Credit Seize

Though the story is attracting a fair amount of media attention, likely due in no small part to the president-elect's comments on the matter, if you have not heard:

Workers Occupy Chicago Factory

The factory was repossessed by the Bank of America, who is claiming that it is the company's responsibility to provide severance benefits. The owner's appear to have skedaddled, possibly to open up another factory in Iowa (see details of these clues in the Tribune article here).

According to the NYT article, the workers are keeping it fairly relaxed for now, keeping the factory clean, simply demanding their due severance and vacation pay. Sounds good. Hopefully, with the media attention they will actually win their benefits. It seems as if many politicians are ready to jump on this one as a high-profile opportunity to improve their worker-relations cred.

Mostly I am thrilled to see workers ready to embrace occupation as a means to obtain what is rightfully their own. The position of the BoA is nothing less than the fundamental problem with the American economic system: by quick transfers of debt and/or ownership responsibility is disavowed. I don't have a problem with derivatives and other debt-related instruments on principle; it is the manner in which they are easily allowed to be cut off from the market dynamics that makes them dangerous. Risk and liability are part of debt--these capitalists think that they can avoid both simply in selling the debt or transforming it into a new form. This is the crisis of capitalism itself--way back to Marx. It's reverse surplus value: it's surplus risk. In the same way that value can be accumulated through manipulating production conditions, they are manipulating the negative of value, debt, by fixing the financing conditions.

Back in the day, workers would occupy their factories to get more value from the surplus value quotient. Now, they are trying to get it from a different source: the bank itself. That's more difficult, because the bank doesn't need the factory to run as much as the owners do. How to you seize a means of production with no physical state?

UPDATE: Apparently, in Argentina this has been going on for some time, but for real.

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