Haymarket Books
Books for changing the world
Ours to Master and to Own
Workers' Control from the Commune to the Present
Capitalism would have us believe we need our bosses. This volume reveals the history of workers who dare to disagree

From the dawning of the industrial epoch, wage earners have organized themselves into unions, fought bitter strikes, and gone so far as to challenge the very premises of the system by creating institutions of democratic self-management aimed at controlling production without bosses. With specific examples drawn from every corner of the globe and every period of modern history, this pathbreaking volume comprehensively traces this often underappreciated historical tradition. Ripe with lessons drawn from historical and contemporary struggles for workers’ control, Ours to Master and to Own is essential reading for those struggling to create a new world from the ashes of the old.

Immanuel Ness is professor of political science at Brooklyn College, City University of New York, and edits WorkingUSA.

Dario Azzellini is a writer, documentary director, and political scientist at Johannes Kepler University in Linz.


  • Ours to Master and to Own is the most substantive and comprehensive work on workers’ control and self-management today. I strongly recommend this work, which provides examples drawn from throughout the world of workers struggling for justice and power.”
    —Gary Younge, columnist for the Guardian and the Nation

    “The seemingly logical and just idea that workers themselves should make the decisions regarding and reap the benefits of their labor has always been a fraught concept with the potential to topple or reform whole societies… This ambitious, copiously researched, and clearly written text provides a sweeping diversity of examples, analyzed with cool detachment from the specific politics but with underlying passion for the larger concept.”
    —Kari Lydersen, author of Revolt on Goose Island

    "Ours to Master and to Own is a remarkable work that reminds us that history is not dead ... it is not even past. It is an ongoing process whereby women and men choose not to accept the workplace or the world as it is. Those who teach labor studies would profit from adding this book that covers the often-forgotten history of workers' agency to their reading lists. This book is highly recommended."
    —William A Pelz, Labour Studies

    “With the global capitalist order entering a period of crisis, but also with the dramatic increase in worker’s struggles especially in the global South, this collection is extremely opportune. Workers will seek greater control over market forces and workers’ councils are bound to reemerge. A must-read for labor analysts and activists alike.”
    —Ronaldo Munck, Dublin City University and University of Liverpool

    “Ness and Azzellini have made a major contribution in producing this insightful and exciting collection of essays on the question of workers’ control… it is timely and offers great strategic insight.”
    —Bill Fletcher, Jr., coauthor of Solidarity Divided

    “Excellent! A very complete, serious, and inspiring account of the movements for workers’ control and their difficulties. There is no doubt that it should become a standard point of reference for future discussions and actions.”
    —John Holloway, author of Crack Capitalism

    "Ours to Master and to Own is an incredible resource. With 22 essays that cover over a century of struggle, it explores experiences ranging from soviet power in Russia, self-management in Yugoslavia and Algeria, workers' control in Portugal in 1974 and co-management in Venezuela today ... With the sheer scope of the examples, this book is a serious contribution to debates around workers' control, what is possible and how to achieve it. The chapter on 1970s British factory occupations should be mandatory reading for the period that is to come."
    —Julie Sherry, Socialist Review

    "The social and environmental disaster that international capitalism has caused in the past 20 years reinforces the importance of this book. The alternative popular initiatives it describes are socially and economically far more advanced than the productivist and predatory canon of industrial capitalism. They are an antidote to the suicidal tendencies of high finance."
    —Antonio David Cattani, Red Pepper

Other books Edited by Dario Azzellini and Immanuel Ness

  • Communes and Workers' Control in Venezuela

    A sweeping, insightful history from below of the Bolivarian Revolution and its efforts to build socialism in the 21st century.
  • Urban Revolt

    Edited by Immanuel Ness, Trevor Ngwane, et al.
    Through detailed case studies, Urban Revolt unravels the potential and limitations of urban social movements on an international level.