'The Feeling is Mutual: Interview with scott crow'
By Luisa Black
Rabble is thrilled to welcome Luisa Black as a contributing writer, and to launch her new interview series The Feeling is Mutual, which will spotlight mutual aid projects around the country and amplify the voices of activists building our future from the ground up.
scott crow is an anarchist organizer best known for co-founding The Common Ground Collective, a grassroots relief network organized in the Lower 9th Ward of NOLA after Hurricane Katrina. His new book, Setting Sights: Histories and Reflections on Community Armed Self-Defense, discusses the historical context of U.S. anti-fascism, like the Young Patriot Organization and the John Brown Anti-Klan Committee, as well as more recently formed groups, such as Redneck Revolt. He emphasizes that these organizations and the Black Panther Party were influential in his political development as a poor, rough high school dropout and blue collar kid growing up in Garland, Texas.
We sat down in early September to talk about the connection between decentralized disaster relief and anti-fascism over a video call. From the first question, it’s easy to envision him on a bullhorn in the midst of a restless rabble, bursting with conviction. His energy is expansive, frenetic, and sympathetic. He punctuates his explanations with emphatic hand motions and staccato expletives. Every now and then he interrupts his own discursive tangents with “…fuck! What was the question again?” and checks with me frequently to make sure what he’s saying makes sense. We end up wildly diverging from my originally planned topics, managing to touch on everything from infiltrating mainstream media messaging, to internal critiques of anti-fascist organizing, to movement elders and building long-term sustainability.
Luisa: You describe yourself as an anarchist in your books and interviews. Can you explain what that philosophy means to you and how it looks in action?
scott: Well, anarchy is a set of ideas and principles and ethics to live by that really tries to pursue our own liberation and collective liberation for those around us. And it’s rooted in the ideas of autonomy, mutual aid, cooperation, and direct action, as well as being anti-authoritarian in many ways. And I think I’ve always been that way, I’ve always bucked the system and I don’t know why, it’s not like I had some great training. You know, I’m a working class white kid from a farm-and-ranch town but somewhere, I knew things were different.
So anarchy is a way to frame things, it’s a political reference for what we engage in everyday. It’s when we begin to trust and listen to ourselves and those around us to make decisions about our own lives. Anarchy is separate from just activism. It takes all different kinds of forms. It might be how you work, or how you engage with people, or how you think about the world you see.
The way I think is, we are all anarchists. People are like “we need law and order” but I can guarantee you that you and everyone in your family breaks the law everyday, because there’s so many laws, and you’re not even trying to be a law-breaker. But anytime you pull up to a stop light in a rural area and there’s no cars in any direction, and you just run through the stop light, that’s anarchy. So I think it’s just listening to ourselves, and listening to our own values, and not being rigid in those values that makes sense.
That’s the difference between anarchy and anarchism. Anarchism is much more ideologically tied to these sets of ideas, but anarchy is just living and breathing. And it has these similar foundations, but it looks different anywhere you are, but there are always those themes of mutual aid and cooperation, autonomy, and direct action, at the root. Is this boring as shit?
L: No not at all! I’ve gotten that a lot. I have a very stoic, impassive “listening” face but I am actually listening intently and digesting and trying to draw connections.
s: So if we want to talk about how it’s manifested itself in political terms rather than just personal terms, look at just what’s happened in [leftist] political movements since the late nineties. You’ve seen anarchy kind of ascend as, I don’t want to say the dominant idea, but the one with kind of the greatest sphere of influence… it used to be the communists and socialists with big “C”s and big “S” ruled, but that’s just not the case anymore.
L: I was just reading something similar about that shift, from communists kind of presiding over revolutionary spaces in Brazil. It’s shifted from communists in that position to anarchists being the facilitators, the people who are setting up infrastructure for liberatory spaces.
s: Right! Like in the nineties, there were maybe a few hundred of us. People identified with the ideas, but politically, it was a hard thing to say you were an anarchist. You’d show up at protests and you’d be maybe one of two people [who identify as anarchists] or something, in hundreds. But now it’s like, you look around and it’s really — “we are everywhere.”
[giddy laughter on both sides]
L: At a certain point in your explanation, you said anarchy looks different for different people, because anarchy means listening to yourself, your desires, and your internal codes –
L: — so what happens when two people who are living in this way have two drastically different internal codes or sets of values? What do you think would be an anarchist way of coping with that conflict?
s: Well, one thing is to recognize that there can be conflict. Anarchy doesn’t mean that everything will be conflict-free… If someone else’s desires and needs don’t impede on my own… in communal terms, if they’re not trying to extract resources, time, people, oil, or whatever, if they’re not using violence to do that, then I think we can come to common agreements without any intermediaries like lawyers or judges or law enforcement. I think we can get to that. And if we can’t, then you’re in conflict. That doesn’t mean that all of a sudden you’re in a battle, I mean it’s a spectrum… It could escalate to threat of force or force, and we could kind of speculate in the hypothetical… but they’re unknowns. All I can tell you is that it’s always different, every time.
L: Right. So in a scenario where someone is trying to extract resources, or trying to take away labor or human value away from someone, what then?
s: Well, then I think we have a right to defend ourselves by any means necessary. Malcolm X said it, and he wasn’t an anarchist, but we as individuals have a right to protect ourselves. Not like a given right from the constitution, or parliament, or anything like that — I mean the innate right. I don’t need a constitution to tell me that you have to fight for liberation. If you put the boot on my neck or on the necks of those around me that I’m in solidarity with, then I’m going to rise up and fight. We’re all going to rise up and fight. That’s just what happens.
But that doesn’t mean that we’re automatically bringing out guns or batons to fight. Whatever that means, that depends on how civil society looks. If it’s legal means, you have a lawyer doing lawyer shit, that’s what Indigenous people do a lot because that’s the only thing that the U.S. government recognizes in dealing with that, is legality. Whereas if they were burning tires like they do in Brazil, or in Argentina, like the piqueteros, they would just be killed immediately here, if they did that to try to bring attention to their plight. But they’re also doing pipeline defense and water protection. And those are different forms of direct action, a community determining what their own future is. Their own autonomy.
I’m not the smartest fucking person on the planet about this shit, there are so many people who have written so much better shit about this, [but] what I can do is make it accessible to, you know, people’s parents.
On Anti-fascists and Media Messaging
L: So that brings us neatly to what you’ve lately been in the media spotlight about, the idea of armed community self-defense. The timing of our conversation is actually really interesting to me, considering your background. We’re speaking at the tail end of a string of international headlines regarding back-to-back natural disasters, as well as anti-fascist clashes across the country. Could you talk to me a little bit about your background in natural disaster relief, and how that led you down the path to armed community self-defense?
s: So I do see them as disasters, both. I have a broader concept of disaster. Some people call them crises, but ecological, economic, and political – those are all different forms of disasters that drive people to really look for their liberatory potential because there’s nothing else there, do you know what I mean? Because capitalism has failed, and the state has failed. I think antifa was just part of that, it was a response to a political disaster. You can’t not see that we’re in a political disaster right now. So, [anti-fascism] came to the forefront as a response to that.
And the thing with the antifa stuff is, I work with Agency, the anarchist P.R. firm, and we started getting requests probably in December of last year for a lot of stuff, and we were trying to find people to speak to, especially after the actions of January 20th. We started looking for people to talk about it, and we could find literally no one. Young people who were getting arrested, and even people my age or a little bit younger who are still a part of it, didn’t want to speak to the media. So finally, eight months later, I was kind of just like “fuck it, I’ll do it.” So I just started talking to the media. Actually, that CNN interview I did, I probably did that in May or April. It was a long time ago actually, but then they released it now [after August 12th] and all the calls came in after that… I thought it was important, kind of in an immediate sense, to engage in the battle of narratives that is happening around anti-fascist work and engagements.
L: That’s absolutely necessary. You’ve mentioned before the need for people to be talking to the media and seizing control of our own narrative. Anarchists are so passionate about being in control of our own lives and our own autonomy in a very concrete sense. It’s important to be in control of the narratives surrounding your life. It’s excellent that you’ve been infiltrating those huge media sources. I wanted to talk to you about this new shift of anti-fascism into the mainstream. Recently, your interview with CNN was aired and I believe you did an interview with Fox as well. What do you think are the setbacks and advantages of that shift of this heretofore kind of niche tactic into the mainstream? Do you think there are any disadvantages?
s: There are disadvantages, but you have to balance it out. The corporate media is sort of the dinosaur media… They are innoculators in a population that many of us don’t inhabit. And so there’s sort of two ways to fight for control of the narrative. One is to create our own narrative, and we broadcast those amongst our own people and our own channels, and we can actually have a pretty far reach. And that’s something that corporate media can’t understand, like why wouldn’t antifa, or anarchists, or “black bloc” want to talk to us? But [anarchists] are not trying to reach you. They’re in direct communication with the people they’re in conflict with, whether that be corporations or neo-nazis, or whatever. Creating our own narratives is important because it helps build culture and solidarity, and that’s something we’ve done really well, through social media as well as all the different platforms. But it’s also an echo chamber.
The other [way to fight for control of the narrative] is intervention into major corporate media. And you have to weigh the cost versus benefit, because [corporate media is] not going to get it correct…they definitely want conflict so they can tell a story. When I work in that land, I’m not talking about the most radical ideas, though they are perceived as radical. I’m talking about the idea of taking up arms against nazis and why we would want to fight against fascists. I want to place those ideas in a broader [historical] context.
This form of fascism in the U.S. takes a special kind of fighting, and it takes the media landscape and the cultural landscape to fight too, as far as I’m concerned. I think it’s important, instead of letting democratic liberals and the right wing control the narrative about it, for us to really fight to take control of that narrative. Think about this, if I can make someone like my mom get on board with this… She’s not going to fight in the street, but she might consider herself an anti-fascist if she can say “yeah, I hate fucking racists, I hate sexism.” If someone like my mom can see herself in that narrative, that’s powerful. That’s how movements are built and that’s how the culture of those movements is sustained.
L: I’ve seen that in my own town. Not necessarily by infiltrating mainstream media, but just by building relationships with people who consider themselves moderates, while still being explicit about being an anarchist. Making a personal relationship with someone where they can see anarchism normalized. Not necessarily de-fanged, but just like “this is what an anarchist looks like when they’re just gardening or grocery shopping.”
s: We are real people, you know. I come home and take care of my dogs and things like that and we live our lives, but if we are only presented in this caricature way… I think it’s important to make others see us as human, right? The other thing is that one interview doesn’t make or break anything. That’s the beauty of what I’ve learned over the past twenty years. Because of the way the internet bubble is, if you’re on CNN, only certain groups of people are going to see it, if you’re on It’s Going Down, only certain people are going to see it, but the thing is if the narrative crosses all those landscapes, then you’ve woven a tapestry that can’t be undone. It reinforces the narrative for other people like us, people who are isolated, then they can be like “oh my god, other people are talking about that.” And that’s not about creating empathy among enemies, this is just internal, just creating a culture amongst ourselves.
On Doxxing and Paranoia
L: I think what keeps a lot of people who would identify as radical from talking to the mainstream media is mostly fear of repression and doxxing?
s: Yes, absolutely. Sometimes the internal echo chamber within our own movements gets to be too much and people start thinking that every action they do is so goddamn important that everybody’s gonna get doxxed, but that shit doesn’t happen. I’ve been doing anti-fascist work for twenty-five years, and it doesn’t happen like that. It happens to some people, but again there’s a cost-benefit analysis with that too. I’m one of the most prominent faces of anti-fascism, and I mean, I get hate mail, but I don’t care anything about it.
I got doxxed by the New York Times, you can’t beat that. [laughter] ‘Cause they inadvertently put my address out and photos of my house. I used to get letters to my house, but nobody does that any more. They just send emails, or they tweet like “I hate you” but why would I give a fuck about that? It can be a serious issue, but if they do it electronically, it’s just so evaporative. But I’m not saying some people don’t have lives ruined because of it, I fucking have white privilege out the goddamn ass to protect myself.
L: You mentioned that some people think every action is so important and that they are so at risk of being doxxed. Can you talk a little bit more about that, and how we can protect ourselves against that mentality?
s: Yeah, this is a larger problem within activism in general in the U.S. We don’t have any political or social movement retention, and information doesn’t always get passed down, or passed through. For thirty years I’ve watched tens of thousands of young people come through, and then leave. Where the hell do they go? They went to live their own lives. How this relates to that question is that every new person who comes in wants to think that what they’re doing is the most important thing on the planet, and it is, to a degree, but it’s not in the bigger picture of things. It’s just a step in a direction. When people are coming in, whether they’re young or new to movements, they’re politically inexperienced. I’ve seen in animal rights movements, in anarchist movements, in radical environmentalist movements, in anti-fascist movements, that we begin to think that every action that we can do, we HAVE to do because some animal’s going to die, or some tree’s going to be felled. We’re great at being the fire brigade, to put the fires out, but the thing is the fire is still smoldering [underneath] because we leave and go do something else. Politically inexperienced people, they’re afraid, and usually when some repression does happen, they leave. Then there’s no lineage of stories, and only the horror stories get passed down.
The other part of it is that political and social movements think that the government knows everything about us. Actually, they don’t know shit. I can tell you that from personal experience, not conjecture. Sure they can look at Facebook, but if you don’t put everything on Facebook, they can’t know it.
On Elders and Building Sustainable Movements
s: When people mature, they go through stages. First, they have to reject authority.This is social psychology. We do this as individuals, and we do this as groups. As a teenager or later on, you start to question and reject everything you’ve been taught. At first maybe it’s God, or the police, your parents maybe, you go “They fucking lied to me!”
Then the second stage is, you begin to figure out who you are in contrast. You begin to figure out your identity. Whether you identify as an anarchist, or trans or a woman. [You say] “I grew up with an anglicized name, but I’m Chicano, so I will change my name to a Chicano name” or you take on an African name. You build the clubhouse and you only hang out with people who are like you. Here’s the anarchist clubhouse, here’s the feminist clubhouse, here’s the queer clubhouse…, you seek out that culture because it reinforces your new identity. It helps you flesh out your new ethics.
Then you grow out of it, and then you can re-enter the world because you have a sense of who you are and a sense of place. This doesn’t just happen to people just in their teens or twenties, it can happen to people at all stages of their lives. The third phase comes when you can say “I have a sense of who I am regardless of who I’m with.”
In political movements we get stuck in the first two phases. Everybody comes in because they want to reject authority and by the time people get to the third step, they leave. When they’ve figured out their identity we don’t have very much activism that keeps people there.
L: How can we change our spaces and culture to retain people as they move through those phases?
s: Activism is a cancer that must be killed, it cannot be reformed. [laughter] That’s what the working title of my book is. [more laughter] No, it’s actually called the The Politics of Possibility, but I do think activism has to be dismantled like everything else. We have to tear it apart and begin to really think about it.
All movements are made of eruptions. We have crises that come up, or disasters. Anti-war, anti-globalization, Occupy, these are eruptions. But then what happens between, there are lulls… when we’re supposed to reassess who we are, heal our wounds, take care of ourselves, and then be ready. Thousands of people come into the movement [during the eruptions], but they usually leave in that lull. You’re left with few people to build infrastructure. Whereas if we started to build resilient communities and larger infrastructure, liberatory infrastructure, and I don’t mean only fucking non-profits or cooperative businesses. I mean infrastructure that meets basic needs: health care, education, food systems, child care, elderly care, all the foundations of civil society. so that when the [next] disaster erupts we already have networks that people can plug into…
Disaster reveals the failures of capitalism and the state but they also show us the liberatory potentials and opportunities. Once everything has failed everybody all the way, when you have nothing, then you can begin to work together, and that’s where anarchists ideas come in. How do we do that without the immediate disaster, the immediate crisis? I don’t know the answer to that.
L: I think it makes sense to consciously work with people for whom the ongoing disaster of capitalism is the worst, in our own neighborhoods and cities. For so many people, it is absolutely undeniable that this society is a disaster. I think the peasant’s movement in Brazil – I only keep bringing up Brazil because that’s where I’m from — but there’s a landless peasants’ movement in Brazil –
s: Yeah of course! I talk about them all the time. It’s one of the greatest autonomous movements.
L: Movimento de Trabalhadores Rurais sem Terra (MST). There’s a big emphasis in my own community, too, about building alternative infrastructure, and I think it’s because this idea of mass movement has already failed in front of our own eyes so many times.
s: Oh my god, every few years it fails. And every time people are like “but wait didn’t it work back–” and I’m like no, it never really worked. The other thing is, when you build infrastructure, how do you keep it liberatory? How do you build an infoshop or community space and keep it from becoming a liberal space, how do you make sure it keeps its liberatory elements? And I don’t know, but I have ideas, and that’s something I want to explore in my next book. How do we keep things like Food Not Bombs, or infoshops, or book-printing, or any of the standard anarchist things that we build, how do we keep those liberatory? And I think there’s a few examples we can look to around the world, and the landless peasants’ movement in Brazil is one of them, the Zapatistas is another one.
On Internal Critiques of Anti-fascism
L: Back to anti-fascism, what advice do you give to someone who hopes to start and sustain a resilient anti-fascist community in their neighborhood or city?
s: I don’t think that you can. I think that the idea of sustainability and anti-fascism are diametrically opposing ideas. anti-fascist movements are largely reactionary. They’re very short term, and they should be, because they’re not about building mass movement, they’re about direct confrontation, direct communication, direct action to stop fascism. Because of the reactionary nature of it, you can’t build sustainability. I think that a good example of that is Anti-Racist Action, the network. It’s been ineffective and dysfunctional. You could get 500 people to go fight Nazis but you can’t get 500 people to bring down a prison — not necessarily physically, but to do prisoner support or to work on larger issues. I remember in the 90’s when Anti-Racist Action wanted to work on clinic defense, and that was a big [internal] fight… Now it’s a standard activity for ARA, but at the time it was a huge controversy. And that’s because of the reactionary politics of it, it always tends towards fighting in the street because it’s fun and engaging and can be effective. It tends toward machismo culture, it tends toward secretive culture, it tends toward young people with little political experience, who are in that first stage, who just want to react to something. Which is all necessary and all good stuff, but you can’t build sustainable socio-political movements or communities based on that. That’s not what antifa people want to hear, but that’s the fucking truth of it.
L: Absolutely, that aligns perfectly with my own experience, to be honest. In my experiences with organized anti-fascism, they often – bordering on always – tend to make themselves completely inaccessible to workers of all ages and backgrounds.
s: You’re goddamn right —
L: Especially those who are not very well-versed in the leftist scene or lingo.
s: I agree with you 100%. Antifa work doesn’t work with communities of color or marginalized people, they just take this one stance… You’ve got a cost/benefit analysis with that too… When fascism was not on the rise, there would be 10 or 15 of [the fascists] and hundreds of us. But now, because there’s hundreds or even thousands of them getting in the streets, and I think it’s important for us to actually be in the streets to fight them. But it’s a dead end game.
Also it has mainstreamed, and that’s been very interesting to watch. Even if the media coverage is very uneven about it, people are talking about it and asking about it. My mom asked about it. She was like “What the fuck is antifa?” She knew I was into something called Anti-Racist Action, but she didn’t know it was anti-fascist, she didn’t know what it was. But [anti-fascism] is part of the conversation now, and I think that’s something that couldn’t have happened if you only had liberals or progressives talking about alt-right versus the left, which is how they want to frame it. “Alt-left” or whatever the fuck they’re calling it.
L: The murder of Heather Heyer and the posthumous labeling of her as an anti-fascist, I think that was a powerful thing in terms of messaging because she was such a relatable figure for most people, those who would say that they hate racists but would not necessarily take the streets to punch a Nazi.
s: You bring up a really good point. Heather Heyer looks like everyday anti-fascism. You don’t have to say “I’m antifa.” If you hate neoliberalism, if you hate racism and white supremacy, then you’re an anti-fascist. If you hate corporate takeover the world, you’re an anti-fascist. So I think she actually is an anti-fascist, even though as far as we know she never punched a Nazi.
L: Because of her being labelled as an anti-fascist in some media messaging, I’ve seen people in my life who have decried the black bloc their entire political lives self-identifying as anti-fascists and offering material support to local people who they know to be taking the streets. I think that’s really powerful, and I don’t think that would have happened without people like you speaking in the media and giving a face to antifa.
s: And the thing is, it’s working. How many counter-demonstrators, how many people who identify as anti-fascists used to show up to things? Maybe hundreds. In Charlottesville you had thousands, but after that — look at Boston, it was 40,000 people! Look at Berkeley! Look at Phoenix, where Trump spoke recently, it was like 10,000 counter-protestors there. Those people didn’t consider themselves anti-fascists last year! But they’re anti-fascists, whether or not they’re dressing in all black, they’re totally anti-fascists.
L: Obviously we agree on where anti-fascism is with accessibility. Do you have any ideas on ways that we can make it more accessible, rather than just an alternative scene, like for mostly white punk dudes?
s: I think we already are, just by having conversations about it. We’re already having a culture shift. I’m actually going to launch something soon, you’re the first person to know about it. It’s called “everyday antifa,” and it’s going to be just photos of people, and them explaining why they’re anti-fascist. It started because there was a woman here in Austin, probably in her seventies, and she had this beautiful handwritten sign on the back of her wheelchair. It said, “I may be in a wheelchair, but I can still chase a Nazi if I have to.” [laughter] And I was like “THAT’S AWESOME!” I mean, I would have never seen that kind of shit before! So I think that despite the media backlash, that something really good is still happening.
If we had talked about antifa twenty years ago, I would have said it just needs to be killed, it needs to end. I was so sick of the reactionary politics of it. But for fifteen years I’ve been thinking about it and trying to see the value in it. I think it’s all tied into killing activism as we know it, and also de-emphasizing street confrontations. It’s a necessary form [of fighting fascism], but it’s not the only form. I think in the end it’s about, creating movements that people can stay in, where they can live and raise families, take care of their parents, live their lives. Whatever antifa is will be integrated with that.
People always talk about Food Not Bombs being liberal, and how ineffective it is. People say it’s just dirty hippies doing it. But it’s a good training ground, and they keep it going regularly. Kids come in, it’s a way for them to figure things out. And then when Hurricane Katrina happened, who were the first people who showed up? Street medics, and fucking Food Not Bombs! All the different chapters that came, they said “We are willing to break the law in order to feed you, because we’re anarchists.” So all of the sudden, you have something that was innocuous in the eyes of the state, and NOW, it’s liberatory all the way. Is there a similarity within anti-fascist organizing that has that kind of crossover? I think we’re seeing what that is. I think we’re seeing that direct confrontation with Nazis is its useful part. Now what comes after that is up for debate… I’m sorry, I’m kind of working through these as we go along because these are not questions that people ever ask me about.
L: I appreciate you taking the time to think it through and talk it through. I want to make sure I understand, you’re saying an effective way of increasing accessibility is propagating entryist spaces that have liberatory potential?
s: That’s not my language, but yes. [laughter] That’s so much more academic, but you’re goddamn right!
L: Basically, a space that seems innocuous, or a group or activity that seems relatively unthreatening to authority, but —
s: Well… I think that we need things that have threats to them. I think that the Animal Liberation Front and the Earth Liberation Front have a chilling effect. So scientists who wanted to use lab animals to test their products are much more reticent to do so now. I think that implied threat needs to be there, because they don’t want to be targeted now. I think the same thing goes for anti-fascism, because if Nazis are organizing, they need to know that people will be there over and over again [opposing them].. But everything else that happens around that, what isn’t direct confrontation, that’s where it’s more open. That’s where I would agree, where we need other things that would keep us going.
L: I love this conversation, because literally the last thing I was doing before we started this interview is I was tabling for Food Not Bombs, giving out free food and sharing anarchist literature. [laughter]
L: Trying to show the threat behind the bagels.
s: Of course! If we begin to learn that anti-fascism can take many forms, we can fight in the streets,, and then we can do Food Not Bombs, and we can also do childcare… things we do that aren’t just all about fighting in the streets. Having the culture shift, to see it all as a part of [anti-fascism], then that’s when you start to make it more accessible.
L: I think of Food Not Bombs as a way of fighting fascism in the street, or at least imperialism in the street, because you are confronting economic inequality head on and trying to reverse its effects. It doesn’t necessarily present a strong militant challenge to the systems that create that inequality, but I think it is a way of fighting in the street. And I’ve been trying, in my conversations with liberals and moderates, to draw the connections between various liberatory actions. Actions that seem less threatening and are as equally anti-fascist.
s: Nice! I think that’s a good hook.
L: To normalize it. Any time you take resources to the street and distribute them freely, or offer free medical attention to somebody, you are doing anti-fascist work because it is fascism and capitalism that have created these circumstances where not everybody has access to what we all need to survive. So you don’t necessarily need to punch a Nazi, you can give somebody a meal, and there, you did it! You are an anti-fascist.
s: Right, that’s exactly what I’m saying. Everyday anti-fascism…
L: So to wrap things up, do you have any heartwarming stories of effective mutual aid-based disaster relief or community defense? Something you would point to if an outsider asked, “What are you working towards here? What’s your vision?”
s: The Common Ground Collective is a great example. It’s not perfect, I have internal critiques of Common Ground, but I think it’s a great example because we came to do search and rescue, to find a former member of the Black Panther Party, a friend of mine, and we ended up engaging in an armed standoff with white militias. That was anti-fascist work. And then we proceeded into this relief and recovery and deeper response stuff and this liberatory potential opened up. Like you were talking about, the everyday anti-fascist work of food security, education, and healthcare, in the face of the government. After Hurricane Katrina, the police were like “you can’t go there,” homeland security was like “you can’t do that,” so Common Ground volunteers broke the law every day to provide free food, to provide medicine, to provide free education, to open up preschools. These were illegal things to do. It was anti-fascist work, and it was also building counter-power.
Everything in history has brought us to this moment – in our personal history, in our political history, in our social history. And every moment is a new moment to open up possibilities. I don’t mean this in a fucking spiritual or abstract way. In every disaster, every lull, there’s that liberatory potential.
If we know that, then the question is, how’s it gonna look?
scott crow is an international speaker, author and storyteller who is proudly from a working class background. He has engaged his varied life as a co-op business co-owner, political organizer, educator and strategist, activist, filmmaker, dad, and musician. For over two decades he has focused on diverse sociopolitical issues and the explorations of creating and exercising counter-power to capitalism, Power and unsustainable civilization.
Luisa Black is a community organizer, community gardener, and all-around community enthusiast based in Norfolk, VA. She believes that there has to be something better, and that we can probably make it together.
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