Report from the Reflection Table on People’s Kitchens during COVID

Barricade To Go

The Reflection Table on People’s Kitchens during Covid (called with this introduction text) took place online on October 18th. It was a really nice moment to discuss our practices and experience with quite some people, even if we had to do it from distance. Sharing experiences and practical advises on our struggles and confronting with the problems we face in this very specific time, was something quite needed. It was especially empowering to hear that more people are doing similar things and still pushing forth anti-capitalist practices in various cities despite the difficulties, the need to create spaces and conditions that are safe for people, and the government measures. We were joined in the conversation by people from Taste Before You Waste Utrecht, Joe’s Garage (Amsterdam), RATS (Rotterdam) and Redistributie (Den Haag). 

For this report, we tried to summarize what was discussed among various members of the kitchens in various topics. If you want to watch the full recording you can watch it at this link.

What were you doing before the COVID-19 pandemic and what are you doing now?

We as The Barricade had been hosting our Barricade Sunday every week until March. There, we were combining the activities of running a library and hosting regularly political events with a VoKu. We stopped with our regular activities after COVID and started doing a lot of different things during the months. We were involved in the Solidarity Kitchen project and trying to do many other things next to that. Lately, after trying different ways to host events outside, we have been doing Free Veggies Market around town, going with a Bakfiets in various spots and giving away for free soup, zines and veggies. 

Taste Before You Waste Utrecht was hosting a VoKu every Saturday evening. Beside that, they were also doing regular veggies pick-ups at small greengrocers to bring them at shelters for undocumented people and at the Free Shop (Weggeefwinkel Utrecht).
While their pick-ups activities could still go on during COVID, their VoKu inside had to stop. They’ve been also involved in the Solidarity Kitchen project. Lately they’ve started to cook again, they served outside a couple of times, now they mostly bring the meals to the Free Shop Solidarity Fridge, which is a fridge outside of the Free Shop that is accessible to everybody 24/7 to drop or take food from.

RATS’ Anti Waste Dinner

RATS was hosting a Voku every Thursday evening and organizing various political and cultural events after dinner. After a short period of inactivity at the start of the pandemic, they managed to start the Voku again: they were still cooking inside, then putting everything in a shoppingcart to go eat with a group of people at a park nearby. During these evenings outside, they also hosted small concerts from time to time. With the start of the colder season, they are now serving food outside for people to take.

Redistributie started being active recently, around February of this year in Den Haag. Since the beginning of their activity, they have been collecting food at the Haagse markt, cooking it inside and then bringing the prepared meals around in a big park (also a park where a lot of homeless people hang out) with a big bakfiets and giving meals to anybody who wanted it. Given the huge amount of rescued food, they are also organizing smaller distributions around the city. 

Joe’s Garage is a historical squat in Amsterdam East. Before they were hosting regular VoKus on various week days, next to other events and a giveaway shop. In the summer they re-started cooking to serve food outside, in a big square nearby (bringing tables etc..), so that people could still go inside to get a drink. They were one of the few kitchens that re-started in Amsterdam, now with the new measures they’re unsure what to do, they’re finding ways to still cook.

Difficulties with the growing contagions, new measures and the winter season

Something we discussed was how some among us felt about the possibility of serving inside when horeca were allowed to re-open by the government, in general none among us decided to do it for various reasons. The booking system wasn’t something people wanted to use, especially in the idea of trying to reach people that aren’t necessarily looking for a dinner at a restaurant and that don’t normally get access to good food, a booking system would also not make it possible to reach people just passing by.
Furthermore, it would not have been possible to run the dinners inside as self-organized moments, where people collectivize work, but it would have strengthened even more the service dynamic, with the addition of having to police people in respecting measures. And also, hosting events inside was definitely considered a riskier option, people agreed that it was therefore safer to host events outside.

Taste Before You Waste Utrecht’s Mobile Dinner

Giving away food outside though, especially in the current situation, also presents the risk of having to confront with police officers and being more at risk of fines and repercussions. People had different experiences with police so far. Many never confronted with them, to others it happened in September but so far it resolved in nothing more than a chat and the spokesperson having to give their ID.
It was also noted that controls were more likely when going in the city centers rather then in neighbourhoods, and that being mobile was better then being stationary under that regard. Even if having a central point for distribution would definitely be easier, moving around in order not too attract too many people at the same time in the same spot seemed the preferred option for some.
It’s unclear how things will evolve with the new measures, in general there’s a certain confidence that it’s possible to host events while keeping it safe and respecting the measures.

Of course serving food outside also comes with some other issues, like what to do in case of bad weather or how to avoid wasting too many food containers. We shared our experiences on that, in general it seemed that, with some creativity we were finding ways to deal with it.

Being outside of social centers and interacting with people on the street

Despite everything, in general people considered it positive to have been “forced” to operate outside of social centers. This made it possible to intercept people that would maybe not have entered in such a space before, it also helped making us, and what we stand for, visible in the neighbourhood/city. Some really felt that they were strengthening the connection in the neighbourhood, for others it was also important as it gave the possibility of physically confronting certain dynamics, like for example serving rescued food in front of the “green” supermarket chain Ekoplaza for free. Some among us had already done similar things in the past or thought about doing it, but, for a reason or another, never really managed to do it more regularly.
Somebody expressed the importance of such a presence on the outside in order to fight a certain tendency of subculturisation of social centers.
This also confronted some of the groups with the realisation of sometimes operating too much in a certain bubble, and realising, for example, that more material in Dutch is needed, or the differences in how people react to “free food”.

Joe’s Garage at Burendag

The latter problem was something we discussed more in depth. Many among us noticed that, indeed, when being offered free food some people would react saying “There are people that need it more” or “Why don’t you give it to Voedselbank” or even almost offended for being considered a person that would need free food.
Some noticed that of course some of these reactions happened more often in the city centre or in certain neighbourhoods compared to others. Some however, mentioned an episode of a person refusing food the first time but accepting it the one after, and the importance of taking the time so that people can understand what you’re doing and why you’re doing it.
Some also mentioned how they were discussing to re-frame it in maybe a way like “the industrial food production is shit, stop giving them money!” and using the anti-foodwaste narrative as a way to attract people’s attention and then have the space to give it a more general anti-capitalist framing.

Creating a community and relaxing during COVID

We also discussed how people really valued the space they managed to create this summer in parks/squares and how it was important to find a space to relax in the middle of the pandemic, maintaining connections and creating a community.

Charity Framing

We also briefly discussed the whole issue with serving food to people in need and charity framing. It is something on which Redistributie reflected a bit (and it was a topic already discussed before among Barricade people). In general they mentioned the importance of not working as an institution and of being able to build mutual connections with people in the park, and also taking the time to explain why they’re doing it. In the past they even had some people from the park that joined with cooking.

Redistributie’s Flyer

—–

Joe’s Garage (Amsterdam) – https://joesgarage.nl/
Taste Before You Waste Utrecht –  https://tbywutrecht.wordpress.com/
RATS (Rotterdam) – https://rotterdamserats.blackblogs.org/
Redistributie (Den Haag) – https://www.facebook.com/Redistributie-Den-Haag-114378917080802
The Barricade (Utrecht) – https://thebarricade.noblogs.org

Posted in General | Comments Off on Report from the Reflection Table on People’s Kitchens during COVID

People’s Kitchens during COVID – an online Reflection Table

After the serie of Reflection Tables on Kitchens and Struggle that we hosted last year, on Sunday 18/10 we are going to host another Reflection Table, even if this time online, to pool our experiences and our knowledge and inspire each other with the ways in which we continue to resist capitalism via the collectivisation of food during this very specific time.
The one that follows is the introudction text for the discussion.

Despite the worrying increase of contagions we think that it’s super important to still build places of solidarity that are safe for everybody. It doesn’t look like this situation will be resolved soon, and we therefore think that stopping our political activities as a people’s kitchen is not an option.

Nonetheless, the unavoidable physical distance forces us to re-shape our practices completely and leaves us with a lot of questions.
First of all, there is the questions of logistics. Our kitchens aim to collectivise our food and our meals, by bringing (mostly large) groups of people together to cook and eat. We also position ourselves critically towards the restaurant service dynamic, pushing and practicing a space that is constructed by all the people crossing it. Now that our society is shaped around distance, measures and strict hygiene, we need to rethink how we, as people kitchens, can still gather safely and construct those spaces. How are we shaping our physical spaces? How do we come up with a social dynamic that will keep us safe, while also staying critical towards the measures that are (or are not) imposed on us? How can we still be active without reproducing service dynamics even more (reservation, table service ..)? How can we create spaces of solidarity, where we all understand our risks as well as the importance to still gather and share food?

Secondly, there is the question of how to send out our idea of solidarity as People’s Kitchen. Apart from emphasizing on distancing and following the measures, our governmental institutions, be it local or national, also highly promote a society where we stand in ‘solidarity’ with each other, be it doing each others groceries or volunteering in the care sector. Yes, we should look after each other, especially now that the effects of the pandemic on people’s income and health are becoming more clear, and as people’s kitchens, we have always stood for solidarity. However, our practise should be conflictual with the mere idea of philanthropy the government is speaking so fondly of. How can we push forward the message of solidarity that stands for self-organisation and mutuality?

Posted in General | Comments Off on People’s Kitchens during COVID – an online Reflection Table

Between solidarity and charity: a dialogue from the kitchen

In the end, the state is not only the institutions and their control, but it is also a relationship between people: how they act in respect to each other.

So, it’s not about organizing free social activities, or handing out free food because one has a big heart and wants to help others. In order to radically transform society, to strive for an exploitation-free world, it is essential to start behaving differently towards one other, putting real solidarity and real self-organization in practice. Solidarity should therefore not be intended as mere assistance, as a tool for making up for state’s welfare, but rather as a process of shifting power relations.

The first half of this year has definitely been an unprecedented period for many people and for us included, from having to stop/alter our practices of collectivisation to confronting ourselves with the strange dynamics solidarity projects can fall into.

For a series of reflections called World Stories from the Margins, we’ve been asked to recount that period of activity and the reflections that we made along the way.
The result is the text “Between solidarity and charity: a dialogue from the kitchen” that you can read on the website of Convivial Thinking at this link: https://www.convivialthinking.org/index.php/2020/09/25/solidarity-and-charity-a-dialogue-from-the-kitchen/

Posted in General | Comments Off on Between solidarity and charity: a dialogue from the kitchen

A difficult start of the 5th year

Hello everybody!

Gradually leaving our summer break behind, a new season of the Barricade has reached us. Hoping to return to our practice of collectivising the labor that nurtures us all, we unfortunately still find ourselves in the midst of regulations and separation. Having to work with the current corona measures and taking health risks in mind, we concluded that going back to our regular Sunday practice is still not possible nor a responsible step to take.

We do want to ‘open’ again, even though what that ‘opening’ might look like, is something we have decide on step by step. For now we concluded the following: we will start again to organise events, and in this way ‘opening’ our new Barricade season. We will stick to the outdoors, and will create spaces where we can meet each other again, where our political ideologies can be shared, while also being mindful about our health and safety. We hope to meet you all soon again – a las barricadas!

To stay up to date check our Telegram channel!

 

UPDATE 28/09

Among all the uncertainty of these times yesterday we created once more a space to distribute freely food, zines, clothes and much more, a space to be safely together and sing songs. Sing and talk together and not pretend that things are fine, but feeling that just because things are not fine we need to do what we can to resist and keep creating such spaces.

Thanks to Your Local Pirates for the music and the alegre rebeldia.
And thanks to the Weggeefwinkel Utrecht for joining us and bringing their free shop to our market!

We hope to be able to organise more stuff in the coming weeks, check the Telegram channel for more info.

A las barricadas!

Posted in General | Comments Off on A difficult start of the 5th year

Zorg voor elkaar?

UPDATE 26/05

In these times when most of our communal spaces are closed, the streets are overflowed with positive messages recommending us of “Taking good care of each other”, of “sending a lot of hearts to the hospitals”, of “getting out of this together”. All these messages you see around the streets, while the shadow of the consequences of the crisis loom over our heads, while the capitalist system uses yet another crisis to reshape the market relationships.
Confronted with the reality of everyday oppression and with the perspectives of what’s going to come, these messages sometimes sound like the caress of the butcher to the lamb.

Now, we don’t believe that these messages are evil-minded, or that there is some kind of twisted direction behind this, we believe however that good thoughts by themselves won’t suffice, and that we need to struggle to create a world where we can take good care of each other, where we can put people over profit and build a system that’s not based on exploitation.

We’ve started reclaiming the streets with this challenge, and we’ve kept on trying to do what we can to support the people around us and protest against what’s happening.

We know that we’re not alone in this and we hope that even more people will start retaking the streets, and for whoever wants to get involved in all that we do, you can always send us a message at barricade@riseup.net

We also made a video, you can check it here: https://vimeo.com/420709927

Thanks to Alert Fonds for the support!

13/04

You’ve probably seen something similar around already. The “Utrecht zorg goed voor elkaar” (Utrecht take good care of each other) poster. Yesterday after cooking once more, in our free time, in solidarity with people who cannot stay at home because they don’t have (a safe) one and with people struggling because of this fucked-up system, we decided to make our own version of it.

To make clear what we think “taking good care of each other” actually means.

DO YOU WANT TO HELP US SHARING IT AROUND? you can download the A4 poster at this link

[NL]
Utrecht, zorg goed voor elkaar?

In deze tijd is het kraakhelder wie het hardst geraakt wordt, wie de meeste zorg draagt en wie moeite heeft om rond te komen.
Om goed voor iedereen te zorgen, hebben we een systeem nodig dat mensen boven winst verkiest; een systeem dat niet is gebaseerd op uitbuiting.

Zorg dat iedereen een veilige en stabiele woonsituatie heeft.
Zorg dat iedereen een inkomen heeft om zichzelf te voorzien.

Tijdens en na het virus.

Zorg betekent niet tijdelijke liefdadigheid.

Zorg betekent het eisen van sociale rechtvaardigheid.

[EN]
Utrecht, take good care of each other?

In these times it’s crystal clear who is hit the hardest, who is carrying most of the care work and who is struggling to make ends meet.
In order to take care of everybody we need to put people over profit and create a system that’s not based on exploitation.

Let’s make safe and stable housing accessible to all.
Let’s give everybody an income to self-determine themselves.

During and after corona

Care does not mean temporary charity.
Care means demanding social justice.

Posted in General | Tagged | Comments Off on Zorg voor elkaar?

Pizza en Participatiesamenleving: eerste reflecties over werken als solidariteitskeuken

The English version of this text is below.

Gisteren hebben wij pizzas gebakken. Ondertussen reflecteerden we op werken als solidariteitskeuken in de maand maart. Dit zijn onze eerste reflecties en gedachtes.

De Barricade bevindt zich in een nieuwe positie. Zoals de meesten van ons, hebben ook wij ons moeten aanpassen aan nieuwe tijden van isolatie, distantie en eenzaamheid. Jarenlang hebben wij het concept van ‘collectiviteit’ voortgezet, waaronder: collectief koken, collectief eten, collectief lezen of simpelweg samenkomen en ervaringen uitwisselen. Hiervoor gebruikten wij een grote, fysieke plek, waar velen langskwamen elke zondagavond. Door de nieuwe overheidsmaatregelen heeft onze gebruikelijke plek al een maand lang de de deuren dicht. Onze bijeenkomsten zijn verplaatst naar digitale platforms, waar wij manieren proberen te vinden om onze politieke overtuigingen voor te zetten. Daarnaast koken een paar van ons nog in de ACU keuken, maar nu onder andere omstandigheden dan hoe wij normaliter onze keukenactiviteiten zouden omschrijven en uitvoeren.

Sinds de sluiting van de horeca en het verbod op het samenkomen van grote groepen, zijn veel plekken in Utrecht gesloten. Dit zijn vooral commerciële bars, cafés en restaurants, maar ook een paar belangrijke plekken die kwetsbare groepen in Utrecht voorzag van de nodige basisbehoeftes zijn dicht. Ook het Smulhuis, een plek die elke avond een maaltijd gaf aan een grote groep mensen die niet of moeilijk toegang heeft tot goed eten, is in overleg met gemeente Utrecht dicht gegaan voor een deel van de bezoekers. Wij begrijpen de redenen hiervoor, maar zien hiernaast ook welke problemen dit met zich meebrengt. Naast dat het een kwetsbare groep mensen wederom op straat zet, zien wij weinig tot geen gemeentelijk ingrijpen hiervoor, noch enige vorm van kritische media aandacht omtrent dit probleem. In plaats van dat de gemeente haar verantwoordelijkheid oppakt in tijden van crisis, heeft het besloten haar beste joker op tafel te gooien: Nederland is een ‘participatiesamenleving’. Zoals de overheid het zou omschrijven, staat dit voor een samenleving waarin iedereen die dat kan, verantwoordelijkheid neemt voor en actief bijdraagt aan zijn of haar eigen leven en omgeving. Of zoals de critici het liever verwoorden: de ‘zoek het zelf maar uit’ samenleving.

ACU is veranderd van cultureel-politiek centrum tot solidariteitskeuken. Zeven dagen per week worden er take-away avondmaaltijden uitgedeeld voor mensen die niet of moeilijker toegang hebben tot goed eten. Elke avond maakt de keuken rond de 60 take-away dozen voor iedereen die het nodig heeft. De Barricade kookt nog altijd op zondag en geeft onder andere zelfgemaakte pizzas uit via de voordeur van het ACU. Aan de ene kant is het een fantastisch project en bewonderen we alle tijd en energie die veel vrijwilligers in de solidariteitskeuken steken. Aan de andere kant is het vreemd om plotseling deze verantwoordelijk op ons te nemen en vragen wij ons af: is dit hoe solidariteit er werkelijk uit ziet, of worden wij hier nu genoodzaakt de rotzooi van de gemeente op te ruimen? Onrechtvaardigheid is nog duidelijker in tijden van crisis, en het is nog helderder te zien waar het vooral plaats vindt en wie hier voornamelijk de dupe van is. Deze onrechtvaardigheid is niet nieuw, het is altijd al gaande geweest en wij zijn er van overtuigd dat, zolang vrijwilligers bereid zijn deze problemen maar weer op te knappen, de problematiek nooit bij de wortels zal worden aangepakt.

We zijn al een maand verder sinds wij onderdeel zijn geworden van een solidariteitskeuken die maaltijden uitdeelt. Al zijn wij blij nog te kunnen koken en erkennen wij het privilege dat wij nog gepermitteerd het huis uit kunnen, willen wij toch een paar contradicties uitlichten die wij afgelopen maand zijn tegengekomen. Ten eerste willen wij onderstrepen hoe afhankelijk de gemeente blijkt te zijn van vrijwilligersinzet. De gemeente verbergt zich achter een, naar hun mening, goed excuus dat zij sommige kwetsbare groepen op straat niet kunnen helpen, namelijk: door landelijk beleid is het voor de gemeente verboden deze groepen te ondersteunen. Sterker nog: zij kunnen boetes verwachten, mochten zij deze groepen wel steunen. Daarom gaat de gemeente uit van vrijwilligerswerk en inzet van individuelen om de rotzooi op te ruimen waar zij zelf ‘niet aan mogen zitten’. Als collectief vinden wij dat, in plaats van dat de gemeente uitgaat van vrijwilligerswerk en hun verantwoordelijkheid zo wegwuift, zij moet eisen dat dit landelijke beleid moet worden herzien. Zolang er instituties als gemeentes zijn, dragen zij de verantwoordelijkheid om voor iedere burger in de stad te zorgen. Wanneer de gemeente niet de moeite doet om dit waar te maken, maar voornamelijk opereert als controlerend en bureaucratisch orgaan, vragen wij ons af in hoeverre de burger werkelijk wat heeft aan dergelijke instituties.

Daarnaast heeft de solidariteitskeuken een verbazingwekkend portie media aandacht gehad. Er is niet veel gaande in deze tijd naast de projecten die mensen zijn gestart om anderen te steunen, dus wij begrijpen ook dat het oog al snel valt op de solidariteitskeuken. Zo ook stond het marketing team van gemeente Utrecht onlangs op de stoep van ACU om een promotie video te schieten over hoe ‘Utrecht verbindt in tijden van crisis’. Hun eerste vraag: ‘wat zijn de vrijwilligers hier aan het doen?’ Het antwoord: ‘wij doen het werk dat de gemeente niet oppakt, namelijk: een goede maaltijd geven aan mensen die er zelf niet of moeilijk toegang tot hebben’. Het meest ironische aspect van het interview: om vragen te krijgen van een betaald medewerker van de gemeente, over hoe wij het essentiële werk oppakken dat de gemeente niet doet, geheel onbetaald en op vrijwillige basis. Wij willen niet worden omschreven als een liefdadigheidsproject dat goed doet voor anderen; wij verrichten al vier jaar dit werk in de keuken en zo ook in tijden van crisis. Dit is geen heldendaad, dit zijn onze politieke overtuigingen die wij omzetten tot handelingen. Wij willen geen complimentjes van de gemeente. Wij willen dat de gemeente zelf verantwoordelijkheid neemt voor deze taken.

We voelden de noodzaak om deze eerste reflecties publiekelijk te delen, omdat wij vinden dat vooral in tijden van crisis het belangrijk is om licht te schijnen op de kromme en oneerlijke werkwijzen van instituties, zowel op nationaal als lokaal niveau. Wij zullen blijven koken op de zondagen, omdat wij de noodzaak inzien van de solidariteitskeuken en wij het een waardevol project vinden om te steunen. Al zullen wij werken op grond van onze principes: als een collectief geïnspireerd door wasbeertjes en anarchisme. Wij zijn niet een liefdadigheidsproject.

Pizza and Participatiesamenleving: first reflections on working as a solidarity kitchen

Yesterday we made home-made pizza. Meanwhile we reflected on participating in a solidarity kitchen project during the month of March. These are our first reflections.

As the Barricade we found ourselves in a new situation. Like most people, we had to adapt to these new times of isolation, distancing and solitude. For many years we pushed the concept of collectivity, that is: collective cooking, collective eating, collective reading, or simply coming together and share experiences. For this we used a large physical space, where many people visited every Sunday evening. With the new governmental measures in place, our usual space has closed its doors to the public for already a month. Our meetings have moved to digital platforms, where we discuss how to still push our political standpoints. Apart from that, some of us are still cooking in the ACU kitchen, but under a different framing than how we normally describe our kitchen work.

Since the closing of horeca and the prohibition on meetings with large groups, many spaces in Utrecht have closed. These are mostly commercial bars, cafes and restaurants, but also some important spaces that provide basic needs for a more vulnerable group of people in the city. Also the Smulhuis, a space that provided dinner for people who have less access to food, has closed for part of their visitors in agreement with the gemeente (municipality of) Utrecht. We understand their reasons for closing, however, we also see what problematic effects this brings about. Next to that it leaves a group of vulnerable people out on the street, we also see little to no municipal intervenience to solve this problem, nor any critical media coverage about this situation. Instead of the municipality taking up the responsibility it should take in these times of crisis, it decided to play its best joker: the Netherlands is a ‘participatiesamenleving’ (participatory society / big society). As the government describes it, this means that everyone who has the ability to contribute socially to its surroundings, should take up this responsibility and act upon it. Or, how the critics prefer to frame this concept: ’figure it out yourself’ governing.

ACU has changed from a cultural-political centre, to a solidarity kitchen that hands out free take-away meals. It’s open 7 days a week and provides people who need food and have less access to it with a decent evening meal. Every evening, the kitchen produces around 60 take-away boxes for anyone who needs it, and we as Barricade still cook on Sunday, now handing out home-made pizza through the front door. On the one hand it’s a great project, and we fully acknowledge all the time and effort that many volunteers have put into it. On the other hand we find this sudden responsibility very questionable and wonder whether this is what solidarity looks like, or whether we are simply covering up the mess the gemeente leaves us with, out of emergency. In times of crisis, injustice becomes very clear and it’s easy to point out who mostly suffers from it. This injustice is not new, it’s been there even before the pandemic and we are sure that, as long as volunteers are willing to cover up for these problems, it will never be addressed at its very core.

It has been a month now since we started operating as a solidarity kitchen making take-away meals and, as much as we are happy and privileged to be permitted to go out of our houses and cook, want to share some of the contradictions of the ‘participatiesamenleving’ we have encountered. First of all, we want to underline the dependency of the gemeente on volunteer based projects. The gemeente hides behind an, in their opinion, valid reason to not help certain vulnerable groups out on the streets: they are simply not allowed to do so due to national governmental regulations. If they would help these people, they will be fined. Therefore the gemeente depends upon volunteer-run groups and individuals to clean the mess they are not ‘allowed’ to clean. We as collective think that, instead of depending on volunteer work and carelessly justifying their lack of responsibility as a result of these national regulations, the gemeente should put more effort in demanding a change in these very regulations. As long as institutions such as the gemeente are still in place, they should be the ones taking care of their citizens. If the gemeente is not making the effort to do so, but now mostly operates as a controlling and bureaucratic entity, we wonder what value such institution is giving its inhabitants in the first place.

Secondly, the media attention the solidarity kitchen got was striking. As not much is going on these days apart from projects people have started to support others, we understand that attention is easily attracted. Likewise, the marketing team of gemeente Utrecht decided to show up at ACU’s front door to shoot some video material for a promotional video on how ‘Utrecht is connecting people in times of crisis’. Their first question: what are the volunteers doing here? Answer: doing the work the gemeente is not doing, which is, providing people with food who don’t have access to it. Most ironic part of the interview: being interviewed by a paid worker of the gemeente Utrecht, on how you are doing the essential work the gemeente is not doing, on unpaid, volunteer basis. We do not want to be framed as a charity that does good to others: this is something we have been doing for four years and yes, in times of crisis we are still doing this work. This is for us not a heroic act, but a political standpoint we have always been pushing for. We don’t want any compliments from the gemeente for this work, we want them do take up their responsibility themselves.

We felt the necessity to share these first reflections publicly, as we think that especially in times of crisis, it’s important to expose and criticise the unfair ways of how institutions operate, be it on national or local level. We will stay in the kitchen and continue cooking on Sundays, as we think the solidarity kitchen is a good and necessary initiative to be part of. However, we operate under our framework: as a collective inspired by raccoons and anarchism. We are not a charity.

Posted in General | Tagged | Comments Off on Pizza en Participatiesamenleving: eerste reflecties over werken als solidariteitskeuken

Towards a Quarantine Resistance – Report from the 2nd Online Assembly

On Wednesday April 1st we had a second online assembly, (after the first one we had) here are the notes from what was discussed in the hope that, even if super-incomplete, they might be of help to other people.
In general we ended with a call to everybody of reclaiming the public space in these times of physical distancing using any possible tactic. We encourage any action that goes in this way, like the one below.

At the start, people expressed their feelings of going back and forth between the need of acting and apathy or despair towards the situation. Some of the issues contributing to people feeling down were the realization that this situation will last for long, and that therefore a lot of things people were looking forward to were not going to happen in the end, and of course the lack of interpersonal contact. Someone also mentioned the feeling of being overflown with too many broad political analyses without the possibility of directly acting on stuff. On the other hand some people had also some positive feelings mostly about perceiving that people are starting to act and still pushing for a radical leftist point of view.

Then we discussed some thoughts that people had about the current situation, to later move more concretely on things that we can do now and how to frame a leftist narrative in these times.
About the current situation, somebody mentioned how an external crisis, such as the corona-virus pandemic, is also resulting in a strong resistance to capitalism. We see many examples of mutual aid, solidarity and self-organisation rising up all over the world, that are undermining the usual rhetoric that wants us competing with each other, and putting under pressure the principles of a system that puts profit over people.
For example, in the Netherlands, people are starting to realize that a lot of underpaid jobs are the ones that are really needed right now (healthcare workers, cleaners, supermarkets’ employees, teachers…).

We also see neoliberal politicians contradicting themselves constantly to still keep a human face, like for example Boris Johnson stating the other day that “there is such a thing as society”, despite his tatcherian views of brazen individualism (“there is no such thing as society”), this coming few weeks after the same British prime minister was advocating for eugenicist plans of herd immunity.
The same trend we see with VVD retracting constantly what they say. First, for example, affirming that freelancers (ZZP’ers) chose to be self-employed and as such they should face the costs of it in times of crisis, then stating (after lots of criticism) that nobody will be left alone. The same thing happened with the discussion in the EU over eurobonds and financial measures to support Southern European countries, where the Dutch minister Hoekstra has been heavily criticized even by major Dutch economists, and had to retract there again. Beside these and other examples, however, it seems like Rutte and the VVD are being very careful with the things they say, and also saying things that they would have never said before. This is contributing to a big group of people in the Netherlands having trust in the way the government is dealing with the crisis, and it seems even that the VVD is rising in the opinion polls. We do see such a trend as worrying since the way the Dutch government is dealing with the crisis is very questionable and we think that it’s important to expose them.

We also discussed quite a bit the imperialist perspective that is coming out of many speeches by the Dutch government, manifested for example in a certain feeling of being untouchable, in thinking that the pandemic could never hit a country like the Netherlands that bad. This overconfidence on the impossibility of this crisis coming puts all our bodies at risk. The same perspective was also noticed in the overuse of the term ‘intelligent’ or in phrases such as ‘something that the responsabile dutch people can do’, implying that other countries didn’t have responsible people, or that their policies were not intelligent.

We then discussed briefly the example of Ede where small-scale markets were forced to close while big supermarket chains are the ones that can stay open. In general there’s the feeling that small food shops are less visited than before, and even if we didn’t discuss this further, we think it’s important to find ways to address this issue. We also discussed the situation where a lot of people are finding themselves confined in their nuclear family unit, having to deal with problematic dynamics and at the same time unable to rely on their usual support networks. Also this is a topic that we would like to go back to.

The second part of the assembly was mostly focused on how to best frame a leftist narrative as a response to this crisis. We recognized the importance, in this context of general confusion and despair, of using a positive framing instead of an angry one, in order not to overflow people with negative messages. Being already full of worries and sadness people might not be very open to receiving them.
Nevertheless, we also shared some frustrations regarding certain positive messages that we hear and see all around us way too often these days, only focusing on ‘being together’, vague solidarity and so on. The heart-lines distributed in houses in Lombok to connect the neighborhood through harts hanging from the windows was brought up as an example of this. Messages like this one are very empty, since society is not equal and people are not all affected in the same way. Sharing love messages without political intentions of change won’t do much sadly.
One of the good ways proposed to address this and at the same time confront the hypocrisy of politicians is that of using humor, possibly including statements used by politicians themselves.  Another one was the tactic of reclaiming mainstream slogans and discourses filling them with a political meaning. An example of that has been the action of Leiden voor14, where messages of vague support to supermarket employees that were going around having been linked to the campaign to raise the minimum hourly wage (see here). More about Détournement and Cultural Jamming can be read on Beautiful Trouble.

Posted in General | Tagged | Comments Off on Towards a Quarantine Resistance – Report from the 2nd Online Assembly

Towards a Quarantine Resistance – Report from the Online Assembly

Yesterday we had an online assembly to discuss together the current situation of the Corona-crisis in the Netherlands, how this is affecting us and other people around and what we can still do.
It was a nice opportunity to listen to each other and we also had a good response from other people that joined us. In a society that wants us isolated not just now, but even when there’s no necessity of physical distance, it is so important to create spaces to connect and collectivize thoughts, and now more than ever.

In the following we put down some notes from what was discussed in the hope that, even if super-incomplete, they might be of help to other people.

We started by sharing our personal feelings about the situation. Feelings of worry and confusion were mentioned by many people. It was also noticed by many how this crisis was making more visible the social injustices that are already present in the society. The fear was there that these conditions might only get worse, and people were torn between hoping that these moments might lead to some systemic change and just despair or fear that things will just go back to how they were before this whole thing started.
Also, as people are seeing their economic situation under threat, some felt the tension between on one hand needing to ask for help from the state and on the other hand just wanting the system to collapse.

Then we started talking about the current situation and three topics were discussed more in depth.
We started talking about how the Dutch government and the mainstream media have been framing the corona-crisis. We have been seeing a lot of criminalisation of individual behaviour and for example using people’s ‘anti-social behaviour’ as scapegoat for a change in policy and measures that were taken way too late. This all without considering the situation of people still needing to leave their house to go to do completely non-essential jobs just to keep the economy running. Activities the suspension of which has never even been mentioned so far.
This is similar, despite the obvious economic and political differences, to the situation in Italy, where people are still forced to work in sectors like the weapon industry putting their health at risk everyday, while at the same time there is an increasing militarisation of the streets and criminalisation of people who leave the house even just for a run alone.
We discussed ways to counter this narrative and also to raise awareness on workers’ conditions (also those same workers who are now hypocritically called ‘heroes’ whose working conditions and salaries have been victims, like those of many other workers, of unstopped budget cuts and other neoliberal reforms).

Then, starting from our situation as Barricade collective, we reflected a bit on what does it mean to offer help at this moment in the ‘Participatiemaatschappij’. Since two weeks we have been part of the Solidarity Kitchen, an effort that was set up to respond to some of the consequences of the measures: namely that many places where a lot of homeless and undocumented people usually got a meal had to close their doors, leaving them without any. Beside the usual tension that we feel between a certain charity work versus mutualism, we also reflected on the fact that the gemeente was not taking any responsibility and indirectly putting volunteers to work without having to care about their own safety nor about the safety of people without a home.
Once again here, the pandemic is only exposing something that was already there, that is the policies of ”Participatiemaatschappij’ (also known in the UK as “The Big Society”), a set of neoliberal policies put in place to hand out the disappearing welfare system more and more to institutionalized volunteers organisations. A twisted kind of people’s self-management, since there is no real autonomy from the state, the state just drops its responsibility on certain aspects of welfare while still keeping the control in the end.
We reflected on the necessity of exposing this contradiction.

The last point we discussed was the necessity of making radical leftist ideas accessible and understandable to everybody, yet again a renown problem but one that becomes more necessary now. It was underlined with many examples the general disconnection that there is between activists and a big part of society, especially the one that might need support in this moment. An example was made with the huge number of support projects sprouting online with many people ready to help and very few people asking for help. Online communication does not make it accessible to everybody and moreover it is typical of online platforms to reinforce self-enclosed bubbles, the probability of reaching people outside of our circle in this way is quite low.
We also discussed the necessity of finding ways to reclaim the public space, in these times of isolation, by spreading relevant information in different ways.

With these ideas in mind we concluded the meeting, we’ll try to put some stuff in practice (as always) and see to continue creating spaces online as a way to collectivize reflections and community care.

Posted in General | Tagged | Comments Off on Towards a Quarantine Resistance – Report from the Online Assembly

Rojava Everywhere: Report

On Sunday 23rd of February we hosted Rojava Everywhere, a day in solidarity with the revolution in Rojava. The program consisted of many lectures and discussions on the ideas that inspired the revolution, on how they are put in practice there and on what we can learn and put into practice here.

We had comrades from the Internationalist Commune of Rojava visiting. The Internationalist Commune of Rojava is a self-organized collective of internationalists in Rojava, trying to support the revolution and also spread the ideas of the revolution outside of Kurdistan. They facilitate the participation of internationalists in Rojava and have also launched many campaigns over the years, the current ones are Make Rojava Green Again, Riseup4Rojava and Women Defend Rojava. We were also joined by a person from Ecologie Sociale Liege and by some people active in DemNed (the Kurdish Federation in the Netherlands) and the Kurdish Liberation Movement.

The day started already in the morning with a Seminar on Rojava and Ecology given by some comrades of the Internationalist Commune of Rojava. The seminar was meant specifically for people actively involved in the climate justice movement here in the Netherlands.
After lunch we continued with a lecture on the birth of Democratic Confederalism as a theory and its application in the region of Bakur given by some Kurdish comrades, followed by a talk about the ideas of Social Ecology and the Social Ecologist movement in Belgium. Finally, comrades from the Internationalist Commune of Rojava gave a talk about the role of Internationalists in the Revolution in Rojava and what can be learnt from there, and about the campaign Make Rojava Green Again. Also during the whole afternoon, people collectively participated in the making of a banner in solidarity with Rojava for the Climate March in Utrecht of February 29th.

The day was well attended and it gave people from different contexts and collectives the opportunity to exchange ideas and contacts. Many things were said and it’s impossible to give a complete recount of it, but we’ll try to mention some things in the following, these are of course just brief notes, we’ll add some links for people interested, for a more in-depth introduction we recommend the Make Rojava Green Again book that we have at our stand.

The Ecological Crisis as a Crisis of Capitalist Modernity

Something that was made clear in different talks during the day is the impossibility of understanding ecological problems as separate from the social structures in which they are originated.

This idea was already developed by Murray Bookchin in the 80s, where in his book The Ecology of Freedom he starts developing Social Ecology as a theory. Even if heavily inspired by Social Anarchism, Social Ecology is fundamentally marked by the reflection on the relationship between society and nature. Humans and society, according to Bookchin, were not to be considered “alien” to nature, but a continuum of it, making therefore ecological problems strictly dependent on social problems.

This same notion is also present in the Kurdish movement. The so-called Crisis of Capitalist Modernity is therefore understood as a combination of multiple, interlinked crises:

  • the Ecological Crisis, with the ongoing destruction of the environment, the alienation of people from nature, etc.
  • the Political Crisis, with people in larger and larger numbers not feeling represented anymore by institutional politics
  • the Societal Crisis, with the growing individualism, leaving many people isolated, unhappy, anxious, etc.
  • the Economical Crisis

There is no way of addressing one of them without considering the others and without considering the way in which society is organised. In his reflections, Abdullah Öcalan thinks back at the relation between the birth of the nation-state, the emergence of the class system and patriarchy and sees them as strictly interlinked. These systems all subjugate to domination the freedom of the individual and its relationship to nature and to others. It becomes therefore clear that, in order to address the Ecological Crisis, it is necessary to radically change the social structures that generated it.

The work of Make Rojava Green Again outside of Rojava is exactly that of spreading these concepts and notions in the ecological movement.

Democratic Confederalism as a concrete example for a Radical Change

Democratic Confederalism was introduced as the ideological paradigm of the Kurdish liberation movement as a way to radically change the structures regulating our society and make way for a radically democratic society based on women’s liberation and ecology.

Democratic Confederalism originated as a theory from reflections that Öcalan and other members of the PKK (Kurdistan Workers Party) had between the end of the ’90s and the beginning of the 2000s. Until then the PKK had been organized as a national liberation movement, with a Marxist-Leninist ideology, whose goal was the creation of an independent Kurdish State. However, after reflecting on the oppressive nature of the nation-state it became clear that it was not the Turkish State alone the problem, the problem was the nation-state itself. Creating a nation-state for the Kurds would therefore not end the other systems of domination (patriarchy, class system…) that were foundational to the nation-state as an organisation.

Therefore, influenced by thinkers such as Bookchin and Foucalt, Öcalan began envisioning a libertarian system of social organisation independent from the nation-state. Hence, Democratic Confederalism seeks to organize society from the bottom up and on a grassroots level based on self-management and mutual aid, with the goal that decisions should be taken at the lowest possible level (neighbourhood communes, city communes, etc.).

Democratic Confederalism, beside being an interesting libertarian theory, it is a theory that is being put in practice at the very moment. It is the theory behind the revolution in Rojava and the one through which, consequently, the Autonomous Administration of North-East Syria is currently organised. We also heard about the struggle for democratic confederalism in Bakur, and some concrete examples of how it was put into practice there, before the repressions by the Turkish State.

Learning from the Revolution: Rojava Everywhere

Organizing this event for us was a very nice experience and, beside giving the opportunity of speaking with a lot of comrades, and hearing and reflecting on very interesting topics, made us even more conscious on the importance of establishing stronger connections with the Kurdish movement here in the Netherlands.

In a context where we are deprived of the possibility of fully practicing the ideas we believe in, learning from concrete experiences becomes crucial and we think that there is a lot to learn from the experiences of the Kurdish movement. More important than analyzing the perfect ideology, it is much needed to hear from people that have experienced with their own eyes a whole society (and not organisations of tens, or hundred people) trying to put self-management and autonomy into practice, taking themselves and their commitments seriously, believing that what they’re striving for could actually be achieved.

Also, it becomes more and more clear, the need for the radical left to approach problems with more pragmatism and less ideological purism. To get out of certain bubbles of self-assuredness, of believing to be free in the small islands that have been created over the years. To rethink what one perceives as radical and what not, to learn again how to engage with broader parts of society and to really start creating the alternative we want to live.

Links

 

Posted in Event, General | Comments Off on Rojava Everywhere: Report

There’s no fighting climate-deniers without fighting capitalism

Identifying climate denial exclusively with the various far right politicians that in the recent years rose up worldwide, would be naive and absurd. It is capitalism itself to be denying the climate crisis.
Capitalism is sometimes explicitly a climate-denier: this is the case, for example, of Exxon Mobil and other giants of the fossil fuel industry that have been financing for years the activity of presumed “skeptical scientists”. Mostly, however, Capitalism is implicitly denier, due to its fundamental logic. It is so in the way it keeps moving forward despite everything, in the way it takes itself for granted as the one and only possible mode of production: eternal, despite its destructiveness.

The culture of “capitalist realism” is all around us.
It is not only the politicians’ debate to be full of denial (their passivity, their going forward as automs, if not their direct servitude to the interests of big polluters) but the public discourse as a whole.
Let’s debunk any misunderstanding from the start: “climate-denial” does not exclusively mean denying that climate disruptions are currently happening. Today most of the people are aware that something serious is going on. Media are talking almost every day of the disastrous consequences of global warming.
The problem is that these are being framed as the single extraordinary episode breaking for a moment the triviality of the day to day. It breaks down the picture, it fragments the image of climate collapse and describes each single piece with words that sound alarmist but are actually reassuring. Media talk about “sea storms”, “heat waves”, “dry-seasons”, in short, about “emergencies”: things that appear sudden, momentaneous and local. Because emergencies will eventually ‘get back to normal’, after covering news about climate, one can move to something else.

This moving to something else is the core of the dominant ideology manifesting itself in the media. Treating the climate catastrophe as one of the many possible topics is the most wicked form of climate-denial.
The same fragmentation of the picture is at work in the practices of green-washing of Shell and other companies, in the empty promises of politicians, in the totally superficial plans of “ecological sustainability” done by local municipalities and governments. The spectacle of the adoption of this or that “mitigative measure” is there to tell us: «Don’t worry, the problem can be dealt with without changing the system, without upsetting completely our routine, without giving up to business-as-usual».
Business-as-usual that then comes back reassured and strengthened.
This also applies to the so-called “climate emergency declaration”, as with this, despite the good intentions of the movements pushing for it, the risk is to serve green-washing on a golden plate to the institutions that can use the nice gesture as a diversive.

And this is indeed what we’ve seen in Utrecht. The gemeente of the “linkse lente”, after declaring climate emergency went straight back to the business-as-usual. So back to work on pushing forward with Utrecht as the “fastest growing city in the Netherlands”. Back to work with gentrifying neighborhoods, replacing social housing with houses for rich people – but now with a park, and no cars! (see Croeselaan). Back to promoting Utrecht as a tourist destination with La Vuelta – but let’s make it sustainable!

These and other policies are all manifestations of “green neoliberalism”, of the politics of who wants to tame deregulated capitalism with a green face under the “Green Capitalism” brand.
The moderate demands formulated in this context quickly reveal that the sacred principles of the market, hidden behind the “cloak of feasibility”, should not be touched in this process. But the contradiction between profit interest and ecological sustainability is always resolved within the system at the expense of the environment and ultimately everybody.

It becomes therefore clear that we cannot trust politicians nor businesses to solve the problems that they contributed to create and keep on creating. What do we do then if arguments are not enough, if formulating demands does not change anything?
What we want is not the “march through the institutions”, but rather to become a movement that can implement an alternative itself. Not to trust in the state, to know one’s own strength and to be able to formulate concrete alternatives is one of the most inspiring things that we see now happening in Rojava. The revolution in Rojava proves that people, in the harshest conditions, are still able to self-govern themselves and build their own institutions for a radical democracy that makes space for women’s liberation and fights for an ecological future.
But we cannot stand idle and hope to be in another place or in another time. We need to do what we can here to start refusing and fighting this climate-denier capitalist system and to start building those alternatives. Like the people that are distributing Zapatista coffee or Vio.me soap to sustain here anti-capitalist economies, like the people that occupied the Lutkemeerpolder and created a community garden on what the “green” gemeente of Amsterdam wants to become yet another space for capitalist speculation, like the work we do with our kitchen and library, using capitalist’s trash as a way to feed people and create spaces following different logics.

Capitalism is destroying everything,
Act now!

The Barricade

Posted in General | Comments Off on There’s no fighting climate-deniers without fighting capitalism