Vio.Me. Occupy, Resist, Produce

Solidarity to the struggle of the workers of Vio.Me. factory in Thessaloniki, Greece, for self-management!

A great 30-minute documentary shot in the premises of Vio.Me a few weeks before production started. The workers document the shutting down of the company, their decision to self-manage it and the birth of the solidarity movement.

The machines of self-management have been switched on!

After 3 days of intense mobilization, the factory of Vio.Me. has started production under workers’ control earlier today! It is the first experiment in industrial self-management in crisis-striken Greece, and the workers of Vio.Me. are confident this is going to be only the first in a series of such endeavors.

The march was massive and vibrant.

The mobilization kicked off with a big assembly of the workers and solidary organizations and individuals in a central downtown theater on Sunday evening. Here the course of action of the solidarity movement was discussed, and everyone had the chance to take the microphone and to express their opinion on the workers’ struggle.

Really talented artists played in support of the Vio.Me struggle.

On Monday evening there was a march in the city center followed by a huge benefit concert with several well known folk bands and singers. Among them Thanassis Papakonstantinou, one of the most important contemporary Greek songwriters who is in a sense “part of the movement” since he always supports with word and deed the efforts of society for self-determination. The attendance exceeded everyone’s expectations. Unfortunately about a thousand people didn’t manage to get in, as the stadium was packed. The stellar moment of the night was when the workers took the microphone and explained their vision of another society, based on social justice, solidarity and self-management. Five thousand people were applauding, shouting and chanting songs of support. It was then that everyone realized that this endeavor is bound to succeed!

One of the Vio.Me. workers addresses the people.

Early next morning the mobilization went on with a vibrant march towards the factory. The workers were already in their positions and the production was triumphantly kick-started in front of the cameras of national, local and alternative media. The workers organized a guided tour of the factory and explained all the details of the production process to journalists and participants in the solidarity movement.

 The first batch of products produced under worker’s control!

There is still a long road ahead: The costs of production are high, access to credit is impossible and getting a part of the market in times of recession is uncertain. The workers are however optimistic: The proceeds from the benefit gig and the donations of supportive groups and individuals collected through viome.org should be enough to keep the company afloat in the first few months. And the support of the social movements means many of the products will be distributed through the existing structures of social and solidary economy. The workers of Vio.Me. are already researching new cleaning products, based on non-toxic ecological ingredients, apt for home use. The factory makes quality building materials (mortars, plasters, tile adhesive paste and jointing materials, waterproof grouts, etc.) and the workers know very well how to improve the quality even more while lowering the production costs and hence the price. The challenge is now to find a market for these materials, either within Greece or in the surrounding Balkan countries. Some products can be shipped even further, so they could be distributed through the international solidarity movement as well.

The 40 workers of Vio.Me. and hundreds of participants in the solidarity movement have for three days lived an unforgettable experience, which however is only the start of a long and difficult road. Now more than ever we need to be united and strong, determined to build a new world based on solidarity, justice and self-management!

From the workers of Kouta Steel Factory in Egypt To the workers of Vio.Me Industrial Mineral Factory in Greece!

Message of Solidarity

We, the workers of Kouta Steel Factory, Tenth of Ramadan City, Egypt, have followed the events taking place in Vio.Me industrial minerals factory in Thessaloniki, Greece. We learned that the factory owner had fled, and that a general assembly of the workers decided to place the factory under workers’ self-management. Hence the factory was reopened on February 12th, 2013, as a cooperative under workers’ management.
We would like to share with you our experience and struggle that began about one and a half years ago, during which the independent trade union stood at the forefront of the fight. This included sit-ins and legal battles through the Prosecutor-General’s office and the Μinistry of Labour. The struggle culminated with an epoch-making decision by the Prosecutor-General last August approving their right to place the factory under workers’ self-management and authorising engineer Mohsen Saleh to manage the factory. It is worth-noting that the owner had fled earlier without paying the workers since last March.
The process has not gone free of obstacles and difficulties since then, starting with arduous negotiations with Gas and Electricity companies in order to schedule the factory’s debts which amount to $2.6 million and $0.9 million to both companies respectively. The workers have given a lesson in self-sacrifice as they decided to deduct half their wages to be used in purchasing raw materials (pallets).
We are now taking the final steps to resume the production process after having reconnected gas and electricity. The Kouta Steel Factory workers are all one in heart and mind, adamant to improve the factory and proceed with our experiment till the end.
Though a thousand miles away from Greece, we send our strongest expression of solidarity and support to the workers of Vio.Me and to their newborn experiment in self-management. We also declare our absolute rejection of the austerity measures that affect first and foremost the working class, whether in Greece or here in Egypt.
We invite Vio.Me workers to start and exchange of our experiences in struggle, so that we can benefit from lessons learned from both experiments in self-management. Millions of workers are looking at us as a concrete reality and an awaited dream.
Long Live Workers Struggle!
Long Live the struggle of the Vio.Me and Kouta Workers!
 

Chairman of the Independent Trade Union Chairman of the Board
Ahmad Shaarawy Mohsen Saleh

The factory of Vio.Me (Industrial Mineral) starts production under workers’ control!

1

“We are the ones who knead and yet we have no bread
we are the ones who dig for coal and yet we are cold.
We are the ones who have nothing and we are coming to take the world “
Tassos Livaditis (Greek poet, 1922-1988)

IN THE HEART OF THE CRISIS, THE WORKERS OF VIO.ME. ARE AIMING FOR THE HEART OF EXPLOITATION AND PROPERTY.

With unemployment climbing to 30%, workers’ income reaching zero, sick and tired of big words, promises and more taxes, unpaid since May 2011 and currently withholding their labour, with the factory abandoned by the employers, the workers of Vio.Me. by decision of their general assembly declare their determination not to fall prey to a condition of perpetual unemployment, but instead to struggle to take the factory in their own hands and operate it themselves. Through a formal proposal dating from October 2011 they have been claiming the establishment of a workers’ cooperative under full workers’ control, demanding legal recognition for their own workers’ cooperative, as well as for all the others to follow. At the same time they have been demanding the money required to put the factory in operation, money that in any case belongs to them, as they are the ones who produce the wealth of society. The plan that was drawn up met with the indifference of the state and of trade union bureaucracies. But it was received with great enthusiasm by the world of the social movements, which, through the creation of the Open Initiative of Solidarity in Thessaloniki and afterwards with similar initiatives in many other cities, have been struggling for the past 6 months to spread the message of Vio.Me across society.Now it’s time for worker´s control of Vio.Me.!

The workers cannot wait any longer for the bankrupt state to fulfil its gratuitous  promises of support (even the 1000-euro emergency aid promised by the Ministry of Labour was never approved by the Minister of  Finance). It’s time to see the Vio.Me. factory –as well as any other factory that is closing down, going bankrupt or laying off its workers- reopened but its workers, and not by its old or new bosses. The struggle should not be limited to Vio.Me., in order for it to be victorious it should  be generalized and spread to all the factories and businesses that are closing down, because only through a network of self-managed factories will Vio.Me be able to thrive and light the way towards a different organisation of production and the economy, with no exploitation, inequality or hierarchy.When factories are closing down one after another, the number of the unemployed in Greece is approaching 2 million and the vast majority of the population is condemned to poverty and misery by the governing coalition of PASOK-ND-DIMAR, which continues the policies of the preceding governments, the demand to operate the  factories under workers’ control is the only reasonable response to the disaster that we experience every day, the only answer to unemployment; for that reason, the struggle of Vio.Me. is everyone’s struggle.

We urge all workers, the unemployed and all those who are affected by the crisis to stand by the workers of Vio.Me and support them in their effort to put in practice the belief that workers can make it without bosses! We call them to participate in a nationwide Struggle and Solidarity Caravan culminating in three days of struggle in Thessaloniki. We urge them to take up the struggle and organize their own fights within their working places, with direct democratic procedures, without bureaucrats. To participate in a general political strike in order to oust those who destroy our lives!

Aiming to establish worker’s control over factories and the whole of production and to organize the economy and society that we desire, a society without bosses!oajGqWXiUyEaBO2B3JIvosMaaOHxBqSjp6Yzjl0NDCInyIK1PInfWgFUaeuF1TupuRRaLxwgrXp98HZGIdFwcwgl6FjnsvsQeeODRbATGX3aaqBj0OpD
It’s Vio.Me.’s time. Let’s get to work!
Paving the way for workers’ self-management everywhere!
Paving the way for a society without bosses!
Open Initiative of Solidarity and Support

VIO.ME: Law is the worker’s right and not the law of the bourgeoisie

An interview with Makis Anagnostou, president of the Viomihaniki Metalleytiki’s workers’ union (VIO.ME), to the paper Nea Prooptiki

The struggle of VIO.ME is undoubtedly one of the most important labour struggles that have been taking place this period of time in Greece. The factory (Viomihaniki Metalleytiki) has been deserted by its owners and its workers –not paid since May 2011– deny to come to terms with the idea of unemployment and struggle for the transfer of production into their own hands, thus raising in essence the point of workers’ self management as a response to the closures and the layoffs of the bankrupt capitalist Greece.
The president of the workers’ union of VIO.ME, Makis Anagnostou spoke with the Nea Prooptiki:
 -N.P. At what stage is your struggle today?
 -M.A. Since the last interview we have given, there are many things that have changed. There have now been taken decisions that were not part of our struggle in the preceding period. Up until a certain point in time we kept following the path of lawfulness and nothing else, but we found out that this path is a too long one. For this reason, the assembly decided that another path is to be followed, a still legitimate one, but this time based on the logic that law is the worker’s right and not the law of the bourgeoisie.

-N.P. You remain unpaid since May 2011, while September was also the last month you were entitled to the welfare allowance that you were getting from the Organization for the Employment of the Labour Force. How do you survive under such conditions?

-M.A. We barely survive, if we can call it survival at all. The truth is that the Ministry showed some interest in certain cases facing extreme difficulty, but actually this help has the form of charity and does not offer solutions  to the real problem; that of unemployment. It is work that we want and not charity.
-N.P. I would like you to tell us something about the peoples’ response to your struggle and the solidarity that you have been getting.
-M.A. There is help from all over Greece but also from abroad. Of course, those who support us are mostly poor people themselves. They are neither big publishers, nor big companies. They are ordinary folk people, workers, some working and probably most of them unemployed nowadays, who support us, however, from the very little they go by. Some bring us a pack of spaghetti, others a small bag of dried beans, or some others by giving us a 2 € financial assistance. But even this small help is very important to us as it offers us strength and courage to go on.
-N.P. There is a part of the “left” which has accused you that with your effort to take over the control of the factory you are trying to become yourselves small capitalists. How do you answer them?
-M.A. To them, we have answered already. When the labour movement is at our side, it is difficult for struggles like ours to depart from their goal. But when the movement takes a distance, then the workers (as workers) are trying to find ways to survive and there lies the danger of a bourgeois turn of the whole issue.
-N.P. In the recent strikes you chose a distinct stance in relation to not only the General Confederation of Greek Workers (ΓΣΕΕ) but also to the Agonistic Front of All Workers (Π.Α.ΜΕ.) and to the Coordinative organ of Primary Unions. What was it that led you to that decision?
-M.A. All these are decisions made by the general assembly. What I mean is that who we would stand next to was not proposed by the union’s administration –though, in essence, we do not function as an administration–, but there is always a concern about this issue; it is always discussed in the general assembly and it is the general assembly that reaches a decision. The general assembly takes this stance because of certain things noticed by it, which I would not like to criticize right now.
-N.P. You do not want to tell us what were the actual things noticed by the workers?
-M.A. When the union started functioning, we used to go to the Workers’ Centre. There we saw that their attitude was not what we had expected. In other words, and as only an example, in our participating in the discussion of strike movements, there were various persons telling us that we should appeal to our bosses to bring back their capital. We did not agree. We wanted a more class defined way and we went to the Agonistic Front of All Workers (Π.Α.ΜΕ.) In this case, however, we reached a point of being the only primary unit holding the banner together with theΠ.Α.ΜΕ., and the Π.Α.ΜΕ. pretended not to see us because it did not agree with us on certain issues. It is true that the Π.Α.ΜΕ. has clearly a class character, but could someone say that we, as a primary union, we do not? The fact that we did not agree with the Π.Α.ΜΕ. on partial issues does not make us adversaries. So, to be sure, because we do not agree with them on everything and do not blindly follow their advice, the Π.Α.ΜΕ. attitude towards us is perhaps not the expected one by the general assembly and that is what led us to our decisions.
-N.P. Is this to say that you somehow found them against you?
-M.A. We can’t say we found them against us, but we certainly did not find them to our side. This is the bad thing. And I must say that in many events that took place to our support in different cities, there were many individual members of the Π.Α.ΜΕ that expressed a positive opinion about our struggle and about our way of raising our points!
-N.P. In October there took place a large solidarity caravan that started from Thessaloniki and through Larissa and Volos was finally completed in Athens. How would you characterize this experience?
-M.A. I will tell you what my colleagues said rather than characterizing it myself. Many colleagues who –up to that point in time– were skeptical and did not know if they wanted to join the caravan or not, after the completion of the caravan event clearly stated that if it was to take place again, starting even the next day, they would join again.
  
-N.P. Have you had any kind of reaction during this whole period by the owners of the factory?
-M.A. Up until this present moment, they keep a passive attitude. We are sure, however, that they are making some movements in order to re-enter the game. What will play an important role in such a case will be our own determination and how powerful we are.
-N.P. Some would make the observation that in the recent period there has been some ebb in the struggle of VIO.ME. What do you have in mind to do in the coming days in order to rekindle your struggle?
-M.A. I wouldn’t say ebb. Of course there has been a certain slackening during the holidays, but sometimes when you are to start a footrace you must first spurt in order to manage to give more thrust. This is what we think is happening because many things will be running in the near future. It is the meeting at the Ministry, some more general meetings in Athens focusing on how we can trade some products, we have a court of sessions against our ex-employers on the Jan. 24, and after all this, something new starts on Feb. 8 in order to give birth to something else. The beginning will be the concert we are preparing for the day I mentioned, with the participation of well known artists such as Thanassis Papakonstantinou, Charoulis, the Chainides and others. And on Jan. 11 there will be a development in order for the operation of the factory to start.
-N.P. What exactly do you have in mind to do during these 3 specific days?
-M.A. There will take place a reverse caravan. This time, that is, it is not us that travel to other cities but we invite people from other cities to come to Thessaloniki and support a new effort that starts on Feb. 8. We do not know when exactly we will have the pick of this effort, but as we said it starts on Feb. 8, with a protest march and a concert, and the rest will take place at the factory. The exact way of how we are going to go on in the factory is something that we will announce in the near future.
-N.P. Will this be also determined by the meetings you are going to have in Athens? That is, if your discussions with the Ministry end successfully, is there a case to operate the factory yourselves?
-M.A. This is what we are trying to do, with a very specific manner. Now, if some things change in the course of the effort and the Ministry actually gives some solution, it will be good. We threw the ball to the Ministry and said that the way in which the factory will work is now the ministry’s responsibility. Either with the legal, or, rather, with the “according to the letter of law” way or with what we are saying, that law is the worker’s rightand we can rightfully take the factory in our own hands.
-N.P. If you do get the factory in your hands and operate it, how do you believe you will manage to keep it alive and healthy under the pressure of the economic crisis? Do you have some plan about it? 
-M.A. Yes, there is a plan. There is a big difference between what we contend and what there exist out there. We maintain that even in this diminished and decayed market, an opening, on our part, to different types of stores and commercial shops and to other countries will give us the potential to keep the factory in the present phase that we are going through difficult times. To hold out, that is, and then to work in another way.
-N.P. The struggle of VIO.ME has been characterized by many as a pioneering one, for the Greek reality at least, as it shows the way that should be also followed by other factories that are in the same position. Has there been until now any response by workers of other factories who experience the same situation?

-M.A. I wouldn’t say pioneering. Our demand has for ever been the primordial demand of working people. What the working person, and more so the industrial worker, looked forward to was to take the means of production in their hands in order to be able to produce for themselves. This issue is one we put to all working people, but the bourgeois class does for years and years now is to keep the working class into hypnosis so that it cannot be able to think in this way. For this reason, it directs the struggles to more “quiescent” and bourgeois preferred solutions. I have to repeat it; we took the examples of the past and we believe that with the setup we have planned and the charter that we will draw we will become able to keep a very good level of cooperativity, because all this is essentially going to become a workers’ cooperative that will go beyond the bourgeois type of solutions.

ANY CONTRIBUTION IS HELPFUL!

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AMONG THOSE WHO SUPPORT THIS INITIATIVE ARE:

David Harvey, Naomi Klein, Avi Lewis, John Holloway, Silvia Federici, George Caffentzis,Sergio Tischler, David Graeber, Raúl Zibechi, Giorgio Agamben, Mag Wompel (labournet.de),Moishe Postone, Brendan Martin (Working World), Dario Azzellini and Marina Sitrin.Direct your solidarity statements or questions to protbiometal@gmail.com

THE STRUGGLE FOR SELF-MANAGEMENT OF VIO.ME.

The workers of Vio.Me., a building materials factory in Thessaloniki, Greece, which was abandoned by its owners, have been unpaid since May 2011. By decision of their general assembly they have decided to occupy the factory and operate it under direct democratic workers’ control. After a year-long struggle that has attracted attention and solidarity in Greece and worldwide, they are kick-starting production on February 12, 2013, after 3 days of intense mobilization.

What can you do to help?

– Spread the message! Forward this information to your friends, contacts and organizations. Our shield against repression is our connection with society! The secret to our success are strong community links!

– Contribute economically! The costs of production are high and the first few months will be critical. The workers have a solid business plan and are very optimistic about the success of the endeavor, however it will take some time before they are consolidated in the market. Let´s all contribute to making it happen! Use the “Donate” button above, any amount is useful!

– Organize in your workplace, your neighbourhood, your town! Promote real social self-management without the need for intermediaries, professional politicians or bureaucrats! Form cooperatives and neighborhood assemblies, protect the commons, promote a new civilization based on proximity, mutual recognition and solidarity!

– Direct any questions or solidarity statements to Thessaloniki’s Open Solidarity Initiative at protbiometal@gmail.com. The workers will be happy to feel the warmth of solidarity coming from abroad!

source: www.viome.org

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