More than twelve years after the global economic crash, in all countries of the world, the State continues not only to abdicate responsibility for the social evils and economic difficulties that so many others assure, but, as we have seen this week, a significant proportion of those living in positions of power are actively suppressing community-led efforts to support those around them.
Between the end of Thursday 1st and the beginning of Friday July 2, 2021, a representative from Glasgow City Council removed a community pantry – full of ‘infant formula, pasta, diapers, tomato sauce, sanitary products, water, jam, beans, toothpaste, curries, shampoo and baby wipes‘- from Queen’s Park. Initiated by the Glasgow chapter of Food Not Bombs, the community pantry was a little antidote to the state’s continued inaction.
The Pantry Refrigerator has been permanently placed in the park due to public events blocking the group’s usual weekly stall area, although the progression to constant presence is a logical step in creating radical solutions to poverty. food (as well as the continuous erasure of freely accessible community spaces). While community panties are not unique, a growing number of community organizations run them from their respective centers – designed as self-service spaces rather than a food bank which typically relies on a referral process / food voucher – actions such as the inclusion of a notebook that allowed people to make a request for food or a specific product demonstrates an ambition to further recognize the humanity of people in a position of economic or social marginalization. A second stand, based in Glasgow’s West End, started at the end of June, while the band members previously mobilized to support the demonstration of Palestinian solidarity in May. The members also highlighted their reach which ensures that food gets to others who might not be able to attend the stalls directly.
Since 1981, it is estimated that a thousand Food Not Bomb groups have emerged with varying degrees of association with the original American organism that emerged as a result of the demonstration of anti-nuclear power in Massachusetts (States -United). Based on the reality that:
“The amount of money spent by governments on weapons of war could feed the hungry many times over, but it is instead spent on violence, creating even more hunger. Meanwhile, the capitalist system in which our food is produced results in large amounts of good, perfectly edible food being thrown away rather than consumed, despite the many people who need it.
Sections around the world operate as community-organized, volunteer-led interventions, supporting self-help through direct action. While far from all of Food Not Bomb’s chapters claim to be anarchist collectives, it is hoped that few have slipped out that the now-suppressed pantry refrigerator was explicitly labeled as a “community pantry.” anarchist ”.
For decades, many across the political spectrum – including many on the “left” – have demonized and vilified anarchism, becoming lyrical through the many clichés of chaos and disorder as anarchism, in its sincere sense, is nothing of the sort.
With the exception of anarcho-capitalism – an approach touted by Murray Rothbard and Patrik Schumacher – which shouldn’t be counted anywhere on the same spectrum (damn, even the mess of a right-wing anti-statist attitude has more to do with it. common with a true anarchism that this libertarianism of the American free market), anarchism is the belief that we, the people, are able to govern ourselves better by direct engagement, voluntary association, care and mutual aid than political elite and a careerist class. Considering the crappy situation we’ve always been in, ultimately, through representative politics, it’s pretty hard to argue otherwise. All you have to do is access the thousands of texts available on The anarchist library to understand philosophy. Anything by Ruth kinna Where Colin Ward is a good place to start.
Although rarely explicitly named as such, there has been an increase in anarchist-style community action over the past eighteen months or so, certainly as we have experienced the COVID-19 pandemic in Scotland and the UK in general. From collecting messages from a neighbor in stores to collecting medication from a colleague while he is protecting or isolating himself, and among the thousands of people who have given their time and energy to a number of locally managed initiatives, the fundamentals of anarchism can be observed in each. Many believe these actions have had a greater impact on our communities than the majority of state interventions1, and the Glasgow Food Not Bombs community pantry in Queen’s Park was the last of them.
The Glasgow Chapter: “No References, No Resource Testing, No Worries”
“The reason the pantry was created is that the government is not fulfilling its duty to ensure the basic needs of its citizens. There are people who struggle to feed themselves and keep their children alive because of government neglect ”.
As a community development practitioner co-leading a Community Hub / Foodbank Partnership in central Edinburgh, the fact that these Glasgow community members decided to place their pantry in such a publicly accessible location (noting that it was previously placed elsewhere in the park) was an action I was excited to watch online. Although our partner organization works to define eligibility criteria through its practice with Scottish Welfare and other partners, the organization I work with, Tollcross Community Action Network, operates on the principles of universality and believes that our community comes to us according to its own needs. We do not and never will need to be referred by health, social protection or poverty alleviation charities for the support we provide. Although in our case we are a registered charity our practice is entirely focused on redistribution, signage and actions directed by ‘service users’, so I am in awe of the actions of Glasgow Food Not Bomb. .
“We will accept donations of vegetarian and vegan food, which we will cook to serve anyone who is hungry, whether rich or poor, stoned or sober. We are also very happy to coordinate with other groups who share our values and to support them in direct and non-violent actions. ‘
Immediately declaring their openness to cooperate with organizations already established in Glasgow (and possibly beyond), provided the partner is rooted in the same values set out above – the very essence of anarchism in action. This is already evidenced by the abundance of thanks given through their social media posts, thanking local businesses that have donated, as well as Coffee with milk who shared their kitchen space to allow food preparation. Organizations engaging in voluntary association and sharing the resources at their disposal (whether this physical space or the time of activists) for the benefit of all – this is anarchism.
Since its inception, the Glasgow chapter has managed community collections, with several local business partnerships to ensure that surplus or leftover products are directed to those in need.
“Political pessimists of all stripes like to talk about the magic tree of money and the problems of capitalism, but the logic of the free market remains the most efficient economic system. But check out these photos from just one collection we got this week – all from one store, none of it has even passed its expiration date. The store was simply in a position where it needed to free up space on its shelves for new inventory, as people who could afford that food obviously wanted to buy something else. We deeply appreciate our donors who work with us; we are not the ones saying they are bad people. But that’s where the logic of the market leads us: fresh food spoils in dumpsters while people starve ”.
The struggle continues
A Council spokesperson said in The Glasgow Times this ‘[w]We understand the good intentions behind this idea, but we were concerned that the unattended refrigerator could be misused and injure someone in need. Remember, then, that when community action was taken to deal with a crisis that the state had not resolved, the council stepped in to prevent it; not because the pantry was abused, but because of a lack of trust in community members to take care of each other.
As encouraged by the commentators in the various social media threads, people are already looking to help bypass the state which continues to position itself as the arbiter of what we can do to survive these successive crises. A proposal asks if, if the State “opposes [the pantry] being a member of the council or public property, is there a local church or mosque that would allow him to go out on their property? While there are also offers of shared ideas about the practice from those who run Mutual Aid Alnwick who adapted a BT phone booth in a community pantry.
While there are a handful of cynical, admittedly self-proclaimed, comments suggesting that other members of the local community might be inclined to abuse the pantry, most responses support the continued activities of Food Not Bombs. With a strong food redistribution network, a universalist philosophy and ambitions to engage in much more than just food activism (blankets and masks have been distributed previously), these activists demonstrate that we can take care of each other, even though the state will make it difficult along the way.
Anyone wishing to support Glasgow Food Not Bombs is encouraged to post a direct message to the page, including the option to be added to their broadcast list. I would also like to point out to people an article on recent mutual aid initiatives in Glasgow and Brighton featured on the Anarchist Studies blog.
1 It can be argued that the elements of leave payments merit further discussion, although qualification criteria and duration have created significant issues for many.