From the onset of COVID-19, it was obvious that the authoritarian government led by Rodrigo Duterte was not prioritizing the needs of Phillipino people. He ignored calls for a travel ban, lest the country lose out on any tourism revenue. And, while the pandemic called for health-related responses, like increased PPE and transportation for healthcare workers, Duterte’s administration responded instead with militaristic tactics, treating the virus like an enemy state. According to Local Autonomous Network (LAN), this is an attempt to secure power, rather than to keep anyone safe.
The anarchists involved in LAN were already not inclined to rely on Duerte’s regime, nor the prevailing capitalistic order. To do so begets a return to ‘normal’, and ‘normalcy’ means more of a structure that encourages selfishness and supremacy over cooperation. As with most anarchists, LAN sees many of the hardships under COVID-19 not as anomalous, but as agitations of structural injustice. For example, they cite Duerto’s ineffective aid to “no work, no pay” workers, such as street vendors or pedicab drivers, as an ignorance towards the needs of his own people. Those who have reacted to COVID-19 with selfishness are expressing a learned maladaptive - a symptom of a social order that impairs cooperation.
“Mutual aid is a natural action for a person,” says a collective member who helped Food Not Bombs hand out fresh soup. “Cooperation is an instinct.” Jean, who helped distribute rice around her community said, “this is not to show off that we want to be a hero, but [that] we are there to share what we have according to our capacity.” Chung, a pedicab driver, has been offering free rides to healthcare workers, as well as using his cart to distribute aid packages. These efforts belong to a complex network that looks to model cooperative living: community gardening, donation drives, food redistribution, and online classes for children and adults. All of this falls in-line with LAN, FNB and the Etniko Bandido Infoshop’s ongoing work; that is, community-building mutual aid that persists through foul and fair weather.
Now is a great time to revisit Occupy Sandy, an example of grassroots, horizontal organizing that stepped in when government organizations like FEMA and NYCHA were stumbling. The ad-hoc effort came about from people who were previously involved in Occupy Wall Street, and grew into a coordinated system that deployed hot meals and supplies with a force of over 60,000 volunteers.
Following Hurricane Sandy, there was a varied reaction across state entities. Public-facing officials made use of their extended screen time to feign efficacy and across-the-aisle cooperation, often overplaying the resiliency of their region. (Sound familiar?) FEMA, although also administering on-the-ground aid, largely focused on monetary loans (with varying success). The MTA reistated service quickly, while NYCHA left residents stranded in unsafe conditions. Meanwhile, other members of government were comfortable taking a back seat while Occupy Sandy provided aid in hardest-hit communities, sometimes providing the supplies for OS to distribute. Along the way, the Department of Homeland Security was keeping tabs on OS, culminating in an exhaustive report that can teach us a lot about how the state exists alongside disaster communities.
By Out of the Woods’ telling, “disaster communities are not intentional communities, drop-out communes, or activist temporary autonomous zones. They’re self-organised, non-market, non-statist social reproduction under adverse conditions.” Within these communities, we see examples of mutual aid - in the case of Occupy Sandy, that looked like community-based organizing around need-fulfillment, without the hierarchical trappings of orgs like the Red Cross. Their occurrence is natural - during crisis, there is an innate “reversion to improvised, collaborative, cooperative, and local society.” But they are also ephemeral, and slated to disappear once normalcy is restored.
Thus, while such autonomous entities springing up when the state is weak might appear threatening, these disaster communities come equipped with the latent promise that they’ll disappear. With that security in hand, the state can feel empowered in utilizing their services, and even, in the case of the DHS report, praising their strategy. But, as Easton Smith argues, there’s more to it than that. By working alongside Occupy Sandy, the state was granted access to a stabilized public; by supporting, rather than squashing its efforts, the state was allowed an intercessor that could quell public frustration in the interim between crisis and normalcy. Meanwhile, the state made OS meet them on their terms, including threats to withhold essential provisions if protests were staged. Members of OS worried that they could either be political or provide aid, although the two needn’t be mutually exclusive.
The solution is not necessarily to bar all interaction with the state. Smith makes the case for some interplay - especially when it comes to getting emergency supplies - but with a full understanding of the value of a disaster community, which can be leveraged. Occupy Sandy, by nature of being so ad-hoc, had no foundational understanding of its relationship to the state. And there’s another thing that the DHS report can teach us: that the state knows its enemy. Going forward, we ought to try to understand them at least just as well.
Lastly, we must consider the revolutionary potential of these disaster communities. Let’s accept that they not only can, but must be both aid-giving and political. But even so, Out of the Woods argues that no amount of disaster communities lead to revolution. Maybe so, but when they pull upon existing activist work and mutual aid structures, the effect is different. In the case of covid-19, this may look like anti-prison groups using health-related decareration to stoke justice reform; or the mainstream appropriation of rent striking to link tenants to unions for long-term organizing. The Mexico City earthquake of 1985 is a good example of disaster as a catalyst for reform. Lastly, disaster communities can easily be made into long-term networks, which can develop a more sophisticated relationship with the state, and work to serve more dimensions of our daily lives.
– Rojava doc made by Rojava Film Commune focusing on “civil side” of Revolution
– Documentary on “Democratic Confederalist”/Kurdish Freedom movement in Turkey
– Doc on a young women’s radio project in Kobane, Rojava.
– Short documentary on women fighters in Rojava, with a focus on Hannah Bohman, a woman internationalist volunteer.
– Documentary on Rojava Revolution focusing on international volunteers.
– Documentary on the PKK and Kurdish movement for “democratic confederalism”
– Documentary following daily life of PKK fighters – covering Kurdish left movement/democratic confederalism.
– Documentary produced by Russia Today on women fighters in Rojava/volunteers and the struggle against ISIS.
– Another PKK documentary (Gulistan is another name for Kurdistan) focusing on the women’s movement aspect and female guerrillas.
– Documentary on Ethel Macdonald. Scottish anarchist best known for being a broadcaster during the Spanish Civil War.
– UK documentary series that references Bookchin’s writing on Spain heavily.
– On women’s participation. A more “liberal” documentary that de-emphasizes the radicalism of volunteers and revolutionary aspects of Spanish Civil War.
– Documentary collection (available on DVD) of a vast amount of CNT produced films from the period of the Spanish Civil War. Fascinating historical work. Spanish language only (as far as I know) for most work.
– Documentary collection (DVD) of the “NO-DO”s (shorts/newsreels) that were distributed during Spanish Civil War. Other periods and years are available. Spanish language only (as far as I know) for most materials.
– Documentary on the Spanish Civil War, edited by pioneering woman filmmaker Esfir Shub. Esfir Shub is a famous Soviet documentary filmmaker, who helped pioneer montage techniques and documentary filmmaking. This film is, due to her loyalties, more focused on the communists of Spain.
– Documentary on CNT/anarcho-syndicalist film production during the Spanish Civil War. Includes interviews with participants and is not just a collection, but a broader overview of their work.
– Documentary on American internationalists in the Spanish Civil War
– Arthouse documentary on the Spanish Civil War in Galicia, with emphasis on a particular engagement and unit of Republican fighters led by an anarchist.
– Documentary on Mujeres Libres, anarchist women’s organization. As far as I know Spanish language with Portuguese and Italian subtitles only.
– Documentary on the Mujeres Libres anarchist women’s organization during the Spanish Civil War.
– Spanish language documentary on Buenaventura Durruti, anarchist militant and wartime commander during the Spanish Civil War.
– Documentary focusing on a specific anarchist uprising in the Spanish Civil War (agrarian revolt in Casas Viejas). Spanish language only (as far as I know).
– Unusual documentary. Films a dinner conversation between five former political prisoners under the Franco regime. Spanish Civil War and Spanish left.
– Fairly early documentary on the Zapatista movement and uprising.
– Another Zapatista documentary, with a wider view on the uprisings impact in Mexico and Mexican state’s response.
– Zapatista documentary featuring interviews with many key figures in the movement.
– Another very early documentary on the Zapatista uprising in Chiapas, Mexico against globalization/capitalism.
– Not necessarily a pro-anarchist documentary, a journalist frames his own experiences throughout the demonstrations and crackdown.
– Documentary on Nestor Makhno’s life, Ukrainian anarchist who fought during the Russian Revolution for an anarchist Ukraine. French language only (as far as I know).
– On the anarchist, or anarchist loved, author Ursula K. Le Guin.
– Documentary featuring Angela Davis herself, on Black Power, left movement in U.S., and Angela Davis in particular.
– Documentary on former UK diplomat Carne Ross, who, after the Iraq war abandoned liberalism for anarchism. He is currently a proponent of the Rojava Revolution and other struggles. His TedTalk is a great introduction for those unfamiliar with anarchism.
– Biographic documentary on Emma Goldman.
– Interview collection documentary with Antonio Negri (named for his “cell” – as he was a long time political prisoner while actively collaborating with Michael Hardt).
– Documentary on the trial and execution of two Italian-American anarchists, Sacco and Vanzetti. Was a worldwide cause and their innocence or guilt is still debated today (for those who think it’s relevant).
– Documentary on former militant and theorist of (highly uncredited anarchist influenced) “autonomous Marxism”
– Documentary on anti-globalization protests in Sweden in 2001 and the extreme repression of activists.
– More “arthouse” documentary on globalization and capitalism’s impact on the poor of the world.
– Documentary critique of globalization and capitalism – however leans towards a more primitivist anarchist viewpoint.
– Self-explanatory title on alterglobalization mobilizations! Documentary included in the Crimethinc collection.
– Sylvain George DVD documentary collection. George is an avant documentary filmmaker on the left – with numerous films on occupations, border controls, immigrant struggles, etc.
– Documentary about the revolt of soy farmers in Paraguay, their subsequent occupation/squatting and struggle over land and crop supply chains. Another globalization movie.
– Collection of documentary features and shorts on the anarchist movement.
– Experimental documentary on the ’68 revolt in Japan focusing on student movement and agrarian protest. The filmmaker has made many other “left” documentary films.
– Doc narrated by Paul Avrich on the American Jewish anarchist movement.
– Includes older footage and figures like Emma Goldman, alongside figures like Kenneth Rexroth, Murray Bookchin, and Molly Steimer. Strange but not bad, especially the interviews!
– Made by Russian anti-fascists (“The Children of Bakunin”), on the anti-fascist struggle there. Russia has one of the most violent, repressive and intense fascist movements.
– Documentary focusing on the Brazilian anarchist movement at the turn of the century.