Social Ecology London

Popular assemblies in Argentina

It’s important to talk and theorise about democratic alternatives, but pointless to do this in a vacuum. This page hosts a range of links to articles on the popular assemblies that sprang up in Argentina following the collapse of the country’s economy and widespread antipathy towards political leaders.

The following documents are written from a range of perspectives; we don’t necessarily agree with the outlooks of the authors

Que se vayan todos! A travelogue cum eyewitness account of the early days of the upheavals – the title comes from the widespread slogan that sums up the mood of the time – they all must go.

News article from 2002 about the assemblies.

The introduction to the English translation of Horizontalidad: Voices of Popular Power in Argentina , a fine oral hostory of the uprising.

On the ground impressions of the assembly movement.

Thorough overview of the ‘recuperated enterprises’ movement from 2006.

Examination of trotskyist reactions to the assemblies and workplace occupations.

1 Comment so far
Leave a comment

Submitted to

Moments of social crisis may provide us with opportunities for social change. At the moment we are all subject to a credit crunch, and a banking crisis; a financial collapse and economic recession leading to a global depression and deflation. Across the world there is a lack of credit, and companies are going bankrupt, unable to borrow the capital that they require to pay wages, insurance, to buy parts and raw materials, for dispatch and shipping. Banks and finance houses are collapsing as their customers and investors withdraw their cash, and avoid losing their money. At this time, factories and offices and shops are closing down and becoming vacant lots. Their workers and officers and managers are being made redundant, and unemployed, to become the responsibility of the State and the benefit systems. These unemployed accept their loss, and stay at home.
But what if they did not? I have been reading about the creation of ‘worker factories’ in Argentina, and Bolivia in response to the collapse of their economies after 2000. The empty ‘lots’, factories, hotels, shops, had been abandoned by the owners and locked up. But some of the workers decided to occupy the ‘lots’, and to start up again. These workers gathered together as committees to make decisions about how to run the enterprise. Some of them returned to the hierarchical structures of the past, others set up workers democracies. They had all returned to their places of work so as to run them without the owners and the bosses. They knew how to operate the enterprises, but not how to finance them. They had occupied the premises, and got them working again, but they were trespassers. They were not running a legal entity, so could not be recognized for the purposes of contracts and loans. In Argentina these ‘worker enterprises’ appealed to the national government for finance, and for legislation to legalise their occupation. Their appeals failed. Their futures are doubtful.
What if the redundant workers in the USA, the UK, the EU, Russia, and elsewhere, were given governmental support to take over their places of work, and to run them as ‘worker enterprises’ ? We have already seen that these governments have been more than willing to bailout the owners and shareholders of bankrupt corporations and banks to the tune of trillions of dollars. What if these monies were paid to the workers ?
The bankrupt companies, including finance houses, car factories, aluminium window manufacturers, mining operations, parts manufacturers, and so on, all have premises, with equipment, which will be abandoned, because the owners cannot afford to run them anymore.
But their premises remain. If we assume that the workers would rather be employed than not, and feel able to run the operation without the bosses, then they can all be available to operate them as ‘worker enterprises’ or ‘worker cooperatives’ or as ‘social businesses’. However, the experiences in Argentina show clearly that each ‘worker enterprise’ requires financial aid, legal aid, and skill training programmes in order to survive as a ‘going concern’.
Why should a government get involved? Any government, in the developed world, will be paying thousands of unemployed people various benefits, which will cost millions of dollars with no tax returns. But this money could be spent instead to support the establishment of ‘worker enterprises’; to allow the workers to take over the enterprise, and operate it as a cooperative or social business with legal rights and access to loans. The government would be required to sponsor the legislation necessary to allow ‘takeover by occupation’, and prevent owners or previous bosses from reclaiming the enterprise once it is back in profit. It may be that the government will require the loans to be repaid once the operation is in profit.
Initially, these ‘worker enterprises’ are to be managed and operated by workers’ assemblies, whereby all workers will be involved in the decisions about structure, planning and wages. Later, some may decide to be ‘worker democracies’, in which every decision is made by all; others may decide that they operate as before, as hierarchies, with a managing committee representing each working group, without the bosses; others, that they operate as cooperatives, with workers and customers as shareholders. None of them are to be seen as ‘nationalised’, unless that is agreed by mutual consent.

‘Social Ecology – a new morality’

Comment by J.Kelvyn Richards

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: