Transphobia at the London Anarchist Bookfair 2017

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comrade_emma
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Oct 31 2017 20:46

I think it's great that libcom is shutting down transphobia but I'm surprised how many jumped to the defense of transphobia with arguments like "freedom of expression".

RobberBurns88
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Oct 31 2017 23:15

https://twitter.com/mayday4women/status/925337005894008832

TERFS called the cops.

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Nov 1 2017 10:01

Totally agree - they'll be allowing alt-right stalls at the bookfair next... *slaps forehead at how banal the freedom of expression argument has become*

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Nov 1 2017 10:10

Fleur, you are a total comrade!

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Nov 1 2017 10:18
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A Green Party parliamentary candidate attended as part of the anti-trans group and tweeted about it afterwards.

Do you happen to know which one? It appears the Green Party have a bit of a problem with transphobia.

Mike Harman
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Nov 1 2017 10:52

It's linked from earlier in the thread, but this was the original tweet: https://twitter.com/Olivia4Hersham/status/924291184553537536

Spikymike
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Nov 1 2017 11:20

In regards to post no 210 I trust that the people and organisations ''demanding'' a long (if mostly reasonable) list upon the current London book fair organisers are prepared themselves to put up the necessary additional time, effort and money to ensure those demands can be practically put into effect. I would also hope that the justifiable opposition to the kind of aggressive TERF propaganda and activity referred to on this thread doesn't lesson any of the otherwise useful critical analysis and open discussion (as on this site) of much of the liberal and reformist LGBT politics found elsewhere.

Mike Harman
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Nov 1 2017 12:08
SpikeyMike wrote:
In regards to post no 210 I trust that the people and organisations ''demanding'' a long (if mostly reasonable) list upon the current London book fair organisers are prepared themselves to put up the necessary additional time, effort and money to ensure those demands can be practically put into effect.

I very much doubt anyone is going to commit to that unless they at least do the following two first:

A clear statement outlining the politics the LABF is committed to, what kinds of behaviour and views are unacceptable and unwelcome at the Bookfair, and what action will be taken by organisers if these boundaries of acceptable behaviour are ignored by attendees or speakers.

A clear statement of political values that reflect the above boundaries and that speakers, those hosting meetings, and those with stalls must clearly commit to in order to be able to participate.

Without that, say they booked more trans speakers next year, there's absolutely no guarantee that TERFs wouldn't organise to storm the talks or leaflet outside them, and then the speakers expected to 'debate' with them by bookfair organisers in a re-run of this year. Someone offering to help get more trans speakers without the first commitment being fulfilled would then not only have put in work in on their own time, but then be to some extent responsible for the harassment of the person they helped put in that position (since they'd booked them without a commitment to safety on the part of event organisers). It doesn't mean TERFs might not try, but making it very clear they're unwelcome at the event altogether could both put them off and help shape the general response to their presence a bit more.

We just banned two users for transphobic comments on this site, but reading back over the thread, it would have been better if we'd banned and deleted a lot quicker than we did. Trans comrades would be rightly upset at reading that shit (some of which is still there in quoted comments), but inviting them to moderate the forums without taking action first would be an invitation to deal with more shit, and potentially invite further attacks on them ('mens rights activists on libcom censoring feminists' or whatever else TERFs could come up with).

SpikeyMike wrote:
I would also hope that the justifiable opposition to the kind of aggressive TERF propaganda and activity referred to on this thread doesn't lesson any of the otherwise useful critical analysis and open discussion (as on this site) of much of the liberal and reformist LGBT politics found elsewhere.

It's important to note that a lot of times people dismiss stuff as 'liberal identity politics' it's not accurate, see Active Distribution (a stallholder)'s tweet where he dismisses the trans folks at the bookfair as mob of identity politics self righteous bullies & intimidates a genuine revolutionary activist. In fact the leaflets being distributed were the epitome of 'identity politics' and aligned with Tory MP David Davies' own anti-trans campaign against the same legislation, a group (mayday4women afaict) happy to call the police on anarchists, take photos of them at protests, sell them to the Daily Mail, doxx their personal details, and including Green Party parliamentary candidates, about as liberal reformist as you can get, arguably more conservative than liberal.

Should also note that some of the people doing the most to oppose 'liberal and reformist LGBT politics' are LGBT anarchists themselves, for example the anti-police protest at Glasgow pride which led to arrests.

Those of us who aren't targeted by various forms of bigotry and structural discrimination really need to show a bit more active solidarity to those who do - not treating things as a 'debate' between opposing political viewpoints is one of the first steps towards that. On that basis I'd really hope to see people committed to those things working together but don't think people on the end of those attacks can be expected to start the process.

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Nov 1 2017 13:42

Mike, totally agree with everything you say in your post above, other than what you say about the book fair collective booking trans speakers. The book the collective don't book any speakers to my knowledge, all they do is get a space and promote it. It is up to anyone else to book rooms to arrange talks. So while I agree with the criticisms and demands on the collective with relation to this particular incident, I don't think some of the others are very helpful as they are demanding the Bookfair collective go beyond their remit (and they are already completely overworked). Any of the people criticising them would have been free to organise their own talks about whatever they wanted, with whichever speakers they wanted (or indeed join the collective and help organise the whole event). Although of course as you say following this incident unless the Bookfair collective takes some form of action then it is clearly not a safe space for trans comrades, and I would not expect anyone to make an effort to organise a talk by trans speakers in the current circumstances.

Mike Harman
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Nov 1 2017 14:04
Steven. wrote:
The book the collective don't book any speakers to my knowledge, all they do is get a space and promote it. It is up to anyone else to book rooms to arrange talks.

Is there some kind of approval process for what talks happen, or if the rooms are oversubscribed? Or is it really first come first served with no filtering at all?

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Nov 1 2017 14:42
Mike Harman wrote:
Steven. wrote:
The book the collective don't book any speakers to my knowledge, all they do is get a space and promote it. It is up to anyone else to book rooms to arrange talks.

Is there some kind of approval process for what talks happen, or if the rooms are oversubscribed? Or is it really first come first served with no filtering at all?

there is filtering, as say a meeting by the Labour Party wouldn't be allowed. But in terms of over subscribing not sure if that has happened previously but as far as I know it would be first come first served, ditto the stalls

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Nov 1 2017 15:03

This is the bookfair respect policy. Their view on who gets a meeting etc is under "groups."

Bookfair Safety and Housekeeping

Over the last 30 years the London anarchist bookfair has grown to be a huge event, which inevitably raises a variety of safety issues for all bookfair-goers. The bookfair collective has put in place the following ways and suggestions to try and keep the bookfair a safe space. However, anarchism is about collective responsibility and bookfair goers are equally responsible for each-others’ safety at the bookfair.

Crowd safety

The venue room bookings and movement routes in the building and outside are carefully planned by the bookfair collective to make sure that over-crowding is minimised and that people can move around the bookfair comfortably and safely. If you have any concerns over safety issues to do with the building and venue, please contact the collective either on the day or after the event.

Aggressive, abusive and oppressive behaviour

Considering the amount of people who now pass through the bookfair, very few incidents occur, although inevitably with large open access events, you are always going to get some anti-social people. This may include people who are sexist, racist, homophobic or oppressive in many other ways, too many to list. Where such incidents occur, it is up to the movement as a whole to deal with; not just the bookfair collective. As the bookfair collective we will try and deal with any issues brought to our attention in a calm, non aggressive and open minded way. We ask that others take this same approach and try not to “enflame” any situation, which, as we have found in the past, just esculates things. Within meeting spaces, both meeting goers and meeting organisers are responsible for dealing with aggressive, abusive or oppressive individuals.

Banning individuals

The bookfair is a free, open access, public event and we do not want to make it the role of the bookfair collective to ban individuals from the bookfair. It is up to the movement as a whole to develop ways to deal with anti-social people within the movement. We would hope that if a known individual was oppressive then accountability processes would already be in place by the people who knew the said individual. If not, we cannot and will not act as judge, jury and police force.

However, saying that, we will do our best to deal with situations arising at the bookfair and we reserve the right to ask anybody to leave the event. This may be cops, fascists or certain journalists but it could also be any individual acting in what we consider to be an excessively inappropriate manner.

Groups
The bookfair collective makes decisions about which groups can and cannot have stalls and meetings at the bookfair. This is based on a very broad definition of anti-authoritarian, anti-capitalist anarchism. Authoritarian ‘communist’ groups are not included and equally, ‘libertarian’ capitalists are not welcome. This is the only criterion for inclusion and the bookfair collective will not ban any groups purely on the basis of the behaviour of one of their members, so please do not ask us to do this.

Banning ideas and books

If groups have been accepted as stall holders at the bookfair, under the above criterion, we will not ban any books or publications from their stalls, so again, please do not ask us to do so. People are capable of reading material and making up their own minds. We trust the stall holders we have at the bookfair and would likewise expect the stall holders themselves to show respect in the materials they bring to the event and be prepared to explain their inclusion of any publications to any member of the public who may question said inclusion.

Alcohol

Alcohol is no longer sold by the bookfair collective within the bookfair, to reduce aggressive behaviour and incidents.

Dogs

Apart from guide dogs, dogs can no longer come into the bookfair. This is to ensure the safety of children and others, as well as the dogs themselves, so please do not bring dogs to the bookfair. If you do, you will be asked to leave them outside the building.
Filming and photography

To ensure the privacy of bookfair goers there is a strict no- filming policy inside the bookfair venue, unless agreed in advance with the bookfair collective.

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Nov 1 2017 15:22

In terms of the demands I think the first one is problematic.

Quote:
To change the date of the LABF in future years so it does not clash with the United Friends & Family Campaign Annual Demonstration and to actively promote attendance at the annual UFFC March.

I'd not heard of the UFFC before but their front page hs a big quote from "Arlington Trotman of the Churches Commission for Racial Justice" who talks about "christian principles".

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Nov 1 2017 15:28

For info - it's the major yearly UK event about deaths in custody, and organised by families and friends of those effected. It's not even remotely problematic.

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Nov 1 2017 16:16
Fall Back wrote:
For info - it's the major yearly UK event about deaths in custody, and organised by families and friends of those effected. It's not even remotely problematic.

Yeah this is a great group, absolutely no problems about it. However in terms of the Bookfair clash, the date was arranged following discussions with the UFFC, as that Saturday was the only date the venue was available, and the Bookfair collective advertise the UFFC demo on all of their 20,000 leaflets.

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Nov 4 2017 19:07

Trans inclusive means exclusive of TERFs.

Next year's workshops should include 'Was my friend a TERF?'

As we saw this year, its not only spycops or fash who can infiltrate.

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Nov 2 2017 07:14

That's impressive. I like this better:

Solidarity wrote:
Meaningful action, for revolutionaries, is whatever increases the confidence, the autonomy, the initiative, the participation, the solidarity, the equalitarian tendencies and the self-activity of the masses and whatever assists in their demystification. Sterile and harmful action is whatever reinforces the passivity of the masses, their apathy, their cynicism, their differentiation through hierarchy, their alienation, their reliance on others to do things for them and the degree to which they can therefore be manipulated by others - even by those allegedly acting on their behalf.
Mike Harman
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Nov 2 2017 11:25
Serge Forward wrote:
their differentiation through hierarchy

Describes TERFism pretty well.

I haven't been to the bookfair for at least six years or so, so have missed a lot of the previous things that happened, and ignored the threads on here that discussed them at the time because I wasn't going. However I had a quick look back and found the Assangeist incident from 2013.

Account on libcom starts with Ramona's post here.

https://libcom.org/forums/announcements/london-anarchist-bookfair-19th-oct-07102013#comment-526313

SpikeyMike also linked to Sam Ambreen's first person account here: https://samambreen.wordpress.com/2013/10/20/there-is-no-anarchism-without-feminism/

In terms of the demands being presented now, it's worth noting Ramona's post on that thread:

Ramona wrote:
There have been attempts to discuss this, at the meeting during last years bookfair, and ahead of this years bookfair the organisers were asked by AF and other comrades about implementing a policy so there was something written and agreed somewhere for people to use as a starting point.

And Mihaly's response:

mihaly wrote:
This bit just isn't true. No one was obstructed from implementing safer spaces policies in their own meetings. Whether having a policy for a meeting worked or not does not seem clear- some reports are positive but some suggest it was counter-productive. Most meetings were fine without one. Over the course of the year we tried to engage on this- again. And, again, some of the most vocal people couldn't be bothered until a month before the bookfair when the practical organisation issues come on top of us.

So for at least 4-5 years, there have been efforts to get the bookfair to adopt an event-wide safer-spaces policy, but the furthest it got (at least in 2013) was that individual meetings could have a policy. This isn't something that's just suddenly come up now. Just having the policy wouldn't have stopped Ciaran O'Reilly turning up with a load of guy fawkes right-libertarians but it might have meant that people in adjacent rooms didn't come and castigate the anarcha-feminist meeting for trying to defend their own space.

@Serge I notice you found time to reply to oranj but not my responses to you a couple of days back.

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Nov 2 2017 12:37

Don't take it personally. Oranj's post is fucking abysmal, jumped right out at me and really needs the piss taking out of it. Yours didn't - which is probably a good thing. If you like, you could remind me of your question.

Meanwhile, future bookfair meetings I'd quite like to see would be:
1) The great proletarian cultural revolution: what can we learn from the Red Guards?
2) Jim Jones and the People's Temple revisited. How to do it better. (Note: I'd be happy to provide complimentary refreshments.)
3) Matthew Hopkins: an appreciation.
4) Revolutionary reminiscences: remember when Libcom stood for Libertarian Communism and didn't 'like' posts that urged people to kill women they disagreed with?

Spikymike
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Nov 2 2017 12:44

It's a small point but perhaps the existing and any improved 'safe spaces' policy for the book fair could be printed in the bookfair booklet and posted up more prominently at the event. That might help a bit but there will always be risks with the current 'big tent' approach that usefully draws in a lot of new people, so frankly it's still down to the rest of us and not just the small organiser group (who might welcome some more committed help) to try calmly and as best we can, often in confused circumstances, to deal with any problems that arise. There is of course still potential for other more specific conference/seminar/bookfair type events that concentrate on a different spectrum of pro-revolutionary politics and a narrower interest group.

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Nov 2 2017 13:05

Fair point Mike, but does anyone think there'll be another bookfair? I can't imagine it, to be honest.

Mike Harman
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Nov 2 2017 13:13
Serge Forward wrote:
Don't take it personally. Oranj's post is fucking abysmal, jumped right out at me and really needs the piss taking out of it. Yours didn't - which is probably a good thing. If you like, you could remind me of your question.

This is the first one, there's several following, not sure why you can't click back a page or so yourself though. https://libcom.org/forums/announcements/london-anarchist-bookfair-saturday-28th-october-2017-30052017?page=5#comment-599450 / http://libcom.org/forums/announcements/london-anarchist-bookfair-saturday-28th-october-2017-30052017?page=6#comment-599499

Serge Forward wrote:
Meanwhile, future bookfair meetings I'd quite like to see would be:

Maybe instead of trying to ridicule people under attack, refresh your memory on what happened to the Institut für Sexualwissenschaft, the books and address lists contained with in it, and the people on those address lists.

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Nov 2 2017 13:32

You think that was ridicule? Look fella, I shouldn't need to say this but I'll make it clear for the hard of thinking. I am against anti trans activists and their propaganda, so called "TERFs". I am also against witch-hunts and people who advocate violence (e.g. "stab" and "kill") against women they disagree with (repeatedly "liked" by anarchists), oh, and I'm also against the irresponsible fool who allowed the children in Oranj's video to play with fire. Mike, have you got any comment to make on any of that or do you want to just carry on lighting a few flaming torches?

On your questions above... I agree, the bookfair collective were wrong and should have taken action against anti trans activists. The second point about Maria Maclachlan, not sure what you're getting at. She's not an anarchist, is she? Not sure what the bookfair can do apart from ban her. Or am I missing something?

Mike Harman
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Nov 2 2017 14:53
Serge Forward wrote:
Mike, have you got any comment to make on any of that or do you want to just carry on lighting a few flaming torches?

You're very keen on throwing around terms like 'witch hunt' and 'lighting flaming torches' on this thread, while also very concerned that TERFs not be called fascists in the heat of the moment while they distribute leaflets saying women should be locked up in men's prisons and denied medical treatment. Is one an accusation and the other just a figure of speech? How does it work exactly?

I shouldn't need to say this but I'll make it clear for the hard of thinking. I am against anti trans activists and their propaganda, so called "TERFs"

It shouldn't be necessary to say it, but then before this weekend I had only the vaguest notion of Helen Steel being a TERF (I think I saw one tweet about Hyde Park and wondered whether she got the wrong end of the stick, did a double take etc. but it didn't fully sink in, vs. actually being at the event on the TERF side of things, silly me...). Also had zero idea that the bookfair organisers would support the right of TERFs to leaflet at their event. So it turns out it is actually necessary to make these things clear: even people with decades of anarchist activism can turn out to have views like this, not just slightly dodgy positions/ignorance which we all have from time to time, but actively organising with people.

I can understand people, especially without the background of events or even necessarily what the fuck was going on on the day, coming to the defense of Helen Steel, but in the aftermath there's a lot more going on than what is really the end of a 2/3 hour incident and a broader frustration with repeated quite similar events at the Bookfair (see the 2013 thread I linked to).

Serge Forward wrote:
The second point about Maria Maclachlan, not sure what you're getting at. She's not an anarchist, is she? Not sure what the bookfair can do apart from ban her. Or am I missing something?

It's not that they haven't banned her (though obviously they should), it's that they actively supported the right of her group to leaflet on Saturday, and according to some reports the contents of the material that was being distributed. There's such a massive distance between those two things it's hard to know where to start.

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Nov 2 2017 15:00
Serge Forward wrote:
Don't take it personally. Oranj's post is fucking abysmal, jumped right out at me and really needs the piss taking out of it.
?

So you object to trans people taking direct action against a piece of cloth?
I don't know who they are, and if I did I certainly wouldn't tell the likes of you.

Mike Harman
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Nov 2 2017 14:59
spikeymike wrote:
It's a small point but perhaps the existing and any improved 'safe spaces' policy for the book fair could be printed in the bookfair booklet and posted up more prominently at the event. That might help a bit but there will always be risks with the current 'big tent' approach that usefully draws in a lot of new people, so frankly it's still down to the rest of us and not just the small organiser group (who might welcome some more committed help) to try calmly and as best we can, often in confused circumstances, to deal with any problems that arise.

That's really the common demand of both the Edinburgh AF statement and the bookfair open letter - without that policy (which would need to explicitly include transphobia at this point) there's not really anywhere to go. Making it prominent at the event and committing to supporting people trying to enforce it would need to be the starting point really - obviously needs to exist first. That wouldn't stop people showing up, but it might lead to a much earlier intervention and broader understanding of what can/should happen in those situations.

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Nov 2 2017 15:23

I think this thread is meandering away from the core issue. So let me state it :-

We have a situation in which the organisers expect us all to deal with any issues that arise. Okay. So, on Saturday people did attempt to deal with it, but then the organisers are "oh we didn't mean OUR FRIENDS who happen to be TERFs! - just strangers".

As someone else put it, they attempted to police our response only because they knew the person and considered her a 'comrade' (see their tweet) which is frankly, a tragic response which terminates their credibility as anarchists.

(Serge, if that video makes your blood boil, I suggest you take it up with them on twitter.)

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Nov 2 2017 15:29
Oranj wrote:
I don't know who they are, and if I did I certainly wouldn't tell the likes of you.

The likes of me.... you're talking about someone queer and occasionally on the trans spectrum, seeing as you've got all personal and ad hominem about it. But anyway, why would I want to know who they are? Isn't it bad enough that these clowns exist within what passes for a movement. Or is that a snide aspersion to someone tattling to old lily law? Oh dear.

PS: don't do twitter, don't do any social media. This and the AF members' forum's enough for me.

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Nov 2 2017 15:42
Serge Forward wrote:
Oranj wrote:
I don't know who they are, and if I did I certainly wouldn't tell the likes of you.

The likes of me.... you're talking about someone queer and occasionally on the trans spectrum, seeing as you've got all personal and ad hominem about it. But anyway, why would I want to know who they are? Isn't it bad enough that these clowns exist within what passes for a movement. Or is that a snide aspersion to someone tattling to old lily law? Oh dear.

PS: don't do twitter, don't do any social media. This and the AF members' forum's enough for me.

You're the one outraged about it, but you're not telling us why. 'Clowns' and 'kids' is ad-hominem.

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Nov 2 2017 16:36

People who equate community self-defence against TERFs - who are known to incite and engage in direct violence against trans people and their allies, and to get the cops involved - with Jonestown and the Cultural Revolution really shouldn't be throwing around words like 'ad hominem'. If you want to talk about 'witch hunts', perhaps you might have a dekko at the flyer the TERFs were handing out, which presented trans people, particularly trans women, as an inherent threat to (cis) women.

I don't really care what spectrum Serge is 'occasionally' on, because it's quite clear that Serge is more than occasionally on the concern trolling spectrum.