Mutual aid and politics

Submitted by AWL on 30 March, 2020 - 9:29 Author: A Sheffield Labour activist
Mutual aid

Our Labour Branch got its (left wing) council candidate and our Campaigns Committee to set up a Facebook group for people in our neighbourhood who were interested in a mutual aid group.

This group now has 600 members on Facebook. We have divided the ward into its polling station areas and set up a WhatsApp group for each one. The co-ordinators of those groups and the leading people in our Branch Labour Party are in a central “co-ordinators’ chat”.

Everywhere we say that the group was set up by the Labour Party but everyone is welcome. “Leaders” from the polling station areas have been co-opted into the co-ordinators’ group regardless of affiliation.

We’ve also given people who aren’t happy about promoting Labour the option of using a door-to-door leaflet without the Labour “imprint” on the bottom – this was welcomed as a gesture, but I think actual take-up of these “non-party” leaflets has been very small.

Formal safeguarding training has been important. Our leading people went through a formal online safeguarding session, which has meant that we’ve been able to cement the group as a legitimate and professional mutual aid provider in our area.

We have circulated four items through thousands of doors:

• A leaflet that a volunteer can amend, providing their contact details and indicating what help they can offer, and then put through their neighbours’ doors (one option is to offer “help with your rights at work”)
• A “your rights at work” leaflet
• A poster advertising the services of the mutual aid group (and its Labour Party identity)
• A leaflet asking people to not light garden fires because we’ve had complaints from sufferers that the particles are screwing up their lungs.

We have been getting a few requests for food, but mostly people have contacted us to say “thanks and we’ll likely need you soon enough”.

We have had a couple of people contact us about their rights at work, including one supermarket worker who is concerned about health and safety in the workplace.

Obviously we’re not in a position to “get Labour on the streets” right now. But everywhere Labour Parties can do ring-rounds to mobilise their members to:

• get involved in mutual aid networks
• observe and collate information (from friends, family, neighbours, shopworkers) about abuses of workers’ rights
• get involved with self-education, clicktivism, banner drops, or putting up window posters with slogans about the NHS.

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