With the COVID-19 pandemic and the nationwide prairie fire sparked by the rebellion in Minneapolis, we are in a period of upheaval and and the potential for revolutionary change is quickly growing. As organizers and activists press for further change, pushing back on white supremacy and toward the abolition of police and prisons alike, the powers that be are scrambling to contain the revolt and defang its more radical demands. With revolutionary change once again on the table, the time is ripe to sharpen the weapons of theory for the struggles looming on the horizon.
It was in this moment that George Maher put forth a call to investigate what a revolution is and how to make it. In a growing online (as everything was those days) reading group people gathered together to take up that call and think through the past, the present, and help us imagine the future we want. It was these impassioned discussions that birthed Spirals of Revolt.
Instead of beginning with fixed ideas of revolution, Spirals of Revolt understands history as a million acts of revolt spiraling, sometimes chaotically, toward liberation. Guided by the tension of the spiral, the book traces a double-helix of readings of revolutionary history (Eurocentric, canonical) and counter-histories (subaltern, decolonial) rooted in Black, Brown, and Indigenous traditions of resistance to colonialism and capitalism.
Spirals of Revolt asks you to join this discussioninto how revolutionary history can guide revolutionary aspirations in the present. On your own or with comrades, this is a handbook for learning while doing and doing while learning, a study guide for letting a thousand study groups—and acts of revolt—bloom.
- What is a Revolution? (non-state alternatives in other traditions of resistance)
- Marxism and Colonialism
- Dialectics, or What Moves History?
- Riots, Rebellions, Revolts
- Individuals and Leaders
- Space and Social Reproduction
- Self-Defense and Dual Power
- The Commune and the State
Praise for Previous Titles
"Theoretically informed and mindful of the correctives real history offers to speculation, this book is a noteworthy contribution to critical social theory and decolonial discourses. Recommended. Graduate students through faculty."— B. G. Chang, Choice
"Decolonizing Dialectics marks an important contribution to a growing body of literature concerned with decolonizing critical – and, more broadly speaking, political – theory, as well as a worthwhile addition to the works devoted to the dialectical tradition and its critics. In particular, Ciccariello-Maher’s readings of Fanon and Dussel offer a valuable new take on their respective engagements with dialectical thought, and on the complex and fraught relationship that dialectics shares with decolonization, theoretically and practically." — Michael Elliott, Contemporary Political Theory
"[A] rather unique and sophisticated project that at times leaves the reader breathless from the elegant speed with which it moves through concepts.... [T]his book functions as an opening, by recentering dialectical reason and placing it in service of a radical anti-systemic practice, to successive discussions...." — Joshua Moufawad-Paul, Marx & Philosophy Review of Books
"Decolonizing Dialectics is a worthwhile contribution to the revival of dialectical thought." — Joseph Leigh, E-International Relations
"Decolonizing Dialectics makes an essential contribution to our understanding of the dialectic of unity and difference and how difference becomes antagonism within and beyond the legacies of colonialism. It is essential reading in the renewal of debate about the philosophy of internal relations and the systematic dialectic." — Adam David Morton, Progress in Political Economy
"Decolonizing Dialectics’ timeliness lies in the fact that it gives us an approach to these tensions as academics, which exploits their decolonial potential, and affirms, after and through Fanon, their necessary violence, rather than just settle for reciprocity, closure, or another book on dialectics." — Shona N. Jackson, Antipode
"This clear, well-written and refreshingly forthright book aims to decolonize dialectics and to wield that decolonized dialectics (never, Ciccariello-Maher insists, ‘the dialectic’) as a method to understand and further decolonization. . . . This is an important work best read in the spirit in which it is written: with urgency, anger, hope and a refusal to simply accept what is present." — David M Bell, Political Studies Review
"The author makes important contributions to the fields of dialectics, Marxism, postmodernism, and postcolonial studies, and he has an aptitude for making tough philosophical questions accessible. Decolonizing Dialectics provides an excellent framework for understanding the major theorists he uses as well as Hegel, Marx, Foucault, and several other scholars." — Luis M. Sierra, Journal of Global South Studies
"A light-footed and richly textured work, which demonstrates how radically different historical moments can speak to one another; how dialectics animated by a certain mobility and openness might help to explain, and ultimately transcend, the legacies of colonialism and slavery." — Alex Millen, Journal of American Studies
"Maher’s book is an important effort to redefine the dialectic in a more radical and indeed, violent manner." — William L. Remley, Anarchist Studies
"The richness of George Ciccariello-Maher's work lies in generating, for its readers . . . questions that are pivotal to the work of imagining alternative futures." — Kris Sealey, Hypatia Reviews Online
"Critiques of the dialectic are a constant in the contemporary intellectual scene, most of them unconsciously animated by dialectical logic, as George Ciccariello-Maher demonstrates. His book traces the dialectical logic of two fundamental contemporary movements, the Bolivarian Revolution in Venezuela and the internal debates within Black politics and theory. At the same time, he restores three great antidialectical thinkers—Sorel, Fanon, and Dussel—to their full dialectical stature, in analyses that range from the nature of violence to the different moments of nationalism and colonialism. It is an energetic and stimulating new intervention that enhances the theoretical canon and forces a welcome rethinking of practice itself." — Fredric Jameson
"If the Euro-dialectic of Hegel and Marx has limited its adventures to the poles of master and slave, or bourgeoisie and proletariat, a decolonized dialectic must take in far more territory to be true to our multipolar non-Euro world. Drawing on Sorel, Fanon, and Dussel, George Ciccariello-Maher demonstrates how this classic philosophical concept can be dynamically developed to illuminate the logics of the emancipatory struggles of the global South against white supremacy and colonial/neo-colonial rule." — Charles W. Mills, author of Radical Theory, Caribbean Reality: Race, Class, and Social Domination
"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."
--Mike Davis, author of Planet of Slums
"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."
--Vijay Prashad, author of The Poorer Nations
"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."
--Jodi Dean, author of Crowds and Party and The Communist Horizon
"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."
--Richard Gott, author of Hugo Chávez and the Bolivarian Revolution
"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."
--Corey Robin, author of The Reactionary Mind
"We Created Chavez is likely to be a point of reference for anyone seeking to assess chavismo as a seminal case of popular resistance to neoliberal globalization, as well as its relevance to twenty-first-century socialism."--Daniel Hellinger "Hispanic American Historical Review "
"If . . . you want an engaging book that, in the service of a revolutionist mythos, narrates the actions and ideas of many people often neglected by scholars, you may appreciate We Created Chavez."--Jonathan Eastwood "American Historical Review "
"Terrific."--Greg Grandin "The Nation "
"I've been looking for this book for years."--Steve Henshall "Socialist Review "
" We Created Chávez provides a systematic, bottom-up approach to Venezuelan politics from 1958 to the present. It offers a much-needed new perspective on Hugo Chávez's rise to power. Writing in a lively style and demonstrating a thorough command of the issues and personalities in recent Venezuelan history, George Ciccariello-Maher has produced a book essential to understanding the phenomenon of 'Chavismo, ' which has attracted widespread interest throughout the world." --Steve Ellner, author of Rethinking Venezuelan Politics: Class, Conflict, and the Chávez Phenomenon
"In the United States, accounts of Venezuela have been fixated on the figure of Hugo Chávez. We Created Chávezbreaks with this obsession, instead showing the dynamic and contradictory relationship that exists between Venezuela's president and the social forces that gave rise to and sustain the government. It is required reading for anyone wishing to understand the internal dynamics of social change underway in Venezuela today." --Miguel Tinker Salas, author of The Enduring Legacy: Oil, Culture, and Society in Venezuela
"Ciccariello-Maher's history of the Venezuelan left is essential to understanding the Chávez era."--Dorothy Kronick "The New Republic "
"[A] crisply written social and political history of the critical decades leading up to Chávez's election in 1998. . . . For those who want to see the revolution continue, Ciccariello-Maher has made a critical contribution to our understanding, which is in and of itself enough to recommend this book without reservation. But more than that, We Created Chávez brilliantly demonstrates how social history scholarship can mine the lived experiences of rank-and-file activists and radical leaders for precious stones, and then set those gems in a visible and rigorous theoretical frame that allows us to see history in motion."--Todd Chretien "Socialist Worker "
"In addition to providing readers with an irreplaceable genealogy of the Revolutionary Left in Venezuela and its role in the making of the present, We Created Chávez deftly illustrates the tensions between constituent and constituted power that make the Bolivarian Revolution a dialectical process rather than a presidential term in office. We Created Chávez is also a masterful contribution to a thankfully growing body of work responding to dominant portrayals of the Bolivarian process in Venezuela enraptured or enraged by the figure of el Comandante."--Donald V. Kingsbury "Theory & Event "
"In We Created Chávez, George Ciccariello-Maher offers a masterful 'people's history' of Venezuela.... Through Ciccariello-Maher's analysis, a Venezuela easily and often ignored both by academia and by the popular press becomes visible. It is this Venezuela from which post-Chávez popular politics will be forged; Ciccariello-Maher offers valuable insight into what the coming years may bring."--Erica S. Simmons "Latin American Politics and Society "