Saturday, 23 October 2010

At Today's London Anarchist Bookfair

So it was off this morning to Queen May College in Mile End for the London Anarchist Bookfair, an annual event as unchanging as the seasons. As always, it had the mix of bookstalls, t-shirts sellers, hawkers of pirate DVDs and loads of tiny-print pamphlets with obscure titles, along with lectures and workshops on everything from anarchism in Croatia to setting up a co-op.

The big draw was evidently Michael Albert, the American activist and co-editor of Z Magazine, whose session Life After Capitalism was an introduction to his ideas about participatory economics (parecon). Unfortunately, it was so popular that I couldn't get in. I did manage to catch the Fitwatch workshop, which was as interesting and informative as ever but also revealed the level of self-absorption within what even the police have come to call 'the protest community'. There was far too great a focus on the possibility of infiltration of protest groups by undercover police (perhaps not completely surprising, considering the revelation only two days ago that a well known activist called Mark Stone was secretly an Met copper). There wasn't enough time, however, for debate on the alarming implications for anyone, 'protest community' member or first time demonstrator, of intrusive surveillance by the different police units responsible for 'domestic extremism'.

The other event I made it to, at the request of ur32daurt in Sheffield, was Ian Bone and Martin Wright’s preposterously titled "Annual Address to the Movement". This was the chance for Bone, always an entertaining speaker, to don the mantle of cider-fuelled political commissar and berate the entire anarchist 'movement' for its inaction and ineffectiveness (a completely fair and valid accusation, depending of course on who is making it). He then announced that the Whitechapel Anarchist Group, buoyed by their burst of activism back in June against the possible appearance of the English Defence League in Tower Hamlets, will stand in elections in 2012 for the London Assembly seat currently held by Labour's John Biggs and that covers Barking & Dagenham, City of London, Newham and Tower Hamlets.

Like previous comedy candidacies offered by the likes of Screaming Lord Sutch, the WAGs have no chance or expectation of winning. With Martin Wright as their candidate, more pub bore to Bone's bar room wit, with no apparent message other than the old Class War standard of 'bash the rich', with an incredibly narrow view of east London's working class (basically, pub goers who look like WAG members) and with a tiny number of supporters, they'll lose their deposit spectacularly. Still, Bone was kind enough to give the thumbs up to the Save Wanstead Flats campaign in his oration. So that's nice.

I finally managed to pick up a copy of Beating the Fascists, the Red Action version of the history of Anti-Fascist Action. I guess everyone who was involved in anti-fascism campaigns in the late 80s and early 90s will have done what my friend Cilius and I both did today - flick through to find mentions of people we know. I see Newham councillor Unmesh Desai, now Executive Member for Crime and Anti-Social Behaviour, is certainly in the book - and I suspect that this part of his past is probably something he'd prefer not to see in print. I'll write up a review as soon as I've had a chance to read it.

1 Comment:

bob said...

Martin Wright a pub bore? That's a bit unfair - I find him quite an entertaining speaker.

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