15 Nov 2013

How I met an Anarchist

I've just published this story on ABC Open

I was in my twenties and it was the first time I attended an Anarchist bookfair. The East London campus of Queen Mary University, where the bookfair was taking place, was buzzing with people.

I wandered in without really knowing what to expect and sat in a session that covered different initiatives the Anarchist groups were running throughout London. As an old man finished talking about a food co-op in Hackney, a piece of paper was passed around, so that we could, if interested, add our name and contact details to a mailing list. When the list got to me I realised one of the email addresses belonged to someone who had replied to a message I’d posted on gumtree looking for people to start a Spanish writing group. I looked around trying to guess who the person could be and saw a slim, tall guy wearing a red t-shirt with the letters CNT, the acronym for the “Spanish Confederation of Anarcho-Syndicalist Unions.” ‘Are you Victor?’ I asked. He nodded. What were the chances of meeting like that in a city of more than seven million people?

We sat outside a cafe off Brick Lane and talked about politics. Victor considered himself an Anarchist, in favour of abolishing any type of government and any hierarchy or social control on individuals. He also believed that there’s no real way to measure the contribution made by individuals to society since each discovery originates in the joint manual and intellectual work of many. We agreed on some points and disagreed on others but I found his strong convictions interesting.

As it often happens though, his strong convictions could have done with a bit more critical analysis. He was perhaps too ready to criticise the way others lived their lives. Like when he said that if people couldn’t look after their children full-time they shouldn’t have any children at all. He also made some strong and not very thought-through statements such as, ‘there’s no real need for a health care system because most diseases are caused by our society and they’ll disappear once a new order is established.’

Victor didn’t like the fact that non- Anarchists had attended the bookfair, as if, he said ‘it were some sort of festival.’ So he didn’t see the bookfair as an opportunity to discuss ideas. He wasn’t interested in convincing others that Anarchism was the way forward.

I did wonder if he would actually dislike it if one day Anarchism became a popular political option.

We met a few more times to discuss each other’s writing before he returned to Spain. Soon after, he emailed me a video of a protest where he and a group of friends appeared dressed as lambs and went into a college classroom baaing.

In the following months we exchanged some emails but I never got any videos from Victor showing he did anything that proved he was less sheep-like than anyone else.