Solidarity of the rich

Jon Bigger considers the actions of those who preach individual strength, but practice a very particular, and extraordinarily successful, form of mutual support.

As if we needed reminding, solidarity and mutual aid are hard work. Covid 19 laid it all bare once again. In building up organisations from the grassroots, time and time again, we see our movements hampered by sectarian interests. There are many examples of mutual aid groups springing up and working well until the inevitable interference from either the Labour Party, trade unions, Trotskyist groups and / or other Marxists. On top of this, we have to contend with the very real problem of the erosion of working class consciousness, making our task of reaching the people that need the most help incredibly tough.

I want to focus on the other class though. They seem to do things differently. The ruling class doesn’t seem to suffer from a lack of consciousness. They also don’t allow division to hamper their efforts. The second point is pretty easy to address. They hardly need to worry about being a divided class, considering they’ve got it all sewn up. The first point is much more interesting and something we can learn from. They really know how to show each other solidarity. They really know how to exercise mutual aid.

We’ve witnessed this as corruption throughout Covid in the UK. We’ve seen government ministers handing out contracts to their friends left, right, and centre. When Matt Hancock was Health Secretary (pictured) he gave a contract to a friend to produce PPE. The country groaned a little and just shrugged at how nothing ever changes. Except it was a change and the media hasn’t charted it very well for us.

Back in the early stages of the pandemic the Tory government deliberately changed the law on government procurement. They relaxed procurement rules so that they could get contracts through more quickly. The idea behind this isn’t corruption in their eyes; it’s common sense. Let’s just be clear, it’s absolutely corrupt in an anarchist sense.

The result is they could get equipment and services in place much more quickly and effectively (at least in theory). Obviously, the corner cutting this results in would mean some mistakes along the way, but then cutting red tape fits in with the Tory ideal of the free market too. It also meant that ministers would be much more likely to think of the services their friends could offer first.

It’s networking, basically. It’s obviously also class based. It means public money going to the mates of government ministers because that’s better in their eyes than the state either holding things up and doing them fairly, or else the state actually doing them itself.

Their instinct though, is what is interesting here. Their instinct is to get their mates involved. Their mates can help save lives and at the same time make a fortune. It’s an example of Tory solidarity. They changed the law to make it possible and then they just got on with it. They would defend it, regardless of the obvious clangers (like some of these contracts producing nothing) on the basis of trying their best in difficult circumstances. Their belief in authority also comes into play here. They believe that they are just in their actions because they have authority through the political hierarchy to act in these ways.

Thinking about ruling class solidarity in this way forces us to reconsider our own efforts. We are at a huge disadvantage in our struggle. We are fighting against the system and also within it. Whilst there are many well meaning Labour Party activists at a grassroots level, we have to bear in mind that they are a ruling class party. They are the Official Opposition, and they are therefore not going to think of mutual aid in principled terms. Solidarity for them, at a party level, is influenced by a desire for official power. There are also occasionally Marxists that we have to work with but, let’s face it, this organised Marxism is essentially a ruling class fetish. They desire to be the ruling class. That’s all they want. It doesn‘t matter how many silly jokes the wittier Marxists tell you about anarchists and organising, they’re essentially ready to take over anything they can get their hands on. We must learn to mitigate against these outside, sectarian forces.

If we discount the Labour party as a ruling class organisation and then dismiss Marxist activists as a sectarian risk to conducive self-organisation, what have we got? It’s us. Us and our power to self-organise — our power to take people with us. It’s amazing so many anarchists got so much achieved in terms of mutual aid over the last 18 months. Ruling class forces find their brand of solidarity so much simpler but they don’t have the infiltrators trying to seize power from them.

~ Jon Bigger