Argentina: Workers Kidnapped/Tortured

Another Attack on Zanon Occupied Factory

The workers of Zanon factory, in Argentina, 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 “political and legal decision” concerning the ceramics factory that has been producing under worker control since 2001 – 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.

Zanon Kidnap/Torture: [ en | es | fr | de | gr ] March for Expropriation Law: [ en | es | it ]

Links: [ Zanon/FaSinPat Site | Grupo Alavío | Argentina Indymedia | | Zmag: Argentina ]

"With these actions we are marking a playing ground for the judge," said Raul Godoy, Zanon worker and General Secretary of the Ceramists' Union. This week the courts opened up the legal door for a "clamp down" on the part of corporate speculators trying to usurp the plant, profiting from the courts’ precarious legal and financial treatment of the workers legal fight for the plant.

This clamp 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 and strategic ties to former president Carlos Menem.  Governor Sobich is the number one enemy of worker self-management/organization. His government with a ghost company could come in and take over the factory through stocks.

2.The former owner Luis Zanon, who 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 International Monetary Fund 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.

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 wouldn’t smear Kirchner’s image as a president who "respects human rights."

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 compañero, 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.

"Those 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," said a press release from the factory’s press commission. They added, "the government of Sobisch and his right hand man, Minister Manganaro are keeping silent as accomplices in the face of these mounting threats and attacks."

The methodology of using terror to divide and defeat the working class has carried over from the military junta, 20 years into Argentina's "democracy." 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 "burn out" from the campaign to stop the attacks.  

Meanwhile, the attacks have had the opposite effect. They have generated a furious reaction on part of the workers and 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.

"We only trust our compañeros to defend our safety and our factory," said a worker presenting a film by Grupo Alavío 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 compañeras/os against attacks on part of the state’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 Patterns), 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. "We are willing to defend the factory with our lives," said a Zanon worker in Chilavert. The workers at Zanon are aware that they’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!

agregue un comentario sobre este artículo

Small Correction

d. 24.Apr.2005 08:12

Good article, and solidarity with the Zanon workers from Australia, your cause is a just one and you have the support of workers all around the world.

Just a small correction. FaSinPat - Fabrica sin Patrones actually means "Factory without Bosses".

learn more about the worker-recovered factories this summer

autonomist@ 24.Apr.2005 19:47

Argentina Autonomista Study Abroad

Study the crisis of economic development imposed from above as well as the resistance and economic innovation recovered from below. Your classroom—the barrios and worker-recovered factories of Argentina.

Session 1: June 5 to July 8, 2005
Session 2: July 10 to August 12, 2005

Argentina Autonomista Project
Institute for Social Ecology
University of Buenos Aires


Jeff 27.Apr.2005 05:17

I don't understand from the article. How did the workers come to own the factory? Did they buy it? If they hold title to the factory, how can investors take it away from them without buying it?

Pottery, a tradiational craft for self reliance

Toby Clarke 27.Apr.2005 12:24

I am awed by the contnuied struggle for people's self determination of their own lives and what they need for thmeselve and their relation's. Tell them sukcers who want, ceramics!!! to be controlled by bosses who have what interest in the finished prodocts or it's use,s to go and do something else and leave people happy to enjoy the fruits of thier own labout, ON THERIR OWN PLATES.


The Take

Natalie 03.May.2005 22:47

If anyone is interested, there is a documentary on workers that have taken back factories in Argentina. It is called, The Take. I highly recommend watching it if you are interested in learning more!

Working class advances

Workers Unite726 08.May.2005 16:20

Workers of the world Unite.

For more info relative to the working class struggles
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