We will be a worker-owned cooperative clothing and book store serving the people of Washington, DC. We will provide affordable and fashionable used and new clothing, radical used and new books, and will host cultural, educational, and community events.  Our worker-owned business will be a viable alternative to capitalist exploitation and support wider struggles for liberation.

“When our children grow out of clothes, we should have places where we can take them, clearly marked anarchist clothing exchanges and have no bones about looking for clothing there first.”
–Kuwasi Balagoon, Anarchy Can’t Fight Alone

Who owns this space?
Worker ownership
This space will shatter the illusion of capital that wage slavery is the only relationship that workers can have towards their workplaces. In this store, the workers will own everything. Here we prefigure a world that in our outside organizing we are trying to create. We are building the capacity of people to exist without the parasite of a boss on their back.

Who controls this space?
Community control
Though the workers will own the space, we are also providing outlets for people who have invested time into the space, but do not work regular shifts, to create a connection with the project via having input into it. The closed worker collective becomes an open collective for the community in once-a-month meetings. The community collective will consist of the workers of the space and the members of the community who have contributed time into the space, and who therefore have a vested interest in its vitality. The workers will ultimately maintain control of the space, but decisions that come out of wider community meetings will be enacted by the collective.

Who does this space serve?
DC has a transient population that is often served by radical spaces. Exclusively serving this community is unsustainable, undesirable, and ignores the struggles of native DC residents. This space will strive to serve the working class of DC, and will cater to the needs of this community before serving other communities.

The space will provide a livable wage for the workers in the collective while still maintaining prices that are low enough to make them affordable.  Workers on the collective will not work for poverty wages to provide cheaper prices, but will also not seek to accumulate wealth at the expense of the community.  Our goal is for the space and its surrounding neighborhood to be mutually supportive.

The space will work to support organized and organizing workers in DC in whatever ways might be possible.  The space will also work to support the growth of new worker-owned cooperatives

What will the space be used for?
Aside from the retail function of this space, the space will be available and at the disposal of a larger radical community in Washington DC. We hope to be available to community group meetings who organize for liberation as well as offering event space for these groups. We want this space to foster a radical consciousness in DC, and in that vein, we would also like to play host to both diverse cultural experiences, including music, drama and other performance art, and diverse learning opportunities, including reading and discussion groups, fundraisers, lectures, and classes.  The collective will develop mutually beneficial relationships with groups that organize for liberation in the city.

What are we selling and why are we selling it?

Clothing
Clothing is a human need, and we want our project to prefigure an institution that meets the needs of society. This is why we will provide cheap and often free clothing to those who need it, shattering the capitalist phenomenon of scarcity as it regards need for clothing.

In addition to building justice (clothes on everyone’s back), we also want to build dignity: people should wear clothes in which they feel dignified and do not feel embarrassed wearing. Capitalist commodity culture favors certain clothing styles over others, but this is because popular creativity is co-opted by the wealthy and sold back to us as exploitation. We will provide stylish clothing at reasonable prices, recycled from working people (whose clothing we will buy by the pound) or made by working people (whose clothing we will consign), so as to allow this popular creativity to flourish in a nurturing environment. Consigning clothing created by local and regional designers in our store will allow for more popular participation in this cultural exchange.

Books
Books and education are a front in anti-capitalist struggle. The Public school system focuses on rigorous memorization, cruel individualist learning models, and tedium. Textbooks too-often promote Euro-centric, individualist, white-washed history. Education has turned a literate and knowledge-thirsty society into exhausted and complacent individuals. We will strive to create a space that nourishes creativity and independent thought and promotes collective wellness though collective liberation.

Books allow communities to disassemble the lies they have been told about their world.  While mass media and public education have taught us that every individual has earned, for better or worse, their position in society; books can help us understand the complex social structures of domination and privilege that shape our lives.  Further, books about popular struggle teach us the history of our agency, the history of people creating broad changes the world around them.  It is critical for people to have access to affordable books and media about the organizers and social movements that came before us so that we can learn from their experiences and be more affective in building vibrant movements to liberate our communities.

Books also contribute to liberatory cultural struggle, and as we aim for the space to play host to diverse cultural experiences, our book selection will contribute to that effort.

Utopia vs. Struggle
In DC, every one of us exists inside a context of capitalism. This venture is not an escape from capitalism, but a bulwark existing inside of it as a threat to it.

We will undermine capitalism by providing free and inexpensive clothing, recognizing need as need and treating it as such, not as a profit-making venture. We will undermine capitalism by destroying the owning/working class relation within the walls of the space. We will undermine capitalism by serving as examples of worker ownership to others outside our walls: that workers can create their own jobs, that workers can make a living from their own initiative without selling their labor to others. We will be a foothold for the launch of worker owned and operated spaces, and provide support for the creation of new worker owned spaces. This is to say: we are committed to utopia.

We are committed to struggle. We will undermine capitalism by encouraging others to take anti-capitalist struggle as their own, and build power in their workplaces against their bosses and against the concept of bosses. We will undermine capitalism by providing support for liberation movements and organizations, especially those most affected by capitalism, the state, patriarchy, white supremacy, heteronormativity, and other oppression, who have an increased stake in creating a new world from the ruins of the old.

4 Responses to “Statement of Purpose”

  1. James G. said

    hello, this is james from wooden shoe books. just wanted to drop you a note if you need anything to let us know.
    good luck and solidarity!

  2. I was referred by Dave Zirin and would liek to speak with someone in regard to possible order for T-shirts. I can be reached on my private line at 510-xxx-xxxx. Thank you.

  3. Hank Silver said

    It is wonderful that you are opening a collective clothing and book store in the middle of the capitalist capitol of the world! Your association with Dave Zirin is testament to your commitment to social and economic justice. I must sincerely compliment both of you! I hope that the location of your collective is close to the White House and the Halls of Congress. Maybe you’ll attract business from the conservative lunatic fringe who can’t resist the temptation to do something radical. Congratulations and good luck! We need more folks like you!

  4. Scott said

    Great statement! As a worker-owner at Firestorm Cafe & Books (Asheville, NC), I’m excited that other collectives are exploring entrepreneurship as a vehicle for anti-capitalist struggle. I look forward to the forging of an inter-cooperative alliance!

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