Friday, July 14, 2006

Zanon under attack

Originally published March 11, 2005 as a Znet commentary
By Marie Trigona

The workers of Zanon are once again under attack by the government and business interests which are trying to evict the ceramics factory in the southern province of Neuquen. Since 2001, the employees have successfully managed the factory, setting an example for the working-class worldwide that workers can produce and manage even better without a boss or owner.

In the past four years, workers have battled against eviction threats and intimidation, but in the past weeks the government and security forces representing the factory's old ownership have used tactics of torture and kidnapping - reminicent of Argentina's military dictatorship (1976-1983) in which 30,000 people, mostly activists, were disappeared in the dirty war.

Zanon's workers and social movements are mobilizing to stand up to death threats and attacks - to tell the government that workers and their families will not give in to the threats. More than ever the workers, with the support of the community and other sectors acting in solidary, are proving their strength as a sucessful case of self-management.

Some 5,000 protestors participated in a march to Neuquen's government house on March 8 to denounce cases of death threats, phsyical attacks and torture. Meanwhile, in Buenos Aires, social movements and human rights groups organized another protest outside of the provincial government's offices in the city's center.

On Friday, 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.

Again, on Saturday, the woman was attacked by the same group of people in her home. Police were guarding at the front of the house, but the group snuck in through the back door. While the men were cutting her they threatened to kill Raul Godoy, Zanon worker and General Secretary of the Ceramists' Union; Mariano Pedrero, the union's lawyer; and another worker, Alejandro López. At a press conference at Hotel Bauen (a hotel managed by its workers) in the the city centre of Buenos Aires, López reported that the woman's attackers threatened: "We want you to go home with your face and hands dripping with blood, and tell Godoy and López what is going to happen to them, that this has to do with Zanon. That union is going to run with blood."

In the past weeks, Godoy and Lopez recieved telephone death threats and messages. Delegates from the subway's wildcat union, which recently won a 44% wage hike after week-long strikes, have also recieved phone threats. Many workers expressed that these threats are not a coincidence. The government is targeting Zanon because it is at the vanguard of the many recovered factories and enterprises that are proving that occupying and taking over production is a solution for workers to defend their jobs.

They have also said that it is not a coincidence that the delegates from the subway are also receiving threats. Subway workers set an example that it is possible for the working-class to fight for wage hikes, even though the Argentinian average monthly salary has been stagnated at 600 pesos (200 dollars) for over a decade.
"This government is holding political prisoners, women in Caletta Oliva and around the nation. We are not going to wait for a death inside Zanon to go out into the streets," said Elisa, a worker from Brukman, a suit factory in Buenos Aires run by a worker cooperative. Workers from the Chilavert printing factory, Bauen Hotel and other re-occupied enterprises also participated in the actions in defense of Zanon.

Subway workers who have been organizing wildcat strikes have expressed their committment to defend Zanon. "Zanon has helped to coordinate workers in struggle. We are ready to do whatever is necessary to defend the struggle of the compañeros in Neuquen," said Arturo, a subway delegate. Organizations are mobilizing a caravan to Neuquen on Wednesday, March 16.

In 1908, women went on strike and occupied a textile factory in New York. The management and owners locked the women in and lit the plant on fire. One hundred and twenty-nine women died inside the factory. "Nearly one hundred years later, a working class woman was tortured. We decided that the act for International Women's Day (March 8) should take place in front of the provincial building of Neuquen to denounce the threats and to protest against a boss and government which tortures women and puts them in jail," declared an activist from women's rights group Bread and Roses.

Alejandro Lopez, outside of Neuquen's provincial offices, expressed passionately the importance of standing up to the government and security forces even in the face of threats. "Today is International Women's Day, and I want to say just one thing about what March 8 means for us. The wife of a compañero, who was kidnapped and then tortured, has decided to stand up. Even though her attackers made sure she knew details of how they followed her for over a month.

They told her that they had followed her entire family-husband, daughter, and parents. Even though they cut her arms, breasts and face, in a brutal and cowardly way to intimidate her, after they left her out of the car, after she went through all of this, she decided to stand up and confront her attackers in the best way she could. Yesterday (a day before the March 8 protest) she told the workers at Zanon that today she was going to lead the march in Neuquen. This is not a question of honour. That this woman who never participated in a protest and today, International Women's Day, led the march, marks a victory for the workers in Zanon and all of the compañeras in struggle."

The workers from Zanon have declared that they are going to intensify the battle against these threats and defend their factory. However, they are making it clear they are not on the defensive. "We have a lot of enemies to fight against-the bosses, the bureacratic unions, provincial government and the national government. We are not going to accept that this national government, which says it respects human rights, can turn a blind eye to our reports of death threats and a case of a compañera who was mutilated," said Lopez. He added, "It's probable that the situation will get worse, so we need to fight even stronger. We are going to take the conflict to a national and international level."

The workers of Zanon have self-organized and managed the factory, gradually increasing production without any government subsidies. They have hired over 200 new workers. They have defended the factory against five eviction orders along with compañeros from unemployed workers organizations and other social movements. "They aren't going to win by threatening us and telling us that we can't run a factory."

The workers are prepared to temporarily stop production and fight. Lopez concluded the protest in Buenos Aires by saying, "We are strong in our position and we aren't going to take a step backward - we are going to continue with our fight for the expropriation of our factory."

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!

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