Recovering and Recreating Spaces of Production | Writing

A Virtual Roundtable with Protagonists of Argentina’s Worker-Recovered Enterprises Movement

by Toronto School of Creativity & Inquiry

This article is made up of excerpts from a series of exchanges, during the summer of 2005, between protagonists in Argentina’s worker-recovered enterprises movement (movimiento de empresas recuperadas por sus trabajadores, or ERT) and Toronto School of Creativity & Inquiry. These voices are assembled here, in a virtual roundtable, as a narrative about struggles over spaces of production. This act of assemblage is a contribution to the circulation of critical analysis, joyful affects, affirmative statements, and creative actions.

We hear from: Pablo Pozzi, an Argentine labour and guerrilla-movement historian and Chair of US History at the University of Buenos Aires who works as a radical pedagogue in numerous villas de emergencias (shantytowns) and unions across Argentina; Eduardo Murúa, an organizer of the autonomist ERT collective Movimiento Nacional de Empresas Recuperadas (National Movement of Recovered Enterprises, or MNER), who is currently in the midst of various workspace recoveries while forging links with the ERT movement across Latin America; Edith Oviedo, former journalist, educational book publisher, and member of the Editorial Cefomar workers’ co-operative; Plácido Peñarrieta, the current president of the Artes Gráficas Chilavert workers’ cooperative and a housing-rights activist; Cándido González, a Chilavert worker, spokesperson for MNER, and an activist who assists recovered enterprises in their crucial moments of struggle; Manuel Basualdo, an experienced book-binding specialist at Chilavert; Walter Basualdo, Manuel’s son, an apprentice machinist who has worked at Chilavert for three years; and Martín Cossarini, an apprentice machinist at Chilavert who has been active in setting up cultural spaces in workers’ cooperatives.

With these protagonists our collective shares common questions: How do bodies insulate themselves from reactive forces? What new forms of constituent sociability, subjectivity, in short, composition, are emerging today? “What alliances might be forged while under siege?” What are bodies, in practices of intentional cooperation, capable of? What does it mean to make subjectivity a locus of struggle? What tensions exist between a strategy oriented towards the reclamation of work and one based on the refusal of work? How might creative assemblages keep lines of affinity moving without freezing their fluid material?

We write from Toronto. These voices speak from Buenos Aires. We visit. They stay. We find ourselves recalling a closing line in an email we received from one of the protagonists who speaks in these pages: “The greatest support you compañeros from the North can offer us here in Argentina is for you to continue to struggle against the system in your own localities, where you live.”

The voices gathered here speak across the theme, “occupy, resist, and produce.” The last term is, perhaps, the key term, the catalytic force coursing throughout: production not just of goods, but of desires, of affinities, of communities—all circumscribed by struggle, ‘lucha,’ undertaken in response to an urgent need, to produce autonomous spaces.