Direct action gets satisfaction.........

Mike Ballard swillsqueal at
Thu Feb 13 23:13:41 MST 2003

Factories under workers' control
A lesson for the working class.
by Pablo Sanchez

Last December, in a meeting organized by the Argentina
Solidarity Campaign, two workers from Argentina
outlined the experiences in their factory (Zanon
Ceramics), which was the first factory to come under
workers' control during the current crisis. It was a
very inspiring and informative account.

Due to the economic crisis the unemployment figures
have rocketed up. The number of beggars is now
officially four million, more than nineteen million
live under the poverty line. The Argentinean
population is only thirty seven million. During the
late 90s, the working class had fought back against
the De la Rua Government and the vicious IMF plans
with several strikes and demonstrations. This struggle
reached its peak when during the revolutionary events
of December 19 - 20, 2001 the masses took to the
streets and overthrew the Government. The response of
capitalism has been to plunge the country into still
further economic chaos as they seek to try and save
their remaining profits in the face of the oncoming
disaster that they themselves created with their lust
for loot.

But the response of the industrial working class to
the crisis has not been as massive and organized as
would be the case with other sections of the class.
The fear of losing their jobs has held them back in
the struggle. But some workers could no longer wait
for the rest of their class to move and felt that they
had to do something faced with the closure of their
factory. This is the case with the workers of
Ceramicas Zanon (Zanon Ceramics). Despite the
profitability of this company, set up with Italian
capital (the owners also opened another factory in
Buenos Aires), 100 redundancies were announced in 2000
together with a cut in the wages of all remaining
employees. This caused an immediate 34-day long
strike. After the strike the management then proposed
the sacking of 300 of the 360 workers left in the
plant. Faced with the effective shutting down of the
plant the workforce decided to occupy the factory
under worker's control.

Now the workers meet three times a week to decide
production and coordinate their work. They have
discussed the problems that the various factories
under workers occupation face from the attacks of the
police, boycott of other supplier companies and so on.
When they saw that none of the usual suppliers were
going to provide clay for a factory under workers'
control, they asked the indigenous people of the
region of Neuquen (the Mapuche people) to provide them
with cheap raw materials. The Mapuches who previously
had refused to give clay to Zanon, agreed because they
saw this struggle as being linked to their own.

The workers have transformed the union at a local
level and joined in the struggle of the unemployed
movement (piqueteros) to help provide them with jobs.

Another example of the level of organisation now in
place is the establishment of their own workers'
militia at the factory perimeter to defend themselves
from the raids of the police and the bosses' thugs.

After the example of Zanon other factories have
followed including Brukman, another ceramic factory
with a long tradition of struggle . At the moment
there are more than 150 factories being run by
workers. There has been a National Assembly of
occupied factories which passed a very politically
advanced resolution. Among other things they have
called for the following:

1 - A federation of the occupied factories, united
with the unemployed in a plan of struggle.
2 - Occupation under workers' control of all factories
closing down and the opening of the books to see the
true situation rather than that presented by the old
3 - The creating of a fighting fund for those on
strike and their families.
4 - Nationalisation of the banks and the creation of a
National Bank giving low credits to the factories
under workers’ control.
5 - Immediate recall of the workers representatives at
any time.

Not only that, they are also calling, because the
capitalists are leaving the country with millions, for
a workers Government.

The major handicap at the moment is the size of the
companies involved. So far none of the occupied
factories are from the major industrial sector in the
country, but this is just a question of time. As soon
as the crisis bites still further, capitalists are
going to withdraw their money from Argentina leaving
the big oil companies, the steel industry, transport
and so on under threat. This will pose the question of
who runs society as the first point on the agenda. The
unions that have not fought yet, will have to do so.
And this will open up a new stage in the Argentinean
revolution that started on 19th and 20th December
2001. What is really needed is a joint struggle of the
piqueteros, the popular assemblies, the federation of
the occupied factories and all the unions, armed with
a fighting leadership and a socialist programme.

Sometimes when we talk about a revolution people think
about a far away country, poor and backward. This is
NOT the case of Argentina, a rich and industrialized
country. It is the fourth food exporter in the world,
and an economic power in Latin America.

The effects of the current crisis are the results of
the IMF plans to open up markets, the so-called
neoliberalism or, in reality, capitalism at the end of
the 20th Century. What is happening today could happen
in any other country with similar characteristics
(i.e. any economically developed country ). We need to
learn from the lesson of the present and organize to
prevent such a development here in Britain. Only a
system that can put an end to booms and slumps can
avoid the Argentinean experience. The workers in
Argentina and the workers in Britain need the same
solution, a socialist transformation of society.

January, 2003.

See also:

in English:

Alan Woods' visit to Argentina a big success (December
20, 2002)
One year after the 'Argentinazo' (December 19, 2002)
On the constituent assembly slogan: Is it applicable
to Argentina? (February 11, 2002)
Argentina - The Revolution has Begun (December 23,
Duhalde's government of 'National unity' is a
manoeuvre against the Argentine revolution (January 3,
Argentina at the Crossroads: Capitalism has Failed -
For the Socialist Revolution! (January 9, 2002)
Argentina Elections: Government Defeat as Recession
turns to Slump (October 19, 2001)

in Spanish:
Argentina: La Revolución Ha Comenzado(23/12/2001)
GOBIERNO DUHALDE: Unidad nacional contra la revolución
Argentina en la encrucijada. El capitalismo no sirve,
por la revolucion socialista! (9.1.2002)
Crisis total del capitalismo en Argentina: La única
salida: Luchar por la democracia obrer (7/2/2002)
La revuelta y represión en Argentina (22/12/2001)
Elecciones legislativas argentinas - El malestar
social busca una expresión política( 19 de octubre de


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