Volunteers win bookstore, library orders for Pathfinder books

By Jim Altenberg
January 2, 2023

This fall’s campaign to get Pathfinder books into bookstores, libraries and classrooms is well underway with volunteers on course to meet their goal of 115 orders by the end of January. So far, 81 orders have been won for books that explain the roots of the social, economic and moral crises bearing down on working people and point to a road out of it.

Volunteers aim to get 30 orders from stores that have not ordered Pathfinder books before. Already 24 have done so.

“I’ll make an order for the 50 Years of Covert Operations in the US, Cointelpro and FBI on Trial books,” a New York public librarian wrote. “Thanks for bringing them to my attention!” Volunteers have been using a flyer promoting Pathfinder’s titles addressing how to respond to the capitalist rulers’ moves to deal blows to constitutional freedoms working people need. This includes books about the Socialist Workers Party’s victorious political campaign and lawsuit against FBI spying and disruption operations against the party.

A shop in the Pacific Northwest added Lenin’s Final Fight to its order after a sales volunteer described how the book explains what is behind Moscow’s war against the people of Ukraine. The book brings together V.I. Lenin’s writings, defending the political course that brought a workers and farmers government to power in Russia in 1917, including his fight against all expressions of Great Russian chauvinism and for the rights of oppressed nations, like Ukraine, to self-determination.

With today’s capitalist crisis bearing down especially hard on women, new orders are being won for books on women’s emancipation, including Women’s Liberation and the African Freedom Struggle and Women in Cuba: The Making of a Revolution Within the Revolution.

Seattle volunteers traveled to northwest Washington, where they introduced Pathfinder to bookstore managers unfamiliar with the publisher’s titles and got orders from two stores. North Carolina volunteers met with representatives of a civil rights museum, who ordered books for the first time in over a decade. And in Washington, D.C., over 10 years of persistence paid off when the biggest bookstore chain in the city placed a large order.

Until a couple of years ago, local outlets of the largest bookstore chain in the United States could not always place their own orders. Now they can.

Discussions at two of these stores in the San Francisco Bay Area led to orders that include titles by Malcolm X, Abram Leon’s The Jewish Question and Labor, Nature, and the Evolution of Humanity by Frederick Engels, Karl Marx, George Novack and Mary-Alice Waters. It charts the sweep of human history from our earliest ancestors, through the emergence of class society, up to capitalism today. And it points toward the working class as the only social force that will put an end to class divisions and the oppression of women once and for all.

Since its publication last January, volunteers have placed 86 orders for this book in English, Spanish and French, with many more to come.

Last October marked the 60th anniversary of the “Cuban missile crisis,” when the U.S. government under Democratic President John F. Kennedy threatened the world with nuclear war as it sought to crush the Cuban Revolution. Pathfinder put out a special 60th anniversary edition of October 1962: The ‘Missile’ Crisis as Seen from Cuba. Los Angeles volunteers rapidly contacted local bookstores and got five orders for the book.

Sales of books at academic conferences are an important part of volunteers’ work. Along with selling hundreds of books at the American Library Association, Association for the Study of African American Life and History, and African Studies Association conferences, volunteers are following up with interested participants they met at these events. One New Jersey public library ordered a number of titles after meeting with volunteers following the library association conference.

Volunteers are also gearing up for February, which is Black History Month, a big opportunity to get more books into bookstores and libraries.