Our stall at the London Anarchist Bookfair last October
Anarchism is a broad church stretching from those of us focusing on community activism and class struggle politics all the way over to those who focus on various aspects of identity politics. Anarchist bookfairs are one of the occasions where the various strands of anarchism are together under one roof for a day. Which is good for anyone new to anarchism and who wants to find a form of activism that suits their outlook and temperament. They’re also a good opportunity for the varying strands of anarchism to discuss and debate with each other about their differing approaches and outlooks. We would hope that after a few recent blips, that tradition of open and honest debate can continue in 2018.
In the absence of the London Anarchist Bookfair this year, we’re doing our level best to get out and about to other bookfairs. We have got stalls booked at the Bristol Anarchist Bookfair on Saturday May 12th and also at the Dorset Radical Bookfair on Saturday 4th August. In addition to this, we’ll also be at the London Radical Bookfair on Saturday 2nd June handing out our papers. Obviously we’d like to be doing more than this but the costs of travelling and other commitments put constraints on what we can do.
The papers, flyers and mini display we’ll be having on our stall are very much focused on the community activism we do under the banner of the Essex Social Strategic Alliance which is us, Basildon & Southend Housing Action and a number of local, resident led community groups. It’s our belief that if a successful movement for radical change is going to be built, there has to be a base at the grassroots in our neighbourhoods. Our community activism is focused on facilitating residents to improves conditions on their estates and in their neighbourhoods and in the process of doing so, empower and slowly radicalise them so they become more ambitious in their demands. It also has to be said that once we hit a certain level of activity and recognition on an estate, it makes it a lot harder for elements of the far right to muscle in and try to get a foothold.
We’re not going to these bookfairs saying that our approach is the only way and that everyone else is wrong – that would be an arrogant and counter-productive approach leading to unnecessary rows and divisions. All we’re saying is that there needs to be a base on the estates and in the neighbourhoods to support all the other forms of activity and action that make up anarchist practice. We recognise the need for a creative diversity of tactics taking into account the circumstances prevailing at the time to get the message across. However, there should be an ongoing discussion about which tactics are effective and which need some serious re-thinking.
We admit that we have in the past expressed views about certain strands of identity politics and that we have ruffled a few feathers in the process. We would like to remind people that for the moment, we’ve withdrawn from what in our view was becoming a toxic and divisive row to focus on what we do with our community activism and class struggle politics: There have been some changes on this blog. It’s not our intention to get dragged back into that row when we’re out and about at the bookfairs this year – life’s too short for that! Having said this, there is room for a respectful, nuanced debate within anarchism about the balance between class struggle politics on the one hand and identity politics on the other.
So that’s it, we’ve set out our stall for how we intend to approach our presence at various bookfairs this year. We’re looking forward to talking to people about our approach and an interesting cross fertilisation of ideas with those taking a different approach.