Reports from Argentina
Election Round-Up Pt. II: The Peronists
Posted: Feb. 04 2003, 19:56[Yesterday I was on teevee! My strategy of standing next to important people when journalists are around is finally paying off!]
When I began this series of articles, I just wanted to give a short summary of all the candidates in the upcoming election. But I soon realized that the situation within the most powerful party, the Peronist Partido Justicialista, wouldn't make any sense at all without an overview of the last sixty years of Argentinian history. That right there should be ample proof of the crisis of Argentina's "democracy," that is, Argentina's capitalist bourgeois democracy.
The bourgeoisie of every "democratic" country stays in power by manipulating the various political parties for its own ends. How could the Argentinian bourgeoisie allow its parties to become so splintered that there will now be no less than half a dozen bourgeois candidates in the upcoming elections? You'll really have to ask them. Basically, Argentinian society is in a mind-boggling crisis, and the ruling classes can't agree how to get it out.
Right now the Peronists are in power in the form of Eduardo Duhalde. After the Argentinazo of December 20, 2001, the whole parliamentary system was spinning out of control – Duhalde was the only man who could sort-of halfway stabilize things.
A brief history:
- De La Rua was kicked out by massive protests on December 20
- a temporary sucessor from the congress was made President for one day
- the congress elected Rodriguez Saa from the PJ to stablize things
- after a week Rodriguez Saa was also kicked out by massive protests
- another temporary President served only one day in office
- after four presidents in less than two weeks, Duhalde was elected
- Duhalde has somehow managed to stay in power for the last year
How does he do it? Duhalde has made outrageous promises, not complied with any of them, ordered brutal repression, negotiated with the IMF, given visions of recovery, explained that there is no money for the poor, overseen flights of capital totalling billions of dollars – what all politicians do to maintain regimes of inequality and exploitation.
The only difference is that the inequality and exploitation in Argentina are much more notable – half of people are living in poverty! one fourth in extreme poverty! the banks robbed the savings of millions of small depositors! etc. etc. – so Duhalde has had to make the promises more outlandish and the repression more provocative.
On June 27 of last year two piqueteros were murdered by police. This caused quite an upstur, since the execution of political opponents is not generally considered an acceptable tactic in "democratic" systems. A week later Duhalde announced that instead of serving out De La Rua's full term, which would last until December 2003, he would calls elections for April 27.
That magic date is now less than two months away. Duhalde has always said, from his first day, that he has no intention of seeking another term. That makes sense too, since people hate him passionately and rightfully blame him for the misery he has created (or allowed the ruling classes to create).
Duhalde sees things a bit differently, though. According to him he has really taken the people's cry of "¡Que se vayan todos!" ("They all most go!") to heart and has thus decided to go. He is not planning to take the whole political class or bourgeois state aparatus with him, of course. As he explains, "when the people cry that all must go, they aren't asking the volunteer firefighters to come and govern. They are saying 'Kids, we want something new.' "
DON'T YOU GET IT, EDDY? "They all must go," really does mean "all," as in all corrupt politicians, all lackeys of imperialism, all bankers, all big landowners, all capitalists. The people might not be asking the firefighters to come and govern, but they are asking the workers to come and govern. The people being governed should do the governing!
But for Duhalde, "all" means "him." He feels people will be happy when he leaves and a bunch of new Peronists with exactly the same politics take his place. And thus the people have a choice:
— Néstor Kirchner —
Duhalde's pick, Duhalde's mini-me. (This marionette relationship is so clear that an opponent recently made thousands of posters showing Kirchner as a ventriloquist dummy in Duhalde's hands.)
This guy has basically the same politics as Duhalde: We need to reduce poverty but we can't afford it. We need to reactivate the national economy but we wouldn't dare disobey the IMF. We want to negotiate with the piqueteros but they force us to use repression, etc.
— Adolfo Rodriguez Saa —
Mr. I-Was-President-For-Six-Days is also running. He has basically the same program as Kirchner. They both talk about "aumenting the buying power of the people" in order to "re-activate the national economy" so that "Argentina can get back to work," which is of course politician speak for "sell whole country to IMF."
The differences between Kirchner and Rodriguez Saa are subtle. They come from different provinces and thus are attached to different political oligarchies (one to oil and the other to landowners, but I can't keep them straight). Basically they would both continue with variations of Duhaldismo, promising people nice things while shoving a knife right into their jugular vein.
— Carlos Menem —
This guy was President throughout the 90s, a Proud Privatizer and a Good Globalizer. His reign was marked by millions of workers losing blue-collar jobs and being forced to open up small kiosks – many cite him as the creator of the Maxikiosk Paradise that is Buenos Aires.
The only problem is he had the Bill Clinton Dumb Luck Effect, i.e. his destructive policies happened to coincide with an unrelated economic boom that benefitted the middle class. Therefore he is promising a continuation of his old policies: "let me do some more privatizing and we'll get another boom!"
It is surprising how openly and arrogantly this guy is opposed to all interests of the working class. In the midst of economic misery and popular revolt, he demands more repression, more cutbacks, more subservience to the IMF! All this is from a party that has its traditional base in the workers!
Menem is currently the most noticable candiate, namely because he has put up "MENEM MENEM MENEM" posters in every corner throughout the whole country. If you ask people where he could have gotten the money for all this publicity, they'll inevitably reply, "Well he did rob the country blind for ten years."
So that is the Partido Justicialista. The Peronists, against logic and constitutional law, are going to present three seperate candiates and thus completely split their vote. Could this lead to a breakup up the PJ? Probably not. As I mentioned in my last report, Peronism has survived more absurd contradictions than this – this time the left and right fractions aren't killing each other like they did in the 70s.
According to the last polls I have seen, Kirchner currently leads with 16.1%. Rodriguez Saa has 10.9 and Menem 12.1. The interesting thing is that 55% of people say they would never even consider voting for Menem, which would keep him out of the Presidency even if he makes it to the second round.
"But that's less than 40% of votes!" I hear you complain. Of course! There are still the Radical candidates, not to mention the neo-fascists and the numerous "workers' parties." More on that some other day.
– Dzhon Rid
P.S. Despite all this division, Duhalde has been able to assure Colin Powel, who is very worried about the "transition" of "democracy" in Argentina, that the next President will be a Peronist.