[OPE-L] International gathering on workers' self-management, Buenos Aires 7/19-21

From: Jerry Levy (Gerald_A_Levy@MSN.COM)
Date: Thu Mar 15 2007 - 08:55:15 EDT

----- Original Message ----- Invitation to participate in…



Faculty of Philosophy and Letters, University of Buenos Aires

July 19-21, 2007

University of Buenos Aires
217 – 25 de Mayo Avenue
Autonomous City of Buenos Aires, Argentina


Please send a 250-word (max) abstract by May 15, 2007, or any other
correspondence to:  Correspondence in Spanish: fabierta@filo.uba.ar
Correspondence in English: UBA.selfmanagement@gmail.com The current debates
surrounding self-management: A brief overview

Workers’ struggles have reemerged with force in the last decade in numerous
forms—union-based struggles, self-managed workspaces, rural movements,
unemployed workers’ movements…. These are responses to the hegemony of
neoliberal globalization imposing itself throughout the world with
absolutist pretensions after the debacle of so-called “real socialism.”

At the same time, the old methods and strategies of struggle—class-based
parties and traditional unions, amongst others—have by now shown themselves
to be, at minimum, insufficient. Old debates and ideological frameworks are
now in crisis. The dominant discourses used to describe the functioning of
the capitalist world system can no longer explain quickly enough (never mind
predict) the changes in this system that have been occurring over the past
few decades, while popular struggles have had to create new paths without
having a clear horizon in sight from which to map out a final destiny. And
the plethora of means ever available for capitalism to respond to threats
against it, as well as the sheer force and relentlessness of its repressive
power, amply overcomes the popular sectors’ capacity for change…with tragic

While the taking of State power has been the driving objective of political
forces for more than a century now, more recently there have appeared
compelling movements that, on occasion, have questioned such objectives for
revolutionary action. At minimum, these movements distance their strategies
and tactics from the aims of taking State power, recognizing the
difficulties of such a task. But, as evidenced in various Latin American
contexts, some popular movements with solid historical roots have ended up
allying themselves with national governments swept into power via electoral
triumph. And so, when they least expected it, these movements found
themselves at times controlling key sectors of the State’s administrative
apparatus which, in turn, needed to be profoundly transformed in order to be
oriented towards grassroots-based policies.

Of particular importance for many of these grassroots groups are those
policies that relate to managing production and the (re)distribution of

Wavering between these situations and theoretic-ideological debates, workers
have been generating—through their actual practices—an alternative course
for steering life between inaction and resignation on the one side and the
fight for total political power on the other. Subjected to the permanent
crisis provoked by neoliberal capitalism, a growing number of workers are
playing an increasingly key role in the re-creation and self-management of
greater portions of the means of production and the economy as an immediate
outcome of their struggles and resistances. And this despite being in the
middle of a capitalist ocean. In some countries, workers’ take-over of
government and their increased control of the state apparatus (i.e.,
Venezuela, Bolivia) have, sooner rather than later, positioned grassroots
workers’ organizations and their methods of self-management as legitimate
vehicles for administrating the economy and as decisively important forces
for controlling the strategic economic means of society.

Recovered factories, diverse kinds of self-managed microenterprises, rural
cooperative settlements, new types of unionized workers’ movements, networks
of fair trade and fair work, and numerous other kinds of organizations and
forms of struggle are part of this new landscape. Sometimes they take on
autonomous forms. In certain situations they are fragmented. In other
situations they form part of powerful and popular political movements,
larger social movements, political parties, leftist fronts and coalitions,
and even programs that are at times stimulated by the State or, more
directly, by a government’s actual public polices.

Regardless of the size and shape of these worker-contoured social-political
landmarks, this new alternative landscape puts back on the table the
question of the legitimate role of workers in the management of a society’s
economy. The working class still does, after all, make up the majority of
the world’s population. And workers still depend on their own labour for
their sustenance, be they engaged in wage-labour, partaking of the
cooperative management of their collective labour, or living in more dire
circumstances such as the structurally unemployed, the overexploited, the
marginalized, and the poor.

A debate and discussion around these issues, therefore, is needed now more
than ever: While the processes and consequences of globalization have been
deeply and consistently questioned by numerous social and international
movements, the project of actually creating an alternative that can
supercede the merely declarative, or intellectual-theoretic reflection, has
not advanced much, at least in a form that consistently takes into account
both the theoretical and the practical aspects of self-management. (This is
not to ignore or lessen the very real, efficacious, and practical outcomes
realized in efforts such as the World Social Forum.) Rather, what is
increasingly and definitely advancing are the myriad resistances to
neoliberal capital that have centred on self-management as a creative force
for inventing new experiences and new lives. However partial and nascent
these advances might or might not be, they can serve to fruitfully inform
and inspire the greater global analyses and debates that are looking for
alternatives to capitalist life.

The questions raised by self-management:

What we are proposing for this First International Gathering, however, is
not what might be interpreted, at first glance, as a debate on the “social
economy” (as fomented, for example, by the World Bank and NGOs focused on
“social containment”). Rather, we are proposing the reverse: We would like
to engage in discussions centred on the socialization of the economy.
Instead of waiting for the fulfillment of the promises set in a far-off
utopia grounded in a revolutionary conquest of political power, workers from
around the world are presently advancing projects that are giving them back
their lives and labour. However fragmentary and limited these projects might
currently be, they tend to be rooted in actual practices and concrete
experiences rather than in the promissory and the abstract.

What conclusions and lessons can we take from these experiences, then? What
connections do these workers’ struggles have with traditional social and
political struggles? How do they relate to, or interconnect themselves
within, the popular, grassroots-based governments that are increasingly
taking hold of power in Latin America? How do these experiences of economic
self-management survive in the hostile markets of global capital? How can
they generate a new business logic of self-management within the framework
of a suffocating system? Can they survive without change to the actual
economic system and without transforming those very forms of organizations
that they are attempting to overcome? Are they isolated instances of
resistance, consequences of the very crisis of global capital, or do they
show a path toward a new way of organizing production within a more just
social system? Can workers already organized in unions once again come to
pressure capital and dispute capital’s power-base, or should the struggle to
overcome capital now be engaged from within the actual spaces of production
and be about the actual self-management of production by workers? Will these
struggles actually be used and appropriated by capital to more efficiently
accumulate capital? These are just some of the questions that we feel should
be at the centre of the debate amongst workers, intellectuals, and social
and political organizations.

This is not just an academic debate, however. It is essentially a political
one that should be moved forward with the participation of workers and their
organizations. Proceeding in any other way would render the debate an
interesting intellectual exercise with little practical consequence. But
those who are thinking about these and other issues related to social
movements and alternatives to capital from within an intellectual
perspective should also of course, out of necessity, participate in these
debates. Also at the table should be social and political leaders that
encompass views from the perspective of labour organizations and political
processes that are disputing State power and that, as in Venezuela or
Bolivia, are carrying forward policies that are fostering these experiences
of self-management.

>From the Faculty of Philosophy and Letters at the University of Buenos
Aires, we propose further strides towards this necessary debate. For five
years now we have been working in conjunction with workers in Argentina’s
recovered factories and workspaces, attempting to support their processes,
document their experiences, investigate their practices, and to better
comprehend and reflect on the consequences of their experiments. From the
Open Faculty Program (Programa Facultad Abierta) and the Interdisciplinary
Program in Scientific and Technological Transference with Worker-Recovered
Enterprises (Programa Interdisciplinario de Transferencia Científico
Tecnológica con Empresas Recuperadas por sus Trabajadores) we have been
developing with these workers projects that seek to extend technological
capabilities, develop skills, build capacity, and strengthen the viability
of these cooperative workplaces, investigating, on a broader level, the
self-management of productive unities abandoned by their owners and
recovered and reopened by workers. For us, and we hope for many others, the
time has come to incorporate the conclusions stemming from these lessons and
experiences—both from the perspective of workers and also academics—into the
debate that is occupying the world more and more, a debate that is
fundamentally about the direction of these struggles and the change needed
in the system of social, political, and economic relations.

>From this place we convene this First International Gathering to debate and
discuss self-management and its possibilities and challenges…


July 19-21, 2007

University of Buenos Aires
 217 – 25 de Mayo Avenue
Autonomous City of Buenos Aires, Argentina

The Open Faculty Program (Faculty of Philosophy and Letters, University of
Buenos Aires)
Center for Global Justice, San Miguel de Allende, Mexico
International Institute for Selfmanagement, Frankfurt, Germany
Argentina Autonomista Project (http://www.autonomista.org)

Conference format:

Debate Roundtables:
Debate and discussion roundtables based on central themes, interspersed with
panels to guide the discussion.

A final synopsis of each roundtable will be realized and made available as
conference proceedings.

Opening and closing plenary sessions will be held.

The debates and discussions will be filmed and recorded for archival and
educational purposes in order to make available materials and resources for
research purposes, consulting purposes, and for assisting current and future
self-management projects.

Thematic Roundtables:
More specific roundtables and panels will be convened focusing on particular
themes of interest to participants.

Presentations of documents and already completed or ongoing work for

Those who forward their work to the gathering’s organizers with enough
lead-time will have their work published in a CD before the conference to be
available at the conference. Please forward materials to include in the CD
by April 30, 2007 to: fabierta@filo.uba.ar

Preliminary conference schedule:
Thematic debates and project roundtables (first two days):
• The capitalist economy today: Stages of global capitalism from the
perspective of popular movements.
• The self-managed economy: Discussions concerning the experiences of
self-management in the era of global capitalism (recovered enterprises,
rural cooperatives, self-managed and solidarity microenterprises,
cooperative movements, alternative networks of exchange, fair trade and fair
work initiatives, etc.)
• The challenges faced by popularly-based, grassroots-supported governments
regarding the social management of the economy and the State.
• A critical look at the cooperative movement.
• New challenges faced by union movements; unions; new types of workers’
organizations and collectives; co-management and participatory decision

Plenary sessions (last day)
• The (re)distribution of wealth: The social economy or the socialization of
the economy? Suggestions being offered by workers’ movements.
• The limits of self-management: The political possibilities and challenges
of a production regime under workers’ control.
• Articulations, expressions, and experiences of the struggle for
self-management with regard to other political struggles and other social

Special roundtables:
• The environment and workers’ self-management.
• Experiments in self-management with regard to other social-political
struggles and social movements.
• Work from the perspective of gender.
• The role of the university and intellectuals in workers’ struggles.

The gathering is free for participants and audience members. We invite
donations for assisting the travel expenses of workers from outside of the
Buenos Aires area. For U.S. tax-deductible donations, checks in U.S. dollars
should be made payable to: Research Associates Foundation, Workers' Economy
Conference in the memo, and sent to:
9902 Crystal Court, Suite 107, BC-2323, Laredo, TX 78045. Donations can also
be made on-line at www.globaljusticecenter.org Please again note Workers'
Economy Conference.

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