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Interesting critique of the Bay Area Anarchist Bookfair

Posted on January 22nd, 2013 in Anarchist Publishers, Happenings, Uncategorized

There’s an interesting discussion brewing around the annual Bay Area Anarchist Bookfair. We saw this posted on Anarchist News this morning … follow this link to the original if you’re interested to see what others have said (but remember that Anarchist News has a tendency to turn into a free for all, in mighty unproductive ways).


Bay Area Anarchist Book Fair is all PM Press
Tue, 01/22/2013 – 12:40 |  Anonymous

The 2013 Bay Area Book Fair speaker list is in. 15 of the 19 authors are PM Press authors. At least five, probably closer to half, of those PM authors do not self-describe as anarchists. With the Bay Area Book Fair being organized by Ramsey Kanaan, co-founder of PM Press, I suppose this doesn’t come as much of a surprise.

The Bay Area Book Fair exists, then, to promote PM Press and its authors, a fact that is clearly visible by the overwhelming dominance of PM authors in the lineup. So who is PM Press? While PM press presents itself to anarchists as an anarchist press, publishing a wide variety of anarchist books, it is not an anarchist press. It is a traditionally run, hierarchical business with bosses and owners. Ramsey and Craig, the owners, are using their years of work in anarchist publishing to continue to market to us without doing the hard work of not being bosses and minor capitalists who profit off the work of others. (In fact, despite being a traditional business, they continue in the anarchist practice of using volunteer labor.)

Ramsey presumedly left AK Press because he found collective process too stifling. He preferred to just be in charge. But the anarchist market is one he knows well, so he continues to market to it. It’s possible he still identifies personally as an anarchist, but he has made it clear both in his press and his decisions that PM Press is not an anarchist publisher.

There are anarchist publishers in the US, willing to practice what they preach: AK Press, CrimethInc., Little Black Cart, Eberhardt Press, and Combustion Books, to name a few. I’m certain they don’t work the same way as one another, but each has shown a commitment to non-hierarchical decisionmaking and a world without bosses. To being anarchists, not just selling books to them.

I know Ramsey has been an organizer of the Bay Area Book Fair for a long time, and I do think he deserves credit for that work, but it is inappropriate that he has stacked the speakers entirely from his own ranks. It is inappropriate that PM Press is welcomed as equals in the world of anarchist publishing, instead of being seen as a traditional press that publishes books of interest to anarchists.

So, the 2013 Bay Area Book Fair authors:

PM Press authors:
Terry Bisson
David McNally
Kim Stanley Robinson
Joshua Kahn Russell
Eddie Yuen
Chris Crass
Scott Crow
George Katsiaficas
Jay Kinney
Vikki Law
Sasha Lilley
Paul Mavrides
Roxanne Dunbar Ortiz
James Davis
Leslie James Pickering

Non-PM Press authors:
Nick Riotfag
John C. Clark