In Milan, Italy, as soon as the outbreak hit the city, “solidarity brigades” were established. In the course of two months almost 1,000 people joined the brigades to support others and almost fourteen brigades started operating in the city. These brigades helped elderly people who were advised not to leave the house with their grocery shopping and medicines and supplied people who lost their jobs with food. And another brigade was established to provide psychological support to anyone struggling emotionally during this time of isolation and hardships.
As the brigades started working, it was clear there was a need to approach the crisis in a very different way from the past. Valerio, one of the representatives of the Milanese Solidarity Brigades, explained that “everything needed to be re-evaluated” and a certain amount of discipline established in relation to hygienic measures, performance of tasks and other routines.(4) Milan set an example and soon The brigades spread well beyond Italy.(5) Similar groups formed in France, Spain, the United States, and Brussels. At the moment there are fifty-four brigades around the world. “We are talking to one another and sharing experiences and perspectives,” said Clara who is working in the coordination group for the Milanese brigades. As the pandemic appears to come under greater control, most of the countries are lifting some of the very restrictive measures, and most of the brigades are asking themselves what will be next and how they should approach the so-called “Phase 2.”
Unlike conventional forms of organization that have emerged in past crises, Pandemic Communalism is not born from semi-spontaneous networks that develop in mass meetings, protests and gatherings. In this crisis, the starting point is extreme physical isolation. During epidemics, it is organization, trust, and discipline that allows larger and larger gatherings, not the other way around. The first mission in constructing Pandemic Communalism is, therefore, to develop a form of organization of mutual aid that can break the isolation and bring people together.