It’s been a couple of weeks since we got back from the San Francisco Bay Area Anarchist Bookfair, and I have few excuses to offer for not having posted a report on the trip until now. The primary one is, of course, that my participant-observation of the collapse of big-box retail (if it was a job, I would be making a living, right?) has pretty well absorbed my time and energy in the interim. But I’ve also been taking a little vacation from some of my usual activities, and trying to absorb the experience a bit. The trip was a real pleasure. David Houser and I travelled down with the folks from Eberhardt Press and Communicating Vessels (available at better bookstores here and there,) and stayed at a slightly creepy, but very clean “green” hotel in SoMa, and managed to walk up to Golden Gate Park every day. We did some of the obligatory book and music shopping in the Market District, and I spent some very pleasant time talking shop with the crew at Bolerium Books, where I found a copy of Tucker’s translation of Proudhon’s “The Malthusians,” in a letterpress edition from Ishill’s Freeman Press.
The bookfair was a lot of fun. We set up next to Black Cat Press, some very serious class-struggle anarchists from Alberta, who had a couple of very nice books about anarchism in the Ukraine, including the first volume of Makhno’s The Russian Revolution in Ukraine, newly translated and nicely printed and bound. They were the best of neighbors, although it took a little while to make it clear we weren’t “that kind” of market anarchists. I probably had my most serious, shortest, and most enjoyable debate with one of their collective members. Of course, we were the “libertarians” next to a crowd of Wobblies for much of the day, and people browsing from their table to ours would often stare, over and over again, and the black and red star on the back of William Gillis’ editions of Kevin Carson’s “Ethics of Labor Struggle” and “Iron Fist behind the Invisible Hand,” then back at us, then at the rest of the Market Anarchy pamphlets, and then at the Proudhon pamphlets and “Emerson the Anarchist.” I’ve already started a short flyer with the tentative title: “Does this Table Confuse You?” Clearly, it confused some, while others didn’t take the time to puzzle it out, and just went to straight to head-shaking, muttering, nose-wrinkling, and/or sly “I’m on to you, you know” looks.
We sold a lot of literature, all of it dirt cheap, including ten copies of Proudhon’s Philosophy of Progress, in my translation, bundled with the just-in-time bookfair edition of LeftLiberty 1, which is largely devoted to giving some context to the Proudhon (both for 5 bucks, just to get a few copies into circulation.) Lots of people remarked on how good Charles Johnson’s version of the Market Anarchy series looked. We had a number of slightly thorny discussions about what we were all about, but no serious hassles. And we were able to bring together folks from three different local ALLiances. It was great to finally meet Charles and Nick face to face, and to spend some time in a different context with quite a number of Portland anarchists and fellow-travellers.
Part of the fun was, of course, running into people you didn’t know you would meet. We got a chance to talk to folks from the Kate Sharpley Library, to Lawence and Aragorn! from Anarchy / Little Black Cart, Cast, from the Wikipedia anarchism task force, Fred Woodworth from The Match, and various other friends, foes, minor luminaries and/or names to conjure with in our little world. We all, I think, eventually made the rounds of the fair, and a couple of us stocked up on anarchist-communist stuff, in part because that was there, but also because there was some very interesting stuff available from folks like our neighbors at Black Cat Press.
All in all, the trip seems to have been a success for the ALLiance, and it was certainly a welcome break from my routine. Next step: make a few post-final corrections and get LeftLiberty out where the rest of you can take a look.