October 06, 2004
Occupied Factory Movement In Argentina
By Marie Trigona
On 14 September 2004 a delegation of workers from some of
Argentina's roughly 200 re-occupied factories marched in Buenos
Aires. They demanded that the government permanently legalize the
expropriation of factories and other bankrupt enterprises which were
abandoned by owners and run under direct workers' control after the
collapse of the country's economy in December 2001.
A delegation of 170 activists - 100 workers from Zanon ceramics
factory and 70 from social movements supporting the factory -
arrived in the morning in Buenos Aires to march to a local court and
national congress in defense of a possible government eviction of
Zanon and other enterprises producing under worker control.
Workers from Chilavert printing factory, Bauen Hotel, Brukman
suit factory, Conforti printing factory, Renacer electronics from
Ushuia, Junin health clinic, Ados health clinic, Gatic shoe company,
Sasetru pasta company, and various unemployed workers organizations
participated in the march.
After the crisis of December 19 and 20, 2001, the Argentine
government gave many workers occupying businesses temporary permits
to function inside offices and factories. However, these agreements
had a two year limit. Some of the permits are set to expire before
the end of 2004.
Chilavert, a printing factory in Buenos Aires is one of the
occupied businesses functioning with a temporary permit. The
agreement is set to expire October 17, 2004. The workers are taking
legal precautions to avoid an eviction. More importantly, they are
working to bring about a genuine defense of the factory. Regrouping
with other experienced businesses and factories producing under
workers? control has been central in the fight for the permanent
legalization of expropriation of reoccupied enterprises.
The march for the permanent legalization of expropriation was an
important act to prove that there are many recuperated businesses
which have not put their trust into the government?s precarious
solution for the experience of workers self-organizing/managing
without a boss or owner.
"There are a lot of recuperated businesses fighting to regroup,
and today we took a step forward in regrouping ourselves and
marching to the National Congress to discuss a national law for the
definitive expropriation of reoccupied factories," said Raul Godoy,
a worker from Zanon ceramics factory during the September 14 march.
The workers of Chilavert are especially concerned with building a
nexus of support in the barrio in order to defend the factory. When
they first began the factory occupation in December, 2001 after the
owner had abandoned the business, they relied on the barrio and
other social movements for support. It was a neighbor next door who
warned the workers that the owner was coming to empty the factory.
With the police standing guard at the door, it was impossible for
the workers to be able to safe guard books they were holding onto to
prove the back wages the owner failed to pay. The neighbor and
workers ripped a hole in the walls, and passed the books through the
wall to the neighbor?s house.
After two years of occupation, the workers have not forgotten the
important role of community support in defense of the factory. The
main characteristic of this support has been the cultural center
built on the second floor, looking over the printing machinery,
paper stock and offices. Once a month, they have artists expressing
social conflicts exhibiting work, Wednesday?s the video group alavío
projects film narrating working class struggle, and on Saturday?s
musicians committed to defend the factory perform.
One worker, Plácido, explains that the space above the print
shop?s production was the only place inside the shop for the workers
to hide from the boss?s permanent surveillance, and take their
refuge from exploitation inside the factory. Today, this space was
transformed into a place for the workers? to express resistance and
let their imaginations fly.
"Different factories have petitioned for different modifications
of the law - bankruptcy law, ect. What is new is that workers from
different factories are getting together to develop a law for the
definitive legal expropriation of factories - so that each business
can follow its own model for production," said Godoy. "Many
businesses that had a temporary permit for two years, now after two
years of sacrifice and work are faced with the demand of having to
buy the offices and machinery, which the owner abandoned. The threat
of eviction reappears and the old bosses could take over."
After three years under worker control, the provincial government
of Neuquén re-launched an attack against Zanon in the same month
where the workers reached a record high in production, sales and
quality. In recent, weeks the workers of Zanon have been on alert of
a threat of eviction.
Neuquén?s governor Jorge Sobisch is pressuring the 420 workers in
Zanon to leave their job posts inside the factory and work building
prefabricated houses in a government sponsored micro-enterprise
project targeted for the unemployed. The federal Supreme Court sent
a petition to the Neuquén provincial government to put into action
an eviction order without any delay. The courts have also refused to
legally recognize Zanon?s proposal to form FatSinPat (Factories
without bosses) as a workers cooperative. Essentially, the
government has been planning to open the doors for police to evict
the factory. The workers of Zanon are firm in their position to
defend the factory at all costs.
The workers of Zanon have self-organized/managed the factory,
gradually increasing production without any government subsidies.
They have hired over 170 new workers. They have defended the
factories against five eviction orders along with compañeros from
unemployed workers organizations and other social movements.
On August 20 a delegation of Zanon workers and participants in
the Unemployed Workers Movement (MTD) Neuquén traveled to Buenos
Aires to organize a national campaign to defend the factory. Some
400 people representing other worker controlled factories and
businesses, unemployed workers organizations, combative labor union,
and human rights organizations participated in the meeting held at
Hotel Bauen?s auditorium (a hotel self-managed/organized by its
The conclusion from this meeting was to call a march for
September 14. "We are standing up to battle and we will demonstrate
September 14 to demand that the judge recognize the worker
controlled cooperative, FatSinPat, and for a permanent legal
expropriation of all reoccupied factories and enterprises."
Monica Acosta, a worker from the Renacer ex-Aurora electronics
plant producing under worker control in the southern most province
of Ushuaia, expresses the importance of the definitive expropriation
law and defending factories producing under worker control. "The law
for the permanent legal expropriation of recuperated factories and
enterprises is a tool that provides legal security for our jobs.
We are part of the movement of reoccupied factories - we are part
of the working class - we are at the vanguard of class struggle -
the most advanced because we proved that we can unify the struggle
between the jobless and employed by opening up abandoned factories.
We are preventing factory closures and workers are taking control of
the means of production through expropriation, which makes it
possible to maintain job posts. 239 jobs in our case, producing for
four years in better working conditions in the South."
Argentina?s occupied factory movement has developed the most
advanced strategies in defense of the working class and resistance
against capitalism. These experiences of worker
self-management/organization have directly challenged capitalism?s
structures: private property, expropriation of workers? skills and
knowledge of machinery, and business organization only for profits.
A worker from the state union, CTA-Neuquén expressed the
importance of experiences of workers collectively organizing to
defend their jobs: "This is the form we?ve taken to defend our jobs,
which without a doubt workers throughout the world see as an example
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!