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(en) Workers Solidarity No 73 - Workers Self-management in Argentina

From Worker <a-infos-en@ainfos.ca>
Date Mon, 2 Dec 2002 05:07:47 -0500 (EST)


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Over 20 years of IMF loans, structural adjustment plans and
"free-market reforms", involving the privatisation of practically
all public services, has left Argentina - once one of the richest
country's in the world - with an economy in utter ruins. Over
half of the countries population now live below the poverty line
and unemployment has sky-rocketed leaving over one in five
people jobless.

In December last year, http://struggle.ws/ws/2002/ws69/argentina.html
as the government responded to the
worsening economic crises with vicious cuts in public spending and
the expropriation of a substantial part of the capital of hundreds of
thousands small and medium savers, popular unrest which had been
growing for several years exploded onto the streets of Argentina. The
president had declared a state of emergency when, soon after a
general strike involving 7 million workers, hungry people began
looting shops and supermarkets so they could feed their families. All
constitutional rights were suspended and meetings of more than
three people banned. Argentineans had had enough and in Buenos
Aires alone, over a million people voiced their anger and disgust at
the discredited political elite by defying the state of emergency and
taking to the streets.

Despite the lack of mass unified actions since then, the mass
movement is in no way over and a report by the Interior Ministry
holds that some 13,582 protests, road blockades and similar political
actions have been staged so far this year (1). As well as protesting,
however, people have - largely through necessity - started to take
matters into their own hands and to organise together to try make
real changes to improve their situation.

Neighbourhood assemblies

Even before the events of December in some neighbourhoods of
Buenos Aires local people had begun to meet on street corners to
share their unease about the deteriorating economic and institutional
situation and to discuss effective forms of protest. After the
December protests these neighbourhood assemblies quickly
multiplied and by February alone there was over 50 such assemblies
meeting in different neighbourhoods throughout Buenos Aires (2).
An inter-neighbourhood assembly was soon created to co-ordinate
the proposals and report back on the work of the local assemblies.
This mass inter-neighbourhood assembly meets once a week and
has an average of 3000 local co-ordinators from all the city's
neighbourhoods participating in it. The local assemblies, which are
autonomous, rotate the task of co-ordinating and organising the
inter-neighbourhood ones.

The local assemblies are organised non-hierarchically and are open
to almost everyone. People get a chance to discuss the problems they
are facing and to organise effective ways of dealing with them. For
example, in one neighbourhood, the assembly organised pickets to
prevent the authorities from closing down a baker who could not
afford to pay his rent.(3)

In a move that is a direct challenge to capitalist property the
assemblies have also started to occupy abandoned commercial
premises, reusing them with a social function, such as turning them
into neighbourhood social centres which provide a permanent
presence and meeting space.(4)

More general questions on the economic and political system are
also discussed at the assemblies and proposals such as "The people
must govern through its assemblies" are brought back to the
inter-neighbourhood assembly. Through these grassroots assemblies
the idea of direct democracy, of mass direct intervention in public
decision-making, has gained legitimacy amongst wide sectors of the
population.

                 Occupied Factories

However the most direct challenge to capitalism is the occupation of
factories by workers. On the 1st of October last year, the workers of
the Zanón ceramics factory in Neuquén, one of Latin America's
largest ceramics producers, occupied their factory and have kept it
running ever since. The bosses had stopped production, claiming the
factory was no longer profitable and that they could no longer pay the
workers. In similar circumstances in Buenos Aires, the female
workers of the Brukman textile factory occupied their workplace and
have been running their plant successfully for the last 10 months.

The textile workers managed to get rid of all wage arrears and to get
the same pay they used to get under the bosses. Likewise the
workers in Zanón have managed to keep their pay at the same level
as before despite the fact that they sell the tiles at 60% of the
previous price. They have even hired, with equal pay, unemployed
people coming from the picketers (unemployed workers) movement
in the region and are planning to set up a Technical School to train
young people and create more jobs.

The workers became acquainted with the whole production process,
set up departments for running production and marketing, and in
Zanón organised a network of vendors who sell the tiles in the city.
Both factories are operated on the principle of grassroots democracy
with decisions been made at general assemblies of workers, and shop
stewards and co-ordinators relying on grassroots' mandate.

By October 1st this year, the workers of the occupied factories, had
already published five issues of their own paper "Nuestra Lucha"
(Our Struggle/Fight) with the motto "An injury to one is an injury to
all" and "take over and run production in every single closed
company". They have already convened two National meetings of
occupied factories, the last of which saw the participation, among
others, of a delegation elected from the Jun'n Clinic from Córdoba
province, which has been in operation without the bosses since last
June 13. 40 neighbourhood assemblies were also involved in this
meeting and there is now an attempt to set up a co-ordinating body
to build permanent links with the neighbourhood assemblies. The
workers of the occupied factories are also raising the need for a
National Congress convened by the assemblies, the picketers and the
occupied factories.(5)

By restarting production in the occupied factories, the workers have
shown up the parasitic nature of the ruling class and have set an
example to the exploited class that there is an alternative way out.
This shows, once again, that when we finally overthow the market
economy of capitalism we will have little difficulty in taking control
of our workplaces and our lives.

                                    Deirdre Hogan

(1) Some reflexions on the revolutionary days of December, By
Manolo Romano and Emilio Albamonte Oct 1,2002

(2) Some comments on neighbourhood assemblies. By The
Comrades of the José Ingenieros Popular Library, Buenos Aires,
22/02/2002

(3) Que Se Vayan Todos: Argentina's Popular Rebellion, 15th Feb.
2002

(4) Que Se Vayan Todos: Argentina's Popular Rebellion (2), 2 July.
2002

(5) Some reflexions on the revolutionary days of December, By
Manolo Romano and Emilio Albamonte Oct 1,2002

See also

Argentina says "Enough" http://struggle.ws/ws/2002/ws69/argentina.html
On the 19th and 20th of December 2001, there was a major popular
revolt in Argentina. Tens of thousands of people demonstrated in the
streets. The demonstrations were sparked by the government's plan
to cut public spending as part of an emergency financial package
demanded by the IMF

This page is from the print version of the Irish
Anarchist paper 'Workers Solidarity'  http://struggle.ws/worksol.html .

We also  provide PDF  http://struggle.ws/ws/pdf.html files of
all our publications for you to print out and distribute locally

Print out the PDF file of this issue http://struggle.ws/wsm/pdf/ws/73.html


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