There were various events throughout the weekend: films, readings, discussions, workshops. I attended three discussions. The first was on Saturday, a rather tepid session called "Anarchism and Marxism". A bunch of young people and me sitting around a circle listening to an older activist talk about his group's take on Anarchism and where it overlaps with liberatory Marxism. I mostly agreed with his perspective (more Murray Bookchin than Hakim Bey, if I understood him correctly), but it was necessarily brief. The discussion never really got going, and then it was over. Feeling enervated by the workshop and overwhelmed by the sheer volume of interesting books on display (we're trying not to buy much in the way of new books), I was having a hard time getting into the spirit of the thing. Aimée showed up, and we walked around some more (she bought some children's books, including one about Woodie Guthrie). She had some things she was interested in doing there, while I was already feeling sleepy and out of it. But then we attended an excellent session called "Rethinking War and the Struggle Against it in the Neoliberal Era", led by George Caffentzis and Sylvia Federici. I thought I knew a lot about neoliberalism and the reasons behind the war, but my understanding was considerably deepened by what they had to say and the ensuing discussion.
Caffentzis and Federici are members of the Midnight Notes Collective [the website is pretty rudimentary, though there are plenty of links to interesting articles], a collective which since the 1970s has "directed its political intervention and theoretical work to the anti-nuclear, anti-war, and anti-capitalist movements." The latter quote comes from the back of the book Midnight Oil: Work, Energy, War, 1973-1992 (published by Autonomedia), which I bought at the Fair. I'm a little less than halfway through this book, and I already think it's a must-read. In my "Disaster Capitalism" post I suggested that David Harvey's A Brief History of Neoliberalism and Ellen Meiksins Wood's Empire of Capital were crucial books for anyone hoping to understand the world today. Let me add Midnight Oil to that short list. The authors' analysis of the reasons behind the 1991 Gulf War (including why Saddam Hussein decided to invade Kuwait), the background of the imposition of neoliberalism, the internationalization of class war, etc--all of this is brilliant and fascinating. It will figure in future posts about capitalism
I also walked out with a copy of Federici's book Caliban and the Witch: Women, the Body and Primitive Accumulation. Described as "a history of the body in the transition to capitalism", this book fits right into my growing interest in the origins of and resistances to capitalism. Peter Linebaugh is the author of another such book that I need to read, The London Hanged (about which, see Resolute Reader), and is also a member of Midnight Notes. From Linebaugh's blurb to Caliban and the Witch:
Federici shows that the birth of the proletariat required a war against women, inaugurating a new sexual pact and a new patriarchal era: the patriarchy of the wage. Firmly rooted in the history of the persecution of the witches and the disciplining of the body, her arguments explain why the subjugation of women was as crucial for the formation of the world proletariat as the enclosures of the land, the conquest and colonization of the 'New World,' and the slave trade.
On Sunday, we returned to the Book Fair to hear Dahr Jamail talk about his experiences as an independent journalist in Iraq (including readings from his book, Beyond the Green Zone: Dispatches from an Unembedded Journalist in Iraq), along with members of Iraq Veterans Against the War, who talked about their own experiences in the war, as well as their efforts to organize active duty service members against it. As you might expect, this talk was moving and informative. And . . . and I wish i had more to say about it, but I'm tired and this meandering post is long enough. I may say more later on. But for now check out Jamail's website and his blog and the IVAW site for more information.