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Internal mayhem led to demise of anarchist center

A Shop Divided

Internal mayhem led to demise of anarchist center

By Banks Albach

Like many political theories, anarchy might work better in coffeehouse conversations than in practice. Indeed, internal squabbling and a clash of philosophies led to the demise of a local anarchist center, according to one original member.

On July 5, after a meager four months in operation, the Anarchist Infoshop is being ejected from its space in Santa Cruz. The Infoshop has less than a month to find a new home.

The Infoshop, located at 509 Broadway, has been renting a small 12-by-15-foot space from the adjacent Resource Center for Nonviolence (RCNV), a nonprofit focusing on nonviolent protest and direct action. The center charged the anarchists $200 per month in rent.

With slogans such as “expect resistance, the future is unwritten? and “we are everywhere? posted on its walls, the Anarchist Infoshop attempted to foster an anti-authoritarian revolutionary presence in Santa Cruz. It has a lending library, books and zines for sale, Internet access and a shelf lined with local herbs for free tea.

Ideological differences, conflicting objectives and dominant personalities led to an early splintering in the collective, says one original member, leaving a handful of individuals running the Infoshop, none of whom appear on be lease.

Maya Ramneth, one of the original members who played a large part in launching the project but has since dropped out, says the main problem with the project was the different definitions of anarchism within the collective. She says its demise simply signifies the age-old battle that progressive and radical thinkers continually find themselves engaged in.

For such a project to work, Ramneth says, “It assumes a high level of individual maturity. I think it´s much easier for the right to say here is the dogma, here is the correct party line, everybody get on board. But if you´re focused on individual liberty, it´s much harder to get people to agree.?

According to Ramneth, the problems started almost immediately and from within the collective itself. The original plan, she says, was to create a “convergence of ideological factions? focused not only on anarchist thought, but on projects involving the environment, prison solidarity, social justice, race and gender issues, and the peace movement.

After a few meetings at the collective, says Ramneth, the plan hit obstacles when a small faction of anarchists began to dominate the dialogue and disregard diverse viewpoints. Out of the original 20 or so members, there are only about six left, most of whom identify with the strain of green anarchism, an ideology that takes a stand “against civilization as a whole,? says Ramneth.

“One by one, people became alienated and factions dropped out,? she says. “There was a weird unspoken hierarchy about whose words carried more weight. …The people that are left might get stereotyped as to what the whole movement is about.?

The remaining members of the collective see it differently. In their opinion the project was not broad in scope, but specifically oriented around one thing: anarchism. Before it all started “the call out was for an Anarchist Infoshop,? says one remaining member, “and then there were debates over whether we should even call it anarchist. A lot of people left because they didn´t want to be associated with anarchism.?

The remaining members agree that alienation during the meetings was a possibility, but only because “direct communication? among 30 people with different ideas can easily result in “a lot of misunderstandings,? they say.

Bob Fitch of the Resource Center for Nonviolence, who served the 30-day notice, declined to comment on specific complaints or problems involving the anarchists, but he did cite an overall inability “to comply with the contract? as the main reason for the action.

“These are small, shared rental spaces,? he says. “It was never intended for a community drop-in.?

According to an unsigned press release from the Anarchist Infoshop, the resource center and its tenants did not engage in any communication with the Infoshop regarding their concerns. However, a remaining member recalls one neighbor, who only uses the property occasionally, as yelling at the anarchists for being “smelly? and not wearing any shoes.

Fitch says the situation was never about politics. “In other words, we didn´t disagree with them politically,? he says. “It´s about compliance with the contract. … It´s too bad, it´s a great little bookshop.

“It´s a sad thing,? he continues. “These people need a place they can pursue their project. Unfortunately, this is not the appropriate site for [it]. We sincerely hope they find that site.?


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