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(en) US, California: Open Letter to Bound Together Books from BASTARD

Date Thu, 14 Dec 2006 11:59:00 +0200

We are writing to you as the Berkeley Anarchist Students of Theory And Research & Development. We hold an anarchist theory conference (The BASTARD conference) on the day after the anarchist book fair. Many of us also participate in a public anarchist study group every week at the Long Haul in Berkeley. All of us have been, at one time or another, customers, friends, or collective members of Bound Together Books. We are also members of the larger anarchist community in the Bay Area that includes you.
We were surprised to hear about your decision to change the book fair into a two-day event, since scheduling two sizable anarchist events at the same time seems inadvisable at best and destructive at worst. The fact that this decision was made without any conversation or input from other groups that are affected by it or from any organizers of other two-day book fairs, is evidence of a lack of concern for a larger anarchist cohesion or eco-system.
We believe that in the midst of all the work we do that can pull us in different directions, there is a real need for us to sit down every once in a while to talk to each other, and to challenge our assumptions and preconceptions. In the interest of these conversations, every year we publicly announce our conference, soliciting workshop proposals from the larger anarchist scene, both in the Bay Area and regionally. The vast majority of workshop proposals are accepted.

This coming year will be our seventh annual conference.

Your desire to expand the book fair is understandable as an economic tactic. We understand that adding a day and having different vendors for the second day might increase the number of people who attend. But there is a deeper question involved: Do we want to uncritically embrace the development of anarchist shop keepers at the expense of other aspects of anarchist activity?

Moreover, you did not communicate the idea of the book fair as a two-day event before you rented the hall and decided that you were going to do it. The minimum expression of solidarity and consideration would have included informing people of the reasons and conversations surrounding this decision, and perhaps asking for written suggestions either on what to do, or on how to do it in the best possible way. We all want to see the anarchist book fair be a successful, sustainable effort. This unilateral process that has shut people out is not a positive step in that direction.
Of course we have a few options in response to your change (moving the conference closer to the book fair, having it on another day, approaching you to combine efforts on the second day), and have considered each of them carefully, but none are feasible. While there are a variety of reasons why these options wouldn’t work, certainly one of those reasons is Bound Together’s apparent lack of interest in working with anyone else around this issue.

Furthermore, the form that you sent out to tablers make two demands that unquestionably do not reflect anarchist solidarity or even principles. One, you insist that all tablers pay for two days. Two, you require all vendors to table for both days (and make them sign a form agreeing to both demands), which explicitly contradicts the argument that you have too many vendors for a one-day fair and so are forced to go to two days, or that you are trying to broaden the scope of the vendors to appeal to more people.

This affects us most directly in two ways: One, many members of the BASTARD organizing group are also vendors at the book fair. Two, vendors are frequently among the presenters at our conference. This makes sense, since people who are committed to anarchist projects are often committed to both literary projects and to discussing ideas.

What we request:

One, you publicly explain your rationale for expanding the book fair to two days. Your recent announcement that there is “so much to do and see” is not a valid reason. .

Two, you explain why you made this decision without transparency, specifically not communicating to other groups that put on events over the weekend.

Three, you make it clear, and public, that vendors can table for one day only without any negative consequences and at the $50 price.

Organizing diverse anarchist events is a service to ourselves and our beliefs. In this way, both the book fair and the annual anarchist theory conference are services to the community. In the words of a BT collective member:

"I am glad to see that the Book Fair has spun off so many other events. That was our hope from the get-go. It started as a one day affair. Then came the cafe the night before. Then came the BASTARD Conference. Now there's a week plus of events. A month would be nice, but remember, the real goal is a year. There's precious d*mn little that goes on all year. Long Haul and Bound Together come to mind. There are a few others, but not nearly enough. We need to build the infrastructure of an enduring culture a lot more than we need more holidays. That's my opinion. Take it or leave it."
- Nessie (http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2006/03/01/18055051.php?show_comments=1)
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