We are writing to update you on the 2020 Montreal Anarchist Bookfair. As everyone is more than aware, the global pandemic has resulted in the postponement or cancellation of large gatherings, and many upcoming anarchist bookfairs worldwide (from Europe to Aotearoa and beyond) have been forced to call off their events. Our collective has yet to make a decision. It is clear to us, however, that if we organize a gathering on the weekend of May 16 and 17, it will look significantly different from what the bookfair has been for the past twenty years.
The Montreal Anarchist Bookfair, the largest on Turtle Island, has long been a moment for us to come together as anarchists to celebrate and share the multitude of ways in which we are inspired by this beautiful idea along with the practices that stem from it. Our hope, then, is to somehow still be able to mark this crucial occasion, and in a way that offers us the social and emotional connections that are threatened right now. We’d also like to see the Montreal Anarchist Bookfair, even if in a modest way, assert that anarchism and its ever-more relevant forms of freedom are still here. We see this as a moment for us to envision how to come together to educate, organize, and agitate for the world we want to see, instead of going back to “normal” after COVID-19.
That’s going to take a lot of creativity! So we’re inviting you to share imaginative ideas with us. How can we take or make, and then share, space to be together? Are there novel ways to dialogue about ideas, play, grieve, make art and music, offer care, show solidarity, dance, and so on, that remind ourselves we’re still here, we’re still strong—ways that might allow some of us to gather at a “safe” distance in person in Montreal and/or others to engage in highly participatory long-distance ways, including physically in their own locales at the same time?
Please email us your creative suggestions by or before April 10. Our deadline for making a final decision is April 15. We’re grateful for your help!
Below you’ll find two announcements related to keeping us connected.
In the meantime, take good care of yourselves, and take good care of each other.
loving, grieving, fighting, caring,
the Montreal Anarchist Bookfair Collective
email: [info AT salonanarchiste DOT ca]
Our first announcement is that the Montreal Anarchist Bookfair now has a public chatroom. We want to stay connected to people, now and into the future. We want to be able to encounter new people with other ideas and different perspectives. We absolutely don’t want to rely completely upon Facebook or Reddit for those purposes.
Chatrooms (and other “online platforms”) can be a disaster, and that’s especially true in their early days. While we intend to moderate (so as to cut down on fucked-up or annoying discourse), we hope any prospective users will be sympathetic to how challenging that undertaking can be. Fortunately, all users will be able to ignore other users if they wish, turn off notifications, and otherwise have tools that allow them to step back rather than get sucked in, yet without having to disconnect entirely.
If you are interested in being a moderator, or otherwise helping us to maintain and improve upon the chatroom, feel free to write us an email with the word “moderation” or “modération” in the subject line. We will need moderators who can speak English, French, and potentially other languages. Reach out to us, too, if you know anything about Matrix specifically, or if you think you can learn. Our system is far from polished right now, and we’d love people who can help us make it better over time with respect to information security for social movements, having something that’s easy for everyone to use, and striking a good balance between these two important but sometimes mutually exclusive objectives.
If you’d like to use a computer to connect to the chatroom, the easiest way to (though not necessarily the best) is to follow this link: https://irc.anarchyplanet.org/#salon-anar-mtl
If you’d like to use a smartphone, the easiest way to connect is probably to download the Telegram app, set up a profile, then use Telegram to open the following link: https://t.me/joinchat/PH2YmkyNkjns1N0yHAcbNA
If you feel comfortable with a larger challenge, whether or not you use a computer or a smartphone, we recommend using a Matrix application from https://riot.im and connecting to the following Matrix address: #salon-anar-mtl:riot.anarchyplanet.org (we recommend the RiotX app for Android phones)
If you have any questions on this topic (including any of the things above and/or about other ways to connect) or if you have specific accessibility needs, feel free to write us an email at [info AT salonanarchiste DOT ca]; we will do our best to answer in a way that’s helpful. If your question is about how to connect via Tor, please use either “tor english” or “tor français” in the subject line. Otherwise, please use “chatroom” or “clavardage” in the subject line.
It is important to note that what is said in this chatroom is public, even if users are anonymous. Anyone can join, including people who mean anarchists harm or are otherwise fucked up. (This is also true of the in-real-life Montreal Anarchist Bookfair. We obviously think that big public spaces are crucial despite the real issue of harm that all such spaces grapple with, and try our best at the bookfair—and will do so in this chat room—to deal with concerns as they came up.) The important thing is always to create something that is difficult to surveil effectively. Despite the conspiracy theories, there are still ways to do this sort of thing on the internet, at least well enough for our purposes.
We’re learning this stuff as we go, though. No matter where you’re at with tech stuff, perhaps you should learn along with us, share around your favourite anarchist texts that are coming out right now, and help the socially isolated feel a little more connected.
Secondly, some weeks ago, we set up a public email listserv directed at volunteers. We haven’t sent out any emails yet, and right now there is little to be done. At some point, however, the bookfair will need volunteers, for all the things we simply can’t do on our own—even if the physical bookfair as it’s been done isn’t possible for many months from now. Such volunteering has, in the past, included postering around town, serving food, doing childcare, and translating between languages, among many other things.
We thank everyone who has signed up already, and we want to ask that others sign up too. To do so, please go to https://noise.autistici.org/mailman/listinfo/benevoles-volunteer-salonmtl and register; alternatively, email us at with the word “volunteer” or “bénévole” in the subject line.
It’s just a newsletter, so getting on the listserv isn’t signing yourself up for any work. We simply want a direct and simple means for telling people what we need help with, if they’re interested in knowing what’s up.