Posts tagged scott crow

scott crow comes to the vegas valley

Att’n: Nevada friends, ALLies and rabble-rousers! (Or, anyone who happens to be passing through the Vegas Valley on the evening of June 5 ….) Here’s some great news from Vegas ALLy and A-Café-er Kelly Patterson: Vegas (A)s have organized a visit and a talk from scott crow of Common Ground Collective, Ecology Action of Texas, etc. etc. etc., based on stories from his book Black Flags and Windmills. The presentation will be in Beam Hall on UNLV campus, on Wednesday, June 5.

  • WHO: Everyone’s invited!
  • WHEN: Wednesday, June 5, 2013, 6:00 – 8:00pm.
  • WHERE: Frank and Estella Beam Hall, Room 105 @ UNLV. Las Vegas, Nevada.
  • WHAT: Talk by Organizer/Author Scott Crow of the Common Ground Collective

Here’s the Facebook event page; or Las Vegas Anarchy Meetup event page if you prefer. Either way, the copy’s the same:

Scott Crow co-founder of the Common Ground Collective, an anarchist inspired grassroots relief in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, will be in Las Vegas to give a presentation. crow uses his book as a foundation for a visual, fast moving and engaging presentation of stories to show what ordinary people can do to change their own worlds and create power from below without governments. The presentation seeks through a collection of stories to show how the philosophy of anarchism has shaped and changed modern political movements. Anarchism’s influence on organization and actions has allowed spaces for projects like the Common Ground Collective, the largest anarchist organization in modern US history to come into existence after Hurricane Katrina, the Occupy uprisings, and the environmental climate change movements across the US. The presentation which is equal parts personal story, radical history and organizing philosophies asks questions about how we engage in social change, the real and perceived challenges presented by the state and dares us to rethink our grassroots movements in how we engage for the future.

This talk will be of interest for anyone that has been involved in grassroots organizing and community related planning from a decentralized, member based perspective.

scott crow bio:

scott crow has spent his varied life as an underground musician, coop business owner, political organizer, trainer, strategist, consultant, ‘green collar’ worker, writer and speaker advocating the philosophy and practices of anarchism for social, cultural, environmental, and economic aims.

Over the last two decades scott has worked for a number of national organizations like Greenpeace, A.C.O.R.N. and Ruckus Society and co-founded a number of varied projects, businesses and organizations including Lesson Seven (political industrial band), Red Square (coop art gallery), Century Modern (antique cooperative), Treasure City Thrift (volunteer/worker cooperative) and the Common Ground Collective in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina (the largest anarchist inspired organization in modern US history). He is the author of the book Black Flags and Windmills (PM Press 2011), appeared in What Lies Beneath: Katrina, Race and the State of the Nation (South end Press) and co-produced the film Angola 3: Black Panthers and the Last Slave Plantation (PM Press). He has appeared in international media as both a writer and subject including the NY Times, Democracy Now, CNN and NPR as well as the documentaries Welcome to New Orleans, Better this World, and Informant.

NPR’s This American Life called him a living legend among anarchists and the New York Times characterized him as anarchist and veteran organizer . . . that comes across as more amiable than combative . . .. Currently scott splits his time speaking and consulting nationally and organizing locally.

Grassroots Mutual Aid in Oklahoma

Here’s an announcement / call to action from[1] They are helping to coordinate information about shelters, drop-offs, donations, food banks, communications & connectivity for folks affected by the Oklahoma tornados. From the post:

The absolutely devastating impact of the Tornados in Oklahoma has prompted a concentrated relief effort for those who have suffered in this region. There is no limit to who you can help or what you can do… but please do something. Many #AmeriSec members and other humanitarian groups will be on scene to help in anyway we can. This is an operation that all can assist with and if money, transportation or any issues that would hinder you from being able to help please, use social media, video and any other means to KEEP the word moving. As we have seen with #OccupySandy the impact of individuals helping with natural disaster has a tremendous impact… So Please assist in any way you can. WE ARE LEGION and WE have the ability to assist in the suffering on the ground so please help!

Please make video and pastebins with information that could assist independent relief workers and all others

–andrea @ (May 21, 2013). #OpOK Update: Oklahoma Relief

See the whole thing here, including lists of relief information and contact points.

There’s also a Community Action meeting gathering to-day (Tuesday, May 21) in Norman, Okla. From scott crow:

Today Tues May 21at 12 noon
Will be a meeting of decentralized coordination efforts: CSBI Building 1155 E Main Norman, OK 73071
Including: COBRA,[2] Food Not Bombs ,Occupy, C4ss, IWW and Rainbow folks
Hopefully a place will be set up to send donations, for people to contact them and for volunteers to gather.

— scott crow @ Facebook (May 21, 2013)

Edit (12pm). And here’s some more from Zakk Flash:

Tornadoes touched down last night in Moore, Oklahoma, killing at least 51 people (20 children among them). We can’t control the weather, but we can try to stop climate change before it gets worse, and we can definitely help build solidarity networks to respond to emergency situations.

Central Oklahoma Black/Red Alliance (COBRA) will be hosting a gathering of folks who are interested in the People’s response to the disaster. Folks are invited to come by my offices at Community Action (1155 E Main, Norman OK 73071) at noon today to discuss the current response from the Red Cross, organized labor, faith-based communities, and the like.

We’ll also be discussing decentralized relief and creative opportunities to help folks most affected by the storm. Not everyone is connected or comfortable working with NGOs and there are independent efforts that can make a huge difference. Look at Occupy Sandy as an example.

In the meantime, if you have any type of medical background/credentials and want to help relief efforts, get to the Warren Theater. If you don’t have medical credentials but want to help, get to the Home Depot in Moore.

— Zakk Flash @ Facebook (May 21, 2013)

If you want to help people in the area affected by the tornados, strongly consider offering support wherever possible, and wherever they ask for it, from decentralized, grassroots mutual aid groups like these. (They need your help a lot more than well-funded, bureaucratically organized efforts like Red Cross or Salvation Army.) Ordinary people working together in solidarity can accomplish remarkable, life-saving things.


  1. [1]This is a web project that I helped out with a bit last Fall; the same folks who provided the web coordination for Occupy Sandy in New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.
  2. [2][Central Oklahoma Black/Red Alliance. –CJ.]

Toward A Really Social Safety Net

These are consolidated from a pair of comments that I made in a thread back around last November on Thaddeus Russell’s Facebook wall. The thread was originally about some silly noise that comes up about once every four years, but it branched out into some interesting discussions about the left, individualist and libertarian perspectives, and so on. My interlocutor’s questions unfortunately seem to have disappeared from the thread, and I hate leaving writing locked up in a web silo, especially in the middle of a big, gradually composting discussion thread, so I’ve tried to condense it into a post here.

I’ve often been asked — by friendly-but-skeptical leftists, and even sometimes by fellow anti-capitalist anarchists — why market libertarians — who may be opposed to the government war machine, police, prisons, and all the other obviously destructive and repressive and regressive things done by the state, for fairly obvious reasons — are also so opposed to, and so hard on, social programs, like TANF, food stamps, WIC, Medicaid, Social Security, etcetera. (The question is usually posed in terms of contrasting government programs that hurt and kill people with government programs that, at least in principle, are supposed to be helping people.) And there are different ways to think about this. To a great extent, left-wing market anarchists don’t spend a lot of time focusing on social programs, and generally insist on prioritizing the core state violence and primary interventions of war, police, prisons, prohibitions, borders, and bail-outs as categorically more important than, say, opposing Medicaid or complaining about government spending on food stamps. And as a matter of strategic priorities, I agree — opposing the crowbars will always be more important to my idea of liberation than imposing the crutches. But I don’t think that means that there is nothing to say about problems that are inherent to the welfare state and government social programs, or that they ought to be considered as neutral or benign. Left-wing market anarchists have important reasons to oppose them — reasons to oppose governmental social programs, not from the economic Right, but from the radical Left.

So when I am asked, what I can say is that this doesn’t have all of the reasons, but it does have some of them:

. . . The key to an understanding of relief-giving is in the functions it serves for the larger economic and political order, for relief is a secondary and supportive institution. Historical evidence suggests that relief arrangements are initiated or expanded during the occasional outbreaks of civil disorder produced by mass unemployment, and are then abolished or contracted when political stability is restored. We shall argue that expansive relief policies are designed to mute civil disorder, and restrictive ones to reinforce work norms. In other words, relief policies are cyclical–liberal or restrictive depending on the problems of regulation in the larger society with which government must contend. Since this view clearly belies the popular supposition that government social policies, including relief policies, are becoming progressively more responsible, humane, and generous, a few words about this popular supposition and its applicability to relief are in order.

There is no gainsaying that the role of government has expanded in those domestic matters called social welfare. One has only to look at the steadily increasing expenditures by local, state, and national governments for programs in housing, health care, education, and the like. . . . But most such social welfare activity has not greatly aided the poor, precisely because the poor ordinarily have little influence on government. Indeed, social welfare programs designed for other groups frequently ride roughshod over the poor, as when New Deal agricultural subsidies resulted in the displacement of great numbers of tenant farmers and sharecroppers, or when urban renewal schemes deprived blacks of their urban neighborhoods. . . . As for relief programs themselves, the historical pattern is clearly not one of progressive liberalization; it is rather a record of periodically expanding and contracting relief rolls as the system performs its two main functions: maintaining civil order and enforcing work. . . . But much more should be understood of this mechanism than merely that it reinforces work norms. It also goes far toward defining and enforcing the terms on which different classes of people are made to do different kinds of work; relief arrangements, in other words, have a great deal to do with maintaining social and economic inequities. The indignities and cruelties of the dole are no deterrent to indolence among the rich; but for the poor person, the specter of ending up on the welfare or in the poorhouse makes any job at any wage a preferable alternative. And so the issue is not the relative merit of work itself; it is rather how some people are made to do the harshest work for the least reward.

–Francis Fox Piven & Richard A. Clower (1970)
Introduction to Regulating the Poor: The Functions of Public Welfare

The left-wing market anarchist addition to this leftist analysis is, first, to point out the extent to which the forms of structural poverty, deprivation, marginalization, concentrations of wealth and ultimately the desperation and civil unrest that social programs are designed to mute, are not simple or inevitable offshoots of market profit-taking, but rather themselves manufactured by the political entrenchment of capitalism and constantly reinforced and sustained through precisely the core state violence and primary interventions — the war, police, prisons, prohibitions, borders, bail-outs, military-industrial complex, monopolies, and other regressive and repressive functions of government — that we prioritize. (On which, see Markets Not Capitalism, etc.) And, second, to insist on the essential importance of positive grassroots, community-based alternatives rather than trying to save or liberalize institutionalized government programs.

Social programs administered by government are a weak and alienating substitute for the grassroots, working-class institutions of mutual aid, labor solidarity and fighting unions that they were largely designed to crowd out, replace, or domesticate. Grassroots social movements aimed to provide relief and person-to-person solidarity by creating alternative institutions that would be in the hands of workers themselves, so that they could better take control of the conditions of their own lives and labor. Government social programs have systematically aimed to monopolize the relief while abandoning any effort at worker control, instead transferring power into the hands of a politically appointed bureaucracy, and largely leaving working folks’ interests at the mercy of party politics. See, for examples, David Beito’s From Mutual Aid to the Welfare State and Paul Buhle’s Taking Care of Business, or, more recently, scott crow’s Black Flags and Windmills or Occupy Sandy, etc.

So (as a left-wing market anarchist) I am all for social programs and a social safety net — but I should like them to be really genuinely social, rather than governmental. So in my view, a libertarian view on markets needn’t, and shouldn’t, have anything to do with economic Rightism or corporate power; it can just as easily mean advocating militant industrial unions, strikes, sit-ins, Food Not Bombs, neighborhood mutual aid, lodge practice contracts, Panther breakfasts, women’s self-help clinics, Common Ground, Occupy Sandy, etc. as models of grassroots social change. And — holding that these are models that are preferable to the politically-controlled, professional-class-dominated and highly paternalistic bureaucracies — OSHA, TANF, WIC, EEOC, Medicare, PPACA, FEMA, etc. — that political progressives are too often inclined to treat as the non-negotiable defining commitments of the economic Left.

* * *

In the original conversation that inspired this note, a friendly-but-skeptical progressive said that she appreciated the focus on grassroots, community-based forms of mutual aid, labor solidarity, and participatory safety nets; but wanted to know whether government programs might have a role to play given that grassroots organizing is always going to demand a very high level of social participation, and sometimes people might be looking for institutions that can handle some problems without everyone in the community constantly having to be constantly involved in everything that anyone might need. It was a good question, and I definitely understand the desire to be able to take a step back in some cases. (It’s certainly something I’ve often felt, as I’m sure anyone who’s ever done a lot of participating in a community effort or an activist project eventually does feel.) But what I’d want to say is that the important thing about grassroots, non-governmental group is not so much the fact of constant participation (I sure hope I don’t have to do that!) as the constant possibility of participation. And the possibility of withdrawal is if anything just as important (so if the local Food Not Bombs or Common Ground clinic becomes completely dysfunctional you can always leave and start devoting your efforts to something else more worthwhile. But if a county social-services office becomes completely dysfunctional, they typically stay paid regardless, since you don’t have any way to redirect how your personal tax dollars are allocated. That’s controlled by a political process and a fairly elaborate set of rules for evaluating civil-service performance, which are an awful lot of degrees removed from the people most aware of and directly affected by the dysfunction.)

In any case, as far as participation goes, sometimes you want to take a step back and let others do a lot of the work, and of course that can happen. (The lodges had officers and divided up organizational work among the members, Panther breakfasts and FNBs and free clinics served a lot of people in the community, some of whom volunteered to help out, lots of whom didn’t, and lots of whom would spend some time on and some time off.) But all of this is an important difference from the politically controlled programs, where there’s no opportunity to step up and take a participatory role, even if you want to; where if they are seriously underserving or misserving or treating their clients in manipulative or exploitative ways, there isn’t any real remedy because they hold all the power in the relationship and the only voice you have in the proceedings, if any at all, are the incredibly attenuated processes of trying to vote in different political parties, etc.

I don’t know how much that answered the question, in the end; but I hope it at least points in a fruitful direction for thinking about what an answer would look like.