Tuesday, 9 September 2008

Report on the 2nd Belfast Anarchist Bookfair

The Second Belfast Anarchist Bookfair was held on Saturday 6th of September at the Belfast Unemployed Resource Centre. Overall the event was a great success, for Organise! and all those who helped out - providing stalls, giving talks, contributing to discussion (both at meetings and informally), sorting food and making the event great craic.

There were stalls there from Back to Front magazine, Choice Ireland, Glasgow Anarchists, Just Books, Revolutionary Anarcha-Feminist Group, Solidarity Federation, Workers Solidarity Movement, an anarchist fiction author Roslyn Fuller was also selling her recently published book 'Isak'.

The first talk Immigrant Workers and Racism proved to be a bit too early for some and was attended by only half a dozen people. Nevertheless Francois from Organise! and Davy from the WSM made some interesting points and the discussion afterwards was productive. The next talk Currents in Working Class Self Organisation: Anarcho-Syndicalism provided a wealth of information on the history of, and different currents, within Anarcho-Syndicalism. This prompted discussion on strategies to build Anarcho-Syndicalist organisations and there was particular interest in the lesser known history and current activity of the FORA, the IWA/AIT affiliate in Argentina.

Despite technical difficulties with the sound the Prison Isn't Working video showing and discussion managed to show some of the films made with the Educational Shakespeare Company and prisoners and former prisoners. There was interest in the work of the ESC and in the stories of former prisoners themselves and we will be having another go at this one as a separate public meeting and film showing in the near future.

The Education Workers Branch of Organise! then hosted a discussion on the numerous issues affecting workers in the education industry and in relation to education generally. Organise! aim at building a broader solidarity network amongst those who work in the education industry and it became clear that there is certainly no lack of struggles and attacks throughout the industry.

Fighting Unions? saw Jason from Organise! and Alan from the WSM outline their respective organisations positions on the Trades Unions. There was also an update from the floor from Socialist Party speaker on the case of Gordon MacNeill, a sacked airport worker who UNITE have been trying to gag following their appalling handling of a dispute that goes back over seven years. At this stage Gordon and the other sacked airport workers have only been consistently supported by the Socialist Party, Organise! and more recently the new WSM Belfast Branch. The debate was mainly focused on differences between the SP and anarchist strategies in relation to the Trades Unions although it was apparent that there was some significant differences between Organise! and the WSM on this issue. A contributor from the floor suggested that we should return to the practice of the IWW of singing our protest, stating that he had been coming to meetings and events like this over the years and never once heard Solidarity Forever. This was taken on-board as a suggestion for next years bookfair.

To round off the days events a raffle was drew and people kept the discussions and craic going in the John Hewitt and the Duke of York. Again Organise! would like to thank everyone who made the event a success particularly the Belfast Unemployed Resource Centre for letting us use the venue and, surprisingly (well we were surprised) the Communist Party of Ireland for advertising the event in their paper. We hope to provide fuller reports of at least some of the meetings over the next few days.

Saturday, 26 July 2008

The Second Annual Belfast Anarchist Bookfair

Welcome to the Blogspot of the Second Belfast Anarchist Bookfair, this years event has been co-ordinated by Organise! the Irish class struggle anarchist group, and we hope this years event will build on the success of the previous bookfair.

The itinerary is just on the right of the blog and we hope that this years discussions will prove informative, enjoyable and be of some use for ongoing and future organising.

With people coming from near and far we are a bit pushed in terms of what we can offer by way of accommodation. Obviously we will be putting up people involved in giving talks as a priority but we might have some floor space available to traveling comrades. For further information email organiseireland@yahoo.ie

Stalls confirmed so far:

Anarchist Federation
Belfast Anarchist Black Cross
Choice Ireland
Just Books Collective
Revolutionary Anarcha-Feminist Group
Solidarity Federation-IWA
We Won't Pay Campaign
Workers Solidarity Movement

Some Reports on last years Belfast Anarchist Bookfair

The second annual Belfast Anarchist Bookfair will take place on Saturday 6th September 11 noon until 6.00 pm. Hosted by Just Books Collective in the Belfast Unemployed Resource Centre we hope to build on the success of last years event.
More details to follow, if anyone has any suggestions for meetings or wants to book a stall let us know early because space is limited.

The first Belfast Anarchist Bookfair took place on Friday 31st of August and Saturday 1st of September, this report will be followed by more indepth reports from individual meetings and from people who attended the bookfair. Many thanks from the Just Books Collective and Organise! to all involved in making this the success that it was.

The first Belfast Anarchist Bookfair last weekend was a great success. It is estimated that over 150 people attended the bookfair and film showing over the evening of the Friday 31st of August and throughout the day on Saturday 1st of September.The Friday evening kicked events off with a showing of Libertarias, a film that tels the story of a group of women fighting as part of the Mujeres Libres in the milita's during the Spanish Revolution. Militarisation of the militia's, sexism and the removal of women from the frontline in the fight against fascism are all dealt with in this 1996 film directed by Vicente Aranda. A few anarchist 'icons' are toppled along the way with the focus of the story being on the bravery and idealism of the women and men who make up the 'rank and file' of the anarchist militia.

There was an early start on Saturday morning (perhaps a wee bit too early for some) with the first meeting, giving the low down on developments within Just Books, kicking off at 11.30 am to a rather small, but interested, gathering of around half a dozen. Attendance at the rest of the days meetings was much higher, reports on each meting should follow this article.The meetings throughout the rest of the day were on: 'Belfast Anarchism', 'Ireland, still fighting for the right to choose', Northern Ireland - New Era? Anothert future is possible', 'Justice for Dockers', 'Workplace Organising, Workplace Resistance', 'International Anarcho-Syndicalism', and 'Resisting Water Charges'.

There were stalls from AIT-IWA, Back2front magazine, Barracka Books (Cork), Belfast Anarchist Black Cross, Just Books, Organise!, Revolutionary Anarcha-Feminist Group, Solidarity Federation, We Won't Pay Campaign, Workers Esperanto Association, and the Workers Solidarity Movement.

Thanks also to the organisers and bands that made the Saturday night benefit for Just Books such a success, ta very much to Jonny, Runnin' Riot, 1000 Drunken Nights, the Lobotomies the Troubles and Stillbirth. Thanks to everyone who did stalls, gave talks, made food, helped publicise the event, housed waifs and strays over the weekend, cleaned up, contributed to discussion, got a drink in...

Particular thanks to the Unemployed Resource Centre in Belfast, Albert from Justice for Dockers, Heather from the Family Planning Association, RAG and Choice Ireland. It was great to see so many people over the weekend, new and old, from all over.

Organise! would like to thank everyone who helped ensure this was such a successful event, and to take this opportunity to let everyone know that we plan to make this an annual event.


Around 25 people attended the meeting on Justice for Dockers.On July 2006, a group of dockers set up a committee to fight for justice for dockers suffering from asbestosis or asbestos related diseases got while working unloading asbestos at Belfast Docks from 1960 to 1980. The group aims to seek compensation from the British government, their employers and also their union - SIPTU. All who knew about the danger of abestos but never told the dockers.Authur Millar who worked in the docks himself spoke passoniately about the betrayel of the union leadership and the employers and their exhaustion of all the legal avenues including the courts and lobbying the leadership of SIPTU in the struggle for justice but to no avail. So far only NIPSA have given their support to the campaign.The discussion afterwards centered on the need to build support amongst the trade union rank and file and broaden out the campaign to include all those affected from asbestos such as the current campaign by residents in Crumlin to prevent a asbestos dump being built in their area.Most importantly Justice for Dockers will be on the streets in the next couple of weeks to expose and embarrass the British Government, SIPTU and employers and they are asking for our support.


Chair: Conor (Organise!)Speakers: Garth (Organise!), Eoin (IWU), Jacques (SolFed)

This meeting was well-attended with approximately 25-30 present for most of the session. Garth began with a short talk on his experiences as both a conductor and train-driver in the railways and in particular his experience as a union health & safety rep. Garth summarised Organise's position on the unions and workplace activity - highlighting that while Organise does not think the unions can be reformed, individual members have taken positions such as shop-steward or health & safety rep, but are opposed to taking full-time paid positions that take the individual away from the shopfloor. Garth also discussed the problem of sectionalism in the workplace, instead suggesting that workplace organising should be industry-based instead of craft-based.Eoin then spoke about the current campaigns of the IWU in the Rep. of Ireland. Eoin discussed some of the pros and cons of the group and some criticisms they have come under. Eoin highlighted that the involvement of some republicans in the group may create a stigma that would be a barrier to a section starting in Northern Ireland.Jacques (SolFed) discussed the meaning of anarcho-syndicalism and it's direct relation to workplace organising. Members of the Socialist Party commented that they could not see a difference between what Jaqcues described as anarcho-syndicalism and what they understand to be trade-unionism. The exchange remained friendly and constructive without descending into sectarianism.


Arthur Rafferty spoke on behalf of Justice for Dockers and gave the background to the campaign for compensation for dockers who have contracted asbestos related illnesses as a result of their work unloading asbestos. Even after the government and employers knew about the dangers of asbestos they failed to inform the workers. Arthur stated that government spokespersons claimed they told officials of the men's union, the ITGWU (now SIPTU), at the time who then failed to inform the rank and file. Arthur stated that todays SIPTU officials and Sinn Fein MLAs who claim to be ex-dockers, such as Alex Maskey, have refused to meet him while Nigel Dodds of the DUP has.
Today there are only two full-time workers left at the docks, the rest of the staff are agency workers. He felt the campaign had no choice now but to take the government, the employers and the union to court for failing to advise the workers of the dangers of working with asbestos. In the meantime however former dockers are "dropping like flies".
There were over 20 people in attendance at the meeting and assurances of solidarity and support came from the floor and Arthur was asked what could be done to help the campaign. Arthur informed the meeting that they planned to "hijack" an upcoming SIPTU ex-dockers social in Belfast in order to force officials to acknowledge the campaign and that all support would be welcome. Arthur was asked to clarify his definition of docker as there are, it was pointed out, actually other non-agency full-time staff working at the port who are members of SIPTU. It was also put that while the lack of support from SIPTU officials was not surprising that support should be sought from rank and file SIPTU members.