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

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Around the world on a tandem bike...uniting the universities of the south

My friends, Andrés Ruggeri and Karina Luchetti, embarked on their one year, round-the-world tandem biking odyssey on Sunday, September 30, 2007. There's even a Toronto connection. The trailer you see in the picture was purchased at the worker-run coop, Urbane Cyclist, on John St. in Toronto and I shipped it to Andrés just in time for his trip thanks to the help of Sean Smith of the CAW. That Urbane is a worker coop is perhaps not as coincidental as it might seem. I told Andrés about the bike shop and he energetically poured over its online catalog looking for the trailer he eventually found.

Workers' cooperativism is close to Andrés's heart and the thought of getting the trailer from Urbane gave him joy. Andrés happens to also head the Argentine Worker-Recovered Documentation Centre out of the worker cooperative and worker-recovered Artes Gráficas Chilavert. He is an expert on Argentina's worker-recovered workers' cooperatives, co-authoring The [Worker-]Recovered Enterprises in Argentina with Hugo Trinchero and Carlos Martinez.

For more, see The World in Tandem, Andrés and Karina's 'official' trip website.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Interview with Eduardo Murúa, President of the National Movement of Recovered Enterprises of Argentina

Conducted during his trip to Canada last year in June 2006 by Jennifer Moore
Translated by Marcelo Vieta


Eduardo Murúa, president of Argentina's MNER (National Movement of [Worker] Recovered Enterprises) has taken more of a back-seat role in the effort to organize Argentina's almost-200 worker-recovered enterprises as of late. Between 1997 and 2005, Murúa was very active in lobbying for a national law of expropriation for these workers' coops, assisting militant workers in the occupation of failed firms and restarting production under self-management, and for reforming Argentina's bankruptcy laws to better favour worker-recovered firms. As of late-2005, Murúa has, in a sense, gone underground, due to the fragmentation of the once-influential MNER due to internal differences between its most politically active protagonists as to what political tactics the movement should take, how the recovered enterprises should face their continued economic challenges within the still-powerful neoliberal system and in light of President Nestor Kirchner's centerist labour policies, and -- more concretely -- with the handling of the ongoing economic difficulties of one of the first worker-recovered enterprises, IMPA, early last year.

Despite the more subdued role that Murúa has chosen to take as of late, and some of the controversies that might surround his leadership (all currently open to debate in Argentina), there is no question that he has played a central part in articulating the path to self-management for Argentina's worker-recovered enterprises. For a good account of this, see, in particular, Magnani's blog and book by the same name, El cambio silencioso and my forthcoming writing on the plight of IMPA, MNER, and Murúa's recent attempts to salvage the economically-challenhttp://www.blogger.com/img/gl.link.gifged and deeply fractured IMPA and his other initiatives.

The following interview was conducted in June 2006 while Murúa was in the Toronto, Canada and the Southern Ontario region for various public talks, meetings with local unions, and visits to local workers' coops (for some info on this visit, go here.) In the interview (see the end of this post) he expresses clearly and with passion his vision for a different Argentina, one where wealth might be distributed more equitably and where work doesn't necessarily, in contrast to Peron's much-quoted vision, equal dignity if one's work continues to be permeated by alienated and exploitative forms of labour. In this sense, Murúa moves beyond his militant Peronist roots and sounds more like a traditionalist Marxist, although in other comments he also come close to sounding like an autonomist (for similar sentiments expressed by Murúa in another place and also in English, see the recently published collection of interviews on Argentina's worker-recovered enterprises in the online journal Affinities, assembled by TSCI.

Download the PDF version of the June 2006 Eduardo Murúa interview here.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

"Militancy in Images": A long lost documentary about the Cordobazo of May-June 1969, Argentina's May '68, is recovered and screened

On Saturday the Latin American Museum of Art in Buenos Aires(MALBA) screened a long lost documentary looking at El Cordobazo of 1969, pieced together from footage taken at the time and edited in clandestinity. It was confiscated and "disappeared" by the military dictatorships of 1976-1983. On December 10, 1976, Enrique Juarez, the film's militant director, was also disappeared by the dictatorship. Juarez's feature on the major events of El Cordobazo, Ya es tiempo de violencia (Now Is the Time for Violence) (1969), and his short La desconocida (The Unknown One) (1962) were recently restored and remastered. A copy of Ya es tiempo de violencia, as it turned out, was found in the the Instituto Cubano del Arte e Industria Cinematográficos (Cuban Institute for Art and Cinema) in Havana, Cuba, Ana Bianco of Pagina/12 relates. Bianco further writes: "Fernando Krichmar, from Cine Insurgente (Isurgent Cinema), brought the found copy to Buenos Aires and APROCINAIN (Argentina Association for the Support of Audiovisual Patrimony) was able to create another negative for its preservation."

Juarez's film is part of a long tradition of underground and anonymous activist cinema in Argentina where the aim was to erase any sign of individual authorship (one could call it "imperceptible authorship"). Instead, creators would opt for processes of collective creation. Their reasoning was both political and practical - anonymous authorship was both an ethico-political positioning of the creator as well as being a matter of safety and protection in a society where the eyes of dictators, censors, and repressors were always close by. Such collectives in Argentina with roots in the alternative cinema movement of the 1960s and 1970s include Grupo Cine Liberación (the Liberation Film Group) and Grupo Cine de la Base (The Base Film Group). Contemporary examples of this collective and imperceptible authorship in Argentina, inspired by these older organizations, include groups such as Colectivo Situaciones, Lavaca, Grupo Alavio, and AgoraTV. As Lucio Mufud writes, the collective authorship movement of the 1960s and 1970s was, "among other things, about erasing any authorial mark. It concerned itself, on the one hand, with protecting the militant creators from state repression. But it was also about having their voice coincide with the 'voice of the people.'" (see Mufud 2007).

To read more on Juarez, his recently found film, and the Argentine film collectives, see: La militancia en imágenes

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Friday, August 24, 2007

Las empresas recuperadas por sus trabajadores como cooperativas de trabajo

Una breve mirada a las cinco características que distinguen el caso argentino

Ponencia de Marcelo Vieta, basado en un artículo escrito por Andrés Ruggeri y Marcelo Vieta para el PRIMER ENCUENTRO INTERNACIONAL DE DEBATE:
FACULTAD DE FILOSOFÍA Y LETRAS, UNIVERSIDAD DE BUENOS AIRES: “LA ECONOMÍA DE LOS TRABAJADORES: AUTOGESTIÓN Y DISTRIBUCIÓN DE LA RIQUEZA”
(ver también: http://www.recuperadasdoc.com.ar/encuentro/index.htm)

19-21 julio 2007, Facultad de Filosofía y Letras, Universidad de Buenos Aires


Parte 1: Las cinco características de las ERT



Parte 2: Algunas influencias de las cinco características de las ERT en la organización del trabajo autogestivo

[A continuación | Forthcoming]

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Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Music rally in support of the Hotel BAUEN workers' latest struggles with eviction


The former owners of the Hotel BAUEN want it back. And this time they just might get it. The last owners of the emblematic, worker-recuperated hotel in the heart of downtown Buenos Aires recently took the case to court and a local judge decided in favour of the returning patrón who abandoned the hotel in 2001, ordering the eviction of all of the "occupying" workers by the middle of next month at the latest. This decision not only puts at risk the jobs of over 150 hotel workers -- jobs that have been recovered since 2003 (see links below for details) -- but also risks setting a new precedence for more than 180 other worker-recovered enterprises that currently exist across Argentina. In this current conjuncture, as the city of Buenos Aires waits for a new right wing mayor to take office in December and as national elections near, not only is Argentina's best known worker-run hotel at risk, but the very movement of worker-recovered enterprises that spans most of Argentina's economic sectors is once again under direct threat from still-powerful capitalist business interests.

Facing the possibility of imminent eviction, the Hotel BAUEN workers are taking their protest to the streets just outside of the hotel on Callao St. near Corrientes. And thousands of people from a vast swath of Argentina's social movements are joining the BAUEN workers as I write this. Workers from dozens of worker-recuperated enterprises from the city and province of Buenos Aires, social movement activists, and hundreds of other people in solidarity with the BAUEN workers have joined the hotel workers en masse and are swaying to the music of some of Argentina's most popular radical bands and musicians, such as Arbol and Leon Gieco. In between the acts, announcers are reading out the messages of support and solidarity from myriad social movements across Argentina, dozens of academics and political activists from across the world, and even from Lula's Worker's Party.

Activist reporter Marie Trigona's recent ZNet article sums up nicely the current struggles of the Hotel BAUEN workers.

Here are some more images I just took of the rally:








A short history of the Hotel BAUEN's workers' struggles:

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Friday, August 17, 2007

List of papers given at “LA ECONOMÍA DE LOS TRABAJADORES: AUTOGESTIÓN Y DISTRIBUCIÓN DE LA RIQUEZA" conference in Buenos Aires

List of papers delivered at "LA ECONOMÍA DE LOS TRABAJADORES: AUTOGESTIÓN Y DISTRIBUCIÓN DE LA RIQUEZA"

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Friday, August 10, 2007

Por la expropiación del Bauen

Página/12: Por la expropiación del Bauen

Por Laura Vales

Quien visite el Hotel Bauen por estos días podrá ver, en el lobby de entrada, una muestra de retratos. Son fotografías que exhiben a los 154 trabajadores de la cooperativa que hace cuatro años recuperó el lugar, abandonado por sus antiguos dueños, y que ahora enfrentan una intimación de desalojo. Los trabajadores terminaron de colgar los retratos ayer, para que sirvieran de marco a la conferencia de prensa en que figuras de organismos de derechos humanos, organizaciones sociales, gremiales y políticas hicieron un llamado de alerta. En el encuentro con los medios, hubo duras críticas a la decisión judicial y se reclamó al Gobierno que “asuma la responsabilidad de dar una solución”. Traducido: que expropie el hotel mediante una ley del Congreso Nacional.

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Monday, August 06, 2007

Hotel BAUEN: Un nuevo fallo en contra de la gestión de la cooperativa. Esta medida peligra la fuente de trabajo de más de 150 familias.

1978: Para en Mundial de Fútbol se construyó el Hotel BAUEN S.A gracias a la estrecha vinculación de su titular Marcelo Ircuvich con miembros de la Dictadura Militar. Accedió a un crédito otorgado por el BANADE, actualmente en manos del Banco Nación. Iurcovich, titular de esta empresa nunca habilitó el hotel, jamás pago el préstamo al Estado, no pagó impuestos y se endeudó por millones de pesos. Bajo esta metodología Iurcovich acumuló grandes ganancias. En 1997 le vendió el Hotel al grupo económico Solari S.A. Su titular, Solari operó de idéntica manera a su predecesor, solo pagó la primer cuota... Gestionó el Hotel hasta diciembre del 2001 cuando se le decretó la quiebra dejando a 80 familias en la calle sin explicación alguna.

2003: Se crea la Cooperativa BAUEN. Los trabajadores lo encontraron absolutamente vaciado y destruido. Los últimos cuatro años tuvieron que reacondicionar todas las instalaciones y pusieron en marcha esta exitosa gestión. Generaron más de 150 puestos de trabajo cuando el país pasaba su peor crisis económica. En 4 años demostraron que la gestión sin patrón es absolutamente viable. Los resultados están a la vista. Tal vez sea este el motivo que más incomode a quienes piensan que una administració n seria y exitosa no puede ser propia de los trabajadores.

20 de julio de 2007: La jueza Paula Hualde dictaminó el desalojo del Hotel y otorga 30 días de plazo para que se retiren inmueble. Este fallo favorece a quienes vaciaron el Hotel, generaron pérdidas al Estado y echaron a los trabajadores y atenta contra uno de los derechos básicos de la constitución argentina: poder trabajar libremente.

Los trabajadores del BAUEN queremos que toda la sociedad se entere de este atropello contra nuestros intereses. Trabajar dignamente, seguir desarrollando nuestras capacidades y generar más puestos de trabajo. Apelaremos la medida de la jueza Hualde. No bajaremos los brazos.

Contamos con el apoyo solidario de organizaciones políticas, movimientos sociales, culturales y de la comunidad. Vamos a resistir esta medida y estamos organizando diversas actividades para que toda la sociedad nos pueda acompañar en esta lucha.

6 de Agosto: Movilización al Juzgado (Callao y Marcelo T. Alvear)
9 de Agosto : Conferencia de prensa en el Hotel.
24 de Agosto: Acto masivo con importantes bandas y personalidades destacadas.

prensatrabajadoresd elbauen@yahoo. com.ar Tel : 43719505
El BAUEN ES DE TODOS. NO AL DESALOJO!!


ACTIVIDADES EN APOYO DEL BAUEN

Viernes 27 y sábado 28 de julio: volanteada en el recital de Ataque 77 en Temperley
Viernes 3 de agosto - 18 hs: Recital de Poder Sikuri y La Covacha en Callao y Corrientes - Organiza la Asamblea de San Telmo.
Lunes 6 de agosto: Movilización y entrega de apelación al juzgado de Callao y M.T. de Alvear. Concentración a las 11 hs en la puerta del hotel. Actividades teatrales y murga. Los que no puedan concurrir a las 11hs pueden hacerlo al juzgado hasta las 13 hs.
Jueves 9 de agosto - 18 hs: Conferencia de prensa en el hotel con la participación de personalidades del ámbito político y social.
Jueves 16 de agosto, 19 hs: obra teatral "Maquinando", la historia de la Gráfica Patricios - Dir Norman Briski - Auditorio del Bauen
Viernes 24 de agosto - 17 hs: Acto masivo y recital en Callao y Corrientes, con la presencia de todas las organizaciones sociales que apoyan al Bauen.

MESAS DE DIFUSION

Mesa en estación Once:
Martes 31 de julio, 17 hs - Responsable Daniel
Miércoles 1 y viernes 3 de agosto, 17 hs - responsable Gabriel

Mesa en estación Constitución
Lunes 30 martes 31 de julio, miércoles 1 de agosto, 17 hs - responsable Alberto
Martes 7 y Miércoles 8, 17 hs - responsable luciano

Mesa en estación Retiro
Miércoles 1 de agosto, 17 hs - responsable Matías

Mesa en Florida y Av de Mayo
Lunes 30 de julio, 17 hs - responsable Juan Carlos y Susana
Martes 31 de julio, miércoles 1 de agosto, jueves 2, 14 hs -

Mesa en Corrientes y Callao
Lunes 30 de julio, 17 hs - responsable Marcos
Miércoles 1 de agosto, 17 hs - responsable Nadia

Mesa en Plaza Dorrego
Sábado 28 y domingo 29 de julio, todo el día - responsable asamblea de San Telmo
El jueves 2 de agosto, 18 hs en el hotel, evaluamos la marcha de las actividades

OTRAS ACTIVIDADES
Difusión: volanteada en la zona norte, hospitales , parque centenario, facultades

Solicitada: en periódicos Pág 12 y Clarín. Se solicita colaboración para financiarlas. Comunicarse con la oficina de prensa del bauen - 4373-9009 y 4371-9505 o cel 1157285920 (Fabio), 1557445208 (Federico), 1564677765 (Jaime)

Cada organización puede realizar actividades de difusión en su ámbito de acción. Pueden retirar volantes en la oficina de prensa o confeccionar e imprimir otros, con su firma.

Con nuestro agradecimiento por su solidaridad - trabajadores del bauen

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Sunday, August 05, 2007

Síntesis del Primer Encuentro internacional “La economía de los trabajadores”

Facultad de Filosofía y Letras-Universidad de Buenos Aires
19,20 y 21 de julio de 2007


Organizado por el Programa de Extensión Universitaria Facultad Abierta (Facultad de Filosofía y Letras de la Universidad de Buenos Aires), se desarrolló en tres intensas jornadas el Primer Encuentro Internacional “La economía de los trabajadores: autogestión y distribución de la riqueza”.

Con más de trescientos participantes de Argentina, Cuba, México, Perú, Colombia, Chile, Brasil, Sudáfrica, Alemania, Croacia, Estados Unidos y Canadá, entre trabajadores, dirigentes y militantes de organizaciones sociales y políticas e investigadores y representantes del mundo académico, el Encuentro debatió en profundidad temas relacionados con el papel de los trabajadores en la gestión de la economía a partir de las experiencias de autogestión, como las empresas recuperadas argentinas, y de las luchas del movimiento obrero en el marco de los cambios en el mundo del trabajo en esta etapa del capitalismo neoliberal global.

En la apertura del encuentro, el jueves 19, hicieron uso de la palabra Andrés Ruggeri, director del Programa Facultad Abierta y responsable general de la organización del evento y Hugo Trinchero, Decano de la Facultad de Filosofía y Letras, junto con representantes de las entidades co-organizadoras: Betsy Bowman (Centro para la Justicia Global, San Miguel de Allende, México), Gabriel Martínez (Federación de Trabajadores de la Energía de la República Argentina), Claudio Lozano (Instituto de Estudios y Formación de la Central de Trabajadores Argentinos), Marcelo Vieta (Centro de Estudios para América Latina y el Caribe, Universidad de York, Toronto, Canadá) y Graciela Monteagudo (Proyecto Argentina Autonomista).
Posteriormente, se desarrollaron paneles sobre los distintos ejes de trabajo de la convocatoria: 1) La economía capitalista hoy: etapa del capitalismo global desde los movimientos populares; 2) La economía autogestionaria: debate sobre las experiencias autogestionarias en la era del capitalismo global (empresas recuperadas, cooperativas rurales, emprendimientos autogestivos solidarios, movimientos cooperativos, redes de intercambio y comercio justo, etc.); 3) Los desafíos de los gobiernos populares en la gestión social de la economía y el Estado; 4) Balance crítico del movimiento cooperativo; y 5) Nuevos desafíos del movimiento sindical: sindicatos, agrupamientos de trabajadores, cogestión y participación en las decisiones.

La riqueza del debate se dio, entre otras cosas, por el hecho de compartir un espacio de discusión trabajadores e investigadores de varios países, intercambiando experiencias y reflexiones sobre los ejes de debate propuestos, con la intención de que generar insumos para la acción política y organizativa de los trabajadores, junto con el enriquecimiento de los análisis teóricos en torno a los problemas de la autogestión obrera y la lucha sindical. Entre los investigadores y académicos, participaron: Hugo Trinchero (antropólogo y Decano de la Facultad de Filosofía y Letras, UBA); Betsy Bowman (Centro para la Justicia Global, EE.UU./México); Marco Gómez y Celia Pacheco (Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana, México); Karin Berlien Araos (Universidad de Chile); Patricia Díaz (CERLAC, Colombia/Canadá); Daniel Maidana (UNGS); Ruth Muñoz (Espacio de economía social, IEF-CTA); Pablo Rodríguez (departamento de Economía Social-CTA Capital); Andrés Ruggeri (Filosofía y Letras, UBA); Carlos Martínez (FFyL-UBA, UNC); Ana M. Fernández (Fac. Psicología, UBA), Graciela Monteagudo (UMASS, EE.UU./Proy. Argentina Autonomista); Sonia Alvarez (UMASS, EEUU); Enrique Zothner (FIUBA); Luis Guerra Chacón (Universidad de La Habana, Cuba); Héctor González (INTI); Bob Stone (Centro para la Justicia Global, EE.UU/México); Julio Gambina (Centro Cultural de la Cooperación); Marcelo Vieta (CERLAC, Canadá); Holm Detlev-Kohler (IIS, Universidad de Oviedo, España/Alemania); Ana Lúcia Marques Camargo (USP, Brasil); Mlodan Jakopovich (Croacia); Peter Ranis (CUNY, Estados Unidos); Flavio Chedid (Brasil, UFRJ); Neville Alexander (Universidad del Cabo, Sudáfrica); Caroline Baillie (Queens University, Canada); Eric Feinblatt (Fashion Institute Technology, NY, USA) y Hernán Harispe (Argentina/Francia), entre otros.

Entre los trabajadores y representantes de organizaciones sociales, expusieron: Carlos Chile (Movimiento Territorial de Liberación); Gustavo Giménez (Coordinador nacional Movimiento Sin Trabajo Teresa Vive; Silvia Díaz (Cooperativa La Cacerola); Cándido González (Cooperativa Chilavert); Fabio Resino (Cooperativa Bauen, FACTA); Derrick Naidoo (IIS, Sudáfrica); Mario Barrios (ANTA-CTA); Avelina Alonso y Ricardo Mascheroni (Área de recursos naturales de la CTA); Javier López (ANTA-CTA); Gabriel Martínez (FETERA-CTA); Sean Smith (Canadian autoworkers, Canadá), Sergio Escobar (cuerpo de delegados del Astillero río Santiago); Rhiannon Edwards (IWW, Canadá); Guillermo Pacagnini (CICOP, Prov. de Bs. As.); y trabajadores representantes de las cooperativas El Petróleo (Neuquén), El Diario de Villa María (Córdoba), Clínica Junín (Córdoba), Unión Saladeña (Corrientes), Cooperativa 16 de diciembre (Jujuy), UST (Buenos Aires), Cogtal, Grácfica Patricios, Gráficos Asociados y Artes Gráficas El Sol (Red Gráfica Cooperativa), Cooperativa 17 de febrero (Córdoba), Mesa de Empresas Recuperadas de Mendoza; y de los Astilleros Río Santiago, Tandanor y Navisupe, , entre otros participantes.

Se presentaron además cerca de 50 ponencias, muchas de las cuales se pueden consultar en el sitio web del Centro de Documentación de Empresas Recuperadas del Programa Facultad Abierta (www.recuperadasdoc.com.ar).

Retomando las cuestiones planteadas en el documento de convocatoria del Encuentro, los debates giraron alrededor de los límites y potencialidades de los procesos de autogestión en el marco de economías capitalistas y la posibilidad de reconstrucción de proyectos político-económicos que tomen en cuenta las experiencias autogestionarias. Otra discusión que atravesó varios de los paneles y exposiciones fue acerca de la caracterización de la llamada economía social, donde se pudieron advertir a grandes rasgos dos posiciones básicas. Una, rescatando el proyecto de la economía social como posibilidad de construcción de alternativa económicas http://www.blogger.com/img/gl.link.gifrelacionadas con el l fenómeno caracterizado como de exclusión social; la otra, enmarcando estos fenómenos, sin desconocer sus características y potencialidades autogestionarias, como parte de una “economía para pobres” que encubre fenómenos de trabajo precario y subsunción a las nuevas formas de superexplotación que adquiere la economía global. Esta última postura se encadena también con la insistencia, especialmente por parte de representantes de organizaciones de trabajadores, de contextualizar estas experiencias como parte de la reconstrucción de una alternativa político-social de los trabajadores, lo cual, a la postre, quedó como un saldo importante de los debates realizados.

Es de destacar el alto nivel de participación en los espacios de discusión posteriores a las exposiciones de los panelistas, a pesar de que el nutrido programa, que superó las expectativas de los organizadores, obligó a trabajar con márgenes de tiempo muy acotados.

También se destacó el trabajo voluntario de los estudiantes colaboradores del Programa Facultad Abierta (muchos de los cuales también fueron expositores) y del arduo y excelente trabajo realizado por los intérpretes solidarios de Babels, que posibilitó la participación y el debate más allá de las barreras idiomáticas.
Por último, las distintas organizaciones participantes expresaron su voluntad de dar una continuidad en el futuro a este evento.

Programa Facultad Abierta
Secretaría de Extensión Universitaria
Facultad de Filosofía y Letras
Universidad de Buenos Aires

(Ver acá, también)

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Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Página/12 sobre Zanón: "Para sacarles la fábrica a los obreros" | "In Order to Take Away the Factory from its Workers"

Synopsis: SACMI, an Italian financial organization that lent money to FaSinPat's (ex-Zanón) former owner, has appealed to the Argentine legal system for a quicker "resolution" to the fate of the recovered factory rather than having to wait the three years of control the recovered-factory's workers were granted by the courts last October. At core, claims one of the workers interviewed by Pagina/12, SACMI's desire is to not only get its money back but to also give back the largest ceramics manufacturer in Argentina to its former owner. According to the article, SACMI is in cahoots with the former ownership, recently pardoning a loan of $13 million Argentine pesos it had granted to Luigi Zanon.

Ver artículo | Read article .

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

La Economía de los Trabajadores: Autogestión y Distribución de la Riqueza | The Workers' Economy: Self-Management and the Distribution of Wealth




(Más fotos del Encuentro | More photos of Encuentro)

(See below for version in English)

19-21 de julio, 2007 | Universidad de Buenos Aires

Trabajadores autogestionados y asalariados, militantes sociales y sindicales, dirigentes políticos e investigadores se reunieron durante tres días en la Facultad de Filosofía y Letras de la Universidad de Buenos Aires. Fue en el marco del primer encuentro internacional “La economía de los trabajadores: autogestión y distribución de la riqueza” que terminó el sábado con un plenario de debate y conclusiones. Las actividades comenzaron el jueves con el objetivo de “poner en debate la superación de las experiencias particulares de autogestión y las discusiones que los trabajadores tienen alrededor de sus luchas políticas y gremiales por la distribución de la riqueza”.

Durante las tres jornadas se discutió, entre otros temas, en torno a las formas de trabajo no asalariadas e informales, a la situación y proyecciones de las experiencias autogestivas del trabajo tanto nacionales como internacionales - de las que hubo representantes de Sudáfrica, Canadá, EEUU, Croacia, Brasil, México, Chile y Cuba -, la relación con el movimiento cooperativo y los nuevos desafíos del movimiento obrero.
(Cortesía de ACTA)

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July 19-21, 2007 | University of Buenos Aires

Self-managed and salaried workers, social and union activists, political leaders, and researchers recently met over three days at the Faculty of Philosophy and Letters, University of Buenos Aires. The conference was conceptually framed within the themes of the "workers' economy," "self-management," and the "redistribution of social wealth" and ended this past Saturday with a plenary that debated the new challenges faced by workers' struggles around the world today. The conference began last Thursday with the objective of "debating how particular experiences of self-management and the discussions that workers are engaging in concerning their political and labour struggles can be extended to include the (re)distribution of the wealth" workers themeselves create.

During the three days, the debates pivoted around, amongst other related themes, informal and non-salaried work, the outlook for contemporary labour struggles, the similarities and differences between work and labour struggles in the North and South, and the situation and prospects for the experiences of self-management both in Argentina and around the world.

It was felt by the vast majority of participants that the conference proved to be an extremely fruitful space where unionized and self-managed workers, cooperativists, political activists, and researchers were able to share experiences and debate and discuss the past, present, and future of work, more egalitarian and democratic forms of reconstituting working life, and actual workable alternatives to the contemporary hegemonic neoliberalist model. The conference saw the participation of individuals and organizations from Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Cuba, the United States, Chile, Mexico, South Africa, Croatia, and Germany.

Some of the papers delivered can be accessed at http://www.recuperadasdoc.com.ar/encuentro/index.htm . The team from the Open Faculty Program, Faculty of Philosophy and Letters at the UBA will be making the conference proceedings and recordings of some of the debates available to the public in the coming months (I will be providing ahttp://www.blogger.com/img/gl.link.gif link to this archive, so check this blog in the next few months).

(Ver acá, también | Go here, as well)

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Links de web relacionados | Related links:

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Monday, April 23, 2007

Mario Alberto Barrios of the UST workers' coop and ANTA in Argentina, comes to Canada

In one of four morning workshops held during the Building Power conference at Ryerson University on April 14, 2007, Mario Alberto Barrios, General Secretary of the National Association of Self-Managed Workers (ANTA) of the Argentine Workers’ Central (CTA) inspired a lively discussion among those present concerning a new politics for labour in Canada. Mario got the workshop started with a challenging question to the 20 or so academics, activists, and union reps from CUPE, CAW, the Ontario Teachers’ Federation, Canadian Union of Postal Workers, and the Steelworkers present in the workshop: “How is another politics possible for organized labour?” This is, he told us, one of the most important questions for a new politics in Argentina and in the struggle for the transformation of workers’ lives.

Read my notes from the April 14, 2007 workshop.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Autogestión in Argentina: Self-Management, Recovering Work, Recovering Life

Mario Alberto Barrios
General Secretary of the National Association of Self-Managed Workers of the Industrial Federation, Argentina Workers’ Central
Secretario General de la Asociación Nacional de Trabajadores Autogestionado (ANTA), Federación Industrial, Central de Trabajadores Argentina (CTA)

Moderator and discussant: Marcelo Vieta
PhD Student in Social and Political Thought, York University

Tuesday, April 17
5.00-6.30
Room 7-162, OISE/UT
252 Bloor St West

In Spanish, “autogestión” means to self-manage work cooperatively. More specifically, it is to “self-constitute” social and productive lives while minimizing the intrusive mediation of traditional bureaucracies, hierarchical organization, or the state. In Argentina, especially since the socio-economic crisis of 2001 and 2002, countless grassroots groups—the piqueteros, worker-recovered factories, microenterprises, human rights groups, environmental and rural groups—have been experimenting with and concretely practicing forms of autogestión that both contest the neoliberal enclosures of life and, at the same time, move beyond them.

Since December 2005, the Argentina Workers’ Central (CTA) has embarked on a project of organizing Argentine workers involved in self-managing their workspaces and jobs under the auspices of the National Association of Self-Managed Workers (ANTA). This was a response to the reality of the state and traditional unions turning their backs on the plight of the cooperatively employed, underemployed, and the unemployed. Initially made up of 83 organizations and over 800 members, ANTA lobbies for and assists self-managed workers in their struggle to secure pensions, fight for just work conditions, and access favourable loans, all the while attempting to give political voice to the voiceless via collective organizing.

In this presentation, Mario Alberto Barrios will discuss his work in the struggle for the rights of self-managed workers in Argentina. Involved in labour education and union leadership since 1986, Mario has been ANTA’s general secretary since its first days in late-2005. With Mario we ask three fundamental questions: How viable is self-management (autogestión) today? Can self-managed work relations lead to a better way of life? Can self-management work in Canada?

Seminar organized by Diálogo Argentina-Canada, CERLAC (York University), Transformative Learning Centre and Social Economy Centre (OISE/UT)

The travel of Mario Barrios is sponsored by CAW Sam Gindin Chair in Social Justice and Democracy, Ryerson University

Autogestión: Self-Management in Argentina

A conversation with Mario Alberto Barrios, General Secretary of the National Association of Self-Managed Workers of the Industrial Federation, Argentina Workers' Central.

Monday, April 16, 7-9 pm
Tequila Bookworm
512 Queen St. West, Toronto

In Argentina, especially since the socio-economic crisis of 2001-02, an array of grassroots groups has been carrying out experiments in autogestión, or self-management. To self-manage is not only to organize and produce cooperatively. It is also to transform traditional economic relations into 'social economies' that foster more equitable, humane, and horizontal relations among individuals and groups. Toronto School of Creativity & Inquiry invites you to join us for a conversation about self-management with Mario Alberto Barrios, who is active in struggles for the rights of self-managed workers in Argentina. This conversation is a continuation of TSCI's Laboratory Latin America series, a series built on the exchange of collective experiments in the production of new forms of working, living, and creating.

Friday, March 23, 2007

The Worker-Recovered Enterprises Movement in Argentina:...

... Workers’ Self-Management and Hope within Social-Economic Crisis

The text and accompanying PowerPoint slides for my
March 20, 2006 CERLAC Brown Bag presentation.

This presentation covers the latest key themes in my ongoing in situ PhD research looking into the worker-recovered enterprises (empresas recuperadas por sus trabajadores, or ERT) in the city of Buenos Aires, Argentina.

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Saturday, March 17, 2007

RedPepper magazine articles on Venezuela

Red Pepper | On the Venezuelan Bolivarian Revolution

Agora TV - Online films on Argentina's experiments with social resistance

AgoraTV

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Friday, March 16, 2007

THE WORKERS’ ECONOMY: SELF-MANAGEMENT AND THE DISTRIBUTION OF WEALTH

Invitation to participate in…

“THE WORKERS’ ECONOMY:
SELF-MANAGEMENT AND THE DISTRIBUTION OF WEALTH”

FIRST INTERNATIONAL GATHERING TO DEBATE AND DISCUSS SELF-MANAGEMENT (AUTOGESTIÓN)

Faculty of Philosophy and Letters, University of Buenos Aires


Dates:
July 19-21, 2007

Location:
University of Buenos Aires
217 – 25 de Mayo Avenue
Autonomous City of Buenos Aires, Argentina

CALL FOR PAPERS AND PROPOSALS FOR: COMPLETED OR ONGOING PROJECT PRESENTATIONS, PAPERS, ROUNDTABLE THEMES, DEBATE AND DISCUSSION THEMES

Please send a 250-word (max) abstract by July 1, 2007, or any other correspondence to:
Correspondence in Spanish: fabierta@filo.uba.ar
Correspondence in English: UBA.selfmanagement@gmail.com

+++++++++++++++++++++++

The current debates surrounding self-management: A brief overview

Workers’ struggles have reemerged with force in the last decade in numerous forms—union-based struggles, self-managed workspaces, rural movements, unemployed workers’ movements…. These are responses to the hegemony of neoliberal globalization imposing itself throughout the world with absolutist pretensions after the debacle of so-called “real socialism.”

At the same time, the old methods and strategies of struggle—class-based parties and traditional unions, amongst others—have by now shown themselves to be, at minimum, insufficient. Old debates and ideological frameworks are now in crisis. The dominant discourses used to describe the functioning of the capitalist world system can no longer explain quickly enough (never mind predict) the changes in this system that have been occurring over the past few decades, while popular struggles have had to create new paths without having a clear horizon in sight from which to map out a final destiny. And the plethora of means ever available for capitalism to respond to threats against it, as well as the sheer force and relentlessness of its repressive power, amply overcomes the popular sectors’ capacity for change…with tragic consequences.

While the taking of State power has been the driving objective of political forces for more than a century now, more recently there have appeared compelling movements that, on occasion, have questioned such objectives for revolutionary action. At minimum, these movements distance their strategies and tactics from the aims of taking State power, recognizing the difficulties of such a task. But, as evidenced in various Latin American contexts, some popular movements with solid historical roots have ended up allying themselves with national governments swept into power via electoral triumph. And so, when they least expected it, these movements found themselves at times controlling key sectors of the State’s administrative apparatus which, in turn, needed to be profoundly transformed in order to be oriented towards grassroots-based policies.

Of particular importance for many of these grassroots groups are those policies that relate to managing production and the (re)distribution of wealth.

Wavering between these situations and theoretic-ideological debates, workers have been generating—through their actual practices—an alternative course for steering life between inaction and resignation on the one side and the fight for total political power on the other. Subjected to the permanent crisis provoked by neoliberal capitalism, a growing number of workers are playing an increasingly key role in the re-creation and self-management of greater portions of the means of production and the economy as an immediate outcome of their struggles and resistances. And this despite being in the middle of a capitalist ocean. In some countries, workers’ take-over of government and their increased control of the state apparatus (i.e., Venezuela, Bolivia) have, sooner rather than later, positioned grassroots workers’ organizations and their methods of self-management as legitimate vehicles for administrating the economy and as decisively important forces for controlling the strategic economic means of society.

Recovered factories, diverse kinds of self-managed microenterprises, rural cooperative settlements, new types of unionized workers’ movements, networks of fair trade and fair work, and numerous other kinds of organizations and forms of struggle are part of this new landscape. Sometimes they take on autonomous forms. In certain situations they are fragmented. In other situations they form part of powerful and popular political movements, larger social movements, political parties, leftist fronts and coalitions, and even programs that are at times stimulated by the State or, more directly, by a government’s actual public polices.

Regardless of the size and shape of these worker-contoured social-political landmarks, this new alternative landscape puts back on the table the question of the legitimate role of workers in the management of a society’s economy. The working class still does, after all, make up the majority of the world’s population. And workers still depend on their own labour for their sustenance, be they engaged in wage-labour, partaking of the cooperative management of their collective labour, or living in more dire circumstances such as the structurally unemployed, the overexploited, the marginalized, and the poor.

A debate and discussion around these issues, therefore, is needed now more than ever: While the processes and consequences of globalization have been deeply and consistently questioned by numerous social and international movements, the project of actually creating an alternative that can supercede the merely declarative, or intellectual-theoretic reflection, has not advanced much, at least in a form that consistently takes into account both the theoretical and the practical aspects of self-management. (This is not to ignore or lessen the very real, efficacious, and practical outcomes realized in efforts such as the World Social Forum.) Rather, what is increasingly and definitely advancing are the myriad resistances to neoliberal capital that have centred on self-management as a creative force for inventing new experiences and new lives. However partial and nascent these advances might or might not be, they can serve to fruitfully inform and inspire the greater global analyses and debates that are looking for alternatives to capitalist life.

The questions raised by self-management:

What we are proposing for this First International Gathering, however, is not what might be interpreted, at first glance, as a debate on the “social economy” (as fomented, for example, by the World Bank and NGOs focused on “social containment”). Rather, we are proposing the reverse: We would like to engage in discussions centred on the socialization of the economy. Instead of waiting for the fulfillment of the promises set in a far-off utopia grounded in a revolutionary conquest of political power, workers from around the world are presently advancing projects that are giving them back their lives and labour. However fragmentary and limited these projects might currently be, they tend to be rooted in actual practices and concrete experiences rather than in the promissory and the abstract.

What conclusions and lessons can we take from these experiences, then? What connections do these workers’ struggles have with traditional social and political struggles? How do they relate to, or interconnect themselves within, the popular, grassroots-based governments that are increasingly taking hold of power in Latin America? How do these experiences of economic self-management survive in the hostile markets of global capital? How can they generate a new business logic of self-management within the framework of a suffocating system? Can they survive without change to the actual economic system and without transforming those very forms of organizations that they are attempting to overcome? Are they isolated instances of resistance, consequences of the very crisis of global capital, or do they show a path toward a new way of organizing production within a more just social system? Can workers already organized in unions once again come to pressure capital and dispute capital’s power-base, or should the struggle to overcome capital now be engaged from within the actual spaces of production and be about the actual self-management of production by workers? Will these struggles actually be used and appropriated by capital to more efficiently accumulate capital? These are just some of the questions that we feel should be at the centre of the debate amongst workers, intellectuals, and social and political organizations.

This is not just an academic debate, however. It is essentially a political one that should be moved forward with the participation of workers and their organizations. Proceeding in any other way would render the debate an interesting intellectual exercise with little practical consequence. But those who are thinking about these and other issues related to social movements and alternatives to capital from within an intellectual perspective should also of course, out of necessity, participate in these debates. Also at the table should be social and political leaders that encompass views from the perspective of labour organizations and political processes that are disputing State power and that, as in Venezuela or Bolivia, are carrying forward policies that are fostering these experiences of self-management.

From the Faculty of Philosophy and Letters at the University of Buenos Aires, we propose further strides towards this necessary debate. For five years now we have been working in conjunction with workers in Argentina’s recovered factories and workspaces, attempting to support their processes, document their experiences, investigate their practices, and to better comprehend and reflect on the consequences of their experiments. From the Open Faculty Program (Programa Facultad Abierta) and the Interdisciplinary Program in Scientific and Technological Transference with Worker-Recovered Enterprises (Programa Interdisciplinario de Transferencia Científico Tecnológica con Empresas Recuperadas por sus Trabajadores) we have been developing with these workers projects that seek to extend technological capabilities, develop skills, build capacity, and strengthen the viability of these cooperative workplaces, investigating, on a broader level, the self-management of productive unities abandoned by their owners and recovered and reopened by workers. For us, and we hope for many others, the time has come to incorporate the conclusions stemming from these lessons and experiences—both from the perspective of workers and also academics—into the debate that is occupying the world more and more, a debate that is fundamentally about the direction of these struggles and the change needed in the system of social, political, and economic relations.

From this place we convene this First International Gathering to debate and discuss self-management and its possibilities and challenges…

By: Andrés Ruggeri
Translated by: Marcelo Vieta

++++++++++++++++++++

“THE WORKERS’ ECONOMY:
SELF-MANAGEMENT AND THE DISTRIBUTION OF WEALTH”


Dates:
July 19-21, 2007

Location:
University of Buenos Aires
217 – 25 de Mayo Avenue
Autonomous City of Buenos Aires, Argentina

Organizers
The Open Faculty Program (Faculty of Philosophy and Letters, University of Buenos Aires)
Co-Organizers:
Center for Global Justice, San Miguel de Allende, Mexico (http://www.globaljusticecenter.org/)
International Institute for Selfmanagement, Frankfurt, Germany (http://www.iism.net/)
Argentina Autonomista Project (http://www.autonomista.org)

Conference format:

Debate Roundtables:
Debate and discussion roundtables based on central themes, interspersed with panels to guide the discussion.

A final synopsis of each roundtable will be realized and made available as conference proceedings.

Opening and closing plenary sessions will be held.

The debates and discussions will be filmed and recorded for archival and educational purposes in order to make available materials and resources for research purposes, consulting purposes, and for assisting current and future self-management projects.

Thematic Roundtables:
More specific roundtables and panels will be convened focusing on particular themes of interest to participants.

Presentations:
Presentations of documents and already completed or ongoing work for discussion.

Those who forward their work to the gathering’s organizers with enough lead-time will have their work published in a CD before the conference to be available at the conference. Please forward materials to include in the CD by April 30, 2007 to: fabierta@filo.uba.ar

Preliminary conference schedule:
Thematic debates and project roundtables (first two days):
• The capitalist economy today: Stages of global capitalism from the perspective of popular movements.
• The self-managed economy: Discussions concerning the experiences of self-management in the era of global capitalism (recovered enterprises, rural cooperatives, self-managed and solidarity microenterprises, cooperative movements, alternative networks of exchange, fair trade and fair work initiatives, etc.)
• The challenges faced by popularly-based, grassroots-supported governments regarding the social management of the economy and the State.
• A critical look at the cooperative movement.
• New challenges faced by union movements; unions; new types of workers’ organizations and collectives; co-management and participatory decision making.
• Plenary sessions (last day)
• The (re)distribution of wealth: The social economy or the socialization of the economy? Suggestions being offered by workers’ movements.
• The limits of self-management: The political possibilities and challenges of a production regime under workers’ control.
• Articulations, expressions, and experiences of the struggle for self-management with regard to other political struggles and other social movements.

Special roundtables:
• The environment and workers’ self-management.
• Experiments in self-management with regard to other social-political struggles and social movements.
• Work from the perspective of gender.
• The role of the university and intellectuals in workers’ struggles.

Free admission, donations accepted:
The gathering is free for participants and audience members. We invite donations for assisting the travel expenses of workers from outside of the Buenos Aires area. For U.S. tax-deductible donations, checks in U.S. dollars should be made payable to: Research Associates Foundation. Please write “Workers' Economy Conference” in the memo, and send it to:
9902 Crystal Court, Suite 107, BC-2323, Laredo, TX 78045. Donations can also be made on-line at www.globaljusticecenter.org Please again note Workers' Economy Conference.

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Thursday, March 15, 2007

My upcoming talk on the worker-recovered enterprises in Argentina

York University
March 20, 2007
2:30-4:30
York Lanes, room 280


"The Worker-Recovered Enterprises in Argentina: Worker Self-Management and Hope Within Socio-Economic Crisis"

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Friday, December 01, 2006

Defining States. Mattering Differently.

A Conversation with Brian Massumi and Erin Manning

A Toronto School of Creativity & Inquiry Event

Saturday, November 25, 2006
2:00 – 4:00 pm
LOCATION: Faculty of Architecture, Landscape and Design, University of Toronto

Let’s get to the heart of the matter. Nation state. Rogue state. Natural state. State of exception. State form. Head of state. Police state. State of grace. State of mind. State variable. State of fear. State of emergency. Indeterminate state. Nascent state. Static. State your point. Mental state. Emotional state. Altered state. State jurisdiction. State of the union. State of affairs. State your name. Stately. Statism. Subject of the statement. State your purpose. Smattering. Grey matter. Anti-matter. Love matters. Matter and energy. Matter and memory. Matter of principle. Reading matter. Matter of minutes. Matters of the heart. Matter of course. Matter of opinion. For that matter. Money matters. What does it matter? Mind over matter. Fecal matter. No matter what. Matter-form. Matter of fact. Matter of habit. What’s the matter? Matter of life and death.


“… the question is not how to elude the order-word but how to elude the death-sentence it envelops, how to develop its power of escape”

–Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari

What can be done in the face of states of domination that are able to thrive on the assaults against them? Can we defy these states? Can we matter differently? Join us for an intimate conversation around these questions with Brian Massumi and Erin Manning.

Brian Massumi specializes in philosophy, media theory, and visual culture. He is the author of Parables for the Virtual: Movement, Affect, Sensation and A User’s Guide to Capitalism and Schizophrenia: Deviations from Deleuze and Guattari. His translations from the French include Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari’s A Thousand Plateaus. He teaches in the Communication Department of the Université de Montréal, where he directs the Workshop in Radical Empiricism.

Erin Manning is a philosopher, visual artist and dancer. She is assistant professor in Studio Art and Film Studies, Concordia University and director of The Sense Lab, an interdisciplinary research-creation laboratory. She is the author of Ephemeral Territories: Representing Nation, Home and Identity in Canada and Politics of Touch: Sense, Movement, Sovereignty.

About Toronto School of Creativity & Inquiry
Collaborating with a diffuse network of activists, artists, and theorists, Toronto School of Creativity & Inquiry initiates events that inquire into the new enclosures and creative pathways beyond them.

Contact
www.tsci.ca
torontoschool@sympatico.ca

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Defining States. Mattering Differently.

A Conversation with Brian Massumi and Erin Manning

A Toronto School of Creativity & Inquiry Event

Saturday, November 25, 2006
2:00 – 4:00 pm
LOCATION: Faculty of Architecture, Landscape and Design, University of Toronto

Let’s get to the heart of the matter. Nation state. Rogue state. Natural state. State of exception. State form. Head of state. Police state. State of grace. State of mind. State variable. State of fear. State of emergency. Indeterminate state. Nascent state. Static. State your point. Mental state. Emotional state. Altered state. State jurisdiction. State of the union. State of affairs. State your name. Stately. Statism. Subject of the statement. State your purpose. Smattering. Grey matter. Anti-matter. Love matters. Matter and energy. Matter and memory. Matter of principle. Reading matter. Matter of minutes. Matters of the heart. Matter of course. Matter of opinion. For that matter. Money matters. What does it matter? Mind over matter. Fecal matter. No matter what. Matter-form. Matter of fact. Matter of habit. What’s the matter? Matter of life and death.


“… the question is not how to elude the order-word but how to elude the death-sentence it envelops, how to develop its power of escape”

–Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari

What can be done in the face of states of domination that are able to thrive on the assaults against them? Can we defy these states? Can we matter differently? Join us for an intimate conversation around these questions with Brian Massumi and Erin Manning.

Brian Massumi specializes in philosophy, media theory, and visual culture. He is the author of Parables for the Virtual: Movement, Affect, Sensation and A User’s Guide to Capitalism and Schizophrenia: Deviations from Deleuze and Guattari. His translations from the French include Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari’s A Thousand Plateaus. He teaches in the Communication Department of the Université de Montréal, where he directs the Workshop in Radical Empiricism.

Erin Manning is a philosopher, visual artist and dancer. She is assistant professor in Studio Art and Film Studies, Concordia University and director of The Sense Lab, an interdisciplinary research-creation laboratory. She is the author of Ephemeral Territories: Representing Nation, Home and Identity in Canada and Politics of Touch: Sense, Movement, Sovereignty.

About Toronto School of Creativity & Inquiry
Collaborating with a diffuse network of activists, artists, and theorists, Toronto School of Creativity & Inquiry initiates events that inquire into the new enclosures and creative pathways beyond them.

Contact
www.tsci.ca
torontoschool@sympatico.ca

Saturday, September 23, 2006

The disappearance of a key witness...

...in the first conviction to life imprisonment of one of the repressors of the 1976-1983 dictatorship in the past week. BBCMundo.com coverage. López has been missing since last Sunday. Nora Cortiñas mentioned this in her talk at York Unversity yesterday.

Nora Cortiñas gave a talk at York University yesterday

Last night I went to a stirring talk given by Nora Cortiñas, President and one of the founding members of the Madres de Plaza de Mayo, Linea Fundadora (Mothers of May Square), at the Centre for Research on Latin America and the Caribbean (CERLAC)at York University. Her talk was the 2006 Michael Baptista Lecture. Having talked about the plight of here still-missing son, Carlos Gustavo, hundreds of times by now, she spoke completely off notes. She received two standing ovations. Her continued struggle was an inspiration to us all.

I'll post my notes form the talk in the coming days. For now, here's a synopsis of some of the themes she touched - themes and tactics that are crucial for NSMs in Argentina these days:
*the continued fight against repression (state and other kinds),
*the importance of memory,
*reconceptualizing the 76-83 dictatorship as a "civic-militarist" government,
*corruption,
*"justicia y castigo" (justice and punishment) for those that continue to live with impunity,
*solidarity between Las Madres, other Argentine social moveements, and international NSMs and "madres de los desaparecidos" in other Latin American countries,
*the effects of internal and external exile and the disappearance of 30,000 of Argentina's most progressive and militant voices on the country and on the struggles for liberation,
*the "escrache" as a tactic of "social justice" in light of chronic impunity,
*the loss of identity of the children of the disappeared,
*the effects of the long era of neoliberalism in Argentina and its crystalization in the dictatorshio of 76-83,
*the tensions between securing a democratic state (to avoid the tragedies of the past and secure human rights) and the desire for autonomy.

From the event's announcement

This year marks the thirtieth anniversary of the 1976 military coup d'état that ushered in a seven-year military dictatorship in Argentina. An estimated 30,000 people were forcibly "disappeared", tortured and murdered during this period, among them, Cortiñas' son, Carlos Gustavo, a university student and member of the Peronist youth movement. Shortly after her son's "disappearance" in April 1977 and at the height of the military dictatorship, Nora joined a group of mothers who had met in the waiting rooms of police stations while trying to discover the whereabouts of their children and organized the first of a continuing series of demonstrations in front of the Presidential Palace in the Plaza de Mayo in Buenos Aires.

Ever since, each Thursday afternoon, the Mothers continue to march in the Plaza de Mayo, demanding that the fate of the victims be made known. The enormous risks they took was illustrated by the fact that some of them, including Azucena de Villaflor, their first president, themselves disappeared. Because of their bravery and sacrifices the Madres have become an important political force in Argentina and aninternational symbol of human rights activism. They continue to demand that the fate of the victims be made known and that justice be served for these crimes.

Cortiñas will discuss the history of the Madres and the role of women in struggles for human rights.

An internationally renowned human rights activist, Nora Cortiñas is a social psychologist and recipient of several honorary doctorates including from the National University of Salta and the Université Libre de Bruxelles. She holds a chair in the Economics Department at the University of Buenos Aires where she teaches on the
relationship between economic power and human rights.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Autogestión: crisis dentro de la principal organización de compañas tomadas por los trabajadores

07-09-2006

Varias empresas recuperadas argentinas crean una coordinadora más participativa
Luisina Castiglioni

Diagonal

Las fábricas recuperadas suponen una de las luchas sociales más relevantes en Argentina. Tras la crisis de 2001, como respuesta a los problemas laborales, trabajadores de cientos de empresas decidieron apoderarse de ellas y gestionar la producción. Actualmente, a causa de la fragmentación del Movimiento Nacional de Empresas Recuperadas (MNER) generada por los personalismos de sus dirigentes, trabajadores de las cooperativas han dejado de reconocer a la dirección del MNER. Proponen reorganizarse en un movimiento nuevo, donde se refleje la autogestión y la democracia directa que ya viven en sus trabajos.

Todavía sin nombre, sin representaciones, sin definiciones marcadas, un grupo de cooperativas gestionadas por sus trabajadores decidieron embarcarse en la conformación de un espacio nuevo donde verdaderamente se sientan representadas y puedan construir en forma colectiva el tipo de movimiento que los cobije.

De esta manera, a partir de la crisis del Movimiento Nacional de Empresas Recuperadas (MNER) que los aglutinaba, trabajadores del Hotel BAUEN, Gráfica Patricios y Viniplast impulsaron reuniones informales junto a otras cooperativas.

Los dos últimos años el MNER se había transformado sólo en un nombre desprestigiado por la política y los personalismos de sus dirigentes. De tinte peronista, con un dilema de interpretaciones, había nacido en aquel convulsionado 2002, con el objeto de aglutinar y participar en la recuperación de las empresas. Su política se basaba en la reivindicación, en el marco de un proyecto de consolidación industrial nacional, de la ocupación de fábricas como una nueva forma de luchar contra la desocupación. Sin embargo el desempeño de sus dirigentes estuvo lejos de esa proclama. Los trabajadores dijeron “¡basta!”, ignoraron a las dirigencias originarias y comenzaron a autoorganizarse para refundar, no sin resabios, un nuevo movimiento cooperativo, ya teniendo en claro que ésta vez querían ser voz propia del espacio del que formarían parte.

Construcción colectiva

De esa forma, el 5 de agosto pasado 11 cooperativas localizadas en Buenos Aires se reunieron en un plenario para comenzar a repensar una forma de construcción colectiva. Las definiciones aún no están cerradas, pero sí existe la intención de buscar otro tipo de relaciones sociales solidarias cuyos valores organizativos intenten encaminarse a la horizontalidad, la cooperación recíproca y la transmisión del conocimiento acumulado por las experiencias anteriores, así como acompañar, en concreto, tanto los conflictos venideros como los procesos una vez recuperados.

En la jornada plenaria estuvieron presentes el Hotel BAUEN, La Nueva Esperanza (ex Global), Viniplast, Ceres, Cooperpel, Lácteos Monte Castro, Gráfica Patricios y Rabbione. Se sumaron como invitadas las cooperativas La Unión de Miramar, el Frigorífico de Bahía Blanca (actualmente en conflicto), entre otras. En un documento todas concluyeron: “El MNER está agotado, y es necesario fundar una organización nueva”.

La ocupación, la experiencia concreta de lucha y las relaciones de explotación desembocaron en el planteo de construir otro tipo de articulaciones entre empresas. De esa manera, las cooperativas decidieron conformar una mesa horizontal con dos representantes por empresa, de carácter revocable, cuyo compromiso es incentivar y crear las condiciones para la participación de base a través de reuniones abiertas, espacios comunes y actividades grupales de integración como instancias de democratización de las herramientas de información a través de publicaciones resolutivas e informativas.

Otro de los principios hace referencia a las formas de organización: la no autoexplotación ni la explotación. Se trata de una de las bases asumidas por las cooperativas. En ese sentido, se plantearon instancias de concienciación sobre qué es ser un trabajador de una empresa recuperada, qué implica el compromiso colectivo, social y de cooperación mutua tanto dentro de cada uno de las empresas como con el resto de las cooperativas. Esta concienciación estaría asentada en trabajar sobre “quienes somos”, “no olvidar de dónde venimos”, “no perder la memoria de todo lo que pasamos”.

Desde esta perspectiva, el debate también debe estar abierto para los socios que tratan como empleados al resto de sus compañeros. El molde que traen los compañeros de la experiencia anterior donde había una relación de patrón-empleado, lleva en algunos casos (sobre todo a los socios originarios) a querer ser patrones de los socios nuevos y en otros a falta de compromiso, donde sólo cumplen horario y no se comprometen, como si fueran sólo empleados.

Por otra parte, ante la falta de formación técnico-administrativa se estableció que, si bien esta tarea está fuertemente centrada en cada una de las cooperativas, el movimiento tendrá la responsabilidad de promocionar y propiciar todas las capacitaciones y especializaciones que estén dirigidas a completar la formación del conjunto de los compañeros y el perfeccionamiento en cada uno de sus perfiles. La formación remite a aumentar la rentabilidad, con el objeto de abrir fuentes de trabajo y sumar más trabajadores desocupados al empleo autogestionado.

Falta de legislación

La inexistencia de una legislación que ampare a las empresas recuperadas supone que el paso a la legalidad dependa de la voluntad del juzgado de turno o a la legislatura de la jurisdicción, en caso de que el conflicto se dirima en alguno de los dos poderes. Por ello plantearon la necesidad de diseñar estrategias que conlleven a expropiaciones definitivas de los bienes muebles e inmuebles.

De tal desprotección legislativa se desprenden otros problemas estructurales a resolver, como la falta de créditos que frena la renovación tecnológica, la imposibilidad de efectuar aportes jubilatorios y la tenencia de una cobertura médica. Ante estos aspectos, el plenario dio cuenta de la necesidad de atribuir un rol más amplio al nuevo movimiento. Aún los planteamientos son frescos, entusiastas e intentan poner en escena el protagonismo de trabajadores que se animaron a pelear por sus fuentes de trabajo y desafiar, muchos sin saberlo, el sistema social que se encarga de repelerlos.

“Sabemos lo que no queremos pero todavía no sabemos hacia dónde vamos”, expresó Cecilia Casablanca integrante del nuevo espacio. Eso sí, ya están pensando otro nombre que los identifique. Uno de los propuestos evoca el protagonismo que los pone en escena como partícipes, no sólo en el proceso productivo, sino también en la dirección de la empresa: Asociación de cooperativas argentinas sin patrón. Sea este u otro nombre, la reorganización de los trabajadores siempre es una forma de descolonizar el orden vigente.

Zanon: por la gestión obrera

Los obreros de la planta cerámica de Zanon vienen llevando adelante una serie de movilizaciones para exigir a los diputados que den curso al proyecto de “Expropiación definitiva”. Tras la reforma constitucional provincial, un articulado dispuso que la legislatura estará obligada a tratar cualquier proyecto de “iniciativa popular” que cuente con el apoyo de 8.000 firmas de sus habitantes. En mayo, los obreros presentaron el proyecto acompañado de 19.600 firmas. Logró tener carácter parlamentario. Pero los legisladores siguen sin dar respuesta, lo que ha llevado a incrementar las protestas de apoyo. En ese marco, en octubre vence el plazo que el juez de la causa les otorgó, un año atrás, para la explotación de la planta. No obstante, los obreros no esperan. La gestión sigue creciendo y las obras solidarias ya son naturales. Este mes incorporaron 15 nuevos trabajadores, construyeron una vivienda para una familia de niños huérfanos, continúan donando cerámicas a sectores sociales de bajos recursos y aportando fondos para trabajadores en proceso de lucha.

Cara y cruz para el BAUEN

Los trabajadores del autogestionado Hotel BAUEN volvieron al trote en la pelea por la expropiación. Tres meses atrás, un fallo judicial contravencional favoreció a la cooperativa al momento que dio el aval a la declaración de posesión del bien, levantó la clausura administrativa y abrió cauce a una investigación penal sobre los ex propietarios por presunto vaciamiento empresarial y falso testimonio. Sin embargo, la jueza de la causa comercial, amparándose en la petición de restitución de sus dueños y la ley votada en diciembre del año pasado de llamar a una mesa de concertación a 120 días para negociar las condiciones de devolución, exigió a los trabajadores la presentación de informes sobre la situación de la cooperativa. Mientras tanto, los trabajadores dan la batalla en la legislatura para lograr que los legisladores voten el proyecto modificatorio presentado por el jefe de Gobierno que reemplazaría al sancionado en diciembre del año pasado. A su vez, la cooperativa, a través de diputados nacionales, presentará un proyecto de ley de expropiación en el Congreso argentino.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

A call to refusal, blackout style

A fine proposal for going off-grid and reclaiming our lives from the overwhelming pace of electric/digital life:
Proposal for the Adoption of the Blackout as a Holiday, by J. Sinopoli, Care of The New York Ministry of Unofficial Popular Holidays

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Entangled Territories | Event wrap up

Images from last Sunday's Entangled Territories event, courtesy of my friend and co-conspirator in TSCI, Christine Shaw: http://www.publicacts.ca/act16/.

Go here for more info on the event, which saw about 70 activists, academics, and city dwellers discuss three key questions around how we are entangled in, and how we can find new possibilities for and beyond, the enclosures of urban territories:
+ How is capital capturing urban territories? Which spaces are currently under threat of enclosure?
+ What possibilities exist for the state to protect existing public spaces or initiate new ones, when its role has increasingly become the policing of space?
+ What capacities do we have for escaping existing enclosures, in the name of constructing new urban commons?

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Several articles on precarious work in Argentina

Courtesy of Indymedia Argentina: Contra el trabajo precario

Also see my previous post on this topic, posted on July 2005
.

Entangled Territories - Location and Readings

Please note that Entangled Territories is taking place in the east parking lot of Idomo, 1100 Sheppard Avenue West, Toronto, Ontario, kitty-corner to the Downsview TTC subway station.

Download PDF poster for map and event details.

A growing set of readings on topics related to Entangled Territories is available here.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Entangled Territories - Event Announcement

A Toronto School of Creativity & Inquiry event
With/in Adrian Blackwell's carpool + Republic of Safety
Sunday, August 6, 2006
4:00-9:00pm

Location: Idomo east parking lot, kitty-corner to the Downsview TTC stop (see here for further details).


The gentrification of Toronto's downtown has displaced low-income residents. New immigrants, often precariously employed, are warehoused in high-density structures within low-density suburbs. City land is rezoned for optimum profit extraction rather than for livability. The costs of using public transit are rising as new programs of surveillance carefully monitor the smog-saturated city.

This neoliberal agenda remains contested by urban social movements committed to the building of a new commons: street protests, squats, community gardens, housing co-ops, public-space interventions, regularization campaigns.

Toronto's territory is entangled in divergent forces of neoliberal enclosure and public commons. Animating this play of forces is a triad of actors: capitalists, governments, and multitudes. At stake in their balance of power is access to affordable places to live, sources of healthy food, a secure income, mobility, pleasurable forms of life.

+ How is capital capturing urban territories? Which spaces are currently under threat of enclosure?
+ What possibilities exist for the state to protect existing public spaces or initiate new ones, when its role has increasingly become the policing of space?
+ What capacities do we have for escaping existing enclosures, in the name of constructing new urban commons?

Join us for a conversation in and about the city's entangled territories. We'll move ourselves through a series of small-group discussions, and then end off the event with a collective conversation.

The event will be held in a parking lot near Downsview Park. This space is entangled, at the end of a subway line, yet in the middle of the city: in the inner suburbs, next to an army base, big boxes, and warehouses, at the confluence of highways, subways, and an airport. Our site is an abstract space of pause within this non-place of circulation.

Guests
Yvonne Bambrick (Streets are for People) + Sue Bunce (Planning Action) + Rob Gill (York) + Heather Haynes (Toronto Free Gallery) + Joe Hermer (UT) + Luis Jacob (artist) + Peter Nyers (McMaster) + Darren O'Donnell (artist) + Jay Pitter (artist) + SYN- (artists) + Leah Sandals (Spacing) + Jeff Shantz + Kika Thorne (artist) + Rinaldo Walcott (OISE) + others TBC

About TSCI
Collaborating with a network of activists, artists, and theorists, Toronto School of Creativity & Inquiry initiates events that inquire into the new enclosures and creative pathways beyond them.

About carpool
carpool (apparatus of capture) is a tent that connects four cars to form a larger composition. The cars are caught in fabric, creating a structure as they move apart from one another, temporarily immobilizing them while opening their private interiors to public use.

My most recent article on Worker-Recovered Enterprises in this month's New Socialist magazine (Issue 57)

Argentina's Worker-Recovered Enterprises Movement: Reconstituting Working Lives

Monday, July 24, 2006

Coverage of Eduardo Murúa in Toronto, May-June 2006

Coverage from my friend, Rhiannon Edwards, of Eduardo Murúa's recent trip to Toronto.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Several articles on precarious work in Argentina

Courtesy of Indymedia Argentina: Contra el trabajo precario

Also see my previous post on this topic.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

The Worker-Recovered Enterprises in Argentina: The Political and Socioeconomic Challenges of Self-Management

A paper written by Andrés Ruggeri, professor at the University of Buenos Aires's Faculty of Philosophy and Letters and translated by me. The paper will be presented by Andrés next week at The Centre for Global Justice's annual conference, this year entitled Another World is Necessary. The conference will take place between July 19-29, 2006 in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. Here is the paper's abstract:

Abstract
The worker-recovered enterprises (empresas recuperadas por sus trabajadores, or ERT), defined as productive business unities abandoned or emptied by their owners and put into operation once again by their workers under self-management, are a relatively new phenomenon in Argentina and, on the whole, in Latin America. As such, they have attracted much world attention, especially after the Argentine crisis of December 2001. Nevertheless, the ERTs represent much more than a series of labour conflicts that culminate with the taking of factories and enterprises by workers. It is important to understand this process within the context of the almost total destruction of the nation’s productive apparatus and the sentencing of millions of workers to unemployment and structural marginality. Putting ERTs back into production signifies much for the almost 10,000 ERT workers that have engaged in these important and novel struggles, both from an economic as well as from a political and cultural point of view. In support of these workers, a research project out of the University of Buenos Aires has been developed to explore the historical, social, and economic contexts of the issues leading to the ERT movement and their particular characteristics and challenges. This research includes not only quantitative and qualitative data (detailed in the book The Recovered Enterprises in Argentina (Buenos Aires: Faculty of Philosophy and Letters, University of Buenos Aires, 20051) but also a conceptual analysis pivoting on the concept of social innovation rooted in self-management. Fundamentally, we have come to understand this social innovation to include the strategies and methods destined to generate forms of productive unities outside of the paths dictated by the capitalist form of economic organization.

Read rest of paper.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

On Merleau-Ponty's Phenomenology of Politics

Paper delivered by Kheya Bag at this year's Society for Existential Phenomenological Theory and Culture conference at York University during Congress 2006: "The Language of Real Life: Communication in Merleau-Ponty's Phenomenology of Politics"

My response to Kheya Bag's paper
.

Friday, June 30, 2006

¡Chau, Argentina, y gracias por la alegria de tu futbol!

I think -- my biasness notwithstanding -- that this Argentinean side was one of the best I've seen in a long time, and arguably the best side in this World Cup (certainly the most fun to watch). Regardless of how Argentina left the World Cup -- they gotta get rid of those penalty shots -- thank you Argentina. Thank you for giving us, for a brief two and a half weeks, so much happiness.

And, to remind us of how beautifully they played the beautiful game, here are video highlights of one of the best games from a single team that I have ever seen, and it's been judged the best game of the tournament by many, if not one of the best performances from a single team in a very long time: Argentina's 6-0 romp of Serbia-Montenegro.

Video highlights of the goals, as broadcasted in Argentina: Argentina/Serbia-Montenegro, World Cup, Germany, 2006

Friday, June 23, 2006

Request for Documentation: Zanon recovered factory movement seeks work written about them

From: Autonomista1@aol.com


The Zanon recovered factory has created a database to document and share the many theses that have been written on their work. If you have written about Zanon, please contact:


prensaobrerosdezanon@neunet.com.ar and tesisdezanon@yahoo.com.ar

Monday, June 19, 2006

Radio documentary inspired by Eduardo Murúa's visit to Canada (May 28 - June 4, 2006)

My compañer@ from the University of Alberta, Rhiannon Edwards, put together this radio documentary for CJSR shortly after Eduardo Murúa's (the president of Argentina's National Movement of Recovered Enterprises) trip to Toronto a few weeks back. (Listen to the documentary.) Interviewer, producer, editor - Rhiannon Edwards. Featured in the piece - Eduardo Murúa; my Boston/New York militant compañer@, Michael Gould-Wartovsky; me.

More transcripts and information on Murúa's trip to follow shortly on this blog.

For a synopsis of his June 3rd public conversation with United Steelworkers of Canada researcher, Jorge García-Orgales, see the Toronto School of Creativity and Inquiry website annoncement: Recovery, Recreation.

Friday, June 16, 2006

I'll cry for Argentina!

Argentina's 6-0 dance over Serbia-Montenegro today was a gorgeous display of inspired futbol. If one wants to see one of the most beautiful displays of futbol I've ever seen, and you haven't watched it live yet, check out the countless replays of this game that will inevitably be shown for a long time to come, especially the now famous second goal where Argentina passes the ball 24 times leading to a Saviola pass to Crespo at the top of the eighteen yard box, who back heals it to Cambiassso and...GOOOOAAAALLLL!!! Tevez's and Messi's goals were also memorable. Together with Maradona's dribbling past 7 English players to score on his own during the 1986 World Cup (I was present at that game, actually), the second goal was amongst the best goals I've witnessed. The entire match was, for Argentina, pure magic! If you end up watching the game, keep your eye on Lionel Messi after he comes on with 15 minutes left. And Carlos Tevez's astoundingly cunning goal, too. They've proclaimed Messi the "new Maradona", and Maradona agrees. And Messi's only 18! Even Maradona never scored a goal in a WC match at that age.

Felicitaciones a todos mis compañeros Argentinos. ¡Gracias a la selección por darnos tanta alegria!

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Monty Python's "Match of Philosophers"

In keeping with the festivities in Germany, here's Monty Python's "Match of Philosophers", the Greeks vs. the Germans! It's totally brilliant! Confucius as ref! Too funny! And here's the whole sketch , the Greeks vs. the Germans + Beckenbauer (How did he get in?): "The Greeks vs. The Germans". Where does it take place, in Munich's "Olympic Stadium", of course! Other great lineups would be the Objectivists against the Subjectivists? Maybe Phenomenology vs. Psychoanalysis? What about "The Mind" team vs. "The Body" team? Or, as Andrew Feenberg suggested to me, the Tragics vs. the Comics.

Notice how it's the Greeks that are moving around and passing the ball while the Germans -- Hegel, Schopenhauer, et al, merely stand around and contemplate. Hmm. Those frickn' German idealists! Only ever thinking about the "will" and never doing anything "willful". After all, it is the Greeks who worked out notions like "becoming", "is" and "ought", and "the good game" in the preparatory practice sessions. Get it through your thick skulls, Deutchmensch, one "ought" to score more goals than the other team in football, not contemplate the "synthesis" of a victory solely within the thinking subject (damn, Hegel, he has too much influence on these guys, doesn't he know that a true synthesis is impossible, the Spirit is of no use in football). In socccer, the "good game" is realized when you win the game by scoring more goals. Socrates gets it! Or, take a page from Aristotle's philiosophy of football production, G men! Run, Germans, run! Although it seems that the Germans did get a set of concretely fresh legs when Marx comes on as a last minute substitute with his rousing cry to the rest of the team: "soccer players of the world, unite!" But, alas, it seems even Marx is a bit lethargic long term, with his pot belly, chronic cigar smoking, and all, to him victory ultimately seems to lie in some future revolutionary goal. Also, notice how Nietzche's performance is also promising, although nobody seems to be getting his position. Maybe we'll finally understand decades later what FN's play making meant in this match...

Saturday, June 10, 2006

¡Vamos Argentina!



I was at the 1986 World Cup, aged 16, in Mexico City, when Argentina, captained by Diego Maradona at the pinacle of his career, won the Mundial. That afternoon in July, in the hot sun of the Azteca stadium, I witnessed with 120,00 other fans, sheer magic!

And, while a critique of the corporatization and commodification of the game is definitely in order (see previous post), one can't deny the beauty, the magesty, and the passion that also engulfs the "beautiful game." To all of those fans of futbol out there, I say godspead to you and your squad a this World Cup. Immerse yourself in the community that it fosters, get to know other cultures while you watch the games, and embrace the passion of futbol with others!

As for me, it's "¡Dale Argentina!" all the way.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Critiquing the "beautiful game": A contradictory affair with me, I admit

For a minute there I was anticipating another "commercialized," "false consciousness," "opiate of the masses" kind of critique: Mike Black's "A Socialist Guide to the World Cup". Though warranted critiques of the beautiful game all, the dimensions to the reality of futbol in the lives of millions of people around the world is multi-layered and complex. The Guardian piece, written by an ex-footballer Torontonian, is an interesting alternative pseudo-critical view adding further dimensions to the "culture industry" critique, although his points remain too on-the-surface, methinks, hardly a "socialist" critique. While and interesting piece, it still says nothing about the coproratization of the game over the past 50 years.

Important to remember, I think, is that professional soccer, taking root in the 1930s in Europe and South America after being an amateur sport until then, doesn't hit the stratosphere of commercial hype until perhaps the early-80s with the signing of Maradona to Barcelona from Boca Juniors for the at-the-time astronomical figure of $5 million US in 1982. Actually, if my memory serves correctly, players got shit wages until the full-on commodification of players and the corporate take-over of the game by sponsors in the early-to-mid 80s. I don't recall, for example, there being corporate logos on club jerseys until '83 or '84 (remember Arsenal's JVC logo?). And, if you'll notice in the WC games, corporate logos are still taboo on national team jerseys (save the jersey makers' logos, i,e Nike, Puma, Adidas, etc), although there's no denying that corporations fund national teams up the ying-yang (check out their practice gear, Coca-Cola and co. are all over those jerseys).

Also, it's important to remember that in most of the world's professional leagues, futbol players are paid "average" incomes. In Canada, for eg, if pro-players make $10,000-30,000 a year as part of the APSL they're doing well. Another important point to think through from Black article: Many of the world's great players, at least in South America, Africa, and Asia, come from humble beginnings and playing football is in many cases their only way out of shantytowns and poverty (for males, of course). On the one hand, one can't deny that shantytowns in many cases foster great players because, I think, with the paucity of educational opportunities and with the deep structural barriers that enclose these communities, football is in many cases their only outlet for play and hope. On the other hand, one also can't deny the "usefulness" of these spaces for "producing" soccer greats and team "journeymen" that the big clubs feed on. This is something that professional teams in Brazil and Argentina, for example, know and capitalize on all too well. Shantytowns become cheap development factories for big teams' lusts for the next big name. It's not unheard of for three-piece suited officials from the great South American teams such as Nacional of Uruguay, Flamenco and Corinthians of Brazil, and River Plate and Boca Juniors of Argentina, to scout shantytowns looking for the future Peles, Ronaldinhos, and Maradonas amongst the 10-12 year olds playing in make-shift pitches often with rag balls, all the while doing nothing for the communities from which these players are "saved" from, save the fantasy and identitarian imaginary that being a "fan of Boca" fosters. In turn, the South American clubs further develop the players and they (the clubs) in turn become development factories for richer European clubs. In Spain and Italy right now, for eg, there are 500 Argentine players playing in each of their professional leagues! It's a sad state of affairs marring the beautiful game.

Ah, now I'm becoming that critical cynic. Apologies. Anyway, I hope I'm not ruining the WC for us. Having said all this, nobody can totally commodify the passion for the "beautiful game" felt by the fan or player who participates for the sheer joy of it: get a ball, an open patch of land, and at least four people, and you are part of the euphoria, contradictions and all. Or, just go to Cafe Diplomatico on College St. in Toronto and see folks from myriad backgrounds coming together and conversing over 22 lads on the screen pushing a leather ball back and forth. Sweetness!

Oh, and to add to the Black piece, we can't forget the famous "Football War" between Honduras and El Salvador in 1969: http://www.onwar.com/aced/data/sierra/soccer1969.htm .

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Recovery! Recreation! | ¡Recuperación! ¡Recreación!


[El anuncio en español]
Recovery! Recreation!
A Conversation about Argentina's Worker-Recovered Enterprises Movement with Eduardo Murúa


Saturday, June 3, 2006
4pm - 7pm
Ideal Coffee
Ossignton Ave., 2 blocks south of Dundas St.



Much of today's global Left sees in Latin America inspiring instances of creative resistance to the neoliberal emergency. "Recovery! Recreation!" is a public conversation about a living experiment in Laboratory Latin America: Argentina's movement of worker-recovered enterprises, or ERT (empresas recuperadas por sus trabajadores).

Since 1998, in response to economic and political crisis in Argentina, the ERT has been reclaiming spaces of production in a struggle against social precarity and humiliating experiences of work. Not limited to the recovery of jobs, recovered enterprises are reconfiguring workplaces along more participatory lines, are developing into a horizontal network, and are often doubling as alternative schools, art galleries, community centres, or free medical clinics.

Join us for a conversation with Eduardo Murúa, president of Argentina's National Movement of Recovered Enterprises, facilitated by local labour activist Jorge Garcia-Orgales. With Eduardo and Jorge, we ask: What is being recovered? What is being created? What challenges does the ERT movement face? What lessons might the movement yield for struggles to democratize workplaces and communities locally? What lines of affinity exist, or might yet be invented, between Canadian labour groups and Argentina's newest workers' movements?

Guests:
Eduardo Murúa: President, Movimiento Nacional de Empresas Recuperadas de Argentina
Jorge Garcia-Orgales: Researcher, United Steelworkers of America, Toronto

Saturday, April 08, 2006

I am studying to be a part of the "precariate"

While the student and young workers' struggles against précerité continue in Paris, we too here in Ontario and the rest of Canada involved in teaching at the post-secondary level are caught in our own precarious work conditions. Here's a very cogent article by a sessional from Ryerson, Marusya Bociurkiw, on our plight: Toiling at sweatshop U: Part-time profs are like underpaid, overworked fast food workers

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

On the "soft revolution"

[A few brief thoughts from ongoing conversations I'm having with my dear compañeros, Greig de Peuter and Christine Shaw. Stay tuned for more....]

The soft revolution is a revolution against hardness. The soft revolutionary moment sees soft expressions caress the hard enclosures of empire in ways that melt these enclosures' hard edges with the humane counter-power of love. The soft revolution is intensely synaesthetic, fully immersive, deeply affectual. It revolutionizes all of our senses, breaking them free from the one-dimensional obligations that encase our everyday lives. By engaging with the the world and each other softly -- through our sexuality, affectivity, musicality, love, tactility...in short, through our desires -- we open up our capacities to reverberate and resonate within one another. The soft revolution resonates love. To touch the world and each other softly is to engage in ways of experiencing that impale our hearts with the loveliness of life rather than the ugliness of death. The soft revolution affirms life.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

So then, why is it important to think?

Notes on thinking, pausing, reflecting

By Marcelo Vieta

Ways of thinking saturate ways of acting. Conversely, ways of acting – practices – need to saturate critique. To think and to reform are entangled. To seek reforms – transformations of our social, material, and psychical realities – requires a type of work rooted in a certain type of critique. Such critique is immanent, rooted in our situation. It is of the moment. The revolution lies not in the future, but in the present. The present seems just fine for overthrowing the instrumental constraints that encase our lives. The possibilities for “the revolution of everyday life” are all around us. We can live in revolutionary ways if we can imagine these ways. Immanent critique is one way toward a new way life; immanent critique reconstitutes life.

Critical work is rooted in thinking that opens up potentialities heretofore unforeseen but already-always present. “Thought does exist, both beyond and before systems and edifices of discourse,” writes Foucault. This critical work makes congealed ways of thinking, doing, and living uncomfortable. Through the discomforting of old ways we see new possibilities, new realities, new hope. To think therefore is dangerous. It leads to the catastrophe of enclosed ways of life. We cannot afford to avoid this danger:

But where danger is, grows
The saving power, also (Holderlin)

Thinking as a critical type of work draws attention to the immiseration of cognitive life within the social, cultural, and political enclosures that surround us. But our over-commodified life of accumulation-at-all-cost denies us clearings for contemplation. The conquest of our psychical life – of our very consciousness – is the most worrisome effect of our current truth games. To begin to practice ways of thinking that reveal openings out of the enclosures of congealed truth and constituted power first requires us to, perhaps paradoxically, begin with thoughtful tasks that draw attention to the serious lack of mental and social spaces that we have for just thinking. But to think through the “why” and the “how” of our enclosed modes of thought in order to get to the “what if” of the different worlds that lie beyond our status quos requires us first to slow down, to pause, to stop. Thus, pausing and thinking are acts of resistance in themselves. They are the first revolutionary practices that we can engage with. They begin to reveal the very enclosures that corral alternatives and they open us up to the potentialities that rest just on the other side of the given.

To do this type of thinking individuals and collectives need spaces and moments for pausing. We need moments of personal and communal solitude from the tyranny of constituted power and its forms of containment ideologically rooted in the will-to-speed, the will-to-progress, and the will-to-busyness. We need breathing room to contemplate the ways to refuse the wilfulness to dominate our world. We need breathing room to pause and reflect on constituted power. We need to find spaces away from the hullabaloo to think through how to act to reform. The practices of seeking out these breathing spaces can put us well on our way towards realizing social transformation.

The cousin cults of speed and work are the enemy of contemplation. They blind us from ever discovering the spaces and moments for pausing. They muffle revolutionary thought. Without moments for contemplation we remain paralyzed; alternatives to these cults close themselves off.

The speed of capitalist life distracts us from recognizing that we are victims to its incessant seductions. The wisest among us – and sages still do exist; we encounter them every day – realize this and find moments for careful, unencumbered, unregulated thought. Recall, for example, Foucault’s practice of finding moments for “pause and reformulation” every now and then . Now more than ever we need clearings for pausing and reformulating – physical clearings, clearings of the mind, clearings for gathering together as collectives of thinkers, clearings that allow for new openings, new experiences, new joys. Clearings that reveal the new dimensions of our becomings. Clearings to express new potentialities. We need new vantage points from which to cast new visions untethered by the cult of speed, the cult of work, and the commodification of life.

Throughout the world, more and more of us are pausing, reflecting, and seeking out clearings for contemplation in order to think through how to act on the revelations for civilazational change that come from these pauses. Think of the new worlds being created daily by the newest social movements – the Zapatistas, the Italian and French movements against precarity, the landless peasant movements of South America, guerrilla gardeners, the protagonists of the recovered enterprises movement of Argentina, India’s ecological movements. Today, in Canada, neighbourhood food coops abound, cooperative housing programs are taking flight. Today, local decision making initiatives are changing peoples’ lives for the better every second somewhere around the globe. Today, more and more of us are opting out of the rat race and living more frugally, ethically, holistically. Those of us that are taking time to act in these ways are ensconced in creative thought practices. We are inventors of spaces for breathing. We think within and we create alternative spaces for community gatherings and individual contemplation outside of the enclosures of private property, the marketplace, and the profit motive. And not surprisingly we are, in the process of this thoughtful inventiveness, discovering life-affirming ways of unleashing new possibilities – more humane possibilities – for engaging with the world...for creating new worlds.

These are some of the reasons why it is so important for us to think.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Remembering the 30th anniversary of the beginning of the last "dictadura" in Argentina

My family arrived in Canada from Argentina on Mar. 22, 1975. My family had been out of Argentina for exactly a year before the beginning of "El proceso" and "la dictadura" of 1976-1983. By early 1975, things were already looking grim in Argentina: Isabela Peron's government was crumbling, the economy was sputtering out of control, the unions were restless, and terroristic acts by both the government backed triple "A" and urban and rural guerillas were a regular occurance. With this instability as the backgrop, the military took over the reigns of government on Mar 24, 1976 with the pretense of re-establishing order in Argentina. They called their coup d'etat simply "El Proceso de Reorganización Nacional". The ensuing 7 years of "el proceso" would be amongst the bloodiest in Argentine history.

My mom and I returned to Argentina for a 6 month visit after having been in Canada for a year. When did we arrive? Mar. 26, 1976, two days after the coup. I was a day shy of my 6th birthday and the images of soldiers and tanks greeting us at the airport and their presence throughout the city was both frightening and fascinating to me. Little did we know that the ensuing 7 years would be amongst the bloodiest in Argentine history, with over 30,000 people perishing as a result of the military government's CIA-backed national "cleansing" of "subversives", activists, leftist intellectuals, union organizers, and workers. Like AIDS in Sub-Saharan Africa, most Argentine's who lived during that time know someone who was affected by the genocide. For eg., my aunt's cousin was a liberation theology priest and activist with the poor who was tortured for 3 days by the dictatorship's thugs but was miraculously spared. And the son of a neighbour of ours in Quilmes who ran a laundromat/dry cleaning store disappeared in the night in the early years of the dictatorship and has never been heard from again. The 7 years of terror that also marks the beginning of the doomed contemporary neoliberal experiment in Argentina has left a lasting scar on the country that is still very present in its national psyche. I'll definitely be attending this memorial event on March 24, 2006 in Toronto:

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1. Invitation: 30th anniversary of Argentine military coup

[español abajo]

Friends,

March 24, 2006 is the 30th anniversary of the bloody coup d'etat in Argentina carried out by the military junta led by General J.R. Videla.

This event allowed the armed forces to launch a strategy of repression of social activists without precedent in the modern history of the country. The persecution and extermination of those opposed to the regime was complemented with the implementation of neoliberal social and economic policies that dismantled the productive, cultural and educational system of the country, changing it forever. Without a doubt, the Argentinian crisis of 2001 has its roots in this military coup.

A group of people interested in recovering the historical memory of what occurred during the dictatorship of 1976-1983 has decided to organize a series of events in Toronto to coincide with the 30th anniversary of the coup. Activities will include a film series, round-table discussions, artistic exhibits and a music concert.

We would like to invite all those who are interested in contributing ideas or resources for these events to contact the organizing committee at el30aniversario@yahoo.ca.

The 30th Anniversary Commission's next general meeting will be on Friday, January 13, 2006 at 7:00-8:30pm in room 7-162, OISE (252 Bloor St. W.)

Sincerely,

The 30th Anniversary Commission:
Florencia Esteverena, Jorge Garcia-Orgales, Jorge Ginieniewicz, Susana Lancelle, Paulina Maciulis, Marta Marin, Juan Miranda, Susana Munarriz, Jose M. Novielo, Ana Laura Pauchulo, Fernando Rouaux, Daniel Schugurensky, Maria del Carmen Sillato, Shana Yael Shubs, Adriana Spahr, Enrique Tabak and Griselda Veiga.

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Amigos y Amigas,

El 24 de marzo de 2006 se cumplirán 30 años del sangriento golpe de estado ejecutado por la junta militar que encabezara el general J. R.Videla en Argentina.

Tal evento permitió a las fuerzas armadas lanzar una estrategia de represión a militantes populares sin parangón en la historia moderna del país. La persecución y exterminio de opositores al régimen se complementó con la implementación de políticas económicas y sociales neoliberales que desmantelaron el aparato productivo, cultural y educativo del país, alterándolo para siempre. La crisis sufrida por Argentina en el año 2001 tiene sin duda raíces en ese golpe militar.

Un grupo de personas interesadas en recuperar la memoria histórica de lo acontecido durante la dictadura de 1976 - 1983 hemos decidido organizar una serie de eventos en Toronto coincidiendo con el 30 aniversario de aquel golpe. Las actividades a desarrollar incluyen un ciclo de cine, mesas redondas, exhibiciones artísticas y un concierto de música.

Queremos invitar hoy a todos los que tengan interés en contribuir ideas o recursos para dichos eventos a que contacten al grupo organizador a través de el30aniversario@yahoo.ca.

Asimismo, les informamos que la próxima reunión general de la Comisión 30 Aniversario ha sido fijada para el Viernes 13-enero/06 a las 7:00-8:30PM en la sala 7-162 del OISE (252 Bloor St. West).

Sinceramente,

Por la Comisión 30 Aniversario
Florencia Esteverena, Jorge Garcia-Orgales, Jorge Ginieniewicz, Susana Lancelle, Paulina Maciulis, Marta Marin, Juan Miranda, Susana Munarriz, Jose M. Novielo, Ana Laura Pauchulo, Fernando Rouaux, Daniel Schugurensky, Maria del Carmen Sillato, Shana Yael Shubs, Adriana Spahr, Enrique Tabak y Griselda Veiga.

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Sunday, February 19, 2006

The Worker-Recovered Enterprises Movement in Argentina

Self-Management as a Potential Path to Recovering Work, Recomposing Production, and Recuperating Life

Marcelo Vieta, PhD candidate in Social and Political Thought, York University
May 2006
Toronto, Canada


Dedico este artículo a los
trabajadores inspiracionales de Artes Gráficas Chilavert.

Abstract
This paper takes on the aims of historically contextualizing and exploring some of the latest developments in Argentina’s most recent experiments with workers’ self-management for English language readers. Grounded in a theory of workers’ control read through the lenses of Marx’s labour process critique and critiques of the commodity form, the paper sets out to show how the worker-recovered enterprises movement (empresas recuperdas por sus trabajadores or ERT) is both a direct response to and a viable alternative that moves beyond Argentina’s socio-economic crises and capitalist enclosures of the past 30 years.

Part 1 briefly touches on the history of the movement and begins to draw out a few of the most important social, political, and economic factors that motivate workers’ occupations and the recoveries of their workspaces. Part 2 grapples with two interrelated themes currently being worked out by the movement: First, it appraises a few of the most important microeconomic, organizational, and political successes and challenges that are beginning to trend across the ERT movement. Second, it assess a few of the possibilities for social change growing out of the movement, the new forms of production being experimented with, and the transformation of working life that the movement is spearheading. And, Part 3 explores some of the links being forged between the Argentine ERT movement and comparable workers’ movements across Latin America.

The reflections in this paper, first reported on my travel and research blog Thoughts on Argentina’s Conjunctures, are rooted in work inspired by my month long internship at one of the most stirring worker recovered enterprises in Argentina, Artes Gráficas Chilavert over the summer of 2005. The paper is also inspired by myriad informal conversations I had throughout my stay, together with interviews I conducted with protagonists of the ERT movement, activists from the unemployed workers movement, anti-poverty activists, officials of the executive and congressional branches of the national government as well as officials from the city of Buenos Aires, neighbourhood assembly leaders, and numerous academics.

Gratitude
This paper would have been impossible to write without the time and grace extended to me by the following people: The 19 fellow travelers and compañer@s from Canada and the US with whom I had the great pleasure of sharing many experiences and discussions with as part of the summer internship program entitled “Occupy, Organize, and Produce: The Factories, Streets, and Dreams” (www.autonomista.org/summer.htm). Graciela Monteagudo and Marcelo “Kelo” Dimentstein for organizing the internship. The University of Buenos Aires’s Faculty of Philosophy and Letters for hosting three exceptional courses on Argentina’s newest social movements and political economic history. The UBA’s Professors Pablo Pozzi, Sylvia Delfino, and Hugo Trinchero for their deep insights into Argentine politics, culture, and its myriad struggles for the liberation of life. Andrés Ruggeri and Carlos Martínez of the ERT Documentation Centre for allowing me to leisurely peruse the ERT archives. Eduardo Murúa, Edith Oviedo, and Maria Rosa González for allowing me to sit in on countless invigorating MNER meetings over mate. My Canadian compañer@s en la lucha por la felicidad, Greig de Peuter and Christine Shaw, for reading early drafts. And York University’s Professors David Noble and David McNally for much invaluable feedback throughout the last year and a half.

The paramount sentiment of gratitude, of course, must go to Cándido González, Fermín González, and the rest of the valiant and inspirational workers of Chilavert. This paper is dedicated to them.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Who's Buenos Aires?

If one reads three recent North American newspaper travel section stories about Buenos Aires, and then reads my blog post from July 2005 when I was in Buenos Aires (see link below), it's as if we are talking about different worlds. Compare, for example, my "Witnessing the Political" piece to the cheap "hipster heaven" that the Globe and Mail's Tralee Pearce characterizes the city as.

That Buenos Aires is a "hipster heaven" for some fortunate enough to be able to choose to be hipsters, there is no doubt. Pearce's piece points this out clearly. She also underscores what a bargain it is for us North American's wanting European sophistication on a shoestring. But that the city is also wrought with unmanageable poverty, exploitation, and despair for millions is equally true. This is, of course, ignored in all of the travel section pieces linked to below. The conditions that I observed on my trip to Argentina last summer, in fact, can be directly linked to the tragic wake of the failed neoliberal experiments of the past 30 years -- neoliberal experiments encouraged by the financially powerful capitalist system of the Global North that undergirds what makes Buenos Aires such a cheap hipsterville for gringo tourists.

For a stark contrast illustrating the two differing poles of the contradictory lifeworld that shapes Buenos Aires, compare the following articles:

The Buenos Aires of excess and exuberance
The Buenos Aires of class divisions, inequality, poverty, and protest

Latin American Bureau

A good site for "public understanding of issues of human rights and social and economic justice in Latin America and the Caribbean" from the UK:

LAB : homepage : LAB Homepage

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Argentina’s ERTs, Hugo Chavez, and economies of solidarity

Eduardo Murúa, president of MNER, has recently been spearheading a working relationship with Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez, as Murúa confirmed to me in a conversation I had with him in mid-August of 2005. Mainly through the efforts of Murúa, in August 2005 MNER managed to strike a favourable loans deal with Chavez by piggy-backing on a greater regional economic accord negotiated between the Venezuelan and Argentine governments to more closely integrate the two economies. This greater accord is part of Chavez’s alternative to the US-proposed FTAA that he calls the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas and the Caribbean (La Alternativa Bolivariana para América Latina y el Caribe, or ALBA). A proposal that could have benefits for all of Argentina’s ERTs, the greater economic agreement between the two countries will see the Chavez government invest, via debt bond purchases, $500 million US primarily into Argentina’s fledgling national oil sector. From this fund, $5 million US in low-interest credits will be funneled to the growing alternative economy being forged by Argentina’s ERTs and other micro-enterprises (microemprendimientos). Monies would flow directly to the ERTs via the Banco de la Nacion Argentina through an as yet-to-be-worked-out distribution mechanism. At the time, the hope expressed by some of Argentina’s ERT protagonists was that this infusion of cash, while modest, would begin to help the country’s ERTs replace old machinery, grow new markets, and ultimately kick-start an undeveloped export component by producing myriad products also useful to Venezuela’s increasingly nationalized economy.

This initial infusion of cash into the ERT movement was bettered by Chavez’s second commitment announced in late October 2005 at the First Latin American Encounter of Recovered Enterprises in Caracas, Venezuela. At this historic meeting of 400 worker protagonists from 235 recovered enterprises from across Latin America, Chavez proposed to make available in 2006 a fund worth $50 million US for Latin America ERTs. The purpose of the fund is specifically destined to assist the region’s ERTs in their efforts to expand production, forge new inter-regional alliances, enter new markets, and provision much-needed investment capital. Chavez views this fund as a critical first step for facilitating the productive efforts of ERTs in Argentina, Venezuela, Uruguay, Paraguay, Brazil, Mexico, and Peru, the seven Latin American countries with ERTs thus far. He also views the fund as a crucial first step for spearheading what in the region is beginning to be called a greater “economy of solidarity” across Latin America.

The economy of solidarity envisioned by the participants of the Caracas meetings is to be an alternative to the “imperialist” designs of the FTAA and its multinational interest groups. Moreover, it is to be grounded in grassroots, socialist, and democratic economic initiatives led by workers’ self-management. Indeed, as Chavez outlined in his inaugural speech at the conference, he views the experience of the region’s ERT workers as the “soul” of contemporary Latin America, underscoring how the experiences and values of the region’s ERT protagonists symbolize the antithesis of all that the FTAA represents. Chavez proposed to call this alternative economy of solidarity “Empresur,” envisioning it as an intercontinental economic network that would engage in not only traditional forms of trade between the regions’ ERTs but also see ERTs engage with each other outside of the neoclassical market. Such non-monetary, solidarity interactions will include the sharing of technical know-how, the creation of funds for “fair loans and investments,” the provisioning of raw materials rooted in bartering, and transnational cooperation offering political support to legal hurdles faced by ERTs and other self-managed entities across the region.

Besides completing 75 contracts and promissory agreements between ERTs across Latin America, the conference participants also managed to cobble together what has come to be called the Caracas Accord (Compromiso de Caracas). The accord details the vision for a multinational, worker-led entity such as Empresur. It also takes a strong stand against US-led, neoliberal economic designs in Latin America. Additionally, it urges the region’s governments to set aside capital investment funds for ERTs and draft national laws and constitutional reforms that would better support worker recovered enterprises and other forms of micro-enterprises.

One recently-launched initiative that could be foreshadowing how this alternative solidarity economy might be implemented (and implemented sooner rather than later) is the ERT-specific e-commerce site The Working World. The Working World's non-profit e-commerce site is an excellent example of how the the strategies of online product provisioning and e-commerce might be appropriated by the movement. Indeed, The Working World is an actual example of how the movement could tap into the decentralized and globally-available capabilities offered by internet communication technologies to meet the grassroots needs of ERTs and their protagonists in each respective country. This type of initiative could also fund the fledgling workers' self-management with much needed cash, expand markets, and build relays of affinity with the growing social justice movement around the world. Launched in Dec. 2005 and spearheaded by a collective of North and South American radical journalists and activists such as Avi Lewis, Esteban Magnani, and others, the e-commerce site currently only provisions products produced by a few of Argentina’s ERTs. The initiative is purposefully tapping into a world-wide market increasingly interested in products made from firms that engage in non-exploitative and environmentally friendly labour practices. It also serves as a site for information dissemination as a customer-focused information portal, provides marketing services to ERTs, offers ERT website development, and is also a webspace that has the capabilities of collecting donations for a “fund that provides productive capital directly to workers through fair loans and investments.” Currently focused on Argentine ERTs, the initiative has hopes of extending its non-profit, online initiative to similar movements around the world in order to help build an “international solidarity economy, where economic justice and self-determination replace exploitation and inequality.”

Argentina’s pioneering role in the Latin American ERT movement

Argentina’s most recent experiments with worker self-management have played a crucial role in both inspiring other ERTs in other countries in the region and in the recent push for an intercontinental economy of solidarity articulated in Caracas in October of 2005. Because of the legitimacy of the Argentine movement, gained through its long struggles with worker self-management, it was no surprise that MNER’s Murúa was one of the key players in organizing the first meeting of Latin American ERTs in Caracas. And because Argentina also has the most ERTs by far of any country in Latin America, it perhaps is also no surprise that the 300 Argentine worker delegates that attended the Caracas meetings in October of 2005 represented the gathering’s largest contingent of workers. Subsequently, Argentina secured the most business contracts and memoranda of understanding at the Caracas meetings which will serve to not only enhance the likelihood of longterm success for the Argentine ERT movement but will also facilitate realizing Chavez’s vision for ALBA. Finally, it is illustrative to note that Chavez views the Argentine recovered enterprises movement as a model for his own vision for nationalizing major sectors of Venezuela’s economy which includes the planed expropriation of more than 700 bankrupted Venezuelan firms in 2006. Murúa succinctly summed up the role of the Argentine delegation of ERT workers at the Caracas meetings thusly:

From Argentina, we brought all of our experiences [to Caracas]. We have [in Argentina] 182 recovered enterprises and we arrived [at the meeting] with more than 300 workers. We are, perhaps, the initiators of this path dating back to 1998, and our delegates were consulted the most by the compañeros from the rest of the continent at the meeting.
~Eduardo Murúa

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,

Marcelo

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-employehttp://www.blogger.com/img/gl.link.gifd" "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:

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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
generated.

EMAIL TEXT:
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...

BACKGROUND
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:






ACTION
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
could.


TRANSLATION OF THE EMAIL:
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.


IF YOU HAVEN'T ALREADY....

Sign the petition in support of the Hotel Bauen workers!


The petition will be submitted as part of the campaign.

AND IF YOU WANT TO RECEIVE FURTHER UPDATES...

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.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Goodness - A play by Michael Redhill

I went to see Goodness on the weekend, a play about genocide, memory, and responsibility (see Toronto Now's write up ). I was moved. Here are some of my thoughts immediately afterwards:

What a deeply complex play, working on myriad layers. I love how Redhill wrote himself and the audience into it, problematizing his own role of writer as interpreter, the role of the audience as (passive) viewer, and, of course, the philosophical morasses of good and evil, action and inaction, hope and despair, and, as the older Altheia so provocatively and despairingly uttered, the "stupidity of humanity." Redhill also delves deep into the problem of "the story" -- i.e., narrative -- and the telling of the story: Whose story is being told? His? Altheia's? The victims'? The perpetrators'? How does the storyteller position him/herself within the storytelling? What "right" or moral/ethical/political authority does the storyteller have to speak for and about others? By placing himself into the story, he both showed how one can begin to approach such deeply complex -- and political -- issues of the narrative while simultaneously showing us -- the audience/reader -- his own moral/ethical/political struggles to articulate this very narrative. This is something Derrida and others talk about often.

And, the problems of good and evil and responsibility? Where to begin!? I'm still working this out. Probably will for the rest of my life. Argentina also suffered a holocaust during the 1976-1983 dictatorship where 30,000 of my compatriots were murdered in Nazi-like death camps or in the very spaces of their everyday lives (at home, at work, etc.) in organized ambushes. It's a part of my own history as an Argentine that haunts me like the Polish holocaust haunts Redhill. The play definitely left me thinking about how things like this can happen, and probably will for a long time. One thing that still resonates with me from the play is the notion of "invisibility" and the desperation and inhumanity suffered by persons -- perpetrators and victims -- who remain invisible, lost to the terror of perverse ideologies and historical contingency. Did the Nazi's, for example, embody and act out on the perceived or real invisibility and humiliation of the German people after WWI by attempting to scapegoat and eradicate -- invisibalize -- those who were Jewish in order to rectify their own historical fate?

Another is this: What is the explanation for a Third Reich, and the genocides experienced in Rwanda, Bosnia, Cambodia, Argentina, East Timor, etc.? Are there ever simple explanations to these events? Or are there already-always less obvious and more elusive factors at play than the commonly-held belief that the perpetrators are "just evil people"? Besides this empty common-sense response (it's an "empty signifier" that gets reified by us, is it not?), what is it that pushes otherwise good people to do unimaginable evil? Is questioning and critiquing a statement such as "They're just evil people" justifying the heinous crimes, or ignoring -- and further invisibalizing -- the deep pain of the victim, Altheia? If you look at the six cases I mentioned, all were societies that were dealing with deep issues of socio-political humiliation or extreme poverty or geo-political marginalization. In such socio-political quagmires, it isn't hard to find the scapegoat that will temporarily alleviate such invisibility and peripheralization. How complex it is indeed when the victim becomes the perpetrator.

And, a final question? I wonder if Redhill chose the name Altheia for the character because in Greek it means"verity, truth" or "truth revealing". Altheia as the holder of various truths in Redhill's narrative, truths that the Redhill character in the play had to negotiate in dialogue with her, just as Redhill the writer had to negotiate the truths that lurk hidden and frustratingly-ellusive in his own history and creativity when he set thought down to paper and wove the script together. Truths, in Redhill's chosen topic, made more elusive by the fading from memory of his own family's experiences of genocide over time. Sketchiness, confusion, and even incredulity always plague the memories of such horrors. Perhaps for Altheia, in her always-already present, as she stated, the tragedy was still all too present in her own present. That is, she was condemned to re-live the horror for the rest of her life. Where does the truth lie when we are so close to the horror?

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Here Be Dragons – Introductory Thoughts by TSCI

What follows are thoughts that I have been sharing with members of the collective that I belong to, Toronto School of Creativity & Inquiry, on an enxhibit on critical cartography I've co-curated with TSCI : Here Be Dragons: Cartography of Globalization. We cobbled the thoughts together after collectively thinking about the show. I shared them in a brief lecture I gave on the exhibit to the first year Humanities class I help TA at York University -- HUMA1650: The Networked Imagination. I took the class on a tour of the exhibit this past Tuesday.

For those of you interested, the show is currently showing at the Toronto Free Gallery, at 660 Queen St. East in Toronto. It'll be showing until Dec. 17. (Here are some pictures from the opening on Nov. 12).

As part of the exhibit, we're also showing, amongst others, Bureau d'etudes' compelling -- and beautiful -- map on Argentina's newest social movements post 2001.

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Here Be Dragons: Cartography of Globalization: Introductory Thoughts - TSCI
Nov. 22, 2005


Basically, the two overarching tactics that inform the show are:

1) How counter-cartography visibalizes the networks of power that remain hidden
within our complexly globalalized, overly administered contemporary epoch, and also
2) How counter-cartography makes known the networks of counter-power and resistance that arise as actions against those dense networks of power and as actions for more democratic, more humane, less commodified possibilities for life.

The maps are complex, dense, and intense and take time to process. You must spend time with them to understand them. This is, in part, a response to three integral dynamics at play:

1) The complexity of the networks of power. There are many lines, and branches
that radiate out from power’s nodes.
2) The thought and time that researcher-activists must spend in order to unravel the social, political, informational, and social-psychic structures of those power
networks.
3) The maps ask you to slow down and take time with them. This contrasts with the
ideology of speed and the practices of cultural distraction that global capital relies
on. Capitalist power wants you to be overwhelmed, to not know where to turn, to
rely on “experts” and “bureaucrats” and administrators to figure out life for you.
So, in taking time with these maps, you’re practicing a form of resistance: the
resistance is in your very act of – as a reader and interpreter of the maps -- placing yourself in a contemplative, engaging mode, rather than the mode of distraction and passivity that consumer culture invites. This has affinities to the Walter Benjamin essay we read: distraction/ vs. reflection.

Alo ask yourself, then: Is there an “aura” in these pieces? What about reproduction as resistance? How are these maps speaking too a radically democratic stance? What are they calling you to do?

What is the dragon in Here Be Dragons? The dragon is two-headed; that is, there are two heads, or two sides, to the dragon at play. Perhaps there are many dragons at play, too:

One head of the dragon could represent the structures of power networks that
remain hidden. Some of the maps speak to this more than others. This is the
dragon of control and domination. These areas of control and their complex
institutional structures remain outside the apparent, knowable world of our
everyday lives. Yet they directly and indirectly form a part of our everyday lives
in our contemporary high-capitalist/post-Fordist reality. The social relations and
institutions that ground this hidden reality help shape our individual and collective
consciousnesses. They frame our ideologies. They are, in reality, concrete and even geographical structures, as the maps illustrate. And they are also emergent and time-based. Recall what McLuhan and Innis have to say about
time/space and media.

The other head could be the dragon of resistance, of counter-power, of
emancipation. The networks of resistance are always fomenting, always present,
always active and creating new alternatives outside of the spheres of state and
corporate power. This is living power, power from below, as opposed to the dead
power of instrumentality and control. These counter-powers vizibalize where
power really emanates from: from below. After all, it is we – you and me -- that
legitimize power: Counter-power is situated in the local, in the neighbourhood, in
your networks, on the street, rooted in your everyday life.

The two-headed dragon also resembles the two-sidedness of technology, as we’ve been
discussing in course: Recall Postman and Ellul: technology gives something and takes
something away. Recall the stories of Pandora’s box, Prometheus, and Icarus, as well.
Technology can be used by power to dominate but can also be used by those that are
oppressed, alienated, or exploited, from below, to not only resist but to also create new possibilities: another kind of world. Technologies “open up” possible worlds. They also close off these worlds via ideologies of efficiency and “means” that instrumentalize and over-administrate life.

What “other worlds” are these maps proposing, explicitly and implicitly?

These maps are one way of using new technologies such as the Internet, databases, and
mapping software to begin to liberate us from the enclosures we live in. The Internet, for
example plays a central role in both organizing and designing these maps and
disseminating the information, especially with Bureau d’etudes and Govcom,.org. Ask
your self how these reappropriations of the technology can help us break free from our
enclosures.

Some of the themes in the exhibit:

1) How is power organized?
2) How are the structures of counter-power organized?
3) Making the invisible visable and making the marginal and peripheral visable, too.
4) Unconcealing the concealed. Making known the unknown.
5) Cartographic epistemologies (theories of knowledge; how can we come to know
what we know), techno-epistemologies.
6) Power is both centralized within hubs of power and diffused into spatial
territories, psychic territories, narrative territories, ideological territories. It is the structure of these actual and virutal terriorializations that’s being visibalized.
7)How are we, as individuals, lost in these power networks. What do they deny us
as individuals and communities? Or, in the counter-cartographies and networks of
resistance maps, how are we visibalized?
8) What do these maps help us see? What do they help us do?

Some of the theoretical touchstones that undergird the maps:

 Critical cartography (Brian Holmes and Richard Rogers, in particular (see below
for links to two essays)).
 Political economy of media networks (rooted in Marxist analyses of capitalism;
see also Manueal Castells, Frank Webster, Harry Cleaver, Nick Dyer-Witheford,
and many others.)
 Theories of power: Foucault’s bio-power, Deleuze and Guattari’s “rhizomes,”
Deleuze on Nietszche (active/reactive forces).
 Theories of hegemony and counter-hegemony (Gramsci, Lukasc), ideology and
“instrumental reason” (Marx, Marcuse, Horkheimer, structuralism and post-
structiralism).
 Globalization theory
 Philosophies of being/non-being: Heidegger’s concealment/unconcealment.
 Philosophies of technology: Heidegger’s “enframing,” technological
consequences/effects and technological pessimism and optimism (Ellul, Postman,
McLuhan, etc.), technological histories and epochs (Mumford, McLuhan, Innis,
etc.).

These two excellent essays on counter-cartographies will come in handy for those that
wanting to do projects on mapping and perhaps tackle the question on the midterm.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

LA PROBLEMÁTICA ACTUAL DE LA DEUDA EXTERNA ARGENTINA

A brief article on the Argentine foreign debt.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

World solidarity over the latest struggles of the Hotel Bauen workers for legal recognition of their worker coop

Noam Chomsky, John Holloway, Eduardo Galeano, Naomi Klein, Arundhati Roy, Antonio Negri, Michael Hardt, Michael Albert and Avi Lewis, and others, in support of Hotel Bauen

***URGENT APPEAL: FORWARD PASSIONATELY!***

http://www.petitiononline.com/bauen/petition.html

It’s been just 24 hours since the launch of an international support campaign for the workers of the Hotel Bauen, the worker-run hotel in downtown Buenos Aires that is facing a dire threat of eviction.

There are already well over 1000 signatures from more than 30 countries.

People who have just added their names include:
Noam Chomsky, John Holloway and Eduardo Galeano, musician Zack de la Rocha, Scottish Parliamentarian Frances Curran, Irish author Michael McCaughan, and Air America broadcaster Laura Flanders

They join our original signatories, Naomi Klein, Arundhati Roy, Antonio Negri, Michael Hardt, Michael Albert and Avi Lewis.

Please join them by signing the petition! And encourage everyone you know to do the same.



The Bauen Hotel is an important symbol and beloved meeting place for Argentina’s inspiring movement of recovered companies, in which thousands of workers have reclaimed the dignity of daily work under the slogan “Occupy, Resist, Produce!”

Now is the time to redouble our efforts to save this precious democratic space!

Marcelo Ruarte, the president of the Hotel Bauen cooperative, says, “We're facing continuing threats here - they've tried to evict us four times this year. But what saves us is the support we have, both locally and internationally: it's crucial. We'll fight for ever to defend Bauen, because it belongs to us, and because it belongs to everyone.”

So please – take five minutes and think of 6 other people to send this email to. Who are the people that are constantly forwarding you emails? They will surely want to pass this one on. And please take a moment and send an email both to the president and to the interior minister of Argentina – they will only step in if they feel enough public pressure!

Below is a sample email in English and Spanish.

Many thanks,

The International Support Campaign for the Workers of the Bauen Hotel

----------
President Nestor Kirchner
privada@presidencia.gov.ar

Anibal Fernandez, Minister of the Interior
anibalfernandez@infovia.com.ar.
----------

Dear President Nestor Kirchner (or Minister of the Interior Anibal Fernandez),

We demand that you immediately take all necessary measures to stop the attack on the workers who have recovered the Bauen Hotel and pass a definitive and permanent law that recognizes them for what they are: the rightful owners.

Sincerely,
Your name

----

Señor Presidente Néstor Kirchner (o Señor Ministro del Interior Aníbal Fernandez),

Exigimos que en forma urgente disponga las medidas necesarias para que cese el ataque a los trabajadores que recuperaron el Hotel Bauen y se apruebe una ley definitiva y permanente que los consagre como lo que son: sus legítimos dueños.

Saluda atentamente,
Tu nombre

Message from the compañeros of Chilavert, in solidarity with the compañeros of the Hotel Bauen:

LUNES 14 DE NOVIEMBRE, 13 HORAS
HOTEL B.A.U.E.N
CALLAO 360
MARCHA HACIA LA LEGISLATURA

A tres años de gestión de la Cooperativa, con el hotel funcionando en un 80% de la capacidad, sin ayuda de ningún tipo de subsidio y en medio de un boom turistico, aparecen intereses por parte de los mismos empresarios que lo dejaron caer. En respuesta al Proyecto de Ocupación Temporaria y Declaración de Utilidad Pública, el bloque macrista en representación de los intereses de los "dueños", propone la restitución del edificio a dichos empresarios. Ello implica:

entregar el inmueble a empresarios que no pueden acreditar ser dueños del lugar
liquidar la autogestión de los trabajadores para volver a una relación de dependencia bajo un patrón pseudo-empresario responsable de la pérdida progresiva de más de 200 tra

bajadores
el proyecto obvia que el edificio fue construido con un crédito millonario, otorgado por un organismo estatal, que hasta el presente nunca fue pagado
cerrar el hotel durante un año para "acondicionar el Bauen", lapso en que el Estado se haría cargo de los sueldos de los trabajadores
dejar en la calle a mas de 120 jefes de familia, ya que el proyecto contempla incorporar a menos de 20 trabajadores de la cooperativa
A tres años de la gestión de los trabajadores se consiguio:

Recuperación de un edificio totalmente abandonado
150 puestos de trabajo genuinos con distribución justa y equitativa de ingresos
200 habitaciones puestas a punto, piscina y solarium en obra
7 salones abiertos a la comunidad
más de 60 proveedores prestando servicios e insumos, cobrando en tiempo y forma
2 salas de teatro
confitería y restaurant con shows musicales
actividades culturales
cursos de idiomas dictados por la Universidad de Buenos Aires
Cerca de un millon invertidos en infraestructura, seguridad y mantenimiento
convenios internacionales y capacitación continua del personal
organización de todos los trabajadores en cooperativa con participación plena en la toma de decisiones
conocimiento de todas las necesidades humanas, laborales y de servicio
3 años de gestión sin empresarios como patrones , sin subsidios y sin generarle gastos al Estado
presentacion de un Proyecto de Ley en Legislatura porteña para que el lugar sea declarado de Interés Público
Los trabajadores de la Cooperativa Bauen repudian esta actitud del bloque macrista y convocan a todos los ciudadanos a apoyar la gestión por un Bauen abierto a la comunidad y sin estafas al Estado.
El Bauen es de todos, la invitación a conocerlo esta abierta.

LUNES 14 DE NOVIEMBRE, 13 HORAS
HOTEL B.A.U.E.N
CALLAO 360
MARCHA HACIA LA LEGISLATURA

"Here be Dragons": Cartography of Globalization


An Exhibition initiated by Toronto School of Creativity & Inquiry

12 Nov. - 17 Dec. 2005
Opening reception: Sat. 12 Nov., 8-10pm

Toronto Free Gallery
660 Queen St. East
Toronto, ON
416-913-0461


Centuries ago, map-makers wrote the phrase 'here
be dragons' on areas that were outside of their
known world. Where should this phrase be written
on contemporary maps of political and economic
territory?

Recently, activists, artists, and researchers
have used the form of the map to visually
represent the distribution of power, the
circulation of information, and the organization
of control in the age of capitalist
globalization. These critical cartographers make
visible the vast networks of national
governments, transnational corporations, and
international institutions which channel massive
flows of people, labour, interests, dollars, and
meaning. Making the complexities of our present
more graspable, counter-cartography furnishes us
with pedagogical tools for cognitively navigating
the class-divided, politically administered, and
digitally mediated world we live in.

But the point of these maps isn't to say: 'Look
how trapped we are.' These networks are
contested, and vulnerable. And there exist
counter-networks, on whose nodes a multitude of
protagonists are searching for and inventing
emergency exits. Maps of these powers 'from
below' give expression to creative resistances
and workable alternatives. These are a different
type of dragon.

Believing that counter-cartography is a political
provocation, the Toronto School of Creativity &
Inquiry is initiating a series of participatory
events during the mapping show as forums for the
discussion of questions raised by these critical
cartographers. Where are the dragons today? How
might we navigate a course within, against, and
beyond the enclosures of the known world?

The exhibition features maps, texts, audio, and
video by Pierre Bélanger (Toronto), Adrian
Blackwell (Toronto), Bureau d'études (Paris),
Govcom.org (Amsterdam), Brian Holmes (Paris),
Polaris Institute (Ottawa), and Kika Thorne
(Victoria). Richard J.F. Day (Kingston) occupies
the 24-hour Gallery.

Contact
heather@torontofreegallery.org
torontoschool@sympatico.ca

Friday, November 04, 2005

Thousands protest Bush and the proposed hemespheric free-trade agreement in Mar del Plata

Google News links.

5:00, Eastern Time

Comments made to me by my colleague, Greig DePeuter: "Despite the particularity of the latter struggle [currently in Paris]--which is about the racialization of class inequality and the precarious migrant-- is intimately related to what is happening in [now in Mar del Plata, Argentina], specifically vis-a-vis the competition between 'contintental blocs,' and the organization of the labour hierarchy therein, i.e., EU vs. FTAA."

4:45, Eastern Time

The photo op with all of the North and South American leaders are a counterpoint to the looting and the protests on the street. The dichotomy of inequality between what the leaders represent and the protesters is stark.

4:34 pm, Eastern Time

Bush's motorcade has just left and is driving in the streets of Mar del Plata. I wonder how the protesters will be kept away.

4:33 pm, Eastern Time

The protest in Mar del Plata, Argentina against Bush and the Summit of the Americas has just turned violent while Argetine President Kirchner just spoke to the Summit of the Americas leaders. A Banco de Galicia branch is up in flames. The protests are being held throughout the resort city, culminating a few blocks away from the summit. Inside the summit, cultural performers are currently entertaining the gathering of the presidents of the Western Hemisphere. Police have been showing up armed with tear gas guns and armoured cars over the past 15 minutes.

Just a few hours ago, President Chavez and Argentine soccer star, Diego Maradona, addressed a jubilant alternative Peoples' Summit.

There's tonnes of news on it online and CNN and Newsworld are covering it live.

The struggle of Seattle, Quebec, Genoa, etc., continues...

4:14 pm, Eastern Time

The protest has just turned violent while, at this moment, Pres. Kirschner speaks to the Summit of the Americas leaders. A Banco de Galicia branch is up in flames. A mere few blocks away peaceful protestests have given way to violence. Police have just arrived armed with tear gas guns.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

First reports on first meeting of Latin American recovered enterprises in Caracas, Venezuela

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Encuentro de Empresas Recuperadas en Caracas

On the upcoming Latin American Encounter of the Recovered Enterprises in Caracas, Venezuela, Oct. 27, 28, and 29.

See my Sept. 23 posting for more details.

The objectives of the encuentro (Vive, government of Venezuela):
* Promover el papel de los trabajadores como sujetos activos dentro del proceso de cambio económico y social en América Latina.
* Promover las actividades que hacen los trabajadores en América Latina para recuperar el empleo, la soberanía nacional e impulsar los procesos de integración.
* Intercambiar experiencias entre los trabajadores que recuperaron las empresas y dar a conocer los productos que se fabrican en las mismas.
* Crear y consolidar una red de producción que permita articular y complementar actividades económicas, mediante acuerdos entre las empresas recuperadas por los trabajadores.
* Crear y consolidar un fondo interempresarial para promover financiamiento, ampliación tecnológica, comercialización de productos y compra de materia prima.


Other recent developments tied to the encuentro in Caracas::

Saturday, October 15, 2005

"The Politics of the Plate" - A Toronto School of Creativity and Inquiry event

The Politics of the Plate
A slow-food dinner conversation about the politics of what we eat

A Toronto School of Creativity and Inquiry event

Thursday, Oct. 27, 2005
7:00 pm - 10:00 pm
Toronto Free Gallery at 660 Queen St. East.

Admission – Free if you bring a desire for conviviality and a dish of your choice to share made from something locally-grown.


Please contact the Toronto Free Gallery to pre-register: 416.913.0461 | heather@torontofreegallery.org


Why should we “eat lower on the marketing chain”? Can a politically aware eating experience still be pleasurable? How have processed and packaged foods separated us geographically and psychologically from what we eat, and from each other? Is it realistic to ensure healthy and locally-grown food for all Torontonians all the time? Is it possible for city-dwellers to eat what they grow themselves? Can the fair food, slow food, organic food, and other such movements, help to eradicate the risky ecological footprints caused by our consumerist paradigm and over-consumptive lifestyles? How can we integrate fairer food practices into our everyday lives?

Join us for a slow-food dinner conversation where we will be engaging with these critical questions while partaking of a lively community dinner together.

The conversation around the dinner table will be enriched by the research and experiences of the following Toronto-area food activists:

  • The University of Toronto’s Josée Johnston
  • FoodShare Toronto’s Karine Jaouich
  • Toronto food security activist Lauren Baker


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About Toronto School of Creativity & Inquiry
TSCI organizes education events that inquire into the new commercial enclosures: enclosures on time, space, creativity, thought, ecology, love... We seek to understand how these enclosures work. But combating against cynicism, we also inquire into creative pathways within, against, and beyond the enclosures: pathways of thinking, collaboration, organization, experimentation...
Contact
torontoschool@sympatico.ca
www.torontofreegallery.org

Abstract of my PhD research project's objectives and methods

In particular, I am applying participant/action research and phenomenology to explore the interplay between technologies of work (i.e., the modes of production), grassroots socio-political organization, and the democratic uses of those technologies within the ERT movement. In order to learn directly from this promising grassroots movement of workers I have been going to Argentina (the country of my birth) regularly over the past few years in order to see first hand how it is that ERT protagonists root their everyday work and their socialized production practices in the concept of autogestión (self-management). I am also interested in better understanding the praxical ways these workers are democratizing their technologies of (re)production, or, alternatively, challenged by their relations with these technologies. Moreover, my project is also a political economic one: I am deeply interested, on a macrosociological and macroeconomic level, in better understanding why this phenomenon happened in Argentina. What made the recent Argentine political economic conjuncture ripe for this type of self-managed workers’ cooperative to to emerge? What socio-cultural, socio-economic, and socio-political aspects of its past labour and worker struggles have helped shape the emergence of almost 200 ERTs since the late 1990s?

Links to Information on The Recovered Enterprises Movement

General links


Documentaries and Films


Recent developments tied to the First Encounter of Worker Recovered Enterprises in Caracas, Oct. 27-29, 2005:



ERTs in Venezuela

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

My latest proposal for my doctoral research into workers' control in Argentina

“Occupy, Resist, Produce”: An Historical and Phenomenological Inquiry into Argentina’s Worker-Recovered Enterprises Movement

On December 19-20, 2001 Argentina was the site of a massive popular uprising that brought the country’s dramatic economic and political crisis to a breaking point. But crisis is, potentially, an opening to the creation of “new social possibilities for living” [12, p. 2; see also: 15, pp. 82-83]. In response to the blighting of Argentina’s working class by the national governments’ acquiescence to the neoliberal reform policies instigated by the International Monetary Fund over the past three decades, organized movements of the unemployed, neighbourhood assemblies, human-rights groups, and—the group at the heart my PhD dissertation—the worker-controlled and -recovered enterprises movement (empresas recuperadas por sus trabajadores, or “ERT”), are contributing to the creation of myriad autonomous spaces for social renewal [29, 30]. Through forms of direct democracy and community-based social initiatives, these movements are directly addressing the inability of Argentina’s traditional institutions to contain historically high levels of unemployment and poverty [22, 23]. Within this crisis, the ERT movement in particular is crafting promising—and workable—alternatives for Argentina’s workers.

Mapping the empirical terrain. Gleaned in part from my internship with the ERT movement, my studies at the University of Buenos Aires, and my work with the ERT Documentation Centre, the current methods of studying ERTs in Argentina are based on either case studies [8, 11, 16] or quantitative approaches that ask questions such as “How many?” and “Where and in what economic sectors are they located?” [19, 26]. This research suggests that the political and economic impacts of the ERT movement are “related to its symbolic dimension” rather than to its size [22, p.72] since, to date, the movement involves roughly 180 or so mostly small and medium sized enterprises estimated to include between 9,000 and 10,000 workers [26]. Nevertheless, the ERT movement has inspired new possibilities for social change in Argentina [6, 22, 27], showing potential routes out of chronic unemployment [28] in spite of the ongoing difficulties its worker protagonists face. In creating these alternatives, a common story of struggle and hope unifies the movement.

Argentina’s under-regulated free-market, with recent roots in the market liberalizations of the ‘90s, has encouraged precarious work conditions. ERTs are an outcome of this. After ERT workers suffer months of not receiving pay from management due to, in many cases, the imminent bankruptcies of their workplaces caused by owner embezzlement and desertion, workers’ struggles continue when they occupy their firms in order to prevent the vaciamiento (“emptying”) of machinery and inventory by returning owners or corrupt court trustees [11, 13]. Once in control of their workplaces, workers’ struggles carry over into their efforts to reclaim lost market-share, restart production runs, and learn new entrepreneurial skills [26]. As well, most workers lose their union affiliation in the transition from salary or wage earners to members of workers’ cooperatives [22]. More optimistically, researchers point to the promising alternative forms of economic relations being experimented with by the movement, such as the budding inter-ERT “economies of solidarity” (i.e., bartering products and sharing customers, prime materials, and even machinery) [6, 10]. Further, much weight is placed on how ERTs engrain themselves in the neighbourhoods that surround them; many ERTs double as alternative schools, art galleries, and even community centres and clinics [11].

Research objectives. My dissertation aims to contextualize these contemporary experiments in cooperative self-determination among ERTs that were once devastated by the crisis of the neoliberal model. My approach will be interdisciplinary and two-pronged, exploring both a “bottom-up” phenomenological perspective and the historical political, economic, and cultural dimensions of the ERT movement within the crisis. In particular, my doctoral work strives to directly address a crucial gap in the ERT literature: While current research alludes to the innovative ways that capital-labour relations are being challenged by workers’ control in Argentina [22, 26], putting into question the neoliberal privileging of property rights over the right to work [11, 16], it does so in an embryonic way because of researchers’ over-reliance on either case studies or quantitative methods. These research strategies, while necessary, are usually conducted independent of other methods, thus underplaying a broader historical context, as Bryman [2] argues. In response to this, my doctoral project strives to unearth the historical roots of the country’s ongoing crisis (a macro-level analysis) in light of how, from the ashes of that crisis, thousands of individuals throughout Argentina are creatively, actively, and cooperatively making alternatives in which they shift from the status of employees to that of autonomous workers in control of their own working lives (a micro-level analysis).

An historical political economy of worker resistance. To begin to understand the roots of these transformations into self-managed-worker subjectivities, I have already begun an historical survey of the political, economic, and cultural circumstances that gave rise to the crisis. This historical perspective contextualizes the upsurge of experiments in recovered enterprises in Argentina and compels me to ask questions such as: What are the historical moments that led to economic crisis in Argentina? What can government documents, policies, union literature, the ERT movement’s own political pamphlets, legal interpretations, and cultural practices and myths tell us about the everyday political practices that permeate ERT protagonists’ lives [9, 31]? How is the movement linked to the labour traditions and the sociopolitical tensions of Argentina dating back at least to the time of Perón’s worker-supported presidencies (1946-1955) [24, 25, 29]? Conceptually grounding this dimension of my research, and acting as theoretical links to the phenomenological dimension, are theories of “agency” and “workers autonomy” found in both the critical theories and histories of capitalist processes of production [1, 7, 14, 17, 21, etc.] and the literature on workers’ control [3, 4, 5, 18, 20, etc.]. Both literatures recognize that there exists in the capitalist system’s very “technical and social environments” [7, p. 47] openings for workers’ resistances to forms of exploitation and alienation [1]; both traditions underscore how production skills and know-how tend to ultimately belong to workers, not managers [3, 7, 21]. Current ERT research, however, lacks deep roots in these traditions due to the paucity of Spanish translations. This denies ERT research the explanatory power that these more traditional literatures offer for understanding the political economic and historical nuances inherent in the change from employees to self-managed workers. My doctoral work will make a vital contribution in correcting this gap.

A “bottom-up” phenomenology of workers’ control. Alternatively, it is clear to me that the ERT movement contributes a powerful case study to the projects of critical theory and theories of workers’ control, revealing important phenomenological contours to “the ongoing struggles of workers” to craft “better, alternative forms of social life” [3, p. 10] within moments of political and economic volatility. Hence, my second research dimension will add further phenomenological understanding to the empirical mapping of the movement by beginning to qualitatively unravel its protagonists’ reclamations of their own labour. Rooted in ERT workers’ own everyday lives [9], this dimension will see me conduct extended interviews with ERT protagonists, inquiring into the self-understandings of the meaning and significance of their experiences of struggles for autonomous workplaces, their fears of unemployment and poverty, and the tribulations and joys of self-management. As well, I will carry out participant observation case studies of four exemplary ERTs from differing sectors (Chilavert, Cefomar, IMPA, and Hotel Bauen), focusing on their cooperative modes of organization; processes of production or service delivery; and cultural connections to the neighbourhoods that surround them. The anticipated outcome of this phase of the research will be to articulate what I am calling the “empowerment contagion” of ERTs stemming from their cooperative and horizontal modes of organization inspiring social movements the world over [13, 27].


Looking forward. Most importantly, I believe that the ERT workers' struggles teach us many things about imminent political action aspiring towards social transformation that directly contests the logic of capital, the prejudices of the Washington Consensus, and that ultimately aspires to reformulate the capital-labour relationship, especially when there is no vanguard left to turn to, no formal organizational structures to cling on to, and no immediate possibility for political change at the state level to look forward to. They show us how complex and at times contradictory their lived-struggles are. They teach us much about both the tensions and possibilities in choosing risky actions like workplace takeovers for the creation of civilizational change. Moreover, these workers' struggles point to the praxical routes necessary for transcending the enclosures of capitalist logics by forging alternative spaces of social life in ways that are incremental, local, and rooted in the moment. Throughout my research work in Argentina, I can never lose sight of what the workers themselves taught me about their situations through their own words and the examples of their everyday lives, perhaps best articulated by Artes Gráficas Chilavert's Cándido Gónzalez, whom I spent many hours with when I was in Argentina this past summer: "If you want to protect your job, you have to protect the job of the other. If you want to ensure you have a meal, you have to make sure the other has a meal" [11, p. 62].

Bibliography
1) Braverman, H. (1974). Labor and monopoly capital: The degradation of work in the twentieth century. New York: Monthly Review Press.
2) Bryman, A. (1988). The debate about quantitative and qualitative research. In A. Bryman (Ed.), Quantity and Quality in Social Research, (pp. 91-126). London: Unwin.
3) Cleaver, H. (2000). Reading Capital politically. Oakland, CA: AK Press/AntiThesis.
4) Coates, K. (2003). Workers’ control: Another world is possible. Nottingham, UK: Russell Press.
5) Cooley, M. (1980). Architect or bee? The human-technology relationship. Boston: Hand and Brain.
6) Fajn, G. (2004). Fábricas recuperadas: La organización en cuestión. Amsterdam: International Institute of Social History. Retrieved September 15, 2005, from http://www.iisg.nl/.
7) Feenberg, A. (2002). Transforming technology: A critical theory revisited. Oxford: University Press.
8) Ghioldi, C. (2003). Supermercado Tigre: Crónaca de un conflicto en curso. Buenos Aires: Cefomar.
9) Hobsbawm, E. (1984). Workers: Worlds of labour. New York: Pantheon.
10) Juncal, L. (2005). Desarollo del cooperativismo y la economía social en la Argentina. El Correo de Económicas, 1(1), 104-113.
11) Lavaca (2004). Sin patron: Fábricas y empresas recuperadas por sus trabajadores: Una historia, una guia. Buenos Aires: Cooperativa de Trabajo Lavaca.
12) Lazzarato, M. (2003). Struggle, event, media. Vienna: www.rebpulicart.net. Retrieved October 1, 2005, from http://www.republicart.net/disc/representations/lazzarato01_en.htm.
13) Lewis, A. & Klein, N. (2004). The take: Occupy. Resist. Produce. Ottawa/Toronto: National Film Board of Canada, Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, Klein Lewis Productions.
14) Marcuse, H. (1964). One dimensional man. Boston: Beacon Press.
15) Marcuse, H. (1969). An essay on liberation. Boston: Beacon Press.
16) Magnani, E. (2003). El cambio silencioso: Empresas y fábricas recuperadas por los trabajadores en la Argentina. Buenos Aires: Prometeo Libros.
17) Marx, K. (1967). Capital, vol. 1: A critical analysis of capitalist production. New York: International.
18) Miller, D. (1991). Market, state, and community: Theoretical foundations of market socialism. Oxford: University Press.
19) Ministerio de Trabajo, Empleo, y Seguridad Social. (2005). Guia 2005 de empresas y fábricas recuperadas. Gobierno Nacional de la República Argentina.
20) Montgomery, D. (1980). Workers’ control in America: Studies in the history of work, technology, and labour struggles. Cambridge, UK: University Press.
21) Noble, D. (1984). Forces of production: A social history of industrial automation. Oxford: University Press.
22) Palomino, H. (2003). The workers’ movement in occupied enterprises: A survey. Canadian Journal of Latin American and Carribean Studies, 28(55-56), 71-96.
23) Petras, J., & Veltmeyer, H. (Eds.). (2004). Las privatizaciones y la desnacionalización de América Latina. Buenos Aires: Prometeo Libros.
24) Pozzi, P. (1998). Popular upheaval and capitalist transformation in Argentina. Latin American Perspectives, issue 114, 27(5), 63-8.
25) Romero, L. A. (2003). La crisis argentina: Una mirada al siglo XX. Buenos Aires: Siglo Veintiuno Editores Argentina.
26) Ruggeri, A., Martinez, C. & Trinchero, H. (2005). Las empresas recuperadas en la Argentina. Buenos Aires: Facultad de Filosofía y Letras, Universidad de Buenos Aires.
27) Sitrin, M. (2005). Horizontalidad: Voces de poder popular en Argentina. Buenos Aires: Chilavert.
28) Scarano, M.A.F., & Sánchez, R. (2005). Empresas recuperadas: Una respuesta al desempleo. El Correo de Económicas, 1(1), 83-86.
29) Suriano, J. (Ed.). (2005). Nueva historia Argentina: Dictadura y democracia (1976-2001). Buenos Aires: Editorial Sudamericana.
30) Svampa, M. & Pereyra, S. (2003). Entre la ruta y el barrio: La experiencia de las organizaciones piqueteras. Buenos Aires: Editorial Biblos.
31) Thompson, E. P. (1963). The making of the English working class. New York: Vintage Books.

Monday, October 10, 2005

"Un programa para sanear el cartoneo" - Dealing with the plight of the cartoneros

"Un día, Adán Guevara (60), del barrio Independencia de José León Suárez, se cansó de ver que sus vecinos cruzaran el Camino del Buen Ayre para revolver la basura del relleno. Y decidió ceder el galpón de su casa para fundar Los Piletones, la primera cooperativa de recuperadores urbanos de la Planta Norte. La CEAMSE donó máquinas para compactar y enfardar plástico y cartón y les mandó camiones para que los miembros de la cooperativa separen la basura en un ambiente seguro. Desde hace un año, cien cartoneros del relleno dejaron de cruzar y ahora usan barbijos y guantes para separar cartón y plástico y venderlo." (El Clarín, Oct. 10, 2005, http://www.clarin.com/diario/2005/10/10/laciudad/h-04402.htm ).

Saturday, October 08, 2005

La mejora de los salarios sólo llega a los que cobran en blanco

"Es porque las subas dispuestas por el Gobierno y la renegociación de los convenios dejan al margen a los empleados privados en negro. Son el 47% del total. El registrado gana un 85% más que el informal

"Mientras los salarios de los trabajadores en blanco siguen mejorando, los que están en negro sufrieron un nuevo retroceso.

"En agosto, los sueldos de los asalariados privados registrados subieron el 2,3%, los del sector público el 1,4% y los no registrados cayeron el 0,9%, según los datos difundidos ayer por el INDEC. Así, estas cifras vuelven a mostrar la fuerte fragmentación del mercado laboral." (El Clarín, Oct. 8, 2005, http://www.clarin.com/diario/2005/10/08/elpais/p-00301.htm)

Thursday, September 29, 2005

An excellent bibliographic overview of the Autonomist Marxist tradition and Reading Capital Politically

Courtesy of Prof. Harry Cleaver::Syllabus: Autonomist Marxism

Prof. Harry Cleaver's Texas Archives of Autonomist Marxism, an impressive compendium of much of the literature on Autonomist Marxism in the original languages of publication.

And, of course, Cleaver's Reading Capital Politically.

Friday, September 23, 2005

A Latin America-wide economy of solidarity of worker recovered enterprises?

One of the things that el MNER (National Movement of Recovered Enterprises) was working on when I was in Argentina this summer was forging alliances with other recovered factories across Latin America, especially with Venezuela. This is what Eduardo Murúa, president of MNER, personally told me and it was also reported in the local news media. It seems that Chavez is interested in using the Argentinean recovered enterprises cooperative model in his drive to nationalize major sectors of Venezuela's economy. To back his words, he's promised a huge infusion of cash in debt bonds to the Argentinean economy and has promised some of this money to go directly to the recovered enterprises in the form of very favourable loans for them (at around 4% interest per year as Chilavert's Cándida Gónzalez speculated in a conversation I had with him). Both Chavez and Murúa, envision an economy of solidarity across Latin America.

I wrote about this on my blog when I was in Argentina: http://www.vieta.ca/thoughts/2005/08/venezuelas-president-chavez-prepared.html .

Here's a more recent article on the topic that came out yesterday: http://www.aporrea.org/dameverbo.php?docid=66394.

This topic is up for discussion at the the First Encounter of Latin American Recovered Enterprises, scheduled to take place in Caracas, Venezuela on October 27-29 of this year.

Whose University? A conversation between David Noble and Nick Dyer-Witheford...

... this coming Monday, at 7:30 at the Toronto Free Gallery. This is a Toronto School of Creativity and Inquiry event, which I help to organize together with my friends Greig DePeuter, Christine Shaw, and Heather Haynes:

++++++++++++

Whose University?
Nick Dyer-Witheford and David Noble in Conversation
A Toronto School of Creativity & Inquiry Event

Monday, September 26, 2005
7:30pm - 9:30pm
Toronto Free Gallery
660 Queen St. East (near Broadview Ave.)

Admission is free. Donations appreciated.

Back to school special! How are commercial interests reshaping Canadian universities? How is the neoliberal agenda playing out in the arts, humanities, sciences, and social sciences? What is it like to teach and learn in a university in an age of entrepreneurship? Is the university a place of diversity? Relevance? Do students and young academics have just cause to be cynical? Can critics really say that the university today is simply a pawn to profit? What strategies might be used to challenge the corporatization of education? What might the university yet become?

Join us for an intimate conversation around these questions with Nick Dyer-Witheford and David Noble-two of Canada's foremost analysts of global capitalism, higher education, and social movements. Nick and David will talk for about 45 minutes and then the event will be open to audience discussion.

We will also screen John Greyson's Motet for Amplified Voices (2004, 8 min.): A Megaphone Choir occupies Vari Hall to euphonically protest the rustication of Dan Freeman-Moloy and the beating of student demonstrators by cops. "Truth wants to be startled abruptly, at one stroke, from her self-immersion, whether by uproar, music or cries for help." -- Walter Benjamin


Nick Dyer-Witheford is a professor in the Faculty of Information and Media Studies at University of Western Ontario in London, where he coordinates the Media in the Public Interest program. He is author of Cyber-Marx: Cycles and Circuits of Struggle in High-Technology Capitalism. Dyer-Witheford's essay on the university in the era of cognitive capitalism will be published in a forthcoming collection, Utopian Pedagogy.

John Greyson is a film/video artist who teaches in the Film Department at York University.

Scholar and activist David Noble teaches at York University. His books America by Design, A World without Women, The Religion of Technology, and Digital Diploma Mills have reshaped our understanding of the evolution of technology, religion, and education. His latest book is Beyond the Promised Land: The Movement and the Myth. Noble has an essay on the contemporary university in the September issue of Canadian Dimension.


About Toronto School of Creativity & Inquiry
TSCI organizes education events that inquire into the new commercial enclosures: enclosures on time, space, creativity, thought, ecology, love... We seek to understand how these enclosures work. But combating against cynicism, we also inquire into creative pathways within, against, and beyond the enclosures: pathways of thinking, collaboration, organization, experimentation...

Contact
torontoschool@sympatico.ca

Book launch of newest book on recovered factories in Argentina: Las Empresas Recuperadas en la Argentina

From my good friends, Andres Ruggeri and Carlos Martinez, my profs for the recovered factories course that I took this summer at the University of Buenos Aires, and co-authors, together with Dr. Hugo Trinchero, of the book:

Presentación del libro "Las Empresas Recuperadas en la Argentina"
Jueves 29 de septiembre, 19 hs. Facultad de Filosofía y Letras. UBA
Puán 480. Aula 108

Donde llegaron
El jueves 29 se septiembre se presenta en la Facultad de Filosofía y Letras el libro "Las Empresas Recuperadas en la Argentina", publicado por el Programa Facultad Abierta de la Secretaría de Extensión Universitaria de la Facultad y el Programa UBACyT de Urgencia Social "Programa Interdisciplinario de Transferencia Científico-Tecnológica con Empresas Recuperadas por su Trabajadores", integrado por cuatro facultades de la Universidad de Buenos Aires.
El libro es resultado de un relevamiento exhaustivo realizado entre empresas recuperadas de todo el país, realizado por el equipo de investigación del Programa de Extensión Facultad Abierta, durante el año 2004. El trabajo contó con la participación de cerca de 100 docentes y estudiantes de la UBA que colaboraron en forma voluntaria en la realización de encuestas a más de 70 casos de empresas recuperadas y en la conformación de una amplia base de datos sobre el fenómeno.
Juntamente con la presentación del libro, el Movimiento Nacional de Empresas Recuperadas (MNER) informará sobre la realización del Primer Encuentro Latinoamericano de Empresas Recuperadas, que tendrá lugar en Caracas (Venezuela) los días 27, 28 y 29 de octubre.

Donde empezaron

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Argentina's poverty rate is down from last year, but still at historically high levels

La pobreza bajó pero se mantiene en niveles muy altos.


  • Poverty now affects 38.5% of Argentines (15 million people), down from 40.2 percent in the second semester of 2004 and and its peak of 57.5% in 2002

  • 13.6% of Argentineans are indigent (5 million people), down from 27.5% in 2002

  • These numbers, while positive, aren't good enough given that Argentina's economy is said to be improving at a faster rate than the poverty line is decreasing, claims the Buenos Aires daily, El Clarín

Four out of 10 unemployed people in Argentina are less than 24 years old

Cuatro de cada 10 desocupados tienen menos de 24 años.

  • Argentineans under 24 years of age are three times as likely to be unemployed.

  • This means that 718,000 youth cannot find work out of a total of 1.8 million people without work, meaning that 26.3% of Argentina's under-24s are unemployed, more than double the official unemployment rate.

  • Only a minority of these younger Argentineans qualify directly for direct social assistance plans (Jefes y Jefas de Hogar).

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

"Is Argentina the most developed country in Latin America?" today's El Clarín Buenos Aires daily asks

A recent report by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) seems to think Argentina is Latin America's "most developed" country. Buenos Aires's biggest daily, El Clarín, is skeptical:

¿Es la Argentina el país más desarrollado de América latina?

I share the daily's skepticism after having lived there for five weeks this summer. While Argentina might be the "most developed country" in Latin America on the UNDP list, this doesn't seem to trickle down to the country's daily realities, at least amongst its poor, working, and middle classes. As the paper cogently - and with more than a bit of irony - points out: "[w]ith an annual revenue of $2000 per person per year, informing us from Washington that each Argentinean carries with them a value of $130,000 [for the national economy] is not very convincing. To arrive at this exaggerated conclusion, in a country with 40% of its population living under the poverty line, the World Bank uses indicators that don't just account for the actual situation but rather the 'potential' situation, as well.... In conclusion, international reports like these ones that claim that Argentina is the richest country on the continent are more worthy for what they don't show than for the reality they claim to measure."

This brings to mind an apt observation by the German-American philosopher Herbert Marcuse from his 1964 book One Dimensional Man:

    "As a habit of thought outside the scientific and technical language, such reasoning shapes the expression of a specific social and political behaviourism. In this behavioural universe, words and concepts tend to coincide, or rather the concept tends to be absorbed by the word.... The word becomes cliché.... The communication precludes genuine development of meaning...[where]...the functionalization of language has a political connotation.... At the nodal points of the universe of public discourse, self-validating, analytical propositions appear which function like magic-ritual formulas.... The result is the familiar Orwellian language ('peace is war' and 'war is peace,' etc.)" (Marcuse, 1964, pp. 87-88).

Kudos on the editors of El Clarín - part of Argentina's biggest media conglomerate, I might add - for calling this NGO's spade a spade.

Monday, September 19, 2005

An article of mine on the interactional self and Internet-mediated communication just came out in the Iowa Journal of Communication's latest issue

An article of mine synthesizing my MA thesis's theoretical framework - rooted in the work of Heidegger, Mead, and Schutz - for thinking about "Internet-mediated communication" just came out IJC's special issue on computer-mediated communication. Here's the table of contents and the announcement of the issue as it appeared on the Association of Internet Researcher's listserv:

From: Kim Powell powellki@luther.edu

The Iowa Communication Association is proud to announce publication of a special issue of the Iowa Communication Journal on Computer Mediated Communication.

The special issue may be purchased for $15 by contacting the journal's business manager Jill Rhea at rhea@bvu.edu or sending payment to her at Buena Vista University, Storm Lake, IA 50588.

COMPUTER MEDIATED COMMUNICATION SPECIAL ISSUE TABLE OF CONTENTS

Frankfurtschool.com: The Application of the Frankfurt Schools' Critical Scholarship to the Internet
Magdalena Wojcieszak

Rethinking Life Online: The Interactional Self as a Theory for Internet-Mediated Communication
Marcelo Vieta

Unique and Ordinary Problems in Internet Research: Research Ethics, the Law, and Power
Mark D. Johns

When Messages are the Medium: Researching Best Practices in Online Education
Sharon S. Kleinman

Exploring the Half-life of Internet Footnotes
Michael Bugeja and Daniela V. Dimitrova
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Thursday, September 15, 2005

How to begin to think about the formation of a new political consciousness in the workers making up the recovered enterprises movement in Argentina

The Hungarian Marxist theorist Georg Lukács seems to be a great place to start. In his influential 1920 masterpiece, History and Class Consciousness, Lukács continues the Marxist line of critique of capitalism and its bourgeois advocates by extending the dialectic into the cultural spheres of everyday life. According to Lukács, his formulation of a theory of class picks up where Marx left off (Lukásc, 1920).

Lukács's Theories of the Reification of Class Consciousness
For Marx, his main project, finding its most cogent formulation in his three volume opus, Das Kapital, is to bring the hidden logic of capitalism to light by, as Braverman puts it, using the dialectic method towards "the demystifying of technology" (1974, p. 445), the meticulous detailing of capitalism's mode of production rooted in labour processes and social relations of domination, and the unraveling of the true "value" of the most fundamental aspect of capitalism: the commodity, the actual embodiment of "labour-power" (Das Kapital, chapter 1).

Like Marx, Lukács too is about unraveling the hidden and taken-for-granted logic of capitalism but, rather than rooting his analysis at the base (the economic), Lukács starts to look at the implications of capitalist logics at the superstructural, cultural level. For Lukács , "formal rationality" (Feenberg, 2002, p. 167) - also called "technocratic thinking" (Ritzer, 2000, p. 142) or, more broadly, the privileging of "technological progress" (Marcuse, 1962, p. xii) by modern societies - "is the basis of capitalist culture" (Feenberg, 2002, p. 167). Lukács's analysis, according to Feenberg, thus brings to the forefront how capitalist modes of thinking and action root themselves in an abstracted, fragmented, and piece-meal society; analytic forms of thought; the privileging of technological and scientific imperatives over human ones; and, ultimately, "the autonomization of production units under the control of private owners" (Feenberg, 2002, p. 166) (on this latter theme, see also: Braverman, 1974 and Noble, 1984). Based on Marx's discovery of the law of a commodity's value - the labour embedded in commodities and at the root of "exchange value" - with its tendency, ultimately, towards domination of the labourer by the effacement of the real value of commodities - "labour-time," or the quantity of socially abstracted human labour embedded in it (Das Kapital, chapter 1) - Lukács extends this logic to the cultural realm, showing how the "degradation of [the proletariat's greater] life and work" (Feenberg, 2002, p. 166) is a consequence of making abstract things into objective, stand alone things divorced of all their human values. For Lukács, it is in the interest of dominant social groups to protect the objectivity of things and processes and to conceal the social relations at the heart of capitalist processes and objects - in other words, to reify the capitalist system's processes and objects and hold them separate and apart from the social relations that bring them to bear and sustain them. This veiling of the real social relations inherent in commodified things and economic processes upholds hegemonic social structures and hides, in Marcuse's words, the "potentialities" (Feenberg, 2004, pp. xi-xii) and "real possibilities" at play in historically contextualized alternatives (Marcuse, 1964, p. xi). Ultimately for Lukács, it is only through the formation of a "class consciousness" that the working class can ever come to see these socially contingent alternatives to capitalist forms of domination and thus break free from the bonds of social control. (Note that Marx, Marcuse, and C. Wright Mills also have much to say about this).

The Formation of a New Workers' Consciousness from Within the Struggles of the ERT Protagonists
Might Lukács - in conjunction with Marx, Marcuse, Feenberg, Braverman, Cleaver, and others - be a good place to begin to understand the formation of a radical political consciousness amongst some of Argentina's recovered enterprises protagonists? Might it help me come to a conceptual understanding of what many workers told me in their own words: That the struggle of occupying their workspaces, the subsequent threat of repression, and the continued fight for legal recognition of their worker coops have consequently helped to ingrain a radicalized consciousness in some of them that was, for most, not their before the occupation (see also: Ruggeri et al., 2005)? In other words, how did the "events" (see Maurizio Lazzarato) of their struggles to recover their work, workspaces, and the role of their workspaces within the greater cultural milieus and community spaces that surround recovered enterprises help form workers' new politicized subjectivities? Were these subjectivities already-always there and rooted in Argentina's strong industrial base and union culture? Why is there a tendency for these new subjectivities to not transform into a vanguardist understanding of the ERT protagonists' political plight? Or were these subjectivities transformed in some new way by the imminent moments of the struggles they are engaged in, that is, from within their actual experiences of struggle? And, how were these workers inspired or motivated to take the difficult journey of resistance and control of their workspaces against such daunting political odds in the contemporary Argentinean conjuncture?

For a few inspiring reads on the transformation of consciousness in the working and marginalized classes:

Friday, September 09, 2005

Some excellent articles by and interviews of autonomist theorist Luis Mattini, from La Fogata Digital

La Fogata - Luis Mattini.

An article on Villa 21, one of Buenos Aires's "villas miserias", by Sammy Loren, links to my visit of Villa 21 on July 17 of this year

I visited Villa 21 in the southern Buenos Aires barrio of Barracas with the aap's summer immersion group on July 17 of this year. It was both sobering and inspiring. Sobering in the that many of the villeros -- some of them making up a part of the army of cartoneros that stroll Buenos Aires's streets every day looking for cardboard to recycle -- literally live next to one of the city's massive garbage dumps in humble houses of tin and adobe. Inspiring in that some of them, like Claudia Zerda, have radicalized and organized and are making a better world for themselves and their neighbours, mostly against daunting odds, infernal class divisions, and within an indifferent cultural and political system.

Sammy Loren, a filmmaker and writer currently living in Argentina, recently met up with Claudia and writes about Villa 21 and his conversation with Claudia in an Aug. 30 article in Upside Down World.

The same Claudia, together with MTD Teresa Rodriguez organizer, Franco, took us on a tour of Villa 21 on the 17th of July. Here's a snapshot I took of them both before we set off on the tour as they explained to us the history of Villa 21, the MTD (unemployed workers' movements), and their involvement in both Villa 21 and the movement:

Thursday, September 08, 2005

My entire MA thesis in pdf, from SFU's library database

Finally, here's the SFU library's version of my MA thesis, published last year. Surprisingly, the entire thing is available off of the library's website via pdf: Interactions Through the Screen: The Interactional Self as a Theory for Internet-Mediated Communication.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Thanking the organizers of the aap's 2005 summer educational program with Argentina's recovered enterprises movement

I'd like to take this opportunity to thank the
argentina autonomist project (aap) for organizing a
fantastic five weeks of political and cultural
education that facilitated much solidarity building
between a group of North American university students
and activists that I was a part of and various
autonomist social justice movements in Buenos Aires
this summer.

For four of these five weeks I personally interned at
one of the most inspiring worker recovered enterprises
in Argentina, Artes Gráficas Chilavert. My experiences
at Chilavert working with the members of its
worker-run cooperative and hearing their stories of
struggle, community activism, political
transformation, and bottom-up community-building
within Argentina’s recent and complex historical
conjuncture was a moving educational experience. The
internship helped me better understand how our sad
world of capitalist competition and overly-masculinist
enclosures may be transformed into a new world that
embraces both our differences and our lines of
affinity by using methods of direct democracy,
horizontal forms of social organization, and networks
of solidarity rooted in the practices of everyday
life, the local community, and reclaimed cultural
spaces.

For me, my summer in Argentina served not only as a
sensitively organized reintroduction to the difficult
socio-political realities and most recent grassroots
movements in the country of my birth. It also gave me
access to both the intellectual spaces and the
physical spaces I needed to begin what will be, I am
sure, a life-long dialogue between myself, an
Argentinean-Canadian activist and an early critical
academic, and those actually building new social and
political realities in Argentina.

Kudos to the aap for facilitating this vital cultural
and political encounter.

Marcelo Vieta
PhD Candidate in Social and Political Thought, York
University, Toronto, Canada



Quiero agradecer a los oranizadores del proyecto
argentina autonomista (aap) por organizar cinco
semanas fantásticas de aprendizaje politico y cultural
en Buenos Aires este verano. Estoy seguro que los
encuentros políticos y personales con los que
experimentamos estas cinco semanas ayudaron a
facilitar la construcción de lineas de solidaridad
entre nosotros estudiantes y activistas visitantes
americanos y canadienses y varios grupos autonomistas
porteños.

Durante cuatro de estas cinco semanas yo trabaje como
voluntario en unas de las empresas recuperadas más
inspirantes de Argentina, Artes Gráficas Chilavert.
Mís experiencias en Chilavert, trabajando y
compartiendo unos hermosos momentos con los miembros
de la cooperativa de trabajadores, me permitieron
aprender de sus historias de lucha, activismo
comunitario, transformación político, y sus
construcciónes de una nueva comunidad basado en sus
vidas cotidianas, todo a pesar de la reciente y
compleja conyuntura historica del país. Estas
experiencias me ayudaron a entender mejor como nuestro
triste mundo de competencia capitalista y recintos
machistas puede ser transformado a un nuevo mundo que
incluye nuestras diferencias y, a la misma vez,
nuestras lineas de afinidades, usando métodos de
democracia directa, horizontalidad, y redes de
solidaridad basadas en las prácticas de la vida
cotidiana, la comundad local, y los espacios
culturales recuperados.

Para mi, este verano en Argentina no solo sirvió como
una re-introducción a las difíciles realidades
socio-políticas argentinas y los subsecuentes
movimientos sociales más recientes en mi país nativo.
También me dió acceso a los espacios intelectuales y
actuales necesarios para comenzar, estoy seguro, un
diálogo de largo plazo entro un activista y académico
argentino-canadiense y ell@s construyendo una nueva
realidad social y político en Argentina.

Kudos al aap por facilitar este importantísimo
encuentro de aprendizaje cultural y político.

Marcelo Vieta
Candidato de doctorado en Pensamiento Social y
Político, Universidad de York, Toronto, Canada

Friday, September 02, 2005

AAP compañeros' Argentina pictures

More photos from our time in Argentina this summer, from my Edmonton friends Karren Huggins and Garry Fry.

And even more pics, these ones from the first week of the aap summer program.

Emily Ladue's pics.

Fantastic pics from our Argentina trip from my American compañero Michael GW

http://community.webshots.com/user/autonomista

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.

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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.

Sunday, July 31, 2005

My PhD Project: “‘Occupy, Resist, Produce’: Workers' Control in the Most Recent Argentinean Conjunctures” (working title)

PART 1: Conjunctural analysis research and internship in Argentina, summer 2005

Between July 9 and August 15 of this year, I spent my time in Buenos Aires, Argentina looking more closely at the most recent phenomena of workers’ control in recovered enterprises. In addition to working the presses, copy editing books, working with off-set films, sweeping the floors, and having long chats with the self-managed workers at Artes Graficas Chilavert, a local and busy printing press workspace, I sat in three month-long seminars at the University of Buenos Aires's Faculty of Philosophy and Letters with labour historian Prof. Pablo Pozzi (“Argentina 1955 to the Present: Politics and the Economy”) activist Silvia Delfino who is featured in the documentary The Take (“Argentinean Social Movements from a Gender Perspective”), and recovered enterprises researchers and anthropologists Andrés Ruggeri and Carlos Martinez (“Empresas recuperadas por sus trabajadores: Un nuevo modo de resistencia de los trabajadores a la exclusion y la desocupación estructural”). This joint university course and internship program was sponsored by the UBA, the argentina autonomist project, and the Institute for Social Ecology.

In addition to the course work and internship, I also conducted over 35 interviews with 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, and interviews with various activists and academics.

Generally, the 35 or so interviews I conducted in Argentina over the summer of 2005 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 following 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.)?

Choosing 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?

Was Gramsci was wrong? Can crisis lead to revolution? While perhaps too early to directly contest Gramsci, It seems that in Argentina’s case, crisis is at least leading to conscientization of particular workers if not a different kind of revolution that's slower, more intentional, and more rooted in the moment and in the daily community, familial, and personal needs of each of the ERT's protagonists [Gramsci in Morera; Day; Feenberg].

Together, the courses, the participatory research of the internship at Chilavert, my interviews, and the practice of writing emergent thoughts and observations in the moment on my blog, all make up what I’m calling my preliminary “conjunctural analysis” for my forthcoming PhD dissertation work on the political economic, the phenomenological, and the genealogical aspects of the most recent – and most promising – iteration of workers’ control in Argentina. The implications for the research I’m proposing to continue in my PhD work will help to not only understand the Argentinean situation better, but will also serve to inform the literature on workers’ control as well as critical theories of technology. In this respect, I believe the statement that Argentina’s experiments with new forms of socially just, local, and directly democratic forms of social organization are being conducted within a “living laboratory” (Colectivo Situaciones, 2003) is well stated.

A brief overview of the conjuncture that the empresas recuperadas por sus trabajadores (enterprises recovered by their workers) find themselves in

Chilavert is one of the many successful worker recovered workspaces in Argentina operating as a cooperative with no owner, boss or management. Instead, it relies solely on a direct democratic form of administration conducted within direct assemblies--one worker one vote--and on sheer worker motivation! And, yes, "specialist" managerial decisions; cost-benefit analyses; purchase orders; distribution, sales, and marketing functions; machine repairs and operations; accounts payables and receivables; and building maintenance all get done and get done well. In addition, the factory also supports cultural events on the second floor, often hosting dances, movie screenings, poetry readings, community-based education classes, and other social events open to the entire Chilavert neighbourhood.

Artes Graficas Chilavert is part of the National Movement of Recovered Enterprises (Movimiento Nacional de Empresas Recuperadas, or MNER) and shares the story of owner-declared bankruptcy, worker resistance, and worker takeover experienced in various unique ways by roughly 170-200 other recovered workplaces in Argentina. Emerging out of the drastic and inhuman neoliberal policy’s of the Menem government of the 1990s and the subsequent implosion of the socio-economic and socio-political reality of Argentina that came to a head on Dec. 19 and 20, 2001, and in the ashes of a prolonged and smoldering deterioration of the middle and working classes’ economic wellbeing and the increased immiseration of the poor (now plaguing between 45 - 60% of Argentina’s population, depending on who you talk to), new possibilities for social and political life - such as the Bauen´s cooperative work space - are being experimented with everywhere in Argentina. Alternative and horizontal social realities are being explored and lived daily by the homeless, the unemployed, the socially marginal people of the myriad villas miserias (shanty towns)that dot the country, and among a plethora of nascent neighbourhood movements and recovered work spaces. Participants in these movements are struggling to not only change their own socio-political reality, but, as many have told me thus far, to also return dignity into daily life via a reawakening of a more human, more local way of existence that emerges out of social, political, and economic crisis.

For formerly bankrupt and now recovered work spaces like the Bauen, their workers´ stories, while all unique, have a similar plotline: The recovered enterprises movement is, in part, a bottom-up response to the IMF´s failed attempts to control the country´s economic policies in order for Argentina to be able to meet its interest payments on its massive foreign debt (economic policies which Argentina´s politicians and public managers wholeheartedly carried out throughout the 1990s). In addition, thousands of workers have been led to carry out risky factory takeovers because of inept or greedy owners that, capitalizing on the speculative and corrupt auction market made possible by the economic collapse, threaten to or declare bankruptcy in the wake of the failure of these structural adjustments. Especially after the Dec. 2001 economic meltdown, thousands of once-healthy businesses began to close their doors and evict their workers throughout the country. On top of this, workers are usually let go after weeks and months of not getting paid. Unemployed and with hungry families to feed, the inevitable vaciamiento (emptying) of a bankrupt enterprise´s machinery and assets by the owner and his creditors motivates thousands of workers to mobilize by first seizing the factory and occupying it, thus using their own physical presence - their own bodies - to ride out the six to eight and sometimes 12 months it takes for the courts to declare the ley de exproriacion (expropriation law) preventing the auctioning off of the company´s assets. Although sometimes the workers are allowed to legally use the machines while the backruptcy claim is still in the courts, the ultimate, and always precarious and to date short term goal, is for the workers to be able to control the machines free from the threat of eviction by the state, although even at this stage the workers still only have temporary control of the machines and the property under various burdensome conditons (e.g., in most cases the workers, directly or indirectly, take on the debt of the previous owner). During the long wait between the declaration of quiebra (bankruptcy) and the declaration of the expropriation law, desperate yet determined and well organized worker takeovers of the closing factory ensues, leading to lengthy periods of courageous workspace occupation by the workers. Often, as with the balloon factory La Esperanza, the print house Chilavert, and the now famous Zanon, the workers face the constant threat of persecution and attacks by repressive police forces, mafiosi union leaders, and bought-off government cronies. If all goes well, the occupation culminates in long battles with the federal and provincial courts for legal recognition of the work space as an official, worker run cooperative. Eventually, and sometimes during the tenuous weeks and months of occupation, the workers slowly begin to produce again or, as in the case of the Bauen, to provide hotel services.

For thousands of workers in this country, this direct action is the only solution left; out of the ashes of 19/20 thousands of Argentine workers are deciding to experiment with manager-free and horizontal work places run by themselves via assemblies and workers' councils. Initially there is no deep revolutionary rationale guiding the takeovers; what inspires the workers to action is the desperation and frustration of each worker and the need to feed and provide for his or her family. The workers rage and desperation at the possibility of being without work usually always foments their action. But slowly, throughout their struggle, the workers begin to change their own circumstnces for the first time in their lives in spite of and, indeed, because of a political system that remains unresponsive to their quotidian needs. Here in Argentina, politicians and union leaders continue to cater more to the whims of global markets than to the dire circumstances of a psychically and emotionally pummeled and evermore precarious citizenry.

Turning to each other rather than relying on experts, politicians, bureaucrats, or the church, a rich yet simple model of direct democracy and communitarian work ethic emerges out of the struggles of everyday life in Argentina. In the recovered factories movement, the workers’ everyday reality of struggle (lucha) informs the understanding of their plight. Their understanding comes from within the crisis, through the hope they create, and always, especially during the first stages of their struggle, from below. Their existential experiences are constantly forging their philosophies of cooperativism and community. And their understanding of what's at stake is eloquent, reflected in their daily practices and in the poignant narratives they recount. Here, in Argentina, amongst the workers’ and unemployed workers’ movements, the cartoneros (cardboard people), the piqueteros (organized picketers), the asambleas barriales (neighbourhood assemblies), and las empresas recuperadas (recovered factories), theory emerges always and directly from immediate experience. Any other kind of a priori theory risks sharing the same myopic perspective affecting those sabios (wise ones) in the seats of power. Perhaps the asambleas (people's assemblies) that guide all of these movements are the first signs of the flames of the slowly emerging Phoenix that received its first drafts of generative wind from the impassioned chant of millions who took to the streets on Dec. 19/20, 2001 as they sang out “Que se vayan todos!” – “All of them (Argentina’s traditional institutional players) must leave now!”

The six conjunctures underscoring Argentina’s most recent experiences with workers’ control

1. Conjunctures of need

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?

2. Conjunctures of precariousness in everyday life

I´m quickly learning that most work is precarious in Argentina. Let me quickly describe a few of the labour realities that have led to the precarization of most sectors of society here.

First, the sobering realities for Argentina's workers post-Dec. 19/20, 2001 (official figures compiled by James Petras & Henry Veltmeyer, Las privatizaciones y la desnacionalizon de America Latina, Promoteo Libros, Buenos Aires, 2004):
- In 2002, the most chaotic year of the post-1990s economic chaos in Argentina, it wa estimated that 18.2 million Argentines, or 51.4% of the population lives under the poverty line. A large part of this extreme pauperization of Argentina began in the early months of 2002: Between Jan. and May of 2002, 3.2 million Argentines fell bellow the poverty line - that's 762,000 per month or 25,000 per day! While these drastic numbers have now stabilized a bit, poverty and indigence remains at historical highs for a former affluent country like Argentina (see my Sept. 22, 2005 post).
- In 1997 Argentina's average yearly income was U$S 8,950. By 2002 it had fallen to U$S 3,197.
- The mostly middle class city of Buenos Aires saw it's citizens' average monthly income suffer a drop of almost 60% in 4 months, from U$S 909 in Dec. 2001 to U$S 363 by Mar. 2002. The working class saw its income drop from U$S 626 to U$S 250 in the same time frame. For pensioners, their monthly cheques went from an average of U$S 437 to U$S 175 in greater Buenos Aires. The poverty line in Argentina is now at U$S 400 per month.
- In 2002, most of the working classes in greater Buenos Aires found themselves earning salaries and wages below the poverty line. In the city of Buenos Aires, 60% of the working sector found itself below the poverty line in 2002.
- In 1974, Argentina's top 10% of income earners monopolized 28% of the nation's wealth. In 1992, 34% of the wealth. By 2001, more than 37% of the nations earnings remained within this percentile of the population. In contrast, the poorest 10% of the population received 2.2% of the nation's wealth in 1974 and a measly 1.3% by 2001, just before the massive increase in unemployment. Given that the wealthiest classes in Argentina tend to under-report their income, Petras & Veltmeyer (2004) point out that the Argentine government estimates this wealth disparity to be even more marked than the official numbers indicate. As such, some official estimates place Argentina's wealthiest 10% with incomes that are 40 times higher than the poorest 10% and suggest that Argentina's wealthiest 10% control more than 80% of the nations entire wealth!

More examples of precarious life in Argentina. Much of the working population works either entirely or in part "en negro" (literally, "in the black"), meaning that they're paid "under the table" and their work activity is not recorded. Those that work en negro of course do not make pension contributions nor do they receive unemployment insurance, holiday pay, or health benefits. They also do not have union representation (although one of Argentina's most important historians, Pablo Pozzi, told me that there is a group of metalurgical workers based out of Cordoba who are currently meeting to try and unionize en negro workers). Another huge sector of the working population is made up of contract workers that also receive no benefits and have little job security, living contract to contract. And yet a third group of workers - many making up the ranks of the now depleted working classes that stoked Argentina's once mighty industrial base - work in jobs that they are overqualified for and are therefore grossly underpaid. Many of these underemployed workers work en negro and often hold down two or three jobs. Those that do have the good fortune of still having a steady jobe look forward to paltry fractions of the pensions, health benefits, and unemployment insurance they should be receiving.

Most workers that do receive an official salary (today making up about 12% of Argentina's total economic output, compared to 49% during Peron's first two presidencies between 1946 and 1955, the other 88% of the pie going to multinationals, large corporations, and government activity) have only a portion of their salary (between 25-50%) officially recognized for calculating benefits. This portion of one's salary is called "el basico de convenio" (Pozzi, 2005). That is, most people here only claim a portion of their income, the rest of their income is considered extra pay and, thus, is not recognized as a regular part of their salaries. While it is true that these additional add-ons to one's salary are non-taxable for most, importantly, they are also portions of one's income that don't factor into calcualting benefits such as unemployment insurance, retirement plans, and health benefits. Additionally, and literally overnight, the buying power of salaries fell by more than 60% when the peso was readjusted at a level of 3-1 to the US dollar after the "convertibilidad" policy of 1-1 was scrapped in 2002. This, coupled with the subsidization of many low salaried positions by Argentina's "planes trabajar" (welfare plans instituted during the crisis of 2002 by former caretaker president Eduardo Duhalde), caused a general "flattening" of wages (Pozzi, 2005). This wage flattening is, in essence, a subsidy for businesses, reducing their variable costs of doing business and transferring the burden of Argentina's economic recovery onto the dwindling middle and working classes while Argentina's medium, large, and multinational enterprises continue to record huge profits in many instances (Pozzi, 2005; Petras & Veltmeyer, 2004).

Also, secure jobs with any type of regular and long term pay are becoming scarcer in Argentina and are rarely advertised, especially in the intellectual, administrative, or service sectors. This is compounded by the fact that nepotism abounds here still. Unless one is well connected, many - like my cousin who is a graphic designer - spend years looking for a steady paycheque after graduating from high school or university. My cousin, for example, took five years after graduating from one of Buenos Aires's best private universities to find a secure job that guaranteed her a decent income with benefits. "Freelance" is a commonly used word here. Moreover, there are millions who are underemployed and chronically unemployed. While the official unemployment rate is officially around 12% [EL CLARIN], this number, however, does not include the 10-20% that are receiving planes trabajar, those that have given up looking for work, and those that are underemployed. In Argentina, losing your job any time after your mid-40s pretty much guarantees that you'll most likely never find a similar job again. Age discrimination is a way of doing business here.

And, while the piqueteros have taken their unemployment quagmire to the streets, their demands - except for the the most radical and autonmous MTD factions - usually don't extend beyond asking for more subsidies (from $150 pesos a month to $350). These planes are not initially distributed to individuals but to umbrella organizations such as political parties, partisan municipal workers, and MTD organizations which then take on the job of distributing the welfare subsidies to its members. Usually kick-backs and political favours are involved. Because of this institutionalized clientelism, an entire mafia-like distribution system of welfare dependence and work-for-welfare has emerged that links the welfare plans to political entities. In addition, this clientelistic distribution system concentrates much economic and political power in the hands of a few welfare distribution managers, political parties, and government and union officials that regularly recieve kickbacks from the distribution of the the planes trabajar, turning the planes into political currency useful for exchanging political benefits to those individuals and organizations seeking power or already in power.

Here are a few more quick tastes of why working life is precarious in Argentina:
- Example: The average salaried worker makes around $800 -$1000 pesos, the average wage earner makes $500 - $700 pesos. The poverty line is somewhere between$500 - $600. An average rent is around $200 - $400 pesos.
- Example: University professors at the hightest levels get around $87 pesos a month per course taught (yes, you read right, $87 pesos, or around U$S 30!) Most professors and sessionals (called "adjuntos") teach about 4 courses per semester on average in addition to working in committees, publishing, going to conferences, etc. Thus, professors must subsidize their income with other jobs such as private teaching, private research, etc. Here, publish or perish has being taken to new lows. Many professors and sessionals leave Argentina and teach elsewhere. This has caused a dire brain drain here. Also, most intellectuals, except for the most committed left radicals, tend to be politically conservative or centrists, something one would expect from a cadre of intellectuals doing research for private corporations, government institutions, lobby groups, or state bureacuracies.

These are only a few examples of why I believe we have to think about precarity much more broadly here in Argentina than how the concept is framed when doing political economic analysis of immaterial labourers or minimum-wage earners and contract workers in the global north [REFERENCES]. Most of the working class in Argentina - be they wage earners, salaried workers, freelancers, contract workers, immaterial labourers or the underemployed - are living in some sort of precarious work/life condition. And one can't think of precarity here without thinking about the connections to the neoliberal structural adjustments and sellout of the 1990s, machista culture, the connections between race and class (still very visible here), the present and historical role of repression in Argentinean socio-political life, the sharp distinctions between Buenos Aires as the economic-cultural-political "centre" of power and the rest of the nation as the dependent "periphery" (very much in the Innisian sense), the frustrations related to the failed promises of attaining first world status, and the acceptance of "assistentialist" culture by many under and unemployed (Flores, 2005). Perhaps, then, Argentina, a once powerful industrial giant with a committed working class, offers an early look at the precarious future in store for other developed and developing economies in the thick of contemporary neoliberalist forms of capital accumulation.

3. Conjunctures of class divisions

Things in Argentina´s current political reality are intense, complex, contradictory, and inspirational. There are many conjunctions at play in all of the social movements and all of the struggles I´ve seen thus far (i.e., the MTDs, the recovered workspaces, homeless rights advocates, the fight for the basic needs of those that live in shantytowns, the piqueteros, the cartoneros, etc). The ravages of capitalism and consumerism are everywhere, especially in the villas miserias. We witnessed how the villeros live - literally - on top of and off of the garbage that wealthier porteños dump along the frayed outskirts of Buenos Aires. And, while there are many contradictions to the social justice movements here (as there are everywhere), it is clear that all are seeking a better way to live life in a society still deeply stratified, intrinsically racist and sexist, and volatile. I´m learning that we can´t generalize anything in Argentina, even within the loose community of 170-plus recovered firms. Actually, especially amongst the recovered enterprises movement as traditional union and party politics are always in tension with the workers' inherently autonomist tendencies (more on this later). Every situation experiences its own unique political quagmire and triumphs.

There is one thing sought by most protagonists of the "newest" social movements here, however: dignity. It is the one word said by most protagonists of the social justice movements that we've met thus far, suggesting a link between all of them, as fractured, emergent and uncertain as they all are. Within the chaos and precariousness of life here, the first thing they all seek - that is, the recovered enterpries workers, unemployed workers, cartoneros, villeros, activist retired people, piqueteros, etc. - after the basic necesities of life are are met (and the struggle of many like the MTDs, cartoneros, and the activists in the villas hasn't gone beyond fighting for basic human rights and the vital needs of the millions of Argentines in need) is to be treated with dignity and to be respected as important members within a greater community.

Notwithstanding their internal tensions and contradictions, and while there is much disillusionment amongst all social classes, there is also much hope, especially within the recovered enterprises movement. Throughout Argentina, life continues to be rich with social activities and joy. Even in the villa that we visted (Villa 21), where many eat the refuse dumped in mass trash sites by multinationals like McDonalds (a cheap and efficient way for McDonald's to get rid their waste), we saw music being played and children doing what children do within the squalor and misery of their daily realities. Here is a brief photo essay that I shot an compiled contrasting Villa 21 and other precarious life situations with pictures of the upper class neighbourhoods of Buenos Aires a mere 10-15 km away - the intense contrast provides a clear and simple picture of the deep social and economic divisions currently plaguing Argentina.

4. Conjunctures of subjectivity

Today, I feel, was a breakthrough day for us in the program, a mere three days into this journey that will give us just a taste of the new possibilities for life being pioneered by a few visionary social movements here in Argentina. Why was it a breakthrough day? Because we finally set foot in two recovered workspaces during working hours. Today the workers of Gráfica Patricios (a four-colour off-set printing press) and Cefomar (a publishing house) let us into their space and their work lives for a few brief hours. Today we finally got to see these workers labouring in the actual spaces they occupied and fought for so valiantly against many odds. (A side note: It’s unfortunate that I find myself alone tonight. We all dispersed quickly after visiting the last factory, Cefomar, two hours ago. Although we’re all tired, I feel that we must share these experiences and learn from each other as we begin to individually and collectively process the stories that we’re hearing from the protagonists of Argentina’s many unfolding political dramas. [Update: We now meet often as a group. These casual and organic meetings where we share thoughts and experiences are proving to be invaluable for processing our experiences of Argentina´s socio-political justice movements and for whay they mean to us collectively and individually. We´ve also started a reading group where we hope to touch on some of the theoretical issues that are coming to the surface from our experiences].

Today we learned that the recovered workspace movement has to be one of the most inspriational groups within Argentina’s newest social movements for dignity in daily life. Rather than being vanguards, its protagonists are inspirational leaders through their example because they are, within their particular circumstances and in the thick of their specific crises moments, redefining the entire concept of labour. And, in their everyday praxes of work and solidarity under self-management, their everyday lives as a whole are transforming too.

The recovered workspace protagonists are engaging in many battles on many fronts. One of the most intense battles usually comes after the occupation of the firm: the fight for legal recognition of their cooperatives and for the reform of several national, provincial, and municipal laws - in particular, Argentina´s national bankruptcy and expropriation laws. For those recovered enterprises that fall within the Movimento Nacional de Empresas Recuperadas (MNER) (a loose and autonomist organization of almost half of Argentina´s recovered workspaces; the other organization being the Movimiento Nacional de Fabricas Recuperadas por sus Trabajadores (MNFRT), which is more closely affiliated with unions and the state) the reform of current national and provincial laws sharply favouring private property at the expense of the right to work (both entrenched in Argentina´s constitution) is one of the most important early battles in the struggle for worker-controled workspaces.

In a nutshell, legal recognition of worker-controled cooperatives and, in particular, the legal recognition of the rights of these cooperatives to control and use a recovered firm's fixed and variable capital (machines, building, customer base, etc.) is crucial for the prevention of state repression, judicial corruption, and union thuggery. Symbolically and emotionally, legal status also acknowledges the value of the sweat and work of those workers that have laboured in factories, shops, and offices for years, giving both legal life and cultural recognition to the notion that workers invest something perhaps much, much more important than investors, speculators, owners, and decision makers do - what Marx (1983) labels "labour-power" or "labour-time" (pp. 35-41). At minimum, these grassroots worker protagonists fighting for more job security, a better community, and a better life want their labour and struggle to be valorized and their devotion to their work to be recognized by society as well as the state. What the workers seek more than anything, in other words, is to be in control of their subjectivity, their communities, and their future within spaces of labour that can be recovered as dignified sites for living life.

Do these workers have a critique of the nation state and of the global capitalist system of manufacturing, distribution, and consumption? Yes, some do, but the conjuncture in which they live in is extremely complex and steeped in the quotidian difficulties of paying bills and feeding their families within the highly precarized nature of life in Argentina, especially after the crisis of 2001/2002. While the struggle for and the potentiality of greater civilizational change for Argentina is palpable in the narratives that the workers shared with me, such lofty goals for societal change - i.e., the revolution - tend to be, at this early stage of the recovered workspace movement, immersed in the small daily struggles of work, family, and political life. Within the recovered workspace movement, social change since Dec. 19 and 20 2001 tends to be paced, patient, and emergent. The change being spearheaded by the recovered workspace movement is situationally bound, not linked to the inhuman pace and enigmatic wilo-the-wisp nature of the global financial marketplace. Perhaps this latter point is what the recovered workspace movement is teaching progressively minded social justice activists and intellectuals. At the same time, however, civilzational transformation is not in some distant future phase of the revolution for these workers but is, rather, ensconced in their daily struggles, in their daily acts of production and community, in their practices. Their small, quoditidian steps are slowly shaping the look and feel of a new, socially aware community-based cultural and political reality.

Do the recovered workspace protagonists engage in mainstream economic activity within Argentina's national marketplace and, indeed, with the state itself? Yes, for clear practical reasons of survival until an alternative economic model is more clearly demarcated. While a descendant of all past struggles for worker control which also has a rich history in Argentina (recall the thousands of factory takes during the Frondizi presidency in the early 1960s or the Cordobazo in May/June 1969, Argentina's version of May '68), this current and possibly more obstinate iteration of autogestion (self-management) is slowly beginning to build an alternative way of doing business: i.e., salaried work intermingles with worksharing; the common practice of voluntarism within and between recovered enterprises building networks of solidarity between workers and other empresas recuperadas; the sharing of resouces and supplies between related worker cooperatives; and the solidarity between recovered workspaces in times of political lucha (struggle) viz moral support, financial support, and the support of other workers from other enterprises in the movement during the occupations.

It seems to me that, in Argentina - a country still entrenched in the fallout of economic crisis and social uncertainty since the failed neoliberal free-market frontier mentality of the 1990s - it is too early to try to completely redefine the nation-state and the capitalist market economy. This is especially the case within the recovered workspace movements, with only 160-200 or so known workspaces working as official, worker controled cooperatives in Argentina making up a total of 10-12,000 workers. It is clear, however, that many in the movement would eventually like to reconstruct the socio-political and economic architecture of not only Argentina but the world.

Legal recognition. In these early days of the struggle, one of the first small steps for the recovered workspace movement is to get the courts and the state to valourize and recognize the right to work over the rights of private property and to reform Argentina’s bankruptcy and expropriation laws in order to faciliate the creation of worker-led cooperatives rather than the auctioning off of the assets of the factory at the expense of much needed jobs [INSERT STATS]. The moral imperative to privilege employment over private property, rather than the Argentinean establishment's predilection to privilege the rights of property owners over the rights of workers, is brought into releif when one considers that the cause of the workers' precarious conditions were more often than not a direct result of nefarious shenanigans, bad decisions, and shady deals cut between the previous owner and currupt lawyers, bankruptcy trustees, mafiosi union operatives, and even judges. In addition, the workers are often one of the main creditors because in almost all of the cases of declared bankruptcies which then led to worker occupations the workers were owned thousands of dollars in back pay that they had not received in months if not years in some cases.

In these struggles for workers' dignity and the guarantee of work, the logic of MNER, the more autonomist-minded political lobby collective of the recovered enterprises movement, when trying to convince indifferent, unconvinced, and sometimes recalcitrant judges, politicians, and the general public of the worthiness of their struggle is simple: Letting the worker keep on working ultimately benefits the community and the country much more than appeasing speculative creditors and certainly infinitely more than allowing illegal bankruptcies to take their course. And, in Buenos Aires so far, 12 recovered enterprises have won the first round of the legal battle using this logic. The Bauen Hotel and the balloon factory La Nueava Esperanza currently find themselves in this stage of the fight [I'll report on these two situtations and the legal battles in the city of Buenos Aires legislature in the following days. The cases for applying expropriation laws to the Bauen, Cefomar, and La Nueva Esperanza will be heard in the Buenos Aires city legislature either on Aug. 4 or 11 of this year].

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The first recovered workspace we visited today was Gráfica Patricios, where Luis and Pedro showed us around their extremely efficient print shop. The second recovered enterprise we visited was Cefomar, where Edith described to us in articulate language how four workers took the editorial house in 2002. And we've also had the privilege of talking to Chilavert´s Candido on several occasions already. All three workers’ stories were infused with a deep sense of experientially learned praxical knowledge. All three told us how the valiant occupations by the trabajadores (workers), often lasting months, prevented the vaciamiento (emptying) of their empresas by corrupt owners and court trustees after bankruptcy was declared. Their testimonies were rich with the dignity and determination of their struggle.

At Gráfica Patricios, a print house that takes up an entire block in the southern Buenos Aires barrio of Barracas a block away from the Riachuelo River, Luis took us on a tour of the plant. Ranging between 30 fulltime workers and up to 70 workers when deadlines are close, Patricios is a true hive of work. Between explanations of the complicated off-set process during the tour, Luis described to us their struggle to reclaim the factory that began on March 30, 2003 after their owner abandoned the factory and declared quiebra (bankruptcy). The workers of Patricios, Luis elaborated, took (tomaron), or occupied, the plant for nine months. During those arduous months the workers lived in the factory 24/7, receiving food and supplies from family members and neighbours [LINK TO STRUGGLE OF THE NEIGHBOURHOOD]. A court order followed shortly after the take and the workers were ordered to evacuate the plant. They resisted and remained locked in, sleeping on the floor of the vast establishment and relying on family and neighbours for sustenance. Part of the reason for staying locked in the factory is so their printing machines - the embodiment and extension of their craft and skills - wouldn't be taken away under the stealth of night, before the official bankruptcy inventory was to officially take place. This latter point is a common theme that permeates and initially fuels almost all of the early struggles of occupation in Argentina, aptly narrated by Avi Lewis and Naomi Klein in their documentary The Take (2004) and epitomized in the well-known experienced of Zanon, Brukman, and Chilavert. The occupation by the workers of Patricios was eventually "successful," meaning that the court order was revoked and no machines were illegally taken by the former owner. By the end of the occupation, however, most of their former clients which included the Buenos Aires daily, El Clarín and other high end publishing houses, were lost and their marketshare eroded to almost nothing. They are now, two years later, a fledgling print house, producing at 30% of their original capacity as they slowly reclaim their customer base.

Pedro’s thoughts. Pedro, a 25 year old printer who manages Patricio's dryer and is being trained in sales, takes over the tour guide duties from Luis for a while. He begins to tell us about the drying process in the printing cycle. We’re more interested in their struggle and their cooperative system of administration. Pedro’s discussion oscillates between giving us brief summaries of their history and form of administration and the intricacies of the printing process. We find out eventually that Patricios is run by a workers' council of a few elected representatives within a cooperative model that make most of the major daily decisions of the plant. This is complemented by monthly worker assemblies which involve all of the 30 permanent employees; in these assemblies major and minor issues are heard and dealt with.

We continue to persistently to ask questions about their struggle and their forms of organization. Pedro finally begins to talk about his feelings concerning the takeover and how the lives of all of the compañeros at the plant have been subsequently transformed. It is at this moment that we begin to hear from an actual protagonist of Argentina's recovered workspace movement, how their subjectivities as wage labourers are slowly transforming into subjectivities of self-managed workers:

“We worked here two years without pay,” Pedro tells us. “The previous owners wanted to tire us out, to force us to quit. But we didn’t. We couldn’t. Instead, we tired them out. Shortly after we occupied the plant the boss cut off our light, but we stayed. We lived and ate here for eight months after the boss abandoned the place.

“You see, it’s about private property vs. the rights of the worker, and we feel that the worker’s right to work should always be above that of private property.

“Now working here is like a dream. Coming to work is a pleasure. With the old boss, we were just workers running machines. We’re still not doing the best we could be doing, but now we have a steady income of $600 - $800 pesos and our income is slowly growing. And, on occasion, we even give ourselves bonuses whenever there’s a bit of money left over.

“La asamblea lo vas viviendo [You learn from and experience the assembly as you live it],” he adds passionately and with eyes that look like they might start to shed tears. “We live the moment and deal with things as they arise. Estamos siempre juntos y siempre unidos [We’re always together and always united]. We spend 14 to 15 hours a day here now, and we love coming to work. In fact, we often don’t want to leave! At other places once it’s the end of your shift you just want to take off and go home. Here, we want to stay, even though we’re only making just enough money to feed ourselves so far.”

A growing customer base and cooperation amongst the movement. We learned from Luis and Edith that many of the recovered factories support each other. Cefomar, for example, gets their books printed at Patricios and Chilavert while both print houses trade off and share jobs as well as barter with each other for materials. While many of the books Cefomar publishes service Argentina’s various social justice movements, all three recovered enterprises are also trying to secure mainstream customers. Cefomar, for example, still publishes textbooks recognized by Argentina’s Ministry of Education while it plans on publishing various books about the struggle for social justice in Argentina. Patricios still publishes several popular soap opera and gossip magazines (what would Marcuse have to say about this contradiction between one dimensional and two dimensional society?). And Chilavert continues to work on projects commissioned by the federal government such as several print projects commissioned by the office of the presidency (again, what would Marcuse have to say?). Both Chilavert’s Cándido and Patricio’s Luis justify this work by reminding us that change happens in small steps. While revolution and civilizational change in Argentina is in the back many of the workers’ minds, they claim, the quotidian needs of feeding their families forces them to, for now, think pragmatically. And, while the owners used to regularly cut shady deals with customers – which is how many of these firms went into banckruptcy in the first place – Cándido is committed to doing things differently now that Chilavert runs as a cooperative; for Cándido, Chilavert is now grounded in other values: “We work with the state, but the state is just a customer like all of our customers,” claims Cándido. “They too must now pay 50% upfront for all jobs and then 50% when we complete the job” (Sin patrón, 2004, p. 63). Patricio’s Luis expressed similar sentiments to us. (Cándido also repeated the exact same phrase almost verbatim to me in an interview I had with him a few weeks after our initial visit to the recovered firms).

Perhaps Gramsci was right, the revolution can’t happen in times of crisis. But perhaps the recovered enterprises movement that is growing out of Argentina’s socio-economic crisis of 2001/2002 is showing us new routes for social transformation, new ways to treat one another in our work and non-work lives, as well as setting the stage for a new ethics of life that might, just might, persist after the crisis is over. Indeed, perhaps these cooperative ways of life are the only roads out of Argentina’s chronic socio-economic quagmire.

5. Conjunctures of community

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."

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Chilavert facilitates numerous community events here on the mezzanine level. It’s a fantastic space where a number of activities such as art classes, poetry readings, and seminars are often held. Saturday night, as I understand it, is a particularly popular night for community gatherings and cultural events. Of course, it’s also a great place to kick-start an intensive program looking into Argentina’s recovered workspaces and newest social movements.

Today being Sunday, the print shop’s off-set devices, its printing machines, its binding machines, and the stacks of soon-to-be processed stacks of glossy paper and half-finished posters sit quite and still on the shop’s main floor.

This miscellany of machinery and stationary below as I look over the veranda from the mezzanine level resembles a mini skyline, a seemingly haphazard metropolis of contraptions, stacks of papers, and unfinished posters put into place by the pragmatic needs of the shop’s daily workflows. The first floor of Chilavert on a Sunday night gives witness to a highly productive workspace that has paused to give its citizen attendants time to engage in life’s other activities, such as participating in family events and, tonight, hosting the gringo students they’ve so warmly welcomed into their lives.

Upon entering Chilavert from the street I find myself in the interior receiving area at the front of the building. I’m one of the first AAP program students to arrive. Maria Rosa Gonzalez, Candido Gonzalez’s wife (Candido is one of the original eight that courageously occupied the factory three years ago) warmly welcomes me in. One of the first things I notice is the elaborately designed “Chilavert Artes Graficos” sign above the second main doors that lead into the shop. The sign is styled after the aesthetics of the tango bars and bordellos of early 20th century Buenos Aires. I’ve seen similarly designed signage in old Baires bars and I’ll soon see the style greeting us at other recovered factories such as Graficos Patricios and IMPA.

After entering the shop floor Maria Rosa turns sharply to the right and leads me up the stairs above the print shop’s main offices. We soon come to the cultural centre on the mezzanine floor. The second floor rings the shop about 15-20 feet above the main floor. From this perspective the shop reminds me of an old colonial villa with the shop floor resemblig the inner courtyard that was common in most Spanish colonial villas throughout Latin America. In these old villas, wealthy colonial families lived with their servants, ate, shared family experiences, and held court when hosting visitors. To the colonial Europeans that ruled Latin America for most of the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries, the villas were mini fortresses that shielded them from the hurly burly of colonial business, the mestizo vagos (lazy ones) who chose to live in the surrounding countryside, and indigenous life outside the villa’s walls. This evocation to colonial times is appropriate, I think to myself. Chilavert’s recovery by its workers can be compared to the desire that early Argentineans had for emancipation from Spain’s colonial clutch. Chilavert’s previous owner could be compared to the Spanish viceroys. The graphic shop’s building and its internal layout resembles the panoptic shape of the traditional Spanish villa. And the workers, a band of mutinous ex-servants who have found freedom from the oppression and repression of the former colonial tyrant they once lived under.

The allusion that the building has to the dwellings of Argentina’s old colonial rulers symbolizes not only the continued struggles of living within a system of social organization still inflected by oligarchical power structures and caudillo politics, Chilavert´s physical presence also symbolizes how the oppressed can overcome a politics of domination and repression. In the case of the eight original Chilavert workers that took the factory on April 4, 2002 and occupied it for more than seven months after years of being underpaid (in the last year and a half, not paid at all), and in light of the corrupt alliance with judges, accountants, union bosses, and lawyers embarked on by the previous owner, Chilavert’s workers’ collective struggle for survival can be seen as a contemporary version of the following continuing tensions: Argentina’s centre (Buenos Aires) and its peripheries (the interior provinces); the vagabond gaucho and indigenous cultures vs. the 19th century desire by the elite classes for all Argentineans to become a civilized nation; civilisación vs. barbarie; the hierarchies of the state vs. the desires of individual and communal autonomy; the rights of the propertied classes (landed classes) vs. the aspiring dreams of the working classes; and Argentina’s first world pretensions vs. the global north/south realities of the 1990s.

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The mezzanine level of Chilavert is a phenomenal space surrounded by art works by local artists and some of Chilavert’s glossy art books from the old days when they were still under el patronal (the boss, or literally, the patriarchal chief). While Kelo and Yuli did a fantastic job of introducing us to the program and helped us to navigate our way through the Guia “T”, Buenos Aires’s notoriously complex bus schedule booklet, I was distracted by my enthusiasm at actually being here. While I sat with my new peers around four rustic wooden tables, I couldn’t help but think about what an appealing space this place is for not only work but also for cultural and community events, as well. Chilavert is pregnant with myriad possibilities for joy and life; after being at Chilavert for only a few minutes one senses that this place is about so much more than work. Indeed, it’s immediately evident that Chilavert is a space where work intermingles with play, where culture is infused in work and work is part of a greater culture, and where community and connection abound. One quickly notices that patronizing and heavy-handed supervision of life has been banished here. At Chilavert, the neighbourhood that surrounds it and its cultural riches intersects with the daily labour of producing books, posters, and pamphlets for Argentina’s newest social movements.

The paintings on the walls of the mezzanine floor; the quite machines resting from the previous week’s production; and the chatter and din of excited and expectant conversations between the northern visitors and the locals from Chilavert, the recovered factories movement, the UBA, and the AAP merge with the smells of the asado that is being barbequed this Sunday night by some of Chilavert’s workers on the street of this recovering community (no Sunday night anxieties with these workers!)

From old oil drums cut in half the excellent chorizos and cuts of costillas and lomo are prepared and served up to the hungry guests. In typical Argentinean style, we all sit at the table together and share the fine food in the midst of much conversation and laughter (and there’s enough spinach pies and veggie dishes for the non meat eaters, as well).

Tonight, on this chilly Buenos Aires July night, and barely one night into the five week program, we are all witnesses that another world, however tenuous and provisional, is indeed possible...

Summary findings from my summer situation analysis: Workers’ control find themselves within conjunctures of promise

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, and the precarious links between, work and everyday life in Argentina 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. In addition, it would be difficult for me to conduct a rigorous study of the conjuncture of workers’ control in Argentina without considering the interplay of the politically risky struggles to recover owner-abandoned firms and the process of concientization of the workers’ in the midst of and after the occupations, the precariousness of work and everyday life in Argentina, the links with the historical political economy of Argentina’s once-strong industrial base and union movements, the cultural symbolisms and practices that permeate working life in the recovered firms, and the entrenchment of the recovered firms deep within the local community that surrounds them.

And finally, any project studying the social and political roots of Argentina’s ERT movement cannot risk forgetting the political economic-historical-communitarian-cultural matrix within which the ERT movement finds itself deeply entrenched in.

PART 2: Key research questions guiding my dissertation work

Three general themes of inquiry, stemming from what I learned from my recent educational and internship experiences at the UBA and with worker recovered and managed enterprises in Argentina, guide my PhD dissertation work:

1) Why Argentina?

2) What is the point in which workers striving for worker’s control form a political consciousness? (Is this a class consciousness? Is this term useful?) Does conscientization happen before or after political action? Is it formed before, during, or after the crisis of recovering their workspaces? What motivates political action and what are the results?

3) What are the consequences of this conscientization for the democratic forms of work, the technological appropriations and desires, and the community formations permeating each worker-managed workspace and each protagonist's life.

Further articulation of the three questions just posed. How might I arrive at a conceptual and historical understanding of what many workers told me in their own words: That the struggle of occupying their workspaces, the subsequent threat of repression, and the continued fight for legal recognition of their worker coops have consequently helped to ingrain a radicalized consciousness in them that was, for most, not their before the occupation (see also: Ruggeri et al., 2005)? That is, how did the "events" of their struggles to recover their work, workspaces, and the role of their workspaces from the illegal bankruptcies that plagued many Argentinean economic sectors between 1995 and 2002 (Ruggeri et al. 2005; Magnani, 2004; Palomino, 2003), and fought within the cultural milieu of the ERT protagonists surrounding communities (Lavaca, 2004; Lewis & Klein, 2004) be forming these ERT protagonist’s new politicized subjectivities? Were these subjectivities already-always there and rooted in Argentina's strong industrial base and union culture or does this assumption lead to an uncritically “vanguardist” understanding of the ERT protagonists' new consciousness? Indeed, is the continuing “conscientization” (Freire, 2000, p. 19; Marcuse, 1964) of some of these protagonists influenced by, in some new way, the political and legal battles they partake of before, during, and after the occupations, from within their actual experiences of struggle? In other words, how do the struggles against state repression as experienced by workspaces such as Chilavert, Brukman, and Zanon, and the difficulties of reclaiming not only their workspace, but also lost market share customers, shape the new political subjectivities some workers transform into. And, how were these workers inspired or motivated to take the difficult journey of resistance and self-management against such daunting political odds in the contemporary Argentinean conjuncture rooted in the failed neoliberal experiments of the 1990s (Petras & Veltmeyer, 2004)?

Asking these questions, I believe, can get us closer to understanding two more specific and fundamental questions that I am asking myself constantly since my trip to Argentina this summer and that is beginning to frame my emerging PhD project: 1) Why did these workspace occupations happen in Argentina, in particular, and especially during and since the neoliberal economic meltdown of 2001-2002? and 2) what can we learn from these workspace occupations with respect to new forms of work within everyday life that take on other culturally significant aspects that override the focus on profit and wage-labour and give way to new forms of work life that merge with community and social solidarity? Answering the first question must take on a historically-informed political economic framework. The second question will require a more phenomenological and participatory line of investigation. Bringing them together and understanding the logic of these worker takeovers within Argentina's most recent conjuncture will require, I believe, a further genealogical component of research informed by Foucault's project of genealogical research (Foucault, 1971; "Geneaology (Foucault)," 2005; Hall, 1997) to get at…..

All three research phases will have to be brought together synthetically within a grid of inquiry that conjoins the political economic realities of Argentina within the phenomenological subjectivities of its recovered workspace protagonists, overlayed by a geneaologically historical project of inquiry in order to unravel the possible systems of "constraints" (Marcuse, 1964, p. xv) imposed on Argentina's working classes by its historical "regimes of truth" (Feenberg, 1999, p. 111), official discourses and "knowledges" (Foucault, 1971) such as the myths of " Argentinidad," the need to "civilize" new immigrants and marginalized groups, the Peronist ideal of hard work and a paternalistic nation-state, and the deep desires of many Argentine's to one day attain first-world status. Such a multidisciplinary approach, I believe, will position my dissertation work as a project that attempts to unravel the power relations at play in the conjunctural experiences of the ERT movement “under the local horizon[s] of the social practices, artifacts, and power relations” (Feenberg, 1999, p. 110) within which Argentina’s ERT movement is lodged.

Some theoretical beginnings: Thinking about the formation of a new political consciousness in the workers making up the ERT movement in Argentina

The Hungarian Marxist theorist Georg Lukács seems to be a great place to start. In his influential 1920 masterpiece, History and Class Consciousness, Lukács continues the Marxist line of critique of capitalism and its bourgeois advocates by extending the dialectic into the cultural spheres of everyday life. According to Lukács, his formulation of a theory of class picks up where Marx left off (Lukásc, 1920).

Lukács's Theories of the Reification of Class Consciousness
For Marx, his main project, finding its most cogent formulation in his three volume opus, Das Kapital, is to bring the hidden logic of capitalism to light by, as Braverman puts it, using the dialectic method towards "the demystifying of technology" (1974, p. 445), the meticulous detailing of capitalism's mode of production rooted in labour processes and social relations of domination, and the unraveling of the true "value" of the most fundamental aspect of capitalism: the commodity, the actual embodiment of "labour-power" (Das Kapital, chapter 1).

Like Marx, Lukács too is about unraveling the hidden and taken-for-granted logic of capitalism but, rather than rooting his analysis at the base (the economic) and starting with the commodity form, Lukács starts to look at the implications of capitalist logics at the cultural level. For Lukács , "formal rationality" (Feenberg, 2002, p. 167) - also called "technocratic thinking" (Ritzer, 2000, p. 142) or more broadly the privileging of "technological progress" (Marcuse, 1962, p. xii) by modern societies - "is the basis of capitalist culture" (Feenberg, 2002, p. 167). Lukács 's analysis, according to Feenberg, thus brings to the forefront how capitalist modes of thinking and action root themselves in an abstracted, fragmented, and piece-meal society; analytic forms of thought; the privileging of technological and scientific imperatives over human ones; and, ultimately, "the autonomization of production units under the control of private owners" (Feenberg, 2002, p. 166) (on this latter theme, see also: Braverman, 1974 and Noble, 1984). Based on Marx's discovery of the law of a commodity's value with its tendency, ultimately, towards domination of the labourer by the effacement of the real value of commodities - "labour-time" or "labour-power" (Das Kapital, chapter 1 - Lukács extends this logic to the cultural realm, showing how the "degradation of [the proletariat's greater] life and work" (Feenberg, 2002, p. 166) is a consequence of making abstract things - commodities - into objective, stand alone entities. For Lukács, it is in the interest of dominant social groups to protect the objectivity of things and processes, to conceal the social relations at the heart of capitalist processes and objects - in other words, to reify the capitalist system's processes and objects and hold them separate and apart from the social relations that bring them to bear and sustain them. This veiling of the real social relations inherent in commodified things and economic processes upholds hegemonic social structures and hides, in Marcuse's words, the "potentialities" (Feenberg, 2004, pp. xi-xii) and "real possibilities" at play in historically contextualized alternatives (Marcuse, 1964, p. xi). Ultimately for Lukács, it is only through the formation of a class consciousness that the working class can ever come to see these socially contingent alternatives to capitalist forms of domination and thus break free from the bonds of social control. (Note that Marx, Marcuse, and C. Wright Mills also have much to say about this).

The Formation of a New Workers' Consciousness from Within the Struggles of the ERT Protagonists
Might Lukács - in conjunction with Marx, Marcuse, Feenberg, Braverman, and others - be a good place to begin to understand the formation of a radical political consciousness amongst some of Argentina's recovered enterprises protagonists? Might it help me come to a conceptual understanding of what many workers told me in their own words: That the struggle of occupying their workspaces, the subsequent threat of repression, and the continued fight for legal recognition of their worker coops have consequently helped to ingrain a radicalized consciousness that was, for most, not their before the occupation (see also: Ruggeri et al., 2005)? In other words, how did the "events" of their struggles to recover their work, workspaces, and the role of their workspaces in the cultural milieu of their surrounding communities help form their new politicized subjectivities? Were these subjectivities already-always there and rooted in Argentina's strong industrial base and union culture (and does this lead to a vanguardist understanding of the ERT protagonists' new consciousness?) or were they transformed in some new way by the struggles they engaged in, from within their actual experiences of struggle? And, how were these workers inspired or motivated to take the difficult journey of resistance and control against such daunting political odds in the contemporary Argentinean conjuncture?

PART 3: Methodology - Interdisciplinary approach for coming to understand the ERT movement's contemporary conjuncture

[Note: This section is still mostly in note form.]

1. A political economy of the ERTs in Argentina: Historical and political economic realities making up Argentina’s ERT (macro analysis)

a. Roots in Argentina’s traditionally strong industrial base and high salaries for a Latin American country won via and militant union, anarchist, working class, and leftist guerilla struggles in Argentina’s labour history, and helped form the strong cooperative movement.
b. ERTs, however, must combat constantly the tussles with the hegemonic tendencies of the ruling, bourgeoisie, and land-owning class’s highly conservative and neoliberal ideals manifested in, historically, the support of conservative military governments, repressive policies towards militants and left-leaning members of society, unions, and economic policies favourable to free-market ideologies and detrimental to the hard-won victories of the working class.
c. The complicity through apathy of the middle class.

2. A phenomenology of ERTs in Argentina (micro analysis)

a. Colectivo Situaciones's strategy: writing in the moment, in the thick of the struggle, by participating in the struggle
b. Dialogic interviews (phenomenological questionnaires)
c. Workers’ Enquiry

3. A genealogy of workers' control: How ERT movement is rooted in Argentinean working identity, culture, and myths (meso analysis)

a. Rooted in Peron’s promise of a strong industrial base and work for all has forged Argentina’s working class’s subjectivity, even to this day. E.g., the ERT’s political leadership and most of the most militant spokespeople and leaders within the actual workspaces, tend to be former militant union leaders or children of 1960s guerrilla fighters of the left (ERP) or Peronist Montoneros. Their views, interspersed with the popularity and influence of autonomia theory in Argentina and especially articulated after the mass grassroots mobilization of Dec. 19 and 20, 2001, seem to guide the points of formation of some of these workers’ political subjectivities.
b. Also, the ERT’s workers’ cultural traditions (mate drinking, gelling the factory deep into the milieau of the “barrio”, etc.) seems to be rooted in Argentinean rituals, myths, biases, prejudices, and immigrant vs. creole tensions.
c. There are also, however, areas of subjectivation and domination of these subjectivities by traditional union and state-political and clientalist politics. We thus also see spaces of rupture within these identities.
d. But we also see, amongst the most militant factions of the ERTs, lead by MNER, spaces and tactics that capitalize on the natural ruptures in the dominant “regimes of truth” that afford workers new political, social, and physical community spaces to resist the faltering state and the ruling classes strategies of domination. As such, some, not all, of Argentina’s ERTs might be not only problemizing the capital-labour relation to a certian degree (or showing us the way), but also extending the de Certeauian and Fouculdian theory of the quotidian tussles of a dominated group’s everyday “tactics” used to manoeuvre within and resist a dominating institutional base’s “strategies” of “discipline” (p. xiv). (borrowing from Foucault (1977), de Certeau labels this dynamic a “microphysics of power” (1984, p. xiv)), and positioning such historically-learned tactics into potentially revolutionary aims, albeit aims that seem to be currently stalled on a mass scale due to the state’s cooptation. MNER’s most recent policies are trying to change this tendency towards cooptation.

Rooting this genealogical aspect of my investigation in documentary research (e.g., government labour policies, institutional actions and statements such as speeches; documenting the pamphlets, events, and posters of the ERT movement and labour over the past 50 years (Feenberg, 2001; Hobsbawm, 1982), analyzing discourses of work and unionism, looking at labour rituals, the narrative of "civilizacion y barbarie" which has permeated intellectual discourse since the 19th century (i.e., Sarmiento, Jauretche, etc.), taking into account nationalist myths (the cult of Evita and Che, Peronist propaganda, etc.). This latter genealogical aspect to my work will inform a cultural analysis that I see intersecting all three stages of my research, articulating my PhD dissertation within a grid of inquiry rooted in the cultural nuances that shape the current conjunctures of the ERT movement's worker protagonists.

Anticipated outcomes: A political economy/phenomenology/genealogy of workers' control
Ultimately, such a multidisciplinary genealogical and political economic research project would uncover, I anticipate, such things as:

    - the crucial role of the neighbourhood (el barrio) in the ERT movement's protagonists' struggles and emerging identity formations that are rooted in a deep sense of obligation to the communities that surround most recovered workspaces in Argentina;
    - the elements of the intersections of el barrio with Argentina's work culture;
    - how the rituals of the mate and the midday meal, for example, help articulate these workers' new subjectivities as labourer and labouring subjects freed from the domination of their former bosses and business owners;
    - the multiple dimensions of the cultural spaces within recovered enterprises (i.e., many of the recovered workspaces double as neighbourhood community halls, theaters, play spaces, day cares, dining halls, art galleries, etc.); and
    - the connections between the recovered factories and Argentina's culture of the neighbourhood assembly and cooperativism.

In sum, this political genealogical grid of inquiry would nuance the political economic and phenomenological phases of my research with a better understanding of the historical roots of the desires, motivations, fears, and hopes of the recovered enterprises protagonists. It would also help me better understand how [de Certeau] and the formations and reformations of the ERT protagonist's subjectivities into agents of social transformation.

Most importantly, I believe that these workers' struggles teach us many things about immanent political action aspiring towards social transformation that directly contests the logic of capital, the prejudices of the Washington Consensus, and that aspires to reformulate the capital-labour relationship, especially when there is no vanguard left to turn to, no formal organizational structures to cling on to, and no immediate possibility for political change at the state level to look forward to. They show us how complex and at times contradictory their lived-struggles are. They teach us much about both the tensions and possibilities in choosing risky actions like factory takeovers for the creation of civilizational change. Moreover, these workers' struggles point to the praxical routes necessary for transcending the enclosures of capitalist logics by forging alternative spaces of social life in ways that are incremental, local, and rooted in the moment. Whichever theoretical handles I decide to use to help me better understand worker control in Argentina, I can never lose sight of what the workers themselves taught me about their situations through their own words and the examples of their everyday lives, perhaps best articulated by Artes Gráficas Chilavert's Cándido Gónzalez, whom I spent many hours with when I was in Argentina this past summer: "If you want to protect your job, your have to protect the job of the other. If you want to ensure you have a meal, you have to make sure the other has a meal" (Lavaca, 2004, p. 62).

Possible chapter by chapter breakdown of my PhD dissertation
[Forthcoming]

Friday, July 29, 2005

Witnessing the political on the street in Buenos Aires: Flaneuring from 9 de Julio to Plaza de Mayo

Avenida 9 de Julio
I begin my walk through the cultural and political centre of Buenos Aires in the middle of what is ostensibly the widest street in the world: the 9 de Julio ("nueve de julio"). Protected from the chaotic pace of the waves of incessant traffic all around me by the wide centre boulevard I’m standing on, I close my eyes and listen. I hear the movement of Buenos Aires, the rumble of the "Reina de La Plata" ("the Queen of the Plate") – it is a velvety cacophony of white noise and dull grumbles interspersed with the staccato of car horns. I feel the rumble of the avenue below my feet throughout my body and think of it as the eternal gesticulations and movements of this vast, concrete Gran Aldea ("Great Village").

The traffic surrounding me – half of it made up of the infamous black and yellow cabs that pulse through this city 24/7 – allegorizes the vast Rio de la Plata located about three kilometres east of where I’m standing. Indeed, the broad boulevard can be seen as a mechanized version of the murky river. Like the Plata collects and pushes through the silt and sediments of the Paraná and Uruguay rivers that flow into it, the 9 de Julio collects the traffic of this city and redirects it southward and northward in steady streams of rubber and metal and flesh. Like the brown waves of the Plata caressing Buenos Aires’s riverfront, the unremitting flow of the polluted waves of traffic caresses the edge of the grey island perch I stand on in the middle of this vast metallic and concrete river of speed. The 9 de Julio is in constant motion, every day, all year, facilitating the daily north-south movements of porteños without discriminating whether its local navigators are bourgeoisie, middle class, working class, tourists, or cartoneros (the cardboard and bottle collectors and recyclers that populate Buenos Aires's streets at night).

Avenida de Mayo
I hurriedly cross the remaining half of the 9 de Julio and head east along the Avenida de Mayo (May Avenue). I leave behind the turbulent river of traffic and enter one of its slightly more pacified tree-lined tributaries. I’m walking on the southern bank of the street. From this vantage point the tides of traffic of this stately avenue flow towards me on my left. The traffic looks like it’s emerging from the Casa Rosada (the Pink House), the seat of Argentina's executive branch of government, barely visible between the overhanging branches about a kilometre east from where I am now. Each side of the avenue is lined with ornate French and Spanish neoclassical style apartment buildings not exceeding ten stories. The sidewalk is wide – roughly four to five meters. From here it is easy to understand why Buenos Aires is nicknamed the “Paris of the South” by travel writers. This ornate cityscape is occasionally broken by the straight and functional modernist designs of the street’s more contemporary office towers, such as the HSBC bank headquarters at Av. de Mayo 701. The architectural exhibit in this part of Av. de Mayo teaches the judicious observer what the late 19th century ambitions for Argentina were, while alluding to what that vision actually became: The ostentatious neoclassical facades crowned by their peaked cupolas – to a large extent product of late 19th century Buenos Aires mayor Torquato de Alvear´s Parisian vision for the city – remind the onlooker of the cosmopolitan, European, and sophisticated society Argentina has always wanted to be; the few functional, boxy, tattered-looking skyscrapers that share this avenue’s streescape are insipid witnesses to the enfeebled neoliberal orphan Argentina has become.

Avenida de Mayo and Calle Peru
I walk on eastward along Av. de Mayo and come to a protest festival with musicians performing on a mobile stage looking south onto the pedestrianized Calle Peru and backing onto Av. de Mayo. Written on a large sky blue and white banner acting as a backdrop is the event’s consigna, or the slogan underscoring the political demands that the festival wants to highlight: “Expropiación definitiva - Hotel Bauen.” The political festival is happening towards the end of Buenos Aires's financial district's, the Microcentro's, work day; it’s now about 3 p.m. The stream of people running their daily chores criss-crosses with those who decide to stop and watch the bands and listen to the political speeches.

That the Hotel Bauen’s workers are staging the festival in front of the city of Buenos Aires’s government house, and a mere half-block from the city’s legislative buildings, is no coincidence. The city’s councillors are, at this very moment, debating the expropriation law that could secure the Bauen workers’ right to run the hotel, located a few kilometers west of this spot near the nation's Congress, free from the control of its former boss and without hassle from the city’s authorities. The festival’s intention, according to the articulate president of the Bauen’s worker-run cooperative in his speach from the pulpit of the temporary stage, is to “soften” (ablandar) the block of councillors who are stubbornly opposing the expropriation law for the hotel at this very moment.

The joy of the music counteracts the broader sombre undertone of the event: recovering jobs for Argentina’s burgeoning unemployed and underemployed classes. Argentina’s political realities seem to often be infused with the pleasures of its social rituals - drinking mate, participating in public musical festival, watching futból on Sunday afternoons, smoking, debating politics, interchanging chismes (gossip) with friends. Even when grappling with the gravest of issues, joy seems to be often be ready-to-hand. Here, this public festival, sponsored by the Movimiento Nacional de Empresas Recuperadas (National movement of Recovered Enterprises), is situated, purposefully, in the middle of the commotion of everyday porteño life. In its collective concsiousness, its discourses, and its practices, the political and quotidian merge constantly in Argentina. This often pushes the political onto the street.

The threeway intersection of Calle Hipolito Irigoyen, Calle Bolivar, and Avenida Julio A. Roca, kitty-corner to the Plaza de Mayo
I leave the festival and walk east towards the Plaza de Mayo, Buenos Aires’s symbolic and real centre of national power. Seduced by the chronic smokers that walk by me, I give in to my craving and duck into a kiosco to buy a pack of Philip Morris blandos (lights).

After negotiating my way through the crowded space under the portico of the colonial Cabildo (Buenos Aires's first municipal hall), I cross the street and begin to walk up Irigoyen, immediately south-west of the Plaza de Mayo. I pass by a café on the corner of Julio A. Roca and Irigoyen called “Gran Victoria”. I peer in and see people leisurely sipping café cortados (strong espresso with a shot of steamed milk) and dobles (double espressos). In the main window of the café glossy empanadas (Argentiean meat pasties) and media lunas (croissants) invite passers-by to pause from the intense speed of work life, if only for a few minutes, and surrender themselves to the pleasures of these Argentinean delicacies. Next to the café a police officer guards the corner with vacuous indifference. He is obviously lost in some daydream. While the state constantly invigilates, if ineffectually so, Argentinean society, drowsiness often sets in at around 3:45 in the afternoon.

I pass by a magazine stand overstuffed with books, magazines, pornography, maps, and the dozen or so dailies that saturate the porteño’s lust for news, sex, and gossip. The myriad magazine stands that occupy the city´s street corners seem to provide empirical evidence supporting the commonly-held – yet now mistaken – belief that Argentina is one of the most literate societies in the world. While Argentina once did enjoy an almost 99% literacy rate, this is quickly becoming an historical curiosity as the country continues to suffer through its neoliberal hangover. Many once middle and working class Argentineans continue to slip below the poverty line daily, the poor now making up around 50% to 60% of the country’s population, depending on who you read. And, with many of this country's children malnourished, a decreased capacity to learn is heightened by inadequate educational resources, adding to the country's immiserated condition.

On the wall to my right, as I walk under the promenade of one of the numerous federal government and bank buildings that surround the Plaza de Mayo, I read, in grammatically questionable Spanish (a sign of the diminishing literacy rate amongst the working class?), the following graffiti: “Todo estado es represor” ("All state (sic) is repressive") and "Policia asesinos del pueblo!" ("Police assassins (sic) of the people"). Another graffiti artist decided at one point to leave his communist sentiments on one of the columns of the promenade. I can’t make out what the consigna says because the stenciled graffito is faded, but I can still make out the hammer and sickle which, despite its age, continues to exude its ideological residue to passers-by. This reminds me of Argentina’s fractured left and the faded dreams of revolution that the vanguardist party once promised. I read yet another piece of graffito, this time anarchist. It reads “Autogestión obrera” ("Self-management for workers") surrounded by several circled As. This is more in line with the political tendencies of many of the social movements of the left, such as the empresas recuperadas (recovered enterprises) movement like the participants of the Bauen protest I just left behind. Perhaps it's no coincidence that this graffito looks newer than the others I read nearby.

A half-block later, another café with another magazine stand in front of it. The magazine stand is just as overflowing and seductive as the last one. The café is also just as sensually alluring as the one I just walked by at the other end of the block. The same middle and moneyed classes that were lounging in the previous café also people this one. And something trivial but nevertheless telling just hits me: I realize that I’ve never seen a café completely full in this city because there are so many of them. The limited choices of the poor, the homeless, and jobless contrasts sharply with the infinite amount of life choices enjoyed by Buenos Aires’s moneyed classes. For them, this is a city of unlimited abundance and possibilities. For a growing population of poor porteños and new migrants from the interior of Argentina and neighbouring countries that come to live in Buenos Aires, however, this is an insensitive city of crippling misery and social exclusion (I'm sure Bourdieu would have much to say about the oft impermeable social stratifications distinguished by this city's cultural practices).

Plaza de Mayo
I cross Irigoyen and enter Argentina’s representational centre of power, the Plaza de Mayo. The Plaza is surrounded by symbols of Argentina's main institutional powers: the old colonial Cabildo I just walked past, the national cathedral on the north side of the plaza, the Banco de la Nacion Argentina's main headquarters, the Casa Rosada on the east side, the Ministry of the Economy's headquarters to the south-east, various foreign investment firms, and just off of the Plaza to the north-east, the headquarters of the Argentine Army and the Navy headquarters, the Ministry of Communication further to the south-eas, and the headquarters of Argentina's secret services behind the Casa Rosada. And, in case one forgets the symbols of power that encircle the Plaza de Mayo, a handful of trinket salesmen do their bit to underscore the significance of this place by, somewhat irreverently, flogging cheap knockoffs of Argentina’s national symbols: flags, escarapelas, sky blue and white pins, and maps of the country etched onto leather wall mounts. Tools all used by the state for winning the population’s consensus, these patriotic symbols, it seems, are also great fodder for extracting tourist dollars.

Today, the tourists and trinket salesmen share the plaza with the Madres de la Plaza de Mayo. I had forgotten that they march around the plaza’s Pyramide today, as they have every Thursday starting at 3:30 since the early days of the last dictatorship in 1977. It seems to me that the Madres’ reclamations for “justicia y castigo” ("justice and punishment") for the impunity enjoyed by the barbarians quilty of heinous crimes against their own compatriots during the last brutal dictatorship, intermingling with la Madres' stubborn and noble desire to keep the political struggles of their disappeared children alive, are being cheapened by the symbols of the state being sold around them. Tourists add more tacky hues to the scene as they pose with broad smiles for pictures in front of las Madres who sombrely ignore the tourists and march on.

I come upon las Madres as they pass by the unemployed piqueteros (organized unemployed workers) of YPF (the former national oil company that President Menem privatized in the 1990s) who have, it seems, taken the plaza; about 15 former YPF workers have been camped out in the same spot since the first day I arrived here three and a half weeks ago. That the piqueteros are here, in the middle of Argentina’s various seats of power asking to be heard by their continuous presence in the plaza is, like the Bauen protest a few blocks away, also not coincidental. While the effects they seek – attention for their plight, new jobs – are diluted in the midst of the infinite protests that have carpeted Argentina since the financial meltdown of 2001, these piqueteros feel they are left with no other recourse, no other space to claim, no other voice. Perhaps their occupation of the Pyramide will eventually take on the same cultural and political force that the Madres’s march has. Perhaps they will eventually go away, exhausted by their invisibility despite their best efforts to be seen and heard. For many destitute Argentineans, these types of occupations seem to be the only political alternative left.

To the east of the Pyramide sit those conspicuous police fences which are stationed strategically in front of key locales of power around the city which tend to particularly attract the ire of protesters. These portable meshed barriers seem to always be ready to block an impromptu protest march.
Positioned between the Casa Rosada and the Pyramide right in the middle of the plaza and spilling onto the street to the north of the plaza, the metallic barricades of the Plaza de Mayo act as rigid sentinels that can be called to action at any time by the police in order to contain the protesters that often take the plaza and seem to spontaneously emerge out of nowhere. And patrolling the plaza on its north side, more than a dozen police officers stand idly by. The fences and police force point to the reactive force of the state that is much too often unleashed on the invigorated and active counterforce of the marginalized classes. These tools of state repression sharply contrast with the peaceful determination of the Madres’s campaign or the claims for dignity and work that make up the consignas of the piqueteros.

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On my walk of Av. de Mayo between Av. 9 de Julio and the Plaza de Mayo I saw evidence of the perpetual movements and tensions of contemporary Argentinean society, as well as the ebbs and flows of Argentina’s history and politics etched into the very cityscape I entangled myself within this afternoon. The impressions I experienced on my walk was emblematic of the neurotic, if not schizophrenic, state of Argentine society that is, at once, at the capricious whim of the world’s victorious capitalist system and always at the cusp of exploding into a sequel of Dec. 19/20, 2001. Frenzied traffic, protesters, cartoneros, and piqueteros merge with workers, tourists, and the moneyed classes. In its people, its architecture, its politics, and even its graffiti and its chaos, Buenos Aires is a network of criss-crossing cultural and political veins always pulsating and alive under the greying, scarred, and wrinkling skin of the porteño city.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

First encounters with recovered enterprises: Gráfica Patricios and Cefomar

On July 12 we went to our first two recovered workspaces, Gráfica Patricios and Cefomar. This post is an edited version of some of my initial thoughts from this pivotal day.

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It’s 10:00 pm [on July 12]and I find myself in a restaurant eating dinner on the Avenida 9 de Julio close to the border between the barrios (neighbourhoods) of San Telmo, Montserrat, and Balvanera. Today was a full day for us on our second day of our cultural immersion week. The week intersperses trips to several recovered factories with cultural and historical tours of various barrios of Buenos Aires. The pace of the program is intense this week: Spanish classes in the morning and trips throughout la Capital Federal between 1:30 and 8ish pm every day. I’m currently exhausted and hungry. Yet I need to write. Too many thoughts, too many images, to many ideas running through my head not to.

Today, I feel, was a breakthrough day for us in the program, a mere three days into this journey that will give us just a taste of the new possibilities for life being pioneered by a few visionary social movements here in Argentina. Why was it a breakthrough day? Because we finally set foot in two recovered workspaces during working hours. Today the workers of Gráfica Patricios (a four-colour off-set printing press) and Cefomar (a publishing house) let us into their space and their work lives for a few brief hours. Today we finally got to see these workers labouring in the actual spaces they occupied and fought for so valiantly against many odds. (A side note: It’s unfortunate that I find myself alone tonight. We all dispersed quickly after visiting the last factory, Cefomar, two hours ago. Although we’re all tired, I feel that we must share these experiences and learn from each other as we begin to individually and collectively process the stories that we’re hearing from the protagonists of Argentina’s many unfolding political dramas. [Update: We now meet often as a group. These casual and organic meetings where we share thoughts and experiences are proving to be invaluable for processing our experiences of Argentina´s socio-political justice movements and for whay they mean to us collectively and individually. We´ve also started a reading group where we hope to touch on some of the theoretical issues that are coming to the surface from our experiences].

Today we learned that the recovered workspace movement has to be one of the most inspriational groups within Argentina’s newest social movements for dignity in daily life. Rather than being vanguards, its protagonists are inspirational leaders through their example because they are, within their particular circumstances and in the thick of their specific crises moments, redefining the entire concept of labour. And, in their everyday praxes of work and solidarity under self-management, their everyday lives as a whole are transforming too.

The recovered workspace protagonists are engaging in many battles on many fronts. One of the most intense battles usually comes after the occupation of the firm: the fight for legal recognition of their cooperatives and for the reform of several national, provincial, and municipal laws - in particular, Argentina´s national bankruptcy and expropriation laws. For those recovered enterprises that fall within the Movimento Nacional de Empresas Recuperadas (MNER) (a loose and autonomist organization of almost half of Argentina´s recovered workspaces; the other organization being the Movimiento Nacional de Fabricas Recuperadas por sus Trabajadores (MNFRT), which is more closely affiliated with unions and the state) the reform of current national and provincial laws sharply favouring private property at the expense of the right to work (both entrenched in Argentina´s constitution) is one of the most important early battles in the struggle for worker-controled workspaces.

In a nutshell, legal recognition of worker-controled cooperatives and, in particular, the legal recognition of the rights of these cooperatives to control and use a recovered firm's fixed and variable capital (machines, building, customer base, etc.) is crucial for the prevention of state repression, judicial corruption, and union thuggery. Symbolically and emotionally, legal status also acknowledges the value of the sweat and work of those workers that have laboured in factories, shops, and offices for years, giving both legal life and cultural recognition to the notion that workers invest something perhaps much, much more important than investors, speculators, owners, and decision makers do - what Marx (1983) labels "labour-power" or "labour-time" (pp. 35-41). At minimum, these grassroots worker protagonists fighting for more job security, a better community, and a better life want their labour and struggle to be valorized and their devotion to their work to be recognized by society as well as the state. What the workers seek more than anything, in other words, is to be in control of their subjectivity, their communities, and their future within spaces of labour that can be recovered as dignified sites for living life.

Do these workers have a critique of the nation state and of the global capitalist system of manufacturing, distribution, and consumption? Yes, some do, but the conjuncture in which they live in is extremely complex and steeped in the quotidian difficulties of paying bills and feeding their families within the highly precarized nature of life in Argentina, especially after the crisis of 2001/2002. While the struggle for and the potentiality of greater civilizational change for Argentina is palpable in the narratives that the workers shared with me, such lofty goals for societal change - i.e., the revolution - tend to be, at this early stage of the recovered workspace movement, immersed in the small daily struggles of work, family, and political life. Within the recovered workspace movement, social change since Dec. 19 and 20 2001 tends to be paced, patient, and emergent. The change being spearheaded by the recovered workspace movement is situationally bound, not linked to the inhuman pace and enigmatic wilo-the-wisp nature of the global financial marketplace. Perhaps this latter point is what the recovered workspace movement is teaching progressively minded social justice activists and intellectuals. At the same time, however, civilzational transformation is not in some distant future phase of the revolution for these workers but is, rather, ensconced in their daily struggles, in their daily acts of production and community, in their practices. Their small, quoditidian steps are slowly shaping the look and feel of a new, socially aware community-based cultural and political reality.

Do the recovered workspace protagonists engage in mainstream economic activity within Argentina's national marketplace and, indeed, with the state itself? Yes, for clear practical reasons of survival until an alternative economic model is more clearly demarcated. While a descendant of all past struggles for worker control which also has a rich history in Argentina (recall the thousands of factory takes during the Frondizi presidency in the early 1960s or the Cordobazo in May/June 1969, Argentina's version of May '68), this current and possibly more obstinate iteration of autogestion (self-management) is slowly beginning to build an alternative way of doing business: i.e., salaried work intermingles with worksharing; the common practice of voluntarism within and between recovered enterprises building networks of solidarity between workers and other empresas recuperadas; the sharing of resouces and supplies between related worker cooperatives; and the solidarity between recovered workspaces in times of political lucha (struggle) viz moral support, financial support, and the support of other workers from other enterprises in the movement during the occupations.

It seems to me that, in Argentina - a country still entrenched in the fallout of economic crisis and social uncertainty since the failed neoliberal free-market frontier mentality of the 1990s - it is too early to try to completely redefine the nation-state and the capitalist market economy. This is especially the case within the recovered workspace movements, with only 160-200 or so known workspaces working as official, worker controled cooperatives in Argentina making up a total of 10-12,000 workers. It is clear, however, that many in the movement would eventually like to reconstruct the socio-political and economic architecture of not only Argentina but the world.

Legal recognition. In these early days of the struggle, one of the first small steps for the recovered workspace movement is to get the courts and the state to valourize and recognize the right to work over the rights of private property and to reform Argentina’s bankruptcy and expropriation laws in order to faciliate the creation of worker-led cooperatives rather than the auctioning off of the assets of the factory at the expense of much needed jobs [INSERT STATS]. The moral imperative to privilege employment over private property, rather than the Argentinean establishment's predilection to privilege the rights of property owners over the rights of workers, is brought into releif when one considers that the cause of the workers' precarious conditions were more often than not a direct result of nefarious shenanigans, bad decisions, and shady deals cut between the previous owner and currupt lawyers, bankruptcy trustees, mafiosi union operatives, and even judges. In addition, the workers are often one of the main creditors because in almost all of the cases of declared bankruptcies which then led to worker occupations the workers were owned thousands of dollars in back pay that they had not received in months if not years in some cases.

In these struggles for workers' dignity and the guarantee of work, the logic of MNER, the more autonomist-minded political lobby collective of the recovered enterprises movement, when trying to convince indifferent, unconvinced, and sometimes recalcitrant judges, politicians, and the general public of the worthiness of their struggle is simple: Letting the worker keep on working ultimately benefits the community and the country much more than appeasing speculative creditors and certainly infinitely more than allowing illegal bankruptcies to take their course. And, in Buenos Aires so far, 12 recovered enterprises have won the first round of the legal battle using this logic. The Bauen Hotel and the balloon factory La Nueava Esperanza currently find themselves in this stage of the fight [I'll report on these two situtations and the legal battles in the city of Buenos Aires legislature in the following days. The cases for applying expropriation laws to the Bauen, Cefomar, and La Nueva Esperanza will be heard in the Buenos Aires city legislature either on Aug. 4 or 11 of this year].

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The first recovered workspace we visited today was Gráfica Patricios, where Luis and Pedro showed us around their extremely efficient print shop. The second recovered enterprise we visited was Cefomar, where Edith described to us in articulate language how four workers took the editorial house in 2002. And we've also had the privilege of talking to Chilavert´s Candido on several occasions already. All three workers’ stories were infused with a deep sense of experientially learned praxical knowledge. All three told us how the valiant occupations by the trabajadores (workers), often lasting months, prevented the vaciamiento (emptying) of their empresas by corrupt owners and court trustees after bankruptcy was declared. Their testimonies were rich with the dignity and determination of their struggle.

At Gráfica Patricios, a print house that takes up an entire block in the southern Buenos Aires barrio of Barracas a block away from the Riachuelo River, Luis took us on a tour of the plant. Ranging between 30 fulltime workers and up to 70 workers when deadlines are close, Patricios is a true hive of work. Between explanations of the complicated off-set process during the tour, Luis described to us their struggle to reclaim the factory that began on March 30, 2003 after their owner abandoned the factory and declared quiebra (bankruptcy). The workers of Patricios, Luis elaborated, took (tomaron), or occupied, the plant for nine months. During those arduous months the workers lived in the factory 24/7, receiving food and supplies from family members and neighbours [LINK TO STRUGGLE OF THE NEIGHBOURHOOD]. A court order followed shortly after the take and the workers were ordered to evacuate the plant. They resisted and remained locked in, sleeping on the floor of the vast establishment and relying on family and neighbours for sustenance. Part of the reason for staying locked in the factory is so their printing machines - the embodiment and extension of their craft and skills - wouldn't be taken away under the stealth of night, before the official bankruptcy inventory was to officially take place. This latter point is a common theme that permeates and initially fuels almost all of the early struggles of occupation in Argentina, aptly narrated by Avi Lewis and Naomi Klein in their documentary The Take (2004) and epitomized in the well-known experienced of Zanon, Brukman, and Chilavert. The occupation by the workers of Patricios was eventually "successful," meaning that the court order was revoked and no machines were illegally taken by the former owner. By the end of the occupation, however, most of their former clients which included the Buenos Aires daily, El Clarín and other high end publishing houses, were lost and their marketshare eroded to almost nothing. They are now, two years later, a fledgling print house, producing at 30% of their original capacity as they slowly reclaim their customer base.

Pedro’s thoughts. Pedro, a 25 year old printer who manages Patricio's dryer and is being trained in sales, takes over the tour guide duties from Luis for a while. He begins to tell us about the drying process in the printing cycle. We’re more interested in their struggle and their cooperative system of administration. Pedro’s discussion oscillates between giving us brief summaries of their history and form of administration and the intricacies of the printing process. We find out eventually that Patricios is run by a workers' council of a few elected representatives within a cooperative model that make most of the major daily decisions of the plant. This is complemented by monthly worker assemblies which involve all of the 30 permanent employees; in these assemblies major and minor issues are heard and dealt with.

We continue to persistently to ask questions about their struggle and their forms of organization. Pedro finally begins to talk about his feelings concerning the takeover and how the lives of all of the compañeros at the plant have been subsequently transformed. It is at this moment that we begin to hear from an actual protagonist of Argentina's recovered workspace movement, how their subjectivities as wage labourers are slowly transforming into subjectivities of self-managed workers:

“We worked here two years without pay,” Pedro tells us. “The previous owners wanted to tire us out, to force us to quit. But we didn’t. We couldn’t. Instead, we tired them out. Shortly after we occupied the plant the boss cut off our light, but we stayed. We lived and ate here for eight months after the boss abandoned the place.

“You see, it’s about private property vs. the rights of the worker, and we feel that the worker’s right to work should always be above that of private property.

“Now working here is like a dream. Coming to work is a pleasure. With the old boss, we were just workers running machines. We’re still not doing the best we could be doing, but now we have a steady income of $600 - $800 pesos and our income is slowly growing. And, on occasion, we even give ourselves bonuses whenever there’s a bit of money left over.

“La asamblea lo vas viviendo [You learn from and experience the assembly as you live it],” he adds passionately and with eyes that look like they might start to shed tears. “We live the moment and deal with things as they arise. Estamos siempre juntos y siempre unidos [We’re always together and always united]. We spend 14 to 15 hours a day here now, and we love coming to work. In fact, we often don’t want to leave! At other places once it’s the end of your shift you just want to take off and go home. Here, we want to stay, even though we’re only making just enough money to feed ourselves so far.”

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A growing customer base and cooperation amongst the movement. We learned from Luis and Edith that many of the recovered factories support each other. Cefomar, for example, gets their books printed at Patricios and Chilavert while both print houses trade off and share jobs as well as barter with each other for materials. While many of the books Cefomar publishes service Argentina’s various social justice movements, all three recovered enterprises are also trying to secure mainstream customers. Cefomar, for example, still publishes textbooks recognized by Argentina’s Ministry of Education while it plans on publishing various books about the struggle for social justice in Argentina. Patricios still publishes several popular soap opera and gossip magazines (what would Marcuse have to say about this contradiction between one dimensional and two dimensional society?). And Chilavert continues to work on projects commissioned by the federal government such as several print projects commissioned by the office of the presidency (again, what would Marcuse have to say?). Both Chilavert’s Cándido and Patricio’s Luis justify this work by reminding us that change happens in small steps. While revolution and civilizational change in Argentina is in the back many of the workers’ minds, they claim, the quotidian needs of feeding their families forces them to, for now, think pragmatically. And, while the owners used to regularly cut shady deals with customers – which is how many of these firms went into banckruptcy in the first place – Cándido is committed to doing things differently now that Chilavert runs as a cooperative; for Cándido, Chilavert is now grounded in other values: “We work with the state, but the state is just a customer like all of our customers,” claims Cándido. “They too must now pay 50% upfront for all jobs and then 50% when we complete the job” (Sin patrón, 2004, p. 63). Patricio’s Luis expressed similar sentiments to us. (Cándido also repeated the exact same phrase almost verbatim to me in an interview I had with him a few weeks after our initial visit to the recovered firms).

Perhaps Gramsci was right, the revolution can’t happen in times of crisis. But perhaps the recovered enterprises movement that is growing out of Argentina’s socio-economic crisis of 2001/2002 is showing us new routes for social transformation, new ways to treat one another in our work and non-work lives, as well as setting the stage for a new ethics of life that might, just might, persist after the crisis is over. Indeed, perhaps these cooperative ways of life are the only roads out of Argentina’s chronic socio-economic quagmire.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

On precarity in Argentina

I´m quickly learning that most work is precarious in Argentina. Let me quickly describe a few of the labour realities that have led to the precarization of most sectors of society here.

A few statistics concerning the increasing precarization of life
First, the sobering realities for Argentina's workers post-Dec. 19/20, 2001 (official figures compiled by James Petras & Henry Veltmeyer, Las privatizaciones y la desnacionalizon de America Latina, Promoteo Libros, Buenos Aires, 2004):
- In 2002, the most chaotic year of the post-1990s economic chaos in Argentina, it wa estimated that 18.2 million Argentines, or 51.4% of the population lives under the poverty line. A large part of this extreme pauperization of Argentina began in the early months of 2002: Between Jan. and May of 2002, 3.2 million Argentines fell bellow the poverty line - that's 762,000 per month or 25,000 per day! While these drastic numbers have now stabilized a bit, poverty and indigence remains at historical highs for a former affluent country like Argentina (see my Sept. 22, 2005 post).
- In 1997 Argentina's average yearly income was U$S 8,950. By 2002 it had fallen to U$S 3,197.
- The mostly middle class city of Buenos Aires saw it's citizens' average monthly income suffer a drop of almost 60% in 4 months, from U$S 909 in Dec. 2001 to U$S 363 by Mar. 2002. The working class saw its income drop from U$S 626 to U$S 250 in the same time frame. For pensioners, their monthly cheques went from an average of U$S 437 to U$S 175 in greater Buenos Aires. The poverty line in Argentina is now at U$S 400 per month.
- In 2002, most of the working classes in greater Buenos Aires found themselves earning salaries and wages below the poverty line. In the city of Buenos Aires, 60% of the working sector found itself below the poverty line in 2002.
- In 1974, Argentina's top 10% of income earners monopolized 28% of the nation's wealth. In 1992, 34% of the wealth. By 2001, more than 37% of the nations earnings remained within this percentile of the population. In contrast, the poorest 10% of the population received 2.2% of the nation's wealth in 1974 and a measly 1.3% by 2001, just before the massive increase in unemployment. Given that the wealthiest classes in Argentina tend to under-report their income, Petras & Veltmeyer (2004) point out that the Argentine government estimates this wealth disparity to be even more marked than the official numbers indicate. As such, some official estimates place Argentina's wealthiest 10% with incomes that are 40 times higher than the poorest 10% and suggest that Argentina's wealthiest 10% control more than 80% of the nations entire wealth!

More examples of precarious life in Argentina
Much of the working population works either entirely or in part "en negro" (literally, "in the black"), meaning that they're paid "under the table" and their work activity is not recorded. Those that work en negro of course do not make pension contributions nor do they receive unemployment insurance, holiday pay, or health benefits. They also do not have union representation (although one of Argentina's most important historians, Pablo Pozzi, told me that there is a group of metalurgical workers based out of Cordoba who are currently meeting to try and unionize en negro workers). Another huge sector of the working population is made up of contract workers that also receive no benefits and have little job security, living contract to contract. And yet a third group of workers - many making up the ranks of the now depleted working classes that stoked Argentina's once mighty industrial base - work in jobs that they are overqualified for and are therefore grossly underpaid. Many of these underemployed workers work en negro and often hold down two or three jobs. Those that do have the good fortune of still having a steady jobe look forward to paltry fractions of the pensions, health benefits, and unemployment insurance they should be receiving.

Most workers that do receive an official salary (today making up about 12% of Argentina's total economic output, compared to 49% during Peron's first two presidencies between 1946 and 1955, the other 88% of the pie going to multinationals, large corporations, and government activity) have only a portion of their salary (between 25-50%) officially recognized for calculating benefits. This portion of one's salary is called "el basico de convenio" (Pozzi, 2005). That is, most people here only claim a portion of their income, the rest of their income is considered extra pay and, thus, is not recognized as a regular part of their salaries. While it is true that these additional add-ons to one's salary are non-taxable for most, importantly, they are also portions of one's income that don't factor into calcualting benefits such as unemployment insurance, retirement plans, and health benefits. Additionally, and literally overnight, the buying power of salaries fell by more than 60% when the peso was readjusted at a level of 3-1 to the US dollar after the "convertibilidad" policy of 1-1 was scrapped in 2002. This, coupled with the subsidization of many low salaried positions by Argentina's "planes trabajar" (welfare plans instituted during the crisis of 2002 by former caretaker president Eduardo Duhalde), caused a general "flattening" of wages (Pozzi, 2005). This wage flattening is, in essence, a subsidy for businesses, reducing their variable costs of doing business and transferring the burden of Argentina's economic recovery onto the dwindling middle and working classes while Argentina's medium, large, and multinational enterprises continue to record huge profits in many instances (Pozzi, 2005; Petras & Veltmeyer, 2004).

Also, secure jobs with any type of regular and long term pay are becoming scarcer in Argentina and are rarely advertised, especially in the intellectual, administrative, or service sectors. This is compounded by the fact that nepotism abounds here still. Unless one is well connected, many - like my cousin who is a graphic designer - spend years looking for a steady paycheque after graduating from high school or university. My cousin, for example, took five years after graduating from one of Buenos Aires's best private universities to find a secure job that guaranteed her a decent income with benefits. "Freelance" is a commonly used word here. Moreover, there are millions who are underemployed and chronically unemployed. While the official unemployment rate is officially around 12% [EL CLARIN], this number, however, does not include the 10-20% that are receiving planes trabajar, those that have given up looking for work, and those that are underemployed. In Argentina, losing your job any time after your mid-40s pretty much guarantees that you'll most likely never find a similar job again. Age discrimination is a way of doing business here.

And, while the piqueteros have taken their unemployment quagmire to the streets, their demands - except for the the most radical and autonmous MTD factions - usually don't extend beyond asking for more subsidies (from $150 pesos a month to $350). These planes are not initially distributed to individuals but to umbrella organizations such as political parties, partisan municipal workers, and MTD organizations which then take on the job of distributing the welfare subsidies to its members. Usually kick-backs and political favours are involved. Because of this institutionalized clientelism, an entire mafia-like distribution system of welfare dependence and work-for-welfare has emerged that links the welfare plans to political entities. In addition, this clientelistic distribution system concentrates much economic and political power in the hands of a few welfare distribution managers, political parties, and government and union officials that regularly recieve kickbacks from the distribution of the the planes trabajar, turning the planes into political currency useful for exchanging political benefits to those individuals and organizations seeking power or already in power.

Here are a few more quick tastes of why working life is precarious in Argentina:
- Example: The average salaried worker makes around $800 -$1000 pesos, the average wage earner makes $500 - $700 pesos. The poverty line is somewhere between$500 - $600. An average rent is around $200 - $400 pesos.
- Example: University professors at the hightest levels get around $87 pesos a month per course taught (yes, you read right, $87 pesos, or around U$S 30!) Most professors and sessionals (called "adjuntos") teach about 4 courses per semester on average in addition to working in committees, publishing, going to conferences, etc. Thus, professors must subsidize their income with other jobs such as private teaching, private research, etc. Here, publish or perish has being taken to new lows. Many professors and sessionals leave Argentina and teach elsewhere. This has caused a dire brain drain here. Also, most intellectuals, except for the most committed left radicals, tend to be politically conservative or centrists, something one would expect from a cadre of intellectuals doing research for private corporations, government institutions, lobby groups, or state bureacuracies.

These are only a few examples of why I believe we have to think about precarity much more broadly here in Argentina than how the concept is framed when doing political economic analysis of immaterial labourers or minimum-wage earners and contract workers in the global north. Most of the working class in Argentina - be they wage earners, salaried workers, freelancers, contract workers, immaterial labourers or the underemployed - are living in some sort of precarious work/life condition. And one can't think of precarity here without thinking about the connections to the neoliberal structural adjustments and sellout of the 1990s, machista culture, the connections between race and class (still very visible here), the present and historical role of repression in Argentinean socio-political life, the sharp distinctions between Buenos Aires as the economic-cultural-political "centre" of power and the rest of the nation as the dependent "periphery" (very much in the Innisian sense), the frustrations related to the failed promises of attaining first world status, and the acceptance of "assistentialist" culture by many under and unemployed (Flores, 2005). Perhaps, then, Argentina, a once powerful industrial giant with a committed working class, offers an early look at the precarious future in store for other developed and developing economies in the thick of contemporary neoliberalist forms of capital accumulation.

These are things that I'll be writing more about over the next few months.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

The Bauen Hotel fights for a temporary permit of expropriation

From a web cafe next to the Hotel Bauen, Calle Callao, Buenos Aires, Argentina

Hundreds of social justice supporters were on hand outside the Bauen Hotel yesterday afternoon in solidarity with the hotel workers in their fight with the city of Buenos Aires's legislature to be recognized as an officially expropriated enterprise (see: Pagina/12´s Thurs. Jul., 12, 2005 article "Otra marcha por el Bauen". Also see Indymedia Argentina's two recent reports on the matter: BAUEN: 7 de julio, todos a la Legislatura por la ocupación and Intento de clausura del Hotel Bauen Cooperativa). The hotel's staff of 150 self-managed workers, together with the supporters and federal government deputy Patricia Walsh, daughter of the famed disappeared reporter and author Roberto Walsh, eventually marched to the porteño city's legislative buildings where the hotel workers' case for temporary expropriation recognition was slated to be heard. The Bauen´s workers are fighting for the hotel's right to exist as a cooperative, a legal designation the hotel still does not hold. The previous owners of the hotel, Bauen Sacic, are seeking to regain control of the hotel under the legal rubric of being "original proprietors of the hotel" (Pagina/12).

The Bauen workers have been seeking to be recognized as an official cooperative in order to be able to run the hotel without harassment from city officials and the Federal Police. These past few weeks have been tense for Bauen workers. On July 14, several city officials with Federal Police in tow raided the building and sought to close it down and evict the employees due to unspecified "security reasons" (Pagina/12). According to Indymedia Argentina, at the time the Bauen was fully booked with over 400 guests staying in its 160 rooms. In addition, five theatrical events were playing at the hotel catering to the winter break demand for entertainment in Buenos Aires's theatre district.

Just about an hour ago I went to the Bauen for dinner and everything seemed normal. The lobby was humming with activity and the cafe was catering to dozens of guests.

The fledgling hotel cooperative announced that a festival to support the workers´struggles to be recognized as an official cooperative will be held on Thurs. July 28 at 1 pm in front of the Buenos Aires legislative buildings on the corner of Peru and Avenida de Mayo.

I also discuss the Bauen briefly in my July 9 post.

For more info see: http://argentina.indymedia.org/.

Monday, July 18, 2005

General observations on my first week in Argentina

Things in Argentina´s current political reality are intense, complex, contradictory, and inspirational. There are many conjunctions at play in all of the social movements and all of the struggles I´ve seen thus far (i.e., the MTDs, the recovered workspaces, homeless rights advocates, the fight for the basic needs of those that live in shantytowns, the piqueteros, the cartoneros, etc). The ravages of capitalism and consumerism are everywhere, especially in the villas miserias. We witnessed how the villeros live - literally - on top of and off of the garbage that wealthier porteños dump along the frayed outskirts of Buenos Aires. And, while there are many contradictions to the social justice movements here (as there are everywhere), it is clear that all are seeking a better way to live life in a society still deeply stratified, intrinsically racist and sexist, and volatile. I´m learning that we can´t generalize anything in Argentina, even within the loose community of 170-plus recovered firms. Actually, especially amongst the recovered enterprises movement as traditional union and party politics are always in tension with the workers' inherently autonomist tendencies (more on this later). Every situation experiences its own unique political quagmire and triumphs.

There is one thing sought by most protagonists of the "newest" social movements here, however: dignity. It is the one word said by most protagonists of the social justice movements that we've met thus far, suggesting a link between all of them, as fractured, emergent and uncertain as they all are. Within the chaos and precariousness of life here, the first thing they all seek - that is, the recovered enterpries workers, unemployed workers, cartoneros, villeros, activist retired people, piqueteros, etc. - after the basic necesities of life are are met (and the struggle of many like the MTDs, cartoneros, and the activists in the villas hasn't gone beyond fighting for basic human rights and the vital needs of the millions of Argentines in need) is to be treated with dignity and to be respected as important members within a greater community.

Notwithstanding their internal tensions and contradictions, and while there is much disillusionment amongst all social classes, there is also much hope, especially within the recovered enterprises movement. Throughout Argentina, life continues to be rich with social activities and joy. Even in the villa that we visted (Villa 21), where many eat the refuse dumped in mass trash sites by multinationals like McDonalds (a cheap and efficient way for McDonald's to get rid their waste), we saw music being played and children doing what children do within the squalor and misery of their daily realities. Here is a brief photo essay that I shot an compiled contrasting Villa 21 and other precarious life situations with pictures of the upper class neighbourhoods of Buenos Aires a mere 10-15 km away - the intense contrast provides a clear and simple picture of the deep social and economic divisions currently plaguing Argentina.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

The wit of the porteño catches up to my long absence from Argentina: I feel that I am from this country but not of this country

My stunted castellano (and I remind myself that it always takes me a few days to get into the groove of speaking the language here) symbolizes how fractured and at times disconnected I feel from this country. Can I even call myself argentino? I realize that identity is what I make of it in conjunction with what the society I’m ensconced in makes of me, but I feel a longing to belong to this place. Where does this longing come from and can I ever call myself argentino?

Can I call myself argentino if I was spared from the horrors and pains that this country suffered over the past 30 years, safe within my privileged place in Canada? Can I call myself argentino when I am, in fact, an émigré protected from the brutal realities of Argentina’s recent history? Can I call myself argentinoif I didn’t live through the brutal military repressions of the mid- to-late 1970s, if I missed the period of its fledgling democracy in the ‘80s, if I was absent from the the hyperinflation years of the late ‘80s, if I saw from afar the giddy neoliberal experiment of the ‘90s? Can I call myself argentino if I only witnessed the massive protests on the streets during the argentinazo of Dec. 19/20, 2001 on television, if the corralito was something I read in the online version of the Clarín and learned of from my family’s email messages to me. Can I ever call myself argentino if I can never really feel that uncertainty towards the future that most Argentineans feel?

And, now, I’m back here in Buenos Aires, the city I claim to love so much. Can I ever call myself argentino when speaking in castellano porteño takes so much effort at times. I want to speak freely with my compañeros here but the exact word in castellano – that word or phrase that would tip off to the other that I am one of them - so often eludes me. Will I ever be able to speak like a porteño speaks? If identity is a construct, a political quagmire of complexity, why do I want to be called an argentino? Why do I want so much to be able to call myself argentino? What I have I lost in my absence from this place, and what have a gained from my life in Canada?

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

The wit of the porteño and politics as unusual

I’ve been staying staying with the Fleitas family for the first 10 days. On July 19, I’m going to moving into a flat in San Telmo. For now, I’m enjoying spending time with the Fleitas family, who are friends of my good friend Laureano. The members of the Fleitas family who live in an early 20th century four story house in the middle of the Congreso neighbourhood of Baires include the mother and two sisters. A third sister is married. A traditional Peronist family, the middle daughter has more activist leanings and we talk about the recovered factory movements and Argentina’s other social movements into the night.

People come and go in the Fleitas family home; it is a hub for the social activity of a group of twentysomethings whose members include cousins and schoolmates. On my first night at the home a lively discussion breaks out peppered with much porteño slang. I understand everything but the terms are all new to me; local slang changes monthly here it seems. I feel frustrated because I can’t contribute to the conversation in the same way – I’m relegated to the living room castellano I speak with my parents back in Canada. This makes me feel fractured, split into many pieces. What is my identity? Argentinean? Argentinean-Canadian? Does it matter? I too want to break into the porteñoisms at the same verbal speed, but I can’t.

So I decide to remain quite and listen. The conversation quickly meanders into politics. Whenever Argentineans talk about local and national politics the conversation is, although often sarcastic and auto-critical, always interlaced with humour. Sometimes, Argentineans make a concerted effort to find some good in all of the political chaos that is infused in Argentinean socio-political history. Political or not, conversations are more often than not interlaced with much wit and double entendres. When discussing politics, no major politician is spared from the wrath of the converationists. The humour tends to keep the contradictory state of Argentinean politics in perspective. One thing that is never referred to in a humours way, however, is the last bloody and repressive dictatorship that Argentina suffered between 1976 and 1983.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

A few more brief and early notes from a returning ex-pat


  • The look of the city of Buenos Aires: The city looks more worn than last time I visited it in Dec. 2000, exactly one year before the socio-economic meltdown of Dec. 19/20, 2001. There’s much more graffiti, much more garbage on the streets, many more homeless people, but also a more intense political fervour in the air. Of course the graffiti is also an inspiring testimony to the passionate political times Argentina is ensconced within. The graffiti is also an aesthetic reclamation of public spaces by the marginalized, the dispossessed, and the politically aware - a creative expression of the politics of the streets and an aesthetics of resistance using Buenos Aires itself as its canvass.
  • Piqueteros, I: Protests marches are a daily occurrence. They are also contradictory: Piqueteros continue to block major arterial routes in and out of the Capital Federal. To many, if not most, middle and working class porteños they are mere obstacles on their daily commute to and from work and shopping. Morning traffic reports here always also include where local protests are to be held. It´s interesting to note that this probably means that the mainstream media is monitoring the alternative Argentinean press, such as IndyMedia Argentina, where these protests are often announced. (A related note: I must look into how these protests are organized and communicated.) Piqueteros, themselves made up of unemployed workers in the MTD movement, are also being accused of preventing other Argentineans from getting to work, especially if they live in the "Cono Urbano" that surrounds the Capital Federal. Have the piqueteros lost their political force? Has theeir method of direct action to block the veins of the economic trade routes of Argentina lost its resonance? I must look into this over the next few weeks.
  • Piqueteros, II: On my trip from the airport to my cousin’s house on July 8 when I arrived, a piquete on the highway from Ezeiza International Airport and the Capital makes the remisero (hired car driver) take an alternative route, which takes us into a paralyzing and crawling traffic jam. Again, is the piquetero strategy backfiring? Are Argentineans turning against the piqueteros because of the nuisance they cause the middle class? What other options do the unemployed have for raising awareness of their plight?

A few images from an afternoon walk through the Microcentro and San Telmo neighbourhoods

- "For the sake of love, use protection." El Che.

- Playing a little tango on Plaza Dorrego, San Telmo.

- "Mysterious Buenos Aires."

- National Bank of Argentina: ¨"Thieves, thugs, assasins, vultures..."

Monday, July 11, 2005

Asado de bienvenida: Welcoming us to the AAP summer program at Chilavert

Today at 4:30 p.m., Marcelo (Kelo) & Yuli introduced us to the program. Kelo is the Argentinean coordinator of Gracial Monteagudo’s AAP summer program that I’m involved with this month in Buenos Aires. Kelo is also a PhD candidate and sessional in the Facultad de Filosofia y Letras (Faculty of Philosophy and Letters) at UBA. Yuli, an anthropology graduate student at the UBA, will be Kelo’s assistant throughout our first week, which will be an intense cultural immersion into the complex and contradictory facets of Buenos Aires’s cultural, political, and social milieu. All 19 of us participants (two of us are from Canada and the rest American) met today on the mezzanine floor of Chilavert Artes Gráficos, the worker recovered enterprise where I’ll be interning starting next week (see "Where I`ll be interning next month").



Chilavert facilitates numerous community events here on the mezzanine level. It’s a fantastic space where a number of activities such as art classes, poetry readings, and seminars are often held. Saturday night, as I understand it, is a particularly popular night for community gatherings and cultural events. Of course, it’s also a great place to kick-start an intensive program looking into Argentina’s recovered workspaces and newest social movements.

Today being Sunday, the print shop’s off-set devices, its printing machines, its binding machines, and the stacks of soon-to-be processed stacks of glossy paper and half-finished posters sit quite and still on the shop’s main floor. This miscellany of machinery and stationary below as I look over the veranda from the mezzanine level resembles a mini skyline, a seemingly haphazard metropolis of contraptions, stacks of papers, and unfinished posters put into place by the pragmatic needs of the shop’s daily workflows. The first floor of Chilavert on a Sunday night gives witness to a highly productive workspace that has paused to give its citizen attendants time to engage in life’s other activities, such as participating in family events and, tonight, hosting the gringo students they’ve so warmly welcomed into their lives.

Upon entering Chilavert from the street I find myself in the interior receiving area at the front of the building. I’m one of the first AAP program students to arrive. Maria Rosa Gonzalez, Candido Gonzalez’s wife (Candido is one of the original eight that courageously occupied the factory three years ago) warmly welcomes me in. One of the first things I notice is the elaborately designed “Chilavert Artes Graficos” sign above the second main doors that lead into the shop. The sign is styled after the aesthetics of the tango bars and bordellos of early 20th century Buenos Aires. I’ve seen similarly designed signage in old Baires bars and I’ll soon see the style greeting us at other recovered factories such as Graficos Patricios and IMPA.

After entering the shop floor Maria Rosa turns sharply to the right and leads me up the stairs above the print shop’s main offices. We soon come to the cultural centre on the mezzanine floor. The second floor rings the shop about 15-20 feet above the main floor. From this perspective the shop reminds me of an old colonial villa with the shop floor resemblig the inner courtyard that was common in most Spanish colonial villas throughout Latin America. In these old villas, wealthy colonial families lived with their servants, ate, shared family experiences, and held court when hosting visitors. To the colonial Europeans that ruled Latin America for most of the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries, the villas were mini fortresses that shielded them from the hurly burly of colonial business, the mestizo vagos (lazy ones) who chose to live in the surrounding countryside, and indigenous life outside the villa’s walls. This evocation to colonial times is appropriate, I think to myself. Chilavert’s recovery by its workers can be compared to the desire that early Argentineans had for emancipation from Spain’s colonial clutch. Chilavert’s previous owner could be compared to the Spanish viceroys. The graphic shop’s building and its internal layout resembles the panoptic shape of the traditional Spanish villa. And the workers, a band of mutinous ex-servants who have found freedom from the oppression and repression of the former colonial tyrant they once lived under.

The allusion that the building has to the dwellings of Argentina’s old colonial rulers symbolizes not only the continued struggles of living within a system of social organization still inflected by oligarchical power structures and caudillo politics, Chilavert´s physical presence also symbolizes how the oppressed can overcome a politics of domination and repression. In the case of the eight original Chilavert workers that took the factory on April 4, 2002 and occupied it for more than seven months after years of being underpaid (in the last year and a half, not paid at all), and in light of the corrupt alliance with judges, accountants, union bosses, and lawyers embarked on by the previous owner, Chilavert’s workers’ collective struggle for survival can be seen as a contemporary version of the following continuing tensions: Argentina’s centre (Buenos Aires) and its peripheries (the interior provinces); the vagabond gaucho and indigenous cultures vs. the 19th century desire by the elite classes for all Argentineans to become a civilized nation; civilisación vs. barbarie; the hierarchies of the state vs. the desires of individual and communal autonomy; the rights of the propertied classes (landed classes) vs. the aspiring dreams of the working classes; and Argentina’s first world pretensions vs. the global north/south realities of the 1990s.

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The mezzanine level of Chilavert is a phenomenal space surrounded by art works by local artists and some of Chilavert’s glossy art books from the old days when they were still under el patronal (the boss, or literally, the patriarchal chief). While Kelo and Yuli did a fantastic job of introducing us to the program and helped us to navigate our way through the Guia “T”, Buenos Aires’s notoriously complex bus schedule booklet, I was distracted by my enthusiasm at actually being here. While I sat with my new peers around four rustic wooden tables, I couldn’t help but think about what an appealing space this place is for not only work but also for cultural and community events, as well. Chilavert is pregnant with myriad possibilities for joy and life; after being at Chilavert for only a few minutes one senses that this place is about so much more than work. Indeed, it’s immediately evident that Chilavert is a space where work intermingles with play, where culture is infused in work and work is part of a greater culture, and where community and connection abound. One quickly notices that patronizing and heavy-handed supervision of life has been banished here. At Chilavert, the neighbourhood that surrounds it and its cultural riches intersects with the daily labour of producing books, posters, and pamphlets for Argentina’s newest social movements.

The paintings on the walls of the mezzanine floor; the quite machines resting from the previous week’s production; and the chatter and din of excited and expectant conversations between the northern visitors and the locals from Chilavert, the recovered factories movement, the UBA, and the AAP merge with the smells of the asado that is being barbequed this Sunday night by some of Chilavert’s workers on the street of this recovering community (no Sunday night anxieties with these workers!) From old oil drums cut in half the excellent chorizos and cuts of costillas and lomo are prepared and served up to the hungry guests. In typical Argentinean style, we all sit at the table together and share the fine food in the midst of much conversation and laughter (and there’s enough spinach pies and veggie dishes for the non meat eaters, as well).



Tonight, on this chilly Buenos Aires July night, and barely one night into the five week program, we are all witnesses that another world, however tenuous and provisional, is indeed possible...

- 1136 Chilavert, Neueva Pompeya, Buenos Aires

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Independence Day, protest, and Hotel Bauen: Reflections on my first full day in Argentina

This is my first full day in Argentina. It also happens to be Argentina's Dia de Independencia, Independence Day. The flight to Buenos Aires was long and uneventful, except for the unexpected extra passengers we picked up at Santiago de Chile on their way to Baires. The reason for the extra passengers? Aerolineas Argentinas' pilots went on a one-day strike (paro) yesterday. This was my first encounter with the daily socio-political realities of Argentina post Dec. 19/20, 2001. And I wasn't even in Argentina yet!

On my first outing into the "Paris of the South," "La reina de la Plata," I decide to head to my favourite street, Av. Corrientes, Baires’s theatre district and home to some of the best used bookstores and bohemian culture anywhere. On my way back to where I'm currently staying (close to Congreso - Argentina's Congress - on Calle Rincon between Av. Belgrano and Calle Moreno) I stumble onto my first protest march. And so my five week adventure begins…

Thousands of protesters march peacefully and soberly. Chant leaders conduct the marchers' resistance slogans by singing protest songs into a mike connected to an amplifier and speaker on trucks that slowly move to the determined but staid pace of the parade. The protestors are made up of a vast swath of Buenos Aires’s working classes and Argentina’s ever-growing underemployed and unemployed classes. Illustrating the splintered state of the Argentinean left, some of the groups in the march include numerous groups from the Movimiento de Trabajadores Desocupados (MTD, or the Unemployed Workers Movement), the Federación Universidad de Buenos Aires (FUBA, or the University of Buenos Aires´ student union), and other social justice movements, such as Convergencia Socialista, Movimiento Territorial de Liberacion, Partido Obrero, Polo Obrero, Comision de Derechos Humanos, and even Urugayos Presos en Argentina (Uruguayans Imprisoned in Argentina).

Political protest marches are a daily occurence in post Dec. 19/20, 2001 Argentina, but this is a particularly large one. Also, that this massive, well organized march is taking place today is no coincidence; the protestors are capitalizing on the heightened significance of this day where, in 1816, a group of caudillos from the ragtag affiliation of southern provinces lead by the Unitarist movement declared independence from Spain in the northwestern province of Tucumán.

I first cought site of the march at the buzzing intersection of Av. Callao and Av. Corrientes (see above picture) as the march turned the corner southward towards Baires's famed Obelisco at Av. 9 de Julio. Callao and Corrientes is the merging of various tributaries for all such marches; all marches that follow this route eventually end up either at the Obelisco, the national Congress a few blocks south, or at Argentina's square of power, Plaza de Mayo, further southeast.

After watching the eclectic social justice march on the street, I decide to duck into the Bauen Hotel's coffee shop a few meters away from the corner where I first encountered the protest. I watch the rest of the march from this vantage point while sipping an exquisite café at the only window seat looking onto Callao and the march. While my actions might seem suspicious to the veteran protester, this shouldn't be confused as bourgeois flight on my part; this is not an escape from the sweaty and enraged horde. First, I need a space to write down these thoughts that you´re reading right now. Second, the Bauen is a symbolic locale from which to view the march. Indeed, and not meaning to trivialize the protestors on the street, my decision to enter the Bauen and order a coffee could be considered a humble political act. The Bauen, you see, is Buenos Aires’s only worker recovered hotel and its workers’ struggle to have it recognized as a legal cooperative continues on a daily basis.

The Bauen is part of the National Movement of Recovered Enterprises (MNER) and shares the story of owner-declared bankruptcy, worker resistance, and worker takeover experienced in various unique ways by roughly 170 other workplaces in Argentina. Emerging out of the drastic and inhuman neoliberal policy’s of the Menem government of the 1990s, the subsequent implosion of the socio-economic and socio-political realities of Argentina that came to a head on Dec. 19 and 20, 2001, and in the ashes of a prolonged and smoldering deterioration of the middle and working classes’ economic wellbeing and the increased immiseration of the poor (now plaguing between 45 - 60% of Argentina’s population, depending on who you talk to), new possibilities for social and political life - such as the Bauen´s cooperative work space - are being experimented with everywhere in Argentina. Alternative and horizontal social realities are being explored and lived daily by the homeless, the unemployed, the socially marginal people of the myriad villas miserias (shanty towns)that dot the country, and among a plethora of nascent neighbourhood movements and recovered work spaces. Participants in these movements are struggling to not only change their own socio-political reality, but, as many would later tell me, to also return dignity into daily life via a reawakening of more humane, more local ways of existence that emerge out of social, political, and economic crisis.

For formerly bankrupt and now recovered work spaces like the Bauen, their workers´ stories, while all unique, have a similar plotline: The recovered enterprises movement is, in part, a bottom-up response to the IMF´s failed attempts to control the country´s economic policies in order for Argentina to be able to meet its interest payments on its massive foreign debt (economic policies which Argentina´s politicians and public managers zealously carried out throughout the 1990s). In addition, thousands of workers have been forced to carry out risky factory takeovers because of inept or greedy owners that, capitalizing on the speculative and corrupt auction market made possible by the economic collapse, threaten to or declare bankruptcy in the wake of the failure of Argentina's macro- and micro-structural adjustments. Especially after the Dec. 2001 economic meltdown, thousands of once-healthy businesses began to close their doors and evict their workers throughout the country. On top of this, workers are usually let go after weeks and months of not getting paid. Unemployed and with hungry families to feed, the inevitable vaciamiento (emptying) of a bankrupted enterprise's machinery and assets by the owner and sketchy court trusties has motivated thousands of workers to mobilize by first seizing their workspace and occupying it, thus using their own physical presence - their own bodies - to ride out the six to eight and sometimes 12 months it takes for the courts to declare the ley de exproriación (expropriation law) preventing the auctioning off of the company´s assets. Although sometimes the workers are allowed to legally use the machines while the backruptcy claim is still in the courts, the ultimate, and always precarious and to date short term goal, is for the workers to be able to control the machines free from the threat of eviction by the state, although even at this stage the workers still only have temporary control of the machines and the property under various burdensome conditons (e.g., in most cases the workers, directly or indirectly, take on the debt of the previous owner).

During the long struggle between the declaration of quiebra (bankruptcy) and the declaration of the expropriation law, desperate yet determined and, in many cases, well-organized worker takeovers of the closing enterprise ensues, leading to lengthy periods of courageous workspace occupation by the workers and many supporters from the neighbouring communities. Often, as with the balloon factory La Esperanza, the print house Chilavert, and the now famous Zanon and Brukman cases, the workers face the constant threat of persecution and attacks by repressive police forces, mafiosi union leaders, and bought-off government cronies. If all goes well, the occupation culminates in long battles with the federal and provincial courts for legal recognition of the work space as an official, worker run cooperative. Eventually, and sometimes during the tenuous weeks and months of occupation, the workers slowly begin to produce again or, as in the case of the Bauen, to provide hotel services.

For thousands of workers in this country, this direct action is the only solution left; out of the ashes of 19/20 thousands of Argentine workers are deciding to experiment with manager-free and horizontal work places run by themselves via assemblies and workers' councils. Initially there is no deep revolutionary rationale guiding the takeovers; what inspires the workers to action is the desperation and frustration of each worker and the need to feed and provide for his or her family. The workers rage and desperation at the possibility of being without work usually always foments their action. But slowly, throughout their struggle, the workers begin to change their own circumstances for the first time in their lives in spite of and, indeed, because of a political system that remains unresponsive to their quotidian needs. Here in Argentina, politicians and union leaders continue to cater more to the whims of global markets than to the dire circumstances of a psychically and emotionally pummeled and evermore precarious citizenry.

Turning to each other rather than relying on experts, politicians, bureaucrats, or the church, a rich yet simple model of direct democracy and communitarian work ethic emerges out of the struggles of everyday life in Argentina. In the recovered factories movement, the workers’ everyday reality of struggle (lucha) informs the understanding of their plight. Their understanding comes from within the crisis, through the hope they create, and always, especially during the first stages of their struggle, from below. Their existential experiences are constantly forging their philosophies of cooperativism and community. And their understanding of what's at stake is eloquent, reflected in their daily practices and in the poignant narratives they recount. Here, in Argentina, amongst the workers’ and unemployed workers’ movements, the cartoneros (cardboard people), the piqueteros (organized picketers of the unemployed), the asambleas barriales (neighbourhood assemblies), and las empresas recuperadas (recovered factories), theory emerges always and directly from immediate experience. Any other kind of a priori theory risks sharing the same myopic perspective affecting those sabios (wise ones) in the seats of power. Perhaps the asambleas (people's assemblies) that guide all of these movements are the first signs of the flames of the slowly emerging Phoenix that received its first drafts of generative wind from the impassioned chant of millions who took to the streets on Dec. 19/20, 2001 as they sang out “Que se vayan todos!” – “All of them (Argentina’s traditional institutional players) must leave now!”

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I sip the coffee, look onto the march, and soak in the radicalized air bookended by the protest outside and the casual pace of the self-managed hotel staff as they go about the business of tending to a hotel inside. As the parade outside stops for a few seconds I notice that several members of a workers’ rights group from Quilmes - the southern Baires suburb of my birth - turn to face the Bauen as they beat at the air with their arms chanting the following in the style of Argentinean futbol supporters: “El Bauen, el Bauen, es de los trabajadores, a el que no le gusta, que se joda, que se joda!” (“Teh Bauen, the Bauen belongs to the workers, and for those that don’t like it, they can go fuck themselves!”) (Soccer and politics forever overlap in this country; the habits of the soccer stadium also shape the style of protesting and one’s political allegiances.)

A few minutes later, at around 3:56 pm, when the march is over and traffic resumes on Callao, a busload of passengers begins to chant something else and this time the hotel staff chants back in reply — impromptu gestures of solidarity spontaneously materializing between commuters on a bus and the Bauen's workers inside. Meanwhile, people in their cars stuck in the chronic traffic jam that ensues after the march ends all look up at the Bauen Hotel sign above me and over my left shoulder and then glance down to me at the window seat. By the looks on their faces I can see that the drivers know what the Bauen is about. I sense a deep respect in their faces. At the same time, a group of five men at a table to my right further inside the Bauen’s resto-bar are discussing something regarding the politics of this place. In the midst of the smoke-filled air that surrounds them, the din of distant and near conversations, and the clanging of cutlery and dishes, I overhear them uttering words like “lucha” (struggle) and “19/20”. Someone with knowledge of the workers´ movements told me that the Bauen is currently experiencing some trying legal battles, placing their cooperative status in jeopardy. These men sipping coffee and talking feaverishly among themselves at the table near me are perhaps the hotel workers' lawyers and MNER (National Movement of Recovered Enterprises) representatives. All the while, the hotel workers are busily going about their jobs, continuing to efficiently and professionally run the former five star hotel where, paradoxically, Menem’s cronies often met in the heady days of the 1990s and the IMF experiment in Argentina.

Whatever the Bauen’s advocates and lawyers are discussing at that table near me, whatever the ultimate outcome of the workers’ precarious legal status, the Bauen workers’ experiment with direct democracy and self-management can be already viewed as victorious: My server, the bellhop, the staff at the front desk, the mucamas (chaimber maids), all of them in their daily tasks, in their weekly and monthly assembly meetings, and in the dignity they’ve reclaimed for themselves through their ongoing struggle, are inventing a new model for life that returns the empowering living labour possessed by each worker back to each worker and reformulates each workers’ subjectivity in every act of solidarity with their compañeros (comrades). And in every act of mutual aid and cooperative work, remnants of the old, coercive, hopeless, and sad ways of life ensconced in the decaying hierarchical power structures of capitalist work scenarios slowly perish. In its very existence as a worker-run enterprise and out of the personal crises of each of its workers, the Bauen puts into question the need for any human being to control another human being - for the need for wage slavery - and shows us social imperatives infinitely more important than the hegemonic ideologies of profit and greed.

Saturday, July 02, 2005

Esteban Magnani's website and book El cambio silencioso

In preparation for my upcoming trip to Argentina, I'm currently reading Estaban Magnani's El cambio silencioso: empresas y fábricas recuperadas por los trabajadores en la Argentina (Buenos Aires: Prometeo Libros, 2003) (The Silent Change: Enterprises and Factories Recovered by Workers in Argentina) . This was the first book published on the recovered factory movement in Argentina (for another good book on the subject, see
Sin patrón: fábricas y empresas recuperadas por sus trabajadores (Without Bosses: Enterprises and Factories Recovered by Their Workers). Besides being an independent journalist and author, Magnani was also a crew member (Argentinean field producer) on Lewis and Klein's The Take.

Magnani takes the reader on a facinating journey into the praxical realities at the heart of Argentina's recovered factory movement since Dec. 2001. In the first half of the book, Magnani details the history of the movement and its connections to Argentina's neoliberal restructurations and disastrous failures of the 1990s; briefly touches on the greater historical imperatives of worker takeovers and worker managed workspaces; delves into how new subjectivities are being forged within the direct democracy at the heart of the recovered factory movement; outlines the main theoretical pillars of the recovered workspace movement; and details the parallel economy and new social structures it is undergirding in Argentina. The second part of the book relies on the plethora of interviews and personal on-site observations Magnani made while a crew member on The Take to evocatively illustrate the everyday experiences of the movement via five exemplar case studies: Zanon, Union y Fuerza, Confecciones Brukman, Chilavert (the factory I'll be interning at starting next week), and Instituto Comunicaciones.

The book has yet to be translated into English. Perhaps with permission of the author, I'll be able to translate some passages or even a few chapters. While the entire book is very pertinent in documenting this newest iteration of the history of worker control and workers' struggles, the book's introduction, chapters 1 and 2, and the conclusion seem to me particularly relevant for the current global social justice literature with reference to Argentina's workers' struggles.

A good analysis of the value of McLuhan's media analysis...

A few sites documenting the history of anarchy

Good selection of papers on Argentina's recovered factories (in Spanish)

http://www.iisg.nl/labouragain/argentineantakeovers.php

The Take's website, with key links

Avi Lewis and Naomi Klein's award winning film The Take's NFB website, with excellent supporting links and resources on worker recovered factories, worker cooperatives, and some aspects of the social justice movement.

A good article on Zanon, from WikiNews (April 26, 2005)

Argentinean Workers Preparing to Defend Control of Factory.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Where I'll be interning next month: The Chilavert publishing factory

Here's a great article from ZNet that briefly introduces the history and current situation of the Chilavert Graphic Arts, a worker recovered book publishing enterprise. (Here's another good paper on Chilavert, in Spanish). I'll be spending a considerable amount of time there between Jul. 9 and Aug. 12 of this year, perhaps working the presses, copy editing books, working with off-set films, or perhaps even sweeping the floors. In addition, I'll be talking courses at theUniversity of Buenos Aires's Faculty of Philosophy and Letters with labour historian Prof. Pablo Pozzi, activist Silvia Delfino (who appears briefly in The Take), and recovered enterprises researchers and anthropologists Andres Ruggeri and Carlos Martinez. This educational university internship is being organized and sponsored by the UBA, the argentina autonomist project, and the Institute for Social Ecology.

Chilavert is one of the many successful worker recovered workspaces in Argentina operating as a cooperative with no owner, boss or management. Instead, it relies solely on a direct democratic form of administration conducted within direct assemblies--one worker one vote--and on sheer worker motivation! And, yes, "specialist" managerial decisions; cost-benefit analyses; purchase orders; distribution, sales, and marketing functions; machine repairs and operations; accounts payables and receivables; and building maintenance all get done and get done well. In addition, the factory also supports cultural events on the second floor, often hosting dances, movie screenings, poetry readings, community-based education classes, and other social events open to the entire Chilavert neighbourhood.

Here's a map with the approximate location of the Chilavert book publishing house. The Chilvert factory is on Chilavert St. towards the middle of the map. It's located in the old Buenos Aires neighbourhood of Nueva Pompeya. Here's another map with a broader view of Buenos Aires showing it's various neighbourhoods. On this map, Nueva Pompeya is located in the southwest corner of "la Capital Federal" (the conglomerate of neighbourhoods that make up Buenos Aires proper and the location of Argentina's federal government and courts). My father, Eduardo, just told me that his mother's family grew up in Nueva Pompeya and the bordering neighbourhood of Barracas. From my recollection of these neighbourhoods from my last trip to Baires in Dec. 2000 (exactly one year before the infamous Dec. 19-20, 2001) when I tagged along with my cousin Sergio on his magazine buying run for his Quilmes kiosk along the old streets of Nueva Pompeya, these are grand old working class neighbourhoods with stately but decaying homes and leafy wide streets. There is a whiff of old grandeur yet with many years of socio-economic decay to this part of Baires. Kind of like what Toronto's Cabbagetown feels like, without the gentrification.

OK, and just for kicks, here's a really cool satellite picture of "la Capital Federal".

Friday, June 24, 2005

Futbol y rocenrol en Argentina (soccer and rock and roll in Argentina)

From Pagina 12, thanks to my good friend Laureano: Rock y futbol. The boys from the group Futbol, one of the two groups talked about in the article, are friends of Laureano's. The article talks about the similarities between one's passions for rock and roll and for futbol: the refrains of the fans as they sing along with their favourite band or chant the team's songs, the highs and lows of practice, the emotions and deep commitments of supporters, and the authenticity of "playing" for the love of it rather than for the team's corporate sponsors or for the big record companies.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Argentina Links


Documentaries, Films, and Videos

A few regular reads



Affiliations






Colleagues, Mentors, Friends

Friday, June 10, 2005

My new blog

Welcome to my blog Thoughts on Argentina's Conjunctures, a running archive of my observations, ruminations, and emerging links about the socio-political conditions of my native country, Argentina, and especially its nascent experiments with workers' control. Some of you might have been readers of my old blog Technology, Community, and the Self. After a year's hiatus from the blogosphere I've decided to get back into blogging once again. The past year and a half was very eventful for me: I successfully completed my MA thesis in August, 2004, finished my first year of my PhD and begun my second, met a plethora of new friends in Toronto (my new city of residence), co-founded a critical pedagogy education program called The Toronto School of Creativity and Inquiry with my good friends Greig de Peuter and Christine Shaw, co-curated an art show on critical mapping with TSCI, and even published a few things (a book chapter and a few articles). I'll be sharing some of these experiences on this blog and another blog on more general themes of interest to me over the next few months.

For those of you that don't know me, I'm a jogger, a frustrated soccer player, a becoming socio-political organizer, a new student of social justice and philosophy, a constant traveler, an Italo-Argentinean-Canadian, a former accordion player and singer, a wannabe academic, and a PhD candidate in Social and Political Thought, York University, Toronto, Canada. You can read up on my academic interests and check out some of my writing at my permanent website.

For those of you that do know me, I plan on reposting all of the entries from my old blog dating back to the early days of 2003 on the other, more general blog that I will be setting up in 2006. I'll also be publishing my MA thesis chapters on that blog over the coming months. In addition to the insights, thoughts, and observations from my recent trip to Buenos Aires, Argentina in July/August, 2005 and some of the details of my ongoing imminent transformation into known, unknown, expected, and unexpected dimensions of selfhood, this blog documents some key aspects of my emerging PhD dissertation research on the socio-historical and phenomenological roots of workers' control in Argentina.

My recent trip to Buenos Aires, Argentina (July/August, 2005): What did I do in Buenos Aires last summer? I took part in the Argentina Autonomist Project's "Organize, Occupy, and Produce: The Factories, Streets, and Dreams" summer internship program. In addition to participating in the program, getting better acquainted with radical social movements, and indulging my own autobiographical interests in the country of my birth, my experiences in Argentina were central to a directed readings on worker's control for my PhD coursework with York University professor David Noble and, ultimately, will prove extremely useful for my PhD dissertation work. While in Buenos Aires, I took courses on the history of the new social movements in Argentina (at the University of Buenos Aires) and interned at a reclaimed factory (Artes Gráficas Chilavert), while also getting reacquainted with my family and friends. This was a trip that will most likely inform my future academic work. In addition to my course work and my internship tasks, I interviewed a broad cross-section of Argentineans concerning their own situated experiences of the volatile but ever-hopeful socio-political realities of the country, especially over the past few years. I also did several personal phenomenologies of my own experiences of the streets, the homes, the neighbourhoods, the people, and the shop floors of Argentina, describing as best as I can the feelings of return, of home, of the alien, of democratic participation, social renewal, and whatever else Argentina threw my way.

I've posted some of these phenomenologies "of the moment," key themes from my interviews, other observations of Argentina, and my ongoing process of becoming on this blog. I'll be posting more over the next little while. So, stay tuned!