Freedom News

Solidarity at the doorstep

Simplicity is certainty.

Simple recipes give you confidence that you won’t burn your dinner. Simple directions help us navigate an uncertain world. Simple goals allow people to find common ground. As the left tears itself apart like a bear with fleas, we find cohesion in a simple word. Solidarity.

It is a fundamental anarchist principle that without oppression, humans are cooperative, but capitalism and liberal ideology rob us of our innate compassion.

Geographical separation amplifies this. Existence under capitalism, forced to move around to find affordable rents or jobs that provide enough income, further destroys natural community solidarity.
Solidarity groups have begun to emerge, in response, refocusing energy on the real enemy.

Such efforts are not new. People have formed informal solidarity groups since the beginning of society. We exist in a long anarchist tradition of self-organising communities. The difference with this movement is where other groups on the left organise around a particular issue or goal, we organise around solidarity with our local communities. This place-centred approach allows an in-depth understanding of the problems we face and the local resources at our disposal.

Haringey: The old hands

London’s longest running community group is Haringey Solidarity Group (HSG), which has been active for 30 years, starting life as an anti-Poll Tax group.

HSG is active in residents’ associations, housing, benefits, anti-gentrification, anti-debt campaigns, and various other antis. They’ve supported workers’ struggles in the Borough of Haringey and beyond, including the 1995 JJ Foods Strike and the 2014 Visteon occupation. They have been involved in organising free community festivals, the monthly Haringey Independent Cinema (now sadly stopped), and other social events. HSG has, for the last 30 years, regularly distributed thousands of copies of its free newsletter “Totally Indypendent”. They are presently involved in an initiative called Community Action Network, which is bringing together unions, community/campaigning groups and others to link up groups in Haringey who are fighting for a better society.

Their model of flexibility over time enabled HSG to survive so long, absorbing and covering a wide range of issues and keeping a regular meeting every month, ready for a new struggle that could be, and often is, just around the corner. Avoiding the horror story of an affinity group that stayed together too long after its main purpose was served, not being tied to one issue allows people to move fluidly as the area’s priorities change and the group’s capacity fluctuates.

Tower Hamlets: One year in

Tower Hamlets Solidarity Group (TH Solidarity) took local strike actions and protests as our rallying point. We lent our voices, presence, and unwavering support to those demanding justice. As our journey unfolded, we identified another critical issue in our community: access to good-quality, affordable food. Inspired by the Cooperation Town model, we formed a food co-op.

This enabled us to address our needs and build connections with other local people and other borough food groups. This network also allowed us to actively support projects such as the Autonomous Winter Shelter. Through these alliances, we discovered the true power of solidarity — how interconnected struggles can magnify our impact.

When crisis struck in the form of the Maddox House fire in early March, TH Solidarity was ready. We swiftly mobilised, linking survivors with accommodation at the Autonomous Winter Shelter and working with the London Renters Union to offer aid in their legal struggle, negotiating with the council and recovering their possessions from a scumbag landlord who appeared intent on using them for leverage.

TH Solidarity taught us that solidarity is not confined to one issue or method. Our wide remit has allowed us to adapt and respond to various pressing issues. From labour rights, food security, housing crises, and community events, we’ve discovered that our collective strength knows no bounds.

A call to action

This summer, we started workshops; our first event brought together 30 people from across London to hear about our ethos before separating into rough geographical areas, where participants discussed what issues they faced.

We share a vision with HSG for a network of solidarity groups worldwide to communicate larger struggles. You’re probably wondering where you can find your fellow solidaritees. Think local. Community has been eroded through years of neoliberalism but can never be destroyed. Find and connect. Our group found solidaritees in a local network of community gardens. We found solidaritees in people on our estates. We found solidaritees where people meet to pick up their children. To get their groceries. To read. To eat. Solidaritees are found in any place where public space remains.

Solidarity is simple. Solidarity is unifying. Solidarity makes life bear-able…

~ Arrow

This article first appeared in the Winter 2023-4 issue of Freedom Anarchist Journal

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