Since 2009, the Greek society is -to a greater extent than elsewhere in Europe- affected by yet another capitalist crisis. Among other measures governments have taken to overcome it, the reduction of the value of labour stands out.

Foto: Andrés Lofiego

The company we worked for was shut down, due to the company’s (but not the employer’s) lack of funds. Consequently, through the VIOME Workers’ Union –a structure which operated through assemblary procedures even before the company shut down- we took the decision to reopen the factory by any means possible. To operate it again in order to keep our jobs, keep production going, to turn the factory into a vibrant centre of activity within an ailing economy.

Since that moment, we have been trying to put this decision into practice. Five different governments have come and gone since then; our conclusion is that they all lack political will. They show an abstract interest in our endeavour, but they take no action to facilitate the normal operation of the factory. Lately, we were promised (through the statements of now prime-minister Mr Tsipras) that as soon as the party comes to the government, it will resolve the issue immediately. However, they have made no move in this direction, demonstrating a profound timidity in terms of decision making. They remain passive observers while the judicial powers are making a series of unfavourable decisions that pose serious threats to our endeavour, although it is evident that this issue requires a political solution.

Nevertheless, we keep on our solidarity production, to guarantee our subsistence and pay for the factory’s expenses. We call it “solidarity production” not only because it is distributed through solidarity networks, but because it promotes a different conception regarding the production methods. Unlike the previous production of the factory, which consisted largely of building materials and heavy acidic cleaners, the products we now manufacture are natural detergents and soaps of an excellent quality, which do not harm the environment and the people who use them. Furthermore, the prices are maintained at a level that is accessible to working class families amidst the crisis. The decision to switch our production was jointly taken with a large part of society, which is standing on our side since the first days of the endeavour.

Foto: Andrés Lofiego

To this day, we have managed to keep the factory in operation with a daily production shift from 07:00 to 15:00 and two night shifts for guarding the factory. We have managed to have a solidarity income which is barely enough for our subsistence. Nevertheless, we keep aiming high; according to our calculations, once the factory is formally in our hands, we will be able to quadruple the turnover compared to the previous operation, and quintuple or sextuple the number of workers/partners in the project, since there is no boss who will take away the lion’s share. Furthermore, this is all through our own funds: we finance production solely through the surpluses generated by our own production. We believe there are very few companies that manage to do this nowadays.

Foto: Andrés Lofiego

The manner in which we operate internally, we call it workers’ control of production and self-management through the workers’ assembly: There is perfect equality within the assembly; each worker is only entitled to one vote and one share that corresponds to this vote; there are no workers that are not shareholders and no shareholders that are not workers; there is direct democracy in decision-making and decisions are respected by all, even if they disagree, although nearly all of our decisions are taken unanimously.

Today we want to bring these issues into the public dialogue:

When an owner abandons a factory after loading it with a heavy and artificial debt burden, shouldn’t this debt be assumed by the one who created it?

When in the past the plots of land where the factory was built were donated to the employer by the state, in recognition of the social impact of the job creation, shouldn’t this land be taken back today, to be given to workers, so they operate the factory again? Shouldn’t the workers have a chance to apply their different philosophy of work, recuperating at the same time the lost jobs?

With equitable distribution of wealth, fairer commercial relations, without parasitic levels of profit and with the distribution of surpluses back to society itself.

Foto: Andrés Lofiego

This is our philosophy of operation of the factory, aiming to set an example to the whole of society, since our proposal involves not only taking over the process of production, but also the self-management of our own lives, through our participation and direct involvement in all decisions that affect us.

However, the judicial authorities, which represent the most conservative section of society, try to prevent such a development. Starting on Thursday, November 26, they commence an auction process in order to liquidate a vibrant factory that operates, produces and ensures the subsistence of its workers.

Foto: Andrés Lofiego

Whatever happens, we will remain here, we will keep up the operation of this factory. We require your support in this effort, either by applying political pressure (especially towards left-wing organizations in your country, which could in turn apply pressure to the Greek left and the government) or by replacing –as much as possible- the chemicals detergents you use in your house with natural cleaning products, manufactured in conditions of liberated labour and direct democracy.

In solidarity,

the workers of VIOME.
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