A member of the bookfair collective tells us ‘Know your place. Accept your place. Be a shoe’.
Not without some trepidation, Fierce Dreams decided to brave the big smoke and head to Melbourne to do a table at the Melbourne Anarchist Bookfair. We had heard it was ‘the world’s most liveable city’, wow! We had some decent reading material this time around and some folks (possibly illiterate, or unable to access this website) had written claiming to not know what Fierce Dreams is about. We hit them with both barrels this time, with classic anti-civilisation propaganda both old and new, including old GA primers, the first issue of Black Seed, Against History Against Leviathan and Land and Freedom by Seaweed. Top stuff, so I thought! However, once we turned up we realised that despite our great selection of reading material they were not so happy to see us. We were informed that we were denied a table, just like in Sydney, again with no explanation from the collective. It seems that since we had a disagreement with someone over email about a year ago, this puts us on the ‘naughty list’ along with actual abusers and rapists that have been called out and banned from events for things they really did. We have never had any interaction with these folks and couldn’t pick them out of a lineup. Many of this has been detailed on this site before. Anyway, our words were so triggering that we were banned from the bookfair. If we could only write even more powerful words then maybe that would be enough to annihilate civilisation altogether!
One man claimed he had informed us of this beforehand. However, his half assed email was comprised of pure gobbledegook and we thought we had simply been denied a discount on the stall, and that they were shaking us down for more money (which we did not feel we had to pay). We didn’t realise they were denying us a stall altogether, about 6 weeks after we had paid for it. This communication breakdown led to a brief conflict as we set up our table, whereby this fairly intimidating looking anarchotuffguy became cross. I could see he was cross because his face became red. I could also hear his words becoming very loud all of a sudden and drowning out the other people around. He told us we should go out and make a ‘children’s farm’ and go out and live out our primitive dreams there and get away from the bookfair. Yes, he really said that. This may have been in reference to the fact there was a ‘children’s farm’ nextdoor to the venue. Perhaps he was not familiar with the primitivist critique of domestication and agriculture, and didn’t quite understand. I should have given him one of our GA Back to Basics Primers.
Two more reasonable people from the bookfair collective attempted to talk to us and patiently we tried to hash it out. In the end we said we would take down our sign and sit with someone else, a friend of ours, and share the table. We sat at their table expecting someone from the ‘Safer Spaces’ collective to come over and talk to us about that episode but it didn’t happen.
Judging from some folks’ scowls and unfriendly demeanour they knew who we were and that we were not supposed to be there. Maybe they were unhappy and depressed about something else completely unrelated to us and our literature. Maybe they were burnt out from life in the city and too much concrete and carbon monoxide was having a negative effect. I know that feeling.
The fair was a real mishmash. Of course some people were probably having a good day, but as is the case with many traditional anarchist events, the general atmosphere was that of a hollow ritual with next-to-zero spontaneity. Perhaps the effects of anarchy will take hold when folks go home and devour the zines they got, and wreak havoc on the town, in the process taking their life back. I sure hope so. The vibe on the day was not so promising though. Old fellows in football beanies dourly manned their outdated and irrelevant leftist timewarp archives. The support for animal rights and the promotion of veganism was strong and visible. Other stalls had dust covered communist tomes piled high, the books looked like they had probably been around since Marx was alive and kicking.
The only music available was a person who hijacked the microphone and sang songs about Jesus at high volume, until they finally finished and gave our poor eardrums a reprieve from their moralistic and eardrum- piercing atonal onslaught. Polyester Books, one of my favourite bookstores in Melbourne, had a stall there. I didn’t buy anything this time around, though when last in their shop I got Archaeology of Violence by Pierres Clastres from their shop in Fitzroy. Recommended highly. They only had their anarchist material there for some reason, not the other array of totally sketchy shit they sell the rest of the time. The porno DVD bargain bin they currently have instore ($10 each or 3 for $25) wasn’t there on the day, I guess you wouldn’t really file them as liberatory porn or empowering for women, more your traditional type old lonely-old-man-walking-out-of-basement-in a trenchcoat-with-a-brown-paper-bag type of porn DVD’s. Also missing were the guides on how to be a hitman for fun and profit from Paladin Press. Displaying flagrant and unashamed sexploitation and manuals on how to kill people may have been in contravention of the safer spaces policy, so they probably thought it unwise to bring them.
Anyway we had a super time talking to a few folks there. I was thoroughly disappointed that I hadn’t finished the flier for Fierce Dreams 2014 yet. It was nice to hash things out with a few folks face to face, (IRL!). A couple of people that we had email contact with approached us over the course of the day which was affirming and heartening. Many of our books and zines sold, which was nice to see.
I had a chat with someone who asked about an episode where FD was questioned about the inclusion of those with differing abilities. At the time of last year’s gathering FD had emails back and forth with a different person and had (what we thought was) a private discussion. Later we found out that it was all over Facebook and lots of people had been weighing in. At the time we strongly defended our approach in our collective emails and the person who we were in correspondence with ended up apologising. However, the wheels of the gossip mill had begun spinning, and here we were still talking about it a year later. I feel like I was responding to chinese whispers and continually clarifying statements, a familiar feeling by now.
Nevertheless, I respected and appreciated this person’s willingness to chat about it face to face, a gesture that is all too rare. They held their ground patiently and let me respond, making me question my own attitudes and our standpoint as a collective. This person raised valid questions of inclusivity and we talked of an individual’s responsibility to speak for themselves. In the end we had to agree to disagree, for the moment. I feel as is this issue is one that FD will still keep dealing with and perhaps changing and evaluating our approach, a topic that is open for discussion, as long as it is all kept respectful and comradely. This exchange was the way in which I would hope and expect to be challenged by other anarchists at such an occasion, or whenever.
It would have been great if other folks had come up and had a respectful chat with us about their issues with FD, but it didn’t happen, even though we were sitting there all day. We can only assume they are more comfortable typing cranky emails, and this is how they express their disappointment. It doesn’t really resolve anything though, maybe one day we will be able to sort it out or agree to disagree. Or they are diehard leftoids and will never allow us to challenge or dissent toward anything.
Anyway we are looking forward to our gathering and more productive discussions with anti-civ anarchists, no matter how we may meet them! Thanks to the folks who came up, bought a zine, had a chat, shared a laugh and made it (sorta) worthwhile!!