A conference report by Birgit Daiber:
“The Transform! European Left Foundation organised on March 11 and 12, 2016 a debate on “production and commons” in Rome. In his introduction to the workshop Roberto Morea said Commons could become a method/to create an alternative model to confront capitalism.
Dario Azzellini presented a new view on self-managed and companies recuperated by workers(WRCs): They break with the individualisation and commodification of labour power by the capitalist mode of production. Dario says “To manage labour as a commons entails a shift away from the perception of labour as an individual commodity, towards a new notion of labour as a collectively and sustainably managed resource, as the human capacity to create, which is put to use for the benefit of society as a whole.” (see the attached short conclusion by D.A.) In my reception this is an essential step forward including WRCs in the diversity of commons initiatives. Furthermore it could become the starting point of a closer connection between classical workers movements and the commons movement.
Underlining this Yannis Barkas and his friends from the Viome WRC and Ilektra Bethmouli from the autonomous clinic, both in Thessaloniki reported on the development of WRCs and social projects in Greece, where self-organisation is a simple necessity under the threat of the EU/IMF-Regime. Andres Ruggeri from the “Programa de Extensiòn Faculta Abierta” at the University of Buenos Aires presented the developing sector of WRCs in Argentina, which started during the crisis in Argentina in 2001 and are practised actually of about 16 000 people. In these presentations the specific contribution of WRCs to the diversity of Commons get visible: first of all they respond to the existential needs of workers not to loose their jobs and to organise work but they engage in related fields as well b.e.. in education and they create projects especially in cultural fields.
Gianni Rinaldini from the Italian metal-workers-trade-union FIOM was talking about the history of the cooperative movement in Italy and it’s enormous relevance for the left affine socio-cultural environment in Italy – but today finds itself in a defensive position – even in some cases under accusation of corruption. Gianni wants to promote the idea of a radical cooperative movement – but first of all he said there is a lesson to learn from the traps the old cooperative movements fell in. In the actual situation of pushing down traditional public services governments following neo-liberal strategies could use cooperative movements and commons making the loss of public services passable to the people – this, he said, is a threat to be opposed.
Marina Sirin referred to the development of commons in North America and the aspects of “affective politics” in commons movements, especially the experience how strong we relate in others and the appearance of care, trust and love.
Elisabetta Cangelosi explained her approach to the definition of commons and Francine Mestrum widened the view on production with regard to social reproduction. Social commons as democratic, participative and rights-based version of social protection are to be included into the diversity of commons perspectives she pointed out.
Massimo de Angelis referred to the difference between social revolution and political revolution Marx made in “Das Kapital” and defined commons as solidarity work within a process of social revolution – not yet (but perhaps in future) becoming part of a political revolution.
Roberto Musacchio gave a short report on Scuola Altramente in Rome, where they organise voluntary work in schools with children and families often of migrant backgrounds to help them to integrate as an example for the cooperation between a commons oriented project and public schools.
The two days of discussion took place in “Officine Zero – Roma non si vende”, an occupied former railway control centre, were cultural events are organised by young commoners. Alessandro from Officine Zero reflected on the IT-development as a world were a free resource became privatised in a completely new way, initially without exploiting labour and no input of great capital. One of the effects of this “post-labour”-world in his regard is the continuous devaluation of labour. He sees Officine Zero as a place of commemoration to the old world of labour on the one hand and as protest against privatisation – another starting point of new thinking beyond the traditional patterns.
Yes, these were two outstanding interesting days of intense discussion. Chantal Delmas and Roberto Morea, both in charge of the Transform!-Commons-Network, intend to organise the next seminar in the later spring in Brussels.”