Abstract: Radical Politics versus a ''Mindset of Economic Survival'': The Left Book Trade Association in West Germany

Uwe Sonnenberg


The 1968 revolts in West Germany resulted in the creation of many small left-wing publishing houses and book shops. In order to escape isolation and following their shared goals of supporting ''revolutionary'' movements of the Left by supplying them with classical socialist texts that had long been out of print, they founded the ''left book trade association'' (Verband des linken Buchhandels [VLB]). The founders also aimed at not allowing private business to make a commercial profit on this ''market for Marx.'' To co-operate in collectively owned and managed organizational structures was at that time considered a necessary part of social emancipation processes. However, the actors involved soon came to realize that within a capitalist business environment left bookshops also had to follow the rules of economic efficiency if they wanted to survive. Thus when the initial thrust of political action wore off, the VLB faced a discussion that oscillated between the poles of radical politics and a managerial ''mindset of economic survival.'' This presentation seeks to reconstruct those discussions and the intermingling of political and economic practices in the development of this book trade business.