The workers of Zanon and other social organizations mobilized in front of the central courthouse on April 21 to defend their factory against mounting attacks. At a moment when the courts and government must make a â€œpolitical and legal decisionâ€ concerning the ceramics factory that has been producing under worker control since 2001 â€“ legal attacks, death threats and physical attacks against the workers have increased.
A delegation of 30 workers traveled some 1,200 kilometers to manifest their determination to defend the factory at all costs. Inside the courthouse a small delegation of workers presented a petition with thousands of signatures from all over the world in support of the workers of Zanon who have set an example that workers can produce and manage even better without a boss or owner.
â€œWith these actions we are marking a playing ground for the judge,â€ said Raul Godoy, Zanon worker and General Secretary of the Ceramists’ Union. This week the courts opened up the legal door for a â€œcram downâ€ on the part corporate speculators trying to usurp the plant, profiting from the courtsâ€™ precarious legal and financial treatment of the workers legal fight for the plant.
This cram down opens the doors for new investors to gamble as new capital holders or stockholders in the Zanon Company and form another company in the plant. These new actors include three central interests who are acting legally: 1. Business interests in Neuquen represented by provincial Governor Jorge Sobich, with his neo-liberal government with strategic ties to former president Carlos Menem and the number one enemy of worker self-management/organization. Government with a ghost company can come in and take over the factory through stocks. 2. The former owner Luis Zanon, before shutting down the factory and firing the workers accumulated some 170 million dollars in debt. Most of this debt was accumulated from government subsidies, international grants (the IMF is the principal creditor), private companies and unpaid salaries to the workers. Another ceramics factory, part of the Zanon family bankrupt in Buenos Aires, presented as a shareholder as a company with a principle capital of 11,000 dollars created in November of 2004 that belongs to a 25-year-old man, named Gurrumin S.A. (meaning little man). This company had accords with the former owners so that under these ridiculous circumstances with little capital, they can take over a plant that is worth millions of dollars. Clearly this is a project taking a legal detour, to avoid legal blockades and paying millions of dollars in debt. 3. Vultures, or businesses that buy the debt from bankrupt companies, to open a legal case or sell assets. These actors
The national government has also acted as an accomplice in the Zanon conflict. President Kirchner during his presidential campaign tour in Neuquen, before his election in May 2003 said that if he was governor he would have solved the Zanon conflict within a month. Clearly, the national government with its progressive discourse has ignored the conflict so that the workers wouldnâ€™t smear Kirchnerâ€™s image as a president who â€œrespects human rights.â€
In March, the government and security forces representing the factory’s old ownership have used tactics of torture and kidnapping – reminiscent of Argentina’s military dictatorship (1976-1983) in which 30,000 people, mostly activists, were disappeared in the dirty war. These attacks have continued, targeting the same woman who in March was followed, kidnapped, tortured and attacked her home. On April 14, this woman was attacked in her home. While her compaÃ±ero, who is a worker at Zanon went to the supermarket, a man entered the side door of her house and brutally beat her. She was hospitalized and is in critical condition. On March 4 a group of four individuals (three men and a woman) kidnapped the wife of an employee at Zanon. The forced her into a green Ford Falcon, a model of car security operatives used to kidnap activists during the dictatorship, sending a chilling reminder of the dirty war. They tortured her and cut her face, hands, arms and breasts. They gave details of how they carefully followed her and have detailed information about her movements.
â€œThose in government are rooting for these types of attacks and they clearly have no intention of stopping them, by allowing the attackers to go free,â€ said a press release from the factoryâ€™s press commission. They added, â€œthe government of Sobisch and his right hand man, Minister Manganaro are keeping silent as accomplices in the face of these mounting threats and attacks.â€
The methodology of using terror to divide and defeat the working class has carried over from the military junta, 20 years in â€œdemocracy.â€ The national and provincial government has no intention to stop these attacks. They are using these tactics to intimidate and break unity among the workers inside the factory. Business interests are waiting for the workers to â€œburn outâ€ in campaign to stop the attacks.
Meanwhile, the attacks have had the opposite effect. They have generated a furious reaction on part of the workers ad social organizations. An umbrella or network of solidarity, in Neuquen and throughout the nation, has been created. Subway workers, train workers, airline workers, other recuperated businesses and many other sectors have made it clear that the employees at Zanon will not be alone.
â€œWe only trust our compaÃ±eros to defend our safety and our factory,â€ said a worker presenting a film by Grupo AlavÃo in Chilavert, a printing factory in Buenos Aires. Under this principle the workers are using to form self-defense teams to protect the workers and their families. Although, it is insufficient considering the tactics and resources that the state can use for terror, it represents a clear determination of autonomy and a political decision to defend their decisions inside the factory. In addition to producing ceramic tiles inside the factory and maintaining the plant, the workers must also ensure the safety of the compaÃ±eras/os against attacks on part of the stateâ€™s repressive apparatus. The workers consider that they are in a situation of war, where the workers must take on a clear offensive to defend their factories, with marches, political actions, solidarity and self-defense.
Currently, there are 410 workers at FaSinPat (Factory without Bosses), the company formed by Zanon employees. The factory has hired over 170 new workers in four years under worker control. The workers have a long-term objective of reaching a production rate 1 million square meters of ceramic tile per month, doubling current production. However, in the midst of attacks, the workers this month have been able to reach their short-term goal of increasing production from 300,000 to 400,000 meters per month.
The workers have repeated again and again that they are determined that they are going to defend their factory. â€œWe are willing to defend the factory with our lives,â€ said a Zanon worker in Chilavert. The workers at Zanon are aware that theyâ€™re defending not only their jobs but also a political alternative for a working class free of exploitation and building new social relations.
In defense of Zanon and all worker occupied factories!
If they mess with one of us, they mess with all of us!
Permanent expropriation of all factories and companies producing under worker control!
For the release of all political prisoners!
Grupo AlavÃo â€œaction, organization and struggle for a new working class subjectivityâ€