Sunday, May 11, 2008



Winnipeg's first anarchist festival and bookfair was a resounding success, certainly the part Molly saw-the Bookfair- and what she heard about the other parts of the Festival. The only part that I was able to attend was the Bookfair on Saturday. Thursday I was working into the night. Friday I finished at about seven and got ready for my table the next day. Saturday evening I was zonked after 7 hours in Winnipeg's version of "spring weather", and so it was "nap time". Too bad. There was at least one lecture/workshop on Saturday evening that it would have been great to attend- on worker owned workplaces here in Winnipeg. Many kudos to Paul Burrows, who I gathered was to be the main speaker, and I hope it went well.

Saturday morning dawned bright and early for Molly; I woke up at about 6:30 am and went to work on finishing up preparations for my table. It's been many years since I have done this sort of thing, but I used to enjoy it immensely. I can remember tabling at the University, without the "permission" of the dinky little self-important student bureaucrats. I became quite friendly with the commissionaires. The whole game was that these little student Stalins were quite pissed that I never asked their leave in what they regarded as their private property. The commissionaires would ignore me for hours until some student politician intoxicated with his power would pass by. Strangely enough they never had the guts to confront me directly.Maybe it isn't so strange after all, as they were in training for lives of getting others to do their dirty work. They'd go and rant and order about the commissionaires who would duly obey the orders from these childish little fools-sort of. They'd come by, tell me to pack up, which I duly did. We'd say goodbye to each other, and promise to see each other again the next day. This went on for an eternity without the little baby leftists in student government ever catching on that the commissionaires and I were friends. Day after day, week after week, month after month.

Well, this time I'm going to be legit. The morning arrives with a temperature of 3 degrees and a nasty little wind forecast. Spring in Winnipeg ??? The threatened snow that some radio stations were talking about never arrived, but I'm busy throwing on heavy clothes in anticipation of spending the better part of the day in rather chilly temperatures. The Bookfair, you see, was to be held outside in Old Market Square, just north of the Mondragon on Albert St. here in Winnipeg. This would be the best of all possible locations if we had the best of all possible weather. The location would have attracted a great number of casual passersby if it had been a normal Saturday in May. As it was the temperature never got above 9, and the wind blew throughout the day. Neither the snow nor any rain arrived, but the day remained overcast except for very brief breaks in the clouds.

The wind, however, was a killer. Before heading out I scrambled to gather up rocks from the yard. Paper does blow, after all, but neither wind nor rain nor snow, nor sleet, nor hail nor dead of night (nor ridiculously early hours on a Saturday morning) will keep Mollymew from her appointed propaganda rounds. Good thing I did. When I arrived I found that I didn't have enough, but one of the organizers helped me gather up more and more. In the end I had only one "blowover" during the course of the day- a particularly tragic one. No pamphlets were lost to the wind, but several were irrevocably stained as the wind caught one of my concealed beers and spilled it all over about 25% of the table. I lost a few pamphlets, but, worst of all, I also lost a goodly amount of my artificial warmth at the same time. The wind was not consistent. There would be long periods of relative calm. Then, suddenly, a brief series of high velocity gusts would come through, blowing for a few seconds and sending paper flying from various tables across the square. It didn't, however, keep it up long enough for anybody to consider doing the sensible thing and calling for a move indoors.

The Anarchist Black Cross table across from me seemed to be particularly unlucky. They had three or four blowouts through the course of the day, and one crafts table also across from me had their wears heading for the pavement almost as many times. My rock-gathering came in handy as I had a surplus and was able to supply tables around me with same. The ABC table did, however, get at least $10 in donations from our family. The wife came by to visit, bring me more artificial warmth, and automatically dropped $5 in their jar. She then insisted that I match her.

The tables:
There were a great number of no-shows, but I figure there were about 20 groups and individuals willing to brave the elements that morning. By the time that Molly arrived, about 10 am, several were already peddling their wares. The Trots, of course, were there, bright and clean-cut. For all I know they had been the first to arrive. They were also, however, the first to pack it in in the afternoon. Lots of dedication but very little stamina. It was 12 noon before the last anarchist stragglers arrived to set up their tables. Some were, however, there much earlier, even before Molly was. The best attended table was undoubtedly that from AK Press who were already rolling by the time that Molly pulled up.

Time for a little digression here. It's sort of like the old story about the day of the Revolution. Dawn is at 6:00 am, but on that day the Maoists rise at 3:30 am, brush their teeth with toothbrushes made from the bones of concentration camp victims ie "enemies of the people", have a shower and a concrete enema (standard practice in Maoist circles), and arrive at the Winter Palace at 5:00 am. For an hour they stand around "looking militant" until the right wing Trots arrive at the crack of dawn. The Maoists are ready to kill them, but suddenly the "real commies" arrive, pretending to be everybody's friend. They put a delay on everything by arguing the rather brutish Maoists into an agreement that the Trots will be properly dealt with by "peoples' courts" at the end of the day. By 8:00 am the left-wing Trots arrive, only slightly less clean-cut than the right wing ones. Neither group looks particularly "militant" ie nobody would mistake them for a rabid dog. The Maoists, however, have more and more saliva falling out of their mouths as the morning goes on. The "real commies" are busy taking selected leaders from each group down alleys to have "little conversations" with them. Rat out on your buddies and you become part of the winning team. Show misplaced loyalty and you may never come out of the alley.The real commies could teach the Comora a thing or two. By 10:00 the first sober anarchists begin to show. By noon those with the worst hangovers and those who are still drunk from the night before have staggered in. By this time, however, it's too late. The real commies have bought off all of those in the sects that they need to. They declare a "complete victory of the people" and call on everybody to go home. The rather neanderthal Maoists wander off in confusion, convinced that they have won. Those Trots remaining quickly skitter off to write position papers about how the day could have been won under their leadership. The sensible anarchists adjourn back to the bar. Those with more balls than brains wander off in another direction to start an aimless riot. As the crowd finally disperses a man in a business suit comes by and hands a package to another man with a party button of the local social democratic party on his lapel. This man reaches into the package and withdraws what seems to be a large amount of cash, putting it into his pockets. He then goes up to the leader of the real commies, basking in his "peoples' victory" and slips him a now considerably lighter package. The great leader takes it. How it will be distributed from there will be up to him.

But back to the Bookfair. Those from out-of-town were actually better represented than local groups (not in number but in percentage). The lack of some local groups such as Arbeiter Ring (unless I missed their table by accident) was regrettable. The lack of Winnipeg Indymedia was not so bad. Regular readers of this blog know how I feel about the cesspool they have allowed their site to degenerate into. Despite the weather there were a number of ordinary people out for a walk, and the location did indeed draw them into an event that they would never have otherwise come to. The absolute first person to drop by Molly's table was a guy from the Trots, and he was quite happy that I carried a platformist pamphlet criticizing primitivism. Earlier in the Festival, you see, one of the events had been a "tele-conference" with the latest shining star of this American confluence of millennial religion and anarchism known as "primitivism"- one Trevor Jensen. The very sort of thing that Molly avoids as a matter of common sense, all lack of time aside. Now, whatever one may say about this guy one cannot say that he is dumb. The propaganda for his actually rather minor book is so well hyped that one might think it was going to hit the NYT best sellers' list unless one knew better. To my inexpressible horror I found out from a woman from AK Press who dropped by Molly's table to yak-yak that Mr. Jensen actually makes money from these tele-conferences. Holy shitting Jesus !!! Here's a little riddle. What exactly is it that is born every minute according to a famous countryman of Mr. Jensen ?

The schedule of the Festival, however, could hardly be reduced this this particular mistake. In actual fact it was minor, and much more important matters, both historical and contemporary, were the focus of most of the events. During her several rapid bathroom breaks in the Mondragon (legislated by an overabundance of coffee, hot chocolate and "artificial warmth") Molly noticed that the joint was jumping, and there is little doubt that all told the event was a great success. Those workshops that were being held in the park at Old Market Square seemed to gather about ten cold-resistant people each, and there were several of them throughout the day. The Festival had actually been planned with too little prior time. Previously announced music in the park had been shuffled off by the time the day arrived to a series of poetry readings. Molly usually dreads this sort of thing. Modern poetry is notoriously bad, and "lefty poetry" is usually amongst the worst of the worst. But it was actually good, for the most part. This was because at least two of the readers did more of a stand-up comedy routine than the "how tortured is my soul" type of thing that one expects in such a situation. Even the serious stuff was interesting, but I'd really have liked to hear the previously promised bands. I guess that they sensibly decided to play indoors.

So how to sum up. Molly heard that many of the events outside of the Bookfair were well attended. For a "first effort" it went over great, though I really think that people here in Winnipeg should imitate those in other places and plan many months in advance. Edmonton, for instance, is already planning for their event in the late Fall. As to "tele-conferences" I would suggest that one could probably get somebody like Chomsky (not that I am his greatest fan) for free and draw a hell of a lot more people than an author from an American cult. Whatever one might say about Chomsky he ain't on the financial make, and he's a hell of a lot bigger draw than Jensen. If anything else like this were to occur in the future-and it hopefully will- than at the very least such transitory "stars" should be balanced with others of contrary opinions. Still, the selection of workshops and lectures generally achieved a very proper balance between the historical and the contemporary, the practical and the theoretical, the local and the national. See the website for the full details.

As to the outside venue, this year may have been rather exceptional for its chilliness. It's usually warmer here by now. If, however, the same idea were to be repeated in future years I would suggest an "end of May" date just to be sure. I'd rather be ducking potential thunderstorms than enduring another repeat of the temperatures seen this weekend. The end of May would not conflict with any other Canadian event. All told I'm very happy that my own town now has imitated others in holding such an event. these sort of events are evidence of the growing maturity of anarchism in Canada (and worldwide). They show that we are an established force, a growing force, and they stand in contrast and as an alternative to illusionary dreams of immediate revolution. In the end they are not just evidence of maturity but contributers to same.
As for Molly's plans for any future such event, well first of all I really have to have my own flag- a big fat calico cat on a field of black, with "Mollymew" emblazoned beneath it. A cut-off jean jacket with same would be an extra treat. Molly's colours !!! Hell's Kittens maybe if I could get the agreement of the Big Red Machine. God only knows what they charge for this use of copyright. I'd also like to arrive with balloons for the kiddies. In warmer temperatures when people feel like bringing the kids out such a thing would be de-rigeur. Well, I'd also like to plan further in advance than I did this time- hey I share in the local fault.


Werner said...

I wonder if any of the trots/commies/other marxoids realized they were at an anarchist festival/bookfair? Oops, what a dumb question!

Larry Gambone said...

Sounds like fun. too bad about the weather, but it sure shows anarchism to be alive and well in the Peg!