Anarchists are taking over Seattle Center, but all they want is to sell you some books and maybe inspire you to attend a workshop or two. The fifth annual Seattle Anarchist Book Fair comes to the Vera Project for a nonhierarchical, free-associative, family-friendly (really) weekend on August 24 and 25. We got details about the festivities from one of the fair’s organizers, who (as is the anarchist way) asked not to be identified or to be mistaken as a mouthpiece for the movement.
What are the goals of the Anarchist Book Fair?
It’s more than a book fair. We all identify with anarchism or have an affinity for anarchism, and book fairs are a way in which we can come together and meet. We hopefully create space, by having workshops and discussions, where ideas can be explored and people can find commonalities and more deeply figure out where they have differences. There’s something about seeing everyone coming together and building bonds, hopefully helping to further momentum towards actual anarchist action.
Action like the May Day protests?
I’m not going to distinguish the book fair from the actions. Obviously a book fair is not smashing, but I don’t view them as being opposed to each other and I don’t view them as being separate. Whether or not people who have been involved in May Day—this year, last year, in 1968, whenever—are at the book fair, I don’t know. We don’t ask. But I certainly am in full support of the actions taken on May Day. I think attacking the state, attacking capitalism, is central to anarchist practice, and so a book fair that doesn’t, at the very least, stand in solidarity with action beyond a book fair is just a shopping mall.
What kinds of books will be on hand?
There will probably be books on everything from anarchist history to what some people like to refer to as “the beautiful idea of anarchy.” There will be biographies of anarchists. There will be fiction there. There will be comics there. There will be kids’ books. It’s a pretty diverse collection of reading stuff.
What other events are going on this weekend, besides the book fair?
There’s an event on Friday night that is a benefit for Mapuche warriors who are facing oppression from the state down in Chile. There’s a party on Saturday night that will hopefully benefit opening up a new social center. So there are things besides just the book fair. Book fairs happen all over the place. It’s almost a cliché to have an anarchist book fair. But I still think it’s really important.
Is there hope that people who don’t self-identify as anarchists will show up?
Absolutely. One of the other benefits of a book fair is that it’s an easy access point to those ideas. For lots of people, the only thing they know about anarchists are people in black, fighting the cops, and smashing things. And that’s not the easiest entry point to find out why people are doing this. We do our best to create a chill space; a space where kids can hang out.
How do anarchists organize a book fair?
Oh my God, how could we possibly make any decisions if we’re anarchists? It doesn’t mean a damn thing. Individuals and groups will come together and will organize to do things, and that’s not contradictory to anarchism or to anarchy. Anarchy is not necessarily about all of us as individuals acting completely isolated from everyone else. Certainly our individual freedoms are at the root of all anarchist ideas, but if we want to come together and work together, we can. I’m not the leader of the book fair. None of us are the leader. We happen to be people who wanted to see it happen and so we chose to act accordingly. To me that’s what any anarchist endeavor has to come down to. And sometimes that means things are going to fail. Sometimes that means projects will go for a while and then die out. And that’s fine. Why would we want to create a machine of self-perpetuating anything?
So I guess I’m not getting that ending quote about how you hope to still be doing this in five years.
I’m sure that we’ll have totally toppled the state, so there will be no need to hold an anarchist book fair.
Seattle Anarchist Book Fair
Aug 24 & 25, Vera Project, Free