Workers’ perceptions on self-management: a case study on the recuperated factory, Vio.Me.

In this presentation, I will outline the findings of my field research in Greece (May-August 2016), which focused on the case of Vio.Me, a recuperated factory in the outskirts of Thessaloniki. During this fieldwork, the aim was to gather data that captured my participants’ experiences with worker self-management and to better understand the changes that have occurred in workers’ subjectivities and their perceptions of work and community. In the context of the economic crisis, and the widespread closure of small and medium-sized enterprises across Greece, the workers’ union of Vio.Me collectively decided to take over their factory and restart production under workers’ control when the former owners filed for bankruptcy and abandoned the factory in May 2011. This was an initial defensive reaction by workers against the real prospect of unemployment and poverty which has reached unprecedented levels in the post-‘troika’ period (2010-present) in Greece. However, I will argue that the workers’ motivations in self-managing their workplace has taken on characteristics of an offensive struggle that is experimenting with alternative forms of labour organization and economic activity that challenge dominant perspectives on work and the nexus of production-distribution-consumption essential to the reproduction of the capitalist economy. I have found that through the recuperation and self-management of their workplace, the workers of Vio.Me have come to understand the labour process and the space of the factory as a self-managed ‘commons’. Through direct democratic workers’ control, the workers of Vio.Me have created a more horizontal labour process and egalitarian workplace relations that challenge the hierarchal division of labour and private property ownership characteristic of conventional capitalist enterprises. The workers of Vio.Me have also opened the factory to the wider community in a number of ways that suggest that the factory provides more than just its production but rather, it is a space of social solidarity.