Reports from Argentina
Live from Zanon!!!
Posted: Feb. 26 2003, 20:05Oh my god!
I had heard that Zanon was huge, but I somehow didn't get the message that Zanon is really fucking huge!
There are multiple clay storage tanks that must be five stories high, there are eleven ovens that are each about one hundred meters long, 19 different production lines, and 280 workers. I was really impressed by how high tech everything is: carts with ceramic tiles drive themselves around the factory, robots with special sensors are used to sort and stack the tiles, etc.
Unfortunately I don't have much time since I am not in an internet cafe but rather in the Press Commission of the Zanon factory, blocking their telephone by using the internet. So I'll give you a report about Zanon from REVOLUTION UK:
On Wednesday Dec 11th, two representatives from the Zanon ceramics factory in Neuquén, Argentina were invited to speak; this ceramics factory has been producing under workers control for over a year. Natalio (Chicho) Navarrete from the Ceramic Workers Union Neuquén and Mariano Pedrero, the union lawyer, related their experiences and the experiences of a nation in crisis. They had just returned from a tour of Italy, speaking at the European Social Forum and to hundreds of Fiat workers in struggle against job cuts.
Most people have the impression that the people's struggle in Argentina began on the 20th/21st December of last year, but for many workers and unemployed the economic crisis had started at least two years previous and that is when their struggle began. In the Zanon factory, the bosses of the factory had been threatening job cuts for at least two years claiming that the factory was in crisis.
When the workers demanded to see the books and to see the extent of this 'crisis', the bosses decided to close the factory. In October last year, the workers of Zanon occupied the factory because they knew that they were the only ones that were interested in keeping the factory open.
The state, which had given massive subsidies to the factory when it was under the control of the bosses, used the police force to attack the factory and attempt to throw the workers out. Even the official trade union (Peronist influence) tried to send scabs in to break the occupation. But the workers stood firm and proved that they could run the factory without the help of the bosses. They have an elected committee that oversees the normal running of the factory, but all major decisions are made in an assembly of all the workers. Everyone has the right to speak and vote.
The Zanon workers sought to forge links with different sections of the community: the unemployed, the health workers, teachers and the university (both students and staff), because they realised – as Chicho said – that they would get nowhere by themselves. They soon gained support as the community defended their right to occupy and raised money to keep the factory going. The workers also gave support to the students that were battling against fees and to the unemployed, involving them in a work rotation at the factory. The factory produced tiles at cost price so that every house in Neuquén could have a tiled floor (many still had dirt floors).
Another section of the community that was very important was the Mapuche, the indigenous people of the region. In 1995, Zanon had attempted to take advantage of the Mapuche by buying their clay for a very low price while destroying the environment in which they live. When the normal suppliers to Zanon refused to deliver to a factory under workers' control, the workers turned to the Mapuche, who agreed to sell because – as they said – 'Before the land was being exploited in order to exploit the workers, but now the clay is being used to help the community.' Zanon now makes four lines of ceramics named Mapuche with their symbols on it. This was a major acknowledge of the indigenous community and their part in the production at the factory; previously, all the ceramics had Italian names.
This is just one example of over 150 factories across Argentina that are producing under workers' control. The factories have formed a network so the speakers from these factories can go out to other factories that are on the verge of occupation to give them inspiration and support.
CALL TO EUROPEAN ORGANISATIONS
Sindicato Obreros y Empleados Ceramistas de Neuquén
Las Heras 194 ph: 443 3164
CP 8300 Nuquen Capital
Neuquén, 23 October 2002
To all labour movement organisations, unions and the youth of Europe:
The 280 workers of Zanon Ceramics in Neuquén (Patagonia, Argentina) stood firm more than a year ago against the attempt to close their factory. In a province wracked by high unemployment and during the most serious crisis that Argentina has faced, we decided to occupy the factory to defend the source of our work. We have no bosses nor supervisors and for more than seven months production has been under the control of the workers.
Throughout this period, in spite of the pressures, – including attempts to repress the occupation by the state and the union bureaucracy – we proved that only the workers can guarantee the sources of wealth and ensure the distribution of the working hours with our piqueteros brothers in the MTD of Neuquén and the fighting organisations of the province.
In this context, alongside the organised and class struggle movements in the region, we have set out a working class solution to the crisis that prevails, and have set up the Coordinadora del Alto Valle where organisations of piqueteros, public sector employees, teachers and other factory workers all participate. We are also fighting alongside the rest of Argentina's occupied factories and together we have launched the newspaper Our Fight with the motto: "an injury to one is an injury to all".
We make this call for internationalist solidarity to our class brothers and sisters across the Atlantic. We are conscious that our fight is but one example that shows that workers are able to determine our own destinies, those of our factories and sources of employment, and, further down the road, of the whole of society.
The solidarity we need is political but also material: we need your help to resist the pressures that pile up against us, including that of the government of Berlusconi who defends the interests of the Italian capitalists such as the Zanon family.
We are determined to carry on this fight together with all those in Argentina who have decided that the things can not carry on in the same way. And we stand at the side of the European youth and all working class people, who have shown the way to fight with general strikes in Italy, Greece, Spain, the struggle of the sans-papiers in France, as well as those that they demonstrated against the war in the different countries, and those who in Seattle, Prague, Nice, Naples, Gothenburg and Genoa. faced down the organisations of big capital.
Let us organise a great movement of solidarity to spread and to support the example of the occupied factories in Argentina! Solidarity lives on among the workers and youth! Working class internationalism lives!
For more information, go to one of the following sites and search for "Zanon":
Workers Power on Argentina:
PTS in English:
LIVE FROM ZANON!!!
This is your chance, folks, if you have any questions about Zanon, if you want me to ask the workers something specific, I'll be here until tomorrow morning, at least 20 more hours. Use the comments!
¡Viva la revolución!
– Dzhon Rid
Edited by Dzhon_Rid on Feb. 27 2003,13:20
Posted: Feb. 27 2003, 07:35
No questions, you are probably gone, just wanted to tell you that Michael Moore spoke at my school tonight, you would have dug it. He spoke for like 2 hours and then answered questions for another half an hour, an then showed the music vdeo he did for System of a Down which should be on mtv soon. It's all just footage of the antiwar manifestations around the world. Who knows if they will even show it. Anyway, i appreciate the reports, they are more encouraging than you can imagine. Fight on.
Posted: Feb. 27 2003, 08:42
my main question is about the future!
what perspektives do you see for you and the occupied factory?
do you think that everything will stay as it is or do you think that the bosses want their property back?!
& if they want how will u protect yourselfe and the factory? how is the cooperation with the piceteros?
i ve heared from to comrades from you in florence at the european social forum that you were able to found new jobs and to give them to piceteros? how is your economic situation now?
did you get the mony we collected in berlin for you?
how was the experiance of the two comrades who visited the fiat workers? are there now some connections etc. to the fiat workers?
well... would have much more questions... have to go to work now. just want that you know that revolutionaries and fighters all over the world are fighting with you!
we are proud of you. you show the world the possibility of an other life. freundschaft!
Lukas from berlin
Posted: Feb. 27 2003, 16:05
i posted the articel and the communication-possibility on the revo-messageboard today on the german indymedia!
hope the internet connection is working!?
viva la revolution
p.s. whats up with the first answers? are you online now? what time is it now in argentina?
Posted: Feb. 27 2003, 18:11
No one can say how the struggle in Zanon will continue. The main focus right now is to establish links between all the different groups that are struggling across the country: piqueteros, combatitive unions, leftist parties, and especially the occupied businesses. The Third National Congress of Occupied Businesses will be held on March 15 in the Tigre supermarket in Rosario, which will help spread the word about the occupied factories like Zanon and give an important initiative to the proposed National Congress of Employed and Unemployed Workers.
The immediate perspective for the Zanon factory is that they continue what they have been doing for the last year: producing ceramics, selling to distributors, buying primary materials, etc. It is important they stay afloat so they can keep paying the salaries of the 280 workers.
But there is really no perspective of a "solution" for Zanon. The Zanon workers had the opportunity to turn the factory into a cooperative, which they rejected, since the occupation is revolutionary act against existing property relations, not just another business in the capitalist system.
Of course the Zanon family wants their factory back. Well they don't really care about the factory but they want money. That is why they have already made three attempts to evict the workers – the most recent attempt was by supposed "independent ceramic workers" who opposed the occupation, most of whom turned out to be local football hooligans who had been payed by the owners and the corrupt union – and pressured distributors not to buy from Zanon under workers' control.
The relationship between the Zanon workers and the piqueteros of Neuquén is excellent. Unlike Buenos Aires, where the piqueteros are divided up according to political parties, most piqueteros in Neuquén are grouped in the MTD Neuquén, a large, non-political unemployed workers' movement that has more militants than all other piquetero movements in the city combined. Since both the Zanon internal commission and the leadership of MTD Neuquén are influenced to a certain extent by the PTS' politics, they share many political perspectives – both organizations have, for example, seconded the PTS call for a boycott of the upcoming presidential elections.
Just last week 16 piqueteros began to work at Zanon. Most come from the MTD, but there are also members of MST Teresa Vive, Polo Obrero, and other piquetero movements in the Neuquén area. These new compañeros are mostly working in security, and even though it can be boring at times – an eight-hour shift with nothing to do but wander around the factory grounds of the lookout for intruders – they now enjoy the Zanon standard salary of 800 pesos a month, compared to the 150-peso unemployment subsidy they got from the government.
Sorry guys, I would like to write more, but I slept in the factory last night and when they started up production at nine AM I couldn't really get much sleep. I'm so tired my eyes are watering. Give me one night's sleep and I'll write plenty.
– Dzhon Rid