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Building the Commune: Radical Democracy in Venezuela

Latin America’s experiments in direct democracy
Since 2011, a wave of popular uprisings has swept the globe, taking shape in the Occupy movement, the Arab Spring, 15M in Spain, and the anti-austerity protests in Greece. The demands have been varied, but have expressed a consistent commitment to the ideals of radical democracy.

Similar experiments began appearing across Latin America twenty-five years ago, just as the left fell into decline in Europe. In Venezuela, poor barrio residents arose in a mass rebellion against neoliberalism, ushering in a government that institutionalized the communes already forming organically. In Building the Commune, George Ciccariello-Maher travels through these radical experiments, speaking to a broad range of community members, workers, students and government officials. Assessing the projects’ successes and failures, Building the Commune provides lessons and inspiration for the radical movements of today.

Reviews

  • “George Ciccariello-Maher reminds us of the extraordinary achievement of Venezuela’s communes in fostering direct democracy at the community and workplace scales. Whatever storms may come, they represent the highest level of popular self-organization in modern Latin American history.”
  • “Democracy has been emptied of its content, and Building the Commune offers an alternative model for political organization: the Commune, whose roots are in 1871 Paris but whose contemporary emergence is in Venezuela. A sharp and important book that puts at center-stage the ambitions of ordinary people to govern themselves.”
  • “George Ciccariello-Maher’s careful engagement with the revolutionary creativity of the communes traces a trajectory of hope for Venezuela – and also for the rest of us looking for the forms of our emancipation. Attuned to the ways left and right exploit the streets and social media, Building the Commune is essential to the Left’s renewed discussion of the tactics and strategies for building collective power.”
  • “In the post-Chávez era in Venezuela, one under-reported institution stands out as the repository of popular aspirations: the Commune. George Ciccariello-Maher brilliantly describes their activities against the background of increasing political strife. Essential reading for all those anxious about the future of Venezuela.”
  • “Behind the rampant debates on Hugo Chavez and Nicolas Maduro's legacy, millions of men and women in Venezuela's smallest towns and largest cities are building local communes. Ciccariello-Maher's book is a triumph of reporting, narrative, and theoretical analysis. It's a testament to what happens when you keep your eyes open, your ear to the ground, and your head on straight.”

Blog

  • Facing Trump, Building the Future

    This essay by George Ciccariello-Maher was written for arranca! issue #51 (forthcoming), to provide an overview for a German-speaking audience on the dynamics behind Trump's election and the resistance to his presidency.  



    With the election of Trump, the tempo of our collective disaster has shifted dramatically. Rather than the slow-rolling nightmare of Clintonite neoliberalism, for which Obama was more continuity than respite, this nightmare has suddenly shifted into high-gear with each new day bringing — via a string of brutal executive orders — a new hell to ponder, lament, and resist.

    How did we get here? The debates are seemingly interminable and inevitably self-serving.

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  • The Landing: Fascists without Fascism

    This post first appeared at Research & Destroy.



    We can imagine a person slowly becoming aware that he is the subject of catastrophe. The form of consciousness might be likened to someone peering out the window of a plane. They have been aboard for a long time, years, decades. From cruising altitude the landscape below scrolls past evenly, somewhat abstracted. The stabilizing mechanisms of eye and brain smooth the scene. Perhaps they are somewhere above the upper midwest. Their knowledge of the miseries that have seized flyover country hovers at the periphery of a becalmed boredom. Steady hum of the jet engines, sense of stillness. Borne by prevailing winds the first balloonists detected no wind whatsoever. So this flight. Though the passengers will never travel faster than this they scarcely feel any motion at all.

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  • Tariq Ali: Introduction to The Communist Manifesto

    Today marks the 169th anniversary of the publication of one of the most influential documents in world history: The Communist Manifesto. In this introduction to the new edition, published alongside Lenin's April Theses, Tariq Ali contextualises the period—the eve of the 1848 revolutions—in which Marx and Engels penned their masterpiece and argues that it desperately needs a successor.



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