self-managed socialism: possible, urgent, necessary

Writing for Passa Palavra, Brazilian teacher Henrique T. Novaes looks at advantages and limitations of the Latin American experience of workers trying to overcome capitalist work relations through their control of their workplaces 

The destruction of the welfare state in Europe and the continuation of the state of social ills in the rest of the world are the consequences of an irrational society. In Spain, Portugal and Greece 40% of young people are unemployed and the state has unpayable debts. After riots in England’s capital city the Government insisted on calling the youth “vandals without a cause”, dismissing out of hand the obvious social causes of the revolt. Stratospheric public debts, neo-fascism, unemployment, underemployment, the return of hunger and poverty to Europe: words which keep appearing in a region which managed to create a restrained, partly nationalised – but capitalist nonetheless – capitalism in the 1945-73 period.

Capitalism under the hegemony of finance, turbo-marketisation and the return of primitive accumulation can only survive with increasing repression and the criminalisation of social movements. To cite a Latin-American example, Argentinian society reacted to the process of financialisation of its economy in 2001, a financialisation which gained strength after the military coup of 1976, throwing the country’s popular movements into the dust. In 2001 they did fight back, saying “Enough! Out with the lot of you!”: it was a symptom of the tiredness of neoliberal reforms and the neocolonisation of Argentinian society. However, the popular revolt of 2001 rapidly transformed into a new politics of ‘development’ under President Kirchner. Continue reading “self-managed socialism: possible, urgent, necessary”

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self-management at zanon: “we showed that it is possible”

Zanon: a factory in the hands of the workers, Argentina. Published by Wildcat in December 2003.

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The Neuquén province, where Zanon is located, was one of the epicentres of the protests that swept Argentina in the 1990s. It was here that the piqueteros first emerged in the town of Cutral-Co, and there are many militant trade unionists. Unlike in most of Argentina, many of the attempted privatizations of state owned enterprises were defeated. In May 2006, teachers won a 40% pay rise following a month long strike. But most famous, is the successful takeover of the Zanon tile factory and its subsequent worker-run management. In 2000 the workers went on strike. The employer implemented a lock out and the workers responded by occupying the factory. In October 2001, the workers officially declared the factory to be ‘under worker control’. By March 2002, the factory fully returned to production. In April 2003, the courts ordered the police to forcibly take the factory out of the hands of the workers. In response the workers developed a broad based campaign and as the police began to move in over 3000 citizens of Neuquén formed a picket in front of the factory. During the period of worker control, the number of employees has increased from 300 to 470, and wages have risen by 100 pesos a month, and the level of production has increased. Accidents have fallen by 90%. Continue reading “self-management at zanon: “we showed that it is possible””

state capitalism and communism-from-below in latin america

David Broder’s talk to The Commune’s recent Manchester forum

The class struggle in Latin America is one that has always roused great interest and a certain romanticism among the western left. The continent has seen a number of heroic struggles against often savage exploitation and state repression, whether by the industrial working class, landless peasants or indigenous peoples. But the politics of the Latin American left are complex and often mischaracterised.

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I’m going to talk about the recent history of Latin America and the relationship of US imperialism to national ruling classes; in what ways this has shaped the major left trends and the workers’ movement on the continent; and the different types of movement that exist today.  Continue reading “state capitalism and communism-from-below in latin america”

‘the take’: argentina’s worker-managed enterprises

Here we present Naomi Klein’s 2004 documentary The Take which looks at the actions of Argentinian workers during that country’s economic crisis earlier this decade. Hundreds of factories were occupied in resistance to mass redundancy: but further still, workers seized their workplaces restarted production under their own control.

A number of these enterprises are still going: indeed, last month the Argentinian state was forced to accept a permanent legal status for the $100m Zanón/FaSinPat (factory without bosses) ceramic tiles plant in Neuquén, which had been ‘stolen’ from its former owner by its four hundred workers. The film, reproduced in full below, features interesting interviews with the workers involved in these inspiring struggles.

Continue reading “‘the take’: argentina’s worker-managed enterprises”

legal victory for self-managed ‘zanon’ factory in argentina

by Marie Trigona

The workers at Argentina’s occupied ceramics factory, FASINPAT (Factory Without a Boss), won a major victory this week: the factory now definitively belongs to the people in legal terms. The provincial legislature voted in favor of expropriating the ceramics factory and handing it over to the workers cooperative to manage legally and indefinitely. Since 2001, the workers at Zanon have fought for legal recognition of worker control at Latin America’s largest ceramics factory which has created jobs, spearheaded community projects, supported social movements world-wide and shown the world that workers don’t need bosses.

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“This is incredible, we are happy. The expropriation is an act of justice,” said Alejandro Lopez the General Secretary of the Ceramists Union, overwhelmed by the emotion of the victory. “We don’t forget the people who supported us in our hardest moments, or the 100,000 people who signed the petition supporting our bill.” Continue reading “legal victory for self-managed ‘zanon’ factory in argentina”