Wednesday, May 21, 2008



The following article was recently posted on the A-Infos board, from which it was taken. As far as I can tell it was previously published at the Community Action for Justice in the Americas site, as well as elsewhere. As to its ultimate origin I am uncertain.

The article deals with a recent land occupation on the outskirts of Buenos Aires, the capital of Argentina, the whys and wherefores of the occupation and how the occupiers are organizing themselves. All told an inspiring story of direction action. This action stands in contrast to the situation in Brazil where land occupations organized by the Movimento dos Trabalhadores Rurais Sem Terra (see the official English language mirror site HERE)have grown since their inception in 1980 to a movement comprising 1.5 million people, democratically organized. Despite numerous factory occupations in Argentina since the late economic crisis land occupations have been a rarity in that country. This is the opposite of Brazil where a very few factory occupations, usually unfortunately controlled by Marxist organizations who press for the self-contradictory goal of "nationalization under workers' control",(1) have been rare. In Brazil the MST has quite often come into conflict with the governing social democratic regime, and the movement maintains a healthy distance from the governing parties. For an overview of the MST in Brazil see the Wikipedia article HERE.

In Argentina numerous political parasites have attempted to gain control over the factory occupation movement. The present state of that movement is such that it has two national federations covering about 200 occupied workplaces, some of them moderately large. For an overview of this movement see another Wikipedia article HERE. Anarchists have been prominent actors in the occupation movement in Argentina. There are a number of sources documenting their efforts, amongst them 'Anarchism in South America', 'Some Notes on the Argentine Anarchist Movement in the Emergency', and 'Especifismo'. There has been extensive writing on individual factory occupations such as that at Zanon and the Hotel Bauen, and there has even been cinematic documentaries made about the movement(see 'The Take' - available in a purchasable DVD). At the end of the following article Molly provides a short list of Argentine anarchist sites and sources(2) if you want to explore more. All are in Spanish.


Argentina, Buenos Aires, A Different Kind of Land Occupation

"This is going to be a different type of occupation," say the people of Tierra y Libertad (Land and Freedom), a land occupation on the outskirts of Buenos Aires, Argentina. The name of their group gives an idea of what they intend. The occupation began on March 29th this year when 40 families entered a small parcel of land in La Matanza and began setting up a community. Since then the occupation has grown to over 135 families and has continued to organize and resist eviction in the face of intimidation and violence.

--- Land occupations are not unusual in the poorest suburbs surrounding Buenos Aires (the neighbouring land was occupied 3 years ago), but what sets this apart is the vision for another kind of community.

All decisions are taken by popular assembly and political parties and the associated mechanisms of party politics have been consciously excluded.

In place of this is a plan that includes two community centres, one for meetings and activities and another one for two common brick and bread ovens.

The history of the land itself gives an idea of the extent of corruption at the local level that exists in this suburb. While the land officially belongs to the Insituto de la Vivienda de la Provincia de Buenos Aires (Department of Housing for the Province of Buenos Aires) it has already been occupied by a local business figure who has also occupied a number of similar parcels of land and used them for his own business interests or has sold some of them off for his own profit. Locals describe a system of intimidation and violence linked to the protection of these interests and the people at Tierra y Libertad have had to endure nights of gunfire, the wounding in the shoulder of one of the community and death threats to maintain their current occupation.

Solidarity has arrived from a wide variety of groups and social movements. While people in surrounding suburbs have had mixed views about the occupation many have arrived to lend resources and support. Alongside them are people and groups from other grassroots organisations including Madres Plaza Mayo, and an anarcho-feminist collective that is donating clothes for fund raising and is going to provide education on violence and unwanted pregnancy prevention. Sunday has been designated as an open day where many arrive to spend the day and has included a clothes fair, barbecues, videos and community volleyball.

After surviving its first difficult month, Tierra y Libertad is attempting to reinforce its presence and organise to resist attempts at eviction. Homes are being built, electricity is being extended to all and land that has been being cleared. Support for the community will be crucial over the coming months to resist eviction and reinforce the community.
Molly Notes:
1) The whole idea of "nationalization" is incompatible with "workers' control". If a workplace is democratically run by the workers in it it is not "nationalized" in any meaningful sense of the term. One could posit a "legal fiction", saying that said workplace is the "property" of some fictitious entity such as "The Crown" in places like Canada or Britain. "The Crown", ie the ruling monarch, quite obviously has NO control over such property. The idea of "Crown property" is a legal fiction. True control is true ownership. Crown properties are the property of that part of the ruling class ensconced in various governments.
It is entirely conceivable that such a legal fiction of "nationalized property" could take hold in various countries where "the nation" (more importantly the government in power and the state bureaucracy under it) had no real control ie ownership of the enterprises under workers' control, aside from a legal prohibition on alienating collective property ie selling it to private owners. The reality, however, is that various leftist groups, from Trotskyists to populists such as Chavez in Venezuela, to numerous left wing social democrats have no such idea in mind. Their idea is that the most important aspects of control, financial and otherwise, will remain in the hands of the state bureaucracy. This may be good, bad or indifferent from the point of view of the workers in such an enterprise- or the population in general. What it is not ,however, is "workers' control" where all the decisions regarding the enterprise are taken by the workers themselves. Dig deep enough into the platforms, and especially the financial and power interests of the cadre, of such leftist organizations and you will find that their idea of "workers' control" is very much the distorted idea propagated by the Bolsheviks in their early days of power where this "control" was reduced to an accounting and checking function and eventually (very rapidly) eliminated entirely. This idea of "workers' control", ie participation of selected representatives in exploiting the workers for the benefit of the communist bosses, was opposed by the idea of "workers' self-management" put forward by people to the left of the Bolsheviks.
Our good comrade Larry Gambone has recently published a link to a history of the factory occupations in Brazil on his Porkupine Blog. The link traces to an article by a Brazilian Trotskyist group. Despite its limitations the article is actually quite informative, but these "limitations" are glaringly obvious. The article in question makes it abundantly clear that the program of this group is to reduce such organs of self-management to the famed "transmission belts" for orders issued by a "socialist state" (another contradiction in terms-it actually means a bureaucratic ruling/owning class) so much favoured by Leninists across history. Still, the article is well worth looking at for the facts,aside from the ideology, that it contains. The ideas behind factory and land occupations are spreading across the world. They are laudable ideas, and one only hopes that people have learned enough of the lessons of history to resist the diversion of their efforts into the projects of a would-be new ruling class.
The following is an abbreviated selection of interesting anarchist sites in Argentina. It makes no pretense of being a complete list, but it is hopefully enough to give the reader a sense of the movement there. A more complete listing will be available when Molly finally gets around to setting up her 'Enlaces en Espanol' section. A couple of the links given below are presently inactive, but they were included to give "the flavour" of the movement in that country.

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