Communes and Workers’ Control in Venezuela: Building 21st Century Socialism from Below (Socialism and Democracy)

Dario Azzellini, one of the leading voices in the growing literature on alternative forms of labour organizations, builds on his productive repertoire which includes edited books such as The Class Strikes Back (with Michael Kraft; 2018), An Alternative Labour History (2015), the co-authored book, They Can’t Represent Us (with Marina Sitrin; 2014), numerous journal articles on self-management and workers’ control in Venezuela and Bolivia, as well as documentary films such as Occupy, Resist, Produce (with Oliver Ressler; 2014). This monograph presents the most detailed account available in English of communal councils and workers’ control initiatives in Venezuela that have evolved since the beginning of the Bolivarian Revolution in 1999.

At a time when Venezuela is grappling with the most serious economic and political crisis that it has experienced since the turn of the century, understanding the transformative processes that the country has undertaken is crucial for anyone seeking to have an informed assessment of what Venezuelan experience signifies for the socialist project in the twenty-first century. Beyond his comprehensive overview of initiatives and three detailed case studies on the evolution of participatory democracy in Venezuela, the most significant contribution of the book especially for non-specialist is its serious engagement with the question of the dialectical relation between the state and the multitude (or what, in the context of Venezuela, Azzellini calls pueblo) towards advancing the project of emancipatory socialism. This question is particularly relevant for our time when the prospect and the appeal of parliamentary and state socialism are at a historic low. As the author states, the notions that “either the seizure of state power or the participation within the state is sufficient to enable the transition to socialism is wrongheaded and simplistic; the truth lies somewhere in between” 

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