Hi. Welcome to the site. Please check out the About Us, and if you have a question about crime and/or punishment, perhaps look at some previous questions along those lines first.
Welcome to Anarchy101 Q&A, where you can ask questions and receive answers about anarchism, from anarchists.

What should an anarchist do if one found oneself in an impoverished area?

–3 votes
- New Orleans ghetto
- favelas
- Sub-Saharan Africa
- Indian village
- Lakota Reservation
- etc.
If an anarchist(s) was in an area such as these, what would be a desirable course of action, if any? Ask what needs help doing and help in an "anarchist" manner (no regard for laws/private property)?
asked Mar 24, 2013 by anonymous
this question assumes that there aren't broke-ass anarchists already, which is condescending and irritating, and "impoverished" seems like code for "broke, of color, and alien". gross.

(i guess i should let someone else answer it if they have the patience to. blah.)

2 Answers

–2 votes
The truth is that there isn't a lot you can do by yourself, unless you have substantial resources (which would mean you'd be very unlikely to care about the situation to begin with).  Widespread poverty can only be ended through dismantling the states, corporations, churches, and other institutions that cause the problems, then by building institutions that can solve them.

Most poverty is not the result of laziness or inability (contrary to the right-wing media's portrayal of the situation), it is the result of neoliberal policies designed to siphon the world's wealth into the hands of a tiny minority.  We can't match their political clout (they fund the politicians that make the decisions that (shock horror) benefit them, we can't match their funding (they may be in the minority but they still have more wealth than the rest of us combined), but we do have the numbers, and we have creativity, to win our cause.

As for activity that can help people who need help today, you could try:

* donating as much food or money as possible.  But make sure whoever you give to is distributing it correctly, not keeping most for themselves.

* raising awareness of the situation with like-minded people.  Fortunately most people are like-minded and believe in helping the needy.  How you do this depends on the particular circumstances but can include leaflet drops, setting up a stall somewhere busy, attending socially-orientated organizations to ask for their assistance, or protesting against the laws and corporations that are doing most to keep the poor poor.

* finding out about assistance programs that may help, if there are any (whether government or NGO) and advising people how to find the assistance they need.

* helping to build whatever is needed to end (or at least reduce) that poverty, be it irrigation, schools, unions (preferably of the radical variety) or whatever.

Kudos for being concerned about your fellow citizens.
answered Jul 22, 2014 by Anarchisteve (290 points)
Finally, the cat's out of the bag! Steve is a volunteer social worker who believes in charity. Kudos for your honesty at last.
Buzzwords that indicate the ameliorative (definitely not radical or revolutionary) strategies of a social democrat:
Donating (as in, sacrificing for others), distributing it correctly (as in, don't give anything directly to people, but use established institutions -- see below), like-minded people (I guess this means his vague term socialists), helping the needy (surely not ourselves, who obviously have enough extra cash to donate it to established charitable institutions), protesting against the laws and corporations (again, a mediated activity; nothing about breaking the laws or attacking the corporations -- not that those things are so easy, but then, who said being an active anarchist was easy?), finding out about assistance programs whether government or NGO and advising people how to use them (that is the job of a social worker; those soft-cops are among the front line people who [re]integrate the poor and dispossessed into institutions that perpetuate the exploitative relations of capitalism, duh), build irrigation (I'll just start up the backhoe I keep in my back yard...), schools (NOT self-organized free schools, but regular schools...), preferably radical unions (like what? the Wobblies, who organize baristas and movie theater workers?). Perhaps the worst term used is "citizens" as if the official designation of a non-marginal person who happens to live/survive within a particular polity is the basic unit of human existence.
Really, Steve, this shit is already old, played out, even reactionary. Everything you've listed here is a tactic or strategy for keeping things as they already are. Charity, funneling people into assistance programs, and building unions or schools does nothing to challenge the exploitative relations inherent in capitalism.
Let's be clear: I'm not calling for doing nothing, but I'm also not calling for (re)integrating poor people into the capitalist machine. There's nothing anarchist about helping to prop up relations of dominance, exploitation, and legality. Anarchism is predicated on the strategic principle of direct action -- which means doing things for ourselves without the permission or assistance of NGOs or states. Everything you've listed is predicated on the existence of NGOs and states, which means that while these activities may soften the harshness of dispossession and exploitation, they cannot and will not do anything to eliminate them.
The political lineage that uses ameliorative strategies for softening the harshness of capitalism while doing nothing that fundamentally challenges institutions of exploitation and domination is called Social Democracy. That is 100% socialist, so at least on that point you're not confused. Your confusion comes from wanting to call it anarchism, which it most certainly is not. Not because I say so, but because there's such a thing as anarchist philosophy, anarchist theory, anarchist activity, and anarchist history... all of which point in a very different direction.
"Donating (as in, sacrificing for others)"

So you'd refuse to help someone if they couldn't offer you something in return?  Sounds like more capitalism from the post-leftists.  You'll have to be careful, any more capitalist and you'll out-neocon the neocons.

"distributing it correctly (as in, don't give anything directly to people, but use established institutions -- see below"

So distribution isn't something a person can do themselves?  I realize my answer wasn't perfectly worded (I should have been more careful, anti-leftists love any little gap they can cram their own interpretation of what you mean into, it goes with the incredible dishonesty of the post-leftist/anti-anarchist movement).

"like-minded people"

Well, you could try raising the issue with capitalists, fascists and post-leftists, but as none of those give a fuck about anybody but themselves it does seem rather a waste of time.

"helping the needy (surely not ourselves, who obviously have enough extra cash to donate it to established charitable institutions)"

Read the fucking question.  I answered the question that was asked.  If you don't like the question (and you won't because it's not all about your own selfish interests) then complain to the person who asked it.

You know what, I can't even be bothered to read your nonsense any more.  When I first came here I made a comment on a primitivist question and was told to fuck off and stick to anarcho-syndicalist questions.  Please follow Dot's rules and avoid answering anarchist or socialist questions.

Post-leftism: what spoilt, selfish, rich kids think anarchism is.

Oh yeah, thanks for demonstrating that solidarity you mentioned.  Exactly the same as all the other solidarity I've received from anti-leftists.
well... isn't this entertaining!?!?

i don't mean to insert myself into what seems like a rather personalized conflict, but i feel compelled to respond to this:

"So you'd refuse to help someone if they couldn't offer you something in return?  Sounds like more capitalism from the post-leftists.  "

come on. @steve, that makes you sound like a very UN-critical thinker. first you made a HUGE leap of logic, then you associate post-left anarchists with capitalism. you are really riding a line there, somewhere between ignorance, delusion and dishonesty.

despite the fact that lawrence can definitely be condescending and obnoxious, more times than not i have strong affinity with his main points. and if that is the best you can do as a response, well... you don't make a very good argument.

and just for the record, your conception of post-left anarchists is either completely fabricated or based on severely limited experience. the fact that you are clearly entrenched in the left does not add any weight to your name-calling at those of us that no longer buy into (or never did) your socialist perspective. and to say that because one does not agree with your approach and methods, they are therefore capitalist (or therefore would never help anyone) is a pretty ignorant conclusion.
+3 votes
this anarchist would do the same thing i would do when i find myself in ANY area. starting with asking myself (and then, possibly, asking others) some relevant questions.

where am i?
why am i here?
how did i get here?
what is the context i find myself in?
what is there here that is of interest to me?
what is my risk in being here?
what benefits might i gain by being here?
can i learn anything from this particular place that is relevant to my life?
is there anything i want to do here?
how do i get out of here (if/when i want to)?

if i see some particular act(s) of oppression that i find unbearable, i will do my best to act against it. if someone asks for my help, i will look at the situation, and see if helping them (in whatever ways they are asking for it) is feasible and makes senses to me. if something occurs to me that i think might help someone that i care to help, i will share it with them.

but let's be real. very few places on this planet today are not "impoverished" in some way or another. at least when using the logic of modern industrial mass society.

"what would be a desirable course of action"

wouldn't that be whatever course(s) of action feel desirable to you in that moment? anarchists are not a unified mass, what is desirable to one is not necessarily desirable to another. my advice: consider the context, be as aware as possible, and think for yourself. then act according to your desires.

[btw, i upvote dot's comment]
answered Jul 27, 2014 by funkyanarchy (10,290 points)
...