Via Infoshop News
by Libertarian in Buenos Aires – RlBA
This article was written especially for the ZACF, and will be published in English in the next issue of the journal “Zabalaza”.
From late 2001 and early 2002, sectors of the working class in Argentina staged a very unique fighting experience. The occupation of factories and start production without bosses. In a context of economic crisis, high index of unemployment, bankruptcies and layoffs, thousands of workers are organized to keep their jobs.
The economic and political crisis
Between 1997 and 2001 in Argentina broke a severe economic crisis that impacted heavily on the power bloc. This crisis was surmounted by a popular revolt on 19 and 20 December that, facing a state of siege, was the resignation of President Fernando De la Rua and the opening of a leaderless process in the executive branch of the republic [1 ], and an outpost of the popular struggle.
This rebellion ended a series of neoliberal governments in the country, while there was a breakthrough in the popular struggle: neighborhood assemblies and unemployed workers movements recovery of factories and enterprises by the workers.
During the 90’s in Argentina had imposed an economic model based on “converibilidad” currency. This means that 1 peso to 1 U.S. dollar equivalent. Clearly, the only way of maintaining this parity was the external credit. When from 97 credit became more expensive, Argentina’s economy went into a severe recession. While the economic model had generated a high rate of unemployment (over 10%), the crisis of unemployment soared to over 25%. Many companies went bankrupt bringing more workers into the street. The government’s response, following the advice of the IMF and World Bank was implementing the national budget cuts, which worsened the situation of the people. By 2001, Argentina was no longer a haven for investments, which many capital left the country. The government’s response was to freeze the bank deposits of savers, a situation that eventually constituted an expropriation of workers and the middle class to save the banking system.
Given this, the bourgeoisie was divided on two programs to overcome the crisis. A party seeking to abandon the “convertibility”, devaluing the currency, to make local production more competitive globally. The other part wanted to adopt the dollar as legal tender, making the local economy more dependent on the U.S. economy.
The social situation became intolerable in December 2001. The freezing of bank deposits prevented the workers have their wages. Lack of money supply accelerated the process of bankruptcy and unemployment increased. That was how the day 15 in the slums of large cities began looting of shops. The government responded by declaring a state of emergency (state of emergency), suspending constitutional guarantees people the night of 19 December. After transmission of the presidential message on national TV, the population of large cities began to make the streets, banging pots and pans, chanting “What jerks, what jerks! The state of siege they put it in the ass! “Or” do them all, that there is not one! “, Demanding the resignation of finance minister, the president and all politicians. Thus began the popular rebellion, insurrection feature that ended the presidency of Fernando De la Rua.
The months following the fall of De la Rua in Argentina was plunged into a process of development of popular organizations and their demands. Of note is the emergence of the caucuses and won by the Movement leadership picket (or Workers Unemployed / Unemployed). Neighborhood Assemblies emerged in the first weeks after the fall of De la Rua. In almost all important places and corners of large cities thousands of residents gathered for the first time in years. Policy was discussed, was organized street actions (demonstrations, escraches) and sought, through mutual support to meet the needs of unemployed residents. They also succeeded in establishing Interbarrial Assemblies which met weekly to coordinate joint actions.
On the other hand, the picket movement that had emerged in 1997, organizing workers dismissed after the privatization of state oil company in Patagonia and the northwest of the country, struggling to get jobs and subsidies that allow to alleviate the unemployment situation, reached a national projection. For 2001, the poor and unemployed in the slums (favelas) of the country’s political center, the City of Buenos Aires, were also organized and mobilized. The transitional government of Eduardo Duhalde, elected by the Legislative Assembly (comprising the Lower House and Upper House) on January 2, 2002, should have extended unemployment subsidies to try and ease the minds of the millions of unemployed workers , obtaining instead the growth of organizations such proletarian protest. In addition, productive projects undertaken through self-management practices and cooperative, secure jobs.
The picketing organizations thus became an important political actor in those years around him to articulate popular demands from different sectors and demonstrating a high power to mobilize and pressure the government. In early 2002, established a strong partnership between the assemblies of urban origin, comprised mostly of middle-class sectors and the unemployed of the suburbs of cities, as expressed in the slogan “picket and pan, the struggle is a alone. ”
It is in this context of economic crisis and popular mobilization that produced one of the things that most attracted the attention of anti-capitalist militancy around the world: the process of occupation of factories and businesses and put into production by the workers without bosses. While this process was new in Argentina, it does have important links with the traditions and methods of struggle of the workers. The tactics of the occupation of factories has a long history in the country. The most important backdrop to this effect was driven by the CGT (General Confederation of Labour) in 1964. In a day were occupied by workers of 10,000 manufacturing establishments in the country to the nearest militia. The conduct of this measure was bureaucratic and acted with a hit-and-trade logic to accumulate corporate power within the system and not to generate a break in the system. But the move shocked both the bourgeoisie and the union bureaucrats own plan to combat organized at various stages, was aborted in the middle.
The occupation of the workplace was also a measure of resistance to dictatorship or attempts to privatize, for example, the refrigerator takes Lisandro de la Torre (which was done to prevent the privatization of it and was a strong workers’ uprising in the district in which was located), making the textile company Alpargatas during the last military dictatorship or making the work of Chocón Dam, etc..
There are intermediate steps which also have a root and a story in the Argentine labor movement: the strike with a presence in the workplace, eg., Is a moderate branch of the “occupation” plain and simple from the factory. But after the crisis of 2001 appeared the novel fact: workers occupying the factory broken to keep their jobs and to produce them without bosses.
Most of the time, the occupations began as preventive measures. The workers sought to prevent by this means that employers withdraw the machinery, goods and raw materials before declaring bankruptcy. If this happened, companies would be insolvent and avoid paying the wages due and severance, not to have property that could be auctioned to pay off their debts.
However, it soon began to put the plants in production. Had antecedent occupation IMPA Company (Metallurgical and Plastic Industries Argentina), which since 1996 was occupied and whose workers had begun to self-manage, after resisting for weeks or even months, which should take a strong political and legal struggle . This item was essential solidarity provided by the local assemblies and pickets that allowed for mass mobilization to achieve business ownership and exploitation rights of them. In most cases, did not get the support of the union address, bureaucratic and yellow (propatronales), although in some specific cases, some sectional union also supported the occupation. The most prominent case, but not unique, is the Zanon (now called FaSinPat, Factory Without a Boss), where the workers had managed to regain union structures (first base, then the union) of the hands of the bureaucracy, becoming in an organization class (class struggle).
The usual mechanism of recovery firms can be outlined as follows. First, the company took care to avoid depletion of stocks of goods and capital goods, to meet the lock-out or claim for payment of wages. Then, I decided to put the plant into production as a way to collect debts employers. For this, workers were working in cooperatives and undertook the legal fight to get them awarded the right to operate the company. Most of the time, got first temporary rights to the exploitation (2 years or more), but no property rights, so they had to undertake new struggles to get the expropriation of businesses and then they were awarded the property. These struggles have reached last year, as in the case of Zanon ceramics producer.
But this path of struggle was long and hard. The context of popular mobilization and political crisis of bourgeois rule and state were the conditions that allowed these claims were achieved. The government was greatly weakened and could not prevent the occupation of factories.
However, we should not believe that once managed the legal framework for the operation of the factories the problems were overcome. Now had to face problems as deep as the others, but commercial. The recovered companies often had been emptied. They had stock of inputs or finished products. Often employers had withdrawn important part of the machinery. In other cases, the fact of having been closed for months resulted in damage to the machinery. This happened in several factories of glass or metal, where the furnaces were ruined by staying off. Furthermore, large debts, they had cut their channels of suppliers and the provision of energy or water, and inactivity had lost important clients. Access to credit to these companies was zero.
Nor should we forget that it was companies that were broken by their inability to compete in the capitalist market. Many of the companies had outdated technology and were undercapitalized. Whereupon, in most cases, the start of the activity was based on heavy doses of self-exploitation to begin the process of capitalization. Often, workers must work long hours without making any withdrawal of money to buy new goods, and because they could not use their machines, having to produce an almost handmade.
Characteristics of businesses with no pattern
According to a study by the group of journalists lavaca.org, in 2007 there were 163 companies operating without pattern . The items of business are the most diverse. Basically, there are both service companies (IT, supermarkets, newspapers, schools and kindergartens, etc..) And productive enterprises (construction, auto parts, food, oil, plastic, glass, etc.). They are generally small and medium enterprises, with a majority of companies with around 50 members, although the ends are the 10 members in the case of the smallest and 500 for the largest. So we’re talking about the occupation of a minority of Argentine firms. As to the forms of organization, all have taken the legal form of cooperatives. In this sense, the law governing cooperatives is very restrictive in the organizational aspects, as it imposes the existence of an administrative committee and a president. This president has powers in their exercise almost full and should be accountable for the financial year to the partners in regular meetings once a year. However, beyond this legal coverage, most cooperatives have actually adopted other forms of organization, ensuring full participation of partners in various aspects of corporate life.
Moreover, in most cases it is intended that the distribution of benefits is equal among all workers. In cases where wage differences are much smaller than other companies in the same branch. In cases where companies without skipper had to make new partners, in many cases had done among activists who supported the occupation from the outset. This is the case of the potter FaSinPat, in the early years of working management experienced strong growth in production having to add new partners. Many of them were members of the Movement of Unemployed Workers, who accompanied the workers during the occupation, in clashes with security forces in demonstrations demanding the expropriation of the plant. One last item to note is that many of the recuperated enterprises engaged in diversified activities, seeking to overcome the mere fact of being centers of production of goods. Thus, many companies operate recovered cultural centers, libraries, primary care facilities, schools, etc. This diversification was a very useful tactic when it comes to gaining support in communities, as well as a form of gratitude to the support. Thus, the recovered companies experienced a major transformation, dealing with different aspects of social life in the neighborhoods.
The debate: cooperatives or workers’ control?
An important debate, was strategic in nature within the left and the movement of recovered companies. The problem to solve was how these companies should be organized under the capitalist system. The most widespread was the establishment of cooperatives. This form, which is of precise legal character, made possible a legal framework and advancing the operation of businesses.
However, as we have said, the Argentine government provides an important intervention in the organic life of the cooperatives. If the struggle, all workers were on an equal footing, in meetings deciding how to proceed with the fight, the cooperative law in Argentina provides an organizational mechanism based on the representation that alienates all the partners in the daily management of the company. The first obstacle was overcome in fact by many companies with no pattern, formally taking the personality of cooperatives but constituted democratic management mechanisms.
But in capitalism cooperatives faced major problems. The process of competition between firms require employers to make changes in the way of production, increase the pace of work, incorporating machinery, fire workers, etc.. As can be seen, production for the market is in conflict with the interests of workers. Not only for what is produced, but also by how it works in business to produce. For this reason, some companies workers recovered another model of organization developed, known as “workers’ control.” This method involves the full control of the workers of the entire production process. Is accompanied by an organizational form of the base assemblies of each section of the company, the direct democratic election of representatives to councils or other agencies, the revocation of the mandates in the assembly, the permanent control between the base and working representatives, promoting the leadership role in all stakeholders and the projection of the practice of control at the factory to the domain of society. This mode is also accompanied by the demand for the nationalization of enterprises . However, the predominant form is the cooperative (over 90% of recovered companies), while 4.7% has taken the form of corporation or limited liability company and only 2.3% of control worker.
The Baldwin and reconstruction of bourgeois hegemony
The choice of interim President Duhalde in early 2002 marked the beginning of reconstruction of bourgeois rule in following the crisis. With the devaluation of the currency ended 10 years of convertibility policy, imposing a fraction of the upper middle class seeking better conditions to compete in the global market. It was defeated the other faction of the bourgeoisie, represented mainly by finance capital and public utilities were privatized during the nineties, which sought the adoption of the dollar.
All that remained was to discipline the people that continued to struggle, mobilizing and organizing. For this, the government used a double tactic: first, repression, on the other, the nullification of social movements through cooptation or cancellation policy. The repression was brutal, and claimed the lives of two young referents (Dario Santillan and Maximiliano Kosteki) piquetero motion on June 26, 2002, when unemployed workers launched a battle plan which sought to cut the main entrances to the city of Buenos Aires.
While the repression caused the precipitate called presidential elections, also meant the beginning of the decline of the picket movement. The assemblies, which were so active during the summer of 2002, began to languish. The lack of specific targets, lack of experience and economic situation began to normalize, were among the factors that led to his reflux.
It was Nestor Kirchner, who became president of Argentina on May 25, 2003, who happens to rebuild the state domain. Former governor of a province in the far south, unknown to many in a context of strong rejection of political parties and based on a discourse of opposition to neoliberalism, condemning violations of human rights during the military dictatorship (1976-1983) and claims of political activism revolutionary intent of the seventies, drew strong popular support, particularly human rights organizations (including the mothers and grandmothers of Plaza de Mayo), social movements intellectuals, etc.
The recovery of the economy (in recent years, the economy grew at a rate of between 7 and 9% annually), creating new jobs, accompanied most often work long hours and strong job security, the implementation of social programs against unemployment and poverty was also used to shut down much of the rebelliousness of the days of 2001. Little remains of that movement, banging pots and confronting police in the streets singing “do them all, which is not even one!”.
This does not mean that popular mobilization has been exhausted. But it has changed. The vast majority are now channeled through institutional channels, and although not yet rebuilt the typical two-party system in Argentina, the regime’s political parties have recovered part of their role. On the other hand, most of the picketing organizations aligned with the government. Those who did not lost much of its influence and presence in national politics. These organizations depend for resources functions of state and government, strengthened, only give credit for related movements.
The international crisis of 2008 and new occupations
In this political strength of the state and its government was the international financial crisis in mid-2008. At that time there were more business failures. But it was not so widespread. The state had sufficient reserves to cope with the economic crisis. Thus the year 2009 there was a reduction in the growth of the economy, but not a recession.
There were some failures while some companies were reported in critical condition. The workers occupied the plants, but the government, far from allowing the proliferation of bailouts conducted business recovery business through loans or intervened with the intention of cleaning up its finances and then returned to their owners. This is what happened with larger companies. While some small companies declared bankruptcy (in many cases fraudulent, deliberately provoked by the owners) and workers were occupied with the intention of putting them to work without a boss. In these cases, the business recovery was more difficult. If recoveries in 2002-2003 had to face a weakened government, trying to restore its authority, and the judiciary seemed overwhelmed by the popular movement now had to face a stronger enemy in a position to further isolation. Moreover, the possibility of getting new jobs was that many workers do not stay in the fight. The strength of the State allowed the bourgeoisie to better control the situation by preventing the spread.
Conclusions. An anarchist stock companies without pattern
Much has been written about the factory occupations in Argentina in 2001-2003. Important sectors of the anti-capitalist militancy around the world turned their eyes to these experiences seeking for progress towards a socialist society. However, ten years after the rebellion of 2001, we believe it is necessary to conduct a deeper assessment of the experience.
First, we would like to summarize some aspects that are central when analyzing the process. We briefly summarize this characterization in the following points:
- Occupations and recovered are expressions of class struggle between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat. Furthermore, organically under Argentine labor movement, are produced by workers or unemployed workers, taking up fighting tactics of long standing.
- The characteristics that are of these processes must be external to the labor movement and class struggle at different stages but it was through the economic-social formation Argentina in recent decades. The workers’ response is a response to the policy of the bourgeoisie.
- Occupations and recovered are not generated by political groups (minorities) communists or anarchists. In fact were not planned by anyone. Are legitimate expressions of class struggle. The defeat and division of the working class and the bureaucratic leaderships often lead to occupations and recovered are seen as a youth phenomenon or leftist parties, as these were the main defenders in the absence of organized labor.
In this regard, we believe that progress is possible in a balance of experience that allow us to draw lessons for other places and times.
In this sense we can not fail to mention the highlights of the experience. While we must keep in mind that these experiences were defensive in nature and were mainly focused on small and medium enterprises, lowly NTF and for that reason vulnerable to capitalist competition, self-management are valuable experiences that demonstrate the potential of producing without pattern. The recovered companies to demonstrate to the majority of the population the possibility of self-management. The existence of hundreds of companies working without a boss, where are the workers who decide the course of action in the production, expanding their concerns to other problems of life in their communities. In this sense, the example of Zanon may show us the possibilities of self-management from a production directed by the social interest, not private gain. In this regard, between 2002 and 2005, the company managed to greatly increase the production doubling in the same period, the number of jobs. Perhaps more important is that in that same period, without monitoring and employer pressure fell dramatically “accidents” work. If employers under management were 300 accidents per year, in 2002-2005 there were only 33, all mild, without registering any death , which speaks of a clear improvement in working conditions. However, we believe that we must also examine the limits that capitalism requires enterprises recovered. For which we must clarify what our objectives as anarchists and what we mean by self.
As noted above, most of these companies had to re-occur in extreme conditions: lack of supply of goods, lack of access to credit, technological obsolescence, market chains destroyed. Therefore, they should base their production in high rates of self-exploitation of workers. Many of the recovered companies desperate for access to credit and subsidies ended up delivering business management to people with political ties, which ended by calling for a new employer to manage the companies. Thus, many workers rejected the self to keep his job.
On the other hand, the need to maintain competitiveness leads to workers in many of these companies have lower incomes than workers who perform the same tasks in private companies. The same Zanon (perhaps one of the most paradigmatic and often have higher achievement) has faced economic difficulties in recent years. Unlike its private competitors, they do not have any subsidies to the energy they consume, so production costs are higher.
That is why we wonder about the viability of small-scale self-management. If it is possible to generate self islands in the capitalist system frameworks or whether capitalism has mechanisms to neutralize these experiences. The reality of many companies actually recovered mark is self-managing poverty, sectors of the economy than the capitalist system rejected it unfeasible.
For this reason, we should aim to self-manage the entire production and social life. And this requires massive expropriation of the bourgeoisie, building a libertarian socialist society. No oasis of socialism within the framework of capitalist society and can not be built outside the system and live there: we must destroy the system. No coexistence possible. As they say in Zanoni, “if it is not revolution, Zanon left alone and destroy.”
In the process of occupation of the factories we anarchists have much to contribute while learning. We must make our political perspective, while providing moral support and activist, and economic and technical assistance. Always looking for the solution of the conflict in accordance with the interests of those involved: preserve your work. As part of that struggle can make progress of consciousness. Advances that may accumulate in the construction of a labor movement class if these experiences are related to workers’ organizations, sharing their struggles side by side.
1 – The leaderless came as the vice president had resigned after being accused of bribery in parliament to the treatment of a law on labor flexibility.
2 – Collective Lavaca, Sin Patrón, Buenos Aires, 2007. More information www.lavaca.org.
3 – Aiziczon, Fernando, “Theory and practice of workers’ control: the case of Zanon Ceramics, Neuquén, 2002-2005,” in Journal Tools …
4 – Aiziczin, Fernando, op. cit.
This article was written especially for the ZACF , and will be published in English in the next issue of the journal “Zabalaza”.
Related Link: http://www.redlibertaria.com.ar/