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How do anarchists feel about accepting food stamps?

+3 votes
asked Mar 24, 2011 by anonymous
There was a letter to the editor in Fifth Estate (or maybe AJODA) about this a few years back. If i find it again i may post it online, though i think the answers & comments have already addressed the same points as the letter writer did.

5 Answers

+2 votes
I feel great about it. While there are certainly valid arguments about not relying on the state, etc, I consider it back pay for all the taxes I have had to pay in my life.
answered Mar 24, 2011 by Katherine diFiore (5,190 points)
I agree that food stamps and welfare and unemployment are all ways of taking back what we've had extorted/stolen from us over the years. However, having been on food stamps for six months, I can tell you that going through the process was so humiliating that I vowed to become a career criminal rather than submit to the dehumanization of dealing with those bureaucrats ever again.
The process differs quite a bit from state to state. In my experience it has been incredibly easy to do, and far less humiliating than going to the food bank.
0 votes
How it makes anyone feel to grab an apple from a tree when hungry? State, the capitalist economy, has Marx predicted, has become a second Nature. It's there to benefit from it, while it's still around.

As long as there's no logic of submission... I don't see the ethical problem with it.
answered Mar 25, 2011 by anonymous
+1 vote
I feel somewhat hypocritical accepting food stamps. To completely answer this question, I think it is important for me to elaborate on what food stamps are (to me) ...which is probably a somewhat flawed analysis. Since I don't know off-hand the history of food stamps, I'd be more than happy if anyone comments with more insight.

From what I can tell, food stamps and state insurance (often both are applied for at the same time, in the same offices) are not really the same as minimum wage, constitutional rights, or other such state-based methods of regulating social and economic life. Food stamps and state insurance are individualistic in the sense that they are programs aimed at providing access to food and health care on an individual bases; not in the sense that the individual is considered independently of their family, room mates, or other potential sources of income. In this way, they provide individuals with an incentive to support the intervention of the state; or, the mediation of the state between the individual (and, their community or class), and their needs. So at this point, people can pool their food stamps and health care or use them towards some sort of effort at mutual aid. At the same time, this would leave untouched the reliance on the state - period.

Another note is that individuals receiving food stamps and state insurance are not the sole beneficiaries. The lists of grocers and doctors who accept food stamps and state insurance is a second list of beneficiaries; and, these beneficiaries are often my enemy (to put it bluntly). So this contract is a prefabricated contract between me and those who will accept food stamps/state health insurance. I realize that there are plenty of places where smaller grocers accept food stamps (even farmers markets and such), but I generally accept that most people receiving food stamps and state insurance make us of it by spending them at corporate stores that sell food (Wal-Mart, Fry's, etc.). So food stamps (more than state insurance) are not a strict contract between the poor and the rich, subsidized and mediated by the state; but, that seems to be the net effect.

At the same time, I suspect that it is the owners of these businesses that benefit from 'customers' using EBT/Food Stamps and not the workers. This is obvious in one way: workers' pay isn't the result of an increase of owners' profit. In another way though, EBT/Food Stamps can not be used for so called "hot food": this is simply end-product food that requires on-site labor. I can't comprehend any other reason for the "hot food" regulation; though, I also don't understand why it isn't simply a "on site preparation of food" regulation? Again though, the effect of this is that someone selling hot dogs, tacos, or whatever can't accept EBT/Food Stamps. Someone could use EBT/Food Stamps for the raw ingredients they need for the preparation and sale of "hot food" but I don't think wholesalers take EBT/Food Stamps so whoever did this would face some serious competition (for a number of reasons). At the end of the day, it seems like the net effect of providing people with Food Stamps is to create yet another state subsidy for large corporations: the poor can spend the money of the less poor for the increased profit of the rich.

The fact that JP Morgan/Chase is a major contributor to EBT/Food Stamps in Arizona confuses me a bit when it comes to the way funding for EBT/Food Stamps works, exactly...

Anyway, the above are a couple of the issues that Food Stamps and State Insurance bring up for me. Maybe it would be beneficial for local efforts to be made that can compile lists of grocers who accept EBT/Food Stamps that are a small bit more palatable for anarchists? Either way, when the state mediates and intervenes in the capacity for people to meet their needs ...it is usually a method of social control. Compulsory education and public schools are an obvious example... laws concerned with labor organization... drug safety programs (or, strung-out-to-precarious-worker programs).. etc.

So, I don't know. Short of collectively owning land and sustaining ourselves through working it, living on it, etc. (or illegal whatever) - I'm not sure if there is an answer to the necessities of survival that in some way aren't hypocritical or even self-sabotaging as an anarchist. Unemployment, self-employment, full time for a small business, temp work for a corporation ...the ways we get our bread, shelter, and maybe health care tend to perpetuate the social order we as anarchists struggle to abolish. Or rather, there may be ways to subvert these systems but the general results of these systems are cause to generally oppose them.
answered Mar 27, 2011 by Squee (2,450 points)
+1 vote
It makes the first $200 of shoplifting easier each month.

Take everything you can get.  Never be satisfied.
answered Apr 1, 2011 by Taigarun (1,740 points)
+1 vote
I think that the question contains some semantic issues.
"Anarchists" can serve only as a fairly blanket term.  Find yourself ten self-styled "anarchists."  You will likely find, upon asking, that some consider themselves green anarchists, while others consider themselves red, or whatever the hell they would like others to see them as.  Some of them probably grew up in bad neighborhoods.  Out of those, some will probably dislike pacifist theory on the grounds that it does little to protect its adherents from eating curbs, while the others might have regularly witnessed or participated in violence only to decide that fighting fire with fire doesn't work for them.  Presumably, most of the people responding also identify as anarchists, and they hardly seem to agree.
If you want to take something from anarchist theory, toss dogma out the window.  Anarchism has never needed a dress code, a holy book, or anything else.  Decide what you do need.  If you think food stamps function as the appropriate means to your end, then apply for food stamps.  If anything, does anarchism not imply the reconstruction of social values as relative to the people?
answered Apr 19, 2011 by blark (950 points)
edited Apr 22, 2011 by blark
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