Martinez, Carlos & Michael Fox, & Jojo Farrell. VENEZUELA SPEAKS! Voices from the Grassroots. 2010. PM Press, Oakland, CA, USA. ISBN 978-1-60486-108-2

Review by Theresa Wolfwood

“…the failure of neoliberalism combined with the political failure of representative democracy…contributed significantly to the rise of the New Left.”

“…in Venezuela, as a consequence…new urban community associations and political parties emerges that provided an important impetus for the emergence of Hugo Cvez in 1998.”

At a time when Venezuela and its friends are still mourning the loss of President Hugo Chavez, this collection of interviews and insights into the social movements of Venezuela gives us many reasons for a hope-filled future in Venezuela.

Venezuela is a country rich with creative community that supports a progressive, equitable and just society for its citizens. They also know how to organize. As they organized in the last decades, they continue to do so in the present, ensuring a a better future from the grassroots.

                        Arranged in sections on different groups and interests this book covers concerns from land & housing reform, women & sexual diversity, workers & labour, community media, arts & culture, indigenous & Afro-Venezuelan, the student movement and community organizing- in other words the total spectrum of social activism in the words of the activists themselves.

In a slaughter house where health and Labour standards were ignored by the company, the workers organized – hiding in bathrooms to get signatures and donations, the organizer was offered bribes, even blank cheques by the company, but Candido stayed the course until the company threatened to fire him and other organizers, then all the workers decided to occupy the factory and form a cooperative to run it. They also knew the community and ranchers needed their work. The cooperative has been so successful that, “Our operations have not stopped for a single day!”

Community radio thrives in Venezuela; Valentina says there is complete freedom of expression in Venezuela, “because a community radio station is like having access to a window that shows you how the world is- the world that we want and which we are constructing…”

And the mantra of the western Caracas community television is, “Don’t watch it, make it!”

Read this book and be moved to action by so many dedicated people, their courage and creativity as they work towards the world they want. Venezuela is a country of many leaders, where every citizen can participate in leadership; it will survive and continue to inspire for many years.

Maria says, “What is participatory democracy? …giving power to the people…for the people to administer their own resources…when you can speak of your rights and your duties, where the freedom to protest exists, where there is no marginality, where there is no poverty.”  Words that resonate everywhere.

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