Reports from Argentina
Plague of Locusts
Posted: Feb. 12 2003, 20:25OK, there's no plague of locusts, just your typical scalding heat occassionally interrupted by monstrous downpours. But I needed an exciting title because I've noticed that people don't read the reports that start with the word "supermarket."
First and foremost the two Yanqui girls from United Students Against Sweatshops are back in Buenos Aires. For the last two weeks they were on a long trip that included the World Social Forum in Porto Alegre and the Zanon factory in Neuquen. Before they left they were all "another world is possible" and "everyone on the left needs to unite like with Lula in Brazil." Their favorite group in Argentina was the piquetero movement MTD Anibal Verón, which doesn't seek a confrontation with the bourgeois state, just wants to ignore the bourgeoisie and create a "new society" behind its backs – they reject the demand for genuine work, for example, since according to them all industrial work is alienating, and instead prefer to organize the unemployed in small production cooperatives like bakeries or neighborhood gardens.
This is total John Halloway / Naomi Klein political masturbation if you ask me! While you're out planting a garden and talking about "Anti-Power," the bourgeoisie will be distributing arms to its repressive forces to track you down and kill your ass! Last year, when two Anibal Verón activists were murdered in cold blood by the police, you think they would have realized that they will have to deal with the question of smashing the state eventually. But no, they just keep planting their gardens and getting shot. Their main function appears to be to create illusions for young Americans of the USAS and the Green Party.
The point is, these two American girls were absolutely in love with Anibal Verón and their neighborhood gardens. "They are out their helping people while you guys just talk about revolution."
But apparently they have gone through a political metamorphosis in the last two weeks. First, at the Social Forum, they saw that chanting "another world is possible" is just about as effective as snapping your fingers if you don't first address the question of how you're going to deal with the world we've got right now. Sure, Lula is nice, he was poor once, he even talks about poor people – but has anything really changed in Brazil? The foreign debt is still being paid punctually, while millions of people starve to death, activists for this "better world" are still being killed by the forces of repression, and power is still in the hands of a few Brazilian and American capitalists.
Then, at the Zanon factory in Neuquén they saw how small and pathetic the Anibal Verón gardens are – compared to an enormous factory complex that was taken over by its 300 employees and now is run under workers' control. Why limit yourself to building "new" things when you can just take the old things from the bourgeoisie? It would take Anibal Verón centuries to develop their neighborhood cooperatives into an advanced system of industrial production; meanwhile, the Zanon workers could organize and take over a factory in a process of just a year!
So apparently these two Yanquis have come back from their trip with much clearer political perspectives. We might make Trotskyists of them yet!
This shows why the PTS stands out in Argentina:
The Partido Obrero, the Partido Comunista, and the Partido Comunista Revolucionario have tens of thousands of unemployed workers organized into their respective piquetero movements [Polo Obrero, MTL, CCC]. These "movements" are run bureaucratically, with party militants controlling all the leadership positions. So each party can use its piqueteros like an army, can send them to a march anywhere in the country for any reason.
For the PO, PC, PCR, MST, MAS, basically all the left parties, these piqueteros represent the class vanguard. But this is incorrect – even though the piqueteros are enthusiastic, loyal, and class-conscious, they could never lead the revolution.
The PTS has influence among the true class vanguard. The workers of Brukman and Zanon have shown that they are capable of seizing the means of production and directing the economy through workers' councils, i.e. they are capable of leading the revolution! No matter how militant the piqueteros are, they could never complete a similar task -- they lack the industrial experience needed to run a factory, and the cultural development needed to run society.
It is no coincidence that the PTS has influence in the two most important occupied factories of the country; it is because the PTS has given the most consistent defense of the occupations. There were never any proposals for compromise, no one ever suggested turning the factories into cooperatives, the PTS has always maintained that these occupations need to be carried through to their logical conclusion: THE REVOLUTION.
The trick now is to use the experience of this vanguard to direct the masses. The workers of Zanon and Brukman need to tell their story to the workers of the whole country. More activists need to enter the factories, as Raul Godoy entered Zanon several years ago, to direct the struggles into revolutionary channels.
The other leftist parties have grown a lot in the last year, winning militants from the unemployed of the piquetero movements and the middle classes of the popular assemblies, and laugh at the PTS for having grown little. But the PTS has led incredible struggles of the industrial proletariat, i.e. the only revolutionary class in society, and is thus the only party offering revolutionary perspectives. The PO can organize as many unemployed workers as it wants, it won't mean anything unless the experience of Zanon, under the guidance of the PTS, is repeated all over the country.
1) Today there is a meeting at the Sociology Department of Buenos Aires Univerity (the director of which is "Chippy" from the PTS) to coordinate anti-war work in Argentina. It will be a chance to plan the big march on Saturday as well as talk to the two Yanquis and try to steer them onto the correct political path.
2) And yes, the February 15th convocatory has reached Argentina as well: this Saturday there will be a big march to the American and Brittish embassies to protest against the planned genocide in Iraq. The last march, which was organized by the madres, was sparsely attended, since the madres call for an electoral boycott and all the electoralist parties (MST, PO, etc.) didn't attend. This march promises to be huge, definitely not London-huge, but perhaps Berlin-huge.
3) On Sunday I will be heading off to Santiago, Chile (a twenty-hour bus ride over the Andes!) with the Chilean comrades from Armas de la Crítica. The other day I spent several hours talking to Alejandro, a 17-year-old comrade who could probably write a book on the permanent revolution. This guy has been an activist since he was 10, first as an anarchist, then as an anarchocommunist, then as a trotskyist; and when I met him he was reading a book by Georg Lukacs, not your typical high school student reading. My point is that the young cadres of the FT are excellent revolutionaries and it would be a big boost for REVOLUTION if we could begin to collaborate with them. As I mentioned, I might be able to convince a comrade from Chile to come to our summer camp, but I can't make any promises.
4) And, just to bore you all: the strugge at the supermarket continues.
Last Friday the union bureaucrats had their meeting with the owners at the Ministry of Labour; I predicted the workers would get some meaningless promises, but in reality they didn't even get that, since the workers' delegates weren't admitted to the meeting – with the full compliance of the union!
So the occupation of the one branch continues – now down to twenty people unfortunately – but two other branches have been occupied and two more are being picketted. The two big political groups involved in the supermarket conflict, ¡NO PASARÁN! and the MST, are systematically going to all the 57 branches with a letter from the occupying workers to encourage new workers to enter the conflict. The MST, as always, wants to keep this within the borders of bourgeois legality – the MST believes that socialism can come through elections, and thus they believe that the supermarket conflict can be resolved by peaceful negotiations. ¡NO PASARÁN!, meanwhile, is trying to give the workers a more revolutionary perspective: the only way to manage things fairly and insure that the jobs stay is for the workers to take over the supermarket.
The good news is that a rise in the workers' conciousness is notable. One worker was asked what he hoped to get out of the conflict, and he said "I just want the cash that they owe me." Then we asked, "Well what about keeping your job?" To this he replied, "I don't want to work for them anymore, I only want to work for us."
Now does anyone care about the supermarket? I find it fascinating, since it is a militant labour conflict that I have witnessed from the second day, and in my own small way I have even participated. However, I notice that no one reads the "supermarket" reports. And don't say you do cause there is a hit counter! So should I continue? Thoughts, comments?
– Dzhon Rid