Reports from Argentina
Posted: Feb. 17 2003, 19:39Tonight at 8pm we are heading off to Chile. It's a 22-hour bus ride, but several years worth of the PTS' theoretical publication Estrategia Internacional and half a dozen Chilean trotskyists (plus one anarchist) should provide fodder for some interesting discussions.
After visiting Santiago I'm off to Neuquen, home of the Zanon ceramics plant, to meet the ceramistas and all the other combative organizations of the region. Remember the $311 we collected for Zanon in Berlin oh so many months ago? Well I'm finally going to deliver that.
Pictures from the Buenos Aires demonstration are finally up on IndyMedia. Sorry it took so long but Pablo, one of the IndyMedia photographers, was at the party Saturday night and spent Sunday recovering from a hangover. IndyMedia Argentina is IndyMedia at a slightly more relaxed Latin tempo: "Up to the minute news from two or three days ago."
A photo album: (at least eight other pages of photos are accessible from the home page)
one picture that I especially like is of the PTS burning US and Brittish flags:
Unfortunately I can't find any pictures of the PTS or ¡NO PASARÁN! blocks. But I filmed quite a bit and can show off that footage when I get back to Europe.
The two American girls were also at the march and as I had expected they went with the PTS and ¡NO PASARÁN! blocks. We also met a kid from the International Socialists in Norway, and even though he kept insisting that the Brittish SWP was "the biggest revolutionary party in history," he hung out in the PTS block too and we had some interesting conversations about the nature of "Orthodox Trotskyism" and why the Cliffists in Germany are not going to be leading any revolutions.
Oh yeah and last night I met Naomi Klein's husband and her "team." They are in Argentina making a documentary for Canadian public TV which they said will have a focus on occupied businesses.
The occasion was a film presentation at the headquarters of a popular assembly, Cid Campeador. The film had been made by Naomi Klein/John Halloway/Tony Negri-style activists, talking about how great the popular assemblies were, about "direct democracy" and "changing the world." What caught my attention is that at one point one of the "intellectuals" asked rhetorically "What will the future look like for Argentina?" and then answered "We can't really say, we don't want to tell the people of Argentina what to do." In other words, they have no fucking idea.
These people see the popular assemblies and the piqueteros, and they like that. But even they know that these organizations of the middle class and the declassed proletariat, respectively, cannot actually stop capitalism. What is going to happen? Are the popular assemblies, groups of fifty middle class citizens complaining about lost savings, going to seize state power? Are the piqueteros, who now renounce violent action and negotiate with the government for more plans, going to smash the bourgeois state? Even Naomi Klein knows this won't happen.
These autonomists lack any understanding of political economy and class dynamnics, and therefore they can't explain why the working class hasn't entered the struggle. In fact, they don't even realize the working class hasn't entered the struggle! For them, Argentina's struggle against neo-liberalism is being led by "everyone." That of course means "everyone we know in our intellectual middle-class circles."
Q: So if "everyone" has been fighting ceaselessly against neoliberalism for the last year, why have there been only defeats? Why is the same government in power? Why is the foreign debt still being paid? Why is the IMF still in charge of everything?
A: Because the proletariat, the only revolutionary class in society, is not fighting. They are not participating in the popular assemblies nor in the piquetero movements; they are only begining to chart their course as a class.
The autonomists cannot see this, and therefore have no idea what else could be done to save Argentina. They don't admit this, of course, preferring to hide behind euphamisms about letting the people choose their own actions. But they reach a fundamental contradiction: revolution is impossible, violent, dogmatic, Marxist, old, etc. yet there is no solution to the crisis besides revolution.
Thus, the autonomists return by the longest possible path, a path full of ideals and pseudo-Marxist bullshit, to reformism. Since revolution is impossible, all that can be done is pressure the ruling classes to give some concessions: more democracy, peace, justice, whatever. Who should excercise this pressure? "The people," of course. Here we see autonomists use the same terminology as conservatives and fascists: "The people" is used to mean the petty and big bourgeoisie.
This is why I hate autonomists, perhaps even more than Maoists. (But I've recently been hearing how the Maoists broke a janitorial strike at the university by cleaning everything themselves – with the excuse that "the university was dirty"!!! – so my hatred for Maoists is increasing. I still can't figure out what they mean with their slogan of a "popular unity government." It must mean a government of unity with the nationalist bourgeoisie to fight against imperialism. The only problem is that the bourgeoisie is firmly in the camp of imperialism! Only the revolutionary proletariat could sucessfully break with the imperialist powers! But how could we expect the Maoists to understand this? They have sided with one military coup after the other with the logic that these were "anti-imperialist" dictatorships.)
My point is, the only hope for these autonomists is that under the pressure of events they will realize that they are totally, uncorrectably wrong. Less than a year after the publication of "empire" Tony Negri has admitted that his theories are completely incompatible with the US war on Iraq. Will the autonomists adopt a correct policy after recognizing the invalidity of their theories? I wouldn't underestimate a moron's stubborness at being moronic – anarchists, after all, still defend the CNT's disastrous "apolitical" stance during the Spanish Civil War, even though it's clear that led to the defeat of the revolution! But we owe it to ourselves and to the autonomists to try to convince them. Everyone deserves a chance, even if not to have a correct policy, then at least to hear what the correct policy is.
(If you want to read Naomi Klein's articles about Latin America, which are interesting despite being terribly, terribly, wrong, they are avaible here.)
Whew, that was a rant, wasn't it? I should probably be heading off to the bus terminal now. Let me just mention that today there was a small rally to protest against the repression in Bolivia. It started at the "obelisc," a miniature version of the Washington Monument in the middle of a massive avenue at least twenty lanes across, and went half a dozen blocks to the Bolivian embassy. We had to cut off the traffic ourselves as we marched, since the police didn't really care and actually enjoyed watching us get in arguments with drivers, but the drivers of Buenos Aires seem used to this "stop for the demonstration" ritual.
There were about a hundred people in total, with the PTS and MST, piqueteros from the MTL, and members of the Bolivian community in Argentina, including a number of people from the "native communities."
One thing I've definitely noticed is that even though we "Westerners" tend to lump everyone from Latin America into one big ethnic pile, the people from Argentina, Bolivia, Venezuela, Mexico, etc. are all different and distinguishable. It wasn't too hard to look at the crowd and say which people were Argentinians and which Bolivians (and which were sunburnt Northern Europeans!)
My next report will be from Santiago, Chile. Wish me luck!
– Dzhon Rid