Flatiron Hot! Pundit: Revolution Books Hosts Lewis Lapham, Andy Zee Conversation
Anyone with the least bit of interest in the written word is no doubt aware that bookstores are in a desperate fight against extinction. Amazon, combined with the invention and rapid spread of tablets, have made it easier than ever for readers to buy books on the cheap. What these new technologies can’t offer, however, is a sense of community. They cannot offer the painstaking collection of books borne of a bookstore proprietor’s passion for a certain author or text. Revolution Books is the perfect example of this type of bookstore.
Located at 146 W. 26th Street between 6th and 7th Avenues, Revolution Books provides a forum for citizens and scholars alike to meet and discuss the meaning of revolution. Revolution Books is currently struggling to raise enough money to extend its lease. Despite a dedicated following, soaring rent in Chelsea is a huge burden on a small bookstore staffed exclusively by volunteers. Revolution Books needs your help.
But it’s not asking for charity. In order to preserve its vision of a space for revolutionaries of all stripes to gather, the store hosts weekly events featuring established scholars and fiction writers. Yesterday, Lewis H. Lapham, a prolific author and longtime editor/contributor to such renowned publications as Harper’s Magazine and Lapham’s Quarterly, engaged in a passionate discussion with Andy Zee, the spokesperson for Revolution Books and a writer for Revolution Newspaper. The central question? “With intensifying income inequality, class conflict and the American police state, why is revolution not at center stage?”
Lapham and Zee mostly agreed when it came to diagnosing the problems that call for peaceful revolution. Rampant consumerism in the form of gadgets and new lipstick colors has distracted the people from deeper social and class needs. Capitalism, they seemed to agree, is an amoral process that swallows up humanity in an endless cycle of invention and reinvention, glorifying the accumulation of wealth over all else.
Lapham traced a path dating back to Greece, passing through the American revolution, culminating in Marx, the Russian Revolution and reaching a new peak with Mao. Zee, a subscriber to the views of Bob Avakian, described the necessity of learning from the mistakes of past revolutions, a point of contention among modern Communists. Communism was never the invention of one man, but rather a joint creation. However, Lapham objected to what he felt was an insufficiently critical view of the Stalin and Mao regimes, whose actions resulted in the deaths of millions.
The speakers’ major point of contention, however, was where revolutionaries must go from here. Lapham, skeptical that current infrastructure and public awareness are equipped for revolution on a massive scale, asserted that revolution must start on a local level. Zee disagreed, focusing on the necessity of worldwide revolution in order to truly cement Communism. A piecemeal approach, he reasoned, has not worked in the past and has allowed the needs of the major Communist powers to trump the interest of the revolution, ultimately resulting in the restoration of Capitalism. Zee considers Communism the natural progression of society but, far from inevitable, it can only arise through a meticulous scientific approach on the part of its adherents.
Agree or disagree with their ideology, Lapham and Zee engaged in a thought-provoking discussion running the gamut from examination of past revolutions to the drawbacks of modern pop culture. Afterwards, many attendees discussed the night’s proceedings over wine and refreshments. The fate of Revolution Books and places is like it are what is at stake when we consider the plight of bookstores in New York City. That is why we owe it to them and to ourselves to support them before it’s too late.