With the US economy in the toilet, unemployment steadily rising and comparisons to The Big D floating all around, keeping a firm hold of your cash is at the forefront of everyone’s minds. And that usually means making sure you keep a firm hold on your job-two hand choke around the neck style. This was also the case in Buenos Aires in 2001, when Argentina’s economy went belly up. The Take, screening this Wednesday at the Humanist Hall is, a documentary by director Avi Lewis and writer Naomi Klein that follows one group of auto parts workers who refused to accept the rampant plant closings.
In suburban Buenos Aires, 30 unemployed auto-parts workers walk into their idle factory, roll out sleeping mats, and refuse to leave. All they want is to re-start the silent machines. But this simple act — the take — has the power to turn the globalization debate on its head. In the wake of Argentina’s dramatic economic collapse in 2001, Latin America’s most prosperous middle class finds itself in a ghost town of abandoned factories and mass unemployment. The Forja auto plant lies dormant until its former employees take action. They’re part of a daring new movement of workers who are occupying bankrupt businesses and creating jobs in the ruins of the failed system.
But Freddy, the president of the new worker’s co-operative, and Lalo, the political powerhouse from the Movement of Recovered Companies, know that their success is far from secure. Like every workplace occupation, they have to run the gauntlet of courts, cops, and politicians who can either give their project legal protection or violently evict them from the factory. The story of the workers’ struggle is set against the dramatic backdrop of a crucial presidential election in Argentina, in which the architect of the economic collapse, Carlos Menem, is the front-runner. His cronies, the former owners, are circling: if he wins, they’ll take back the companies that the movement has worked so hard to revive. Armed only with slingshots and an abiding faith in shop-floor democracy, the workers face off against the bosses, bankers, and a whole system that sees their beloved factories as nothing more than scrap metal for sale.