A whole lot of years ago I went to the North American Anarchist Gathering in Lawrence, Kansas. While I had been to anarchist assemblies and teach-ins locally, this was the first large and non-regional, but explicitly anarchist event I ever went to. Being from the west coast, it was interesting to encounter anarchists from other parts of the country (this was 2002, before the internet is what it is today). It wasn’t for a demonstration against something, it wasn’t a book fair, it wasn’t a conference, it was just some intrepid young anarchists in Lawrence Fucking Kansas deciding to do a thing to bring anarchists together. For a camping trip, of sorts.
Not that there was nothing programmed into the event; it was remarkably well organized. There were workshops and discussions, a queer dance party, a short film festival, skinny dipping, communal meals and clean up, as well as autonomously organized security to deal with the cops, the threat of local nazi skinheads, etc.
While the camp did evict some individuals, who were threatening other participants, the event went relatively smoothly. If I was to be critical, it would be that there was way too much red and not enough green, but that was the nature of the region and organizers at that time.
Since the Lawrence North American Anarchist Gathering, there have been other gatherings like Feral Futures, the Crimethinc. Convergences which ended with the Smack a White Boy debacle and so on, but most of them seemed to focus on bringing together a narrower sliver of the anarchist scene.
I’ve been thinking lately of the degree of disconnection that I often experience in relation to the spheres of anarchist activity I am involved in, and thinking about how different it felt when most things were not based on the internet, but on face-to-face interactions, correspondence by snail-mail, phone calls, and so forth. I wonder what a North American Anarchist Gathering in 2019 would look like.
I think about camping trips I’ve been on with friends and some people I didn’t know so well, I think about sitting at a picnic table over food and sharing laughs and discussion and barbs. These are moments I feel truly engaged, as opposed to internet things and showing up for events as a depersonalized part of some mass. I also wonder if it is even possible to or desirable to aim for some sort of larger thing than the campfire, the picnic table; in a time where Big Anarchist Events are the marketplace of book fairs, would anarchists even care to get together unmediated by economic transaction?
This topic of the week is a bit open ended. I am wondering what others think that might look like, as well as whether it is even something viable or worthwhile, not really because I am interested in organizing one (I am definitely not), but more because I am curious what others think. What might be the benefits? what might be the dangers and challenges? What would be your vision of an anarchist gathering?