Monday, September 21, 2009

Argentina: Zanon occupation sold out by the reformists



This article is based on the Special Supplement of Democracia Obrera on the new 'Law of Expropriation of Zanon' that was published on 15 September, 2009. It is an attempt to summarise the main points of the material in the Special Supplement.

A law of “expropriation” has been passed by the Neuquen government that allows the Zanon workers the right to retain control of the factory they have occupied since 2001. But the price of that right is that the Neuquen state will pay the creditors of Zanon when it went bankrupt 23 million pesos which will have to be paid from the earnings of the factory after wages and depreciation. In other words, what the reformist ‘left’ calls an “expropriation” or “victory” for the workers, is nothing of the kind. It is the worst form of bourgeois nationalization. It is a bosses' “provincialisation” that allows the state to retain final control and takes the workers surplus value for the pockets of the Neuquen state which is itself nothing more than the committee of the Neuquen provincial bourgeoisie!

When this law [No 2656] was passed on the 13 August, the workers who had been in a long fight to defend their occupation since 2001 must have felt a great sense of relief. They resisted years of armed attacks of the bosses, the government and sellouts by the union leaderships. This proved that only the struggle of the workers was capable of defending their recovered factory. Zanon, like other factories expropriated by the workers including the picketers in support, won these factories, not by any law or ruling class court decision. These occupations were the result of the untold suffering and heroic deeds of the revolutionary working class from 2001.

As we have said in our newspaper Democracia Obrera, many times, the mass revolutionary offensive that brought down the regime in 2001, forced between 200 and 300 companies into bankruptcy. These were recovered and put into production by the heroic struggle of the workers to keep their jobs facing a unemployed rate of 26% or more in Argentina at that time.

Facing this offensive, the bourgeoisie remained in control of the productive forces and the nation's key businesses such as banks, transnational corporations, privatized services, but as a lesser evil allowed those bankrupt companies left abandoned by the employers in the hands of workers who refused to surrender.

After the bourgeoisie had regained their control of the state, they attempted to regain their control of their property and rebuild all the institutions of domination. So while some bankrupt companies were repossessed, others continued to operate under some form of workers’ cooperative but under the law of the legislatures and judges, self-exploiting themselves on poverty wages, doing piecework or working with obsolete equipment, and in many cases in miserable living conditions. Thus the workers of Zanon, Brukman, Chilavert,etc had fought to recover their jobs with great heroism and sacrifice, but without and real workers control, and subject to the bosses’ laws.

Meanwhile, in Argentina, a cycle of growth began in 2003 which saw the rate of profit rise at the expense of much greater exploitation of the working class. Super exploiting the working class and plundering the nation allowed the bourgeoisie and transnationals in Argentina to accumulate a huge mass of surplus value over the years, forcing 50% of workers onto the black labor market, working long shifts, while the regime paid off loans to the IMF and bonds to foreign creditors that brought a huge inflation which led in turn to a fall in real wages.

In these circumstances, the recovered factories remained isolated. The workers can not take more than $ 400 0 - $ 1000 per month in wages. They have no retirement pension. The truth is that Zanon, like the rest, is only a partial victory. Without recognition, and having to pay compensation to the bosses, and under the law of the state, the workers in the recovered factories remain as super-exploited as the rest of the working class. The only ones who have “expropriated” anything are the capitalists, bankers and big corporations, who continue to expropriate the surplus value of the workers. This is the truth we must tell the working class, not because we have not fought, and have taken back our jobs, but because our struggles have been betrayed, our forces divided, under the supervision of the Ministry of labor, the courts and the bourgeois parliament.

All class-conscious workers now know this to be the truth. The crisis has begun, big layoffs, suspensions, salary cuts and a other attacks on the entire working class come every day. Very soon we will be taking and making new Zanons to preserve jobs, as the workers did recently in France, USA and Greece. We will occupy the factories and take the bosses hostage to keep our jobs.

This crisis demonstrates that despite all the miserable wages, accidents, unemployment and slave conditions forced upon the workers to boost their profits, the bosses system cannot prevent profits from falling. All hope that this cycle of expansion could allow the workers to pressure the bourgeoisie to make concessions is shown to be false. The promises of the Bolivarians and the Castroists to negotiate new deals with ‘democratic’ imperialists to reduce the debt and increase living standards have exploded. Along came the world crisis, inflation, unemployment, wage cuts and new mass layoffs. The imperialists and the national bourgeoisies are now forced to take back all hard won concessions to survive. So for the workers to survive the capitalist system must die.

It follows that the workers of Zanon can not escape this law of the capitalist system. Either capitalism will take back all the partial gains of the occupations, including making the workers suffer to keep their jobs, or the partial gain of the occupation has to be defended by a revolutionary struggle that takes the working class to power. If the working class does not take power, it stands to lose everything.

"A law of the legislature in the service of employers or an historic triumph of the workers?”

So comrades, how is it possible for the entire Argentina reformist left that the new law on the expropriation of Zanon is a great historic achievement for the working class? This cannot be true. What property is expropriated here?

We argue that the law of this bosses’ provincial government and the bosses’ political parties of Neuquen (MPN, the PJ and UCR) serve the interest of the transnational oil companies and the provincial bourgeoisie in Neuquén. The purpose of the law is to enable the Zanon bosses to pocket the money owned to them by the bankrupt factory ($23,406,566 million pesos). This will be paid by the workers out of their labor as ‘compensation’ for their ‘cooperative ownership’.

You cannot play hide and seek with the interests of the working class. We must tell the truth. The first truth is that we are facing a reactionary law to serve the bosses, not the workers. True the law does not openly rob the workers because they operate the cooperative, and that is a victory that the employers do not have the strength to take back right now. But the law creates the conditions that will bring the cooperative to ruin. As a legal “cooperative” like any capitalist enterprise without capital, it will have to get loans from capitalist banks or form joint ventures. Then it has to compete in the market and risks failure and bankruptcy like any other cooperative in capitalist society.

So the truth is, as we say above, that this law creates conditions were the workers of Zanon have to exploit themselves to pay compensation to the capitalist creditors. At the same time the workers have to drop all claims against the employer of more than 20 million pesos in compensation for layoffs, pensions and wage arrears owing to the 380 workers-when the factory was abandoned. That is, the bosses’ law only recognises the debts of the capitalist creditors of the factory, and not the debt that the capitalist factory owner owes the workers.

This means the workers have to pay their former bosses’ creditors and drop all claims on the boss in order to get legal title to the factory. Of course they had to do this became the employers and the government has put a gun to their heads and said, pay up if you want to keep your cooperative. We can see that this ‘law’ is really the law of the bosses’ gun, because otherwise why would the workers agree to pay again the debts of the former boss when they had already provided from their labor, his profits and his assets? It is their class law that uses a gun against us.

This act of expropriation i.e. the "provincialization" of the Zanon plant required by the law means that the workers have to pay compensation, that is buy the plant from the creditors. How will they pay? From the surplus labor beyond their necessary labor, and income set aside for the depreciation of machinery [the cost of replacing worn-out machinery]. But they are not allowed to charge for the depreciation of their bodies to pay every cent of the 23 million that the state recovers from their surplus-labor.

Is this a victory? Up to now the conquest of the occupation was maintained by the workers struggle. The bosses were not able to force the workers out at the point of a gun. But now the occupation is legalised under a law which requires the workers to buy Zanon for 23 million pesos. This is not a nationalization, or provincialisation, and certainly not an expropriation. It is not a victory for the workers because the workers have agreed to pay with their surplus labor for private property and were not able to guarantee their occupation by force of a workers expropriation.

For Trotskyists expropriation means:

"...the expropriation of companies monopolizing the war industry, railways, the main sources of raw materials, etc.
The difference between these claims and the stupid reformist slogan of nationalization is the following:
1.- We oppose compensation.
2.- We warn the masses against the demagogues of the Popular Front, who hypocritically advocate nationalization, but remain in reality agents of capital.
3.- We call upon the masses to rely only on their own revolutionary strength.
4.- We link the question of expropriation with the seizure of power by the workers and peasants ".
(Transition Program of the Fourth International, 1938).

The conquest of Zanon was won by the workers' struggle and now they will lose their money and their labor, and worse, their class consciousness if they believe that the parliament of the ruling class can pass a law that is favorable to the workers. Today the reformist left passes off this defeat as a victory for socialist reforms. This means that workers will be looking at Zanon as a model for workers expropriations, and when they fail, the reformists will blame the bosses, the lawyers, the workers, everybody but themselves – betrayers of the revolution.

The Zanon workers have every right to sign this deal, as they are isolated and do not have the power to say no, yet. But you cannot call it a victory. Instead of passing off this deal as a victory we need to prepare for the harmful consequences that this bill will have on the workers of Zanon, of Neuquén, Argentina, and further afield. What the workers of Zanon need, is the unity of the working class nationally and internationally to change the balance of power that forced them to accept this law that only benefits employers.

We must speak out we must tell the truth to the working class. How did the bosses’ get you to accept this law? Learn the lesson of the bosses’ using their agents the union bureaucracy to betray our struggles. The workers of Zanon were left isolated for 8 years while the bureaucrats looked for a way to settle the occupation. What other reason is there to explain why after an uprising that overthrew 5 presidents we end up with the bare minimum, a law which says we can work provided we buy the bankrupt property from the creditors?

Let's see, in the U.S. the super banks that exploit and plunder the world go bankrupt, along with General Motors and Chrysler. The ultra-liberals who spoke of the free market now demand that the state pays their debts and saves their profits. The bank bailouts will be paid by the workers out of their future wages. The bosses of GM demand as part of the bailout that the workers “share the pain” with loss of benefits, redundancies, transfer of pensions, loss of holidays etc.

Can you tell us what is different between Obama's law to rescue General Motors and Citibank for the bosses, and the MPN Neuquen law to rescue Zanon for the workers? Apart from the scale, they are the same. But this means that we have to call the expropriations of Chavez such as the steel plant of SIDOR in Venezuela a victory. In that case the Rocca family was paid compensation out of the cash reserves of the state owned PDVSA. In Argentina we would have to speak of the victory of the nationalization of British owned railways by the Roca-Runciman Perón government, for which they paid a huge amount of compensation.

What they all have in common is a bourgeois nationalisation to save the bankrupt capitalists and make the workers pay their debts out of their wages, by giving up compensation, decent wages, jobs, holidays, pensions etc. Victory? Balls! The only way the workers can win a victory is to make the bankrupt bosses’ pay, and to struggle to expropriate the bosses’ property by their own hands. Such a victory cannot be delivered by the parliament of the bosses!

To defend a reactionary law of capitalist parasites is as a workers’ victory is to throw out Karl Marx’s Capital. How far is the PTS prepared to go in its break with Marxism?

A PTS lawyer, Pedrano, a member of the SOECN-PTS, wrote in an article on the 20 August with the title “Zanon has been expropriated from the capitalists”, that "The Zanon expropriation law has finally been passed. It's a step forward for workers' management, because the Law No. 2656 of the Legislature provides that the land Neuquén, (...), and plant will be transferred without charge to workers "(bold added). . . It is important to note also that the workers of Zanon ceramics do not have to pay anything as the state will sell the factory production for construction sites (homes, schools, etc.) at cost, which includes salary and depreciation of machinery "(bold added).

First, this is not an expropriation as Marxists understand the term. The PTS lawyer should know that compensation of 23 million pesos to the creditors is not expropriation. Both the former owner Zanon and his creditors get 100% compensation. No other creditors in Argentina get 100% compensation. An expropriation happened in 2001 when the workers took over the plant. That was a victory. Now they are paying 23 to transfer the property rights to the collective. That is not expropriation.

Revision 1: hiding exploitation

Second, when a ‘marxist’ lawyer says that the workers do not ‘pay’ he is lying. This 'marxism' says that workers do not pay because they still get a wage and can replace and maintain their machinery. That is they are guaranteed to reproduce their labor and fixed capital. But what is being hidden by this phony ‘marxist’ is the exploitation of their wage-labor. The basis of capitalist exploitation as explained by Karl Marx is being conveniently covered up to make this law a ‘victory’. The Zanon workers work necessary labor time to make their wages and to keep their machines running, but they do not get any benefit from the surplus labor time they work and the surplus-value that they produce. Such a victory would mean that socialism can be legislated for by the employers.

Pedrano hides the fact that the state is extracting the surplus value from the workers to pay the debt to the creditors. The state is taking the Zanon ceramics at cost and using it in its infrastructure, building of schools, clinics etc. This means that the Zanon workers are subsidising the social wage for the Neuquen bosses who do not have to pay higher wages or higher taxes, since the Neuquen state is nothing but the organizing committee for the provincial bosses.

Well, we challenge Mr. Pedrero to find a capitalist factory that sells its products at cost. No capitalist parliament in the world would pass a law that makes the capitalists sell at cost. It is the opposite, they will legislate to make sure that the workers pay for the employers losses i.e. rescue the bosses from bankruptcy.

Revision 2: Hiding the ruling class state

We have shown then that the law of expropriation of the legislature has been a blatant Neuquén business bailout of creditors, and that far from being a step forward and a victory for the Zanon workers it will mean they must endure greater sacrifices.

But the ‘marxists’ of the reformist left have made another revision of Marxism. If the Neuquen state can legislate for a victory for the workers of Zanon, this means the state can reform capitalism, and that the state can represent the interests of workers. Workers don’t need to create their own organisations independent of the state, instead they just let the reformist left negotiate deals with the state.

What this means is the Marx is replaced by Gramsci, so that workers don’t need to overthrow the state, they just need to put more pressure on the state to bring about socialism. We can see the PTS, as part of the reformist left of the World Social Forum, is promoting the social democratic illusion that workers can pressure the capitalists into accepting workers occupations of factories as long as they are agree to allowing the state to exploit them. They mask this exploitation by saying the state is can be pressured to meet the interests of both employers and workers. All that is required is that workers have good reformist lawyers to represent their interests in the state.

There is an intimate connection between these two revisions. If the state has no necessary requirement to protect the bosses’ property or suppress class conflict, then ‘nationalisation’ can be presented as potentially favorable to the working class. How the state uses the surplus value extracted from the Zanon workers is then a matter of relative class strength. If the workers are strong enough they can earn a living wage and make bosses pay taxes to pay for workers needs, education, health, housing etc, i.e. the social wage. If the bosses are stronger they can force down the wages and extract surplus which goes straight into the pockets of the bosses or is used to subsidise the social wage. Socialism can be legislated!

This is pie in the sky reformism. We have seen how only class struggle can guarantee workers occupations. The same is true of their wages and conditions. It is not possible to negotiate with the bosses’ state for a living wage and living social wage, especially in the middle of a global crisis. The Zanon workers have no power to maintain a living wage, and no power to ensure that their surplus value goes to improve the lives of Neuquen workers by creating more jobs etc. The only way this can be changed is for the workers to create their own power, ‘dual power’, against the bosses’ state, to expropriate not only Zanon, but all bosses property, the banks and the land, to create their own workers’ state and plan for socialist production for need and not profit.

Marxists are committed to the postulate on the state which says: "The state is an organ of class rule, an organ of oppression of one class by another, is the creation of" order "that legalized this oppression and secured by reducing conflict between the classes…
"The attitude towards the state is one of the most patent signs that our Socialist-Revolutionaries and Mensheviks are not socialist in any way (what the Bolsheviks have always said), but Democrats with a quasi-socialist phraseology. (The State and Revolution, V. Lenin)

We say to all the working class in Argentina and worldwide, that although for now the Zanon cooperative has been forced to give up control over their salaries and allowances, we will fight to defend their hard won class consciousness that the state is the state of the bourgeois class, from the corrupting influence of the left reformists.

Stand with the workers of Zanon

It is our urgent task that the entire working class stands alongside their brothers and sisters of Zanon to fight to make the capitalists, and not the workers, pay for the crisis. There is an “alternative” to the bosses’ law.

* Open the Books! It is imperative that the Zanon workers vote for an Independent Investigation Commission to open the books of the employer and to discover the business secrets and deals made by the Zanon family.

* End the Isolation of Zanon! All organizations that call themselves working class must fight to get the four ceramics factories of Neuquén united to make the government pay the market price for their products and provide cheap credit for new machinery.

* Zanon workers do not pay $23,406,566! Instead of compensating the bosses, put tax on al the oil companies, the banks and the wealthy.

* Fight for a base salary of $4500 [pesos a month] for the workers of Zanon and the other three ceramics factories in the area. And for all workers in the country.

* Declare the factory has provincial heritage status, and that workers are paid the wage and social benefits of all state workers. Build standing committees to fight for the real “Provincialization” of Zanon, without compensation and under workers control now!

* Work for all! Distribute working hours among those who want to work! A living wage pegged to inflation! Workers from the plant, with its union (SOECN) in the lead must respond to all the appeals of the oil and construction workers in Patagonia who have been fighting against the imperialist multinationals, facing layoffs, pay cuts and suspensions!

* Re-nationalise without compensation and under workers' control, Repsol, Total Fina, APACHE, Pan American, Plus Petrol, etc. to stop the plundering of the nation and to make the capitalists pay for their crisis!

* Throw out the union bureaucracy of the CGT and CTA, servants of the Kirchner government, servants and thugs of the agrarian bourgeoisie, and of the imperialist monopolies: Cargill, Monsanto, Dreyfus, etc!

* Oppose the bosses’ law that protects the gunmen of the trade union bureaucracy, business chambers, government and provincial governors!

* Stand up and fight for a strong unified National Coordinating Committee for all fighting workers, led by the workers of Terrabusi (Kraft-Foods), and the subway. Confront and defeat the treachery of the union bureaucracy, which betrays the workers struggle to save the capitalist profits.

* For a National Congress of employed and unemployed workers to defeat the isolation and division imposed by the union bureaucracy!

* Self-Defense Committees, to defend ourselves from the repression of trade union bureaucracy and state management!

* Immediate and unconditional release of all political prisoners, and the dropping of charges again worker and popular fighters!

* For Workers and People's Courts to judge and punish the murderers of Teresa Rodriguez and Carlos Fuentealba!

Democracia Obrera is the voice of the LOI-CI member of the ILFT
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