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The Melbourne Anarchist - ROADTRIP!!! - Bookfair

The Melbourne Anarchist - ROADTRIP!!! Was on just under a – ROADTRIP!!! Ago. Okay, let me get this off my chest. At the Jura collective meeting a few months ago, there was mention of the Melbourne Anarchist Bookfair, and my first reaction was: ROADTRIP!!!

Clearly I'm a fan of ROADTRIPS!!! There's something about long, casual drives across vast stretches of land that appeal to me, and when three interesting, engaging people from the Sydney anarchist community are added to the mix, we have a recipe for awesomeness. And that's what Melbourne Anarchist ROADTRIP!!! Bookfair was – awesome.

The Bookfair was held on Saturday, 9th of August from 10am till about 6pm at Abbotsford Convent. According to the convent website, it was built on the land of the Wurundjeri people (respect to the original custodians) in the late 1900s. It went from being a nunnery/orphanage, to a university faculty, to a potential development site, to a site of community resistance. The end result of the resistance was the formation of Abbotsford Convent Foundation, in 2004. It owns and manages the complex as a community asset with a focus on arts, culture, and learning. How appropriate then, that The Bookfair found this home to house it's education in resistance.

Education is extremely important, especially when many people are ignorant of what anarchism actually is, and blindly propagate lamestream media myths. This was another reason why I looked forward to the road-trip. Although I'm not new to the 'lefty' scene, and have been involved in organising protests, I'm relatively new to anarchism as a politic and the Sydney anarchist community as a whole. So, the idea of road-tripping with people – a member from Jura, a member from Black Rose, and an unaffiliated active activist – who had greater understanding of it's principles and practices, felt to be a ripe educational opportunity.

Thanks to my comrades, on the drive to Melbourne I learnt about the platformist tendency within the anarchist movement, and at The Bookfair after party I learnt about Jura’s association with anarcho-syndicalism (not to mention the conflict between these two schools of thought/practice). Finally, through my own observations at The Bookfair I learnt that a broad, diverse, and passionate bunch of people wave the anarchist flag.

The people that I met impressed me with their enthusiasm and dedication. I met a couple of people part of an informal collective, whom had recently set up a community centre; a zine and card maker, from whom I bought a hilarious “dance dance revolution” card, with a dancing communist cat on it; a few people from the Melbourne Street Medic Collective doing great work to educate the activist scene on self-care and first aid; a bunch from Anarchist Affinity; a hard worker women from MADGE, whom I'd be in contact with in the past for the March Against Monsanto campaign; and a bunch of other dedicated, inspiring people.

On the Jura side of The Bookfair, the two member Jura contingent, plus an “honounary member”, were surprised to be joined by a long-time Jura member. The extra Jura member helped lighten load of holding down the fort, and puncture the bustling setting-up with a welcome reprieve. Not for long, however, as we went from a discriminate organisation of books, to broad brush strokes, to simply trying to keep them from falling off the table and loosely organised. All the while, the Black Rose member successful set up a table overflowing with zines.

Regardless of suicidal books, the table mostly worked, and people seemed to be able to find what they wanted; no doubt it could've been organised better. At the end of the day we did sell a decent number of books ranging from the queer section (Queering Anarchism); to the classic by Marshall, Demanding the Impossible. From the general Anarchism section like Proudhun, and the more recent Black Flame by Schmidt and Walt; from direct action anthologies, like the lovely Australia How To Influence People and Make Trouble, to books on Africian, Spanish, Doaist, and Asian Anarchism; from Anarcho-feminist classic Quiet Rumours, to books on ecology and veganism. Plus, we gave a bunch of Sedition away and signed up many more members to our email list!

There wasn't just book selling action at the table, but conversational as well. Amongst the intermittent talks, we had some about the eroding effect neoliberalism has on radical politics in universities; the lack of obvious anarchical politics in V for Vendetta; and the importance of militancy in a movement. Of course, we also heard many people lamenting the fact of so many good books to buy, yet a limited budget to buy them.

There were, however, more than just books, but talks and skill sharing workshops. Unfortunately, I didn't get to go to more than one talk. It was title First Nations Liberation, represented by Robbie Thorpe who gave an impassioned speech, reminding us all of the black and bloody history of Australia. This was followed by the gentle, yet intense Vivian Malo who shared a condensed version of her story of coming out of ignorant and powerless of the struggles of indigenous Australians, to empowerment and to fighting back. Lastly, a young women told of her soon-to-be crusade to Canada, to visit the First Nations people to learn of their struggle and victories. To support her travels she was raffling off some art, which Jura bought a couple of tickets.

Other talks included Anarchist Parenting, Rise of Fascism in Europe and Australia, Intersectional Feminism, Worker's Power and Radical Labour Struggles, Reclaiming Education From Neoliberalism, and much, much more. Even a basic What is Anarchism? talk. Hopefully, something for everyone.

After a long and tiring, yet interesting and engaging, day the entire Jura contingent made our way to the after party. Although we missed out on the bands that played, we engaged instead in lively discussions and making much merry. It was here that I got a chance to meet and talk to the Black Swan collective from Adelaide; discuss the Anarchist action in Melbourne via some members of Anarchist Affinity; and observe and intermittently engaged in an impassioned discussions with a cheerful member of MAC.

It was a fitting end to The Bookfair. The drive home was longer than the drive down, the busy few days in Melbourne had taken their toll, though it was well worth the trip. Not only did I get the opportunity to clarify my own understanding of Anarchism, but I got to feel an authentic sense of solidarity with my fellow anarchist in Melbourne and with those who ventured down to Melbourne with me. And my love for a good ROADTRIP!!! wasn't diminished at all. I hope to make my way down to the next Melbourne Anarchist Bookfair, with an even bigger contingent of Sydney Anarchists.

A big thanks goes out to the very generous and anonymous donor who helped to cover the cost of the hire car and petrol. Also, thanks to those that took the trip down with me, the Melbourne Anarchist crew for organising The Bookfair, and the Jura crew for helping me select books to take down.