Billed as "Houston's Only Anarchist Infoshop," Sedition Books is also likely our city's most unorthodox bookstore. Located at 901 Richmond, next to the late, great Proletariat space, the small shop has been providing a resource for the radical community for two and a half years - although this is the third location in the shop's six-year history.
The walls and windows are littered with flyers and posters advertising everything from upcoming concerts and events to anti-capitalist messages. Near the counter, a collection of homemade patches is for sale - including a ridiculously cool Smiths/Morrissey patch that we purchased for our comrade Adam Newton - and a large calendar keeps track of scheduled events. A warning over the Richmond Ave entrance reminds everyone that Sedition is a library environment, so keep the volume at a respectable level. At the window counter, a few people sit on laptops, utilizing the shop's wireless internet, while books smother the opposite wall.
Sedition is run by a collective of people, so Art Attack spoke with three of its members - Adam, Alex & Bugga - to learn more about the shop. "It's important to note that this place doesn't have one solid definition," Bugga states. "There's a politic that defines us, but it's more a living space in the way that it adapts to what people need at the time."
The obvious question crops up - how do anarchists, who believe in a lack of structures - operate a bookstore? The answer turns out to be quite simple, but it requires removing the common, bomb-throwing "down with everything!" image of an anarchist that's commonly perpetrated by the media.
"There's eight of us right now - eight collective members, that is," Adam informs us. "What that means, to be part of the collective, is that you have equal ownership, equal responsibility, equal liability. There's no hierarchical structure - no bosses, no managers, no owners. Everybody participates as equals."
Bugga clarifies what that entails, as far as day-to-day operations go. "People determine their own hours. We take four hour shifts - as many or little as you can. We're in the practice of autonomy, so whatever you feel like you can do is what you do." It's a system, yes - but it is one of total parity. As Adam says, "there's a collective of eight people that run the store, but it's not our store - it's everyone's store. We do the finances and order the books because somebody's got to do it. But it's really a resource that we want everybody to use, everybody to identify it as their space."
The amount of events and access that Sedition offers provides proof. Between film showings, visits from authors, artists, poets and zine makers, lectures and workshops, the collective makes the space available for use not just by anarchists, but by anyone in the radical community, and it welcomes anyone who's even curious. On February 19th the shop will welcome noted activist and professor Joel Olson - a member of the former Love & Rage anarchist federation who currently works with Bring The Ruckus and the Repeal Coalition.
Adam practically beams with excitement about Olson's scheduled appearance, and is clearly joyful about what Sedition offers as a resource for the community. "I would want anybody who identifies as part of the radical community in Houston to identify this as their space. They can come in here and be as involved as they want. This is a resource, and it's for everybody."
While the shop does have a few cases of books for sale, the chief resource is the extensive lending library they've assembled. "It's always kind of growing and shifting because we have a network that we share all of our books with, with a bunch of different collectives," explains Alex. The shop asks for a small donation in the neighborhood of five to 10 dollars, a fee they use to secure additional books and replace titles that may have accidentally disappeared.
Books are available to be checked out two at a time, for a two-week duration. "There are a lot of different books [here] that you don't find at other libraries," Alex says. He also notes that Sedition is hashing out a work-share program for the library, enabling those without monetary resources a way to invest some time in exchange for library membership. "The People's Library" - as the sign on the wall proclaims, offers a range of books including political and societal studies, history, art and much more.
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Perhaps the most striking thing about the shop is how open and friendly everyone is - something that may surprise outsiders. Despite any hesitation passers-by may have, the folks at Sedition would love nothing more than for strangers to breach the door. "Without all the 'anti-s' that people focus on, at its core [anarchism] is very community-driven and horizontal," Bugga states. "I think the ultimate goal of this shop in particular is to propagate the ideas of anarchism and community...to be a space in which folks can feel comfortable to meet people and network to build a larger social movement."
So what is it these anarchists would change about Houston? Plenty of things, certainly, but first and foremost among Adam's answers is "a greater sense of community." He goes on, adding "I'd like to see more of a culture of resistance. This store in and of itself is not going to start a revolution, but it's one small piece that fits into a larger movement. It's not just the state; it's not just capitalism. It's the fact that our lives are highly controlled by people other than ourselves, and our communities are controlled by people other than the members of those communities. That's really what we'd like to see [change] in this community and in this world - that individuals and communities have control over their own lives."
With a little reflection, these ideas don't seem so radical at all. People within a community organizing in order to have some say in their future? Art Attack can get behind that. Maybe our ideas don't stray to a full sense of anarchism, but we certainly think people could take a little time to care more about how issues and politics affect them. One thing is certain: Sedition Books is interested in fostering such discussions, whether that means starting someone on the route to membership in the collective, or simply lending some reading material.
Sedition Books 901 Richmond Avenue Houston, TX 77006 713.523.0807 seditionbooks.org