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

Friday, December 30, 2005

The second seminar on Latin American ERTs in Sao Paolo, Brasil, Dec. 11-13, 2005

(Fotos) Trabajadores de Caigua, Sideroca, Central Azucarero y UNT presentes en seminario latinoamericano en Brasil.
The follow-up meeting to the Primer Encuentro Latinoamerican de Empresas Recuperadas (First Encounter of Latin American Recovered Enterprises).

See my following posts on the Primer Encuentro, with links to pertinent articles:

Kirchner announces $10 billion payment of national debt to IMF

Argentina's President Kirchner recently announced a substantial payment of $10 billion to the IMF to "free" the nation from the influence of the IMF on its national economic policies ("Miceli firmó ayer la orden para pagarle toda la deuda al FMI"). This would in effect pay off all of the Argentina's debt to the IMF. The money will mostly come from the nation's reserves.

This decision has disappointed many on the left that have been lobbying for years for Argentina to refuse to pay back its almost $150 billion national debt (see, for example, "Una muestra de “soberanía económica” al servicio del FMI"). This comes after much anti-IMF rhetoric by Kirschner over the past two to three years that seems to have only only served to asuage voters at election time. In reality, the Kirschner regime has provided almost no concrete evidence that Argentina is still anything but a neoliberal puppet of the World Bank, the IMF, global capital, and the US.

Friday, December 23, 2005

New links on Primer Encuentro en Venezuela

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Marx on the theme of "crisis"

"Crisis" in the Encyclopedia of Marxism

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Commemorating the days of 19-20, four years later

A cuatro años del 20-D

With Morales, the burdgeoning and varied left of South American traditional politics

Nuevas mayorías en América del Sur

While Morales's victory is promising for the left, and especially for Latin America's increased struggle to separate itself from the grip of neoliberal agendas, especially those of the US, one must remember that Morales's victory in Bolivia is still ensconced within the traditional state and its traditional politics and economic commitments. If the trajectories of the recent left-leaning governments of Brazil, Argentina, and Uruguay are any indications, neoliberal co-optation will most likely soon follow (for eg, see Argentina's recent substantial payment of part of its foriegn debt to the IMF after years of tough anti-IMF rhetoric by the Kirchner govt.). The promising difference in Bolivia is that Morales comes from the ranks of the oppressed, not from traditional labour or party politics. Let's hope this ensures a different trajectory for Bolivia's near and long-term political outlook.

That Morales is indigenous -- the first elected indigenous president of the region -- is indeed also most promising. Perhaps the Aymara, Guarani. Quechua, and other groups that have been fighting for societal change in Bolivia for years will finally get a positive response to their ongoing struggles for a new constituent assembly entrenched in the Bolivian constitution, a transformation of the Bolivian state into a looser federation of autonomous groups, and full and unfettered participation in the economic pie that has eluded them for so long.

Que todos nuestros compañeros Bolivianos tengan el máximo succeso en un nuevo futuro egalitario y comunitario!

Con afinidad,


A union for Argentina's recovered enterprises?

Some of the most importnat umbrella organizations of Argentine workers involved in recovering and co-managing their workspaces include MNER, MNFRT (its website is currently down), and FECOOTRA. They are not traditional unions but rather cooperatively-organized political entities that have emerged rather organically after the first recovered enterprises began to appear in the mid-to-late-1990s. They serve to represent the interests of the protagonists of Argentina's worker recovered enterprises in numerous ways, providing management advice and legal advice; organizing plenaries, conferences, and spaces for voicing the concerns of workers' groups; and offering support and political lobbying when a workspace's employees are considering occupying and expropriating a bankrupted enterprise.

These umbrella workers' groups fill the void left in the workers' control movement by Argentina's traditional unions. Now part of the history of Argentina's most recent experiments with workers' control, recovered enterprises have been mostly abandoned by their traditional unions. This is because traditional unions in Argentina, such as the CGT and even the CTA, consider worker controlled enterprises firms run by "self-employe" "entrepreneurs" (!). Traditional unions have also not managed to -- or not been willing to -- find a significant role in the struggles of co-managed workers' cooperatives once managed by bosses.

In light of traditional union abandoment and apathy, there is now a fledgling proposal in place to start a union specifically for recovered enterprises, microenterprises, and cooperatives in Argentina, called la Asociación Nacional de Trabajadores Autogestionados, or ANTA (the National Association of Self-Managed Workers). It is situated within the CTA, Argentina's more radical union that emerged as a response to the country's growing precarization of labour and especially as a counter to its biggest and most politically influential union, the CGT. (The CTA, Central of Argentine Workers, is a radical union for employed and unemployed workers formed in 1992; the CGT, General Confederation of Labor, is the Peronist-leaning national umbrella labor organization).

How will this new union work with, or perhaps compete with, organizations such as MNER and MNFRT? This is a development I will definitely be keeping track of.

Monday, December 19, 2005

How to Take an Exam...and Remake the World

Once you've finished reading Marx's Capital, Gramsci's Prison Notebooks, Lukacs, and Marcuse, Bertell Ollman's book on exam writing and the ideological nightmares of capitalism is a must. Here's a sample:


True/False Exams: for those occasions where you don't have a clue as to the right answer, here are some statistics that may help in your guessing. A study by H.E. Hawkes, E.F. Lindquist, and C.R. Mann found that in statements containing the word "all" four out of five were false; in statements containing the word "none" four out of five were false; and in statements containing the word "always";, three out of four were false. Whereas, in statements containing the word "some" four out of five were true; and in statements containing the word "generally" three out of four were true. They also found that the longer the statement, the more likely it is to be true.

Assuming that the readers of this book are typical of the mass of students in our capitalist world, there are some among you who in the years to come are going to commit suicide, or become drug addicts and alcoholics, or spend years as derelicts or in prison, and others, the luckier ones, will just lose your jobs and homes, or never get a good job or a decent home, and take your anger and frustration out in bouts of depression or in violence against your spouses and children. I'm going to tell you something that could save you from these horrible fates. Listen closely. YOU ARE NOT GUILTY. The conditions that are responsible for most of your suffering are not your fault; nor is it a matter of God's will, or of bad luck. Instead, most of what may one day drive you over the edge is due to this simple fact: The Game is Rigged! You never had a fair, let along equal, chance, and you won't. "Equality of Opportunity" is only a designer's label on the Emperor's new clothes. This is capitalism's dirty little secret. Once you know this secret and understand where and how it has been hidden, you can stop punishing yourself and your loved ones, and join in the struggle to change the rules of the game.

In Essay Exams, it is generally wise to tackle your second best question first. If you answer the question you know most about first, there is a danger that you will write too long and not leave enough time for other questions. Also, it takes a little while to warm up in an essay exam, and leaving the question you know most about for second increases the likelihood of doing your best on it. One of the worst answers I wrote on any exam was on the very question that I had been hoping would be there. I pounced on it immediately, but because I had so much to say it was very hard to finish. Then, noticing how little time I had left for the rest of the exam, I began to panic, and botched up the conclusion. I still have nightmares about this one.

After struggling and sacrificing through four or more years of university, you are ready to start a "career". Welcome to the world of part-time, temporary, "flexible" low paying, no benefit jobs, assuming you're lucky enough to find any job at all. It is estimated that over 30% of the work force is now part-time, but a majority of the new jobs created are now part-time and/or temporary. The owner of one agency that supplies temps and part-timers for businesses unashamedly admits we are creating a "new American sweat shop" made up of "disposable and throw-away workers" (New York Times, Mar. l3, l993) Is this what you've been preparing for?

In Bombay, India, recently, the city government decided to do a major clean up and advertised for seventy jobs as rat catcher. There were 40,000 applicants, of whom half were college graduates. Just another piece of Third World exotica? Or a chilling glimpse of what life in New York (and Toronto, and London) will be like five to ten years down the road?

In Oral Exams, most questions are composed on the spot, which means that they can be very vague and even contradictory. An otherwise brilliant professor with whom I often worked needed two or three verbal whacks at what he was thinking before anyone knew what he was talking about. Yet, again and again, students, who were too respectful of authority, assumed his first words had to make sense, and fell all over themselves trying to respond. The other professors present always felt very sorry for the poor student, whose self-confidence would begin to disintegrate right before our eyes, but there was nothing we could do. So, in an oral exam, don't assume that when a question is unusually difficult the fault is yours. Ask for a clarification. Be sure you know exactly what is being asked before you start to answer.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

La dictadura militar en Argentina, 24 de marzo de 1976 - 10 de diciembre de 1983

La dictadura militar en Argentina, 24 de marzo de 1976 - 10 de diciembre de 1983, cortesía del Ministerio de Educación de Argentina. Un buen sitio de memoria.

More tribulations for the Hotel BAUEN workers

Today, December 15, the International Support Campaign for the Hotel Bauen Cooperative is flooding the inbox of the head of the Buenos Aires city government.

Please send the message below RIGHT NOW to this email address:

**Please include where you're from (maybe in the subject line) to show
the internationalism of the campaign.

**Please cc: , so we know how many emails we

Señor Jorge Telerman:

Hoy el destino del Hotel Bauen, recuperado por sus trabajadores, está en
sus manos. Miles de personas en el mundo lo están mirando. Vete la ley que consagra la impunidad de los empresarios inescrupulosos y apoye a los 140 hombres y mujeres que todos los días están demostrando cómo construir trabajo digno en ese espacio que es modelo de eficiencia y solidaridad.

And now for some background and translation of the message...

At 2 a.m. on Wednesday December 6, the Buenos Aires city Legislature
passed a law that will in effect evict the workers' cooperative at the
Hotel Bauen. This law, voted for by 29 legislators, ‘invents’ a boss for
a workplace without bosses.

When the workers decided to occupy the hotel to demand their unpaid
wages, the Hotel Bauen was bankrupt and the company had left behind
millions of dollars in debt, including the purchase of the building at
360 Callao Avenue.

As the ownership of the building was in dispute (the person who had
bought the building paid only 4 of the 12 million dollar price, and the
person who sold it promised to return the 4 million and never came
through) the hotel was legally without anyone to take care of it. So the
workers decided to put it back into operation.

They started to work with nothing but the strength of their conviction.
Now there are 140 men and women who work to keep the hotel running, 24
hours a day, also providing spaces for meetings, assemblies and social
movement events entirely out of solidarity.

Ignoring all of their efforts, the Legislature decided to pass a law
that flies in the face of justice and is aimed at destroying all of the
work that the cooperative has put into the hotel. When the voting began
and the workers protested, the legislators ordered their eviction. They
threw them out with batons and tear gas.

Now, the workers demand that the mayor of Buenos Aires, Jorge Telerman,
veto the law. The veto must take place within 15 days of when the law
was passed.

If Mr. Telerman does not veto the law, the workers may be evicted.

For more background articles about the Bauen and other recovered
companies, check out:

Today, December 15th at 2pm, the workers at the Hotel Bauen are
marching to Jorge Telerman's office to demand that this law be annulled.

The email flood generated by this International Support Campaign is to
show how many of us would be standing with the workers in person if we

Mister Jorge Telerman:

Today the future of the Hotel Bauen, recovered by its workers, is in
your hands. Thousands of people all over the world are watching. VETO
the law that grants impunity to the unscrupulous businesspeople and support the 140 men and women who demonstrate every day how to create dignified work with such efficiency and solidarity.


Sign the petition in support of the Hotel Bauen workers!

The petition will be submitted as part of the campaign.


Send an email to with the subject "Zanon" to get on the Zanon Alert list, with updates and articles about Zanon, Bauen and other recovered companies in Argentina.

Or sign up at for The Take's mailing list.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Canada and Empire

Is Canada a net victim of imperialism or a perpetrator of it? Read David McNally's analysis where he argues that Canada is a middle power practicing the latter.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

ZNet |Parecon | Argentine Self Management

Michael Albert's latest on workers' control in Argentina .

His observations parallel many of mine expressed on this blog over the past 5 months.