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Indybay FeatureRelated Categories: San Francisco | Global Justice and Anti-Capitalism
Cash for Anarchy, Anarchy for Cash
After participating in every Book Fair since its inception, we are walking away from it and all it (mis)represents.
CASH FOR ANARCHY, ANARCHY FOR CASH
After participating in every Book Fair since its inception, we are walking away from it and all it (mis)represents. With others, we have helped set up locations for a practical alternative to the capitalist bullying and centralization of a PM Press troika (the only three people left with the bureaucratic stamina to continue organizing the Book Fair), who have hidden their dominant economic affiliation behind a façade of credibility as members of the Bound Together Bookstore collective. Though the trend began earlier, it's now abundantly transparent that the misnamed Bay Area Anarchist Book Fair is a PM Press event, having little to do with the diversity of anarchist theory and practice -- not least because PM Press is not an anarchist project. The vast majority of the featured speakers at past Book Fairs (and this year is no exception) are not coincidentally in the PM stable, the better to hawk their titles. And the few actual anarchists on the roster tend to offer, shall we say, a rather narrow and often tepid understanding of anarchism. If the speakers aren't anarchists, who is PM's target audience?
There has been a very public outcry (and at least one very public defection) due to this year's location; The Armory is owned by Kink.com, a business dealing exclusively in sexual exploitation. In response, the PM Press organizers asked critics to understand that there just weren't any other places in San Francisco or the East Bay large enough to lure the expected number of people. The organizers seem not to be particularly interested in the consequences of their unilateral actions inside the community they still pretend to be a part of.
The drive to expel those who can't (or won't) pay for the privilege of setting up material inside the PM Press-controlled premises is now complete; there is no space outside the venue for the people who've drifted into San Francisco to give away, trade, or make a few bucks from filched photocopying and handcrafted trinkets. The flavor of the Book Fair will suffer irreparably in their absence. The PM organizers proudly offer a lower two-day rent for vendors while eliminating a one-day option. Vendors may show up for one day of course, so long as they pay the full fee. The combined message sent by the apparent lack of concern with the provocative location and with what others are forced to invest is that the organizers' profits trump all other considerations. While the self-contained commercial logic is impeccable, it seems just a little hypocritical for an allegedly anarchist event.
Despite the fact that PM Press is not an anarchist publisher, its owners still attempt to dictate the limits of Anglophone anti-capitalist literacy. The PM worker-owners (as distinct from their corvée "volunteers") use their economic power to leverage influence and control over the public face, and terms, of anarchist discourse. They have a commercial circuit of authors and commodities, like the clearly non-anarchist Retort, with whom they are in close collaboration. Retort is, in their own words, a "collective" of around 40 "antinomians" who contend they are against "capital and empire." In actuality, Retort is a Popular Front led by professors from prestigious universities and is mostly comprised of their own graduate students, with a smattering of directors of foundations and non-profits, businessmen, trustafarians, and the co-founder of the Trotskyist ISO. While they also count authentic (former) members of the Situationist International among their ranks, those members long ago parlayed their revolutionary street cred into tenure and pensions. Even without their coziness with Retort's execrable crew, PM is doing its best to keep the last decomposing vestiges of the (New) Left (wing of capitalism) alive, with all the dearth of relevance that entails.
Practicing anti-statists have always known that autonomy defeats centralization and the hierarchies that come along with it. Autonomous events have been organized in the Mission on March 16 as a response to the virtual stranglehold PM Press has on what began as a less commercial and more social event (and we offer no excuses for our previous reluctance to counter it with anything more than grumbling). Unlike the stakeholders of PM, we wish to increase the exposure of diverse anarchist, anti-authoritarian, and anti-capitalist voices and ideas, thereby bolstering a general level of radical engagement. Our target demographic is anyone; not just people with fat wallets, not just middle-class parents of rebellious adolescents, not just academics looking to poach material for their plagiaristic adventures in Radicalistan. We want our ideas to be examined by the curious and the committed, and in ways that are both personal and portable.
antibloc2012 [at] gmail.com
Coalescing in the opening stages of Occupy Oakland, the Anti-Bureaucratic Bloc is an ad hoc cluster of anarchist and anti-state communist individuals and affinity groups who have come together in an effort to counter the incipient growth of self-selected cadres of professional activists and others with managerial aspirations.