Who we are and what we believe
The Commune is a community-centered, collectively-run bookshop in Braamfontein, Johannesburg. We are a not-for-profit organization.
We have, with great care, selected books that reflect our collective commitment to revolutionary politics and cover everything from grassroots social movements, decolonization and environmentalism to queer theory, disability studies and prison abolition, with a healthy dose of art, poetry and fiction.
Our hope is that The Commune becomes a useable archive, resource and intellectual commons for those interested in an anti-capitalist, anti-authoritarian, anti-imperialist, decolonial, feminist, Pan-African future, as well as an important meeting space for those who share our values.
The invocation of ‘safe space’ has become a fairly popular call in progressive politics, entailing deliberate effort in creating environments, however small, to protect those who occupy them from any kind of harassment or prejudice.
Safe spaces, however, cannot simply be declared as such. The work of creating and maintaining a space free of racism, sexism, classism, ableism, homophobia, transphobia, xenophobia and other oppressive dynamics is difficult. It requires clear, focused political intentionality each and every day, as well as careful reflection, a consistent interrogation of our praxis and a way to formulate strategies to cope with, intervene in or even disrupt the broader societies we form part of, societies that may not share these ideals. This is often difficult work, but it is necessary. The Commune collective are committed to putting in this work, however challenging or demanding.
Being a radical space means that we work, play and love towards a future that contains more possibilities than the present, in which each of us are constrained, violated, objectified and exploited in different ways by various forms of hierarchy and domination.
It’s easy to describe our values in the well-worn language of what we’re against – to say that we’re anti-capitalist, anti-racist, anti-sexist and anti- all the other ugly and hateful things in the world, and that we’d like to pull them up by the roots – but we’d also like to practice a new language, one in which we can hear echoes, however faint, of the world we’d one day like to live in. When talking about our values, then, we prefer to use words like freedom, equality, mutual aid, solidarity, direct action, consensus, voluntary cooperation and compassion.
Instead of simply throwing these terms around to signify our politics, we try to prefigure them in our everyday activities at The Commune, whether it’s in how we reach decisions, how we collaborate to get the dirty work done or how we interact with the broader contexts we’re situated in, contexts that constantly remind us of the old values and how much better life could be without them, for all of us.
We’re not sure of what we’re doing – in fact we’d be lying if we said this was anything more than a tentative experiment in collective possibility – but if what we’re about resonates with you we hope you’ll come experiment with us. As the old Brazilian folk song goes, if you dream alone, it’s just a dream, but if you dream together, it becomes a reality.