The Take

The re-emergence of Wealthy Theatre is definitely good news for us. For those not in the know, Grand Rapids Community Media Centre have taken over the building and moved in all their operations (save WYCE). It’s a great old-style cinema. The screen is a little shabby but the quality of last night’s (DVD) projection was more than adequate and it’s still early days for the building’s rejuvenation.

This weekend has seen the showing of Avi Lewis and Naomi Klein’s The Take, an exploration of the appropriation of factories by unemployed workers in Argentina. The turbulent economic experiences of Argentina in the 1990s (largely a result of a religious following of IMF recommendations) led to the decimation of that country’s middle class through the closure of factories that were their livelihood.

Given the government (ie. taxpayer) subsidies that had gone into the building of these factories and the amount of wages that the workers were owed, a number of groups have ‘taken back’ the factories they formerly worked in, re-opening them as cooperatives. Each cooperative sets its own rules; many have opted to run their factories by direct democracy and with all workers receiving the same salary but as the documentarians are at pains to point out there is no ‘one size fits all’ model.

As Roger Ebert remarks in his review this response to lay-offs seems refreshing. It is strange that where ‘development aid’ to governments is so often given in the form of loans, those governments are then expected to give out their taxpayers’ money with no such strings, and no way to make good if their investment is squandered.

Klein and Lewis make no effort to hide their admiration for the efforts of these workers, particularly when much of the legal system and many government actions seem determined to let the factories remain dormant rather than give the workers control. This is no impartial appraisal, but it is a compelling portrayal, and another portent of a new approach emerging in the face of IMF-imposed hegemony, neither socialist nor capitalist, but still drawing on the best of the old systems.

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