Exclusion and excitement at radical bookfairs

IssueDecember 2023 - January 2024
News by PN staff

An anarchist group was refused permission to have a stall at this year’s Anarchist Bookfair in London (ABiL) not because of the Anarchist Communist Group’s stand on trans issues, which the ABiL thinks is now okay, but because the ACG has not expelled members who hold views that the ABiL thinks are unacceptable.

The ‘Anarchist Bookfair in London’ was created after the implosion of the London Anarchist Bookfair in 2017 due to conflicts over trans issues (see PN 2612 – 2613).

This year’s ABiL took place on 7 October, spread across six venues in East London including Rich Mix, Freedom Bookshop and the Whitechapel Gallery.

ABiL organisers explained on their website that they had at first accepted the ACG stall application for this year ‘based on the organisation’s current public position on trans issues, some recent articles published on trans politics on their website’, and because a lot of new people had joined the ACG.

However, the ABiL collective then came across ‘new information which suggests there may still be dis-unity within ACG when it comes to trans solidarity’, and reinstated its previous policy of excluding the ACG.

In other words, when the ACG discussed trans issues a year ago, some people expressed views the ABiL considers unacceptable – and those people have not been expelled from the ACG.

Other radical bookfairs

Over 1,000 people came to the London Radical Bookfair (LRB) at Goldsmiths University in South London on 4 November. Books were flying out the door and there were several packed-out talks, which this year were themed around activist strategy and practice, including contributions from Peace News folk.

Housmans staff say that, all being well, the LRB will be back bigger and better in 2024: ‘It’s great to see how radical bookfairs have mushroomed across Britain over recent years – an area of real success, and an ideal way to introduce new people to revolutionary ideas. Do give them your support and keep the culture thriving.’

In Scotland, a few days later, Edinburgh’s Radical Book Fair took place in the Assembly Roxy, a converted church, from 9 – 12 November, with 20 workshops featuring former Guardian journalist Gary Younge and many others.

Back in England, three other radical book events deserve to be mentioned: the Dorset Radical Bookfair (in Bournemouth) on 7 October; the Peterborough Radical Bookfair on 14 October; and the Manchester & Salford Anarchist Bookfair at the People’s History Museum on 4 November.