Home > diary, politics, travel > That awkward moment you realise you’re in a Maoist cult meeting but don’t want to appear rude (Berkeley day 14)

That awkward moment you realise you’re in a Maoist cult meeting but don’t want to appear rude (Berkeley day 14)

Once talking politics might have been considered not for polite company, but these days its foregrounded in almost every encounter, be it in a shared taxi, on public transit (an unknown fellow passenger commented, in a conversation about where to get beer, that he’d just bought a pack of Budweiser in support of “the ad”), the grocery store…  95% of interactions that last longer than 10 secs have at least some kind of explicit nod to the political context.

Keen always to meet Anarchists as I travel, I was especially eager to see what they were up to given the attacks and protests going on. Last year I’d done a bit more research and seen there were 2 anarchist bookshops in the Bay Area, but only visited the one in SF, having seen there was also one in the East Bay. So yesterday I looked up “anarchist bookstore” on google maps and not only did a result show up just over a mile away but they had a meeting on fascism a couple hours later! Score!

Arriving shortly before the meeting I saw bookcases filled with radical titles and was especially excited by sections for graphic novels and children/young adults books. Another blue haired person came up (its normal for us blue hairs to want to greet each other) and was happy to hear I was from Glasgow as she’s seen that we had Trump inauguration protests, though she seemed strangely unexcited when I said I had come because I’m an Anarchist and wanted to learn more of what people were doing here. I went back to browsing the kids books.

Another person approached me asking how I knew about the meeting. He seemed friendly, and we casually chatted about Scotland and politics. At some point though he got intense and started recommending a book that was on the main display just inside the front door promising “The New Communism”. Now its not unusual for me to encounter those defining as communists who have libertarian politics, so this wasn’t a red flag to me, unlike his explanation that “since Mao died we haven’t had socialism in the world”…. Woah, wait up a second! I politely, whilst also trying to back away slowly, said that I had some issues with Mao, but luckily just then we were called to sit down for the meeting and I assumed he was just some random lefty who was also interested in fascism.

newc-book-cover-largeIt was only once we were sat (in *rows* with the speakers at the front! yes i really am this dense!) that I looked above the bookshelves and noticed that the walls of the bookshop were *covered* in large posters featuring this one dude “Bob Avakian” with the distinctly un-libertarian sounding title of “Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party”!

But by this time the talk had started and it felt like it would be rude to just get up and leave. So I sat through half an hour of unsophisticated pontificating, slowly sinking in how I’d proudly informed these authoritarian leftists that I was an Anarchist expecting them to connect with me on that! Finally I pretended i’d just got a message on my phone and suddenly had to leave smiling as I legged it out the door. Later I looked up Bob Avakian and found out they’re a legit personality cult. Absolutely no idea why google maps thought they were an anarchist bookstore, unless its a conspiracy to redirect potential radicals into something so bizarro that they retreat to capitalism sharpish! Next time I’ll do my research before merrily waltzing into a Maoist den!

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Categories: diary, politics, travel
  1. Fred Cairns
    February 16, 2017 at 9:55 am

    Why did google maps tell you it’s an anarchist bookstore? It’s the same lax profiling that sends vegans to farm shops that specialise in cheese. They just want to tick a box so it shows up somewhere, and the more categories they can fill the better. They probably once sold something by Proudhon. Yeah, slot it in, it’ll be fine! Maybe there’s a way we can object to these designations.

    • February 18, 2017 at 9:20 pm

      ooo i assumed it was google’s mistake in how they auto generate categories, didn’t even think of it being the bookshop deliberately mislabelling themselves!

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