Salı, Ocak 27, 2015

Occupy, Resist and Produce: “Özgür Kazova” Textile Cooperative

When it comes to creating a humane economic activity based on equality and solidarity, there are no predefined rules. The workers' imagination and their will to struggle for a better world are the only limits.”

Precarity, occupation and Kazova

If we are trapped in the condition of an all-embracing capitalism, what can be done? Are there any possible escape routes?[1] Autonomy, occupation, self-management... these long-forgotten terms are back in Turkey since late 2012. There have been several factory occupations such as Kazova. The phenomenon of worker occupations continues to grow as the world falls deeper into the current recession. Nearly 20 new factories in Argentina were occupied since 2008.[2] From U.S. to France, workers occupied their workplaces against the subversive effects of the crisis of the ruling classes, and had some gains and defeats. [3]

Casas Cortés observes that some of the most creative collectives that are organized around precarity —such as the Assemblée de Jussieu and the French network AC!— have rejected a return to full employment and protectionist struggles for specific sectors in favor of a novel and alternative organization based on the idea that not all relationships should be monetized (gratuite) and the idea of the reappropriation of private goods and services (réappropriation). Experiments of a similar kind exist also in Spain, such as YoMango and Dinero Gratis, which symbolize the younger generations' reacting against nostalgia for loss and their preference for building on the current situation with a desire to create something completely new. Perhaps such an inspiring protest recently took place in Turkey, where workers at the Kazova textile factory took over the premises and the machinery left behind by the departing owners.[4]

Occupy and production without a boss

The story of a “production without a boss” model developed by a handful of people against savage capitalism —also in the heart of Istanbul started two years ago (in early 2013). Kazova Textile Factory, which manufactured products for European luxury brands, was abruptly closed by its owners in January 2013, leaving 94 workers without jobs or compensation. The bosses moved most of the machines and goods overnight. Kazova workers set up a tent in front of the factory and demanded their rights. [5] They also attended group protests on every Saturday, marching in downtown Istanbul with other workers who demand their deserved rights and wages. However, everything changes on May 1. Police broke up their demonstration with tear gas and water cannons.[6] Then the “Gezi incidents” started.

Aynur Aydemir: Since January 31, 2013 unemployed and hungry. Boasting of being close to the ruling party, our family opened severance pay by Somuncu and 4 month of Ramadan iftar tents in front of the door and we set our salary without notice.”[7]

The workplace occupations taking place in Turkey came with the period of the Gezi Resistance. The most successful occupation was carried out by the Kazova textile workers. [8] They were inspired by the spirit of Gezi. "Inspired by the Gezi protests, we had the courage to occupy our factory on 28 June. Without this experience, we would never have dared to stand up to the police," explains 56-year-old Dursun Ceylan, who worked in Kazova's textile warehouse for 13 years. [9]

Kazova workers decided to reopen the factory. They resumed production using the old machinery their bosses had left behind and the few raw materials they had overlooked when plundering the factory.The first batch of sweaters they produced under workers’ control was sent to the women and child prisoners who had written them letters of support during their struggle. The remaining sweaters were sold at the cafe of the Kolektif 26A in Taksim and at the numerous Gezi forums across the city, which had sprung up after Gezi Park had been evicted by the authorities in mid-June.[10] With the money they got, they repaired the old machinery they had seized through a court order for their due debts. The leftist segment, including artists and fellow journalists, showed enormous solidarity to the Kazova workers. After a while they moved the machinery to a place they rented, started production “without a boss” and opened their own store (RESISTKAZOVA- DIH SWEATER AND CULTUR) in January 2014.[11]

Bulent Unal: After the trip Resistance, forums wandering could collect donations. Everyone helps us. However, we chose to adopt a stance that puts forward our labor and our struggle. Before we complete the unfinished sweaters factory, we sell them in the forum. We tried to generate income ettirip repair machines with new ones. We manufacture to be less than the market. We know the markets we operate in this industry for many years. We started a few days before the large-scale production. We will establish a cooperative. We will be our own boss and earn ourselves we produce ourselves." [12]

Even if it was a small scale, they created an example of international solidarity. They manufactured the football shirts that were worn on 15 February 2014 by the Cuban Youth National football team playing against Basque national youth team: “This is important in two ways, firstly it has proved our friendship and solidarity with Cuba whilst surrounded by American forces. Secondly we have shown that whilst imperialism doesn’t recognize the national rights of Basque and whilst the Basque people are under invasion, we do recognize the Nation as a country.” [13]

We have prepared the jerseys, to be worn at the friendship match between the BASQUE Youth National Team and the Cuban Youth National team, which will be realized with the internationalist solidarity of Socialist Cuba in Havanna on February 15, 2014. And we´re sending them today (Sunday, February 10). Ahead of the jerseys, we also send sweaters, that we´d produced ourselves for the great leaders Fidel Castro and Raul Castro. We also forward a letter to them, to express our solidarity and deepest feelings for the Cuban people.”[14]

Kazova workers who launched an occupation protest and obtained their own factory machines after months of struggle have formed a cooperative[15] —a cooperative that they believe will set the stage for an equal society of workers without masters. They began producing jumpers/sweaters on the 17th November 2014. They aim to join the international freedom struggle to help all solidarist economy organizations and labour resistances. [16]

Özgür Kazova (Free Kazova) Textile Cooperative emerged as one of the most precious legacies from the 2013 May-June Taksim Gezi Park resistance and labour struggles. We started on the 27th February 2013 as an occupied factory and then turned into a cooperative – a cooperative that we believe will set the stage for an equal society of workers without masters. We began producing jumpers without masters on the 17th November 2014. Our aim is to join the international freedom struggle to help all solidarist economy organizations and labour resistances.

We too abide to the principles of International Cooperative Alliance (ICA):
1.                 Democratic self-management in-between members.
2.                 A structure based on open membership and voluntarism.
3.                 An economic model based on equal share.
4.                 Independent production based on self-management.
5.                 Permanent education, training and knowledge sharing.
6.                 Co-operation in-between cooperatives.
7.                   Solidarity with all social struggles.[17]

Profit is not our aim,” explains Nihat Özbey, “but rather the exchange of ideas, to create revolutionary solidarity contacts. If we succeed, it will be one of the first times in Turkey that workers have occupied their factory and successfully restarted production under workers’ control.” Whenever they open their new factory, their old colleagues — even those who did not participate in the resistance — will be welcomed back to join the cooperative, where all will enjoy equal pay and equal rights, according to Özbey.[18]

Challenge goes on

Can the occupation and self-management of factories constitute a viable solution in Europe, not only to growing unemployment and poverty, but also to the very exploitation and alienation that lie at the core of capitalist production? Antonio Gramsci once wrote that “hegemony is born in the factory.” Therefore, occupations of factories/workplaces, taking control of the means of production and widening of this strategy would be a very crucial step for a counter-hegemonic struggle, especially in an era when the trade unions are in crisis worldwide. The occupations are certainly not the only means of struggle for the workers. This would also be a challenge to the conformist trade unions.[19] When it comes to creating a humane economic activity based on equality and solidarity, there are no predefined rules. The workers' imagination and their will to struggle for a better world are the only limits.[20]  

Recommendations for Further Reading

Istanbul's Kazova textile co-operative
Fighting on alone
Kazova, a textile firm that began production in 1947 but went out of business in January 2013, is about to re-open as a workers' co-operative. The 11 men and women who want to relaunch Kazova following the conclusion of the legal proceedings relating to the closure of the factory have a motto: "production without a boss". They were inspired by the spirit of Gezi. By Ekrem Guzeldere

Wir brauchen keine Fabrikbesitzer!
Die Textilfirma Kazova, die seit 1947 produziert, im Januar 2013 aber ihren Betrieb eingestellt hatte, steht vor der Wiedereröffnung als Arbeiter-Kooperative. Produktion ohne Chef ist das Motto der 11 ArbeiterInnen, die nach Abschluss des Gerichtsverfahrens, Kazova wieder auferstehen lassen wollen. Der Geist von Gezi hat sie beflügelt. Von Ekrem Güzeldere.

Kazova: the Turkish factory under workers’ control

By Joris Leverink On May 29, 2014

Diren! Kazova: tour a sostegno della fabbrica tessile occupata autogestita di Istanbul

Creato: 15 Settembre 2014

    Özgür Kazova, lavorare senza padrone ad Istanbul

di Alioscia Castronovo
Ultima modifica il Venerdì, 23 Gennaio 2015 22:43
Una intervista agli operai della fabbrica recuperata Özgür Kazova, che si trova oggi di fronte ad un pesante attacco. Martedì 27 è infatti prevista la sentenza definitiva sul possesso dei macchinari, mentre già da lunedì sera è stato lanciato un presidio davanti alla fabbrica.