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(en) Argentina, Anarchist Visions Argentina By Marie Trigona member of the anarchist collective Alavio*

Date Thu, 02 Feb 2006 13:59:50 +0200

This past month activists in Argentina marked 87 years since
the violent army attack against striking workers in what is
known as "La Semana Tragica" (The Tragic Week). In January
1919, a major insurrection broke out in Buenos Aires.
Military officers attacked workers on strike at the Vesena
ironworks plant for an eight hour workday and better
salaries, killing four workers on January 7th. Argentina's
anarchist union federation, the FORA -- Federacion Obrera
Regional Argentina called for a national general strike
paralyzing the economy to repudiate army attacks against the
metal workers. On January 9th, a brigade of armed workers
led a march of 200,000 people. The procession turned into a
battle ground. In the midst of police open firing on the
crowds and reactionary terror squads, workers struck back
burning down the Vasena factories, raiding armories and
forming worker militias. Historians estimate that police
killed seven hundred workers, wounded 2,000 and arrested
55,000 during The Tragic Week-1919.

Activists this year organized a popular "escrache" or
exposure protest against the Jesus Sacramentado convent and
cathedral. Military sharp shooters targeted protesting men
and women from the rooftops of the Jesus Sacramentado
cathedral in the Buenos Aires neighborhood of Almargo during
The Tragic Week. The Catholic Church clearly supported the
violent crackdown against workers in 1919. Throughout
Argentina's history the Catholic Church has backed each
military dictatorship (from General Felix Uriburu 1930 to
the latest military dictatorship 1976-1983). In memoriam
with the victims, local popular assembly participants and
anarchist groups painted graffiti and threw garbage in front
of the cathedral.

The Tragic Week of 1919 has left an unforgettable effect on
the working class in Argentina. Many working class struggles
have emerged in recent years that carry a spirit reminiscent
of anarchist labor organizations in the early 1900s.
Struggles in the subway, public hospitals and recuperated
enterprises have lifted up many anarchist visions for
creating a new social relations and fight against employers.
Several anarchist principles: direct action, mutual
solidarity and worker self-determination have become
indispensable tools in defending workers and unemployed
against exploitation in today's Argentina.

Direct Action

Since the turn of the century the strike has been used as a
weapon against employers. Direct action is only possible if
we perceive that our own activity can make change.
Telecommunications workers, public health employees, train
laborers and Buenos Aires subway workers are setting a good
example of how the use of direct action can help workers
change their destiny with their employers.

In 2004, the subway delegates won a 6-hour work-day with a
series of surprise strikes. Again in 2005, with wild-cat
strikes, subway workers won a 44% pay increase. Some 500
subway janitors and security guards from three temporary
employment agencies went on strike and shut down all 5
subway lines to demand the re-hiring of workers in October,
2005. The strikers also wanted to be included in the
collective labor contract between formal employees and
Metrovías, the private company that runs the Buenos Aires
subway system. Telecommunications workers have led a fight
against flexible labor standards. Between 2003 and 2004
workers from the Spanish telecommunications companies,
Telefonica and Telecom, occupied operating centers. They won
better salaries.

Anton Pannekoek wrote in his text Workers' Councils: "In the
strike for the first time the workers discover their
strength, in the strike arises their fighting power. From
the strike springs up the association of all the workers of
the factory, of the branch, of the country. Out of the
strike sprouts the solidarity, the feeling of fraternity
with the comrades in work, of unity with the entire class:
the first dawn of what some day will be the life-spending
sun of the new society. The mutual help, at first appearing
in spontaneous and casual money collections, soon takes the
lasting form of the trade union."

Mutual Solidarity

Many of Argentina's labor organizations like the subway
workers, public health workers and several worker run
enterprises have fostered a broad mutual solidarity network.
Pannekoek describes this as mutual help, which appears
spontaneous and then takes an organized and lasting form.
Argentina's mutual solidarity network has become extensive
and very effective.

The general assembly at the worker controlled FaSinPat
ceramics factory has regularly voted to use funds from
production for workers' strike funds. During the months long
conflict at the Garrahan children's public hospital,
FaSinPat provided funds for employees who had their salaries
cut for participating in the strike. The long standing
conflict at Tango Meat, a meat packing plant in the Greater
Buenos Aires district of Tigre is another example of the
importance of a strike fund. Regularly, worker organizations
contribute funds so that the workers from Tango Meat can
sustain the conflict which began in July 2005 with the
firings of union delegates demanding a wage increase for
workers. Since the initial firings, workers have camped out
in front of the plant's entrance. The union went on strike
to demand the re-hiring of workers with a wage increase. The
management then fired all the workers, without paying back
pay or indemnity.

Beyond strike funds, direct action is another element of a
mutual solidarity network. Last March when a group of men
physically attacked and tortured a wife of a Zanon worker,
social organizations quickly mobilized to denounce the
attacks. Subway workers said that they would paralyze the
Buenos Aires subway system if the attacks continued. "Zanon
has helped to coordinate workers in struggle. We are ready
to do whatever is necessary to defend the struggle of the
compañeros in Neuquen," said Arturo, a subway delegate.

Worker self-determination

A fundamental characteristic of these worker organizations
fighting today is their commitment to democratic organizing.
This past year the workers at the Garrahan children's
hospital have led a fight for a basic livable salary.
They've also had to put up a fight against the legacy of
bureaucratic union that has acted in accomplice to the
privatization and destruction of public health. 700 nurses,
technicians, and janitors are organized in a worker assembly
that functions as an internal commission of the ATE
state-employees union. The internal assembly values direct
democracy and non-hierarchical organization -- motions are
made by the assembly's body and then the workers vote on the

On January 20, Subway workers presented a draft for a new
collective labor contract they are set to negotiate with the
Metrovias company. This is the first time in Argentina's
history that a body of workers (over 300 in this case)
drafted a labor agreement. The draft is titled "The workers
building their own destiny." They published the book
explaining how workers can use a collective labor contract
to protect themselves against employers. They printed over
3,000 copies so that each worker can review the draft and
give his or her opinions. The draft lays out the parameters
for workday, vacation, safety standards, wage scales, etc.

Inter-Sindical Clasista

Worker organizations are proving that they organize
themselves effectively and democratically. Subway workers
along with public health employees, public school teachers,
telecommunications workers, train workers, and unemployed
worker organizations have formed a coalition of grass-roots
worker organization in what is known as The Inter-Sindical
Clasista (Classist Union Coalition). The Coalition's 14
principles state a commitment to democratic organizing and
unity among workers struggling against exploitation. Workers
participating in this coalition self-define themselves as
classist, combative and anti-bureaucratic. This coalition
even formed a Syndicalist school. The first workshop was
given on "companies' strategies for flexible labor standards
and unions."

Fighting for peoples' history

The escrache against the culprits in The Tragic Week 1919
was not only to remember fallen compañeros but also to
prevent history from being erased. During the protest
activists distributed a flyer: "Many collectives,
neighborhood assemblies and worker organizations are
building another history. We are doing this through
horizontal organizing, autonomy, worker self-management and
building solidarity. With the same ties that the workers in
1919 had built in their assemblies and cultural spaces and
that the state throughout history tried to destroy." The
state hasn't destroyed the legacy of activist organizing
against oppression and Argentina's labor movement is proving
that workers can take their destiny into their own hands.
"1919-2006: against wage slavery, the same fight."

Marie Trigona forms part of Grupo Alavío,
She can be reached at

* From the web page of http://www.alavio.org

1) "Through the recording and elaboration of audiovisual materials
we are battling directly against the imagery of fascism. The camera
is a tool, another arm, like a stick, molotov, miguelito or covering
our faces", Grupo Alavío

Making technologies and skills accessible and available to
exploited sectors by democratizing audiovisual production and
language is a priority of Grupo Alavío's work. For over 10 years,
Alavío has been participating in working class struggles,
supporting with audiovisual materials. As activists struggling for
social revolution, the debate of whether the reach of the camera is
enough is an inevitable discussion. "We are working to construct an
identity and thinking that reflects the working class' and exploited
sectors' specific interests and necessities. The camera is a tool,
another weapon." Alavío

2) Avío m, preparation, provision; picnic lunch; money advanced (to
miners or laborers); pl Inf. equipment, tools. During beginning of the
20th century in Argentina laborers often carried an avío with what
provisions they needed when travelling in the countryside. They
would travel from harvest to harvest to work on different plantations
and farms. These workers, many who were immigrants, carried a
tradition of free worker or working only when they needed to. These
workers were called crotos (English translation Hobos). They got
this name because a government official named Croto passed a law
to permit these workers to ride free on cargo trains. Along with food
and clothes, many crotos carried inside their avío anarchist
literature and newspapers. They would distribute these materials
among fellow workers to raise consciousness of exploitation by the
boss and to organize.
Al in Spanish means to the. Alavío is a call out to take to the road.
Summon to action. Call for workers to strike.

Grupo Alavío is a direct action and video collective working in
Argentina. Since the early 1990's the group has been producing
audiovisual material as a tool to create a new working class
subjectivity. As a video collective we become available to the
demands of organizations in struggle and often times our videos take
on a life of their own. Many times the factory occupied by workers,
the changing room of transport workers organizing a wildcat strike,
land squat or barrio is the first place where we premier our
documentaries. Alavío uses the camera as a political organ and as
a tool, which the protagonists in the films appropriate and use to
organize. We use videos as the anarchist crotos used the avío to
organize and generate actions against the boss, state, macho, and


3) Solidarity With Zanon

Another Attack on Zanon Occupied Factory

April 24, 2005

The workers of Zanon and other social organizations mobilized in
front of the central courthouse on April 21 to defend their factory
against mounting attacks. At a moment when the courts and
government must make a “political and legal decision”
concerning the ceramics factory that has been producing under
worker control since 2001 – legal attacks, death threats and
physical attacks against the workers have increased.

A delegation of 30 workers traveled some 1,200 kilometers to
manifest their determination to defend the factory at all costs. Inside
the courthouse a small delegation of workers presented a petition
with thousands of signatures from all over the world in support of the
workers of Zanon who have set an example that workers can
produce and manage even better without a boss or owner.

“With these actions we are marking a playing ground for the
judge,” said Raul Godoy, Zanon worker and General Secretary of
the Ceramists' Union. This week the courts opened up the legal door
for a “cram down” on the part corporate speculators trying to
usurp the plant, profiting from the courts’ precarious legal and
financial treatment of the workers legal fight for the plant.

This cram down opens the doors for new investors to gamble as new
capital holders or stockholders in the Zanon Company and form
another company in the plant. These new actors include three
central interests who are acting legally: 1. Business interests in
Neuquen represented by provincial Governor Jorge Sobich, with his
neo-liberal government with strategic ties to former president Carlos
Menem and the number one enemy of worker
self-management/organization. Government with a ghost company
can come in and take over the factory through stocks. 2. The former
owner Luis Zanon, before shutting down the factory and firing the
workers accumulated some 170 million dollars in debt. Most of this
debt was accumulated from government subsidies, international
grants (the IMF is the principal creditor), private companies and
unpaid salaries to the workers. Another ceramics factory, part of the
Zanon family bankrupt in Buenos Aires, presented as a shareholder
as a company with a principle capital of 11,000 dollars created in
November of 2004 that belongs to a 25-year-old man, named
Gurrumin S.A. (meaning little man). This company had accords
with the former owners so that under these ridiculous circumstances
with little capital, they can take over a plant that is worth millions of
dollars. Clearly this is a project taking a legal detour, to avoid legal
blockades and paying millions of dollars in debt. 3. Vultures, or
businesses that buy the debt from bankrupt companies, to open a
legal case or sell assets. These actors

The national government has also acted as an accomplice in the
Zanon conflict. President Kirchner during his presidential campaign
tour in Neuquen, before his election in May 2003 said that if he was
governor he would have solved the Zanon conflict within a month.
Clearly, the national government with its progressive discourse has
ignored the conflict so that the workers wouldn’t smear
Kirchner’s image as a president who “respects human

In March, the government and security forces representing the
factory's old ownership have used tactics of torture and kidnapping -
reminiscent of Argentina's military dictatorship (1976-1983) in
which 30,000 people, mostly activists, were disappeared in the dirty
war. These attacks have continued, targeting the same woman who
in March was followed, kidnapped, tortured and attacked her home.
On April 14, this woman was attacked in her home. While her
compañero, who is a worker at Zanon went to the supermarket, a
man entered the side door of her house and brutally beat her. She
was hospitalized and is in critical condition. On March 4 a group of
four individuals (three men and a woman) kidnapped the wife of an
employee at Zanon. The forced her into a green Ford Falcon, a
model of car security operatives used to kidnap activists during the
dictatorship, sending a chilling reminder of the dirty war. They
tortured her and cut her face, hands, arms and breasts. They gave
details of how they carefully followed her and have detailed
information about her movements.

“Those in government are rooting for these types of attacks and
they clearly have no intention of stopping them, by allowing the
attackers to go free,” said a press release from the factory’s
press commission. They added, “the government of Sobisch and
his right hand man, Minister Manganaro are keeping silent as
accomplices in the face of these mounting threats and attacks.”

The methodology of using terror to divide and defeat the working
class has carried over from the military junta, 20 years in
“democracy.” The national and provincial government has
no intention to stop these attacks. They are using these tactics to
intimidate and break unity among the workers inside the factory.
Business interests are waiting for the workers to “burn out”
in campaign to stop the attacks.

Meanwhile, the attacks have had the opposite effect. They have
generated a furious reaction on part of the workers ad social
organizations. An umbrella or network of solidarity, in Neuquen and
throughout the nation, has been created. Subway workers, train
workers, airline workers, other recuperated businesses and many
other sectors have made it clear that the employees at Zanon will not
be alone.

“We only trust our compañeros to defend our safety and our
factory,” said a worker presenting a film by Grupo Alavío in
Chilavert, a printing factory in Buenos Aires. Under this principle the
workers are using to form self-defense teams to protect the workers
and their families. Although, it is insufficient considering the tactics
and resources that the state can use for terror, it represents a clear
determination of autonomy and a political decision to defend their
decisions inside the factory. In addition to producing ceramic tiles
inside the factory and maintaining the plant, the workers must also
ensure the safety of the compañeras/os against attacks on part of
the state’s repressive apparatus. The workers consider that they
are in a situation of war, where the workers must take on a clear
offensive to defend their factories, with marches, political actions,
solidarity and self-defense.

Currently, there are 410 workers at FaSinPat (Factory without
Bosses), the company formed by Zanon employees. The factory has
hired over 170 new workers in four years under worker control. The
workers have a long-term objective of reaching a production rate 1
million square meters of ceramic tile per month, doubling current
production. However, in the midst of attacks, the workers this
month have been able to reach their short-term goal of increasing
production from 300,000 to 400,000 meters per month.

The workers have repeated again and again that they are determined
that they are going to defend their factory. “We are willing to
defend the factory with our lives,” said a Zanon worker in
Chilavert. The workers at Zanon are aware that they’re
defending not only their jobs but also a political alternative for a
working class free of exploitation and building new social relations.

In defense of Zanon and all worker occupied factories!

If they mess with one of us, they mess with all of us!

Permanent expropriation of all factories and companies producing
under worker control!

For the release of all political prisoners!

Grupo Alavio



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