ambiguous Utopia. Harper Collins: New York, 1974

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