Anarchist Book Fair – San Francisco, CA

A crazy rideshare of anarchist, punk, and rainbow kids left my trip to the Bay Area for the Anarchist book fair a little out of balance. We left Arcata to a group of funny travelers and houseless folks singing “cause they’re leaving, on a short bus…” which made a funny start to a journey that became a little hectic. Other than the general ruckus atmosphere that these kids brought to the bus, a dispute broke out between two of the kids, which ended in one of them upset and getting off in Garberville.

When we got to the East Bay and I dropped everyone off, my bus was a disaster with trash strewn about, cheese and humus smushed into everything, and a stench I wished weren’t there. It seemed as if they treated my bus like a squat. Someone had tagged up the original Rules for Riding the School Bus, which still hang in the front of the bus, with words about blood and kissing your own ass goodbye. It was not a good scene.


I’ve seen almost all of them since the ride and kindly expressed my discontent with the ride. They were all very receptive and apologetic. I have had plenty of folks as such before in my bus, but without problem, but usually there’s a mix of other people on board as well, so perhaps it is once I put only these type of folks on the bus that it ends up this way. Maybe I need to make sure that I keep a good variety onboard to help balance out extreme personality traits.

It makes me feel like perhaps once my bus is more built into a (tea)house and nice space, perhaps people will treat it kinder. Many of these kids are also used to squats and buses and communal spaces that are not treated with the utmost respect. I have been on a lot of buses and in a lot of squats where this is the case.

Dish rack

This brings me to my first experience with the Anarchist Book Fair. I arrived at 6 am in order to get a good spot right out front and when the first outside info booths set up I was quick to boil a pot of some good morning oatstraw and orange tea. I quickly doled out most of my tea, handing out my own cups to people, and quietly took a seat near the entrance. A couple kind kids began to set up some informational boards, publications, and shirts next to me. We began to speak about anarchy and it soon became clear that they were communists. They believed that the anarchist state cannot exist, as we don’t have the mental state (yet) to manage ourselves and we need some sort of organization to help us be efficient and successful, and that organization is government. Anarchists, I believe, also think that it is a good idea to have organization in order for things to run smooth, but that organization can’t be government.

Conversation and a good cuppa tea

Half jokingly I said, “Hey, what are you communists doing at an anarchist book fair?” They explained that they didn’t feel like their ideas were much different than that of anarchists, and to me the similarities struck me more than the differences. They both believe in peace, cooperation for the benefit of all, and an ultimate goal of a non-hierarchical society, often envisioned as stateless. In fact, many marxists and anarchists share the term communism with a lowercase ‘c’ for this form of stateless society.  Another fellow in his late forties came up and asked the same question as I had, “What are you communists doing here?” I laughed and said I had asked them the same thing. I realized he wasn’t joking when he said, “Get the fuck out of here. You’re not wanted here,” and stormed off inside.

A couple minutes later the fellow came back with a posse of older men, such as himself. One came forward and yelled at the communists. “I run this fair, and you’re not welcome here. Get the fuck out of here.” “Whoa, look who’s being authoritarian,” one of the the communists replied. The crowd of cronies that surrounded the fair-runner scoffed, yelled back, and flexed their strength in numbers. The communists tried quasi-politely to reason with them, but the first crony dashed forward with a swift kick to a box full of their literature, sending it flying as he threw their sign board around and flipped the table their shirts were laid out on. Some people yelled with sheer joy, the communists were dumbfounded, and I  had to keep myself back from jumping in the middle of things, as it was only the first hour of the fair and I didn’t want to get blacklisted to an event I was trying to serve tea at for the whole weekend.

A traveler

A half hour later I was passing by the communists, who had now set up outside the main area , and I stopped to apologize for the actions of my fellow anarchists (yes, I do believe in anarchy in an ideal world, but I’m not going to go into this in depth here). As I was speaking to them as huge splash of water flooded over their table from a 5 gallon bucket – an unwelcoming present from a fellow who I recognized as someone who worked at one of the info booths, and a tea recipient that morning. Not only did all of their publications get wet, but so did some of my clothes and bag. Several of his peers jumped with joy and cheered from behind the fence as he ran off and back into the fair.

I followed him and caught up amidst the morning frenzy of booths, books, and people. “Excuse me, I served you tea to you earlier,” I said, in order to give him context as to who I was (not that that gives me any authority), “and I was just standing at the communists booth and you got me a little wet.” I showed him. “I was just curious as to why you would do something of the such to them.” He apologized and proceeded to kindly tell me that anarchists will not stand for any pro-state organization; they will not compromise. Plus, communists have a long history of not only oppressing anarchists, but killing them! Whoa. “They didn’t seem that extreme to me,” I said. “They’re just a bunch of bourgeois upper class kids who want to stay in power and tell everyone else what to do. They don’t think that people can think for themselves.” “They don’t seem that different from you, to me. You guys both have similar goals. I don’t think the world is ready for anarchy yet. We need to be able to be more selfless, and more knowing as to our place within society, our relation to others, and how our individual role effects the whole of society. Don’t you think their ideals come from the heart and would benefit everyone, just like yours. Not to mention, don’t you think that anarchy requires cooperation between people, and antagonism such as the water is just the opposite?”

Random sippers

Later, while sipping tea in the bus, a fellow came by and joined me. I recognized him right off the bat as one of the fellows who had expelled the communists. He listened intently as I told him of the Free Tea Party’s mission and goals. I told him that no matter the race, or culture, or class, or political affiliation, I served tea to anyone. He nodded and applauded my efforts. He seemed like such a peaceful man at that point as well as when I saw him the next day and he told me he liked my website. Yet, that first morning, he was filled with venom and ready to fight the communists. I was confused.

I discussed both the ride down and the communist incident with several tea sippers. It was a hard thing for me to process, as it seems to me that a utopian society, whether anarchist or communist in fashion, would include people working together in an effort to overcome differences and co-create, whereas the anarchists I had been associating with were both disrespecting other people and their belongings. One person pointed out to me that many of the “anarchists” out there have only accepted the half of anarchy which is the absence of rules or authority, and forgot the other half, which is responsibility. Without external rules to govern your actions, I learned, you must create internal rules to perform this same action. This fits well with my philosophy of doing more than you think you should, both in living situations and in life in general.

Bag o' tea

A traveling Canadian

I see this kid everywhere...

This entry was posted in Events and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *