on our minds
On our minds this weekend: The possibility of bookfairs!
This weeks podcast is being recorded a little early because the time when I’d normally be recording I’ll be spending at the Orange County anarchist bookfair. This evening is holding down it’s third annual event and this year the guest speakers include Dana Ward of the Anarchy Archives, Alexander Reed Ross of the EF! Newswire, and Zoé Samudzi “On a Black Feminist Anarchism”
What is the possibility of bookfairs? Well, they aren’t going to be the cause of the revolution but they are places where people can meet with anarchists and talk about anarchist ideas without fear of being arrested. They often are events where anarchists dress to impress and do everything in their power to show off their good side. They are often places where you can eat cheaply, find inexpensive anarchist artifact, books, and t-shirts. They are often funny, and the more you know the funnier they are.
What is the possibility of bookfairs? Perhaps this is as far as we go. This is all we are capable of. smashing windows when we are grumpy and selling books to each other when we are calm. The bookfair has become yet another aspect of north american anarchism to fight over. Some claim that anarchists that devote energy to bookfairs, like your esteemed commentator, are somehow less hardcore than those on the street. And it is easy to see anarchists as an anachronism, dedicating energy to books, arguably an anachronistic way to transmit information in a time when images tell a thousand words and I don’t even have enough time in my day to check my instagram feed.
What is the possibility of bookfairs? It is best stated as the opportunity to meet strangers in a conflict free area. To glare at anarcho-liberals under the Southern Ca sky. and to introduce new, up and coming, anarchists to the depth of material they will need to be proficient at quoting from. I love talking about anarchism with people who dont have ideological preconceptions about which is why I still go.
There are several different types of anarchists and it can be challenging to keep them straight. The kind of anarchists that anarchist news tends to devote energy towards are anarchists that work on projects. This is a different type than one that works on organizations or one that just hangs out in a scene. A projectual anarchist organizes their time in terms of bite-sized projects that may be oriented around a bigger project but just as often have value for their own sake.
Often time our anarchist news is a series of different people advertising their new project, be it a new literature distrobution, or a new video project, and inviting others, perhaps strangers or close comrades to join. There is no central committee driving these different projects and often times is can seem like they are temporary, emphasize outreach more than practical or revolutionary goals, and a little embarassing. But that embarrment is important. My first zine was a embarassing. It was called kill your parents and told a story against the existent order, represented by parents, from the perspective of a child. Showing it to people taught be the value of expressing an opinion, especially a hostile and silly one. It gave me a lot of the feedback I needed to do future projects, ones that were decidedly less silly.
Feeling out the texture of doing projects anon vs under your nom de plume or your actual name is another aspect central to how to practice an anarchist politics. There is a strong anarchist current that says that the only anarchist activity has no name, no identity, and may even have to speak for itself. This is a hard line in an environement like we have in teh US that is so saturated with social media and where self-representation is considered a hobby for most young people. Another position is on the opposite side of the spectrum. The only ethical behavior is stating your position with an open face and by your name. Thereby you can be held accountable for what you say and can develop relationships with others who feel the way you do. Short term and discrete anarchist projects are a great way to test out these different ideas about how to do identity, responsibility, and anarchist practice.
This week i was struck by how our anarchist news cycle could be a copy of one a few years or even a decade ago. New media projects, calls for support to distant lands and people, attacks on the existing order, and debates about tactics. Many people might see this as a bad thing. I do not. I see new friends testing out their strength, old timers experimenting with their mediums, and getting better, and the width and breadth of anarchist imagination. These are the things I want my life to be full of, attack, communication, disagreement, and solidarity.