Last week, I managed to get a quiet hour to visit a favourite old London haunt of mine: Housman’s, the radical bookseller on Caledonian Road in Kings Cross.
Between the mid-eighties and mid-nineties, a Saturday wasn’t complete without a browse round the shop, picking up seminal works like Larry Law’s Spectacular Times pamphlets (a marvellous introduction to Situationaist thinking), Bob Black’s The Abolition of Work, and various free pamplets left there by hopeful wierdos like Christian Anarchists and Lesbian Vegans for Socialism.
It hasn’t changed much; it’s tidier, and some of its magic as being the only place to find such leftwing gems has been taken by the Web, but it’s still a great place. After a brief chat with the guy behind the counter about the anarcho-punk band Conflict (from the London suburb I used to live in) I’d been invited to the shop’s party on the night before this year’s Anarchist Book Fair. You don’t get that at Waterstones.
In some ways, I was a little surprised to find the shop still there, now that Socialism is a dirty word and we’re all shiny happy consumers in our post-historic world. But there it is, with lots of new stock, on the day that the invisible hand of the market almost brought down the bank that has all my savings and my mortgage and proved once again that tossers chasing massive bonuses do not collectively make a self-regulating money market that automatically brings joy and freedom to all.
I got the train back home, with some fascinating new books and pamphlets, and though that it is very unlikely that the UK’s “New Labour” government would keep me afloat if my savings disappeared and my house were repossessed, even though they’re prepared to use taxpayer’s money to shore up the dens of fuckwits who’ve caused the problems. (Really: who could have possiblyb foreseen that begging loads of American poor people to accept loans that they couldn’t repay was an unsustainable business strategy?)
A letter to the Guardian from Professor Anne Watson sums it up perfectly:
I resent taxpayers’ money being spent to shore up the glorified gambling den of the money markets. I have a better idea – taxpayers’ money could go to the lowest-paid to relieve them of having to pay so much. They would spend it and stimulate the economy. We could call it the New Deal. Even better, deal with the housing crisis as well by spending taxpayers’ money on new social housing. We could call it socialism to show we care about people.
god Debord for places like Housman’s that still offer alternatives to the orthodoxy. May it last 100 years.