The Days of December open up a new revolutionary stage.
11 Jan 2002
Por: Prensa PTS
On December 19 and 20, the world media showed thousands of Argentine workers, unemployed, youths along with the urban poor and the middle class revolting against the government of Fernando De la Rúa, winning the sympathy of millions the world over. It was the end of one of the most pro-imperialist governments ever in the country, and the beginning of a new revolutionary stage of the class struggle in Argentina, one that bears the mark of a mass upsurge now shattering the political scene.
1. The government"s attack unleashes the anger of the workers, the middle classes and the poor.
Above 20% of the Argentine population is unemployed -2,5 million jobless and a similar amount of "underemployed"-, while those living below the poverty line stand at 14 million people. The foreign debt stands around 150 billion dollars. The economic, social and political crisis gripping Argentina bears testimony to the havoc wreaked by the implementation of the "Washington consensus" agenda. The mass revolt against it is a massive political blow delivered to the policies sponsored by the IMF and other imperialist agencies. During the revolutionary days of December 19 and 20, 2001, the Argentine masses staged a historically independent action that tipped the balance of forces in their favour, one that -never mind the shifts in the political situation- will only be reversed by means of a violent backlash These actions came up against both a beleaguered government and a seriously weakened régime in the wake of a four year-long recession and vicious assaults against the workers and the people, all these amid growing rifts in the ruling class. Argentina plunged into recession under the impact of the 1997 South East Asian slump in the region. This, in turn, brought about growing divisions between two opposing capitalist factions. Both had pocketed juicy earnings during the heyday of Menem"s anti-labour and pro-IMFgovernment. The bourgeois fight revolved around the way out of the crisis-ridden "convertibility" currency board. Both sectors agreed that it was the workers and the popular sectors the ones to pay for the ever-deepening crisis, with the fat cats of the banks and the privatized utilities (in the hands of mostly Spanish imperialist capital) advocating a full dollarisation of the economy. On the other hand, the export-oriented bosses along with and the remnants of the beleaguered "national bourgeoisie" pushed for a peso devaluation. This solution was eventually advocated by the IMF. The government of De la Rúa, particularly since Cavallo became economy minister in March 2001, tried to act as an arbiter between these two opposing factions while maintaining the currency board. But all the measures ended up in a fiasco, amid an increasing wave of popular protests. All this while the imperialist media announced an avoidable default on the foreign debt. The IMF, after handing out a number of bail-outs to the De la Rúa"s government, finally refused to release a loan worth 1,2 billion dollars, just when the government most badly needed it to reschedule the debt.
A renewed onslaught by the government was to spark off the popular uprising. Under pressure of the flight of deposits from the banks, the government brought in tight limits on the amount of the withdrawals (the so-called "corralito"), including the savings, pensions and the wages. This measure, in itself a bail-out of the banking system, provoked a dramatic fall of consumption, hitting hard trade and the grey economy, thus deepening the recession and aggravating the hardships of the middle class and the destitute.
All layers in society were infuriated by the hunger government: after widespread protests by the small shopkeepers came an overwhelming and massive general strike on December 13 (one of the most massive ever against the government of De la Rúa), counting on the strong sympathy of the middle classes that had staged the first pot banging in Buenos Aires and the most important cities the night before. Other workers"s protests took place in provinces like Córdoba and Neuquén, while the urban poor started the first lootings in the supermarkets.
2. The revolutionary days of December 19 and 20.
The protest against the government"s attack escalated on December 19, the first of the three episodes of the revolutionary days that finally ousted the government of Fernando De la Rúa. On that very day, thousands of starving people looted the big supermarkets across the country, especially in the densely-populated areas of the Greater Buenos Aires. At the same time, the police heavily cracked down on the demonstrations by municipal workers in Córdoba and also the civil servants in La Plata, capital of the province of Buenos Aires, the latter headed by the workers of the shipyard Río Santiago and the cross-union coalition.
The forthcoming Christmas and New Year"s Eve celebrations fuelled the revolts of the urban poor, an emergence of the five million unemployed and underemployed. This situation exposed the contradictions of the capitalist system in the open: millions with no food to give to their children while the warehouses and supermakets are stuffed with food. The emergence of the poorest layers in society set in motion a decisive and indispensable element of every revolutionary process. In stark contrast with the lootings that signalled the end of Alfonsín"s government back in 1989 fuelled by a sky-rocketing inflation, this time it was not a clash between the impoverished layers themselves. There was a vicious bourgeois campaign against the threat of the "vandals" that cranked up fear in the middle class and poorer layers in popular neighborhoods of the Greater Buenos Aires. The lootings were mainly aimed against the hypermarkets, which have earned themselves the wrath of the people since they are seen as part of a ruling oligarchy next to the banks and the privatized utilities. These actions paved the way for ousting Cavallo and De la Rúa, signalling an inchoate break with bourgeois legality. Most "looters" blamed the government for their plight -an inequivocal sign of the political nature of their actions.
The response of De la Rúa was to impose a siege and blame the "provocateurs" and political activists for the lootings, trying to play the middle classes against the urban poor that revolted against hunger. But the government"s manoeuvre backfired. Instead of rallying the support of the middle classes for a crack-down, these took massively to the streets in opposition to the government -an clear indication of the revolutionary nature of the situation. The attitude of the president met with widespread rejection and ushered in the second episode of the revolutionary developments. Just minutes after the broadcast of De la Rúa decreeing the siege had finished late in the night, hundred of thousands of demonstrators in Buenos Aires spontaneously began a new and impressive pot banging (which also took place in other cities of the country), heading towards Plaza de Mayo and the Congress, chanting against Cavallo and the siege.
A mass concentration took over Plaza de Mayo for some hours, right in front of the governmental palace and the Ministry of Economy. A few blocks away from there, the demonstrators clashed with the police in around Congress. All these actions brought down Cavallo, the hated minister of economy.
The special edition of the PTS" paper La Verdad Obrera, distributed massively the following day in the new protests, described the events as follows: "There was a popular outcry, unseen since the downfall of the military dictatorship: get out now! They just can"t stay in office by imposing the siege...The main cities of the country witnessed spontaneous pot bangings, with drivers tooting their horns and mass rallies in the heart of political power -the city of Buenos Aires. Tens of thousands rallied in front of the Congress, the governmental palace in Plaza de Mayo and even outside Cavallo"s household and the presidential residence in Olivos... there is a widespread upheaval of the exploited and the oppressed. The official leaders lost control of the movement."
On Thursday 20, the third episode of the revolutionary days took place: the so-called "battle of Plaza de Mayo". Trying to prevent demonstrators from taking over the square, the police mounted a heavy repression (with armored cars, helicopters, mounted police and infantry, tear gas, rubber bullets and even live ammunition). The eviction began with a vicious assault on the demonstrators that had stayed overnight in the square and also the men, women and the youth that had began to rally again since early morning.
A fighting vanguard stood out of these clashes, made up of young people in the main and the "motoqueros" [young messengers on motorcycle], young workers from of the industrial belt of the Greater Buenos Aires, along with unemployed, students, left militants and also clerks and bank employees who, in an attempt at taking back the square clashed with the police the whole day, hurling stones at them, with sticks and everything at hand, conquering and losing positions in the streets and building some barricades in a kind of urban "guerrilla warfare".
3. A decisive action in the making.
In the afternoon, after several youths had been murdered by the police, De la Rúa resigned and fled the governmental palace in a helicopter, after an eleventh-hour attempt at a government of national unity with the Peronists failed. The downfall of De la Rúa -who had taken office back in 1999 as a candidate of the Alliance (a coalition made up of the Radical Party and the centre-left FrePaSo) with a strong support of the middle class-, was a true political victory for the masses.
His resignation sought to defuse the fourth episode in the making: a general strike led by the working class that might grow into a semi-insurrection. The different fractions of the union bureaucracy, both the official CGT and the CTA, were absent in the mobilization as well as the leaders of the Asamblea Piquetera and sought to prevent the labour movement from coming into the fray, were forced to call for a general strike starting on December 21. But they were just trailing behind the events: both the workers and the people demanded the fight be continued until the government was ousted and the repression stopped. Likewise, different factories saw walk-outs on December 20 and 21, and the transport was ground to a halt. The resignation of De la Rúa prevented such perspective from coming to life. Once De la Rúa was out, regardless of the fact that the siege remained in place and hundred of political prisoners remained in jail, they called off the scheduled strike. As soon as the new Peronist government took office, they rushed to give a warm welcome to it.
4. The revolutionary days: their origins
In spite of their convulsive and unforeseen nature -surpassing even the leaders of the mass movement- December 19 and 20 were not a flash in the pan. They represent a peak in the protracted wave of workers" and popular protest fighting back the government of De la Rúa for two years. It was also a re-run of the class struggle upswing during Menem"s second term, which had been defused by playing on the expectations of change embodied in the Alliance.
One of the most outstanding aspects of such wave of struggles was the emergence of a widespread and progressive movement of the unemployed on a national scale (the picketers). After its initial steps in the 1996-97 uprisings, it went on to stage great uprisings in the province of Salta, spreading later to the Greater Buenos Aires and becoming part of the Asamblea Piquetera. Although the latter is headed by conciliatory leaders, it was a milestone in the development of an independent organization of the working class. Bureaucratic leaders such as Moyano were booed down from the platform by the picketers in the First Assembly. The Second Assembly voted the convening of a joint assembly of workers and the jobless, with a delegate every each twenty people. However, its leaders -members of the FTV-CTA and the CCC (with the acquiescence of the Polo Obrero, a Partido Obrero-led grassroot organisation)- prevented such mandate from being carried into practice. But the unemployed were not alone. The labour movement paralyzed the country in eight general strikes, and some sectors of the working class waged great fights (such as Aerolíneas Argentinas) which became true national causes. We also witnessed hard fights in some factories, such as that of the ceramic workers of Neuquén led by a democratic and fighting organization, the Union of Workers and Ceramists of Neuquén (SOECN), or else that of the miners in Río Turbio.
The events of December are also the peak of a wider process in the development of a new subjectivity among the Argentine workers. Such development goes back to late 1993, and has proceeded through advances and setbacks, in the provincial uprisings in the province of Santiago del Estero ("Santiagueñazo"), the town of Cutral-Có ("Cutralcazo") and other actions of popular resistance in which the masses have flexed their muscles, fighting back the onslaught unleashed by the government and the bosses. The revolutionary Marxists in the Fracción Trotskista-Estrategia Internacional hail this historical action of the Argentine masses, with their fighting methods and demands that represent a quantum leap in their subjectivity.
5. The revolutionary days: their limits.
We argue the events of December 19 and 20 were revolutionary days, because they were mass actions that went beyond the narrow framework of bourgeois legality. By resorting to street mobilizations and clashes with the repressive forces, by radicalising their fighting methods, the masses fought back the government, the régime and its institutions, kicking out the government through a nation-wide mobilization initiated in the political and economic heart of the country -against the will of all the reformist and bourgeois leaderships.
However, such events did not grow into a fully-fledged insurrection or semi-insurrection. The events of December were a far cry from the Russian February Revolution of 1917 -which defeated the army and ushered in a period of dual power, with workers" councils or soviets. It was also far behind the 1969 insurrection in the province of Córdoba (Cordobazo). The working class (including the unemployed) and its organizations were absent from the Battle of Plaza de Mayo -although the workers did participate in casual groups. This was decisive, for in spite of the heroism and the self-sacrifice of the thousands of street fighters the police forces could not be defeated -in stark contrast with the May 1969 events, when the joint action of thousands of workers and students chased away the police.
The events of December 19 and 20 have opened up a new, revolutionary stage of the class struggle in Argentina. This means that we will see heightened clashes between the classes in the period ahead. We will witness mass victories, defeats and partial victories, in the face of the different reactionary responses the bourgeoisie and imperialism are already pursuing in order not to lose their class rule. The final outcome will depend on whether the labour movement is able to give a lead to the mobilization and to point to a progressive solution, alternative to those of the bourgeoisie that will only bring more hunger and misery for the society.
6. Rodríguez Saá"s interim government.
Adolfo Rodríguez Saá"s ephemeral government after De la Rúa"s demise was the first attempt at defusing the mobilization of the masses. The Parliament appointed him for an interim administration until new elections to be held within sixty days. These would be carried out under a multiple-candidate-ticket system in order to settle the heated Peronist caucus. As soon as he took office, Rodríguez Saá questioned the agreement with the Peronist governors by means of which he had taken over. He resorted to a feverish demagoguery to gain support for his mandate. He promised to create a million jobs and resorted to a populist rhetoric -with overtones of old-seasoned Peronism-, all these designed to hold down the mobilization and to prop up the beleaguered political régime. Almost immediately, the union bureaucracy of the two CGTs (both the "opposition" and the "official" one), headed by Hugo Moyano and Rodolfo Daer, rushed to proclaim that the labour movement would cooperate with the new government all along the way. On the other hand, Luis D"Elia (member of the CTA) and Juan Carlos Alderete (CCC), both of them leaders of the Asamblea Piquetera went on the record to express their willingness to cooperate with it, in a move that was tailed by the Partido Obrero by participating of a meeting with the new government. The military were also told by Rodríguez Saá that they would be granted the control over thousands of job schemes.
Far from bringing the slightest amelioration of the grief of the people, the announced measures just sought to prop up an extremely weak government, which under the close watch of the masses and pressed by imperialism, was hanging by a thread, lacking the solid support of any class in society. This government lasted for one week alone, and presided over ongoing and growing rifts between the rival bourgeois fractions -the "export-oriented" sector on one hand, the "finance" and the privatized companies lobby on the other. The dispute revolved around which solution to the crisis, after the suspension of the foreign debt payments was announced. Of course, such move did not mean any break with imperialism at all, and was a fait accompli taken in by all the imperialist heartlands. The announced creation of a "third currency" was nothing but than a failed attempt at getting around the stand-off concerning the way out of the currency board (convertibility), while worthless notes were issued to pay for the wages and pensions. The new president also came up against a strong opposition within his own party, unhappy with the likely call-off of the March elections, writing off the mandate of the Parliament. Last but not least, the "establishment" also began to criticize the government for its populist rhetoric.
A new mass action against the government took place, which represented nothing but the continuation of misery and repression for the masses. Thousands took to the streets and staged a massive pot banging on Friday 28, December in Plaza de Mayo, chanting "get out, we don"t want any of you", demanding the resignation of Carlos Grosso (former official of Menem accused of corruption) and also chanting against the union bureaucracy, the Supreme Court of Justice, the bourgeois parties, Carlos Menem and Rodríguez Saá. This protest got right to the doorstep of the Presidential Palace and it the police heavily cracked down on it. Other demonstrators went then to the National Congress.
This action, although not as massive as those of December 19-20, was key in the fact that it was aimed against the new Peronist government trying to strike an "alternative" pose to De la Rúa"s, just within five days of its inauguration. The outcome was the resignation of the entire cabinet first, and on Saturday 29, Adolfo Rodríguez Saá"s own resignation. A second government was gone in just one week, due to a combination of mass actions, on the left, and the Peronist caucus and the pressure of the establishment, on the right.
8. The government of Duhalde: a renewed swindle against the masses.
Faced with this situation, the Peronist Party, the Radical Party and the remnants of the centre-left FrePaSo, counting on the go-ahead of the Bush administration (which rushed to help a client régime as Clinton did in Mexico in 1994) and heavily leaning on the so-called "productive sector" of the local bourgeoisie (headed by the Unión Industrial Argentina), stitched up a true pact against the masses. This was imposed through an almost unanimous voting in a new session of the Parliament that appointed Eduardo Duhalde -hitherto Peronist senator and former governor of the province of Buenos Aires- as new president up to 2003, as the head of a government of "national salvation."
The new president incorporated Radical Party and FrePaSo leaders into the cabinet, while Carlos Ruckauf, one of the main Peronist figures (and likely candidate for the presidency) -and current governor of the province of Buenos Aires- became Foreign Affairs minister. This move highlights the concern of all the parties of the establishment and imperialism to reestablish what they call "governability" and "social peace" for the needs of the bourgeoisie.
The new government speaks of need the bourgeoisie has of relying on an invigorated government, stronger than that of Rodríguez Saá, to act as bulwark against and hit out the mass movement. It is intended to act as an arbiter to buttress the more and more violent clashes between the classes. But it remains a weak arbiter that will, at most, be able to postpone those decisive clashes for a while. Its weakness stems from several factors. First and foremost, like the ephemeral interim period of Rodríguez Saá, is just a jerry-built device hastily set up by those on top, conditioned by the rebellion and the action coming from below. Second, it did come out of the popular vote but was rather the brainchild of behind-the-scenes negotiations engineered by those discredited figures of the old régime still in Parliament. Third, it relies mainly on the Peronist apparatus of the Province of Buenos Aires, and the in-fighting of the Peronist governors is far from over. Fourthly, it is inherently weak because it seeks reliance in a faction of the capitalist class which amounts to the mortal remains of the national bourgeoisie. At the top, it is heavily associated with international capital (e.g., Techint), or are else crisis-ridden branches of multinational corporations, while its lower strata are on the verge of bankruptcy. Last, but not least, the country is mired in a colossal slump -which will fuel further developments. Argentina is now bankrupt. This undermines the attempts of the government at stabilization, and the likelihood exists that the crisis will devour the government in next few months. The deep-going slump is fuelling the tension between the classes. While there is a hard dispute between the various bourgeois sectors, the continued freezing of the savings of the middle classes -a measure seeking to salvage the banks and also intended to prevent a price hike by restraining currency liquidity to the extreme, thus keeping the economy in recession- drives them to take renewed action, as expressed in the new pot banging and 20,000 people-strong protest to Plaza de Mayo in the night of January 10. In the latter, there was increased participation of the well-off layers of the middle class than in previous actions. The wage-earners, on the other hand, are bearing the full brunt of the devaluation. All these will result in renewed mass actions -with different tempos and scope.
9. The slump and the plan to salvage the so-called "productive" bosses.
This government, branded of "national salvation", aims in fact at salvaging the big and medium-sized local capitalists, including bankers like Escasany and corporations like those of Macri, Exxel, Acindar or Techint. In one way or another, they are trying to bail them out from bankruptcy by renegotiating their debts and a new cycle of State borrowing. This has been codified in the article sixth of the new Economic Emergency Act empowering the government to resort to some kind of compensation or another similar mechanism by means of which the state would pay for the difference between pesos and dollars of the corporate debt. The devaluation is in turn a great lever for debt reduction, especially for the exporters, who are having their costs in dollars reduced while they get 1,40 pesos per each dollar of their exported goods. Back in 1982, we already witnessed such solution when Cavallo nationalized the corporate debt, thus loading the state with a debt worth 20 billion dollars, while depreciating the corporate debt by means of a steady peso devaluation.
The fat cats within the so-called "Productive Sector" benefited, in alliance with foreign monopolies, from the privatizations in the 90s. They depend on finance capital and act as minor associates of the monopolies. This is shown in the decision of salvaging the banks by keeping the padlock on the savings of the middle classes (the so-called "corralito"), and the funds that will be earmarked for the finance lobby coming from taxes the oil companies must pay in advance (thus writing off the initial proposal of a windfall tax on oil exports for five years). The measure of banning the privatized utilities from hiking the tariffs is something that the masses would not have put up with anyway. The struggle for the national carrier workers already exposed the imperialist plunder perpetrated by Iberia, and Duhalde is aware that an increase in the public services proportional to the dollar would turn companies like Telecom or Repsol in the main target of the protest, thus giving it a clearly anti-imperialist and anti-capitalist thrust -which he tries to avoid.
But Duhalde"s plan falls short of meeting the desires of Yankee imperialism. That is why, after Bush issued the first statements in support given his fear of a governmental breakdown, he went on to declare that the IMF will not help Argentina with new funds with no strings attached. The USA itself is likely to pull the plug if these funds are used for bailing out the banks -as Duhalde is now intent upon doing. While the Spanish imperialists raise hue and cry because they bit the bullet with the devaluation supported by both the IMF and the US Department of State, the USA wants the crisis "to wipe the slate clean", i.e., those banks and companies in an untenable position should be let go bankrupt, including those in the hands of Spanish capital. In this way, they stand a chance to take over them for knockdown prices, hand in hand with drastic fiscal cutbacks. Hence their insistence in that a floating exchange rate be introduced, which would surely trigger off a skyrocketing inflation and the crash of most of the corporations Duhalde is trying to bail out. The "standoff" portrayed by Duhalde and the media as a "great national cause" with a weaker Spanish imperialism is not the main issue at stake -although it will finish overnight and will nourish further upheavals. The main struggle is with the great paymaster, US imperialism, and it will pervade the conditions for re-negotiating the foreign debt with the IMF in the next weeks.
Although the new Minister of Economy, Remes Lenicov, given his record and his deeds, is most likely to pay obedience to Washington, the greediness of an insatiable imperialism on one hand, and the masses strengthened by the revolutionary days on the other will make the stabilization of Duhalde"s government hard to come by.
In the short term, as we point out, the deep-rooted nature of the crisis and ongoing assault on the middle classes and the wage-earners, all speak of renewed actions. But the new government has inaugurated a new political scenario, different to that of Rodríguez Saá, in which pot banging will not be enough to bring down the government. And the social classes now in motion are quite aware of this. To defeat Duhalde"s government superior actions are needed.
Hand in hand with Duhalde, the core of the Peronist apparatus has taken over, that of the province of Buenos Aires, still relying on a base in some layers of the popular masses and the workers. No matter how crisis-ridden it is, the Peronist Party, positioned itself in the wake of its victory in the legislative elections of October 14 to act as a bulwark against a revolutionary situation that was then in the making and has now burst into the open. Duhalde himself has admitted this: while claiming he will go for "a new alliance with the productive community", he says he is "a transitional president" to finish off "the chaos and the anarchy". This means he exploits the mass hatred towards big capital represented by the privatized utilities and finance capital on one hand, and he will try to hold down the labor and youth"s vanguard by resorting to deceit, division, but also repression, on the other.
From a strategic perspective, the revolutionary situation has sped up the march of events so much that the masses have started to make an experience with the bourgeois "productive sector", which has criticized "neoliberalism" by word of mouth. It is also an experience with the Peronist party in power, which has kept the working class within the framework of the bourgeois régime for decades. That is why the MPs of the old ruling régime said "this is out last chance."
But no one can predict how long this chance will last. Above all, this will depend on how the working class will respond to the attacks ahead, beginning with the massive wage cut brought about by the devaluation. The government once again can count on the official leaders of the labour movement that have manifested their support for Duhalde. CGT leader Moyano shamefully called Duhalde "a brave man."
Instability has come to stay, regardless of the tempo of developments, and new actions by the working class and the people are still to come. As we have already pointed out, the bourgeoisie has not yet settled down the dispute around the way out of the current economic crisis. Furthermore, the bourgeois democratic régime is undergoing an unprecedented loss of legitimacy (for the first time ever in Argentine history, the masses ousted a democratically-elected government) and there are no veritable political alternatives in sight -Rodríguez Saá"s government being a paramount example of this.
That is why the next period ahead will surely witness new revolutionary actions by the exploited and the oppressed. A key factor in the forthcoming events in this new stage of the class struggle will be the ability of the Argentine labour movement to get rid of its bureaucratic leaders. It must take a leaf out of Neuquén"s ceramists" book, which have been waging a three month-long struggle against redundancies at the Zanón mills. The workers there resorted to a factory occupation, sought unity with the unemployed, the students and the townsfolk, demanding the plant should be taken over by the provincial government under control of its workers.
The parties of the régime are completely discredited in Argentina -a fact already highlighted by the legislative elections of last October. The mass repudiation of these parties led to the growth of blank and void votes, and also the abstentions (the so-called "rage vote"). This also led to an unprecedented increase in the turnover for the left, which obtained a million votes, distributed as follows: Izquierda Unida, 574.923; Partido Obrero, 241.386; Autodeterminación y Libertad (led by former MAS MP Luis Zamora) 132.982; and the PTS 105.354.
The political left has won and enhanced influence in the political life of the nation, expressing at the same time the left-ward shift of wide fringes of workers and the youth and the bankruptcy of the old centre-left that stood in opposition to the bipartisan régime. At the beginning of the revolutionary process, millions are now placing their hopes in well-known figures such as the deputy Luis Zamora, but have not yet looked in the direction of the revolutionary left -a pattern that has been typical of many revolutionary developments in the past. However, the class struggle and political radicalisation will be heightened to the utmost in the next period ahead, opening big opportunities for principled revolutionary Marxists.
We are aware that such process will not be an easy one, or else come through overnight: in spite of the break-throughs made by the Argentine working class in shaping its new subjectivity, the perspective of social revolution is by and large absent from the horizon of the mass movement -in stark contrast with the revolutionary struggles back in the 70s. This is far from being a national phenomenon alone. Although "neoliberalism" is clearly in decline, the masses still sense there is no likely alternative to capitalism. The necessity to push ahead with the expropriation of the capitalists, socialist revolution and of advancing towards socialism are not yet regarded as a practical solution by the overwhelming majority that brought down two governments in a row with their actions. Such drawback plays in the hands of the ruling classes and they are set to use it to make up for the far more weakened position of all reformist and bureaucratic misleaderships -contrariwise to the 70s.
11. The key task of the moment boils down to setting up national, regional, provincial and local Assemblies of workers and the unemployed, encompassing also the youth and the poor.
Right now, each labour struggle should be supported wholeheartedly, linking it up to the popular demands and those raised by the middle class demanding their deposits be given back and the removal of the Supreme Court. On top of them comes the fight against high cost of living. An active, revolutionary general strike is on top of the agenda, building a great alliance of the workers with the people against the whole bourgeois régime. Such a mass action -one cleansing Argentina of the scum of the old régime- shall come in to complete pending tasks of the days of December. Thus, the time will come for a truly democratic institution based on the power of a mobilized people, i.e. a Revolutionary Constituent Assembly standing on the ruins of the rotten régime now in death agony -one that shall not come out of behind-the-scenes manoeuvres by rich and corrupt politicians.
The fight for these demands and the setting up of direct democracy mass organs, will enable revolutionaries to further the ongoing radicalisation, so that more and more people embrace a clearly anti-capitalist and revolutionary programme, while fighting for a popular and working class government in the road to socialism.
The new government is now busy trying to play the different sectors of the mass movement one against the other. Undoing such "divide-and-rule" trickery requires the coming together of the various layers of the population now in the streets harmonizing the different forms of struggle: pot banging, road blockades, demonstrations, pickets, strikes and factory occupations. United front organizations are needed to overcome the barriers of the unions and demands. These should incorporate already existing organizations, such as movements of picketers or else unions. Assemblies, or coordinating bodies must be created in every neighborhood, region or province -in line with those that sprung up in 1975 against the wild austerity drive launched by Isabel Peron"s government. We should demand the convening of a National Assembly, the main actors of it being the workers and the unemployed, since they are the majority, the only class that can give a solution for all the exploited layers, the oppressed and those weary of this regime. A true national congress at which the struggling masses are directly represented by delegates voted for in the neighbourhoods and the workplaces. Every single partial fight waged by workers or the people must be supported. In every neighbourhood, province or region such mass united front fighting bodies based on direct democracy must be organized and then coordinated nationwide -this task being the most important one for the victory of the process initiated in Argentina. Those fighting unions, the picketers" movements, the youth, the students" unions and the left parties must all come together in pursue of such key goal.
12. An emergency working class programme
The Argentine crisis pointed to the need for a programme to further the mobilization and the unity of all the oppressed and the exploited -one that should start from the just aspirations of the Argentine masses. This can only be achieved on condition that the workers give the lead to the ongoing struggle against this regime serving the vested interests of the bankers, the bosses, the landlords and multinational corporations. As we are already seeing, the "solutions" provided by the bourgeoisie will only mean the toilers are to bear the full brunt of the crisis. In those mass united front bodies now coming to life should, we should raise an emergency working class and people"s programme to make the bankers, the sharks of the privatized utilities and the exploiters -both native and foreign- pay for the crisis.
The scheme launched by the new government has brought in a peso devaluation and subsequent inflation, thus eating into labour wages and the purchasing power of the whole population due to the high costs of living. Hence, a new set of measures must be imposed to prevent them from getting away with a new looting of the people. The only way of getting jobs for all is to go for the distribution of the working hours between the employed workers and the jobless, with a salary worth the shopping basket, to make the bosses pay for the crisis they themselves created. Meanwhile, in the face of a devaluation now eating away real wages, a inflation-adjusted sliding wage scale must be fought for. The bosses will try blackmailing us -by demanding their conditions be accepted or else put up with sackings, to which we should respond by demanding that every single factory about to close or else sack workers must be put to work under control of its workers.
Thus, fighting back a wage cut and unemployment altogether demands raising sliding wage scale and the distribution of the working hours in the first place.
In the meantime, there is growing speculation with basic food staples and medicines. We should demand all the goods hoarded by the big capitalists must be confiscated. If the government manages to control the inflation, the likelihood exist that it will impose price-caps on some basic food staples. But this, under the continued existence of the capitalist regime, can only be a hoodwink of the workers and consumers. Back in 1974, during Isabel Peron"s government, a price control was introduced, but it was systematically undermined by the big bosses who brought about a scarcity of basic products such as flour and sugar, nourishing a black market to which only the well-off layers could have access to.
A genuine price control will only be implemented by those workers in the enterprises setting the prices by demanding their books be opened and scrutinized by the entire people. Hand in hand with this must come the creation of people"s committees for the surveillance of prices in the neighbourhoods. Such task could be implemented along with the small shopkeepers who are also victims of the price-formation capitalists. In the face of eventual swindles played on the hoarding and scarcity of basic food staples, we have to fight for the confiscation of the goods of every big food-making company, distributor or else hypermarkets speculating on the hunger of the people. The food must be distributed by the struggle committees, shop stewards committees o shopfloor organization in those enterprises working together with neighbourhood bodies and the unemployed movement. If they refuse to hand over the hoarded products, an immediate expropriation should be the response, without any compensation whatsoever for those big capitalists who made their fortunes by squeezing the workers for years and years and we only able to give back poverty and destitution. In the face of the speculation on the life and death of the people by the non-provision of medicines of basic medicines we should demand the expropriation of the big laboratories, the manufacture by the state of the basic drugs and the creation of a national pool of medicines to be handed over at reasonable prices for the workers and the people, whereas the unemployed should be given them for free.
Nowadays, everybody knows that the money deposited in the banks by the workers, the pensioners and the savers has been stolen. We know it is not there, because the bankers stashed it away abroad and used it to make business with the privatized utilities, such as telecommunications giant Teléfonica and oil giant Repsol, who are now reluctant to give it back. Although the government has announced that if the banks do well, they shall be able to hand back the money within three or six months, there is always the risk that it will end up being confiscated, as it already happened with the so-called "Bonex scheme" in the early Menem"s government. Against that, we demand the immediate devolution of all deposits below 100 thousand pesos (or dollars). The whole 65 billion that have been robbed must be seized upon, expropriating the banks and their associates such as Telefónica and Repsol in order to hand back the deposits to the small savers. To do so -and also prevent a crack of the banking system- we should urgently go for the nationalization of the banks and the introduction of the monopoly of foreign trade -the bottom line when it comes to defending our nation.
In spite of his denunciation of the "pressures" coming from the privatized companies (particularly those owned by Spanish capital) and the banks, Duhalde"s government is negotiating with them in an attempt to keep the steady flow of profits into their pockets. The last few days have seen a feverish pressure exerted by the banks, the telephone companies, the oil concerns and other enterprises demanding their dollar-pegged tariffs be maintained (the privatized utilities), or else demanding tax breaks on their corporate earnings (the oil companies) or else a compensation for the "pesification" (turning from dollars into pesos) of their debts (the banks). The Spanish media has raised hue and cry over the "populist" overtones of the very limited measures announced by the new government. The hatred of the population against such bloodsucking oligarchy that got extremely juicy profits in the last decade is growing day after day. There is a widespread anti-imperialist mood that had already burst into the open at the time of the Spanish-owned national carrier strike. The swindle of the imperialists must be rejected tooth and nail, demanding the re-nationalisation of all the privatized companies (both the public services sector and the strategic resources such as oil) and their operation under workers" control.
Meanwhile, both Duhalde and his economy minister Remes Lenicov have announced that they are expecting a renewed "support" of the IMF and the US Treasury, in exchange for an increased subordination to such institutions. This goes hand in hand with the implementation, come what may, of an "austere" budget (a refurbished version of Cavallo"s and De la Rúa"s "zero deficit" scheme) and plans against the workers. That is why we demand breaking away with imperialism, denouncing all the pacts tying us to the IMF and world finance institutions, the renunciation of the external debt, to do away with the Duhalde"s-sponsored policy of renegotiation and later pay on the hunger of our people.
People demand all those responsible for the repression should be punished. That is why we further the widest possible organization and mobilization to achieve this, to release all political prisoners and fight for the disbanding of all repressive forces, replacing them with neighbours" and workers" self-defense committees to fight back the repression and also guarantee the safety of the people.
Such elementary measures are part and parcel of a plan that can be only achieved through and through by a people"s and working class government, the only way of effectively starting to meet the demands of the workers and the people.
13. We need a great revolutionary internationalist working class party
To achieve such goals, the working class and youths" vanguard should rally and build a weapon to give the lead to the exploited to achieve their emancipation: a great revolutionary internationalist working class party. The leading role of such party is the only guarantee to prevent those bodies built by the masses from being gutted out or else led to the blind alley of class collaboration with the ruling regime, as it has already happened to the Asamblea Piquetera due to the influence of the CTA-led FTV (Land and Housing Federation) and the Maoist-inspired CCC (Fighting Class Struggle Current). The PTS -still a revolutionary propaganda league in the national arena- is proud to have intervened side by side with the "Plaza de Mayo fighters". We also actively intervene in the new developments now taking place both in the working class and the youth, resolutely fighting to set up such a party, calling on workers and the youth sharing this perspective to rally in its ranks. We do so without the slightest shred of self-proclamation. We are aware that the mass revolutionary party the working class badly needs will not come out of the linear evolutionary growth of our organization, but will rather be the by-product of a whole series of fusion with our organizations -o sectors of them- as well as thousands of new activists now coming into political life for the first time ever. This is a new situation in which Marxists shall put our ability to the test, that of making the revolutionary programme hold sway on wider and wider sectors of the labour and youth vanguard.
The PTS and the Trotskyist Fraction stand for common practical action to support the protests and set up united front bodies of the fighting masses.
However, we cannot gloss over the different strategies in the left. The Communist Party is in an alliance with the Movimiento Socialista de Trabajadores (MST), Izquierda Unida (United Left), while is also part of the so-called "National Front against Poverty" (FRENAPO), a class-collaboration body led by the CTA sponsored by petty-bourgeois politicians such as Ibarra, FREPASO leader. This man, in turn, has appointed Cafiero as Cabinet vice-chairman of Duhalde"s government. That is why, while supporting every progressive action of the left, we call on the Partido Obrero and those claiming themselves revolutionary socialists, to form a common bloc for a revolutionary rally. On the other hand, MST militants and leaders have declared their will to go for a "Revolutionary United Front" with principled Marxist forces. If they mean what they say, that they want to take steps towards such a rallying of forces, they should break away with the policies of the CP, itself a FRENAPO member. If such a bloc of the revolutionary socialist working class for common intervention in the class struggle left came to life, it would be a major break-through in the road to building a revolutionary leadership for the process sparked off by the revolutionary events of December 19 and 20.
14. The international meaning of the Argentine events.
The victory of the imperialist aggression in Afghanistan gave renewed force to the US-sponsored "crusade against terror", thus facilitating the coming of a reactionary co juncture worldwide. However, the revolutionary days in Argentina were a clear offsetting factor. We have witnessed a quantum leap in the struggles waged by the Argentine mass movement, which had already stood out as a major spot of class struggle in Latin America.
The fact that the protests forced the resignation of two governments in a row (in one of the countries most subordinated to imperialism) cannot but reinforce the fighting mood of whole swathes of labour worldwide. This is the reason why the media have warned against the danger of "similar situations" in other Latin American countries. The first reaction of the bourgeois governments in the region was to reassure that something like that would not happen in their own countries -after giving their due support to the Argentine regime. But, alas, the economic crisis is not only gripping Argentina. Far from that, Argentina is nothing but a weak link in the "capitalist chain" of the world, haunted by a recession now knocking on the doors of the main economies in the globe.
The developments in Argentina are rich in lessons for the workers and the peoples of the whole continent and worldwide. The first lesson is that they show the way ahead to fight back the plans for the imperialist re-colonisation implemented by all the pro-imperialist governments: the independent mobilization and head-on confrontation with the governments, their insititutions and their repressive forces. No doubt, these developments are one of the highest peaks in the process of protests and insubordination of the workers, the peasants and the people sweeping the continent in the last few years. Such wave peaked in the mass protests in Ecuador, which ousted the governments of Bucaram and Mahuad, as well as the semi-insurrection centered in the Bolivian city of Cochabamba.
In all the countries of the region, the reformist and bureaucratic leaderships were opposed to the working class and the people mobilizing and fighting back the plans for re-colonisation being implemented from the Cape Horn up to the Mexican border. This has been the case with the Brazilian Partido Travalhista and the CUT, the CONAIE (the aboriginals" confederation) in Ecuador, the Bolivian union federation (COB), the upper union echelons in Mexico"s CTM, or else the reformist Zapatista guerrilla movement. Such leaderships have been instrumental in holding back the mobilizations and struggles against pro-IMF governments. The Argentine crisis is exposing the swindle of the reformists" deceit, such as the "participative democracy" promoted by the members of the World Social Forum in Porto Alegre, among which we can find the leaders of the Argentine FREPASO.
Once and again, the local bourgeoisies have shown how submissive they are to the dictates of their imperialist paymasters. The unity of the Latin American workers and peasants alone can finish off the imperial yoke. Fighting back the imperialist plans for the region poses the burning need to fight for a Federation of Socialist Republics of Latin America.
In turn, there is also a burning need to fight for the unity of the workers and peasants in the oppressed countries with the working class and the anti-capitalist youth now active in the imperialist countries. If the revolutionary process in Argentina should keep growing, that unity will be a burning necessity in the face of likely imperialist retaliations. The Spanish government is already pushing very hard demanding all the monopolistic tariffs of the imperialist corporations should be hiked in line with the flotation of the dollar. Little wonder what their reaction will be if the working class succeeded in renationalizing those enterprises under its own control.
The revolutionary socialists of the Trotskyist Fraction- Estrategia Internacional, present in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Bolivia and Mexico, committed to building a World Party of Social Revolution -the Fourth International in our view- stand for the widest unity of Latin American workers against the imperialist plans implemented by their governments and in support of the heroic struggle waged by the Argentine workers and the people. We also call on the anti-capitalist youth and the workers in the imperialist countries, who were the main actors in the protests at Seattle and Genoa and have recently opposed the imperialist crusade in Afghanistan to spread the word about and support the struggle being waged by the Argentine masses. We shall do our best to turn the developments in Argentina into a first step to smash the imperialist-capitalist rule on the world, and thus build a world free of exploiters and exploited -socialist society.
January 11, 2002.
Members of the Fracción Trotskista - Estrategia Internacional:
Partido de Trabajadores por el Socialismo (PTS) Argentina
Liga de Trabajadores por el Socialismo - ContraCorriente (Unificada) (LTS-CC) México
Estratégia Revolucionária - Quarta Internacional (ER-QI) Brazil
Liga Obrera Revolucionaria por la Cuarta Internacional (LOR-CI) Bolivia
Clase contra Clase, Chile
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