From SFU to Commercial Drive, this is Spartacus Books

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From SFU to Com­mer­cial Drive, this is Spar­tacus Books

Find out how one tiny table sel­ling books at SFU turned into the volun­teer-run store it is today

Meera Eragoda
Staff Writer

Tucked into a corner on Findlay Street off Com­mer­cial Drive lies an un­ob­tru­sive book­store that has its roots in SFU. Spar­tacus Books is a breath of fresh, rad­ical air in a suf­fo­ca­tingly cap­it­al­ist world. It’s a non-profit, en­tirely volun­teer-run book­store and re­source center that strives to be as in­clu­sive and ac­ces­sible as pos­sible.

  Spar­tacus Books got its start in 1972 as a book­table at SFU, mov­ing to a store­front on the Down­town East­side in 1973. It has faced more than its fair share of ad­vers­ity since, from a fire that de­stroyed every­thing to a reno­vic­tion as a result of in­creas­ing gent­ri­fi­ca­tion. For over 45 years, it has pre­served and re­built, show­cas­ing the power of work­ing as a col­lec­tive.

  Spar­tacus oper­ates under an <span data-html="true" class="plainlinks" title="Wikipedia: anti-op­pres­sive">anti-op­pres­sive, <span data-html="true" class="plainlinks" title="Wikipedia: anti-colon­ial">anti-colon­ial, and <span data-html="true" class="plainlinks" title="Wikipedia: anti-cap­it­al­ist">anti-cap­it­al­ist frame­work to re­ject hier­ar­chies and bin­aries. This unites people through the spirit of strug­gle, as they be­lieve all op­pres­sions are linked.

  The store itself is fairly small, but can hold gath­er­ings of up to 30 people. Dur­ing my last visit, an ac­cor­dion group of about 12 people were using the space to prac­tice. It is packed with adult and chil­dren’s books, maga­zines, pins, patches, comics, and other merch featur­ing anarch­ist, In­dig­en­ous, queer, fem­in­ist, Black, and im­mig­rant con­tent—and more.

  Every­where you turn, post­ers such as “Sex Work is Real Work,” “A Riot is the Language of the Unheard,” and “Smash Fas­cism” greet you. There is a cozy corner of the store where any­one is wel­come to free coffee, tea, and what­ever other good­ies await. A couch featur­ing a co­lour­ful throw, along with other seat­ing, gives the space a homey feel where any­one can play board games, read, peruse zines, play an in­strum­ent, or just hang out.

  Alexander Daughtry, the longest-stand­ing mem­ber of the col­lec­tive, joined in 1976. He first dis­covered Spar­tacus while it was a book­table at SFU. When The Peak asked what in­spired him to join, he said, “I loved that it was doing an im­port­ant func­tion of get­ting all this in­forma­tion to people who it would not other­wise be avail­able, but I also loved that it was non-sectar­ian, and was a work­ing group of anarch­ists, Mao­ists, and so­cial demo­crats who could all work to­gether which was un­usual in the 1970s.”

  As to why he’s stayed so long, he says, “I think we still have a very im­port­ant func­tion worth con­tinu­ing espe­cially as book­stores are all dis­ap­pear­ing.”

  Spar­tacus is more than just a book­store. It is a safe space for com­mun­ity gather­ing and or­gan­iza­tion. They hold free events such as movie screen­ings, craft nights, jam ses­sions, and book clubs. I’m told by col­lec­tive mem­ber Alexander Kirby that the Spar­tacus Book Club will be re­start­ing on Janu­ary 30 at 6:30 p.m. with Capit­al­ism Real­ism by Mark Fisher (a short 90-pager), and that more de­tails will be pub­lished on their Face­book page shortly.

  Stay­ing true to SFU’s roots in­volves help­ing rad­ical, in­clus­ive spaces both on and off cam­pus flour­ish. As Spar­tacus’ in­cep­tion can be traced back to SFU, I would en­cour­age any­one curi­ous about in­clus­ive so­cial change, al­tern­at­ive worlds based on unity, or chal­len­ging the status quo, to pop by this oasis.

  Spar­tacus Books can be found at 3378 Findlay St, Van­couver, BC and is open from 10 a.m.–8:30 p.m. on week­days, and 11 a.m.–7 p.m. on week­ends.