Reports from Argentina
Posted: Jan. 14 2003, 21:20I arrived in Argentina on Monday at five in the morning. As the plane landed a red sun was coming over the horizon. (Now if this were a novel that would be some important symbolism!)
A compañero named Aldo met me in the airport. He looked just like one of the Chicanos from my high school – short, dark-skinned, black-haired, and with a thin mustache – and not really how I had pictured a typical Argentinian. It turns out Aldo is from Mexico City and is in Argentina right now for a congress of the Fracción Trotskista. That was really a relief for me since Mexican Spanish is a lot easier to understand than Argentinian babble-talk.
There were lots of people in the reception area calling out "Taxi! Taxi!" and accompanying them were lots of signs saying "For your safety do not use taxi services that are offered verbally." We decided to defy the signs and take our chances, since it was really cheap.
As we went into the parking lot an airport security guard followed us and handed us a flyer that explained how dangerous these unofficial taxis are. If I remember correctly, Homer Simpson was kidnapped when he took such a taxi in Sao Paulo.
But we were undeterred. After all, if I ever listened to authority figures trying to protect me from danger, I'd never be in Buenos Aires in the first place.
And in the end it was no problem. It was just some guy trying to make ends meet by driving people from the airport in his car. So we got to downtown Buenos Aires for the not exactly kingly sum of thirty pesos.
Which brings me to the money. I was used to the pictures of middle-class depositors protesting in front of banks with signs that said "We want dollars," so I had kind of assumed that dollars were the semi-official currency. But people here still use the good, old, devalued peso.
The prices seem pretty normal at first glance ($2 for a hamburger, $0.50 for a soda, etc.) but then you realize that those dollar signs actually mean pesos, so everything costs only a third as much.
Just a year ago the peso was held in parity to the dollar. And then in a few months the currency devaluation meant that all the prices (and everyone's salaries) were worth a third as much as before. How can we even imagine dealing with something like that?
In Buenos Aires we took the Subte (subway), which doesn't have any glass in the windows so it's almost impossible to have a conversation, to a residential neighborhood and made our way to the apartment of Celesta. We woke her up with the doorbell (it was around eight by this time) and went upstairs.
The three of us, Celesta, Aldo, and I, stood around in the kitchen drinking Maté and talking about Trotskyism. Maté didn't live up to all the hype I had heard, but I'm not really a tea person to begin with.
Over the next hour or so various roommates woke up and introduced themselves. Besides Celesta there were Lujan, one girl whose name I can't remember right now, and Diego. They are all university students and all work 40-45 hours a week in addition to studying. And they are all from the PTS.
As soon as they had all left for work I went to sleep. I hadn't slept in thirty-two hours, so it was really nice. I did have a little internal debate about whether I could ignore my political responsibilities as an international delegate and sleep through the whole morning, but decided to use an old excuse from Homer Simpson: "Es mi primer día!" ("It's my first day!")
So I designated Monday as a day off. I slept until the afternoon and then spent the rest of the day discussing politics with the three girls and another guy who had come over for dinner, Carlos. (Carlos, by the way, works for Microsoft giving technical support to people in the US. He earns a fifth of what an American worker would earn in the same job.)
The main topic was the PTS' recent "Manifesto to organise a founding conference for a unified revolutionary workers' party":
I kept thinking about the experience of the POUM: various revolutionary socialist groups formed a unified workers' party and the inclusion of Rightist elements in the leadership prevented the party from following a revolutionary policy. A more detailed description from Workers' Power is here:
As is usually the case when I talk to Trotskyists, everyone else was about four steps ahead of me mentally, so I wasn't really sure about everything Trotsky had written about the POUM, the positions of the LRCI and the PTS, etc.
I expect I'll learn all that stuff. I'm doing my best. Just yesterday I read through a few months of back issues of La Verdad Obrera.
So I went to sleep, once again dead tired, and woke up for my first official day. Today Aldo and I went to Brukman, one of the most famous occupied factories in Argentina, but we showed up during everyone's lunch break so they told us to come back on Thursday.
I've got a lot more to tell, but unfortunately my time at the Internet Café is running out and I have to go. Expect a full report from Brukman on Thursday or Friday.
– Dzhon Rid
Bud, Posted: Jan. 15 2003, 17:17
Would be really interested to know of the actual revolutionary situation, as everything seems to suggest, as u said, a load of middle-class protesters breaking into banks dominating the resistance. What exactly is the mood of the working class in general. Is a revolutionary situation likely to break out?
Extinction before submission! Truth before morality!
Dzhon_Rid, Posted: Jan. 16 2003, 20:25
I tried to answer your question in the following post. Was that satisfactory?
Keep the questions coming! It helps to hear what people want to know about Argentina, rather than just post whatever interests me personally.