Mondragon Capitalists' Exploitation and Repression in Poland

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akai
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Jul 20 2008 18:34
Mondragon Capitalists' Exploitation and Repression in Poland

Fagor's not a Workplace but a Workcamp: Mondragon Capitalists Fuck Workers in Poland. Strike is Imminent

Fagor is a large appliance manufacturer owned by the Mondragon "Cooperative" capitalist enterprise. In Poland it cooperatives FagorMastercook in Wroclaw. Currently there are serious labour problems in FagorMastercook. Members of the Wroclaw group of Union of Syndicalists (ZSP) went Friday to a protest in front of the factory.

The place has become quite militarized. On Friday the firm had over 200 armed security guards from the notorious firm Impel there to protect the factory. The place was surrounded by metal barricades and each worker going in was throughly searched. Some employees say that there is often heavy security and searches.

Despite the heavy security, or perhaps because of it, about hundreds of workers joined in the demonstration on Friday. About 300 people, workers and supporters, were there after the morning shift, and about 200 before the afternoon shift began. The demo was organized by the August 80 union which has been negotiating with the firm for many months to get people a pay raise.

The workers in FagorMastercook have noted many instances of people being fired for belonging to unions or even just agreeing with their postulates. At least 20 members of August 80 were fired.

In FagorMastercook there are a few unions: Solidarity, August 80 and OPZZ Metalworkers. Solidarity and August 80 are calling for pay raises. In June a warning strike took place. Over 90 percent of the workers went on strike. Then a wave of repressions started. Besides firing some unionists and others who supported them, they started to pick out people, have supervisors stand behind them on the line watching their every move, threatening to fire them if they got even a second behind production. This sort of intimidation was probably used to show people that if they tried to organize themselves, the company would find any small pretext to fire them.

On July 9, two members of August 80 were fired for "leaving their workstations". They had been collecting votes on a strike referendum.

Members of ZSP at the demonstration were told that people were threatened with dismissal for demanding pay raises. They also heard that the workers will probably vote to go on strike.

Production workers at FagorMastercook make around 1200 zloties (400 euros) a month. Minimum wage in Poland is currently 1126 zloties a month but this will be raised to 1276 next year. So workers at this highly profitable factory are making almost nothing. That's why one of the slogans of the workers is FagorMastercook: A Workcamp, not a Workplace.

At the end of 2006, the EBRD decided to 17.5 million euro to FagorMastercook. This money was given as part of a restructuring project. FagorMastercook wants to increase production in Poland and achieve economies of scale while making Poland its production hub for Central Europe. The company moved production from Spain when it started new production of gas stoves in Poland about 5 years ago. The production of refrigerators also got moved to Poland. Over 80 percent of the production is meant for export. They increased turnover by about 29% last year.

FagorMastercook works in a Special Economic Zone and received subsidies from the Polish state; it received a direct subsidy of 3.5 million zloties for creating jobs, plus a CIT and corporate real estate tax exemption. So in addition to money from the EBRD, FagorMastercook got help from the Polish state of about 52 million zloties. That's equal to the EBRD's 17.5 million euros at the current exchange rate. This means that the EBRD and Polish state invested more in the FagorMastercook facilites in Wroclaw than Fagor.

Although Mondragon still pushes its "cooperative" worker-friendly image, publishing bullshit reports on how it is concerned about the effects on globalization on the local workforce, for example in Spain, Mondragón Cooperative Corporation (MCC) is a typical capitalist employer operating plants in low-wage countries like Poland, Egypt, Morocco, Mexico, Thailand and China. Employees in these countries are not co-op members. (Some employees in other countries, even in Spain are also non-members; as many as 1/3 of Mondragon workers are not cooperative members. Any cooperative can also apply to MCC to employ up to 40% non-cooperative workers.)

It pretends to be "one of the world's top 10 best employers" and pays completely shit wages here in Poland and is actively repressing unionists. This is even worse than having typical capitalism disguised as a cooperative; it's just typical exploitation of people from poorer countries by those in the richer ones.

ZSP is calling on people to send letters to Mondragon and to Fagor expressing their disgust with the appallingly low wages in Poland and with the recent incidents of repression and intimidation against protestors. We also ask people, if they meet anybody spreading naive reports about Mondragon, to point out what's going on.

Sample protest letter (please write your own version):

To:

José María Aldecoa
Mondragon Corporation Cooperative
Pº Jose Maria Arizmendiarrieta
Nº 5 20500 Mondragon
Guipuzcoa, Espana
Fax: +34 943- 796 632
Fax: 34 943-779-300

Fagor Electrodomésticos
Fax: 943 79 68 81

Fagor Mastercook
Fax: 48 22 639-8985

We are writing to support the demands of the workers at Fagor Mastercook in Wroclaw and to demand an immediate end to its repression of unionists.

Workers at Fagor Mastercook are demanding an pay raise of 1000 zloties since salaries there are barely above minimum wage and are well below the national average. Over 90% of the workforce participated in a warning strike in June. Afterwards, many union members and leaders were fired. Workers have complained that they have been harrassed and intimidated. Peaceful demonstrators were met by 200 armed security guards.

This type of exploitation is a disgrace. Enough of your hypocrisy !

We are looking forward to the workers' imminent strike and ultimate victory.

Signed
....

If you sent a protest, let us know. If you sent a different text, send copies to: info@zsp.net.pl

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fnbrill
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Jul 20 2008 19:52

And just think, just 12 short years ago, Mondragon was the ideal and hope of anarcho-syndicalism...

"...it is clear that something like Mondragon-style co-op federations, and federations of federations, are urgently needed in many countries today."

Libertarian Labor Review (now Anarcho-Syndicalist Review), Number 19, Winter 1996

akai
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Jul 20 2008 20:19

By 1996 Mondragon was already long headed down the path it's going now, which really begs the question, why the idealization of this business?

Is it that people believe the spin of the corporative PR or where not aware of the developments there since the 80s? Or is it that people actually support the pseudo-self-management seen in some capitalist companies?

Being that some American fans of Mondragon seem to also be fans of participatory democracy a la Puerto Allegre or of Chavez's brand of authoritarian socialism, it seems there that either people believe too easily in myths or aren't really anti-capitalists but some sort of social democrats into watered-down versions of self-management.

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fnbrill
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Jul 20 2008 20:44

I think the reason for the idealization is a belief that anarchism/socialism/communism is simply a change in administration. Since Mondragon gave the appearence of worker-control it must be well down the road to anarchism, right?

This shortsightedness on administration is what many anarchists have had in common with social-democracy and it's off-shoot Leninism. Which is why so many mainline syndicalists jumped to Leninism in the 1920s.

My favorite critique of 1970s anarchist "self-management" ideology came from Ivan Illich who quipped that where he came from, self-management was a euphamism for masterbation.

But this should be it's own thread. Best of luck against the collectivist bosses Laure.

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robot
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Jul 20 2008 21:59
fnbrill wrote:
I think the reason for the idealization is a belief that anarchism/socialism/communism is simply a change in administration. Since Mondragon gave the appearence of worker-control it must be well down the road to anarchism, right?

This is indeed a very interesting question, but there is very little discussion amongst anarcho-syndicalists or libertarian communist about it. I at least do not know any substantial critique of cooperativism on behalf of libertarian communists. But I know lots of anarcho-syndicalists that tend to mismatch revolutionary self-management with cooperatives under capitalist conditions. Of course cooperatives may me useful to protect blacklisted activists or a temporary self-protection against lay-offs, but this does not convert them into a strategic tool. Sooner or later they will either be integrated into the market processes or they will just disappear. Mondragon with their managers and pseudo self-management has chosen the former long times ago.

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little_brother
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Jul 21 2008 10:40

I am trying to recall whether Mondragon experiment was specifically discussed by Solidarity or later groups like Wildcat, but the general problem of self-management was (eventually) addressed as shown here ... http://www.af-north.org/solidarity/awdsirevised.html#awsirevised
This analysis was quite influential on British anarchism in the 1980s such that few contempory orgs were uncritical of self-managment in my recollection (and so I can't think any would have written something like the above piece quoted from LLR). I also recall watching a film about Mondragon that discussed the virtues of its local banking (credit unions) and 'free' education for coop members in relation to the non-ability of Mondragon workers to opt out of the system. "Rights and responsibilities" as New Labour would say...

akai
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Jul 21 2008 13:31

I remember that text. Thanks for putting a link to it.

Yes, probably there should be a separate thread/discussion about self-management not only in capitalist conditions, but examining the differences between egalitarian collectivism and cooperatives vs. ones based on capitalist models.

I probably have written somewhere here before that there are these "workers' companies" in Poland that are supposed to be "owned by the workers" but are typical capitalist bullshit. The workers have shares, but they can be bought and sold and wage labourers can be hired. The worker-shareholders can be just typical capitalist shareholders. The bus company where the Ukrainian bus drivers had a wildcat strike at the end of May was a good example of this. Yet a lot of anarchists still get all excited when they hear about "workers' companies".

One example of a company advertised as a "reclaimed factory" was Jugoremedia.
Some of the self-professed anarchosyndicalists from Workers' Initiative send they wanted to make a plan for the workers to take over some factory which is to be privatized. In the past they had real problems understanding this issue, so they just might propose workers get shares. We'll try to intervene in this question, at least theoretically.

The other question which, at least here, people seem to be totally confused about are "cooperatives". Most cooperatives are typical capitalist enterprises, but that doesn't stop people from glorifying the cooperative movement as if the anarchist cooperative cafe was the same type of cooperative as some small supermarkets with hundreds of shops around the country, a management structure, typical working conditions, etc.

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little_brother
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Jul 21 2008 14:30

Currently, the wider anti-capitalist movement in Britain is very soft on coops (and credit unions). But harking back to the 1980s again (sorry), there was widespread knowledge amongst anarchists about the exploitation of young people in Youth Opportunities Programme 'work experience' placements by (smallish, local) coops - not as full coop members, of course! Usually it was a 6 month placement during which the YOP person got dole money from the government, not the coop, so the coop effectively got them working for free.This use of workfare helped us maintain a healthy distrust of coops of any size.

The other well known exploiter of YOP labour around the same time was the Sustrans 'sustainable transport' charity that built a lot of British cycle paths, or rather the YOP 'teams' did, so we had no illusion about environmentally friendly charities either.

These 'nice' businesses were exploiting young unemployed people no differently that any of the non-coop/non-charitable companies who benefitted from this workfare programme (although I knew one coop that gave YOP schemers a weekly top-up from coop funds, so that's alright then...).

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OliverTwister
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Jul 21 2008 17:21
fnbrill wrote:
And just think, just 12 short years ago, Mondragon was the ideal and hope of anarcho-syndicalism...

"...it is clear that something like Mondragon-style co-op federations, and federations of federations, are urgently needed in many countries today."

Libertarian Labor Review (now Anarcho-Syndicalist Review), Number 19, Winter 1996

Well I don't have that issue on hand but as I recall there was debate and discussion in that issue, it wasn't a simple endorsement. Care to cite who said it, and in what context?

Besides, just 2 issues later they ran a piece called "The Limits of "Self"-Management Under Capitalism", which would imply that they aren't the bright-eyed supporters of Mondragon that you would imply.

You often have worthwhile points to make. Which makes your repetitively selective quoting even more frustrating, 'cause I'm inclined not to regard your sane points (and I know I'm not the only one).

akai
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Jul 21 2008 19:59

I didn't understand this as an implication that all anarcho-syndicalists have these illusions, or even all at LLR (now ASR).

The article by Mike Long is on line:
http://www.cooperativeindividualism.org/long_mondragon.html
In 2000 Long wrote something else, but I don't think I've seen it.

Jon Bekken published something on the limits of self-management under capitalism but I don't think it's online. Here Bekken gives a more exact view on what he considers self-management. He also (rightly so) critizes self-management models proposed by those like Michael Albert.
http://www.syndicalist.org/theory/anarchist_economics.shtml

akai
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Jul 21 2008 20:37

ERROR - Sorry, the comrades from Wroclaw pointed out an error. I wrote that Warsaw ZSP went to this demonstration. Of course I meant Wroclaw ZSP. Sorry.

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OliverTwister
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Jul 21 2008 22:36

I don't agree with what Mike Long wrote, and I'm sure some of the other members of the ASR collective don't either. The point is that fnbrill was deliberately distorting the words of one member into the doctrine of the entire collective, and presumably their supporters ("the ideal and hope of anarcho-syndicalism..."). This is especially unacceptable because this sort of selective quoting and telling-half-the-story is very common behavior from him regarding Anarcho-syndicalist Review and it's editorial collective.

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fnbrill
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Jul 21 2008 22:40

I never said that the ASR was all pro-Mondragon, I just remembered that article with amousement. The pro-collectivists were very heavy in the IWW and the US a-s scene for years, that article was just a handy example.

OliverTwister wrote:
You often have worthwhile points to make. Which makes your repetitively selective quoting even more frustrating, 'cause I'm inclined not to regard your sane points (and I know I'm not the only one).

Well, thanks for the heads up Oliver, Likewise, your sometimes good questions teniously offset your many ideological faults.

Could you send me examples of my "selective quoting" as if they are becoming tedious for you, I would certainly wish to change the selection.

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OliverTwister
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Jul 21 2008 23:00
Quote:
The pro-collectivists were very heavy in the IWW and the US a-s scene for years, that article was just a handy example.

Yes, the Bay Area branch in the 90s was very pro-collectivist, and for some reason we are still members of NOBAWC (network of bay area workers cooperatives). roll eyes

My problem is that while there are many valid points to be made against cooperativism as a strategy (and I'm sure you could make many thought-provoking points about it), you instead tried to get one more snipe in your 30-year war with the editors of the ASR. This is really counter-productive behavior for someone like you who has a lot to offer the IWW as a mentor sort; every time you make petty comments like that, it means people are slightly less likely to listen to the really valuable things you have to say. The problem isn't even that you quoted an article from ASR, it's that you framed it in a way to imply that ASR as a whole was pro-Mondragon and pro-Coop, when you surely know that that isn't true.

An example of selective quoting? Off the top of my head I'll toss out your implications that the Philly GMB are "blackmailing" the union regarding the IW, when they've been trying to pass on the mailing responsibilities for quite some time now. There's an implication that they should quietly work for free until another branch has some extra time on its hands and decides to take the burden off of Philly's hands - no matter if people simply no longer have the time, energy, etc. to do the mailing for free. As you've mentioned the mailing is usually done at GHQ, and the one in Cinci simply doesn't have a large enough member base. Seeing as you didn't run to have GHQ transferred to portland, nor did you try to get the IW mailing transferred to Portland, I think it's very two-faced to be anything but grateful that Philly have been mailing out the IW for the past two years even with GHQ present (I highly doubt that they were doing it for the $100/month...)

akai
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Jul 22 2008 09:39

As for me, I don't follow all these discussions and I didn't understand the example to be a snipe against all at ASR, but rather a comment meant to show that these types of views are not uncommon. As I've heard this type of stuff from a number of people, I would agree it's not uncommon, although definitely not universal. As for ASR, it's already been pointed out that Bekken and Hargis criticized these cooperatives, so it should be clear that this was not a view held by the majority of people at ASR. That said, people who are in anarchist publishing often have to deal with being accused of supporting this or that as soon as one article supporting something goes into your publication. It seems many in the public interpret the choice of articles in such a way and this should be kept in mind.

Whatever personal squabbles you have going on should not prevent people from looking at the Long article and discussing it and the ideas in it.

syndicalist
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Jul 22 2008 13:00

Um, I think this thread is about a struggle, not an article in ASR.

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fnbrill
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Jul 22 2008 15:15
syndicalist wrote:
Um, I think this thread is about a struggle, not an article in ASR.

I agree. As stated above, i think this thread should focus on the strikes in Poland. the coop discussion is important and a new thread should be started.

David in Atlanta
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Jul 24 2008 02:14
laureakai wrote:
Fagor's not a Workplace but a Workcamp: Mondragon Capitalists Fuck Workers in Poland. Strike is Imminent

To:
José María Aldecoa
Mondragon Corporation Cooperative
Pº Jose Maria Arizmendiarrieta
Nº 5 20500 Mondragon
Guipuzcoa, Espana
Fax: +34 943- 796 632
Fax: 34 943-779-300

Fagor Electrodomésticos
Fax: 943 79 68 81

Fagor Mastercook
Fax: 48 22 639-8985

If you sent a protest, let us know. If you sent a different text, send copies to: info@zsp.net.pl

wm@mcc.coop

info@fagor.com

akai
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Jul 24 2008 08:58

WM is webmaster, so maybe it's easier to send emails to that address, but it's not clear that anybody will see them. Am trying to get an open letter together - would be best if the workers at Mondragon here about this.

No new news. The strike is likely to be an official on in September.

akai
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Aug 5 2008 06:57

A bit of an update:
Workers from Fagor Mastercook have noted that a lot more people are being fired and Fagor is recruiting more. They claim that they are trying to change a large part of the workforce as quickly as possible.