I dropped out of my first year of college to work in a garment factory. I did this because I believed that workers were the agent of change in society, so the best way I could contribute to changing society was to become a worker. I am still dedicated to changing society, though I now believe that this generally should be done from where you are (the place the person is situated), especially if one has access to resources that people in movements or groups that one (is in) supports could use, (so, for example,) things like access to media, information or international networks, legal and medical skills, etc.
I have been reminded of this shift in perspective numerous times over the years, and again powerfully these past weeks in Latin America. While meeting with and learning about new workplace recuperations, defense of the land and water, and other struggles in communities, I continue to hear about both those directly affected – the workers in the workplace or community that is at risk from fracking, mining, water privatization etc, and those who are a part of the struggles, seeing them as their struggles, and becoming part of the movements by accompanying (the movements as a part of them) as well. This role of accompaniment is key for all struggles and one that is often overlooked, though it should not be, especially considering that so many of us are in exactly this position – one of not being at risk of our factory being closed or our water privatized (yet).
While I eventually went back to college and as much as possible have used my education for movements and as a movement participant, it was not until I lived in Argentina in the post 2002 rebellion years, those of massive self-organization and social creation, that I saw this most clearly. The phenomenon of the recuperation of workplaces began in 2001 in Argentina and has now spread throughout the Americas and to parts of Europe. In the first years in Argentina, if one were to ask any worker who was a part of taking over and then running their workplace in common how it was possible, one of the first answers you would receive was, “it is only possible because of the community”. Zanon, now FaSinPat, the well known ceramics factory in Patagonia with hundreds of workers, has the slogan “Zanon es del Pueblo”, meaning Zanon is both for the people and of the people. The massive solidarity shown the processes of recuperation are what has made them possible. Of course it is the workers that make the struggle, but without the support of thousands of neighbors and movement participants at the times of potential eviction, or the food and material support in the early days before production has been restarted, or later, the use of the workplaces by community groups for cultural and social centers, the recuperation would not be possible. In many ways a recuperation of a workplace is also the recuperation of a community.