São Paulo Calling: Boycott the LA Anarchist Book Fair
I hate having to denounce events and collectives that at least, nominally, are associated with anarchism. In the instance of the Los Angeles Anarchist Book Fair (LAABF) and the collective that is implementing it, I have no choice. The LAABF has encouraged hatred among comrades, they have provided a platform for state socialists and marxist pseudo-economic analysis, and they have banned one of the most important North American anarchist publishing groups from tabling. Payback time.
Statements of Dis(Unity)—The LAABF website includes a “Statement of Unity” which includes under Principle 8,” We reject individualism, nihilism, and defeatism as serving the established system…” How this unites the various anarchist milieux remains to be seen. Especially as the post-left, individualist and nihilist strains of anarchy constitute a significant portion of anarchist activists and theorists in the so-called United States. The idea that anarchist individualism in any way promotes the dominate society is an incredible misread of both the theory (Stirner, Novatore, Libertad, Paraf-Javal, Zo D’Axa, McQuinn, Jarach, etc.) history and current actions (the Bonnot Gang, Horst Fantazzini, Bonnano, Exarcheia, CCF, FA(I)-IRF, etc.) of those who espouse these ideas. The inclusion of nihilism also points to either intellectual sponginess, or outright duplicity where from Voltarine DeCleyre’s glowing monograph on the women nihilists to the nihilist communism of M. Dupont, these ideas have and do animate those seeking to destroy the dominant society. Finally, the use of the term “defeatism” is telling, especially in the context of one of the LAABF’s main themes,” “Red and Black October: Revisiting the ‘Unknown’ Anarchist Revolution of 1917 A Century Later.” The word defeatism was originally used in 1917 and popularized in 1918 as an epithet by apologists for nation-state and Capital against those who supported the then apparently liberatory Russian Revolution. Some things never change.
Aid and Comfort—In what I consider to be an insult to anarchists of all stripe three of the eleven workshops are being presented by socialists and feature marxist themes and analysis. Some examples, in a workshop titled incredibly,” The Declining Rate of Profit and the Relevance of Marxism Today,” an academic marxist will tackle the 160 year-old, oft-disproven thesis that falling profits will bring about the demise of Capital. Yeah, sorry. Jacques Camatte already destroyed the falling profit canard in the 70s—seems this marxist academic has missed the best of the ultra-left communist tradition. Another workshop titled,” Beyond Resistance: Why We Need a New Kind of Coalition,” features none other than the Socialist Party’s 2016 candidate for president, Mimi Soltysik, the other presenter is out of the Marxist-Humanist groupuscule, holdouts from the Raya Dunayevskaya cult centered around the News and Letters journal. For those unaware, Dunayevskaya was Trotsky’s secretary and confidante. So here we have someone who supports the nation-state sufficiently to run for the office of POTUS and another who identifies, at least minimally, with the Butcher of Kronstadt—telling anarchists that they need to form a coalition (presumably with their respective organizations). Evidently some marxists, now doomed to irrelevance and silence, are looking to find adherents (and potential voters?) at an anarchist book fair. Disgusting. Let the marxists and socialists have their own book fair, see how many anarchists attend, or better yet see how many anarchist workshops are accepted for presentation. In NYC in the 80s we had a name for this type of scoundrel, “glommunist,” meaning a marxist trying to glomm onto the anarchist milieux in hopes of achieving some kind of following or notoriety. Does the LAABF collective hear the blood of our martyrs crying out from their anonymous graves in Russia, the Ukraine, Spain, Hungary, Prague? No? Well they should.
Exclusion--Finally, the LAABF have rejected Little Black Cart’s (LBC) application to table at the event. The reasons given--of course—are the mini-brawl at the Seattle Anarchist Book Fair and the publication and distribution of Atassa. First, the fracas in Seattle is hardly an issue. Similar things have happened in the past at other book fairs and no one was banned or stopped from tabling as a result of an ideological schism that became violent. As an example the altercation between the AJODA folks and the Qilombo miscreants at the 2015 Bay Area Anarchist Book Fair played out as an understandable collision between two belligerents. No one was banned, or censured because ultimately, no one really cared. Sometimes arguments in the anarchist milieux are settled with fists. If similar bannings were followed in say Greece or Brazil, no one would be allowed to attend or table at any book fairs, ever. Finally the publication and distribution of objectionable material as an excuse for exclusion is a dangerous precedent, especially within the milieux. The idea that simply reading a book can lead someone down the primrose to eco-extremism, or terrorism, or even marxism is ludicrous. What the fuck is next? Parental advisory warnings on Bakunin’s God and State, or Nechaev’s Catechism? Given the above discussion of the LAABF’s sowing discord among the various anarchist milieux, and providing a platform for marxists and state socialists, it’s easy to see where this mindset leads—exclusion, censorship, authority.
Conversely, it is my hope that we can maintain some semblance of unity among ourselves, a healthy and intentional distance from socialists and marxists, and a firm resolve within the milieux to reject knee-jerk exclusions based on a morality contiguous with the society of domination.
I encourage my Comrades to boycott the Los Angeles Anarchist Book Fair—there are better things to do in the City of Angels on October 28 - 29—go to the beach, fuck, have a burrito, smoke dope, nap…
Paul Z. Simons