Review: scott crow’s Black Flags and Windmills

  • Posted on: 2 November 2012
  • By: worker

<table><tr><td>From <a href=" First News</a> - by Sasha
<p><strong><i>Hope, Anarchy, and the Common Ground Collective: An Epic Tale Past the Point of No-Return</i></strong></p>
<p><span style="color:#000000;">When I began reading</span> <i><a href=";p=221">Black Flags and Windmills</a> </i>(PM Press 2011)<span style="color:#000000;">, by scott crow, my imagination was sparked by the power of scott crow’s commitment to radical organizing. There is a sense of no return that pervades this deep and intense work. In passionate and effusive prose, crow describes the nature of Hurricane Katrina’s impact as well as organizing efforts to support communities of color and poor people in the Algiers neighborhood. But crow lends an equal amount of time to exploring the logistical aspects of organizing, and how they relate to an unshakable faith in anarchism. For the fascinating and courageous insight into strong, though radical in its self-critique, anarchist praxis, <i>Black Flags and Windmills</i> has become a classic in the genre of non-fiction, and an important tool for folks today working in the context of rising cats-tastrophy (hint, hint, Hurricane Sandy&#8230;).</span></p></td><td><img title="faith" src=""></...

<div class='embed-vimeo' style='text-align:center;'><iframe src='' width='533' height='300' frameborder='0'></iframe></div>
<p>Catastrophe organizing is a growing scene these days. When it started, it seemed like it was only quiet-type crusty punks with nuck-tats in carhartt overalls whose wobbly walk evinced that straight-off-a-freight-train disorientation. Today, however, the acknowledgment of catastrophe, and the need to create infrastructure to produce popular networks of resistance to authority, are coming together in a big way. Much of this has been prefigured by crow’s work, along with the radicals who started up the Common Ground Collective as a response to Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Crow lays out in <i>Black Masks and Windmills</i> the blueprints for the structuring of Common Ground, how it emerged by spontaneous organizing, through painstaking efforts, extensive meetings, and open conflicts with law enforcement and white militias.</span></p>
<p>But in this sense, prefigurative politics takes on two meanings. crow makes it clear that the Common Ground idea was not new: it derived from the praxis of Black Liberation (the Black Panthers in particular), the Spanish Anarchists of 1936, and the Zapatista uprising of 1994. crow even makes a few references to his experiences organizing the late-1990s project, Dirty South Earth First!, which landed him on the eco-terrorist watch list, and might have helped inform his ideas on free states and land occupations. The facts remain: not only was crow helping to build a popular anarchist infrastructure that would present a model for future catastrophe organizers, but the folks at Common Ground were also using Common Ground as a prefiguration of revolutionary, land-based organizing. By covering a territory and ensuring the needs of the peoples who lived there, Common Ground was able to provide the instrumental care for those whom the state had abandoned. In this sense, Common Ground’s reason for existence was powerfully just, and the excellence with which the collective carried out its mission indicates that its influence will continue on to the next generation, who will need it most of all.</span></p>
<p>crow quotes Che Guevara in saying that “Hope is the conviction that struggling makes sense.” Throughout the book, crow draws on his comrades Malik Rahim and Robert Hillary King as well as myriad post-colonial, leftist, activist, and anarchist sources, pulling his own life’s narrative over the loom of radical scholarship to weave a subjective analysis that is always reaching out, asking for advise, drawing the reader in. This engagement with the reader is a reflection of crow’s civic engagement as well as his analysis of power. The difference, for crow, between Power and power is the manner with which it is instated. There is Power of domination and exploitation, and there is power in popular organization, consent, community, and free expression. This is the power of the people, the justice of the right to survive.</span></p>
<p>Today, crow is touring the country, discussing state repression and anarchist organizing. He talks often about what he calls “the emergency heart” of radical organizing. Under the constant pressures of the state, political, and economic oppression, organizers can feel completely hemmed in by the jobs, the financial constraints placed on their families, and the policial-social realities of racism, sexism, homophobia, and so on. We constantly feel like we’re in an emergency situation placed on us by such terrible pressures. The emergency heart pounds through these dead-end feelings of hysteria, and leaps into action. This profound gesture of awareness and love breeds hope and optimism in the community. It opens the time and space to act, beyond the stifling anxieties that lead people toward blame, resentment, and hate. Thus, it forms community. And community is what we need to get along.</span></p>
<p>When we read <i>Black Flags and Windmills</i>, we get a sense of heroic narrative—the tradition of black liberation, third world revolution, anarchist organizing—but we can understand this only in the context of a politics of friendship, a constant feeling of giving and understanding. For the heroism of this text does not belong to crow, it belongs to the reader, to the people of the lower 9<sup>th</sup> Ward, to the volunteers who showed up to lend a hand or a few dollars to the effort. The heroism of this text belongs to the suffering peoples of the East Coast who have suffered the deluge of climate change, and are organizing rhizomes of direct action under the auspices of the Occupy movement.</span></p>
<p>Hence, the Occupy movement’s natural gesture toward catastrophe organizing has only come out through necessity and hope, as described by crow in <i>Black Flags and Windmills</i>. This book is definitely recommended to anyone thinking about organizing and having an effect on the geography of development today. It is a fast read, but one can spend hours working through the subtle intricacies of collective organizing, applying the ideas, thoughts, and facts to their own life. It can be consumed face-down lying on the bed, or sternly at a library next to a computer, looking up every important reference to radical history and tradition (or, and why not, 40 feet up in a tree, surveying the grand and beautiful forests of crow&#8217;s native state of Texas).</span></p>


deformed workers state.

Long Live the 4rth International!!!!!111!!1!1!!

Long Live Glorious Comrade Leon Trotsky!!!11!!!11!!

Long Live Lenin and Democratic Centralism!!!111!!!

(see I put the little one's with the exclamation mark, because like a good Trot, I have to always be sure to come off as modern and with the times, in spite of my belief in an outdated and mostly irrelevant Soviet historiographical theory (and I also used the word historiography, although I'm not sure what it means, but I also have to come across as academic, although, with a healthy distrust of capitalist academics to be certain))

^the 'we try harder' club^

Crow quotes Che Guevara in saying that “Hope is the conviction that struggling makes sense.”

Che Guevara was not fond of Anarchists, probably would have put a bullet in the head of Anarchist.

Couldn't get through most of it, heroic narratives meh. But writing an entire book which paints brandon darby in even a half good light is problematic to say the least. There is a narrative and experience there we can all learn from and it has nothing to do with extraordinary circumstances and anti authoritarian adventures. In future presentations of this please address the darby issue, we could all learn from that.

that's a big downside to scott and malik. if they don't paint brandon as an amazing guy what does it say about the choices they made day in and day out that allowed him to operate how he did? the creation of a shitty culture with a douchebag assaulter at the top obviously requires a whole lot of complicity underneath.

Agreed. I have noticed the Common Ground collective be referred to as an "Anarchist organization." Besides the critique of an "Anarchist organization" itself, the idea that they had a Director position and, on top of that, it was filled by a Macho-Aggressive misogynist Brandon Darby says much about what went down.

it was filled by a Macho-Aggressive misogynist FBI informant


true. maybe it's connected. rather than a book of myth enhancement it just seems people would gain more from an introspective look at how a guy who considers himself an anarchist ended up playing such a role in enabling an abusive scumbag who also turned out to be an informant. like a book of essays from anarchists of the various reasons they didn't just beat the shit out of that dude and what lessons we can take from that the next time a new tyrant rises. it'd at least be more interesting than another story of how people in trying times can gasp! come together and get shit done. lisa fithians article after the fact was actually interesting and has never really gotten the response it deserved from people like scott and malik.

scott crow thinks he's bell hooks

Scott crow is bell hooks.

i did see scott bell use crow hooks once. he was hanging the common ground collective by a thread.


Are they together yet?

I'm going to New York City area to start an anarchist-inspired organization to help the People.
I'll start the Anarcho-organization with a former black panther/green party politico and a misogynist control freak/future FBI informant, who will be the director of said organization.
And, of course, to match this way of thinking, I'll write a book and have it published by PM Press.

we're winning!!!!

rant rant...and shit my pants
got nothin to do but get on tha internet
complain bitterly bout nothin yet
I rant rant...and shit my pants


yep - check out "anarchist" news-- three rants in a row published by bitter, jealous OBSESSED losers.

Get out of here, Murray Bookchin !

Brandon Darby was a creep from day one and he lies about being an activist or anarchist. He should have never been allowed into Common Ground.Several people i know had serious problems with the guy from day one in NO. Many people have done great work and also were successfully infiltrated. BD is a perfect example of the lack of deep dismantling of patriarchy allowing a dickhead in. Too many, especially white males, minimize the seriousness of dominators whether in the context of activism or when the true reality of infiltration emerges. Such an uphill slog.

it probably has something to do with politics. anarchists dream of a world without politics. it's understandable given everything today. but it is childish in the worst sense of the word.

someone who is charismatic, energetic, and outspoken will rise to the top of any organization. the question is whether the organization is enmeshed in a culture that will prevent "a leader" from separating herself from everyone, prevent her from securing resources of power--whether the power to speak, to make and enforce law, to obtain illegitimate wealth, or to pronounce judgment.

that will be a POLITICAL culture for sure just one that understands power on a non-hierarchical fashion. and anarchists will have to have some pretty tight politics to get from here to there. i doubt that it will have much to do with the various identities and more to do with a subsistence economy and a restricted vernacular that constitutes "political speech."

surely the tendency is to just blurt out platitudes about how "we want nothing to do with politics" and then expect, by some miracle(?), for an anarchist society to result.

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