Ownership is a concept to be reconsidered. The capitalistic system changes the meaning and the ways of owning public goods (institutions, infrastructure, water, land, etc). Taking the means of production from people, from workers, makes it very easy to create a form of living that isn’t focused on people’s needs, but rather on making profit no matter what it takes. This way of organizing society leaves our work, bodies and lives exposed and vulnerable for further and total exploitation. Those were the topics raised during the second session at the TAOH-summit. Trade unions and anarchist organising were represented, giving us a palette of different ways to fight, both in and out of the system.
The traditional unions are starting to adapt to new forms of work (freelancing, internships, interim work, short contracts). They are collaborating with civil movements and left wing parties in different parts in Europe, which makes the struggle plural and forms a specific kind of movement. Step by step working on different fronts and in different ways, so close to the government, union trade organizations take actions, and on the other hand have to compromise. That is where the civil society movements and movement outside of the regime take part.
Deindustrialization in the eighties brought new forms of work and new obstacles for union organizations, but also left a lot of factory buildings (and the surrounding neighbourhoods) abandoned. These enormous structures now remind us that the battle is even more particularised. Organizations like Calafou from Catalonia, Errakaleor from the country of Basque, are working on bringing the community back to life. Using the symbolic meaning of workers struggle, their work emphasizes the importance of owning the means of production.
Taking back the means of production to the people that actually do the work eliminates exploitation completely. More than that, it creates a safety net for people, growing on principles of equality, solidarity and trust. The pressure of the system and the fact that control is not in our own hands causes stress (which scientific research supports), illness, depression and can even lead to suicide. To me it seems having control in life more important than ever.
Errakaleor Bizirik now has a community of 150 people living and working in the community. They grow their own food, they provide work within the community, trying to step outside of the system. “In the beginning there was only ten people,” Inaki Lopez de Foronda of Errakaleor explains. “It was a really crazy project, trying to give life to an abandoned neighborhood. The first years were complicated. The police tried to oppress us, the media spread bad news about us. But then, we started investing in other social centers in the city to help us with the community, we made some connections, and then people started to come.” Inaki is clear: living in a communitarian way is a struggle. “All of us, we come from the system, from families, relationships. Here you have to put your life into a community and mix your personal aims with the community aims. That’s a learning process. But I believe we are doing very well, because we trust each other.”
One of the bigger struggles Errakaleor has faced was the legitimation of squatting. Inaki says that there are two ways to use the production means and tools for a community life. One is paying for it (which means you spend your life earning money to pay for it and lose your freedom), the other one is squatting. “So we chose to squat; because that’s the only way we felt we could achieve the control of the neighborhood, to develop the project of free life, communitary life. It is a big conflict because the houses are in the city property. We think that we are legitimating this with our practice. Some people didn’t see squatting as a legitimate thing at first. Seeing how we do it, they now see that it is possible to use the abandoned properties and make social use of them.”
All the groups that presented at the session talked about how they are organized. The structures and the things that are in common and very important for this kind of work are always equality, solidarity and trust. Giving everyone the equal opportunity to contribute to the society isn’t just giving everyone the same tools to do so. That is why all of these movements have different groups, where people can contribute with what they know the best and where they feel the best. For instance, there is a strong emphasis on feminism, with women having their own groups inside of the main structure. There is an understanding that, even when we step out of the capitalist, patriarchal system, we are never completely separated from it. So by recognizing the internalised patriarchy and giving attention to these questions creates a good platform for further growth. (AV)