Partido de los Trabajadores Socialistas

Buenos Aires
23 de julio de 2018

Revolutionary Days

22 Dec 2001   |   comentarios

On December 19 and 20, the Argentinean masses broken into political life in a way not seen for decades. Argentinean politics will never be the same; and the impact of the events will be felt around the world.

Those who - in an attempt to present the events as a kind of historic fate - explain the fall of the Radical party government by saying that "the Radicals have never completed their term of office anyway" either are not aware of what happened or are lying. In the past, governments have been overthrown by military coups - for example, those led by presidents Yrigoyen and Illia - but this is the first time in the history of the country that an elected government has been overthrown by the direct action of the masses, fighting against the police under conditions of a state of siege.

Unlike what happened in 1989 when Menem"s assumption as president had to be brought forward after riots against Alfonsin"s Radical government, the current situation makes things difficult for the Peronists, obliging them to settle their internal differences and choose a candidate for president. As has been pointed out by a US research centre, "Whoever wins will have to deal with both the impact of the default and of the devaluation, as well as with a violent popular response". For that reason, the crisis is not going to be solved by electoral manoeuvres on the part of the ruling class. The presidents that follow De la Rúa will be weak because they were not born out of the decision of those above but conditioned by the rebellion of those below.

There are those who say that the events were orchestrated from behind the scenes, but they don"t realise that history is being made on the streets and in broad daylight, away from the politicians" offices. Other, more conscious analysts, with a clear political intention, seek to separate "looters" and "violent activists" on the one hand from "the peaceful banging of pans by the middle class" on the other.

In reality, it was a process that involved all the oppressed and exploited sectors of society who were using different methods but had a common aim: the overthrow of the government of De la Rúa and Cavallo. With the introduction of the limit on the amount of money that savers can withdraw from their bank accounts and further attacks on pensions and salaries, a series of protests started: the banging of pans and the blockading of roads by small shopkeepers, the well-supported 24-hour general strike on December 13, and the demonstrations outside supermarkets in Mendoza, Entre Ríos and Quilmes. This discontent then took a leap forward and transformed December 19 and 20 into revolutionary days - an historic independent action of the Argentinean masses that will put its mark on the next period.

Bread and Work

On the morning of December 19, the most oppressed sectors of the working class and the masses entered the political arena. In the most-populated areas of Buenos Aires province and in 11 other provinces, contingents of unemployed people and their families marched to supermarkets in a desperate search for food. The closeness of Christmas and New Year was one of the factors that precipitated the revolts - a symptom of a situation in which five million unemployed and underemployed people have been left behind in this economic depression. The views of demonstrators showed a high level of political consciousness and they blamed the government of De la Rúa and Cavallo for their situation. The economic crisis lays bare the contradictions of the capitalist system itself: millions of people go hungry while supermarkets and warehouses are overflowing with food.

A necessary element of any revolutionary process emerged: the most impoverished layers of society. In 1989 there was an insidious bourgeois campaign against the threat of "louts" that generated a psychosis among the middle and lower middle class neighbourhoods on the outskirts of Buenos Aires city. Some people even armed themselves to defend the few things they had. The enormous concentration of capital that took place over the last decade did its job of smashing the small shopkeepers, and favouring the corporations, the big supermarket chains, the banking sector and those in control of the privatisations. But in doing this it also created a united enemy. Unlike in 1989, the overthrow of Cavallo and De la Rúa triggered the break-up of bourgeois legality, giving way to the revolutionary days. This time the most impoverished and desperate sectors of society took to the political stage together with the middle classes and the workers. As is revealed by hundreds of testimonies from the participants themselves: "no more hunger - bread and work" is the simple demand that must be resolved in the revolutionary process that has started.

"Get out, we don"t want any of you!"
The second great event took place after De la Rúa announced the state of siege with the aim of "safeguarding the peace", i.e., of frightening the middle classes and repressing the looters - at that time there had already been several deaths. After the announcement, a massive, spontaneous, mainly middle class demonstration took to the streets of the capital, the centre of political power. Challenging the state of emergency, hundred of thousands of demonstrators marched to the Plaza de Mayo. Bonfires were lit at the street corners, pans were banged together on the march and by people on their balconies, drivers sounded their horns. A real flood of people marched to the Plaza de Mayo, to Congress Square and even to Cavallo"s residence and the presidential country house in Olivos. The most frequently-heard slogans were "Stick the state of siege up your arse!" and "Get out, we don"t want any of you!".

The protest vote by the middle classes and the vote obtained by the left in the last elections was a sign of the discontent that was building up against the government. The "revolutionary overthrow" (that is, one that does not accord with the electoral calendar) of the government wouldn"t have been possible were it not for the fact that the majority of the institutions of the state were controlled by political opponents of Cavallo and De la Rúa. Cavallo had to resign that very morning. But the situation remained tense . Those who stayed on the streets and in the Plaza de Mayo until the next morning would be the bridge to the third event of these historic days.

The Battle of Plaza de Mayo

On Thursday December 20 the government was overthrown following the Battle of Plaza de Mayo. Early in the morning thousands of young workers, unemployed people, clerical workers and students confronted the police. The youth played a crucial role. The battle for the control of the square started just after 9am and lasted until midnight. Over and over again the demonstrators stood their ground as the police, using tear gas, horses, rubber bullets and sometimes live rounds, viciously attacked them with the aim of clearing the square. The social forces involved in the battle were not strong enough to defeat the police. Shamefully, the trade unions, the general confederations - CGT and CTA - and even the Pickets" Assembly of the FTV-CTA and the CCC (Corriente Clasista y Combativa) were not present. By boycotting the demonstration they prevented contingents of organised workers from participating in the struggle. They called off the 48-hour strike that had been announced and with the country in turmoil they refused to organise any kind of action. When the confederations led by Moyano and Daer eventually called a strike - for the following day - hundreds had already been arrested and several people had been killed. This made the heroic resistance of the youth all the more important - some of them joined the battle after leaving work or after having seen what was going on on TV. De la Rúa"s administration started with the death of two young people in Corrientes and finished with a bloodbath in which nearly 30 people died.

At nearly 7pm the resignation of De la Rúa and his escape in helicopter from the government palace terrace are the ending of the days with a political victory for the masses. The situation is as revolutionary as the leadership can allow it.

New Stage

These events didn"t come out of the blue. They were prepared by the steady resistance of the masses during practically the whole period of De la Rúa administration, and particularly by the general strikes - the 36-hour strike last November being the most important - and the uprisings in the cities of Mosconi and Tartagal.

The intervention of the working class developed as the internal differences in the ruling class grew more acute. Faced with the death agony of the peso-dollar parity, the two main sectors of the bourgeoisie could not solve the problems of the country. The banks and the owners of the privatised companies placed their bets on dollarising the economy, while the national manufacturing bourgeoisie were in favour of a devaluation of the peso. Argentina is the weakest link in the international capitalist crisis that now has entered a phase marked by the recession on the main imperialist country, the United States. The Financial Times newspaper says: "Frequently, when the finances of a country collapse, people say that they never saw it coming, that the events happened too quickly. That"s not the case with Argentina". This is a recognition that the movement of the masses came to the forefront before the capitalist class could resolve its internal disputes. Furthermore, the events of December 19 and 20 are the beginning of a new phase, with the masses leading an historic action, aware for the first time since the arrival of Videla"s dictatorship in 1976 of the strength of their actions. This will be a phase in which the contradiction between rulers who cannot carry on ruling as before and the ruled who cannot continue living as before will be more clear.

For the end of hunger, unemployment and agreements behind the backs of the people
Peronism has assumed power with the aim of stopping the masses" action and preventing an open triumph of the demands that brought down De la Rúa - bread, work and an end to this regime and its cast of politicians. The PTS, which was present at the Battle of Plaza de Mayo, called for no confidence in any new government arranged behind the backs of the workers by the same people who created the crisis in the first place. There is no doubt that in order to ingratiate itself with the masses the new government would carry out some popular measures with the aim of demobilising the social forces that are looking for a real change. But they are part of from the same mould as the rest of the capitalist politician, blood brothers of Cavallo and De la Rúa.

First, we have to obtain the release of the hundreds of people arrested - the prisons should be for the likes of De la Rúa, Mestre, Mathov and all the assassins responsible for the bloody repression. We also have to obtain the lifting of De la Rúa"s state of siege which the Peronists have reintroduced in Buenos Aires and in various provinces.

All workers - whether they are trade unionists or members of unemployed organisations - should fight for the seizure of the stocks of food in the supermarkets as a part of the struggle against hunger. In order to prevent control by the governors and mayors, the distribution of food should be organised and controlled by committees in the neighbourhoods and the pickets" organisations. This emergency measure should be directed towards the goal of nationalising the food distribution companies, and putting an end to hunger in Argentina.

The task is not to reduce unemployment by a few points at the expense of salaries but to incorporate the 5 million unemployed into production. This is possible only with the distribution of all working hours among the unemployed with a salary equal to the cost of living for an average family. Against the threat of devaluation, which will bring an increase of prices, we have to demand a sliding scale of salaries, a trigger clause in order to stop the drop in real income of more than 8 million families, as has been happening since the military dictatorship - either with devaluation or monetary stability. These demands should be linked to those demands that argue for workers" control and the nationalisation of any factory or workplace that goes into bankruptcy and sacks its workers.

All our efforts have to be aimed at the creation of new centralised bodies that bring together all the demands and ways of struggle. This was one of the limitations of the "revolutionary days". We should fight for regional and provincial assemblies and for a national assembly of employed and unemployed workers, with delegates elected in their neighbourhoods and in their workplaces. These working class bodies should then coordinate with students" organisations, small shopkeepers and poor farmers.

Over the next period, there is going to be a decisive battle for a real and profound change to answer the demands of millions: we either put up with this dictatorship of the bankers, the rich and the fat cats - that the Peronist Party will defend - or we fight to make the capitalists pay for the crisis, for the nationalisation of the banking system, for the non-payment of the external debt, and for the re-nationalisation of the privatised companies under workers" control. In short, there has to be a struggle for a workers" government that reorganises the country according to the necessities of the majority of the population.

Sovereign Constituent Assembly

Most people don"t see this perspective yet, although they have no confidence in the new provisional president, Rodríguez Saá, who is about to be voted in by a "Legislative Assembly" formed out of the Congress of bribe-taking senators and fat cat MPs. Nor will a Peronist government as a result of the elections in March 2002 bring a solution. Faced with the pacts carried out behind the backs of the people, we have to fight for a sovereign Constituent Assembly, so that the people can discuss democratically and in freedom the way out of the crisis. The assembly would have to combine legislative and executive powers, putting and end to the current division of powers, abolish the Supreme Court - that cast of corrupt judges - and organise the direct election of judges. The members of the Constituent Assembly should be elected by the direct vote of everyone aged16 or over without distinction to sex or nationality. Their mandate should be recallable in order to put an end to the "representatives of the people" who swindle their electors. The candidates for deputies to the Constituent Assembly could also be promoted through local assemblies, close to their city and town, to ensure that they know the needs of the local people and making them easier to control. During the term of their mandate they will receive a salary equivalent to that of an average teacher or worker, to put an end to rich politicians and to make government cheaper.

Even to open the road to this kind of democracy it is necessary to sweep away the current power with a general strike and with a great national uprising that finishes the task initiated during the revolutionary days of December 19 and 20.

December 22, 2001.
Partido de Trabajadores por el Socialismo

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