Production and Commons

transform! Seminar

via U. Partini 20
Portonaccio, Casalbertone
Metro Tiburtina


This seminar follows the one which took place in Paris on 7-9 November 2014, called “Socialization and Commons in Europe – How to build an Alternative Project?” (see here).

Commons is determined by the wish of stakeholders to govern a resource together, a principle which contests property rights on this resource. Nevertheless, the term resource is misleading, since the commons depends on activity, on using and taking care, agreeing on rules and finding systems to regulate use and access in order to create a sustainable common. Therefore, there is no commons without commoning (Linebaugh 2008). While originally applied to natural resources, the concept of commons or commoning has been extended to other spheres in recent years. We want to apply this political concept to labour and production in a mainly urban context. For that we recur to a practice coming from the global South, mainly Latin America, which spread to the global North during the contemporary crisis: Workers’ recuperations of closed down companies. In this context it is also interesting to look at how the workers themselves in the recuperated companies develop a link between the social and the ecological question.

Further information:


Friday, 11 March


2 pm – 4.30 pm

What are we talking about?

Welcome and general presentation of the seminar: Roberto Morea
Introduction: Dario Azzellini
Gianni Rinaldini (Italy), Andres Ruggeri (Argentina), Theo Karyotis (Greece), Yannis Barkas (Greece), Maria Sitrin (USA), Aloscia Castronovo (Italy)

The “recuperation” of companies in the Argentinean sense of the word fall into this thematic. In Europe, only a handful of enterprises are “recuperated” in this sense (Greece: VioMe, Italy: RiMaflow and Officine Zero, France: La Fabrique du Sud and SCOP TI). Beside this, there are numerous companies going bankrupt in which employees are willing to restart as worker’s co-ops: even if this is more a buyout than a struggle, this phenomenon shows the aspiration of workers to control resources in order to maintain their job. Many struggles about commons involve production in the commodity field (i.e. energy, water etc.) or in agriculture. In all these areas, what could be the criteria defining a commons of production?


5 pm – 8 pm

Recuperation is not a piece of cake

Introduction: Benoit Borrits (France)
Theodora Kotsaka (Greece), Ilektra Bethymouti (Greece), Nina Rajkovicev (Croatia), Vida Knezevic and Marko Miletic (Serbia), Emmin Eminagic (Bosnia) 

In many cases, when employees take over a company, this happens in harsh situations. Very often it comes from a bankruptcy, sometimes from a deliberate policy of a capitalist entity to close down a factory. In this process, a disruption of activity could result in a loss of customers and/or internal know-how. This means that the workers will have difficulties to recover lost markets and gain new customers. In addition to this, worker’s co-ops are not seen positively by bankers which makes it hard to finance their business. What could be political measures and actions which would help such processes? What is the experience with legal measures adopted in different countries and how did they affect the dynamics of workplace recuperations? This will be introduced and illustrated by case studies in Latin America (Uruguay, Brazil, Argentina, Venezuela) and in Europe. Which are the most appropriate institutional models and best practices for the commoning of public services? Which reforms are needed at constitutional and EU-Treaties level to defend public services from neoliberal privatisation?


9 pm – 10.30 pm

Free discussion about what’s going on in different countries (France, Argentina, Greece etc.)


Saturday, 12 March


9.30 am – 12.30 pm

How to reinforce the building of commons?

Introduction: Elisabetta Cangelosi (Italy)
Francine Mestrum (Belgium), Alan Tuckman (UK), Massimo de Angelis (UK), Yannis Barkas (Greece), Francesco Brancaccio (Italy)

Worker’s co-ops are neither truly self-managed companies nor a commons. This an intermediary form which is rooted in private property even if it breaks some of the rules of capital: only co-op-members can vote and not all workers. At the same time, as it has been emphasised by several authors, worker’s co-ops need to find a market to survive, making these companies look similar to their capitalist competitors. For years, users’ co-operatives have been seen as a solution to this problem, but it seems like they are not what was hoped for. More recently, co-operatives with defined and differentiated categories (workers, users, investors etc.) have been set-up, but this does not seem to be the solution either. How can co-operatives be bypassed  in order to conceive new legal forms for the commons? How should the legal institution of property be transformed in order to move towards commoning? Which are the most appropriate institutional models and best practices for the commoning of public services?


3 pm – 4 pm

Guided tour of Officine Zero, about of the history of the place and the struggle for its defence and transformation.


4 pm – 7 pm

Towards an offensive strategy!

Introduction: Chantal Delmas (France)
Gianni Rinaldini (Italy), Anna Curcio (Italy), Birgit Deiber (Germany), Federico Tomasone, Benoit Borrits (France), Elisa Gigliarelli

Lately, workers’ takeovers of companies have always been taking place in a defensive mode: to save jobs. However, these recuperations show that working without bosses and shareholders is not utopian. More than that, workers’ co-ops are more resilient than other companies and, on average, have greater success. This points to an immediate, real possibility to bypass capitalism. Therefore, we should see these takeovers as a concrete means to get rid of capitalist companies. How do we move from this defensive mode to an offensive one to end capitalism?