Thoughts on Argentina's Conjunctures :: Recuperating Work, Recovering Life (2005-2007)

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Two new must-read books from Canadian radical publisher Between the Lines

From one of my PhD supervisors at York University, David F. Noble: Beyond the Promised Land: The Movement and the Myth. I read the manuscript and it's fantastic. Writing arguably his most accesible book to date in clear and punchy prose, Noble links the Western story of the promised land to the failed promises of global capitalism in a sweeping re-reading of the past 6000 years of Western history. He makes the ultimate claim that the myriad recent social justice movements around the globe are, to a great extent, responding to, resisting, and creating new alternatives to the failed promises of western civilization.

From SFU colleague and now sociology professor at Queen's University, Richard Day: Gramsci is Dead: Anarchist Currents in the Newest Social Movements. I'm looking forward to including this book in my emerging list of must-reads. You can read an early synthesis of Day's book in a recent essay entitled "From Hegemony to Affinity: The Political Logic of the Newest Social Movements", published in Cultural Studies Vol 18, No. 5, September 2004. The gist of his argument? That the "newest" social movements are challenging the "long shadow" that Gramsci's concept of hegemony has cast over "radical political theory" by showing us the logic of affinity instead of the logic of hegemony and counterpower in the newest social movements' "new forms of self-organization that...run parallel-or as alternatives-to existing [socio-political] forms."

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

CBC strike: "Telling the worker's story better"

Telling the worker's story better

Interesting insights from Lou Arab's most recent article in Rabble News (Aug. 30, 2005):

"What fascinates me more each day the lockout goes on are the blogs from ordinary CMG members — those who find themselves bewildered by events that have led them to be walking a picket line for 20 hours a week.

"Members of the Canadian Media Guild (CMG) are winning the propaganda war caused by the CBC lockout and they are reinventing the way unions communicate with their members during labour disputes.

"It's no surprise that 5,500 talented and educated journalists, technicians, producers and on-air hosts would do a good job of telling us their side of the story. What is new is how the locked-out workers have created a diverse, entertaining and informative on-line community that tells their story better than a thousand purchased newspaper ads ever could."

For some examples of of these blogs, see:

Starting down the road to leftism: Rebels, Reds, and Radicals

Rebels, Reds, and Radicals: Rethinking Canada's Left History

Friday, August 26, 2005

Repression returns: the Argentine government changes its posture and uses force to deal with piqueteros

El Gobierno cambió la postura y muestra dureza con los piqueteros

"Esta mañana, (el gobierno) impidió con fuerte presencia policial que los manifestantes subieran al Puente Pueyrredón. Cuando decidieron marchar a Plaza de Mayo, otro importante operativo les prohibió ingresar. Y se anunció que ningún representante del Gobierno los recibirá." (Clarín, 25 agosto 2005).

After three years of what seemed to be a sympathetic government position with respect to public dissent and protest (at least as far as the greater Buenos Aires piqueteros were concerned), the old way of dealing with dissent in Argentina seems to have returned to an emboldened Kirschner regime basking in high approval ratings. Is the Kirchner government wanting to show a get tough, law-and-order side going into the Oct. mid-term elections?

See previous posts documenting the recent change of posture towards piquetero protests by Argentina's Kirschner regime.

Students, scholars and activists influenced by Herbert Marcuse

http://www.marcuse.org/

http://www.marcuse.org/herbert/scholaractivists.htm

Thursday, August 25, 2005

My photos of Chilavert Artes Gráficas - 12 julio-13 agosto, 2005


Chilavert desde los ojos de un compañero visitante - 12 julio-13 agosto, 2005

Gobierno de Buenos Aires - Lista de empresas recuperadas

gobBsAs - Lista de empresas

FM La Tribu 88.7 - Buenos Aires

FM La Tribu 88.7 - Buenos Aires

This is the alternative Buenos Aires radio station where I appeared as a guest with Chilavert's Cándido on August 2, 2005 on the community events show, La Cuadrilla. Cándido spoke about the various upcoming cultural events at Chilavert as well as updating the audience on the latest struggles and victories of the recovered enterprises movement. I spoke for about a minute on why on God's earth an ex-pat Argentinean cum-hyphenated Canadian was back in Buenos Aires and interning at a recovered enterprise. It was an exceptional honour to be on live radio with Cándido. I recorded the segment and I'll see if I can upload the audio clip in the coming days.

(Cándido waiting to go on air.)

(Cándido talking to the hosts on air.)

Rodolfo Walsh links

Journalist, author, novelist, essayist, Bay of Pigs code-breaker, and militant, Rodolfo Walsh was ultimately murdered by the last Argentinean dictatorship on March 25, 1977, a day after publishing an open letter of condemnation lambasting, in moving prose, the dirty deeds of the Videla regime and El Proceso. Here are some great links to find out more about this Argentinean icon and martyr during the last military dictatorship:

http://www.literatura.org/Walsh/Walsh.html (Walsh site)
http://www.literatura.org/Walsh/rw240377.html (Carta abierta)

http://rodolfowalsh.free.fr/rubrique.php3?id_rubrique=0002 (Another good Walsh site, with thorough biography)

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Further thoughts re: "Bosses were never fired in Argentina" and other questions

(Thanks to my friend, Emily Ladue, for making me think this through a bit more).

While Néstor Gorojovsky makes a good point (re: bosses have never being fired in Argentina's recovered factories movement), his comment addresses only part of the equation. As my friend Emily put it to me in an email: "[Gorojovky's] point that [no recovered enterprises ever fired] their bosses seems a bit irrelevant when the movement is analyzed, because they are actively doing away with bosses in a creative, and non-reactionary way". While I think both are correct, I think Emily's observation is more useful long-term, although Gorojosvky's conjunctural observation must not be ignored. This is particularly important when the inevitable question "Is Argentina's recovered enterprises movement exportable?" is posed.

That bosses have never been "fired" (yet) does speak to an important point that both Andres Ruggeri and Carlos Martinez reiterated throughout the fabricas recuperadas course that they taught at UBA this summer: the initial "tomas" (takes) and the early days of each factory's subsequent occupations weren't originally about taking over the factory for good and certainly not, initially anyway, about revolution or working for another possible world. Indeed, finding another job - albeit increasingly difficult in Argentina - is certainly much less risky than actively resisting the state and the juridical establishment. Indeed, as Andres put it, none of the "recuperaciones" (recoveries of enterprises/workspaces) were initially about kicking out the boss, which supports Nestor's contention. Each occupation was, rather, at the beginning of each struggle, about getting back the money each worker was due in back pay or securing their jobs (this is the case, according to Andres, in every single workspace recuperation in Argentina). Only within the process of occupying and resisting their workspaces - especially during the many months of occupation and afterwards, when the workers started the work process under self-management and after they started to see their own and other legal expropriations come to fruition - did many of the protagonists subsequently discovered the possibilities that open up to them in a world without a boss. This realization happened in the process of doing, in the moment, in the act of revolting and resisting and struggling.

This leads me to think about other related issues: Is the revolution possible when the ERTs (empresas recuperadas por sus trabajadores) are still so enmeshed within the capitalist marketplace? Are the ERTs pointing a way through to a new type of alternative economy of solidarity? (Philosophically, I think they are but, in practice, at this early stage anyway, I don't think they are showing the way yet.) Or are the ERTs simply trying to survive the best way they know how within the current capitalist system, given their small numbers, and leaving the revolution to a future date? (This, I think, is closer to the reality for most workers at ERTs. In fact, most workers, my interview data is showing, might not even be thinking about anything more radical than guaranteeing that their families are fed and that their bills are paid. What the ERT movement leadership thinks, I discovered, is often not as pragmatic as what most ERT protagonists on the shop floor are thinking about.) What's the next phase of ERTs going to look like? Are alternative economies of solidarity that act autonomously from the nation state and global capitalism possible and are ERTs pointing the way ? (Establishing "economies of solidarity" is one of the visions of MNER's leadership, for example; click here to see another post on this. MNER would like to think that their more autonomist vision is they way to this solidarity economy. MNFRT (the other umbrella movement of recovered factories that split from MNER in 2002) seems to mostly be about securing work within the structure of the existing nation-state.) Can we simply export Argentina's model to Canada, the US, and the rest of the global north wholesale without taking into account the conjunctural realities of Argentina? The rate of new ERTs tended to peak during the 2001-early-2003 period, at the height of the economic crisis and external debt default in Argentina - and the rate of recoveries has now plateaued? Why? (Are ERTs being coopted by the state? Is the recovering Argentinean economy "normalizing" the situation in Argentina, effectively silencing the most-radical, civilizational changing possibilities inherent in the ERT movement? And, why haven't factories and workspaces been recovered to the same extent in North America and Europe after similar recesionary crisis periods (i.e., think of the dirty-thirties or the pulp and paper crises in Canada in the '90s)? What makes Argentina (and Uruguay and Brasil and Venezuela) so different?

Anyway, these are some of the questions I'm currently grappling with and that I hope to begin to answer during my PhD dissertation work. Thanks to Emily and Néstor for helping me articulate them.

Bosses were never fired in Argentina

Néstor Gorojovsky makes a good point in this recent Marxism listserv post:

Marxism message, [Marxism] Bosses were never fired in Argentina: "> Fire the Boss! !Echan los Patrones! (español abajo)
>
> Recuperated Factory Workers and Unemployed Worker
> Movements in Argentina come to share experiences
> with workers in North America.
>
> From November 6 to the 18th, 2005 members of
> Argentina's Recuperated Factories Movement and
> Unemployed Workers' Movement (piqueteros) will
> tour North America speaking with local unions,
> independent workers' organizations, day laborers,
> community organizations, and students. Workers
> from Argentina and North America will share their
> experiences on the shop floor, in their
> communities, and in the streets. We hope to
>

"I hope the good willed organizers of this encounter succeed and all,
Argentinean organizers and American hosts, have a good time together.

"However, there is something that should be clear.

"The Argentinean movement of Recovered Plants (and similars: the
movement is already split in two due to our pervasive sectarism, a
sign of the weakness of the general forces of our people) has never
kicked a single boss away.

"What they did was to simply take on their bosses when the bosses left
production and/or the country. There was no expropiatory move
involved. Now, there is resistence against some owners who want to
return, but this is quite different from firing a boss from her or
his own plant."

Néstor Miguel Gorojovsky
nestorgoro@fibertel.com.ar

Michael Albert explores the idea of participatory economy, or "parecon"

ZNet: Michael Albert explores the idea of Participatory economies, or "parecon"

"In a world riddled with suicide bombings, inconclusive conflicts, and terribly selfish politics, it is a relief to see there are people like Michael Albert creatively searching for salves for the ills in our economic system. With his books 'Moving Forward: Program for a Participatory Economy,' 'Parecon: Life After Capitalism,' and his contributions to the website ZNet.com, Albert has helped craft some of the most intriguing and visionary ideas on economic reform to date.

"While his theories aren't without flaw, or perhaps the better term is implementation, reading his thoughts on an economy that values 'equity, solidarity, diversity, and participatory self-management' makes us long for a world based not on hierarchy or pushing people to the periphery, but rather one that willingly accepts all people under the umbrella of 'humanity' and treats us according to that axiom."

Other writings on parecon: "There is an Alternative"

Los más nuevos movimientos sociales argentinos y los aspectos culturales que los subrayan

Basicamente, lo que quiero saber es si hay aspectos culturales que diferencian o hagan posible la organización y la gestión de grupos de protesta en la Argentina a comparación con otros países. ¿Hay aspectos culturales esencialmente argentinas que, por ejemplo, facilitan la organización de los grupos piqueteros o cartoneros? También, y quizas mas importante para mi trabajo doctoral, me interesa los aspectos culturales que subrayan las ocupaciones/tomas de las fábricas recuperadas y sus siguientes autogestionamientos. Lo que he notado en mi tiempo en Buenos Aires con varias fábricas recuperadas y asambleas barriales es que, por ejemplo, el espacio físico del barrio y el apoyo de la comunidad que las rodean son cosas muy importante para sus sobreviviencias, junto con los centros culturales y a veces también los comedores barriales que surgen de las fábricas/asambleas mismas. Hablando con mis padres aquí en Canadá, que también son argentinos, me cuentan que asambleas en los barrios, comedores barriales, y centros culturales (como, por ejemplo, el club social barrial) no son cosas nuevas y que han existido desde hace mucho tiempo en Argentina. Si esto es el caso, entonces, ¿estas son bases culturales fundamentales que apoyan, historicamente, a los "más nuevos" movimientos sociales argentinos?

Lo que no he encontrado todavía es un estudio en castellano y argentino que hable de los aspectos culturales y ritualisticos de los nuevos movimientos sociales tipo Stuart Hall or Eric Hobsbawm. Estoy especialmente interesado en los rituales cotidianos y la politica emergente de las fábriacas recuperadas. Es decir, quisiera saber si hay estudios que profundize sobre cuales (y como) aspectos culturales influyen a los rituales laborales, y vice-versa, como el futbol y el trabajo, el mate y el asado y el trabajo, la familia y el trabajo, el barrio y la comunidad y el trabajo, etc. No creo que hay algo escrito todavía que mira a las fábricas recuperadas desde estos lentes cotidianos.

Si alguien tiene información sobre unos estudios que habla de estos temas, o algo semejante, porfavor mandeme un email a vieta@rogers.com o vieta@yorku.ca .

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Argentinean recovered enterprises documentation centre's website is up

Andres Ruggeri, one of the leading researchers of the University of Buenos Aires's Programa Interdisciplinario de Transferencia Cientifico-Tecnologica hacia Empresas Recuperadas por sus Trabajadores just sent me the project's new website (the website, Andres told me, is still in development): http://www.recuperadasdoc.com.ar/principio.htm. The program's work can be considered the latest and most up-to-date research looking at recovered factories and enterprises in Argentina and is backed by a team of researchers from UBA's faculties of Philosophy and Letters, Social Sciences, Engineering, and Exact and Natural Sciences.

The program's documentation centre is located in what used to be the offices of the former owner of Artes Graficas Chilavert. This is the print shop where I interned at between July 12 and Aug. 15 of this year.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Encuentro Latinoamericano de Empresas Recuperadas en Manos de sus Trabajadores

Eduardo Murua viajo a Caracas en los primeros dias de agosto de este año y charlo con Hugo Chavez para concretar los detalles del primer Encuentro Latinoamericano de Empresas Recuperadas, que estara programado para el 12, 13, y 14 de octubre de este año (ver: http://argentina.indymedia.org/news/2005/08/314208.php).

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Recovering Buenos Aires's walls...







(University of Buenos Aires, Faculty of Philosophy and Letters)
(University of Buenos Aires, Faculty of Philosophy and Letters)

Three out of ten prisoners in the province of Buenos Aires are innocent...

...according to data recently released by the province of Buenos Aires's office of the attorney general, reports the Buenos Aires daily, El Clarin. The data also reveals the following sobering facts:
- Nine out of ten prisoners come from Buenos Aires's poorest sectors of society.
- Those charged with crimes often wait up to four years in remand before going trial.
- 75% of prisoners in the province of Buenos Aires jails are in these remand situations; that's to say, they have yet to be found guilty of the crimes they're accused of.
- Those found to be innocent after such long, indefinite periods of incarceration are rarely compensated.
- Public defendants appointed to represent these poor prisoners spend little time with these prisoners.
- There are 31,000 prisoners cramped into Buenos Aires's 39 jails. This population has increased by 10,000 prisoners in 10 years.
- 28% of those charged with crimes are absolved once their cases get heard.
- The sharp increase in the prison population over the past 10 years and the disquieting percentage of innocent prisoners is attributed by the report, in part, to an overzealous provincial police force more interested in showing the "effectiveness" of their force than in due process and facts.
- Even more disturbing, there are cases where provincial police have knowingly arrested the wrong person in order to protect those that actually committed the crime.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Phenomenology of video games chapter that I co-wrote with Florence Chee and Richard Smith...

...for a forthcoming book on gaming culture has a website . The book is on the cusp of being published.

Kirchner government capitalizes on dwindling public support of piqueteros and makes allusions to repression

El Gobierno endurece su postura y no descarta la detención de piqueteros (Clarín, 20 August, 2005).

See my recent post on most recent piquetero protests: http://www.vieta.ca/thoughts/2005/08/piqueteros-continue-to-paralyze-city.html

Se also: El Gobierno advirtió que serán detenidos los piqueteros “que puedan pasarse de la raya” (Clarín, 25 August, 2005).

US worries over Cuban and Venezuelan "aggressive foreign policy in [South America]"

"US initiative to contain Chavez involvement", Mercopress, Sat. Aug. 20, 2005.

Friday, August 19, 2005

Andres Ruggeri's solo bike trip from Argentina to Cuba

Andres was one of the profs that taught the recovered factories course that I took at the University of Buenos Aires last month. He also happens to have biked from Argentina to Cuba on bike on his own, met Fidel, and wrote a book about it: Del Plata al Habana: America en bicicleta. Parts of his book can be read online at: Cicloturismo Autosuficiente.

A growing list of debates focusing on Holloway's Change the World Without Taking Power, in Argentina's influential Herramienta journal

Cambiar el mundo sin tomar el poder:
El significado de la revolución hoy
(Change the World Without Taking Power: The Meaning of Revolution Today)

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Piqueteros continue to paralyze the city of Buenos Aires, public support continues to dwindle

For the second time this week, piqueteros have congested traffic coming in and out of Buenos Aires, causing massive traffic chaos: Los piqueteros acampan en el acceso al Puente Pueyrredón (Clarin, agosto 18, 2005).

Countrywide, the most recent piquetero protests have been fighting for a raise in the national unemployment subsidy "Plan Trabajar" (the closest Argentina comes to a universal welfare policy) from $150 pesos to $350 pesos. The protesters plan on camping out on the vital arterial bridge that links the city of Buenos Aires to the southern suburb city of Avellaneda until tomorrow, guaranteeing to cause a major traffic nightmare between the heavily populated southern suburbs and Baires's business district.

During my five and a half week stay in Buenos Aires between July 8 and August 16, there were at least a half a dozen piquetero protests that held the city of Buenos Aires's almost two million cars, trucks, and buses hostage during peak traffic hours. I walked into several of them in the Callao and Corrientes cross streets in the tourist district of downtown Baires. A piquetero protest in front of the legislature building of the city of Buenos Aires on Peru and Av. de Mayo even prevented me from meeting with a city official I was scheduled to interview on Aug. 6. Despite the best efforts of the piquetero movement, however, there is no indication that Argentina's current center-left Peronist government of President Nestor Kirchner will increase welfare planes any time soon. (The protest in front of the city of Buenos Aires legislature.)

Started in the mid-1990s in the interior of Argentina at the height of the Menem's neoliberal auction of Argentina's national assets and industries, the growing unemployed poor that were once part of Argentina's powerful working classes organized to form the greater piquetero (literally translated as "placard carrier") movement. The movement leadership is made up of various leftists and trotskyists. The movement as a whole falls under the loose banner of the Movimiento de Trabajadores Desocupados (Movement of Unemployed Workers, or MTD). The MTD movement enjoyed broad support between the late-1990s and 2002, when Argentina's relationship with extreme market liberalization started to show its deep flaws. The MTD movement's political apogee reached its peak with the movement's active participation and mobilization in the months leading up to and following the Argentinazo of Dec. 19 and 20, 2001. Since then, their main tactic of blocking Argentina's major transportation arteries has fallen from public favour. Most middle and working class Argentines that are not actively involved in the MTD movement now view the roadblock tactics of the piqueteros as traffic nuisances at best. Many consider them victims of or, at worst, abusers of Argentina's chronic clientilism or, as Toty and Soledad put it to us a month ago when we visited the headqurters of the autonomist MTD La Matanza, assistentialism.

Confirmed in countless casual conversations I had with a wide cross-section of Argentines, the political force and public legitimacy of Argentina's piquetero movement has substantially declined since 2001. That piquetero protests are a common feature of glib daily traffic reports on Buenos Aires radio stations is perhaps indicative of the dwindling political legitimacy of the movement. This contrasts with the wide public support enjoyed by Argentina's recovered enterprises and factories movement; the empresas recuperadas por sus trabajadores (ERT) are still seen by most Argentine's as sites of valiant and worthy struggles to save Argentina's precarious job-base.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Adiós Argentina and anticipating the work that lies ahead

Well, I'm back in Vancouver, Canada after a long 16 hour trip that saw me go through Toronto yesterday. My five week educational and information gathering stint in Argentina is officially over. Now the processing, analyzing, and thinking takes on a new, reflective dimension. Over the next few months I'll be posting the transcriptions and translations of most of the 35+ interviews I conducted on my trip, which include the testimonies of several recovered factory workers, unemployed workers, MTD activists, recovered enterprises movement leaders, government bureaucrats, officials of the executive branch of the national government, asamblea barrial leaders, national congress deputies and senators, an interview with a former vice-president of Argentina (TBA when I post the interview), and interviews with various activists and academics. I will also be posting on this blog most of my notes, thoughts, and ideas while I was on the trip. This should take me several months to complete, so please check back often. In the next few days I'll be posting a complete index of these interviews and notes so the community interested in my work in Argentina this summer can anticipate the information I'll be posting. I'll also continue to post pictures from the trip.

Generally, the 35 or so interviews I conducted were framed within a rubric of six general points of inquiry that revolved around the basic theme of the socio-political state of Argentina pre- and post-2001, with the goal of situating the recovered enterprises movement (ERT) more broadly within Argentina recent cultural and political conjunctures. As a guiding point, I tended to base these six broad questions on the experiential relief offered to me by my internship at the recovered enterprise of Artes Gráficas Chilavert (see the following posts: July 19, 2005. These interview themes included the folowing questions:

  1. What lead to Dec. 19-20, 2001?

  2. What did 19/20 and the subsequent economic and political crisis of 2002 help to articulate for Argentina's new social movements?

  3. What were these new socio-political articulations post Dec. 19/20 2001?

  4. Why is old-style politics still so persistent in Argentina if 2001 and 2002 were such benchmark years that shed a clearer picture on how destructive the neoliberal experiment that began in the early '70s in Argentina and that still continues is for the country?

  5. What happened to the ostensible "multitude" that was so visible in 2002 and appeared to be so ready to counter the traditional hegemonies of Argentine society (state governments, the judicial branch, the military, the ruling bourgeoisie, the Church)?

  6. What lies ahead for Argentina in light of the socially-aware, globally-contextualized, and community-driven politics being forged by Argentina's newest social justice movements such as the recovered enterprises movement; the unemployed workers movements; the mothers, grandmothers, and children of the 30,000 disapeared seeking "justicio y castigo"; the cartoneros movement, the growing indegenous movements; and the emergent groups spearheading reclaimed forms of cultural expression (e.g., murgas barriales, cooperative tango orchestras, reborn neighbourhood social clubs, etc.)?


Chosing one aspect of Argentina's newest social movements as my focal point for my PhD dissertation - the recovered enterprises movement rooted in workers' control - the questions I posed to the various institutional and social justice protagonists in Argentina ultimately aspire to contextualize the worker-recovered enterprises movement within Argentina's historically-informed, political-economic and cultural conjunctures. The questions I posed also explore how and if Argentina's ERT movement (empresas recuperadas por sus trabajadores) has the potential for being an enduring legacy for not only recovering work, but also recovering social justice, dignity, and communal purpose to everyday life in Argentina and as an example for such a social project to the rest of the world. Put another way, the ERT movement, beginning with the ways that they democratize the firm (Feenberg, 2002, p. 159) and extending into how Argentina's recovered workspaces that I witnessed personally entrench themselves tightly into the community's cultural milieu and social networks, seem to be perhaps showing us a valid way to transition to a socialism rooted in direct democracy and that responds directly to issues of alienation. Might ERTs, then, be showing us actual ways of, as Feenberg (2002) puts it, "recomposing formerly divided mental and manual labour in order to reduce the operational autonomy of leadership and reincorporate the alienated functions of management back into the collective laborer?" (p. 159). And, if so, what does this mean for long-term civilizational change in Argentina and for other similar labour struggles from below in other parts of the world?

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Venezuela's President Chavez prepared to invest part of U$S 500 million towards Argentinean recovered factories and micro-enterprises

Capital Federal, Argentina
Breaking News

Eduardo Murúa, president of the Movimento Nacional de Fábricas Recuperadas (MNER), confirmed in a conversation I had with him yesterday that he struck an economic partnership accord with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez last week in Caracas. In a greater economic accord negotiated with the Argentinean government to more closely integrate the Venezuelan and Argentinean economies, Chavez is prepared to invest, via debt bond purchases, U$S 500 million into Argentina's fledgling national oil sector through Venezuela's national oil company, PDVSA, and provide at least $3 million dollars in low-interest credits to the growing alternative economy being forged by Argentina's worker recovered enterprises (known as ERTs, or empresas recuperadas por sus trabajadores, enterprises recovered by their workers) and micro-enterprises (microemprendimientos). (Note: The number of factories that have been recovered by workers over the last decade in Argentina is estimated to be between 160-200 to date, employing between 10,000 to 12,000 workers (see: the University of Buenos Aires's ERT documentation centre).

The accord would see the Venezelan government invest the money in Argentina's ERT sector via favourable loans that will be administered by the Banco de la Nacion Argentina. The hope for Argentina's ERTs is that the infusion of cash will help them replace old machinery, grow new markets, and ultimately kick-start an-as-yet undeveloped export component by producing myriad products also useful to Venezuela's increasingly nationalized economy (to date, almost all of Argentina's ERTs provide products to a limited internal market; no ERT that I am aware of provides goods to an export market). Additonally, the accord would facilitate economies of solidarity betwen the government-backed movement of Venezuelan recovered factories and Argentina's ERTs. Monies would flow directly to the factories via the Banco de la Nacion Argentina through an as yet-to-be-worked-out distribution mechanism.

This arrangement is being looked at as a model for a more ambitious parallel economy that both MNER and the Venezuelan government see as a possible springboard for a greater trans-Latin American economy of solidarity. This alternative economy would, at first, begin mostly between Argentina's, Venezuela's, Uruguay's, and Brazil's ERTs, the four countries with the most cases of recovered factories in South America. Murúa and Chavez envision the eventual formation of a Latin American worker-controled economy inspired by the experiences of the four countries where ERTs are quickly forming an alternative model of work and trade.

Argentina seems to be the model for Chavez's plan for ERTs in Venezuela. Unlike Argentinean President Nestor Kirchner's regime's almost non-existant policy platform in regards to ERTs in this country (confirmed to me by an official in the national Ministry of Labour), Chavez has begun to invest seriously in worker-controled enterprises in his own country as a way to further nationalize the Venezuelan economy and industrial base.

Taking a detour from his current visit to Brazil and Uruguay, Chavez made a quick trip to Argentina today to meet with Kirschner and ratify various bi-lateral accords, including the large infusion of cash. Although the recovered factory accord was on the list of to dos for Chavez and Kirchner, none of Buenos Aires´s dailes covered this aspect of Chavez's trip except for a small blurb in last Monday's Pagina/12 (see: Visita relámpago a Buenos Aires).

Murúa left today for a trip to Bolivia to begin to forge links with cooperatively run mines and microenterprises in the Andean country.

---

Other stories covering the agreement:


More info on Venezuela's interest in Argentina's recovered factories:

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

The aesthetics of the recovered enterprises movement in Buenos Aires, Argentina


- Grafica Patricios, worker-expropriated printing press, Barracas, Capital Federal


- Another side of Grafica Patricios


- IMPA, worker-exproriated metalurgic factory, Caballito, Capital Federal


- Inside IMPA


- Chilavert, worker-expropriated printing press, Nueva Pompeya, Capital Federal


- Global/La Nueva Esperanza, worker-occupied balloon factory, Almagro, Capital Federal (yet to be legally expropriated)

Monday, August 08, 2005

The recovered factory movement is a community struggle of the neighbourhood; what is recovered is not only work, but neighbourhood spaces also

(Cefomar, publishing house.)

There is something interesting I’m beginning to notice within the recovered factory movement: This movement is a struggle ensconced in the neighbourhood. All of the plants we’ve visited thus far – Patricios, Cefomar, La Nueva Esperanza, Chilavert, and IMPA – are in densely populated neighbourhoods, physically and emotionally woven into the fabric of the local community. (Chilavert, Nueva Pompeya.) All of their stories of occupation share the common element that the neighbourhoods in which they’re located in supported their takeovers and continue to support their legal battles. Many of the workers’ neighbours shared in their struggle, directly and indirectly. All of the workers’ stories we heard spoke of neighbours and family members coming to their aid in their moment of greatest need, bringing them food, clothing, and mattresses during the long months of occupation. (The barrio of Caballito, from an open window at IMPA.)

The recovered workspace movement is, I’m starting to see, a neighbourhood struggle. The emotional and political support of the local community – and, indeed, even the community’s physical support as the community members also place themselves at times in harms way in solidarity with the workers’ fight against the state’s repression – was vital in all of the narratives of occupation and recovery we heard. All spoke of how much they appreciate and covet the love that their neighbourhoods and loved ones continue to give them in their continued struggles with the courts and the state.

Perhaps this is why the cultural and educational events and programs that the recovered plants host and sponsor are so integral to the movement. In fact, perhaps the cultural spaces that form within the recovered plants are merely extensions of the greater community they’re ensconced in. Hosting such cultural events is not just a way of giving back to the neighbourhood out of self-interested corporate “goodwill.” Instead, the cultural spaces within the plants are continuations of the neighbourhoods’ needs. They are always open to the neighbourhood and the neighbourhood uses them often. The workspace walls are not boundaries that protect the work inside from the community outside. Rather, the recovered workspaces are rooted deeply in the needs of the local community because they are also integral parts of the community. (La Nueva Esperanza, recovered balloon factory.) What is recovered in these workspaces is not merely work, but also rearticulated sense of community and belonging and that work need not be – and indeed, can never be – torn apart from the other areas of life. To live passionately, this movement is teaching us, is to understand that no clear boundaries ever exist between a healthy work life and a healthy communal life. They are, as it were, one and the same. As Chilavert’s Cándido González eloquently put it: “If one desires to defend one’s work one has to also defend the work of the other. And, to ensure one has food, one has to ensure the other has food, too."

To recover work and to fight for workers' control of their labour-time, labour output, and their relations to the machines and processes of production is to also recover their dignity and the already-always present connections between work and everyday life from the abstractions of the commodity form and the rational logics of capitalist modes of production. This was one of the articulations made possible by the economic and social crisis of Dec. 19 and 20, 2001.

- Chilavert, Nueva Pompeya, Buenos Aires, July 19, 2005

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Marina Sitrin´s "Horizontalidad"

I met Marina in Chilavert last week. Chilavert is the recovered printing press that I´m interning at in the barrio of Pompeya in Buenos Aires (see my earlier posts). She is in Bolivia currently and is scheduled to be back in Baires this week or next. Her articles, based on interviews that make up an oral history of the newest social justice movmements in Argentina in her new book Horizontalidad (only available in Spanish to date) will be featured on the Interactivist InfoExchange website over the next few weeks.

Marina recently told me that the book has been translated into English and that it will be available through AK Press. The English version will also be available through them in May of 2006. For highlights of the forthcoming English version, see: Marina%27s%20Booklet.pdf.