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Clifton Ross

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Clifton Ross is a freelance writer and videographer who has been reporting on revolutionary movements in Latin America for over 25 years. He has edited many anthologies including: A Dream Made of Stars: A Bilingual Anthology of Nicaraguan Poetry and Voice of Fire: Communiques and Interviews of the Zapatista National Liberation Army. He is the translator of Quetzalcoatl by Ernesto Cardenal and his poetry has been published in the U.K. and Venezuela. Ross currently teaches English at Berkeley City College, Berkeley, California

Listen to Clifton Ross on the book he co-edited with Marcy Rein, Until the Rulers Obey: Voices from Latin American Social Movements, speaking at MonkeyWrench Books in Austin, TX on April 9th, 2014 adn broadcast on KOOP HERE.

Check out Clif and Marcy speaking at OSU, at the School of History, Philosophy, and Religion

Purchasing Links

Until the Rulers Obey: Voices from Latin American Social Movements

Editors: Clifton Ross and Marcy Rein
Foreword by Raúl Zibechi
Publisher: PM Press
ISBN: 978-1-60486-794-7
Published: 01/2014
Format: Paperback
Size: 9x6
Page count: 528 Pages
Subjects: Politics-Social Movements/Latin America

Until the Rulers Obey brings together voices from the movements behind the wave of change that swept Latin America at the turn of the twenty-first century. These movements have galvanized long-silent—or silenced—sectors of society: indigenous people, campesinos, students, the LGBT community, the unemployed, and all those left out of the promised utopia of a globalized economy. They have deployed a wide range of strategies and actions, sometimes building schools or clinics, sometimes occupying factories or fields, sometimes building and occupying political parties to take the reins of the state, and sometimes resisting government policies in order to protect their newfound power in community.

This unique collection of interviews features five dozen leaders and grassroots activists from fifteen countries presenting their work and debating pressing questions of power, organizational forms, and relations with the state. They have mobilized on a wide range of issues: fighting against mines and agribusiness and for living space, rural and urban; for social space won through recognition of language, culture, and equal participation; for community and environmental survival. The book is organized in chapters by country with each chapter introduced by a solidarity activist, writer, or academic with deep knowledge of the place. This indispensable compilation of primary source material gives participants, students, and observers of social movements a chance to learn from their experience.

Contributors include ACOGUATE, Luis Ballesteros, Marc Becker, Margi Clarke, Benjamin Dangl, Mar Daza, Mickey Ellinger, Michael Fox, J. Heyward, Raphael Hoetmer, Hilary Klein, Diego Benegas Loyo, Courtney Martinez, Chuck Morse, Mario A. Murillo, Phil Neff, Fabíola Ortiz dos Santos, Hernán Ouviña, Margot Pepper, Adrienne Pine, Marcy Rein, Christy Rodgers, Clifton Ross, Susan Spronk, Marie Trigona, Jeffery R. Webber, and Raúl Zibechi.


“This is the book we’ve been waiting for. Anyone interested in the explosion of social movements in Latin America—and the complex interplay between those forces and the 'Pink Tide' governments—should inhale this book immediately. Until the Rulers Obey gives us country-specific context from a superb team of 'introducers,' who then step aside so we can hear a chorus of voices from some of the most inspiring grassroots organizations on the continent. This is a people’s history in real time, bubbling up from below.”
—Avram David "Avi" Lewis, documentary filmmaker and former host of Al Jazeera English show Fault Lines and Naomi Klein, author of No Logo and Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism

“Latin America is the last region in the world that still has a vibrant Enlightenment left, which sets both the practical agenda in terms of policy and the horizon in terms of utopia. This wonderfully edited collection of analysis and first-person accounts shows why. It assembles people who are both activists and analysts, who see no difference between interpreting and changing the world. It deserves a wide audience.”
—Greg Grandin, author of Empire’s Workshop and Fordlandia

“A new world is dawning in Latin America from the bottom up. This book brings an all-star cast of scholar-activists together with social movement and community leaders from throughout the region. The reader will hear the clarion call for social justice from those who are on the front lines of grassroots resistance and popular struggles in this age of globalization, crisis, and transformation. These are the voices that too often are suppressed by the powerful and the means of communication they control. I cannot imagine a more important and timely volume for scholars and activists who wish to understand the transformations that are sweeping the sub-continent.”
—William I. Robinson, Professor of Sociology, Global Studies, and Latin American Studies, University of California at Santa Barbara, author of Latin America and Global Capitalism

Until the Rulers Obey is a profoundly necessary book. Little has been published about Latin America in the way of an overview from 1989 to the present, even less in the voices of the protagonists themselves. The great experiments of the 1960s, ’70s, and ’80s failed, but new and in many cases less dogmatic approaches to social justice have taken root in a number of countries south of the border. This book explores those efforts, often in the words of the change-makers themselves. Clifton Ross and Marcy Rein have done us a great service. Read this book for access to what the U.S. corporate media still doesn't want us to know.”
—Margaret Randall, author of Sandino’s Daughters Revisited, When I Look Into the Mirror and See You, and Che on My Mind

Until the Rulers Obey is the most exhaustive and comprehensive work of primary source material from social movements in Latin America to appear in English, presenting the testimony of the brave women and men who have challenged the old leaders, and are serving notice on the new aspirants to power that they can only rule legitimately if they listen to the voices and demands of the people. In addition to providing a report on the current state of popular struggles, this anthology compiled by Clifton Ross and Marcy Rein will also serve as a compendium for future writers and historians who want to understand the social movements that transformed Latin America during the early years of the new millennium."
—Roger Burbach, co-author of Latin America’s Turbulent Transitions: The Future of Twenty-First-Century Socialism


Venezuela: Revolution from the Inside Out
Written and Directed by Clifton Ross

Venezuela: Revolution from the Inside Out is a voyage into Latin America's most exciting experiment of the new millennium, exploring the history and projects of the Bolivarian Revolution through interviews with a range of its participants, from academics to farm workers and those living in the margins of Caracas. This introduction to the "revolución bonita" ("pretty revolution") offers in-depth interviews, unforgettable images and a lively soundtrack that will open new vistas onto this hopeful human project.

As he totes his camera on bus and car trips all over Venezuela, director Clifton Ross becomes our tour guide through the Bolivarian Revolution. He sweeps us through its history and takes us to its works-in-progress on the ground. These schools, rural lending banks and cooperatives weave the fabric of Venezuela's "Socialism of the 21st Century." They show its failures and successes, its warp and woof. Through it all runs the frayed but unbreakable thread of a people in struggle.

Featuring: Dr. Steve Ellner, Universidad de Oriente, Puerto La Cruz; José Sant Roz, Universidad Socialista del Pueblo, Mérida; Jutta Schmitt, Universidad de los Andes, Mérida; Christene DeJong, Center for Latin American Studies, University of California, Berkeley; Roger Burbach, Director of the Center for the Study of the Americas, Berkeley, CA.

Extras Include: Meeting Chavez (10 minutes) and Message to the North American People (12 minutes).

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What Others Are Saying...


untilrulersobeyUntil the Rulers Obey: Review
by Roy Krøvel
Anarchist Studies 23

"This book is a brilliant idea: the two editors (in addition to some friends) take us
on a journey into ‘the magical world of Latin America’ (p xxviii). It is a trip starting
in Mexico, moving into Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador and Nicaragua before it continues to Colombia, Venezuela, Peru, Bolivia, Brazil, Uruguay, Paraguay, Chile and Argentina. Along the way the authors introduce us to all sorts of social and political activists, including leaders of political parties of the left, environmentalists, indigenous activists, feminists and trade unionists..."

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untilrulersobeyUntil the Rulers Obey: Review
by Staughton Lynd
Z Magazine
May 27th, 2015

"...The book is made up of interviews, with an introduction for each country. It moves North to South, beginning with Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, and El Salvador. Many readers will recall trips to one or more of these countries. My wife and I used vacations to make five short trips to Sandinista Nicaragua between 1985-1990. We visited Mexico several times, once when our daughter Martha was teaching in a remote village in the mountains of Oaxaca, and twice to attend a labor school associated with the Authentic Workers’ Front (the FAT). We have been to Guatemala more than half a dozen times where Martha and her family live in a village bordering Lake Atitlan.

A remarkable interview in this first part of the book tells how, during the Zapatista uprising, large landowners in Chiapas fled and the Zapatista army took over vast tracts of land.."

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untilrulersobeyUntil the Rulers Obey: Review
by David L Wilson
Upside Down World
June 10th, 2014

“The analysis from Latin America is often subtler than the either/or arguments we usually find in the United States. The veteran Peruvian leftist Hugo Blanco views the “pink tide” governments from an historical perspective. “I think that [Chávez’s concept of] socialism of the 21st century is very important chiefly because of its anti-imperialist character,” he tells Uruguayan writer Raúl Zibechi. “But when it comes to their confrontation with the indigenous people because of extractivism”—the exploitation of natural resources—“I support the indigenous people. For that reason, I think that these are intermediate governments that we have to support sometimes and fight against [at] other times.”…The editors have done an amazing job in managing to assemble such a broad range of interviews, often locating the subjects and carrying out the interviews themselves with few of the resources available to mainstream reporters.”

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untilrulersobeyUntil the Rulers Obey: Review
by Diego Báez
May 1st

...The editors strike an appreciable balance between Marxist jargon and everyday articulations of social and political realities, and succeed in marrying theory with an unmatched collection of primary sources. Given ongoing protests in Venezuela, unprecedented inequality in Brazil, and rampant exploitation of the natural resources throughout the region, Latin American social movements deserve this kind of timely and rigorous attention. An irreplaceable addition to current discussions of global struggles against social injustice...

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dvdRevolution from the Inside Out
Grit TV
June 26, 2009

Venezuela: Revolution from the Inside Out" is a small independent documentary that manages to break through the media spin on Venezuela in a big way and really gets at the heart of what is important to these misunderstood people. You can find out how to order a copy from our friends at PM PRESS by heading to

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dvdRevolution From the Inside Out
By Damian Bramlett and William Armaline (Ph.D.), San Jose State University
Political Media Review

In the US mainstream, Hugo Chavez is generally seen as a “communist” (a la North Korea, Cuba, or China), tyrant, or both-often vilified by US news media and politicians. Further, the Chavez administration is often painted as illegitimate, particularly in comparison to those elected in dominant Western “democratic” models-such as the US or much of the EU. However, Venezuela: Revolution from the Inside Out provides a more nuanced perspective on Venezuela and a thorough investigation of modern socialism as now manifested in Central and South America...

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dvdProfane Existence #58

Interesting things have been happening in Venezuela for over a decade now and as much as the Right loves to vilify it, as much as the Left loves to applaud it, no one in the US really seems to know what’s going on there except that Hugo Chavez does a great job of pissing off George W. Starting with a brief chronology of Chavez’s involvement in Venezuela’s socialist movement and his rise to power, this bilingual documentary includes interviews with academics, ideologues, bureaucrats, and people on the street. Most of this paints a pretty rosy picture of the movement, but the last 20 minutes shows us where it is failed, namely in the cooperatives and the government’s support of them. The DVD also includes a couple of somewhat forgettable featurettes: “Meeting Chavez,” and “Messages to the North American People.”  All in all I think I have a far greater understanding of the situation thanks to this DVD. Venezuela does in 85 minutes what the Western media has failed to do in ten years: show us the inner workings and grassroots impetus behind the “Bolivarian Revolution.”  (Matt Indignant)

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Venezuela: Revolution From the Inside Out
DVD Talk
Chris Neilson

Democracy is alive and well in Venezuela, or so it seems from Clifton Ross's intriguing feature-length documentary Venezuela: Revolution from the Inside Out. Ross explores Hugo Chávez's rise to power, and the subsequent experiment in 21st century Bolivarian Revolution through interviews with American and Venezuelan academics, and Venezuelan government officials, community activists and educators, and co-op farmers and merchants...

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Author Portfolio


Ross, Clifton. Even Good Dogs Have Bad Dreams: Four American Poets. UK: Stride Publications, 1996.

Ross, Clifton. Fables for an Open Field. UK: Trombone Press, 1995.

Ross, Clifton. Fabulas Para un Campo Abierto. Venezuela: Editorial Casa Tomada, 2007.

Ross, Clifton. Traducciones del Silencio. Venzuela: Ministry of Culture, Ediciones el Perro y la Rana, 2008.

Ross, Clifton. Translations from Silence. Available at

Ross, Clifton. William Everson: The Light the Shadow Casts. UK: Stride Publications, 1996.



Ross, Clifton. A Dream Made of Stars: A Bilingual Anthology of Nicaraguan Poetry. Berkely: Co-Press, 1986.

Cardenal, Ernesto. Quetzalcoatl. Berkeley: New Earth Publications, 1990.

Sandino, Augusto C. Light and Truth. Berkeley: Co-Press, 1984.

Ross, Clifton. Voice of Fire: Communiques and Interview of the Zapatista National Liberation Army. San Francisco: Freedom Voices Publications, 2000.

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