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Anarchist distributors boycott Montreal bookshop

Anonymous Comrade writes:
Summary: Joint declaration of Montreal anarchist distributors on the antagonistic situation with the Alternative Bookshop. Critique of the exclusion of anarchists and the privatization of the building and this so-called anarchist bookshop. Removal of distibution material and autonomous distribution (Anarchist Kiosk).

Joint Declaration of the Anarchist Distributors in Montreal

October 27, 2003

MONTREAL—We make this declaration in order to clarify things and bring people up to date concerning the antagonistic situation that currently exists in the project commonly known as the "AEELI" (Association des espèces d’espaces libres et imaginaires (Association of Kinds of Free and Imaginary Spaces)), or the "OSBL" (Organisme sans but lucratif --Non-profit Organization--) and also including Librairie Alternative / Alternative Bookshop, and more generally, concerning anarchist and [left] libertarian distribution in Montreal.

The collectives that have signed this declaration are all active in anarchist distribution in Montreal, and took part in the assembly of August 5 2003, which brought together around 80 people. It’s the conclusions we have drawn from it that lead us to make this clarification.


Since the late 1980s, there has been only one bookstore that identifies with anarchism in Montreal, even though there is a relatively significant anarchist and [left] libertarian presence in social struggles. This bookstore (Alternative Bookshop, located at 2035 Saint-Laurent Blvd.) basically owes its existence to another project that at its beginnings sought to be collective, the non-profit organization called AEELI, which was set up in 1982 thanks to a considerable private donation as well as other lesser financial contributions; its primary goal was to provide a permanent distribution space for anarchists in Montreal. This was done via the purchase of a building in the downtown area, intended to be self-financing through the rental of the other floors, with a view to providing a free space for an anarchist bookstore.

To quickly sum up a long, chaotic story we can say that this building was never really collectivized by all the anarchist groups and individuals active in Montreal. In 1987, people from the defunct Café Commun/Commune joined the project; this was the beginning of a faction which, over the years, was to put a stranglehold on the project. With the OSBL on the brink of financial disaster in 1995, an anonymous donor (!) was willing to put this project back on its feet financially on condition that all OSBL members not part of the bookshop collective be excluded from a new OSBL which would be composed exclusively of bookshop members.

Ever since this failed attempt at defacto privatization, these two projects continued with their ups and downs, their one constant feature being their lack of real openness toward the world outside. Since 1997 the OSBL has been managed (badly) by two persons who have blithely continued this privatization: no holding of assemblies, a perpetual and self-proclaimed board of directors with all decision-making and management centralized in their hands, the disappearance of the archives and administrative documents, the marginalization of French-speaking anarchists in Montreal (and from tendencies more radical than the leftist tendency dominant in that milieu; comrades have either been refused, discouraged to the point of leaving or expelled).

In July 2003, despite the fact that some bookshop members showed a desire for change by moving the bookshop from the second floor to the ground floor, the bookshop nonetheless remained under the control of the dinosaurs in the OSBL, and continues to be characterized by the insignificance of its stock. This was the context in which we tried to revitalize this initially collective project.


For some time now, some collectives and individuals who had noticed this situation of impoverished content, which was especially flagrant at the anarchist bookfairs, decided on their own to revive this project in the sense intended by its founders and by so doing, generally improve distribution. Others among us were approached by new members of Alternative Bookshop who said they regretted the closed nature of the project and said they wanted to go beyond the present situation. Beginning in the spring of 2003, a series of public meetings took place and lead to, after many ups and downs, the calling of a general assembly of the OSBL for August 5. For this occasion we wrote a joint proposal that all who were interested could acquire before the assembly.


In order to dispel any ambiguity, we declare that we came to this assembly (convened by the majority of the nine members and despite the two dinosaurs mentioned above) with the primary concern of revitalizing anarchist distribution in Montreal, together with all people present. But it was not even possible to discuss our joint proposal —presented in writing—given that it was immediately blocked by 4 "official" members of the OSBL. This rearguard, armed with their bylaws —of which there were only two copies— used procedural measures to prevent the assembly from becoming decisional in accordance with the proposal of the 5 other "official" members of the OSBL. In fact, of the sixteen points of order raised, thirteen were raised by one of the dinosaurs in question. Faced with this closed-minded attitude and contempt for direct democracy, these 5 members resorted in desperation to a motion to exclude the defenders of the status quo, so as to give the assembly full decision-making powers. This bureaucratic and procedural buffoonery that we were obligated to be a part of then degenerated into general confusion. We left after a straw vote—called for by the two chairpersons, who were overwhelmed by the events—rejected the exclusions by 36 votes to 28, thereby negating the possibility of holding a sovereign assembly.

To close this painful episode, we conclude that having come in a spirit of dialogue, we found ourselves faced with a monolithic group of persons who were visibly incited in a spirit of confrontation by the pro-status quo minority. In refusing to accept the full powers of a sovereign assembly and to act as free and autonomous individuals, the bulk of this group displayed both an alienated attitude and what looked like an identity-based withdrawal, a uniform block without a single dissident voice. That the positions expressed were split so clearly along linguistic lines seems all the more remarkable to us given that the tone used by the people across from us (who were 90% English-speaking) showed a condescension that for several among us evoked the old contempt of a bygone era. It should therefore be clear that we've been fighting nationalism for long enough to not allow the stench of colonialism to poison anarchist meetings, even when there are conflicts such as during the assembly in question.


This assembly therefore completed an already latent split between those who consider themselves the proprietors of a collective project that is going downhill under their control, and those who want to collectivize this project to ensure better anarchist distribution in Montreal. More generally, we note that beyond this episode, two different conceptions of anarchist distribution are in conflict here: distribution separated from the use we can make of the texts we distribute, disconnected from the social struggles that embody these texts; and our conception (despite our differences) of distribution, one engaged with social struggles and which seeks a radical use of these texts through our practice. Here is a fundamental difference that a despoiler is incapable of understanding…

Let’s now turn to our plans. We support the efforts --by the dissident majority in the OSBL, and by some among us-- to collectivize the “shame building” on Saint-Laurent Blvd. As for Alternative bookshop, its collective and its partisans, it goes without saying that their blind support for the reasoning of their little bosses, based on the respect of charters, statutes and bylaws, of "formal democracy" patterned on the state and going against the sovereignty of the assembly, raises serious questions about their anarchist convictions and their ability to spread these ideas and practices. All these reasons incite us to remove all the material we distribute from this pseudo-anarchist book store.


More positively, we will try to bring together the material we distribute during our common activities. Now, to find anarchist “literature” in Montreal, people will go where the anarchists are! A big step in the right direction.

Keep an eye out for newspaper launchings, public conferences, etc.; the presence of our kiosk will be collectively ensured by the groups and individuals who have signed this declaration. This kiosk may be the seed of a future bookstore worthy of our ideas.

Long live Anarchy!

email: diffuseurslibertaires@yahoo.ca

We support this joint declaration:

Journal Le Trouble, letrouble@yahoo.fr

La mauvaise herbe eco-anarchist zine mauvaiseherbe@altern.org

Journal La Fronde/ Association Syndicale Étudiante lafronde@altern.org

La Sociale / Centre de diffusion libertaire asociale@colba.net

Bête Noire Anarchist Group, local member of NEFAC mtl@nefac.net

Maikan Distribution sablonneuse@hotmail.com

Mailing address:

Anarchist Distributors
c/o P.O. Box 266 Station C
Montreal, Québec
Canada, H2L 4K1


Anarchist Kiosk
November 22, 2003
from noon to 6 p.m.
2035 St-Denis

The above groups will be doing distribution tables.
Books, magazines, pamphlets, anarchist newspapers.
The only place in Montreal to get these texts."