Feb 7, 2024
In this episode we welcome Chris Gilbert back to the podcast to discuss his new book, Commune or Nothing! Venezuela’s Communal Movement and its Socialist Project.
Chris Gilbert is a professor of political studies at the Universidad Bolivariana de Venezuela and creator and co-host of Escuela de Cuadros, a Marxist educational television program and podcast. Gilbert is co-author with Cira Pascual Marquina of Venezuela, The Present as Struggle (Monthly Review, 2020).
We’ve hosted three previous discussions with Chris Gilbert, one related to an essay that is a chapter of this book, which discusses the theoretical work behind seeing communes as building blocks of a socialist metabolism. The two others with Cira Pascual Marquina were on the book they co-authored.
I just want to make a note, that we recorded this conversation back in September, prior to October 7th, which would’ve definitely warranted some attention in the conversation particularly as Gilbert talked about sanctions as total war and viewing Venezuela as a concentration camp, remarks that resonate with the Palestinian experience currently. This was also recorded prior to some of the recent developments in Venezuela including - among many other things - the Essequibo referendum, Biden threatening harsher sanctions against Venezuela, and the arrest of 32 people in alleged assassination plots. The best place as always to stay abreast of developments in Venezuela is to follow and support the work of venezuelanalysis.com.
We talk about many things in this conversation, but a few I will highlight are Gilbert’s theoretical work, building on the work of feminist social reproduction theory, Marx’s theory of value, to put forth the concept of directly social labor as a key to the emancipatory possibilities of the commune. Gilbert also shares some of the contributions of African Maroon communities and indigenous communal practices to the development of Venezuela’s socialist vision.
We also talk about why for Gilbert the commune represents a recovery of Marx, in particular the romantic Marx who saw revolutionary potential among the Iroquois Confederacy, Algerian peasants and Russian peasant communes. Along the way we talk about a commune that is geographically the size of Manhattan and discuss currency experiments, communal banking efforts, and the process of “de-alienation” that Gilbert sees in the commune.
The book is out now from Monthly Review press, I highly recommend it, it was one of our favorite books that we read in 2023.
And if you like what we do please support us at patreon.com/millennialsarekillingcapitalism. We do have a study group that starts for patrons tomorrow night at 7:30 PM ET on February 8th studying the counterinsurgency manual, so this is a final call for anyone interested in joining us for that.
Purchase the book from Monthly Review Press.
Aidan Elias co-produced this episode.