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(en) Ye Drunken Sailor #1 available now. (sample article on the Anarchist Free Space)

From <freyheyt@dojo.tao.ca>
Date Wed, 31 Oct 2001 04:16:44 -0500 (EST)


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Ye Drunken Sailor #1 available now.  

Ahoy Matey!

The first issue of "Ye Drunken Sailor", the quarterly dispatch of the good 
ship Freyheyt (NEFAC, Toronto), is now available for all rebels of the seven 
seas.

The First issue includes:

Editorial on Sept. 11 and class struggle in Ontario
Local, regional and world news briefs 
Role reversal, a symbol of Palestinian political maturity
We defiant ones
Revolutionary anti-fascism
The Platformist tradition
The Anarchist Free Space & Free Skool
Book reviews: Anarcha-feminism, the Angry Brigade
Publication reviews
and a drinking story from one of our crew.

Single copies of Ye Drunken Sailor are $3ppd
Subscriptions are $12 for 4 issues.

Mail to:

The Freyheyt Collective
Box 116, 339a, College St.
Toronto ON, Canada
M5T 1S2

If interested in distributing Ye Drunken Sailor email: freyheyt@tao.ca

--------------------------------------
The Anarchist Free Space and Freeskool
by Jeff Shantz

The Anarchist Free Space (AFS) was begun in April
1999 by artists and activists who had organized a
fairly lively freeskool at a soon-to-be-closed
hangout, the Community Café.  When the Café shut down
some of the freeskool participants, looking to keep
things going, set up shop in a roomy storefront
location in Toronto’s Kensington Market.

The Free Space was intended as a venue for committed
anarchists, novices and non-anarchists alike to come
together and share ideas about the prospects,
difficulties and strategies for creating new,
anti-authoritarian social relations.  The primary
vehicle for this was an ambitious schedule of classes
on diverse issues.

Courses reflected the desire for openness -- they
weren’t all about anarchists talking to anarchists
about anarchy (though a few of them were just that). 
Some of the courses included "Love Songs of the 20s
and 30s," "Street Art," "Understanding Violence
Against Women" and "Alternative Economics."  Not just
the mind but the body was taken care of in a yoga
class and in shiatsu workshops.  For most of the year
at least one class was running every weekday evening. 
Far and away the most successful and long-running were
"Introduction to Anarchism" and "Class Struggle 
Anarchism: Syndicalism and Libertarian Socialism."

In addition to classes the AFS tried to revive the
anarchist salon tradition.  As the course booklet
noted: "Salons have a colourful history throughout the
world and in particular within Anarchist Communities.
Salons are intentional conversational forums where
people engage in passionate discourse about what they
think is important."  At the AFS the third Friday of
every month was reserved for lively discussions on
various topics decided upon by participants.  Often
the salons included a potluck dinner and performance. 
By all accounts the salons were enjoyable and engaging
affairs.

FROM CLASSES TO CLASS STRUGGLE

In political terms the AFS was at its liveliest, and
indeed its most relevant, during the spring and summer
of 2000 when a number of members managed to bring a
class struggle perspective to the space.  Taking the
view that the AFS could (and should) be a worthwhile
organizing centre the class warriors reached out to
serious activists in the city.  The Ontario Coalition
Against Poverty (OCAP) was invited to hold their movie
nights at the space every Saturday and held several
successful large "screenings." Several members of the
space participated in the OCAP-initiated protest at
Queen’s Park on June 15, which ended in a full-scale
police riot.

The class struggle anarchist ‘zine Sabcat was
produced out of the AFS and since its first appearance
has met with tremendous enthusiasm locally and abroad.
 Sabcat continues to present original artwork, reviews
and articles on such topics as "green syndicalism,"
"June 15 and OCAP," and "police violence."

A Books to Prisoners program was started and became
quite successful. Poetry readings and hardcore shows
brought in hundreds of book donations along with the
help of some independent publishers and distributors.
Before long the first shipments went out from the Free
Space to inmates in both a women’s and men’s prison.

WHOSE MARKET?: FIGHTING THE GENTRIFIERS
		
Almost everything I’ve ever read about autonomous
zones or infoshops raises the nasty business of
gentrification in North American cities.  This story
is no exception. Members of the Who’s Emma? and Free
Space collectives took leading parts in the battle
against gentrification in the Kensington Market area
over the past year.

During the Who’s Emma? general meeting in May, one
member alerted others to a petition which had begun
circulation against plans for a soup kitchen and
hostel for homeless people to be opened on Augusta
Avenue just north of the Free Space.  The viciously
worded petition openly attacked poor people saying
they were unwelcome in the Market.  At the same
meeting the collective decided without delay to
interview every store-owner or manager in the Market
to see who was carrying the petition and who supported
the attacks on homeless people and the poor. 
Enlisting support from the AFS, teams of two spent the
next few days talking to people throughout the Market.
 Where petitions were found, and thankfully very few
places had accepted them, it was made clear that such
anti-poor propaganda was unacceptable and that those
businesses which persisted would be targeted. A
boycott of a trendy cafe previously frequented by
activists was begun and perhaps coincidentally it
closed by the end of the summer.

At the end of June a leaflet was distributed in the
Market which asked: "Do you want Kensington Market to
become just one more run-down neighbourhood with no
hope for its future?"  A second leaflet, circulated by
the Kensington Market Working Group hysterically raged
against the planned soup kitchen, suggesting that
feeding and sheltering homeless people was simply
cover for the real "goal of destroying the family
shopping atmosphere that is Kensington."  Members of
the AFS organized a campaign to attend the City’s
Committee of Adjustment hearing and brought letters of
support for the soup kitchen.  Eventually the plans
were approved though the Kensington business
association has promised to keep up the attacks.

Later in the summer another more directly aggressive
battle developed over harassment by the City of
Toronto of a few homeless men living in the Market.
The situation came to a head when one of the men asked
a couple of us at the Free Space for help in keeping
city workers from taking his stuff to the dump.  When
we confronted the workers, they refused to tell us
which by-law they were citing when removing the stuff
but implied that they were under pressure from the
business association.  Unionized workers doing the
bidding of the business association to harass homeless
men not a pleasant sight.  After much rather heated
discussion and several tense confrontations we worked
out a deal where the city workers promised not to
touch anything left in the area fronting the Free
Space.  We always made sure there was a presence in
the space to deal with the city workers and whenever
they threatened to do a next day removal we called out
enough people to make it impossible for them to do
their work.  We asked OCAP to get involved and they
put pressure on the union to do a little education
with their members.  When we confronted the workers,
they refused to tell us which by-law they were citing
when removing the stuff but implied that they were
under pressure from the business association. 
Unionized workers doing the bidding of the business
association to harass homeless men not a pleasant
sight.  After much rather heated discussion and
several tense confrontations we worked out a deal
where the city workers promised not to touch anything
left in the area fronting the Free Space.  We always
made sure there was a presence in the space to deal
with the city workers and whenever they threatened to
do a next day removal we called out enough people to
make it impossible for them to do their work.  We
asked OCAP to get involved and they put pressure on
the union to do a little education with their members.
 

The guys hung out at the space and sold their
wonderful array of used goods in front of and
alongside the Free Space. For a couple of months it
was like a real street bazaar. Shoppers loved the
piles of stuff and there was always serious bargaining
going on.  They sold more in those two months than the
AFS ever has.  And the small business gentrifiers
hated it.

These are battles which continue as both Provincial
and Municipal governments step up attacks on the poor
in Toronto. Armed with their anti-panhandling "Safe
Streets Act" and their racist targeted policing
programs, the yuppie gentrifiers and law and order
crazed petty bourgeoisie are clearly out for blood. 
No matter how many people die on the streets, they
remain unmoved.  Who’s Emma? and the Free Space
offered some resistance in Kensington.  Fighting the
gentrification which is preying upon so many areas of
Toronto remains a crucial task for anarchists in the
city.

As always, the challenge is to maintain openness
and inclusion while actually working to create "the
new world in the shell of the old."  Anarchy is not
some fanciful idea, something for philosophers and
mystics to ponder.  Anarchy only has meaning when it
is lived.

Anarchist Free Space: April 1999-April 2001.  "Don’t
mourn…organize!"


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