The message below will be printed and destributed at our visits at the revuparated companys during our Visit to Argentina
Greetings from the self-organized workers of Viome
We the workers and supporters of VIOME salute you. From a country known for the last many years only as a land of vast political and economic crisis, we come as a part of the “other side”. As a part of the resistance, a part of the various workers and social movements that grew and struggle all these years. As a part of a society forced to remember the gruesome reality of capitalism but on the other hand, a society eager to find ways and means to overcome. That is how our journey began some six years before. That May of 2011 was our turning point, a starting point for what you see of us today. Let us share with you our milestones from then.
We worked in a chemical industryproducing high-quality building materials (building adhesive etc). Sometime in May 2011, themanagers of the mother companyof the group (Philkeram Johnson, a ceramics industry) filed for bankruptcy. We were left unpaid, facing the terror of unemployment when the crisis in Greece was at its peak, and unemployment rates were high (+20%). We ware offeredmany options with multiple possible outcomes. But as the days and months past and many actions from different perspectives were taken, it was made profound that we ourselves could be our only saviors. So the decision was clear, inspired by paradigms as Zanon, we took over the factory. And by 2013 the factory was working again, but not producing the same products as before, not even in the same way. We decided through structures of social control and direct democracy that the new solidarityproduct of the factory would be household cleaning products, affordable, eco friendly, made from natural ingredients without dangerous chemicals. At first it seemed difficult but we decided to work in very different way than before. No bosses, the “boss” was the daily workers assembly. No experts, everyone learning each ocher’sskills and spreading knowledge. We are all equal after all.
This decision paid off, because we could at last financially support ourselves and our families, live a life of dignity made by our own hands. Slowly but steadya solidarity network was created helping the message of our struggle to spreadand distributing our products all over Greece and at manytimes abroad. But that was not enough, we are a part of a society under attack. We could not see a future where we were absent, closed in our factory working when the popular families aresuffering. Not only out of some kind of ethical dilemma but because VIOME was supported by the people and produced for the people. That’s why we supported and became part of many social movements that appeared in the years coming. From the workers at the shutdown public media, to the struggle of the citizens of Chalkidiki against gold mining, to every big and small struggle in Greece. That’s how the Solidarity Caravan was born. Aninitiative of action and mobilization, a caravan of people trying to unite all those social movements on a common ground of struggle and solidarity so that we can all win together. Every idea and initiative must be backed up with actions. That is why our recuperated, self-organized factory was not enough, we had and have more to give:
In the Greece of crisis healthcare was one of the first to get hit. Degradation in the quality of health services, exclusion of the majority of people and both medicine and therapy costs sky-rocketed. So, we took the initiative and we went through a co-creation of a free healthcare structureinside VIO.ME’s factory; one more intent to connect the VIO.ME recuperated factory to the society and the society to the factory. Workers’ Medical Centeris operating in VIO.MEs’factoryfrom January 2016, referring toworkers and unemployed, with or without social security registration or coverage, tomembers of workers unions’, workers run cooperatives andsocial centers. Itwas created through the connection and collaboration between two self-managed ventures, SE VIO.ME and the Solidarity Social Medical Center of Thessaloniki; a social health care collective, that provides primary medical and pharmaceutical treatment to all the city residents, excluded from the social security system,without any distinctions and discriminations. The Workers Medical Center is a community venture; an autonomous, self-managed, self-funded and anti-hierarchical healthcare structure with the imperative of direct democracy. It operates through a general assemblyand a Health Team; and a step further;the SE VIO.ME workersparticipateequally, with the healthcareprofecionals and share a common ground to discuss, exchange opinions and decisions making for another way of treatment of health issues, as a working community for health. The WorkersMedical Center practicesPrimaryHolisticandIntegrativeHealthCare. It givesemphasis to occupational issues. It’s operation is based on the perception of the human being as a psycho-physical-social unity and the “patient” (called “incomer” at the Workers Medical Center), as an active participant in his/her health care provision. Through a holistic medical history, attempts to connect all the aspects of life, as well as the working conditions, family relations and social contexts, diachronically and synchronically between them, as a whole.
Solidarity to the immigrants and refugees was expressed by providing parts of the factory to make it a redistribution point. A point where food, medicineand hygiene items,clothing, etc can be brought from solidarity networks, managed and distributed to who and where there is a need. As we always point out, we took over the factory to open it to the society, so society as a whole can be benefited.
This journey was not without obstacles. Many flocked to the factory and pledged solidarity, even the acting Prime Minister (before he was elected of course). As always, commitment is challenged only in times of trouble. That is when many promises remained just words. When we demanded solutions to assure that the factory will remain a production site, as it does these last years, no re-assuring answer was given. Governments tried to scare us through eviction threats, then came the cutting off of power and water supply. The judicial system had its turn on us, trying to transform us to a scapegoat for the other workers of Philkeram Johnson that did not follow our path of recuperating the factory. Spreading lies and slander about the money the company owed to these fellow workers, they initiated a liquidation of the company’s land and buildings property as a whole. Piece by piece, most of the assets of the company were liquidated and many of the factory machinery was sold till 2014. But anytime they tried to auction the VIOME factory we managed to cancel it. Anytime they threatened us, their threats failed. All because of the solidarity movement which in every step was by our side, fighting with us and re-assuring that VIOME will remain under workers control. That is our story till now. A story in a country savagely deteriorating. A population seeing governments promise change but act in the same manner, excluding, exploiting and oppressing the working class, the youth and the elder, the poor popular layers of society and anyone in need of help.
We deem not to be a Messiah in this grim situation, but only a part of the struggle to overthrow these foul way of living. The bourgeoisie is our enemy, the first and last to accuse for this crisis. We don’t believe in faults of governments, misunderstanding between political parties or central state unions being corrupted by false leadership. We find the flaw in the system itself, how workers are exploited for profit, how governments act solely in the interests of their capitalist bosses, and how some unions have denounced their life, meaning and way of existence. Our workers union is from the workers and for the workers. With direct democracy at any step, and with very frequent assemblies that keep us alive and agile, against complacence or turn to bureaucracy. That is our perspective how not only workplace can be run, but how the whole society can operate. Open, self-organized, with direct democracy and assemblies.
It is an honor for us to participate in the 6th International Gathering of “The Workers Economy” for many reasons. At a first glance because the workers movement in Argentina is the one that managed to overthrew five governments. It succeeded that by giving a fierce battle in the streets, by the barricades and most importantly in the recuperated and self-managed enterprises and cooperatives. A struggle that counts twenty years and is still going strong. Argentina therefore is for us not only a bright light in the history of struggle but also a vast and valuable source of inspiration, knowledge and solidarity for any recuperated and self-managed attempt around the world. So to discuss and exchange this hard earned knowledge, from the ups and downs of the workers defiant struggle is more than a blessing to us, it becomes a useful compass for the days to come.
But sharing our knowledge around recuperated and self-organized factories is not our only goal in this gathering. We need to build closer and stronger bonds with more and more workers who decide to take over their enterprises or factories, those workers with whom we share a common struggle and path. From that point on it becomes apparent that all of us must try to build a common ground and action on an international level. A common ground and action on all the international issues of the workers movements, of the social movements. We must stand together for what together inflicts us. We must fight together, for what we can win together, for each and every one of us and our communities. One of these actions in our opinion is the creation of an International Solidarity Fund. A no-profit fund to support the needs of all the recuperated and self-organized workers’ run initiatives, funded from within (from the recuperated and self-organized workers’ run initiatives themselves). Another initiative worth considering is the International Solidarity Logistics Network. In order to create a network of transport, storing and distribution, that allows let’s say SE VIOME to distribute from it’s warehouse products from recuperated and self-organized enterprises all over the globe and in accordance these enterprises can distribute SE VIOME’s products. This initiatives could contribute not only for the products to reach more and more people, but also that more and more people learn our stories of struggle, the ways of living, working and producing without employers and capitalists. Living by our own means. Also, a cooperation like that can strengthen our relationships in am more sharing rather than exchanging way. Last but not least, these news, ideas and struggle must reach everyone from anywhere around the globe. This incorporates a need for announcements, opinion statements and any kind of informative material translated to as many languages needed so that their message travel further then our national border confine us.
Our movement requires from us a broader view, a sharper look upon our victories and failures. In that perspective we believe that our movement must form specific strong and distinctive features. Let’s see what some of these features can be. At first we strongly believe that our goal is profound: “Seize the means of production. Operate them under the self-management of the workers themselves. Produce, distribute and share products and services – not commodities, for the needs of the community – not the needs of the capitalist profit and the bourgeoisie. A step forward to a broad self-management of society”. These can only be achieved when the crosshairs of our weapons aim for the capitalistic system as a whole. So we fight an anti-capitalistic struggle. That’s why we acknowledge taking over factories and businesses not as a parallel procedure of the capitalistic market but as a step to a more broad movement against the capitalistic market. Because if we don’t crush the so called “market laws” now, sooner or later the same “laws” will crush us. We are not alone in this struggle. We fight side to side with the workers, the unemployed, and every exploited group in our countries. Through the recuperated and self-organized enterprises and cooperatives we claim to become a part of a bigger picture. A picture of a strong social movement for the radical transformation of our whole society. That’s why we stand with the righteous demands of the exploited, that’s why we fight with them side by side, because we are no different we are the same people, the same exploited people of this world.
We fight for the structures that our movement builds. Structures where the only democracy that reigns, is a vast direct democracy. Which understands space as a horizontal shape, with only bottom to top decision making and no top-down hierarchy. But direct democracy is not enough, we try in any struggle to achieve the most possible independence and autonomy from structures that speak in the name of the workers but do nothing more than enslave them more. You know their names, the names of the union bureaucracy and the regime parties.
In conclusion we hope and will work hard that this gathering alongside with the local and regional gatherings become a breath of fresh air for every struggle for workers self-organizing in every country of the world. We have come a far way , we have opened a path for our communities, from here, from now let us make that steps that will make the final victory not so far away. Because we have already won something precious, that must not be taken for granted. We have transformed our workplaces from the painful reminding of wage-slavery to a gathering point of solidarity, defiant struggle and allegiance to a better future. Let us all then transform the whole world, from o place of exploitation nightmares, to a place of freedom. Venceremos !