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Communist Bookstore Sparks Debate

Photograph by Nina Morasky

On the corner of Telegraph and Durant sits a small bookstore that claims to be “the Intellectual, Political, and Cultural Center of a Movement for an Actual Revolution!”

Their verbiage is very literal here. They actually want to have a real revolution. You may have seen their signs in Downtown Berkeley or representatives handing out fliers in front of the A-gate. The agenda of Revolution Books is of New Communism. Founded by Bob Avakian, the objective of New Communism is to educate about a more scientific view of revolution. Bob Avakian grew up in Berkeley alongside the Free Speech Movement and opened up a bookstore to educate about his views.

“We tell the real truth around this country and all the horrible things this country does in the world,”  said Rafa Kadaris, a volunteer working at the store.  “Some of the things that you won’t hear about [from] the mainstream media.” Revolution Books said revolution became even more important after the 2016 election. President Trump is essentially the polar opposite of everything the New Communists believe in.

All around the store are guides to anti-fascism. Fake news and white supremacy are also ideas that the store is ardently fighting against. “This bookstore is the exact opposite of what the Trump administration is trying to institute,” said Rayko Ellis, another volunteer at the store. They intend to educate that fascism can happen in America and is currently taking place. While Revolution Books is fiscally Communist they are extremely socially liberal. Additionally, Revolution Books has many interesting reads that are not related to their political views and everybody is welcome to browse their collection.

On March 8, 2018, Revolution Books was threatened to be burned down by two alt-right Trump supporters. Some choice words used by the Trump supporter include, “You are so ignorant. Commie scum, you commie scum we’re going to burn down your book store, you know that.” They were quick to compare the threat of burning a bookstore to the way Nazis would burn books during WWII.

However, this isn’t the first threat that the store has received. They’ve recorded at least ten instances of being harassed. When asked if they’d ever contacted the police, they replied no. With recent events of police brutality, the store has trouble trusting them at all. “We feel a great responsibility about what’s going to happen not only to people of this country, but to people on the planet. We play a role in that,” said Ellis.

Even if you don’t agree with New Communism, Revolution Books still wants to hear your views. Ultimately, the goal of the physical store is to become a hotspot for political and intellectual discussion. “We’re a center of ideas and debate,” said Kadaris, “We encourage people to come into the store and engage with this New Communism but also to check out all the books in the store, and if people disagree with Communism, let’s have a discussion about it.”