This is a work in progress, and I’ll update it as I learn more, find more resources, and as events develop. This version was last updated November 18th, 2020. It is my hope that the results of this month’s election have bought us time, but I do not think the Democratic party, as it currently exists, will do what’s necessary to meaningfully change the direction the country’s headed in.
It’s the 30th of September, 2020 C.E., and a lot of people are scared. It has become quite clear that the United States, currently the most militarily powerful and aggressive country on the planet, and center of a de facto global empire, is on the verge of total fascism. While there may be some debate about what this means for the rest of the world, it’s my belief that it’s not good. If history is anything to go by, there may well be a temporary lull in aggressive foreign policy as the regime solidifies power and removes dissidents, but it seems inevitable that that will be followed by some form of expansionism. While an end to American imperialism is a prerequisite to a more just and peaceful world (though not the only prerequisite), a shift from neoliberalism to overt fascism is probably the most destructive way that could happen, and from what I can tell, a leftist/anti-capitalist approach is the most likely to have success in opposing fascism, and building a version of the United States that works for humanity, rather than against it.
Preparation without escalation
The central principle of this guide, such as it is, is preparation without escalation. The resources and information I’m including here were selected because I believe that they are the best way to build the foundations of a better world, while also making us more resilient in the face of a worse one. With the warming of the planet, the collapse of capitalism, and the rise of fascism, I believe that things are going to get worse before they get better. We are out of time. We must simultaneously build a more just, sustainable society now, while also surviving the violence of our fellow humans, and the chaos of our unstable climate.
A shield protects against attacks, without justifying those attacks as “self defense”. That doesn’t mean that it won’t be viewed as an invitation to attack, but the same is true for a total lack of defense. I’m not here to talk about how to wage a war, but rather how to avoid one, or survive it if avoidance is impossible. I believe that doing so would help my preferred side in a hypothetical conflict win, but right now it is my most desperate hope that I will never have to find out.
This guide is as comprehensive as I can make it, and I will do my best to add to it and improve the format as time goes by. That said, the only expertise I can claim is as a writer, and even that is up for debate. Use this guide as a starting point, not as the totality of your education or strategy. Because I am a writer, this may be a bit too wordy for your taste. Obviously I feel that my words have value, but you are not required to agree. If you don’t like my writing, ignore it, and go straight to links and resources in each section.
Humanity’s single greatest strength is our ability to work together. Every strategy for organizing humanity revolves around how best to facilitate and guide that cooperation to further a particular goal. The socialist and labor movements of the past organized around common workplaces and geographically stable communities, but those circumstances are increasingly difficult to find in the 21st century. The current version of capitalism has people moving all over the place in search of jobs, and living in varying degrees of isolation from our neighbors. As climate change continues to pull apart our infrastructure, this problem is likely to get worse, as more of us become refugees of one form or another. Organizing needs to adapt, while still retaining a local focus. In the end, this is about meeting people’s material needs for food, shelter, medicine, safety, and companionship, and those are necessarily local issues. The goal of building community networks should be to create something that can accommodate people coming and going, and that does not require any great degree of ideological buy-in.
As far as I can tell, there’s nothing wrong with having sub-groups within a community that are working towards their own ends, but the only ideological requirement of a community network should be ensuring that the basic needs of everyone in that community are met. This necessarily exclude those following ideologies like fascism that seek to eliminate segments of the population. Community networks are, like tolerance, a peace treaty – they exist for the benefit and protection of all those who abide by the conditions and work for the support and continuation of the network. Those whose goal is the destruction of parts of that network are not entitled to protection or inclusion.
It can be tempting to try to form networks to deal with a specific problem, like climate change, community self-defense, or other such things, but while there may be times when that is appropriate, that is not the goal in this case. Such projects may emerge from networks like this, but the network is an end unto itself. The purpose is to establish relationships, to know who’s who, to have a contact list to make sure someone’s getting food in rough times, or to see who has a tool they can lend, or a skill they can teach. The purpose is to know what resources your community has at its disposal before those resources are needed, and to work together to grow that pool of skills and material goods.
There are a lot of people out there doing versions of this work, and there may be people in your community already working toward this end. The following two videos – and the channel they’re from – are well worth your time.
If you live in the United States, and you don’t know where to start in finding people, start here:
For those having trouble making connections. Below is a list of states. Reply to your state and make connections.
— Beau of The Fifth Column (@BeauTFC) September 29, 2020
I also strongly recommend checking out this thread from Black Socialists of America. Minority groups often have experience in using this kind of organizing and social power to deal with problems, as systems designed to serve the majority often neglect the needs of minorities, whether by accident or – more often – by design. Click through here to read the whole thread:
Many people are looking at the totality of this monster of Capitalism, white supremacy, patriarchy, and other social systems of domination, and are overwhelmed, asking members of our organization, “What do I do?”
The answer is:
Start building dual power where you’re at…
— Black Socialists in America (@BlackSocialists) June 6, 2020
If you’re uncertain about taking the very first steps, this video and the channel it’s from may be helpful.
As always, keep in mind that this is a collective effort. While there may be people who take on a leadership role or are put in leadership or coordinator positions, at no point should any one person be so vital to the whole that the network ceases to function if they have to move away, or are taken away.
In many ways, mutual aid is the core premise of any community network. We grow stronger together by sharing skills and resources, and by helping each other. While you may not want to use this language in some parts of the United States, these networks are the embodiment of the core principle of communism: From each according to their ability, to each according to their need. If someone needs food, and you have food to spare, you give them a meal, because some day you might need their help, or help from someone else in the community. If someone needs shelter, you give them shelter, because it might be your house that’s destroyed next. If someone needs medical attention, you give them medical attention, because we all will need medical attention some day.
These are functions that communities have always provided, since before recorded history, but in recent years, with an abundance of resources, some societies have let these practices lapse. These are the principles behind social safety nets, and the principles that have been undermined, in the United States, by a constant emphasis on individualism and selfishness as the guiding principles of society, and a mythologization of “independence”.
Organized mutual aid is the entire foundation of human civilization, and recent history has shown that trying to replace that with a government-provided social safety net is rarely – if ever – going to be sufficient. Such large-scale projects may well have their place, but from what I’ve seen, without a solid foundation of overlapping community networks, they are likely to crumble.
In many parts of the world, church groups have served this sort of purpose, but it’s my opinion that that leaves us vulnerable, as a species, to an impulse to divide ourselves into factions, and to focus more on our differences than our commonalities. Longtime readers of my work will know that it is my view that we need to practice solidarity at a global level if we are to survive as a species, and build a more just, sustainable version of human society.
While the community networks we’re talking about here must be, by design, as broad in scope as possible, there are many existing mutual aid projects, that you can learn from, contribute to, and benefit from while doing other organizing work. Because of the situation we’re in now, as a species, we have to work simultaneously to build a better world, and to survive an unstable climate unlike anything humanity has ever encountered. There is no shame in needed help. The fact that we all need help from time to time is the entire point of this, and indeed the entire point of human society.
This may not need stating, but not everybody will want things like this to succeed. We don’t need to go into every possible reason for this, but because this kind of organizing is a great way to build up collective power that doesn’t answer to any authorities, authoritarian people and systems tend to oppose it. White supremacists, for example, will probably not be happy to see a successful network made up of diverse races, religions, and so on, at least partly because the mere existence of that kind of cooperation disproves their belief that getting along like that is impossible. That doesn’t mean that you need to be trying to root out white supremacists, or anything, but be aware that various groups of that sort exist in every state in the U.S.A., and they have a record of infiltrating organizations and institutions to gain power and influence, to sabotage efforts, or to make lists of targets.
As the introduction to this guide points out, we are at a point in history where white supremacist and fascist groups are increasingly likely to use intimidation or violence to remove opposition. Look out for each other. Have each others’ backs. Communicate. If you think there’s danger, take steps to protect yourselves and each other. This is a known problem in the past, and in the present. Antifa infiltrates fascist groups, and fascists have been known to infiltrate leftist groups, and protests (BLM protesters spotted these people and reported them as looking suspicious).
This is also a problem with law enforcement. As you may or may not be aware, there’s a problem with white supremacist inflitration of law enforcement, but there’s also a history of law enforcement infiltration of activists groups, particularly those on the left, and those engaged in the organization and use of collective power. Even before law enforcement was acting in service to a blatantly fascist government, they have gone to extreme lengths to infiltrate, spy on, and intimidate activist groups.
Now the U.S. Department of Homeland Security is actively building the legal infrastructure to treat domestic opposition as part of international “terrorist” networks, and a community network like this – even if its activity is limited to providing meals to the sick or elderly – is the sort of thing they like to target. As with non-governmental fascist/white supremacist groups, there’s a danger in being over-zealous in your efforts to root out and expel infiltrators, but it’s good to be aware of them. As with all other things, decisions about how to deal with this sort of problem should be made collectively. Part of the point of a group like this is that there is no “leadership” to single out, as such. There may be people who lead in one way or another, but your network should be built so if those people move away – or if they are imprisoned or killed – it will not meaningfully harm the ability of the network to function.
Privacy is a dodgy issue in the 21st century. While the population of the US does, in theory, have a right to privacy that holds unless surrendered or removed by a warrant, it has long been clear that that law enforcement is happy to invent pretexts for surveillance of activists – particularly those on the left. It’s reasonable to assume that with a more overtly fascist government, this problem would become worse, and with law enforcement working with fascist groups, and having white supremacists within their ranks, as mentioned earlier, it’s reasonable to assume that information about leftist groups will get into the hands of fascist groups. Encrypted communications are important if possible. Signal has a decent reputation for security, and groups like It’s Going Down often have resources on digital hygene/security. This is one of those situations where, on paper, if you’re doing nothing wrong, there’s nothing to worry about, but in practice there’s a long history of people doing nothing wrong still being subjected to surveillance. Take precautions, think about what you say via electronic or paper communication, and who might be listening. Again, the more authoritarian a country becomes, the more important this is. This is another reason why decentralized, local organization is important – it means that if need be, communication can be done in person.
This is an area about which I don’t know a whole lot, and much of it is outside the scope of this guide. That said, there are a few things to bear in mind. It’s Going Down is a decent place to start for concepts of community self-defense, but beyond that, awareness and prevention are as central to this as they are to avoiding injury and disease – an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Beyond that, I will say that for those are worried about attacks by fascist paramilitary “militias” or other such people, body armor and ballistic shields can be purchased, though they can be pretty expensive.
I should also note, in case you haven’t noticed, that law enforcement often views the act of preparing to defend yourself against them – even as passively as masks, goggles, or helmets to protect against pepper spray, teargas, and projectiles – as an offensive act. They have been known to treat any form of protective gear as an act of “escalation”, even if it’s in response to weapons they used before activists got any such gear.
The United States of America is already a fairly dangerous country compared to many other nation. In addition to all the various causes of illness and injury that may be found anywhere in the world, medical care is often expensive, even with health insurance. Injury or illness can move a person from financial stability into debt virtually overnight. If the U.S. continues its slide toward fascism, this is likely to continue to be the case, or even become worse, particularly for those who are engaged in activities or practice ideologies that the regime doesn’t like. If you add climate change to that mix, it seems increasingly likely that you or someone you know might be in need of medical treatment without access to professionals or their equipment. Community networks are good ways to exchange knowledge and information about this sort of thing, as well as ways to know who you can turn to. That said, a community is going to be more resilient against any kind of crisis if more people have some resources and training.
Riot Medicine is a free manual you can download with a variety of useful info.
Where There Is No Doctor is a useful guide that you can either buy, or download chapter by chapter for free.
As with any skill, the more you practice it, the better you will be able to use it in times of stress. Reading manuals does not count as training. It’s better than nothing, but with a community network, you can get together with others to actually try things out. You can also do things like pooling your resources to pay for classes – and even certifications – for interested members of the network.
Water is life. Unclean water can be death. Political upheaval and a changing climate can both interfere with the infrastructure that provides drinking water, so having the means to make unsafe or uncertain water potable is a must. When it comes to pathogens, if you bring water to a rolling boil and keep it there for at least a minute, you can consider the water safe to drink. At extremely high altitudes, a longer boil is probably a good idea.
Iodine tablets or drops are another time-tested approach, and depending on the kind you get you may also be able to use them as an antiseptic for first aid.
Having a filter of some sort is a good idea if you’re dealing with water that’s not clear. If it’s a matter of removing solids from water that you’re going to boil, you can use pretty much any piece of cloth. Again, that’s if you’re going to boil the water. Just cloth alone with NOT make water safe to drink.
There are a variety of portable and stationary filters available for situations from backpacking to long-haul sea voyages. Prices and power demands vary.
The simplest option for emergencies is a hand-pump filter with either paper or ceramic cartridges. Ceramic filters are more expensive, but tend to last longer before you need to replace the cartridge altogether. Filters like this often come with an activated charcoal post-filter that the water goes through after it’s been through the main filter. Where the main filter removes pathogens, the activated charcoal one can help remove chemical contaminants. This is worth having in most parts of the world these days.
A word of caution from personal experience in the use of filters – make sure there is a pre-filter over the intake tube, even if that makes the use of the filter more difficult. If you’re extremely dehydrated, your judgement is likely to be impaired, and you’re going to be impatient for water to drink. Don’t remove the pre-filter. It prevents sand and other stuff from gunking up the main filter, and from breaking the mechanical parts of the whole thing. Trust me when I say you do not want to deal with boiling water and then waiting for it to cool enough to drink while you feel like you’re dying of thirst.
Storing non-perishable food is a good idea. It’s a good idea if you’re worried about political unrest, war, or climate change. There have been times when people – particularly on the Left – have been somewhat embarrassed by the notion of “prepping”. It’s sometimes viewed as part of the right-wing “tough guy survivalist” aesthetic, and associated with people who fantasize about being the lone survivor in some apocalyptic scenario, where you have to fight off those too foolish to be prepared.
Whatever your emotional barriers may be, get over them. You should also get over that perspective on disaster prepping.
As with having first aid equipment and training, storing food in case of disasters is a decidedly pro-social practice. If you have food stored, you can share it with those who need it, whether because of disaster, or because of poverty. If you store food when you have the means to do so, you will have it available if you run out of money for some reason. Even without political problems, the global climate is now reaching temperatures not seen since your ancestors looked like rats.
Take this seriously.
There WILL come a time when multiple major food production regions suffer climate-related disasters simultaneously, and the entire planet’s food supply takes a hit. The odds are good that at some point in your future, there will be a food shortage that will be made easier if storing food is the norm in your community. The more people do this, the more resilient your community will be to disasters of any sort, and the more you will be able to strengthen your bonds with each other by providing assistance when it’s needed.
We’ve grown used to being insulated from things like bad harvests and droughts, when it comes to food. That period is ending, and we’re once again entering an era in which our increasingly hostile planet may take away our access to food rather unpredictably.
I’ll be publishing more on this in the future, but for now I’ll say that there is more to maintaining a food supply than simply buying a bunch of rice and beans and sitting on them till something goes wrong. That’s better than nothing, but you would do will to look into methods of rotating food stores. There are some foods that will last more or less indefinitely, but even those can go bad, and as long as you have the resources to do so, your emergency supply of food will be far more useful to you if you make a point of eating it, and replacing it with newer stuff. If you plan on having a large supply of food ready to hand, it’s probably a good idea to make a calendar of some sort to help you remember to eat the older stuff. While building up your supplies will cost extra money up front, compared to buying and eating food as you need it, maintaining an existing supply doesn’t cost extra, as you’re still buying food at the rate of consumption.
As with medicine, practice makes perfect. Maintaining a supply of food against emergencies is a still that most people in the modern world simply don’t have.
Theory, philosophy, and education
Make an effort to understand political, economic, and social theory if you can. It’s safe to assume that you will be exposed to propaganda and efforts at persuasion or misinformation for the rest of your life, as you have been for your whole life thus far. If you’re reading my work, it’s likely that you’re fairly friendly to leftist philosophies like socialism or anarchism, or at least you’re aware that there are a growing number of people who think they’re good ideas. I have to talk about this subject in this manner because for most of recent history – particularly in the United States – economic and political philosophies other than capitalism and liberalism have been demonized or denigrated in one way or another. You may or may not believe me when I say that is the result of indoctrination, but until you actually take the time to understand the philosophies in question, how would you know?
Any time someone tries to convince you that the world today is as good as it could possibly be, you should question that claim. Generally it can be traced back to people who are doing very well under the present circumstances, and would do less well – even if they continued to have good lives – were the world to change for the benefit of those currently doing badly. Like it or not, politics occupy every facet of our lives, and we ignore our own governance at our peril. The current crisis in the United States demonstrates very well that democracy is a form of government that requires active participation and maintenance. As with any system, if you’re going to provide maintenance, you’d better know how it works, and what criticisms exist from people who think that other systems are better.
Study on your own. Study with groups. Seek out knowledge on the internet. Seek it out in multiple forms, and learn about political and economic theories from those who support them, not just those who don’t want you to support them. There’s value in reading foundational authors and works, but that is not the only valid way to learn theory.
Of particular relevance, right now, is fascism. In case it wasn’t clear, I oppose fascism. It is a vicious, self-destructive ideology that builds cooperation within one group of people by treating other groups as enemies, and blaming them for all problems, in a way that doesn’t really seem to happen with any other political ideology. You’re welcome to find your own sources on this, but below I’ve linked a number of youtube videos that I’ve found to be useful, starting with one from the youtube channel Philosophy Tube that I think should be required viewing for all capable of doing so.
As I mentioned at the top, this guide is – and may always be – a work in progress. It’s as comprehensive as I’m able to make it, as of the most recent update recorded at the top. If you think I’ve left something out, leave a comment with your suggestion and I’ll look into it.
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