Updated: Mar 22
International outrage directed at russia for their invasion of ukraine is natural. The global publishing community has enacted its own set of punishments against russian publishers that complement and accompany sanctions enacted by state powers. Organizers of the major publishing trade shows the London Book Fair, the Bologna Children’s Book Fair and Frankfurter Buchmesse (Frankfurt Book Fair) have moved to bar russian state-operated publishing elements, and aside from the former of the three noted book fairs, there has been careful response from these fairs that have been instituted to not prevent independent parts of the russian publishing community from participation in the trade shows.
Its easy to do the right thing when a cause célèbre essentially establishes two clear and opposing camps on the russian invasion of Ukraine (those who are critics of the invasion and those that are apologists). Condemning state sponsored russian publishers is not an act of bravery but rather it is a neither blame nor praiseworthy action of opposing blatant wrong doing by a state actor. Its easy to not make a deal with the devil when most other western powers in the international community are also not making a deal with the devil because that devil’s actions have been deemed destructive to western dignity. But powers in the international community including representatives of ideological apparatuses that impact the paradigms of civilians will pledge fealty to globalist lords if it will end their financial suffering.
Financial Times reported that two British publishing houses are removing content the chinese communist party finds objectionable to enable their books to be printed in china. Hachette owned Octopus Publishing Group and the Quarto Group have stripped references to Taiwan and Hong Kong and altered character nationalities, changing Taiwanese to “East Asian.” Mentions of dissident artist Ai Weiwei were also deleted. Quarto stated the company had “a fiduciary duty to act in the best interests of our shareholders.” Octopus Books said changes made “are not material and we always ask the permission of the author first to check they are comfortable to proceed.”
One might think of the bowing of these publishers as acknowledgment of a ferocious evil power. Quarto publishes Harry Potter: Slytherin House Pride and they behave like the cowardly Lucius Malfoy meekly responding “My lord?” when asked to hand over his wand to Voldemort or fief by fragmentation that is the chinese communist party operating through the chinese printing apparatus and demanding ideological obedience.
The integrity of those book publishing companies is forever sullied not just for the kowtowing and supplication that exists in the act of essentially saying, “Please print my books so I can save money. I will do whatever you ask!” but because editors at those companies are essentially intellectually castrated.
Now, it would not be fair to withhold acknowledgment that Quarto’s “fiduciary duty” is tethered to capitalism and the lack of workers’ control in the work place. Executive decisions on location of printing site are not bound to the immediacy of negative consequences that an editor refusing to coax their author to agree to make content changes would experience. And what this means is that laborers are the victims in this story.
The u.k. is serving the interests of Hachette owned Octopus Publishing Group and the Quarto Group. And as Lucien van der Walt writes in “Revolutionary Anarchism and the Anti-Globalization Movement,” it is the case that “The capitalist nation state is not the victim of capitalist globalization, as some suggest—usually from a nationalist, state-capitalist, or reformist perspective...” and there are no “innocent nation state[s who are] “forced” to adapt to the “new reality” of “globalization.”' There is no “foreign globalization,” (but there is a global system of trade and imperialism and neo-imperialism) rather, there is an ending of closed national economies in the postwar period sought for nation state capitalist ends. And this wave-particle simultaneity of nation state expansion and globalization encourages exploration of how endeavors such as the United Nations and the European Union are hinged on the reproduction of the means of production of successful nation states. Ultimately, this means that china is not bringing a foreign globalization to u.k. publishers but rather they inflict the violence of capitalist nation state expansion to u.k. publishers. But since the decision makers at the noted u.k. publishers are part of capitalist nation state expansion themselves, they or another u.k. business would do the same to China if their specific combination of productive forces enabled them to do so.
Globalization is a metonymy of a specific materialization of the capitalist nation state and it is violent enough (the u.k. publishers’ example for instance) that it leaves fragments and traces behind. Globalization is not a term that exhausts or even interacts with the potential equitable efficacy of the spread of technology, products, information and jobs across nations as the real structures of equity that exist materially through maintaining one’s dignity while simultaneously not transgressing another person’s dignity exists independently of the black magic that is capitalism. Globalization is at best a loveless marriage but more often than not it is ferociously violent (the u.k. publisher example). It is a porcupine quill to the backside and for those publishing executives who enabled changes of texts that disempower populations of people, getting that type of violence out will leave a scar that will never fully heal.
*Update: We reached out to Reed Exhibitions Customer Service (the parent company behind the London Book Fair) for clarification on the statement of Director Andy Ventris that, "By mutual agreement, there is no Russian Pavilion at The London Book Fair 2022." We asked Customer Service does this refer to all Russian publishers including Russian independent publishers or is Ventris' statement specific to Russian state sponsored publishers?
The clarification we received is as follows: "We received confirmation from Mr. Ventris that there are no Russian publishers attending this year."
This update is reflected in the piece.