Fascists Foiled at Boston Anarchist Bookfair

Fascists fail to disrupt Boston Anarchist Bookfair

November 19, 2018 — Boston, MA

First off, we’d like to thank everyone who tabled, presented, and attended this year’s Boston Anarchist Bookfair.

Well, not everyone who attended:

Five masked fascists attempted to storm the Boston Anarchist Bookfair on Sunday November 18th 2018. Their masks themselves were emblazoned with fasces and arrows, the symbols of neo-Nazi organizations Patriot Front and Vanguard America, from which the former split last year.

Their chants included “Blood and Soil,” a direct translation of “blut and boden,” a phrase long associated with German ultranationalists and popularized by Richard Walther Darré for the Nazi Party, as well as “strong borders, strong nation.” Bookfair participants quickly assembled and prevented the fascists from entering the tabling room, expelling them from the building with chants of “Nazis out!” The physical danger and invasion of our space was prevented without the involvement of the police, who would have relished the opportunity to target us as well, or campus security. This is the second time in the last two years that Patriot Front have attempted to enter an anarchist bookfair and were repelled by collective action (the other being the Houston Anarchist Book Fair in September 2017).

We do not wish to understate the severity of neo-nazis in broad daylight dawning masks and attempting to intimidate those they view as a threat to their quest for domination. We, however, do not wish that they succeed in their goals of intimidating us or our friends, comrades, and supporters. While open displays of fascist rhetoric should be taken very seriously, they were massively outnumbered, unable to even enter the bookfair, and driven away in a matter of minutes. We demonstrated our ability to stand together when the moment required it. As always, solidarity is our most powerful weapon against the fascist threat.

As anarchists we seek to embody everything the fascists oppose. In the face of white supremacy we build anti-racist solidarity, not only in opposition to the fascists but also against all embodiments of settler colonialism and the carceral state. In the face of white nationalism we declare our opposition to the state and we work towards the self-emancipation of the international working class. In the face of attacks on migrants and the strengthening of borders we seek to tear down the walls that divide us and defend our friends, families, and community members from deportation. In the face of patriarchy and enforcement of hierarchical gender and sexual norms we embrace revolutionary feminism and the possibilities for freedom that emerge from queerness. In the face of capitalist crises and appeals to authority for protection we struggle for a world without bosses or politicians, knowing that we alone can save ourselves. This is the heart of anti-fascism and we will never let the threat of fascist thugs prevent us from loving and supporting one another or fighting for a world rooted in freedom and equality. Our bonds of solidarity are based in our shared struggles for freedom. Do not believe for a second that efforts to intimidate us will shake these bonds, let alone break them: it will only make them stronger.

– Boston Anarchist Bookfair organizing collective


Published in: on November 20, 2018 at 9:18 pm  Comments (1)  
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Shawn Wilbur: Notes on the Anarchist Culture Wars

Taking a break from my usually more historical postings, today I reproduce a blogpost by Shawn Wilbur, prompted by recent discussions regarding alleged personal and political connections between the far right and anarchism. The problem of egoists, Nietzschean “supermen,” “national syndicalists,” “national anarchists,” and the like associating themselves with anarchism goes back at least to the 1890s, when Malatesta argued that anarchy without “socialist content… would be worthy of ‘supermen’ in Nietzsche’s and [the proto-fascist Gabriele] D’Annunzio’s fashion and, contradicting itself, would turn into aristocratism and tyranny” (Complete Works, Vol. 3, p. 293). Attempts by the far right to co-opt anarchists (and anarchism) were not limited to individualist anarchism, nor are they limited today to the so-called “post-left” anarchist milieu. The original Fascists in Italy attempted to recruit syndicalists (without as much success as some “post-leftist” anarchists would have it), and in France they attempted to appropriate the legacy of Proudhon, among other things. In Russia, “national bolsheviks” and “national anarchists” claim Bakunin as a forerunner, quoting from his various anti-semitic outbursts in support of  their “white nationalism.” But it is a completely fallacious leap to then argue that anarchism is an incipiently fascist doctrine, “contaminated” by inherently fascist ideas because fascists sometimes like to court self-proclaimed anarchists or to misappropriate anarchist ideas and tactics, such as direct action, for their own purposes.

Shawn Wilbur’s Contr’un: Anarchist Theory

Notes on the Anarchist Culture Wars

With regard to the “courting” of anarchists by authoritarians, and as someone who has been so courted on various occasions, it seems to me that the key vulnerability among radicals is not attraction to certain authors or ideas, but particular ways of interacting with ideas. And that vulnerability is widespread in the milieu, with perhaps the more dangerous instances involving ideas that are not themselves so obviously edgy.

What is required for someone to slide from Stirner toward fascism, from Proudhon toward monarchy, from Bakunin toward actual dictatorship, etc. is for a few, generally uncharacteristic bits of their thought to be disconnected from their context, elevated in importance and then associated with similarly disconnected bits of authoritarian thought, with some sort of eclecticism, “syncretism” or outright opportunism as the guiding philosophy. The alt-right has made this sort of opportunist, hodge-podge thinking a fairly explicit policy. Unfortunately, many radicals also engage in it, without much sense of the stakes. The result is a convergence of people who aren’t really all that interested in ideas, except as potential capital to put behind projects with some less philosophical basis or as a sort of personal adornment. And these people, whether they identify with the right or the left, tend to tell a story about “theory” that assumes ideas are generally mixable. No idea is really very distant from any other, provided you simply disregard the bits that establish distance (and, of course, clarity.)

(These folks will “use” any idea, no matter how radical, provided they can break off some little bit of it that appeals to their audience of people who don’t care much. We can never stop these people from this kind of annoying, but ultimately trivial appropriation. All we can do is be clearer than they are, so that people who actually do care aren’t mislead. You never convince opportunists that they are wrong, because that’s not ultimately what it’s about. You can, however, demonstrate the weaknesses of opportunism as a mode of thought.)

Sometimes these folks find common cause with people who think that ideas are indeed important, but draw firm lines between ideas that they think of as “bad” or “dangerous” and some set of ideas that seem to them safe, good, etc. There’s a kind of narrow rationalism that is constantly concerned that “something could go wrong” if we have unsafe thoughts or make use of ideas and ways of thinking unapproved by its particular standards. A lot of well-meaning and unconsciously authoritarian would-be radicals fall into this camp. Some of them are quite serious about the defense of their particular sort of approved thinking and some just have a low tolerance for anything that might seem “problematic,” “sketchy” or “fucked up.”

When we do find people swept from one position to another, I suspect these are often people who rather enjoy the fact that many ideas are dangerous, but aren’t so concerned about using ideas in any very serious way. Philosophy, like ideology, can be just another recreational drug. When we “lose” these people, we probably have to acknowledge that we only had them in a very limited sense in the first place.

None of these groups, it seems to me, are very well situated to deal with the notion of anarchy, which is necessarily (in the short term certainly, but probably also in the longest of terms) a truly dangerous idea. Now, some self-proclaimed “anarchists” are happy to do without the notion of anarchy, but as far as I can see that’s just giving up before you get started. But there are also people who look at Stirner (or something they’ve heard about egoism) and think “that’s problematic,” hear the usual criticisms of Proudhon and Bakunin and think “that’s fucked up,” worry about what might “go wrong” with poststructuralism, etc., but then look at anarchy and think “nothing to worry about here, folks.” But we often find that these folks also consider “democracy” a safe, positive notion, will find room in their nominally “anarchist” theory for authority, hierarchy, etc. It’s easy to be tolerant of this sort of thing as “rookie mistakes,” which ought to be fixed by more exposure to anarchist thought — except that there doesn’t seem to be much in the milieu pushing anarchists towards any more complex engagement, while there is perhaps an increasing resistance.

When it comes right down to it, the only people I have much faith in when it comes to a lasting commitment to anarchist thought and practice are those who are both serious about ideas (although I recognize a lot of ways this seriousness might manifest itself) — and specifically serious about anarchist ideas and anarchistic ways of thinking — and ready to acknowledge that the particular ideas that separate anarchism from the rest of the political or social philosophies out there, anarchy chief among them, are not “safe.” This isn’t a question of an intellectual vanguard or any sort of commitment that should exclude the average working stiff. We just shouldn’t be surprised that committing to even the serious contemplation of anarchy, which involves a radical break with the principles that govern the majority of our current relations and institutions, takes some mental effort, no matter where we’re starting from. You don’t have to know that Proudhon came to anarchy as a result of research into “the criterion” of certainty, but you probably do have to come to terms, in one way or another, that the “definitive” and “authoritative” are at least going to have to undergo some reworking in an anarchistic context, if they don’t simply get swept away with the authoritarian.

But if you can come to terms with anarchy, then you have not only gained an ideal, but presumably also mastered a skill. And that skill is, it seems to me, the one that best protects us whenever we are dealing with “dangerous” ideas. It might even simply involve the recognition that all ideas are dangerous, which is a pretty good inoculation against all the various systems and schemes that are peddled from every direction.

Shawn Wilbur