Monday, April 6, 2015

UPDATED: The Next System Project: A Practical Example

Yesterday's post revolved around The Next System Project, an initiative committed to exploring replacements for the traditional institutions that are failing our world so badly. One major focus of the project is on expanding business models that grant company ownership to workers.

That goal put me in mind of a documentary I saw a few years back detailing the struggle to achieve worker ownership and control of a bankrupt auto-parts factory in Argentina.

Here is a synopsis of the film:
In suburban Buenos Aires, thirty unemployed auto-parts workers walk into their idle factory, roll out sleeping mats and refuse to leave.

All they want is to re-start the silent machines. But this simple act - The Take - has the power to turn the globalization debate on its head.

In the wake of Argentina's dramatic economic collapse in 2001, Latin America's most prosperous middle class finds itself in a ghost town of abandoned factories and mass unemployment. The Forja auto plant lies dormant until its former employees take action. They're part of a daring new movement of workers who are occupying bankrupt businesses and creating jobs in the ruins of the failed system.

But Freddy, the president of the new worker's co-operative, and Lalo, the political powerhouse from the Movement of Recovered Companies, know that their success is far from secure. Like every workplace occupation, they have to run the gauntlet of courts, cops and politicians who can either give their project legal protection or violently evict them from the factory.

The story of the workers' struggle is set against the dramatic backdrop of a crucial presidential election in Argentina, in which the architect of the economic collapse, Carlos Menem, is the front-runner. His cronies, the former owners, are circling: if he wins, they'll take back the companies that the movement has worked so hard to revive.

Armed only with slingshots and an abiding faith in shop-floor democracy, the workers face off against the bosses, bankers and a whole system that sees their beloved factories as nothing more than scrap metal for sale.

With The Take, director Avi Lewis, one of Canada's most outspoken journalists, and writer Naomi Klein, author of the international bestseller No Logo, champion a radical economic manifesto for the 21st century. But what shines through in the film is the simple drama of workers' lives and their struggle: the demand for dignity and the searing injustice of dignity denied.
A heartening witness to a persistent group of people dedicated to preserving their human and economic dignity, the film embodies what is possible when we shake off the conditioned thinking that our current model of broken capitalism has inculcated in us.

Here is a trailer for the film:

If that interests you, here is the full documentary

Until and unless we become bold and critical in our thinking, what the film depicts will remain but a rare exception to the status quo that currently serves the interests of only a small but very powerful minority.

UPDATE: Thanks go to B Caldwell for providing this link offering an update to Argentina's workers' co-operatives:
During 2012, the number of worker co-ops in Argentina increased by 239 per cent.

According to a study conducted by La Nacion, 6,024 new co-operatives were created throughout 2012. This represents an increase of 239 per cent on 2011.

Although most of these new co-ops are in the capital Buenos Aires, other areas have also witnessed an increase in the number of co-operatives, with 367 new co-operatives in José C. Paz, 63 in Córdoba, 110 in Santa Fe, 58 in Mendoza and 125 in Capital.

The same publication mentions that the increase was primarily determined by the support co-operatives have received from the government, particularly from Alicia Kirchner, the Minister for Social Development.
it would appear that good ideas can be suppressed for only so long.


  1. Thanks for the vids Lorne.

    1. And thanks for the youtube link, Anon. Great stuff!

  2. Wow. Thanks for sharing. I still can't get over the final seconds of the trailer. My god, that smile was so villainous and creepy.

    1. The smile really epitomizes rapacious capitalism, doesn't it, B. Caldwell?

    2. Just watched the documentary. I had to look away every time he was on screen. Brutal.

      Here's a 2013 update on the co-op movement:

    3. Many thanks for the link, B Caldwell. I shall put it in an update to this post.


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