“When social protests pick up, people start to read more about working-class struggles,” Jim Kendrick, from Kansas City, Missouri, told the Militant. Kendrick is one of dozens of volunteers across North America working to get Pathfinder books into bookstores and libraries. Pathfinder publishes books by Socialist Workers Party and other revolutionary leaders on working-class history and politics.
In mid-June sales volunteers in the U.S. and in Canada began a special six-month effort to win 100 new bookstore and library orders. The volunteers are approaching both existing and new customers, including in smaller cities and towns, and rural areas.
They have found a wide interest in the range of Pathfinder titles, at a time when working people are in the midst of a developing worldwide social and economic crisis, and discussing and debating the causes and a solution.
Many stores are not yet open for readers to browse, but a number are filling internet and phone orders for books. Sales by bookstores slowed considerably in the spring because of government-ordered business shutdowns during the pandemic. But some store owners report that things began to change after police in Minneapolis killed George Floyd and protests broke out around the world.
Since then, orders for titles on the history and lessons of the fight against racist discrimination have grown tremendously.
James Fugate, co-owner of well-known Eso Won Books in Los Angeles, told the Orange County Register that online sales had been sort of slow when they reopened May 27. Then on Saturday, May 30, in the wake of Minneapolis cops killing George Floyd, something unusual happened, Fugate says.
“On a good day, an incredible day, we’d get maybe 25 orders,” he said. “That Saturday, we must have had 400 orders. Sunday, we had maybe close to 900 orders, and Monday, about 2,300.” Eso Wan carries Pathfinder titles.
Los Angeles volunteers Nick Castle and Betsy Whittaker visited a Black bookstore owner in nearby Long Beach who had just reopened. She said she “needed some of our books right away. People were lined up around the block.”
Kendrick told the Militant he has been calling bookstores across Missouri, Kansas, and as far away as Texas and Louisiana. He reached one in New Orleans, which ordered 125 books, including titles by Malcolm X and Are They Rich Because They’re Smart? by SWP National Secretary Jack Barnes.
Malcolm X emerged as the most powerful voice speaking out against racism and for Black rights in the 1950s and ’60s, first as a leader of the Nation of Islam. He broke with the Nation as his political outlook broadened, becoming in the last year of his life, Barnes says in Malcolm X, Black Liberation, and the Road to Workers Power, “the authentic voice of the forces of the coming American Revolution.”
In Canada, like in the U.S., anti-racist protests have taken place in small towns and rural communities, as well as large cities, Rosemary Ray reported from Hamilton, Ontario. She called a bookstore 50 miles west in a small town of 12,000. “People want to get books on racism,” the owner told her. Ray took a phone order for Pathfinder’s titles by Malcolm X, and plans to visit the store.
“These smaller stores are also in tune with the times,” she said.
One store in Kansas City placed a large order for different Malcolm X titles; as well as for Malcolm X, Black Liberation, and the Road to Workers Power; How Far We Slaves Have Come! by Nelson Mandela and Fidel Castro, and other books.
A store in Texas placed a large order, including titles on the Cuban Revolution and by Thomas Sankara, the leader of the 1983-87 popular revolution in Burkina Faso. And orders for the new edition of The Jewish Question, by Abram Leon, about the origins and character of the working-class fight against Jew hatred, are also beginning to come in.
We’ll keep readers posted on the results of the sales campaign.