Sunday, 23 October 2011

London anarchist bookfair 2011

Because of the vagaries of train ticket pricing, it was again cheaper to travel first class to the London for the Anarchist Bookfair, but nothing's too good for the working class. Despite the competing attraction of camping outside St Paul's, the Bookfair was mobbed. Estimates for last year suggested around 4,000 people over the day. Were there more this year? The Five Leaves meeting - part of David Rosenberg's Cable Street marathon - was in the first set of sixty talks and discussion. Despite an early start 30+ people listened in respectful silence while Dave outlined the history and detail of The Battle of Cable Street - an event largely involving people from other political traditions (Communist Party, Labour League of Youth, Independent Labour Party). The only other session I attended, however, was a packed meeting on writing and reading anarchist fiction, which perhaps suffered too much from people being respectful when there were good arguments to be had. That session benefited, as did the day itself, from the increasing international presence, with writers from Sweden and Spain taking part. After last year's appearances by John Pilger and Paul Mason, this year's "outside" speakers included the Black activist Darcus Howe and Donnacha DeLong, President of the National Union of Journalists, which again indicates that the anarchist movement is starting to be taken seriously. [Later note - but read Donnacha's comment below - no outsider she!] I suspect, however, Darcus Howe attracted more people than the two hour session on "Tenants' movements in Poland - social resistance to neo-liberal housing policy", however important the latter is.

I squatted on the Housmans stall for most of the day, which did very good trade, especially with Verso books. People were taking their politics seriously. But not too seriously. The speaker at the anarchist fiction session, DD Johnston, read a hilarious piece from his novel, about the anarchist bookfair, seeming to prove the opposite of the quote from The Poverty of Student Life that "since the anarchists will tolerate each other, they will tolerate anything".

As I left at 6.30 - the fair still in full swing - I watched the wonderful French brass band Les Judas playing in the courtyard. Emma Goldman famously said* "If I can't dance I don't want to be in your revolution" and the band had many people dancing. What she didn't say was that you had to dance well!

* Actually, she didn't say that at all - see


Anonymous said...

Outside speaker? Me? Baby, I'm an anarchist! Nothing outside about me, despite not joining any specific group, I was on the organising committee for the Anarchist Conference two years ago, have worked with range of different anarchist groups in London (and the WSM in Dublin before that) and also organised the "Busting the Myths – learn the truth about anarchism" meeting in August.

Ross Bradshaw said...

Donnacha - my apologies! I should have known this. I've inserted a note in the original article drawing attention to your comment.