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(en) Canada, Montreal, In Response To "Things Have Changed" by Nicolas Robertson

From Worker <a-infos-en@ainfos.ca>
Date Wed, 3 Mar 2004 22:43:36 +0100 (CET)

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On February 9th, 2004, The McGill Daily ran a story, called
«Things have changed», about Montreal's Alternative
Bookshop. Adam Kaufman interviewed Bookshop collective
members about problems they had been having recently with
other anarchist groups. As a member of Groupe anarchiste (1)
Bęte Noire, now called Groupe anarchiste La Commune, a local
member of the Northeastern Federation of Anarcho-Communists
(NEFAC), I would like to respond to inaccuracies published about
us and to comment about our relationship with the Bookshop.

Kaufman states that «...a number of anarchist groups in
Montreal, like Groupe anarchiste Bęte Noire/NEFAC Montreal
(which runs the occasional book Kiosk at Café Chaos on St.
Denis Street) have started boycotting the Alternative Bookshop.»
Both elements of this statement are inaccurate.

The Anarchist Kiosk at Café Chaos is the joint effort of several
local distributors of anarchist literature, including Maikan
distribution, La Sociale, Groupe communiste libertaire, Journal
LeTrouble, La Mauvaise Herbe, NEFAC-Mtl and others. To
assert that we run the Kiosk alone is to ignore the mission of the
new Distributors Coalition. Contrary to current practices at the
Alternative Bookshop, our goal is to popularize anarchist thought
through as broad a representation from the movement as possible,
taking advantage of the strong potential for mass public appeal for
ideas from different anarchist tendencies. Gathering to promote
these ideas in a social, public event is a concrete counteraction to
the Bookshop's self-imposed isolation. It seemed obvious to us
that if Distributors Coalition supporters wanted to encourage our
new effort by making purchases from us, they would choose not
to shop at the Bookshop. However, in no way has a boycott
against the Bookshop become a public campaign of NEFAC-Mtl
or of any other single group from the Coalition.

We had long found it unacceptable that the only public space in
Montreal where anarchist literature was widely available was
dominated by a single collective with a stranglehold grasp ona
common resource. We sought to change this. But, in an assembly
last August of the AEELI (the non-profit that runs the building in
which the Bookshop is located), Bookshop members blocked a
proposal to share organizational responsibilities on an equal basis
with participating distributors. Afterwards, we in NEFAC-Mtl
made a decision to pull our literature (2) from the Bookshop's
shelves. We will continue to withhold our literature unless all of
Montreal's anarchists are allowed to participate in this important
undertaking as partners and comrades. A committee made up of
delegates from different groups, running the building as well as
the Bookshop, would make it a much more vibrant and efficiently
run space than is currently the case.

It was gratifying to read Moishe's acknowledgment in print that
«French litterature is lacking in the store». But this remark is
inconsistent with the Bookshop's unfortunate past practices
against the wider distribution of anarchist literature in French,
given that Moishe himself and other collective members have
rejected many French-speaking member applicants who would
have been the most knowledgeable and skilled in selecting and
providing these materials. Furthermore, in light of Moishe's
statement, the Bookshop's widely known bias against
NEFAC-Mtl and other (mainly) French-speaking anarchist
groups as invaders of 'their' collective space now seems
contradictory if not hypocritical.

But the most distressing part of «Things have changed» is the
end, in which Aaron Lakoff describes a divide between so-called
«capital-A» anarchists and «little-a» anarchists, placing
NEFAC in his category of «capital-A» anarchists. NEFAC,
probably the most explicitly anarchist organization in our region,
has, in Lakoff's opinion, a «rather dogmatic, by the book, purist
ideology». This is opposed to the «little-a» anarchists who,
as far as he understands, do not reject national liberation struggles
and are involved in anti-racist politics. Lakoff suggests that
«little-a» anarchists are the only ones aligning themselves with
social justice struggles.

It seems silly to do so but perhaps we should inform Lakoff that
the last issue of NEFAC's English language publication on the
Bookshop's shelves (The Northeastern Anarchist, Summer/Fall
2003) was entirely dedicated to exploring the intersections of race
and class struggles, with a focus on our organizational strategy of
building a militant working class movement that is cross-race and
gender equal. Furthermore, NEFAC-Mtl has steadily supported
strikes (Vidéotron, Old Port, Labatt); has been involved with
solidarity groups for non-status immigrants and refugees; has
fought, ideologically and physically, the racist Mouvement de
Liberation Nationale du Quebec (MLNQ); has distributed
thousands of leaflets against the war in Iraq in mass marches; and
has recently made an effort to create an anti-authoritarian pole in
the struggles against the Charest government. Lakoff's assertions
against our group are either intentionally dishonest, purely
speculative, or further illustration of the Bookshop's isolation from
the very social struggles its members recognize as significant.

We in NEFAC-Mtl would agree with Moishe, who wants «(...)
the building [to] be a meeting place for all those involved in social
struggles». We hope that the building on St. Laurent near
Ontario will one day become this. We are willing to work with
anyone who will treat comrades fairly. At this point, it is simply
sad to note that the Bookshop takes more pains to discredit
anarchists than it does to promote anarchist ideas.

Nicolas Robertson
Groupe anarchiste La Commune/NEFAC-Mtl

(1) There is no pun intended here : Groupe anarchiste is
gramatically correct in french with a «little-a» in french as
anarchiste is the adjective to the noun Groupe.
(2) Our magazines, Ruptures (french), the Northeastern Anarchist
(english) and many other publications from anarcho-communists
organizations abroad.

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