Friday, May 02, 2003

"The emancipation of the working class must be the work of the workers themselves," Flora Tristan, 1843 

As my friend Suzi would say, these Argentinian women are the balls! (from the Globe and Mail):

"In Buenos Aires, every week brings news of a new occupation: a four-star hotel now run by its cleaning staff, a supermarket taken over by its clerks, a regional airline about to be turned into a co-operative by the pilots and attendants. In small Trotskyist journals around the world, Argentina's occupied factories, where the workers have seized the means of production, are giddily hailed as the dawn of a socialist utopia. In large business magazines such as The Economist, they are ominously described as a threat to the sacred principle of private property. The truth lies in between.

At Brukman, for instance, the means of production weren't seized -- they were simply picked up after they had been abandoned by their legal owners. The factory had been in decline for several years, and debts to utility companies were piling up. The seamstresses had seen their salaries slashed from 100 pesos a week to two pesos -- not enough for bus fare.

On Dec. 18, the workers decided it was time to demand a travel allowance. The owners, pleading poverty, told the workers to wait at the factory while they looked for the money. "We waited until night," Ms. Martinez says. "No one came."

After getting the keys from the doorman, Ms. Martinez and the other workers slept at the factory. They have been running it every since. They have paid the outstanding bills, attracted new clients and, without profits and management salaries to worry about, paid themselves steady salaries. All these decisions have been made by vote in open assemblies. "I don't know why the owners had such a hard time," Ms. Martinez says. "I don't know much about accounting, but for me it's easy: addition and subtraction."