cooperation and solidarity in austerity Britain

I was struggling to think of an apt title for this post and may yet come back and edit it.

I wanted to write this on New Year’s Eve, eve because while politically it may seem like the future in the short to medium term is bleak to some readers, and for others there may be an unjustified sense of hope (Corbynites I’m looking at you) – I think there are some positive stories to emerge in the last few days that show why the ideas of cooperation, solidarity, and mutual aid are more valid than ever – and are to be found in some interesting places, while the traditional places some may look for them, are more deadends than ever.

I thought of this post while listening to an interview with a volunteer with Team Rubicon Uk, a charity run by ex-servicepeople which has been providing a lot of support to victims of flooding across the North of England and Scotland.

The volunteer was really keen to point out that retired or invalided ex-servicepeople like him, get as much out of surrendering their Christmas to help those in need as the people they are helping. This is what some call the principle of “reciprocal altruism” in action right now.

Socialists often talk about how people are naturely willing to help others and to carry out quite significant tasks without need for financial reward – the most used example of that is often trade union reps, however here with an example of people who are fairly unlikely in my view to identify with the left or the Labour Movement making real sacrifices for others.

This is something members of another organisation that is well established in British society have quietly done for years – the Women’s Institute and whose members have once again mobilised to support people in need.

These two groups have also been joined by lots of news of Syrian refugees and volunteers from various mosques also getting stuck in to help out.

Of course we all know other long standing examples of this sort of activity from the RNLI to Oxfam and Church run soup kitchens, and some of them I have written about before, but this Christmas these particular examples have stood in stark contrast to the reaction of the organised Left to the flood crisis. While ordinary trade union members have been working hard alongside the volunteers (the Fire and Ambulance services in particular), the far left seem to be spending their time sharing Facebook posts and criticising the PM for having a telephone conference.

Even worse in the case of (lack of) Momentum the Jeremy Corbyn supporters group they are indulging in infighting and alleged sexism.

What all this suggests to me is that if we want to find the seeds of a better, more cooperative, fairer society, then we need to constantly be looking at what is happening around us and thinking about how to harness those ideas, and that energy in support of it.

And that just maybe ignoring those who sell themselves as the leaders of so-called radical social change.


Happy New Year!


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