Seeking Community in the Face of Isolation
How We Can Be Together and Find Comfort and Strength During a Time of Fascism and Epidemic
A resource document and call to action written by Trey Peters, a member of Richmond DSA.
Wednesday, March 18, 2020
This text was written as part of the LSC Pamphlet Program. It reflects only the opinions of the author(s) and not the consensus of the Libertarian Socialist Caucus.
As socialists, we try to concern ourselves with other people, especially those that are most oppressed and neglected under our evil regime. The COVID19 pandemic presents lethal challenges beyond the virus’s own deadly threat: power flows upward endlessly to the President, as supplicant Republicans and Democrats panic and plead for the strongman to use the festering power of the federal government to fight the virus, the sick, and the defiant alike. This could not possibly be a more dangerous time. What can we, few, scattered, and under-resourced, do to resist this?
We will find power the way we always have: in our indefatigable solidarity with our fellow humans.
D.C., New York, and San Francisco’s elite journalists blather endlessly about the power of social media, distributed meeting software, and restaurant delivery apps to combat the social isolation recommended and increasingly enforced across the country. The pathetic few that bother to consider digital divides sigh, shrug, and recommend nothing. Even for the people that have smartphones and personal computers available, screen time with family and friends are a poor substitute for the human connections we all need to survive and live happily and well. Depression, fear, and panic are spreading like wildfire, every bit as virulent and lethal as the virus. It is our duty to fill this desperate need. Will we choose to allow our fear to rule us? Will we instead choose to stand with our fellows in the most fundamental way? Our decision is obvious. We must therefore engage in the following, even though it is daunting: guided by the principles of human solidarity and radical love, we must nurture physical community, build networks of material community support, and defend our communities against the dangers concurrent with the epidemic.
1. Physical community must be protected and nurtured. Humans are social animals. We require physical, social interaction to be happy and healthy. Quarantine and isolation cause our bodies to produce stress hormones and urge us to seek comfort in groups; paradoxically, isolation negatively impacts our bodies’ immune responses, making unavoidable contact with other people more likely to pass contagion. We are faced with two bad choices, forces in a most terrible tension: this disease has the potential to kill a horrifying number of our fellows, but so does social isolation, particularly when that isolation is enforced. We must pursue a balance. To be clear: while social distancing and other best health crisis practices will greatly reduce risks to groups of people in social contact, to minimize the risk to the public, physical community support structures and systems must also be preserved. Groups of people that are currently suffering from lack of community support are most at risk; such as (but not at all limited to): the elderly, the unhoused, and other marginalized and oppressed community groups. These groups must be engaged and supported. In short, they require and deserve the solidarity and love and support that all humans need, but that they in particular currently lack. As a single example, LGBTQIA community groups are already under threat of police and vigilante violence, while simultaneously, frequently, and intentionally, isolated from public and private health care resources. They need to be engaged, their needs heard and fulfilled, and their persons protected and supported. Of secondary concern, but of vital importance nonetheless, is that enforced isolation is ruinous to our political project. Isolation, mistrust, and fear are destructive to human solidarity. This is well known to our political adversaries, and will be exploited to the fullest. Further readings on background, root causes, best health crisis practices, and anti-oppression methodologies can be found at the links below.
2. Resources to support the people must be obtained and applied, based primarily on need, and then sustainability. Decades of austerity budgets, sabotage, incompetent management, and outright political hostility to our social services have rendered them utterly incapable of responding to this crisis at the scale or speed necessary to stave off this catastrophe. Saving lives will be, in large part, up to us. This effort must focus first on delivering material support to communities in most dire and immediate need. Whatever resources remain must be applied afterward to the construction of a sustainable effort to continue supporting the sick and at-risk. Government officials continually assure us that this crisis will pass in a few weeks, a month at most. Those of us with any knowledge of history and view of our current situation know that this is lethally irresponsible. This epidemic will not be contained in a month, never mind have run its course. At the scale of the crisis, further mutations of the current virus are near certain. Further complicating the situation will be the hoarding of resources by disaster capitalists, who will be unable to resist the massive profits that artificial scarcity and panic consumption will enable. We must take the long view, and build durable lines of support and supply, capable of months of sustained operation. Dual power organizations and methods will be particularly effective in this effort and beyond. As an example, we can look to our comrade Black Panthers and their community breakfast programs as an effective method of building physical community, supporting public health, and building durable political power simultaneously. Needed resources must be obtained by any and all means.
3. Community defense must be provided, adopted, and practiced. Fascist accelerationists will seize this opportunity, as will their public-facing political formations and recruiters. Police and military presence and response will be weakened, but reactionary vigilantism will move to fill the liberating void. People liberated from jails will be attacked and/or framed for fascist violence. Border enforcement and vigilantism will increase in frequency and lethality. Concentration camps will enter their final phase to become death camps. None of these can be allowed to come to pass unopposed.
In this most horrible moment, the people wait and watch, their breath almost held. They will see and know who visits violence upon them, while calling it order and health care. They will see who stands with them in solidarity and with radical love. Solidarity and radical love can save our selves. Solidarity and radical love can save our communities. Solidarity and radical love can save the world. And so they shall.
1. Digital Divide: a term that describes the gaps of availability of internet and communication technology, their support infrastructure, and the skills and available education to use them effectively across class, racial, gender, age, geographic, and other power differentials. For more information, see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Digital_divide
A collaborative DSA master resource spreadsheet is being built, and will be linked as soon as it is declared ready for the public.
Background, best practices, resources, and reference links:
As an example of an oppressed community that can show us how to build public health and resilience in the teeth of the most ferocious oppression, we, tragically, must look to our colonized comrades in Puerto Rico:
Finally, the statement on COVID-19 released by our national DSA leadership, which contains many additional resources, in English and Spanish:
Solidarity and gratitude to the comrades who assisted in the writing of this document, and the compilation of references. They know who they are, and that they are loved.