Sheffield Anarchist Bookfair July 12th

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fingers malone's picture
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Jul 17 2014 11:43

Isn't there maybe some middle ground between letting religious reactionaries intimidate women and gay people and having a sticker that says religion is stupid? I've seen religious reactionaries in my community getting away with some serious shit. I've also organised actions with people who are devout but they are very nice people and good to work with. Isn't something possible where you challenge the first type of person, and work harmoniously with the second?

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Jul 17 2014 12:53

Bindel is objectionable alright. However beyond the "checklist" approach to enumerating her offenses (whoreophobia, biphobia, transphobia, asserting sexuality is always a conscious political choice rather than innate, etc.) there is a consistent political position, with its own (bogus) logic. Bindel is basically the picture in the dictionary next to anti-intersectionalist feminism. Which is to say, that to her the issues of gender and sexuality are one integrated whole and represent a single borderline of essential difference, dividing the virtuous (feminist women who choose lesbianism as a political position) from the wicked (straight men, gay men, straight women, trans*, etc, etc, you name it).

Which - by tortured segue - is my way of leading into the observation that the author of that "review" of the bookfair has a lot more in common with Bindel than they would care to accept.

There is one moment of clarity in that account however, when the author says - "[intersectionality is] a label I actually don’t give myself [...]". In this they are quite correct. There is nothing intersectional about their politics at all.

For a start there is no mention of class (other than the "middle class" opponents of sex workers) or solidarity. And as we know the triadic origin of intersectionality is the interaction of race, gender and class.

But more to the point, there's a reason why Bindel has to be white to maintain her political position of a unitary social polarisation, which is the same reason why the roots of intersectionality lie in the political praxis of black lesbian feminists. In the 1960s the latter found themselves trapped between those who demanded they side with the persecutors of the Black Panthers on the grounds of their sexism and homophobia, and those who demanded they denounce white, middle class feminism, for its racism and indifference to the effects of poverty on most black women. The problem is, once you have more than two determinations intersecting at once, it becomes impossible to always conclude there is some unique "equilibrium point" (to invoke the spectre of neoclassical economics) of intersection that makes it easy to draw a simple line between the virtuous and the wicked.

The author of that review suffers the same problem of Bindel, however, in refusing to recognise the fundamentally problematic and even conflicted nature of intersectional praxis. This is due to having the checklist approach to politics which means that once you've gone down your list and checked everything off, then what remains must be the virtuous and everything else the wicked.

The problematics of building solidarity across differences and divisions is submerged by the utopian assumption that we can take the place we want to get to as our initial starting place. This also presupposes having a central focus of attention - in this case the white, heterosexual, cisgendered, male-dominated anarchist movement (at least in the EU, N.America, etc) - which serves to obscure the inconsistencies and contradictions between the different principles, once applied more generally to the wider world (as per the "anti-religion is racism" trope people have explored above) outside of that single focus.

Of course if your main political praxis is to go to political events looking for things to be offended by and then write your next blog about how offended you were, then this doesn't really matter. However as a praxis for social transformation it lacks the potential for building effective agency for change (other than garnering followers on social media, with possibly the vague prospect of getting a gig as a paid fulminator... like Bindel).

Serge Forward's picture
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Jul 17 2014 15:01
fingers malone wrote:
Isn't there maybe some middle ground between letting religious reactionaries intimidate women and gay people and having a sticker that says religion is stupid? I've seen religious reactionaries in my community getting away with some serious shit. I've also organised actions with people who are devout but they are very nice people and good to work with. Isn't something possible where you challenge the first type of person, and work harmoniously with the second?

In terms of our everyday lives, our activities and struggles, be it in the workplace, the home or the streets, then yes, we work, live and struggle with, like or dislike, love or hate, respect or disrespect the whole gamut of our fellow working class brothers and sisters, whatever mystical ideas they may or may not happen to possess. The line will always be blurry. In fact, some of the people we might respect most may hold religious views or have politics we find to be utter shite while, conversely, some people we maybe can't stand will call themselves anarchists.

However, when we are talking about actual anarcho-communist politics, ideas and organisation, then our line in the sand must be scored far more deeply and, as libertarian communists, we can have no time for religion and any religious institutions. Same goes for all sorts of other reactionary bullshit.

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Jul 17 2014 22:22
Serge Forward wrote:
To accuse those opposed to religion of some kind of racism or being white supremacists is more fucked up doublthink.

Though "new atheists" are often actually guilty of that. Fuck, one of them, Sam Harris, once whined about how in Europe only fascists have any rational response to the Islamism! Of course he was later explaining himself that it doesn't mean he agrees with them, just that they aren't bending over to fundamentalists like his liberal brothers and sisters do (but there are people who remember what he wrote about preemptive nuclear strikes).

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Jul 17 2014 23:09

Okay. So some atheist I've never heard of is also a fuckwit. No surprise that there are fuckwit atheists. Maybe I should have been a bit clearer... hmm... to accuse anarcho-communists who oppose religion of being white supremacists is really fucked up batshit politics.

Not wanting to bang on about atheism/religion so much either, nor the fool who wrote that blog. The point I was trying to make earlier is how come what passes for an anarchist movement seems to attract more than its fair share of dodgepots with views totally at variance to any meaningful definition of libertarian communism?

It the same at virtually every bookfair, and it's not new either, as these sort of eejits have been involving themselves in the movement for as long as I can remember. It just seems to be getting worse though.

Eee... I blame t'internet grin

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Jul 18 2014 06:50
Serge Forward wrote:
The point I was trying to make earlier is how come what passes for an anarchist movement seems to attract more than its fair share of dodgepots with views totally at variance to any meaningful definition of libertarian communism?

That's because you anarchos don't know how to invariance & organic centralism cool grin

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Jul 18 2014 07:23

Excuse my ignorance but what does that mean?

Battlescarred
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Jul 18 2014 09:25

Anyone who cites Bukharin (et al.)as one of their favourite thinkers is not worth taking seriously, Serge.

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Jul 18 2014 09:55
Battlescarred wrote:
Anyone who cites Bukharin (et al.)as one of their favourite thinkers is not worth taking seriously, Serge.

Why be so confrontational? And yes I like Bukharin, but certainly not for endorsing the NEP and inventing "socialism in one country". If an anarchist likes Bakunin, does that mean he/she agrees with his anti-Semitism and Russian nationalism/pan-Slavism which were showing in his critisms of Marx (i.e. conspiracy theories about Marx being an agent of the Rothschilds/Bismarck)?

Spikymike
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Jul 18 2014 10:14

Serge,

'Why do anarchist bookfairs attract so many ''dodgepots''? ' I suspect it is a result of both a strength and weakness in anarchism as it is commonly understood. Namely it's attempt to encourage opposition to societies 'normality' beyond the otherwise narrow understanding of what constitutes 'politics' or 'economics' ie it's effort to be a 'cultural' force (for want of a better description) and additionally the fuzzy area of being true to ones principles whilst avoiding the pitfalls of 'lifestyle' politics. Since such opposition is difficult against the mainstream (especially outside of other materially based mass social movements) then the beginnings of such opposition amongst minorities will inevitably take many forms and the 'open house' nature of bookfairs will therefore attract all sorts of people which from a more specifically class orientated libertarian communist point of view are doubtful when not outright reactionary. An unfortunate price to pay for trying to attract new people. Perhaps another reason I asked earlier in this thread whether we didn't need some other additional formats to engage in a more serious and focussed discussion amongst communists that is still broad based but excludes the ''dodgepots''.

no1
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Jul 18 2014 10:22

Not sure it's a new phenomenon -

Orwell, in 1937 wrote:
In addition to this there is the horrible — the really disquieting — prevalence of cranks wherever Socialists are gathered together. One sometimes gets the impression that the mere words "Socialism" and "Communism" draw towards them with magnetic force every fruit-juice drinker, nudist, sandal-wearer, sex-maniac, Quaker, "Nature Cure" quack, pacifist, and feminist in England.

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Jul 18 2014 10:44
Theft wrote:
Communist Bookfairs, sure they would be smaller, but l think it would help to weed out some of the liberal drift that I think Serge is talking about?

Dear god, no. Have you ever seen the Stalinist/Trotskyist/Bordigist autistic trolls en masse? The wingnuts attracted to anarchist/libertarian events are positively cuddly in comparison.

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Jul 18 2014 10:55
Serge Forward wrote:
It the same at virtually every bookfair, and it's not new either, as these sort of eejits have been involving themselves in the movement for as long as I can remember. It just seems to be getting worse though.

But if the bookfairs get bigger and proliferate, then so will those who parasite upon them (or rather, those we judge to be parastic upon them - subtle but not insignificant dstinction). In many ways it's just an inevitable byproduct of success. Yes, I know use of the s-word seems perverse in the context of contemporary anarchism, but the days of squeezing everybody into Conway Hall are long behind us. (I do miss Conway Hall though).

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Jul 18 2014 11:14

No1, that's an interesting list from Orwell but he could well have included himself in it, the dodgy bleeder. Theft, I'm kind of with Ocelot, that or it'd have to be a vaguely left/libertarian communist do because the mere thought of the Sparts or suchlike turning up would be fucking purgatory. Spikymike, as usual you speak with much wisdom.

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Jul 18 2014 11:31

I said communist, I do not consider either trots or Stalinists as Communist.

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Jul 18 2014 12:00
Theft wrote:
I said communist, I do not consider either trots or Stalinists as Communist.

Well I would agree. Except that I would say that neither were Bordigists, which is obviously where we disagree. And therein lies the rub.

If you set up a bookfair under a particular banner, be it anarchist or communist, and make it open to the public, you don't get to police whether the people that come measure up to your personal standard of who is a "proper" communist or anarchist.

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Jul 18 2014 12:25

What Bordigists? There is only one that I know of in the UK

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Jul 18 2014 12:28

Exactly. So unless it was an explicitly anarcho/libertarian/council/anti-trot/anti-stalinist/anti-maoist/anti-reformist communist left bookfair, then our titchy 'milieu' would most likely end up overrun by all sorts of lefty bellends before we even got a proper chance to slag each other off.

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Jul 18 2014 13:31

Seems like the only safe bet is an anarcho-individualist bookfair - but would attending betray their own principles?

snipfool
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Jul 18 2014 13:36
Serge Forward wrote:
So unless it was an explicitly anarcho/libertarian/council/anti-trot/anti-stalinist/anti-maoist/anti-reformist communist left bookfair...

What's stopping you?

See you at Sheffield Explicitly Anarcho/Libertarian/Council/Anti-Trot/Anti-Stalinist/Anti-Maoist/Anti-Reformist Communist Left Bookfair 2015!

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Jul 18 2014 14:24

To be fair I'm talking about who you let have stalls and meetings, no matter how you frame it you will always get the odd idiot simply attending these events, but if there is no hippy stalls you will/should get less and the same would go for trots and Stalin lovers with a Communist event

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Jul 18 2014 14:25
snipfool wrote:
What's stopping you?

See you at Sheffield Explicitly Anarcho/Libertarian/Council/Anti-Trot/Anti-Stalinist/Anti-Maoist/Anti-Reformist Communist Left Bookfair 2015!

Count me in. And here's a possible venue:

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Jul 19 2014 09:34

I'll be giving the London Anarchist Bookfair a miss this year because there's always some daft antics being acted out and I hate street theatre, puppets, folk music, chanting and slapstick comedy. The label 'anarchist' increasingly makes me feel embarrassed.

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Jul 18 2014 22:37

Steady on, our rat. When else will you get the chance to meet up with all your old chums from way back when? Anyway, there's some dead good stuff at the bookfair. Sure, it's just all the "look at me" and "big I am" merchants that tend to colour our recollections of it a bit, but put them out of your mind, I say. We're still here and we'll still be here after they've buggered off.

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Jul 21 2014 23:15

I can't be the only one who is displeased by the resurrection of identity politics, but this is fantastic...

Quote:
Stickers reading ‘Religion is stupid’, ‘Religion is silly’ and ‘Fairy tales are for children, it’s time to grow up!’ scattered the stalls, with one white man attending a stall even wearing the latter as a t-shirt. This is racism. This is white ‘enlightenment’. This is white men knowing better. These are, apparently, the same white men who believe in an international revolutionary movement.

The author basically writes off anarchist/socialist/communist history of the last hundred years plus because some muppet can't put together good atheist propaganda/literature to essentially then tell us that muslims are too stupid to comprehend their class interests without us pandering to their backward sensibilities.

I think her calling someone else racist is a case of pot calling the kettle black.

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Jul 21 2014 23:18

Re: O'Reilly, it would be worth contacting the Bookfair Organisers to see what their view is, or to even feed your view to the organisers. I would be in favour of a more class struggle anarchist event, maybe even a repeat anarchist conference minus all the reporting back and needless promises, but until someone organisers that, we have only the bookfair.

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Jul 22 2014 09:07

someone here provoked me to quote Lenin:

Quote:
But under no circumstances ought we to fall into the error of posing the religious question in an abstract, idealistic fashion, as an “intellectual” question unconnected with the class struggle, as is not infrequently done by the radical-democrats from among the bourgeoisie. It would be stupid to think that, in a society based on the endless oppression and coarsening of the worker masses, religious prejudices could be dispelled by purely propaganda methods. It would be bourgeois narrow-mindedness to forget that the yoke of religion that weighs upon mankind is merely a product and reflection of the economic yoke within society. No number of pamphlets and no amount of preaching can enlighten the proletariat, if it is not enlightened by its own struggle against the dark forces of capitalism. Unity in this really revolutionary struggle of the oppressed class for the creation of a paradise on earth is more important to us than unity of proletarian opinion on paradise in heaven.

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Jul 22 2014 09:10
Serge Forward wrote:
snipfool wrote:
What's stopping you?

See you at Sheffield Explicitly Anarcho/Libertarian/Council/Anti-Trot/Anti-Stalinist/Anti-Maoist/Anti-Reformist Communist Left Bookfair 2015!

Count me in. And here's a possible venue:

and the venue of its breakaway nihilist communist bookfair

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Jul 22 2014 10:55
JoeMaguire wrote:
I can't be the only one who is displeased by the resurrection of identity politics, but this is fantastic...

Quote:
Stickers reading ‘Religion is stupid’, ‘Religion is silly’ and ‘Fairy tales are for children, it’s time to grow up!’ scattered the stalls, with one white man attending a stall even wearing the latter as a t-shirt. This is racism. This is white ‘enlightenment’. This is white men knowing better. These are, apparently, the same white men who believe in an international revolutionary movement.

The author basically writes off anarchist/socialist/communist history of the last hundred years plus because some muppet can't put together good atheist propaganda/literature to essentially then tell us that muslims are too stupid to comprehend their class interests without us pandering to their backward sensibilities.

I think her calling someone else racist is a case of pot calling the kettle black.

Think she's suffering from lefty Orientalism a bit there, or at the very least some naive ethnic exoticism.

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Jul 22 2014 13:08

Is there no gap between "religion is stupid" and "pandering to backward sensibilities"?