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(en) US, Minesota-St Paul Twin Cities Anarchis Bookfair 11-12 September 2010 - UPDATE

Date Wed, 08 Sep 2010 17:22:40 +0300

Building off long-standing successes like the 16-year-old Bay Area Anarchist Bookfair, new anarchist bookfairs have appeared in cities worldwide in recent years. And this coming weekend, the Twin Cities hosts one of its very own at the Powderhorn Park Recreation Center. ---- On Saturday, September 11, featured speakers at the fair will include Cindy Milstein, author of the new AK Press title Anarchism and its Aspirations, and Diana Block, prison abolitionist, feminist and author of the memoir Arm the SpiritâA Woman's Journey Underground and Back. Workshops will be led by groups including the Experimental College, Twin Cities Avengers and Twin Cities Indymedia, and participants are coming from as far away as the Beehive Design Collective in Maine, Oakland-based PM Press and Edmonton's ThoughtCrime Ink; regional groups like the Cream City Collectives and Wisconsin Books to Prisoners; and a slew of local organizations and individual mediamakers.

In the interview below, two Twin Cities Anarchist Bookfair organizers talk about the purpose of the fair, what anarchists and non-anarchists will find, and the state of anarchism in the Twin Cities.

Bookfair hours are Noon-6pm on Saturday and 2:30-8pm on Sunday. All events, as you might expect, are free.

TCIMC: There's never a shortage of radical projects to be done, and if you ask someone what's most needed for the resistance, a bookfair probably won't be the answer. So why take this project on?

My first exposure to radical ideas came from books. Even before I met any anarchists in the Twin Cities - and there are plenty of them, I just never knew where to look â I considered myself one of those fiery, off the hook radicals after reading famous authors like Emma Goldman, Howard Zinn, bell hooks and Frantz Fanon, to name a few. Without access to the ideas that these authors put into bound form, I would have never been able to critically develop the opinions I have today. Books are one of the more accessible mental waterways into developing radical movements â without them we would have a much harder time reevaluating our tactics around organizing, communicating across backgrounds and developing new ways of thinking about how we are going to help strengthen our communities of resistance.

It's true, there's a lot of exciting projects going on right now, and there's always tons of stuff that needs doing. One thing that really attracted me to the bookfair idea is that it presents an opportunity to connect many of these great projects together. Anarchists and radicals from all over will be coming together in an explicitly anarchist space to share ideas, trade skills, talk about their projects, and have fun with one another. It's so exciting and inspiring to be in a space like that, especially when it's an not a mass protest or summit where we'd have to look over our shoulders for riot cops all the time.

The other thing that I like about bookfairs is that they're a fantastic way to do outreach. Folks can meet self-identified anarchists and talk with us about our ideas. A bookfair provides an opportunity for people interested in what we have to say to hear it straight from us, rather than in a distorted form coming from media talking heads.

TCIMC: What will those people who don't identify as anarchists get out of the bookfair? I even noticed on your list of participants a few groups that aren't explicitly anarchist - why is that?

We decided early on that we wanted this to be an explicitly anarchist bookfair - not with watered down wording like "progressive." However, we also agreed that groups that didn't self-identify as anarchist would still be welcome, provided they agree with the principal aims and values of anarchism. So we have groups like Veterans For Peace or the TC Avengers, who don't really call themselves anarchists, but have so much to bring to the discussion.

I think many anarchists in the Twin Cities understand that being able to organize under an anarchist
banner is an act of privilege for many, and that it's more important to recognize the similarities between other radical projects and ourselves â like a commitment to non-hierarchical processes â than to organize only with anarchists. There are a lot of really amazing distributors, publishers, and groups who are participating in the bookfair that don't label themselves as getting down with the anarchy. Yet, they exhibit many ideals that anarchism subscribes to and for that, I think it's important to include them in this event. I think people from all different personal, economic and political backgrounds will find something to take away from the bookfair, and hey, we (the self-described anarchists) will probably learn a thing or two ourselves.

The label "anarchist" isn't the most important thing anyway. I don't want to recruit people to "follow anarchism" or evangelize for the "anarchist movement." That's vanguardism and it goes against every anti-authoritarian impulse I have. I want to expose people to anarchist ideas and methods and, more importantly, encourage them to develop ideas and methods of their own. That's what separates anarchism from every other revolutionary political tendency, in my opinion. You can't come up with a program for liberation or try to convert people to an ideology and call that liberatory. I don't want to get people to sign up for my project, I want them to start their own project.

TCIMC: What makes an anarchist bookfair different than any other bookfair?

I think something that stands out at an anarchist bookfair is the commitment to anti-oppression,
anti-authoritarianism and putting our words into action. I don't necessarily think of this event just as a bookfair â but a place where anarchists and non-anarchists alike can come together to share ideas,
write their own stories, participate in workshops and skill shares, and hopefully put words and conversations into direct action against the structures and systems of power that we are all fighting against.

It's the difference between capitalist and anarchist values, really. At any other bookfair, attendees are customers who pay to get in and are expected to buy something once inside. The vendors and speakers have the knowledge and the attendees are paying to get a small chunk of it. We completely reject that model for a bookfair and for society at large. The anarchist bookfair is free. We want attendees to be participants and workshop facilitators and learn as much as they teach. And we'll be in a park, so there'll be ample space for anyone to organize their own guerrilla workshop.

And as far as books go, you'll find many out of print books and hard to locate radical publications at the bookfair that aren't usually available in the Twin Cities.

TCIMC: The radical publishing world--just like much of the rest of the culture we live in--is a lot more accessible to people who find themselves in the mainstream rather than the margin of gender, class, sexuality, ability, race and other social categories. Will the bookfair counteract this and if so, how?

You're absolutely right. Access to information (whether it's a question of who gets books published, who can buy books, or who can access the internet) is a major tool of oppression and must be a focus for any liberatory movement.

One thing I particularly like about anarchists is the acceptance of zines and other DIY forms of communication. More than any other bookfair, this will be a place where anyone with an opinion and a copy machine can get their ideas out to a large audience. We're very lucky to have some wonderful distributors attending (like AK Press, PM Press, and Little Black Cart) but I'm even more excited to read the random zines from the free table.

It's our desire to make this space more accessible to people outside of the mainstream. We want to provide a space that's rooted in anti-oppression â to acknowledge that oppression lives in and amongst us â so as to challenge the normal behaviors of racism, classism, and sexism. We want to create a space that allows for folks who haven't necessarily been exposed to radical politics, or folks who have felt uncomfortable prior, to come and communicate new and rebellious ideas across race, class, gender, ability and age lines.

We also want to provide a place where folks can eat free food and receive free child care while they peruse through different books, whilst being able to buy, trade, barter or get for free different forms of the written word â books, short stories, zines, essays, magazines and more.

TCIMC: How would you describe the state of the anarchist movement, or the resistance as a whole for that matter, in the Twin Cities? I think there is a perception of it being largely reactive or defensive in nature â is that true?

Since the RNC in 2008, we've had quite a lot of shit to deal with. However, in the last six months or so, I've noticed a subtle but significant shift in mood. We're beginning to move out of "post-RNC" mode and all of its attendant headaches. New projects are growing from the ashes of old ones and there seems to be a greater enthusiasm for trying to build again.

Instead of reacting, as you said, to what the State is doing and struggling to maintain our present strength and not go under, we're finally able to start thinking about building momentum and creating something new again. MARS (Minneapolis Autonomous Radical Space), Boneshaker Books, the Twin Cities IWW and the new Jimmy John's Union, the Really Really Free Markets - these are all fantastic examples of this energy that's been building for quite a while now. I'm sure there are lots more unbelievably awesome things going on out there completely unbeknownst to me, as well.

I think it goes without saying that a lot of anarchist organizing here has been swallowed up by fighting the (in)justice system against ridiculous legal charges related to the RNC, which I should note has been an amazing and admirable campaign. However, I also think it's important to remember that the presence of anarchism in the Twin Cities doesn't always mean dressing up in a suit and going to court, it also means acting on the offense, building our movement and strengthening the bonds we already have.

Hopefully, after the bookfair, anarchists in the Twin Cities will be inspired to organize on the other side of the field.

Where will this take us? I have no idea. I can only hope that this bookfair will be energy well spent, that it will inspire us and give us strength. Hopefully, the experience of looking around and seeing a room full of incredible people passionately engaged in projects of liberation and mutual aid will be so fucking energizing that a dozen new projects will spring up the next day. Not too much to ask, right?

Find more information on the Twin Cities Anarchist Bookfair at http://tcanarchist.wordpress.com.
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