Thursday, February 14, 2013

Self-management and Work as Alternatives to the Global Economic Crisis

Self-management and Work as Alternatives to the Global Economic Crisis

July 9-12, 2013
Joao Pessoa, Brazil

In an international context where the global capitalist crisis is increasingly affecting European countries, especially along the Mediterranean, the only response from governments has been to implement the usual austerity measures. These austerity measures,tried and tested in other parts of the world, have, yet again, not only failed to regenerate economies, but have led to further impoverishment, structural unemployment, marginalization and insecurity for the majority of who must work to earn a living. In response, large protest movements have begun to emerge in the “developed” countries that are feeling the effects of the crisis the most, reinforcing the need for changes in the management of the economy that not only contemplate the welfare of workers, but also assure that its management rest in their hands..

In the so-called “developing” countries, particularly in Latin America, social movements, people’s organizations and labor movements have been developing self-managed organizations at a grassroots level. Such is the case of the worker-recuperated enterprises in various South American countries, and other forms of workers’ control, both urban and rural. In some instances, these movements have gained some recognition and support at a governmental level, bringing into question the role of the state and the relationship between state power and the autonomy of popular movements: on the one hand the state can be a potential facilitator of the processes of workers’ control, but on the other hand it can be seen as an antagonistic instrument of traditional power with the potential to limit the autonomy of self-managed organizations.

The Fourth International Gathering of “The Workers’ Economy” seeks to explore these and other questions relating workers’ struggles from different perspectives and national contexts. It seeks to provide space for discussion and debate using the experiences of workers’ control and self-management as a point of departure, bringing together academics, social activists, and workers. Together with worker-recuperated enterprises, cooperatives, labor movements and organizations, social movements, political groups, and academics, among others, we have been co-developing the International Gathering and its themes
with representatives from over 20 countries that have participated in our previous three gatherings. We reiterate here what we emphasized in previous encuentros: while in uneven ways perhaps, workers are undoubtedly inventing alternatives that are not only limited to the economic, but that extend out into wider cultural processes as well. Based on non-capitalist relations of production, these processes have increasingly been opening up spaces for prefigurative politics. Moreover, these alternative economic institutions are affording workers room for discussing issues such as internal power and gender structures, as well as the relationship between workers, workplaces, and their surrounding communities. These processes, visible for example in the recuperated factories, workers’ cooperatives, and micro-enterprises of the world, although still incipient, show that workers can indeed self-manage a more humane and sustainable alternative than what is offered by corporate globalization.

The Fourth International Gathering will be held in the town of João Pessoa in the state of Paraíba in northeastern Brazil, and hosted by the Incubator for Social Enterprises (INCUBES), at the Universidade Federal da Paraiba, and the Programa Facultad Abierta (Open Faculty Program) of the University of Buenos Aires.

History of the International Gathering of “The Workers’ Economy”

The International Gathering of “The Workers’ Economy,” had is its first encuentro in Buenos Aires in July 2007 under the theme “Self-management and Distribution of wealth.” It was organized by the Open Faculty Program of the Faculty of Philosophy and Letters, University of Buenos Aires, in conjunction with academic institutions, social organizations, and workers in Argentina and around the world. The International Gatherings, have emerged into a forum for the exchange of ideas and experiences between academics, activists, and workers. These ideas center on the possibilities and challenges of self-management; the regeneration of a political, economic, and social project by the working class and social movements; as well as critical discussion and analyses of the practices of academic research focusing on self-management and the workers’ economy..

The Argentine experience of workers’ control and self-management provided a solid basis for discussion for the first encuentro in 2007. These discussions took on an international nature by the second and third encuentros (held in Buenos Aires in 2009, and in Mexico City in 2011) which explored, and learned from, the different experiences of the working class and social movements around the world. As an ultimate objective, they contemplated on an alternative economic, social and political project from that which neoliberal global capitalism presents. In this sense the themes and discussion topics of the International Gatherings became more diverse with each new encuentro, expanding to different areas of social struggle and critical thinking, yet still remaining true to the spirit suggested by the title of the International Gatherings: how to think about, debate and construct an economy emerging from workers themselves and encompassing workers’ self-management.

Thematic areas:

Proposals for panels and paper presentations may include, but are certainly not limited to, the following thematic areas:

1.         Analysis of capitalist management of the economy and proposals for self-management
2.         The new crisis of global capitalism: Analysis from the perspective of the workers’ economy
3.         The historical trajectory of self-management: From traditional communities to labor movements
4.         Actual practices of self-management today: Possibilities and challenges. (Including, but not limited to: worker-recuperated enterprises, cooperatives, and attempts at self-management by indigenous communities, peasants and social movements)
5.         Self-management and gender: Creating democracy
6.         Analysis of the socialist experience: Past and future
7.         The challenges of trade union experiences in neoliberal global capitalism.
8.         Informal, precarious, and degrading employment: Social exclusion or reconfiguration of labor in global capitalism?
9.         New movements in response to the global economic crisis: Perspectives from the struggle for self-management
10.       Challenges facing popular governments in the social management of the economy and the state
11.       The university, workers, and social movements: Debates over methodologies and practices of mutual construction

Organizational structure for the IV International Meeting “The Economy of the Workers”
The IV International Meeting will take place 9th-12th July, 2013 with morning and afternoon sessions, and will be open to the public.  There will be plenary sessions and workshops with the presentation of papers, videoconferencing, and a final plenary session with discussion and conclusions

Organizing Committee:
Incubator for Social Enterprises (INCUBES) Fedeal University of Paraíba, João Pessoa, Brazil; Department of Social Relations of the Autonomous Metropolitan University-Xochimilco, Mexico; Programa Facultad Abierta (Open Faculty Program), Faculty of Philosophy and Letters, University of Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Abstract submission deadline for papers: 22 April 2013
Notification of approved presentations: 2 May 2013
Final papers submission deadline: 30 June 2013

Please send abstracts for presentations to the following emails:

English: - Marcelo Vieta (Research Fellow, European Research Institute on Cooperative and Social Enterprises (EURICSE), Trento, Italy, and York University, Toronto, Canada)                   
Portuguese: - Mauricio Sardá (Coordinator of the Incubadora de Empreendimentos Solidários, Universidade Federal da Paraiba, Brazil)
centrodoc@gmailcom - Documentation Centre of Worker-Recuperated Enterprises, Open Faculty Program, University of Buenos Aires, Argentina - Andrés Ruggeri (Director, Open Faculty Program) - Marco Augusto Gómez Solórzano (Director, Labor Studies, UAM-Xochimilco, Mexico)

For more information on the International Gathering of the Workers’ Economy, including previous meetings in 2007, 2009 and 2011:

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