Three days of intense debate and comparison between different European and international visions of the “occupied and recovered factories”. This term, which became famous after the Argentine experience at the beginning of the millennium, is intended to represent the experimentation of an “economy of workers”, just to underline a different model of production as alternative to the capitalistic one.

The Euro-Mediterranean network of the occupied and recovered factories, together with trade unions and political and social activists, has organized the Meeting with autonomous funding from April 12 to 14 in Ri-Maflow, close to Milan (Italy). The Meeting focused on the recovery of production means and their management by workers. Representatives of the main Euro-Mediterranean experiences’ cases with a particular attention to those in the rural world and to the solidarity and alternative economy networks, have been invited. The meeting saw also the presence of researchers and members of social and political organisations, collectives and trade unions who recognise the workers’ control on society and self-management as top political imperatives.

The international organising group was composed by:
– Argentina: Programa Facultad Abierta – UBA;
– Bosnia: Workers’ University – Dita;
– Croazia: Organisation for Workers’ Initiative & Democratization;
– France: Association pour l’Autogestion, Union Syndicale Solidaires, Fédération Sud Éducation;
– Greece: Vio.Me Workers Coop & Solidarity Initiative, Network of Athens Work Collectives;
– Italy: RiMaflow, Officine Zero, Fuorimercato, Slail-Cobas Camilla-emporio autogestito;
– Spain: Solidaridad Obrera, CGT, ICEA/ Economía Crítica, SOC/SAT Andalusia.

The Commonfare project actively participated the event, bringing its own contribution of analysis and practice documentation, through the presentation of the commonfare.net platform as a possible tool for interconnecting different experiences of social and production self-management. In addition to plenary speech, Commonfare organized the workshop titled “Practices of welfare reconstruction from below”, the 15th of April.

RiMaflow has been inquired as a good practice in our project, precisely because of the important role it played in the Italian self-management movement. In 2012 the factory Maflow was transformed in RiMaflow. It was first occupied and then recovered by workers willing to launch a new productive endeavor, opening it to collaboration with the local population. In their fight to set up an alternative both at the local and global level, RiMaflow’s workers have been among the promoters of the national network Fuori Mercato (Outside the Market), uniting food producers who resist to both the productivist drive and the exploitation of migrant workers that characterises contemporary agriculture in Italy and elsewhere in Europe. RiMaflow and Fuori Mercato represent laboratories to experiment new forms of resistance based on solidarity and mutualism, new social relations and forms of cooperation between urban and rural workers and new collective initiatives to meet people’s social and ecological needs. Building on these experiences, the Third International Meeting of Workers’ Economy has been the occasion for its further opening to the rural world and to agro-ecology.

From Argentina to Brazil, from Italy to Turkey and Kurdistan, notwithstanding the social and cultural differences of their promoters, recovered factories and worker collectives represent acts of resistance to the de-valorisation of the workforce and the dismantling of productive structures as well as a response to unemployment and marginalisation. At the same time, they establish a different economy, alternative to the capitalist model of production: a workers’ economy, based on self-management, aimed at the defense of the interests of those who earn their living off their own labour. These experiences entail recovered factories, self-managed farms, some specific forms of cooperatives, and of cooperative economy as well as workers’ struggles for the self-organisation of work and the self-management of the economy. This movement unequivocally raises the following questions: what do we produce? How do we produce? And for whom do we produce? Through the establishment of horizontal processes, the whole society can get proactively involved in the production and distribution of wealth. Thus, direct democracy, workers’ control, societal control and self-management stop being abstract concepts. Rather, they become vital tools to regain people’s dignity, preserve their means of life, create new and alternative economic and social relations.

At the end of the meeting, RiMaflow entered in possession of its new location: about 800 square meters belonging to the old Maflow headquarters. It is an area owned by the old enterprise before its relocation to Poland that now, thanks to an Ethical Bank loan, it can be managed directly by the workers, in a perfectly legal frame.
Thanks also to an agreement with the new owner, the risk of eviction is avoided and the commonfare project is proud to have taken part in succeeding this positive result!