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(en) Canada, Anarchist distributors boycott Montreal bookshop

From Diffuseurs libertaires Mtl <diffuseurslibertaires@yahoo.ca>
Date Thu, 30 Oct 2003 21:32:24 +0100 (CET)

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Summary: Joint declaration of Montreal anarchist
distributors on the antagonistic situation with the
Alternative Bookshop. Critique of the exclusion of
anarchists and the privatization of the building and
this so-called anarchist bookshop. Removal of
distibution material and autonomous distribution (Anarchist Kiosk).
Joint Declaration of the Anarchist Distributors in Montreal October 27, 2003
MONTREAL—We make this declaration in order to clarify
things and bring people up to date concerning the
antagonistic situation that currently exists in the
project commonly known as the "AEELI" (Association des
espèces d’espaces libres et imaginaires (Association
of Kinds of Free and Imaginary Spaces)), or the "OSBL"
(Organisme sans but lucratif) --Non-profit
Organization-- and also including Librairie
Alternative / Alternative Bookshop, and more
generally, concerning anarchist and [left] libertarian
distribution in Montreal.

The collectives that have signed this declaration are
all active in anarchist distribution in Montreal, and
took part in the assembly of August 5 2003, which
brought together around 80 people. It’s the
conclusions we have drawn from it that lead us to make
this clarification.

Since the late 1980s, there has been only one
bookstore that identifies with anarchism in Montreal,
even though there is a relatively significant
anarchist and [left] libertarian presence in social
struggles. This bookstore (Alternative Bookshop,
located at 2035 Saint-Laurent Blvd.) basically owes
its existence to another project that at its
beginnings sought to be collective, the non-profit
organization called AEELI, which was set up in 1982
thanks to a considerable private donation as well as
other lesser financial contributions; its primary goal
was to provide a permanent distribution space for
anarchists in Montreal. This was done via the purchase
of a building in the downtown area, intended to be
self-financing through the rental of the other floors,
with a view to providing a free space for an anarchist

To quickly sum up a long, chaotic story we can say
that this building was never really collectivized by
all the anarchist groups and individuals active in
Montreal. In 1987, people from the defunct Café
Commun/Commune joined the project; this was the
beginning of a faction which, over the years, was to
put a stranglehold on the project. With the OSBL on
the brink of financial disaster in 1995, an anonymous
donor (!) was willing to put this project back on its
feet financially on condition that all OSBL members
not part of the bookshop collective be excluded from a
new OSBL which would be composed exclusively of
bookshop members.

Ever since this failed attempt at defacto
privatization, these two projects continued with their
ups and downs, their one constant feature being their
lack of real openness toward the world outside. Since
1997 the OSBL has been managed (badly) by two persons
who have blithely continued this privatization: no
holding of assemblies, a perpetual and self-proclaimed
board of directors with all decision-making and
management centralized in their hands, the
disappearance of the archives and administrative
documents, the marginalization of French-speaking
anarchists in Montreal (and from tendencies more
radical than the leftist tendency dominant in that
milieu; comrades have either been refused, discouraged
to the point of leaving or expelled).

In July 2003, despite the fact that some bookshop
members showed a desire for change by moving the
bookshop from the second floor to the ground floor,
the bookshop nonetheless remained under the control of
the dinosaurs in the OSBL, and continues to be
characterized by the insignificance of its stock. This
was the context in which we tried to revitalize this
initially collective project.

For some time now, some collectives and individuals
who had noticed this situation of impoverished
content, which was especially flagrant at the
anarchist bookfairs, decided on their own to revive
this project in the sense intended by its founders and
by so doing, generally improve distribution. Others
among us were approached by new members of Alternative
Bookshop who said they regretted the closed nature of
the project and said they wanted to go beyond the
present situation. Beginning in the spring of 2003, a
series of public meetings took place and lead to,
after many ups and downs, the calling of a general
assembly of the OSBL for August 5. For this occasion
we wrote a joint proposal that all who were interested
could acquire before the assembly.

In order to dispel any ambiguity, we declare that we
came to this assembly (convened by the majority of the
nine members and despite the two dinosaurs mentioned
above) with the primary concern of revitalizing
anarchist distribution in Montreal, together with all
people present. But it was not even possible to
discuss our joint proposal —presented in writing—given
that it was immediately blocked by 4 "official"
members of the OSBL. This rearguard, armed with their
bylaws —of which there were only two copies— used
procedural measures to prevent the assembly from
becoming decisional in accordance with the proposal of
the 5 other "official" members of the OSBL. In fact,
of the sixteen points of order raised, thirteen were
raised by one of the dinosaurs in question. Faced with
this closed-minded attitude and contempt for direct
democracy, these 5 members resorted in desperation to
a motion to exclude the defenders of the status quo,
so as to give the assembly full decision-making
powers. This bureaucratic and procedural buffoonery
that we were obligated to be a part of then
degenerated into general confusion. We left after a
straw vote—called for by the two chairpersons, who
were overwhelmed by the events—rejected the exclusions
by 36 votes to 28, thereby negating the possibility of
holding a sovereign assembly.

To close this painful episode, we conclude that having
come in a spirit of dialogue, we found ourselves faced
with a monolithic group of persons who were visibly
incited in a spirit of confrontation by the pro-status
quo minority. In refusing to accept the full powers of
a sovereign assembly and to act as free and autonomous
individuals, the bulk of this group displayed both an
alienated attitude and what looked like an
identity-based withdrawal, a uniform block without a
single dissident voice. That the positions expressed
were split so clearly along linguistic lines seems all
the more remarkable to us given that the tone used by
the people across from us (who were 90%
English-speaking) showed a condescension that for
several among us evoked the old contempt of a bygone
era. It should therefore be clear that we've been
fighting nationalism for long enough to not allow the
stench of colonialism to poison anarchist meetings,
even as antagonistic as this latest assembly.

This assembly therefore completed an already latent
split between those who consider themselves the
proprietors of a collective project that is going
downhill under their control, and those who want to
collectivize this project to ensure better anarchist
distribution in Montreal. More generally, we note that
beyond this episode, two different conceptions of
anarchist distribution are in conflict here:
distribution separated from the use we can make of the
texts we distribute, disconnected from the social
struggles that embody these texts; and our conception
(despite our differences) of distribution, one engaged
with social struggles and which seeks a radical use of
these texts through our practice. Here is a
fundamental difference that a despoiler is incapable
of understanding…

Let’s now turn to our plans. We support the efforts
--by the dissident majority in the OSBL, and by some
among us-- to collectivize the “shame building” on
Saint-Laurent Blvd. As for Alternative bookshop, its
collective and its partisans, it goes without saying
that their blind support for the reasoning of their
little bosses, based on the respect of charters,
statutes and bylaws, of "formal democracy" patterned
on the state and going against the sovereignty of the
assembly, raises serious questions about their
anarchist convictions and their ability to spread
these ideas and practices. All these reasons incite us
to remove all the material we distribute from this
pseudo-anarchist book store.

More positively, we will try to bring together the
material we distribute during our common activities.
Now, to find anarchist “literature” in Montreal,
people will go where the anarchists are! A big step in
the right direction.

Keep an eye out for newspaper launchings, public
conferences, etc.; the presence of our kiosk will be
collectively ensured by the groups and individuals who
have signed this declaration. This kiosk may be the
seed of a future bookstore worthy of our ideas.

Long live Anarchy!

email: diffuseurslibertaires@yahoo.ca

We support this joint declaration:

Journal Le Trouble, letrouble@yahoo.fr

La mauvaise herbe eco-anarchist zine

Journal La Fronde/ Association Syndicale Étudiante

La Sociale / Centre de diffusion libertaire

Bête Noire Anarchist Group, local member of NEFAC

Maikan Distribution sablonneuse@hotmail.com

Mailing address:

Anarchist Distributors
c/o P.O. Box 266 Station C
Montreal, Québec
Canada, H2L 4K1


Anarchist Kiosk
November 22, 2003
from noon to 6 p.m.
2035 St-Denis

The above groups will be doing distribution tables.
Books, magazines, pamphlets, anarchist newspapers.
The only place in Montreal to get these texts.

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