Introducing: Mutual Aid Phonebook

“MAP is an ambitious project, to create a directory–starting in Chicago and branching out across the country–where anarchos/ anti-authoritarians can post an ad (for free) advertising any skills you may have to offer your comrades. Bike repair, barbers, computers, recording studios … anything at all.” , –from www.maphonebook.org

On July 18, area conducted an e-mail interview with Chuck and Joe from the Mutual Aid Phonebook project (map). We had received multiple e-mails from people who had seen the project on Chicago Indymedia, and who wanted to help extend this exciting new outreach process by asking some questions about the ideas behind map.

AREA Can you give us a basic introduction to the Mutual Aid Phonebook, or map? What do you see as the problems map addresses? How does it relate to your previous projects?

Chuck, To me, map is a response to the lack of real, concrete solidarity and mutual aid in the Chicago anarcho movement. We hear it mentioned all the time, but what does it really mean? What is “solidarity” and “mutual aid,” and how do we really practice it? Although this is a relatively small thing (for now, anyways), it is a step in what Joe and I feel is the right or at least a positive direction.

As for my prior projects: most of the organizing I’ve done has been anti-war, anti-capitalist agitation, IWW stuff, and anti-Nazi demos. I’ve never tried anything that could be as potentially big a project as map. Hopefully this is huge!

Joe, The people working 40 hours a week, making their boss richer, would be better off using their energy, skills, and resources to support the movement. And for the people sleeping on the couch, it is a call to arms: find something you are good at and enjoy doing and do it! Hard work is not counterrevolutionary, but taking back the means of production most certainly is a revolutionary act.

Most of my background has been working with animal rights groups (who sure know that action means everything!), the iww, and various environmental projects … all of which require incredible amounts of hard work and dedication to be successful.

AREA How do you see it working most effectively?

Chuck, I see map as working most effectively when more anarchists (and I’m sure to catch hell for saying this) either put up or shut up. As I said, we all talk about mutual aid, solidarity, and helping each other, but what do we really do? It will work effectively when it’s a word that enters the anarchist vernacular. When every anarcho knows what it is and uses it, and has something listed on it that would be useful to their comrades, then it’s effective. Although I’m entirely too realistic to think it will ever be that huge, I remain optimistic.

When we can go weeks at a time without giving a penny back to capitalism, hell, when we can go weeks without using money at all, then it’s effective. We want to build a movement that’s a threat to capital. When that happens, map and similar projects are effective.

Joe, I see map bringing a community of people together in order to not only dream about revolution, but actually make it happen. What makes map effective is that it encourages people to learn new skills that will be useful to everyday folks. Sure, it’s good to know someone who can screen print t-shirts, but how many of us know an anarchist dentist?”

AREA While map aims to become a nationally networked initiative, do you see its evolution as being specifically related to its Chicago roots?

Chuck Let’s be honest–the anarchist movement in Chicago is a drop in the hat, it’s nothing. It’s not a threat to anything or anyone. We need to change that, desperately.
Once upon a time, anarchos in Chicago did a lot to better working conditions for regular folks, and knew what solidarity and mutual aid really meant. When a comrade was in need, the anarchists would see that the comrade was helped. That was 120 years ago. Today, we’re so caught up in protesting this, that, and the other thing, that we forget to do anything to help. We forget all too often that we’re for some things, too–not just against things. Let’s start focusing on what we’re for, the positive things, and work on them. Let’s share more, work together, and get to know one another … something we haven’t seen here in over a century.

Joe Chicago has a history of active Anarchists and organizers, that in, part seems to be fading away. Now more than ever, we need to remember the efforts of people such as Emma Goldman and the Haymarket martyrs in order to make Chicago a driving force in the working class movement once again. And just as their message was heard across the globe, I’m sure ours can be too.

AREA Where do you see the project going? Could you talk a little bit about how you will approach outreach and promotions? It seems these are essential to the success of any kind of resource listing/sharing project.

Chuck Outreach and promotions have so far been through word-of-mouth, email, the net and someone from Chicago Indymedia thought it was cool enough to post on the front page (whom we’d like to thank, so if you ever read this, throw us an email!) … etc. People think it’s a good idea and are spreading it far and fast. Someone has approached us about doing artwork, fliers, and the like, and we’re talking to him. Soon we’ll have some downloadable fliers and posters people can print out and hand around.

I mean, what else can we expect? Of course, the fliers and such, but I’m also planning on link-trading with other sites and such. But never paid advertising. That would kinda be counter to what we’re trying to do.

AREA What kind of collaborations and relationships do you hope to build as the project moves forward?

Chuck Some useful ones would be nice, such as with graphic designers, Web nerds, folks that work in print shops, etc. People willing to do outreach, advertising, donate towards hosting and server costs (until we get free hosting from someone, anyways) … those would be cool.

Joe I just hope that map builds a sort of community. Too often nowadays, people are so busy taking that they never have time to give back. I would like to see map change that. The Mutual Aid Phonebook is not a mechanism for barter or sales. It’s about doing what you do best in order to benefit the community rather than profit from it.

You can contact map at , map@wheretonow.org

(NOTE: 2007 Update – The Site Is Now Defunct)