The Life and Times of Anarchist Bookfairs

July 24, 2017 at 5:56 pm (Uncategorized)

This time of year is usually pretty busy for me. Normally, this past weekend would have seen the holding of the Toronto Anarchist bookfair. It’s usually a two-day event at the Steelworkers’ Hall downtown and features workshops, literature tables, and free food! I’ve tabled at this events for years, but have helped in a more concrete fashion for the last few years – at the 2015 and 2016 bookfairs, I gave talks on “Libertarian literature” and “The Geography of Freedom.” This year, the event didn’t happen, largely as a result of too few people being involved, on the organizing level (feel free to insert a joke about anarchist organization here if you like) and those that were willing realizing the task was beyond them.  There was some talk of others taking over the event, but it came to naught. I’m not an anarchist, but I share aspects of  the critique (I still identify as a Marxist, but as I grow older I like labels, less and less) sure, there’s plenty I disagree with at the bookfair, but bringing hundreds of people together to discuss radical politics is never a bad thing. Oddly enough, despite the number of Trotskyist and ML groupings in Toronto, there has never seldom been a sustained radical bookfair presence outside of the anarchists (the only exception might be the fair that the International Women’s Day Committee event). But we could probably hazard an entirely accurate guess as to why that is.

Montreal on the other hand has had a flourishing anarchist bookfair for almost two decades. The first bookfair I attended was in 2000, and twice since then, the bookfair has expanded into larger premises. Thousands of people come to its event, and while I’m uncertain as to how it ranks in North America, it’s certainly the larger in Canada. . This year, I went with my son to see(He’s interested in politics and wanted to practice his French – winner, winner, vegan dinner! But to be honest, this year, the bookfair in Montreal seemed smaller, less political. My sales were down from previous years, but that isn’t anything to base a definite conclusion on. However, the table next to me was doing a roaring business in patches with slogans like “Fuck patriarchy” and homemade underwear. A quick wander around the bookfair seemed to have a greater presence of D.I.Y. crafts and posters, and less political stuff than in previous years. Crowds seemed down too. Now, I’ll admit, I was there only for Saturday, so who can say if things were different the next day.

My sense of these things is not to worry about fluctuations in attendance at this events (or even whether people were interested in Proudhon or panties), as it is the broader social struggle which will determine the success of those events . See you next year.

 

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