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(en) Canada, More on the book store scandal - The Anarchist Distributors' Coalition responce to the Collective of Alternative Bookshop of Montreal

From Worker <a-infos-en@ainfos.ca>
Date Sun, 25 Jan 2004 08:28:24 +0100 (CET)


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MONTREAL—Following our joint declaration of the anarchist
distributors of Montreal (October 30, 2003), in which we denounced
the categorical refusal by Alternative Bookshop of our initiatives to
resolve the current crisis, the collective of this bookshop made one
of its rare public statements to give its point of view on the situation.
With a view to contributing to the debate and to clarify certain details
that we consider important, we wish to go over a few points that they raise.
FALSIFIED REGULATIONS Before we begin to criticize the text
they wrote in reply to ours, we point out from the start that we have
made some outrageous discoveries concerning the bylaws (rules)
as they were presented to us by our opponents during the last
assembly (the one on August 5th, which 80 people attended). Let
us recall that certain amendments to the bylaws prevented us,
according to the current administrators' claims, from becoming full
members. These regulations were never adopted in accordance with
the proper procedures of the AEELI. This deception was revealed
to us by consulting the old meeting minutes. No trace of the
existence of these regulations were found, yet we examined all the
documents that might have referred to them. We therefore conclude
that a clique wasted our time and manipulated us with procedural
red tape that turned out to be a fraud.

A TONED-DOWN FRENCH VERSION Let us return to our
observations on the text by Alternative collective. To start with, we
note that there are significant differences between the English and
French versions of their reply. [the following sentence applies to
the original French version of this response] Inside the quotations
that we have taken from their text we have added here (in
brackets) the words and sentences that are different in the English
version.

THE CONFLICT BEGAN WELL AFTER THE ORIGINS They
write that: "The AEELI (Association d'Espece d'Espace Libre et
Imaginaire) the collective that owns and maintains the building) has
been badly split for ideological reasons since its origin." The
founding of the AEELI in 1982 precedes by six years the entry of
certain members of the Café Commune. It was these people who
formed the faction that currently controls the board. The founding
members – to every one's satisfaction – avoided having
problems with the anarchist community. They had no grievances
with the bookshop or with each other, until at least 1989. So the
conflict doesn’t go back to the origins. Having said this, we
conclude that certain individuals have a considerable interest in
putting forward falsehoods that simplify things and prevent a clear
understanding of the basis of the present conflict. Let us also point
out that the AEELI has not been a “collective” for years,
but instead a corporation controlled by a clique.

THE WILL TO EXCLUDE THE MAJORITY They say that
"During this time the day-to-day business of running the AEELI
(dealing with rent paying tenants, paying the bills, renovating and
repairing this old building) has been carried out by the two AEELI
members in the bookshop collective, not by choice or in some
attempt to "privatize" the building, but because the rest of the
AEELI either never responded to calls for general assemblies, or
actively boycotted anything to do with the functioning of the
AEELI."

In response to the attempt in 1995 to exclude from the AEELI the
anarchists and founders who were no longer active in the bookshop
(by means of a mysterious anonymous financier and a proposal to
sell the building to the bookshop collective) and specifically since
the last election of the board in March 1997, relations between the
two factions became acrimonious to the point where the faction
that controls the board found it to their advantage to call meetings
in such a way as to favour their presence, and also to give the
shortest notice to their opponents, who were the majority. There
were complaints by members who wanted to receive earlier notice
of meetings, but the board remained inflexible on this point. If some
members didn’t follow up on convocation letters received three
days before the meeting date, it was because they understood that
it was about more scheming. In other cases, the convocation at
issue was never sent or received. Furthermore, in the last two
years, it has been the excluded who demanded that an assembly be
held and that information about the management and finances be
shared! We therefore conclude that the minority that controls the
AEELI wanted instead to exclude their opponents by endless
procedural means from “anything to do with the functioning of
the AEELI."

OUR JOINT PROPOSAL MISREPRESENTED Despite that we
sent them by e-mail the proposal that the distributors presented at
the big, tumultuous assembly of August 5th, and despite that we
had written – on two occasions – that the other analytical
text was not a proposal, the people from the bookshop have chosen
to call it “the La Sociale proposal”. Are they targeting the
La Sociale group as so-called ringleaders when they say that they
“would have to work under bosses”? We don’t consider
that several groups working together as equals amounts to having a
boss.

A CLOSED INSTEAD OF AUTONOMOUS PROJECT The
distributors’ proposal would have permitted the participation of
several groups and would have integrated them in the management
of this common resource for anarchist distribution. This threatened
to break the autarky and isolation of the members of the current
collective of the bookshop. When they talk to us about their
sacrosanct autonomy, we know it’s a smokescreen hiding their
wish to consolidate their institutional and minority control over this
common resource. These are people who publicly brandish their
precious “autonomy” but among friends speak instead of a
“closed project”!

A HIGH TURNOVER IN MEMBERSHIP The bookshop people
write that “Due to the fluid nature of the membership at the
bookshop, few current members were even around when incidents
leading up to the present conflict occurred”. What does the
“fluid nature of the membership” mean? Why do people join
and leave the bookshop collective? And who are these “few
current members” who were present during these
“incidents”? What were these incidents? Though they mince
words, they refer implicitly to the two individuals who took control
of the board.

CLOSED TO THE ANARCHIST MILIEU “But we also reserve
the right to reject individuals based on their personal practices and
whether or not they would work well with our current collective,
even if they are anarchists. We are an autonomous collective...”
These criteria for the selection of members, which come out of
political correctness and opportunism (how can one know if a
person will "work well” with the current collective?) are unique
in the Montreal anarchist milieu. These selection criteria are not
even precise or officially available, which leaves room for
arbitrariness. In passing, let us mention the bureaucratic slowness
and the multiple steps spread out over several months for anyone
who wants to become a member of the collective.

FINANCIAL PROBLEMS MAKE REPAYMENT DIFFICULT The
collective assumes too much about our intentions when it says:
“The whole fiasco has scarcely been about dialogue. It is about
power. The bookshop is finally functioning better. The mortgage is a
couple years away from being paid off. Some members of the
AEELI are owed money by the AEELI and likely want to ensure
that their investment will be paid off.” The people from the
bookshop could have asked the dissident members if they wanted
to be repaid. In actual fact, no one is in a hurry to be repaid. If
bookshop members made the effort to get their information from
other sources than their two long-standing members, they would
understand that the truth often contradicts what they claim.

ALTERNATIVE REFUSES TO WORK WITH US The bookshop
collective proclaims: “In addition, there was hardly any attempt
at dialogue with the bookshop before we were presented with a
take-it-or-leave-it proposal ” One of the individuals who
controls the board came to one of our meetings, but he was
unwilling to discuss anything with us. After having stated that he
had worked for several years on the building and that the building
belonged to him, he left the meeting. On July 20, 2003, four
bookshop members came to a meeting of the AEELI and the
distributors not to enter into dialogue with us, but instead to inform
us when the two absent board members were available to meet.
What’s more, La Sociale’s analysis was shared with the
bookshop before August 5th. Curiously, the collective distorts and
detourns the intention of that analysis text, saying that we
presented it with “take-it-or-leave-it proposal”; yet the La
Sociale text emphasized that: “we insist on the fact that these
are not proposals to take or leave, but ways to get out of a
crisis.”

ALTERNATIVE DOES NOT WANT TO RECOGNIZE OUR
INVOLVEMENT In the same paragraph we read: “...which
would have involved the wholesale reorganization of our project and
would have placed the bookshop in the hands of a group of people
with no previous involvement with the bookshop. Our fundamental
autonomy...” This is false: a good number of people in our
distributors’ coalition have already worked in the bookshop.
Here again, the collective is poorly informed.

THEY ALONE WILL DECIDE? In their response, the bookshop
members explain that “This whole dispute is a perfect example
of the problems inherent in opening up the control of the building to
the entire anarchist community.” And further on: “We
genuinely regret the failure to develop a better-connected bookshop.
We have the double aim of supporting a burgeoning anarchist
movement and also spreading anarchist ideas...”. Here are
examples of the condescension and centralization of our means that
we are fighting. Their attitude implies that if there are “problems
inherent in opening up the control”, they alone get to decide.

WATERED-DOWN ANARCHY IS LESS OFFENSIVE TO THE
COMMUNITY-GROUP LEFT To justify the poor selection of
anarchist books and their substitution by leftist texts that are
dubious to say the least, they reply that: "We also reject the idea of
a bookshop that has only a strict selection of capital A anarchist
literature, as we believe anarchism should be brought beyond the
confines of a narrow anarchist milieu, and to do that we need
literature that would speak to people involved in a range of different
struggles and movements." Their selection of basic anarchist
periodicals and books is inadequate. We do not understand how
books on cannabis, humanist social-democratic magazines, texts on
the Front de Libération du Québec, the Red Brigades or the
Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine will contribute to a
better understanding of anarchism. On the contrary, we see in this
an unhealthy ideological drift in which non-anarchists are drawn to
get more involved there.

After having rejected our proposals, the collective makes no
concrete proposals. We also note that in this response the
bookshop collective does not question its majority control of the
building. We consider that this is a central issue in achieving the
openness that we are asking for, especially considering that the
bookshop has never occupied more than one of the three floors in
the building. If "opinions diverge even within the bookshop
collective" on the way to resolve the conflict, we especially see a
state of collapse that currently prevails there. Regardless of the
internal dissension within the bookshop, we hope they will
contribute to accomplishing the big changes necessary in order to
breath new life into anarchist distribution in Montreal. We still
propose openness, sharing, and the broad-based management of the
project by the various tendencies of anarchist distributors.

We propose that any attempt to institutionalize the legal domination
of one clique of individuals coming from one project be ruled out.
We still consider it reasonable for all long standing members
involved in the old quarrels to resign so as to make way for
anarchists involved in distribution. We also propose that the
bookshop publicly reaffirm its original aim, as stated in its
principles, that Alternative Bookshop be an anarchist bookshop, no
more, no less.

Long live anarchist distribution!

To receive the texts we refer to in this response, send an e-mail to
diffuseurslibertaires@yahoo.ca or to any group that is a member of
this coalition.

We support this response :

Journal Le Trouble, letrouble@yahoo.fr

La Mauvaise Herbe, eco-anarchist zine mauvaiseherbe@altern.org

Journal La Fronde/ Association Syndicale Étudiante
lafronde@altern.org

La Sociale / Centre de diffusion libertaire asociale@colba.net

Groupe Anarchiste Bête Noire / NEFAC Montréal
mtl@nefac.net

Diffusion Maikan sablonneuse@hotmail.com

Groupe Communiste Libertaire

Mouvement de l'imaginaire autonome (MIA)

Postal address:

Anarchist Distributors c/o P.O. Box.266, Station "C", Montreal,
Quebec Canada H2L 4K1
-----------------------
Copy from infoshop.org


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