My Experience in the Sixth International Gathering, The Worker’s Economy Buenos Aires – Pigue, Argentina 2017

Olivia Canales
Saturday, February 24, 2018

I learned that the theme of work, the action and organization of workers, cover a series of issues that seem very disjointed, but in reality, are not. So I will make an effort to list some of them without a particular order and try not to be too naive:

  • From the Recuperated Factories constituted as Cooperatives I learned the importance of Education and Training for the future. That’s why they created Popular Baccalaureate in most of the cooperatives. The Bachi, (as they call them) conceived at first as education for adults and have become, little by little, a viable option for young people. They are schools where there are no vertical relationships but a horizontality in the teaching methods, a cooperativization, a self-management of knowledge, a space not only within the coops, but open towards the community. A way to return to the community its solidarity with the workers' movement, and in turn a way to transmit the importance of taking care of and protecting the struggle of the workers to the next generations.
  • From El Bauen, the emblematic hotel recuperated by the workers, Textiles Pigue, the Chilabert Printing Company, and the rest of the recovered companies that we visited, I recognized and I claimed the strength and importance of the resistance. Knowing how to resist makes the rest possible.
  • From the Colombian compañero, ex-FARC combatant, I learned of the challenges they face, following the signing of the peace accords, of mentoring, of accompanying fellow ex-combatants to incorporate them into productive life. Promoting as a priority, the self-management of work as an alternative to capitalism.
  • From Chile, I learned of their exhaustive struggle to get Public and Popular Education. The representative of a University talked about how the creation of cooperatives is promoted to the community from his place in the academy. But in addition to the accompaniment of the organization in its constitution and legal registration, this University participates in the training of members not only in obvious matters of cooperativism, but also in promoting topics such as Human Rights, Democracy, Gender, etc. inside the cooperatives. And likewise, how the cooperative organization is promoted within the University and this is how a Social Council has been formed, in which community organizations give their opinion on the internal processes of the University--Cooperativism as contribution not only as a discipline.
  • From Cuba, we learned the big difference and importance between the creation of cooperatives that are actively promoted by the state and those not encouraged or opposed by the state.
  • We heard also about migrants and the need to put the migrant issue on the international agenda. Because either by neoliberal policies, by drug violence, by an armed conflict or simply by the lack of opportunities, in the whole world there are people leaving their country of origin to try to find a better life situation in another. What makes the immigration issue not only a matter of refuge but of work. So, it becomes necessary to recognize them as migrant workers.
  • From the women of the encuentro I learned that, unfortunately, throughout  humanity, all of us, in a greater or lesser extent, share the same gendered inequalities and injustices: In the unemployment rate, women always occupy a higher percentage, we earn up to 50% less than men for the same work, we do not have enough representation in public administration and government positions, except through quotas and not to mention gender violence. The capitalist system, it has become clear, has acted more voraciously against women. So, if we want to discuss and eventually overthrow capitalism, it will have to be necessarily through a gender perspective.

So, the theme of work and the struggles for workers' rights pass through the issues of education, migration, gender, violence and drug trafficking neoliberal policies, universities... impunity, corruption... in short, our everyday lives.

From my very particular point of view, after listening to all these women and men who converged from different parts of the world, at this small alternative universe, I can glimpse three great challenges for my own country:

ONE: We need to take on our class consciousness. At the end of the day, we all are workers: indigenous, women, peasants, bureaucrats, who have a boss, who are bosses, who work in the streets, academics – all, all of us (except of course the owners of the country) are workers ... so we must understand that the struggle for the rights of a few is the fight for the rights of all and, if we join together, instead of opposing each other, we will achieve more for all.

TWO: Find and promote ways of dignifying work, not only in terms of fair wages (which has long been a demand in our country) but in how we look at our work, how we train, how we educate society to value the work that sustains it – which is the way that we acquire goods and services, but it is also a way to dignify life.

THREE: Within the framework of the current situationin the country, where impunity, corruption and violence governs... how can we promote the construction of solidarity networks that give us strength to face the challenges. Do not get me wrong, I know that fortunately, there are many good efforts across the country from a series of collectives, groups, even individuals organized, but from my very particular point of view, we seem to be disjointed... sometimes, without intending offense, we believe that our struggle is the important one and my way of doing things is the correct one and thus we do not allow ourselves to join together with others.

So, let's find ourselves, let's recognize ourselves.