Abstract: The Case of LIP in Besancon, France: From industrial Work-In to a Set of Worker Cooperatives

Jens Beckmann


When the workers of the watchmaking factory LIP in Besancon, France, went on strike to save their jobs in 1973, they took to unusual means: They occupied their plant and they ''illegally'' produced and sold watches on their own accord. In the end, they successfully forced shareholders and the state to rescue the business. In 1976, following another bankruptcy, the workers almost naturally took recourse to their previous experiences. Several industrial co-operatives were founded from 1977 onward, which pursued various—in part contradictory—goals: they situated the economic task of earning a living in a wider political and cultural context of social politics in the Besancon neighborhood of Palente. Did these cooperatives form a part, however fragile, of a new business culture that had grown out of the workers' contesting of the conventional management practices over the years of struggle? What were its characteristics and how was it influenced by the wider context of political discussions about ''autogestion''—worker self-management—in France during the post-1968 years? Is the story of LIP to be interpreted as a success story or a failure in terms of the original motives of the workers?