4th International Gathering of the 'Workers' Economy' Brazil July 9-12


4th International Gathering of the 'Workers' Economy'
Self-management and Work as Alternatives to the Global Economic Crisis
July 9-12, 2013 - João Pessoa, Brazil

In an international context where the global capitalist crisis is increasingly affecting European countries, especially in the Mediterranean region, the only response from governments has been to implement the usual austerity measures. But austerity—tried and tested in other parts of the world—has, yet again, not only failed to regenerate economies, it has also led to further impoverishment, structural unemployment, marginalization, and insecurity for the majority who must work to earn a living. In response, large protest movements have begun to emerge in the “developed” countries, where the effects of the crisis are being felt the most. These movements underscore the need for changes in the economy’s management—changes that not only contemplate the welfare of workers, but that also assure workers’ management of the economy.

In the so-called “developing” countries—particularly in Latin America—social movements, people’s organizations, and labor movements have been spearheading self-managed organizations at a grassroots level for some time now. We can think of, for example, the worker-recuperated enterprises in various South American countries, or other forms of workers’ control, both urban and rural. In some instances, these movements have gained recognition and support from governments, bringing into question the role of the state and the relationship between state power and the autonomy of popular movements. On the one hand, the state can potentially facilitate the processes of workers’ control. On the other hand, it can be seen as an antagonistic instrument of traditional power with the potential to limit the autonomy of self-managed organizations.

The IV International Gathering of “The Workers’ Economy” seeks to explore these and other questions related to workers’ struggles from different perspectives and national contexts. It seeks to provide space for discussion and debate using the experiences of workers’ control and self-management as a point of departure, bringing together academics, social activists, and workers. Since our first meeting, we have been co-developing the International Gathering (Encuentro Internacional) and its themes with representatives from over 20 countries, including protagonists from worker-recuperated enterprises, cooperatives, labor movements and organizations, social movements, political groups, and academics, among others. We reiterate here what we emphasized in our three previous encuentros: While perhaps in uneven ways, workers are undoubtedly inventing alternatives that are not limited to the economic, but that extend out into wider cultural processes as well. Based on non-capitalist relations of production, these processes have increasingly opened up spaces for prefigurative politics. Moreover, these alternative economic institutions are affording workers room for discussing issues such as internal power and gender structures, as well as the relationship between workers, workplaces, and their surrounding communities. These processes, visible for example in the recuperated factories, workers’ cooperatives, and micro-enterprises of the world, show that workers can indeed self-manage a more humane and sustainable alternative than what corporate globalization offers.

The IV International Gathering of “The Workers’ Economy” will be held in the city of João Pessoa in the state of Paraíba in northeastern Brazil, and will be hosted by the Incubator for Social Enterprises (INCUBES) at the Federal University of Paraíba, and the Programa Facultad Abierta (Open Faculty Program) of the University of Buenos Aires

History of the International Gathering of “The Workers’ Economy”
The International Gathering of “The Workers’ Economy” had is its first encuentro in Buenos Aires in July 2007 under the theme “Self-management and the Distribution of Wealth.” It was organized by the Open Faculty Program of the Faculty of Philosophy and Letters of the University of Buenos Aires, in conjunction with academic institutions, social organizations, and workers from Argentina and around the world. The International Gatherings have emerged into a forum for the exchange of ideas and experiences between academics, activists, and workers. These ideas center on the possibilities and challenges of self-management; the regeneration of a political, economic, and social project by the working class and social movements; as well as critical discussion and analyses of the practices of academic research focusing on self-management and the workers’ economy.

The Argentine experience of workers’ control and self-management provided a solid basis for discussion at the first encuentro in 2007. These discussions took on an international nature by the second and third encuentros (held in Buenos Aires in 2009 and in Mexico City in 2011 respectively), exploring and learning from myriad experiences of the working class and social movements around the world. As an ultimate objective, the first three encuentros reflected on alternative economic, social, and political projects from those extolled by neoliberal global capitalism. Thus, the themes and discussion topics of the International Gatherings have became more diverse with each new encuentro. They have managed to embraced different areas of social struggle and critical thinking while still remaining grounded in the spirit suggested by the title of the International Gatherings: how to think about, debate, and construct an economy emerging from workers themselves and encompassing workers’ self-management.

Thematic Areas
Proposals for panels and paper presentations may include, but are certainly not limited to, the following thematic areas:
1. Analysis of capitalist management of the economy and proposals for self-management
2. The new crisis of global capitalism: Analysis from the perspective of the workers’ economy
3. The historical trajectory of self-management: From traditional communities to labor movements
4. Actual practices of self-management today: Possibilities and challenges. (Including, but not limited to: worker-recuperated enterprises, cooperatives, and attempts at self-management by indigenous communities, peasants, and social movements)
5. Self-management and gender: Creating democracy
6. Analysis of the socialist experience: Past and future
7. The challenges of trade union experiences in neoliberal global capitalism
8. Informal, precarious, and degrading employment: Social exclusion or reconfiguration of labor in global capitalism?
9. New movements in response to the global economic crisis: Perspectives from the struggle for self-management
10. Challenges facing popular governments in the social management of the economy and the state
11. The university, workers, and social movements: Debates over methodologies and practices of mutual construction

Organizational Structure
The IV International Gathering will take place July 9th-12th, 2013, with morning and afternoon sessions, and will be open to the public. There will be panels and workshops, videoconferencing, and a final plenary session where the encuentro’s themes will be debated and discussed

Organizing Committee
Incubator for Social Enterprises (INCUBES), Federal University of Paraíba, João Pessoa, Brazil
Department of Social Relations of the Autonomous Metropolitan University-Xochimilco, Mexico
Programa Facultad Abierta (Open Faculty Program), Faculty of Philosophy and Letters, University of Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Key Dates and Submission Guidelines
Abstract submission deadline for papers: April 22, 2013
Notification of approved presentations: May 2, 2013
Final papers submission deadline: June 30, 2013

Please send abstracts for presentations (of around 250 words) to the following emails:
marcelo@vieta.ca - Marcelo Vieta (Research Fellow, European Research Institute on Cooperative and Social Enterprises (EURICSE), Trento, Italy, and Research Associate, Centre for Research on Latin American and the Caribbean (CERLAC), York University, Toronto, Canada)
mausarda@yahoo.com.br - Mauricio Sardá (Coordinator of the Incubadora de Empreendimentos Solidários, Universidade Federal da Paraiba, Brazil)
centrodoc@gmail.com - Documentation Centre of Worker-Recuperated Enterprises, Open Faculty Program, University of Buenos Aires, Argentina
andres.ruggeri@gmail.com - Andrés Ruggeri (Director, Open Faculty Program)
marcoagomez.gomez@gmail.com - Marco Augusto Gómez Solórzano (Director, Labor Studies, UAM-Xochimilco, Mexico)

For more information on the International Gathering of the Workers’ Economy (including previous meetings in 2007, 2009, and 2011):