Saturday, August 26, 2017

Red reads

Investigation by the FBI, the threat of arrest and prosecution on charges of sedition and "criminal syndicalism", violent attacks by right-wing groups including the KKK: as this fascinating article by Joshua Clark Davis about a largely forgotten phenomenon underlines, running a Communist bookshop in the US during the twentieth century was a risky business.

Such stores evidently not only disseminated left-leaning literature and served as focal points for local branches of the Communist Party, but also "flourished as hubs of avant-garde culture and various kinds of free thought" - particularly vital, as Davis notes, in smaller cities with a paucity of such spaces.

The death knell for most Communist bookshops was sounded by the fall of Communist regimes around the world and the rise of chain and online stores such as Barnes & Noble and Amazon - but, were they still numerous, you have to suspect that the current political climate under Trump's presidency would be as viciously inimical to them as was the period of McCarthyism and the Red Scare in the 1950s.

(Thanks to Adam for the link.)

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