Background

I am a newcomer to Argentina, so I may be missing something, but from the conversations I have had there appear to be two main workers’ struggles in Argentina at the moment: The fight against layoffs in the LEAR automotive seat factory, and the occupation of the Donnelly printing firm.

The LEAR workers appear to be the biggest center of attention. Back in June LEAR fired 200 workers. Though consistent struggle LEAR workers and their allies have managed to get most of these workers reinstated, though 60 of them are still jobless. The police however have been clamping down on the protests however. Most notably, when protesters blocked the Panamericana highway, a relatively typical tactic, the police drove them away by force.

In response to this repression protesters decided to block the highway again. But this time they did so by driving slowly with cars in stead of blocking it with a march. The police tried to disrupt this action in an incident that has now become famous. A policeman jumped on to the windshield of the car of one of the protesters and then fell off in order to pretend to have been run over by the protester. The police then proceeded to drag the protester out and beat him. What they did not know was that the whole incident was being filmed and that the film clearly showed that the whole think was a badly executed setup. The video clip was uploaded to the internet and caused a scandal.

I went to the next protest, which was the first one since I arrived. This march was designed to be non-disruptive as the focus was squarely on the police and so there was no need to give them anything that they could use to deflect attention away from their latest blunder. Nonetheless, I was struck by the high presence of the police at the demonstration, although I was told by my companions that it was nothing exceptional by Argentine standards. They were everywhere! Police in full riot gear lined the march as we advanced, and less heavily armed policemen were to be seen on all sides.

Interestingly, two days ago, Lear workers in the United States also went on strike. They are demanding higher wages from the corporation which has used the crisis as an excuse to cut their wages but has not increased them as the company’s profits have increased. It is at moments like these that international solidarity would be very beneficial. They are both fighting the same company, unifying their demands and struggle would make it that much more difficult for them to be ignored and that much more likely that both would be victorious. Unfortunately however the strike in the States has not, to my knowledge, even noted the existence of the struggle occurring in Argentina.

As for the Donnelly printing firm the story appears simpler. The factory was abandoned by its owners who claimed bankruptcy, though this claim is considered fraudulent by the Argentine government. Workers have taken over the factory and hold general assemblies in order to solve day-to-day problems of running the place as well as fight against attempts by the government to put the factory under a provisional manager or sell it to another company. Interestingly, there is even opposition to working as a cooperative since doing so would mean having to compete with capitalist companies and so have to stoop to their work standards or be competed out of the market. This perspective shows a very high level of class consciousness as well as a deep understanding of the difficulties of workers’ ownership. Their intimacy with worker-owned production comes no doubt from other attempts, successful and failed, to make such situations work in Argentina. However, I would be curious to learn if and how they are hoping to be able to produce without having to compete with capitalist production.

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