I set off to the Anarchist bookfair armed with a few books - our latest from Queer beograd collective - well its a bookfair so i may as well do a little bit of distro. i want to try and target some of the antfia groups in particular with our publication on direct action and queer resistance to fascism.
Being the antisocial, slightly agoraphobic, rather critical person that i am, i am also armed with a great deal of cynicism.
reading the advertising leading up to the fair and the workshop schedules it seems that many people are raising the age old questions of HOW to organise, how to deal with deal with fragmentation, lifestylism and the gulf between activist groups and everyone else. Beats me, but the two workshops i want to try and make are the Croatian anarchists talking about a history of anarchism in the region, and the IWW talking about self organisation vs vanguardism and if there is any combination of those two that might work well. (total paraphrasing there).
at the fair i spend a bit of time wandering about staring at books i can't afford, being extremely envious and lustfull towards small publishing houses and catching up with people who i havent seen in ages.
there's a tiny bit of lusting going on there too, but its more my general attraction towards the 'punk/anarcho/straight edge' asthetic, rebellion makes me horny.
its a very long time since i have been active within this scene, some one asked me a while back what it was like 'not to be an activist any more' (i should have just punched them out) but i suppose what can easily happen is that a lack of visibilty within anarchist/activist circles can lead other people, and i think, to some extent ourselves, to believing we are not really doing activism any more. that's a problem with the notion of activism but a lot has been written on that and i cant be arsed to rake it over right now. but yeah very unfunny and dodgy how dealing with the immediate and pressing problems of our own lives (earning a living, trying to pay the rent, running away from fascists, forming strategies against homophobia, building networks and communities) can be dismissed so easily and act as a disincentive towards naming these actions as political.
the croation workshop: a long intro (as in packed with interesting information and political analysis) to the history of anarchist activity in croatia and the ex-yu region. these guys are ACTIVE, running a yearly three day bookfair, a couple of publishing houses, networking in the region and taking part in other direct action.
once again im amazed at how people in the west respond to news of things in the south east as if this is something they have never heard of, also there is so often a tangible exoticising. im not saying i am up to date on what is happening in every part of the world, but i don't quite get how often people IN europe seem to have very little grasp of what might be happening in their region politically - or even of that as a geopolitical area.
when the people from Zagreb talk about the economic situation there, the effects of economic transition and post war situation what i do not understand is how other people in the workshop do not make connections between this and a global or at least EU picture. there are several expressions of amazement when it is put forward that many people live on a black or grey economy, that this is how people survive - outside of the legal taxed system. FFS people we live in London - a city with a huge population of so called 'illegal' people. capitalism RUNS on these non regular workers. i wonder how people can be so out of touch not to apply any of this to their own situations, what are these people living on? i looked around and realised mostly, sadly i am surrounded by people who are at university - we are sitting IN a university - i may as well be in a fucking petting zoo.
anyhow in that weirdness that is the ability to travel, have visas and get around the place i make connections with the zagreb people, turns out we have met at an anarcho-feminst festival in macedonia some years back. we exchange books/newspapers and talk about problems with the queer scene in zagreb being less politicised and more elitist than in beograd and on the other side of this how addressing issues of sexism and homophobia can be seen as 'lifestylism'.
hopefully we will catch up at the next bookfair they hold in zagreb, for sure its another part of a network. http://www.ask-zagreb.org/engleski.htm
i miss the IWW meeting - i have this knack with maps. *sigh*
mr rockabilly gayboy suggests we might go to the workshop on 'love, sex and anarchism' i inform him that i would rather kill myself, but then at a loose end i do find myself in there. grave mistake.
it turns out to be a workshop on anarchy and polyamoury. oh dear oh dear, last time i went to a workshop on polyamory i swore i would never go to one again, sitting in this very crowded room i begin to remember why.
the workshop begins with a very well spoken young man standing up and mentioning that it has been such a full and stressful day that he would like to begin the workshop with a few moments for everyone just to be quiet, to relax and breath and to get in touch with how they are feeling. i begin to get in touch with the feeling that i wish i wasn't trapped in this room and that im not going to be able to escape what im sure is going to be an excruciating experience.
the people running the workshop come across as social workers, not quite out of uni, highly scrubbed, and glowing with the joy of discovery. its clear that people mean well, but in that sort of shiny sort of way that makes me think that i may have to kill them. the other cynical bastards i am with cheer me up by making violent hand gestures and almost wee themselves laughing.
sadly the workshop was based in the kind of 'woooo, oh look at that im free' idea of anarchy, a magical and mysterious form in which everything works out without any structure at all! (a fantasy) >insert more swearing from the cynical back row< ...and alongside that was placed the kind of poly where there seems also to be no structure/rules/interperso
not sure how that works socially or relationship wise, i always thought freedom = responsibility.
i just found it so ODD to once again hear the parroting of what i think is a very damaging style ..which appears to be pure selfishness with no regard for relationships as something that involves a constellation of people hopefully trying to work together.
one of the people giving the workshop repeatedly used the phrase 'anarchist utopia'....as in 'when we get there' aaaaaarrrrrrgggggghhhh!!!!
i can see why people complain about lifestylism. the connection between anarchism and how people do their relationships (in whatever form) - is not necessarily a hard one to make. the connection between personal responsibilty, appreciation of difference, the necessity to form effective and active communication and methods of action with others and to see all our relationships as important and interconnected is not rocket science and yet in that room the moment slipped by, so much easier to focus on the romance of it. oh i don't know, in all my pissyness about approaches, ways of action and living, im sure one of the most romantic things anyone has ever said to me is 'let's form a collective' :P