An Alternative Labour History

Worker Control and Workplace Democracy

Edited by Dario Azzellini


A global history of worker control - challenging capital, the state and the trade union leaders.
The global financial crisis has led to a new shop-floor militancy. Radical forms of protest and new workers’ takeovers have sprung up all over the globe. In the US, Republic Windows and Doors started production under worker control in January 2013. Later that year workers in Greece took over and managed a hotel, a hospital, a newspaper, a TV channel and a factory.

The dominant revolutionary left has viewed workers' control as part of a system necessary during a transition to socialism. Yet most socialist and communist parties have neglected to promote workers' control as it challenges the centrality of parties and it is in this spirit that trade unions, operating through the institutional frameworks of government, have held a monopoly over labor history.

Tracing Marx’s writings on the Paris Commune through council communism, anarcho-syndicalism, Italian operaismo, and other 'heretical' left currents, An Alternative Labour History uncovers the practices and intentions of historical and contemporary autonomous workers’ movements that until now have been largely obscured. It shows that by bringing permanence and predictability to their workplaces, workers can stabilize their communities through expressions of participatory democracy. And, as history has repeatedly shown, workers have always had the capacity to run their enterprises on their own.

Author Bio

Dario Azzellini is assistant professor of sociology at the Johannes Kepler University. Azzellini has published several books, including They Can’t Represent Us (co-authored with Marina Sitrin, 2014), Ours to Master and to Own (co-edited with Immanuel Ness, 2011) and The Business of War (2002). He serves as associate editor for Cuadernos de Marte and is co-founder of Azzellini is also a documentary filmmaker, co-directing, among other films, Comuna under Construction (2010) and 5 Factories: Workers Control in Venezuela (2007).

Table of Contents

  • Acknowledgments
  • Notes on Contributors
  • Introduction - Dario Azzellini
  • 1. Council Democracy, or the End of the Political - Alex Demirovic´
  • 2. Contemporary Crisis and Workers' Control - Dario Azzellini
  • 3. Workers' Assemblies: New Formations in the Organization of Labor and the Struggle against Capitalism - Elise Danielle Thorburn 
  • 4. The Austrian Revolution of 1918-1919 and Working Class Autonomy - Peter Haumer
  • 5. Chile: Worker Self-organization and Cordones Industriales under the Allende Government (1970-1973) - Franck Gaudichaud
  • 6. ‘Production Control’ or ‘Factory Soviet’? Workers' Control in Japan - Kimiyasu Irie
  • 7. The Factory Commissions in Brazil and the 1964 Coup d'État - Henrique T. Novaes and Maurício S. de Faria
  • 8. Self-management, Workers' Control and Resistance against Crisis and Neoliberal Counter-reforms in Mexico - Patrick Cuninghame
  • 9. Collective Self-management and Social Classes: The Case of Enterprises Recovered by Their Workers in Uruguay - Anabel Rieiro 
  • 10. Self-managing the Commons in Contemporary Greece - Alexandros Kioupkiolis and Theodoros Karyotis Index


'Dario Azzellini has emerged as arguably the most important contemporary analyst of worker self-management.'
George Ciccariello-Maher, Drexel University

'Challenging radical fuzziness and conservative dogma, this book is a resource for comprehending the past and conceptualizing the future.'
Paul Le Blanc, author of A Freedom Budget for All Americans

'A hugely important contribution to that old socialist question: how can ordinary people exercise self-government in the matters that matter most to their daily lives? Get this book!'
Paul Buhle, founder of Radical America

'A must-read for those seeking fresh ways out of the current global morass. There are lessons here for all who hold tight to the possibility for a future based on equality and social good.'
Susan Moir, University of Massachusetts Boston


Publication Date: 12 March 2015
360 pages

Product ISBNs: Paperback: 9781783601547
Hardback: 9781783601554
eBook ePub: 9781783601578
eBook PDF: 9781783601561
eBook Kindle: 9781783601585

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