MOILIILI—Revolution Books is a little gem of an independent bookstore, one that operates in order to forward its principles rather than to turn a profit. The store has moved eight times since it opened its doors in 1976 and has been in its current Moiliili location, behind the 7-11 next to Puck’s Alley, for the past five years. It relies on the dedication of its all-volunteer staff, as well as donations from its supporters.
The books it carries vary widely in scope. A selection of everything from theory to fiction, classic works to new releases, is represented, with the common thread being that it somehow exposes the truth of local and global atrocities and/or contains transformative ideas that pave a path to a better world.
Carolyn Hadfield, who has been involved with the store since its inception, explained the importance of books as a “key way that people have of looking at new ideas, and of wrangling over them.”
The store also holds weekly Wednesday discussion groups that address an article from the Revolution newspaper, as well as other events—readings, concerts, presentations, films, etc.—that further the discussion about how to transform the current capitalist-imperialist paradigm into something that emancipates all of humanity.
Just this past Sunday, for instance, indie singer/songwriter David Rovics performed. The Sunday prior, Ann Wright talked about her recent visit to Afghanistan and her recent work organizing the largest Gaza flotilla to date.
So if you haven’t yet figured it out, the name of the store, Revolution Books, comes from its ties the Revolutionary Communist Party (RCP), which is actively seeking to build a movement to radically remake society. This revolutionary edge, this disdain for the status quo, this hunger for fundamental social change, is, according to Hadfield, what keeps the store going.
That said, volunteers and patrons of all political persuasions are welcome and encouraged to get involved and join the conversation; intelligent discourse and debate is at the core of what the place is all about.
Last week when I met with Hadfield, it happened to be the day after President Barack Obama’s most recent State of the Union Address. I happen to be a fan of Obama but I had mixed feelings about his speech and was yearning to process it. Regarding his claim that America needs to “out-innovate, out-educate, and out-build the rest of the world,” we certainly agreed on the need for innovation and improved education, but questioned his stated motivation behind it: to beat our competitors. (As for outbuilding the rest of the world, that just seemed environmentally irresponsible; unsurprisingly, climate change was barely addressed in his speech.)
Whereas a Republican critique—the type I’m used to arguing against—might be “who is going to pay for these programs?,” Hadfield’s could be paraphrased as: Why must these valid goals such as education and innovation be framed in Capitalist and Exceptionalist terms? While the Right might criticize the Democratic party, or Obama himself, a member of the RCP tends to question the entire American paradigm. I can only imagine the discussion we might have had about Egypt, had we met just days later.
While I will not attempt to delve into revolutionary communist theory in this article, I will say that if you, too, are horrified by what is happening all across the world—regardless of your politics—and are seeking an outlet for inspiration, activism, or even just the company of globally-engaged citizens, Revolution Books might be a useful venue for reading and thinking about these issues in greater depth.
The dedicated and knowledgeable staff, such as Hadfield, are passionate about books and can help you find great literature on your topics of interest—from Afghanistan to abortion rights. (The same can be said of independent bookstores in general; the help and insight of a live, enthusiastic human being is impossible to replace.)
Besides new books, there is a wide selection of used books on hand for a buck or two. Revolution Books also sells much of its merchandise at or below cost, so you can put aside your fears of “paying too much.” Finally, they offer certain books “on principle” even when they are not profitable; many of their books are difficult to obtain elsewhere.
Here is just a handful of books that Hadfield had to recommend:
Eaarth by Bill McKibben, whose deliberate misspelling of Earth signifies the irrefutable changes our planet has witnessed.
Away with all Gods by RCP chairman and primary spokesperson, Bob Avakian.
The Science of Evolution and the Myth of Creationism by Ardea Skybreak.
Let Me Stand Alone: the Journals of Rachel Corrie, which documents the story of a 23-year-old American activist who was killed in 2003 while attempting to block the demolition of a Palestinian family’s home.
This Common Secret by Susan Wicklund, about one woman’s courageous and dangerous work as an abortion doctor.
Revolution Books is located at 2626 South King Street. Parking is free. For more information, call (808) 944-3106 during business hours, daily between 12:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m., or visit their website.