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

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?