REVOLUTION, socialist youth organization    

Reports from Argentina
by Dzhon Rid


Election Round-Up Pt. III: The Right

Posted: Mar. 08 2003, 18:35

In Argentina it's always been hard to say which parties are on the left and which are on the right. The Peronists, for example, have a sizable base in the working class, but one of their candidates – Menem – is the most outspoken supporter of police repression and privatizations. The ARI, on the other hand, throws around new age center-left slogans about "participatory democracy" yet is opposed to the workers' and piqueteros' movements. So when I dedicate this report to "the Right," I mean all parties that are separate from the working class, i.e. all bourgeois parties except the Peronists.

Things are currently even more muddled than usual because of the electoral campaign. All politicians on the campaign trail, whether socialists or fascists, will inevitably reduce their program to a few universal buzzwords like "democracy" and "justice." Elections in every country have thus become mere shouting matches between two rich men who support "progress."

In Argentina this process of degeneration and homogenization is more advanced: every party has a slogan that is some variation of "let's work together to improve Argentina for everyone." The Peronists might add something about "fatherland," and the ARI might mention "alternatives," but only on the extreme left can one find a departure from this basic formula. So it's impossible to tell the parties apart based on their propaganda – only a careful examination of the policies and social bases of each allows even the slightest differentiation.

So here is THE RIGHT, just as it will appear in the April 27 elections:

The Radicals, party of De La Rua, party of the middle classes, one of Argentina's two big parties, have all but disappeared. When De La Rua fled from the Casa Rosada in his helicopter he took the Radicals' popularity with him.

The Radicals have maintained their influence in several provinces, but at a national level they have essentially ceased to exist. The party's internal elections were a disaster, with both candidates claiming to have won the Radicals' nomination for a number of weeks. Even though the party eventually settled on Leopoldo Moreau, he will be lucky to win even one percent of the vote.

Now don't let the name fool you! The Radicals are not a radical party in our black mask / molotov cocktail sense of the word. Like the French Radical Socialists of pre-WW2, this party is about as radical as Colin Powell. At the beginning of the 20th centurty, the Unión Cívica Radical (Radical Civic Union) was founded by intellectuals from the emerging urban bourgeoisie to fight against the landed oligarchy that controlled the country – back then it could maybe sorta be considered radical. But now, despite their ocassional references to "the struggle," everybody knows these "radicals" are not going to be making any radical changes to society.

The decline of the UCR is, ironically, a product of the radicalization of the middle classes.

Traditionally the middle classes support the bourgeoisie. This is because the bourgeoisie robs the proletariat and gives the middle classes a small cut of the profits. For example during the epoch of Menem (early and mid 90s), as state enterprises were privatized and shut down, millions of workers were thrown out onto the street, poverty and unemployment skyrocketed, etc., the middle classes did pretty well: they bought washing machines and took trips to Miami.

The UCR represents all the desires of this middle strata: they want stability, they want security, they want to be left alone. They want things to continue exactly as they are, and most of all they want to workers to calm down.

However, in 2001 all this changed. Argentina's fiscal crisis got completely out of control and it wasn't enough to rob the workers – the workers didn't have anything worth taking! So the bourgeoisie, the IMF, and the government of De La Rua had to resort to robbing the middle classes, too. The Finance Minister Cavalo seized the savings of millions of small despositors while allowing big corporations to remove billions of dollars from the country.

This is when all the professionals, small businessmen, shopkeepers, functionaries, etc. – the millions from the petty bourgeoisie and the workers' aristocracy that make up the middle classes – decided they had more in common with the poor than with the rich. The middle classes were no longer participating in the robbery, now they were being robbed! This was on December 19, 2001. The poor had been looting supermarkets all across the country, and De La Rua declared a state of marshall law in order to repress them. But the middle classes now recognized their enemy: they went out into the street banging pots and pans demanding the resignation of Cavallo, and after he left they promptly switched their demand to "They all must go!"

The middle classes were able to expell De La Rua. But that is the most they have ever done or will ever be able to do. Obviously they don't want things to stay the way they are, but since they have no alternative to capitalism; they simply want things to go back to how they were.

[This is, under certain circumstances, ripe ground for fascism, with all its appeals to "tradition" and "stability." But the middle classes still hate the bourgeoisie, and still sort of identify with the plight of the workers, so fascism won't have any footing for now.]

So the middle classes had exploded and expelled their traditional leadership. Normally they would have to look to the working class as the motor of social change. But the Argentinian working class, then as now, is weak, scared, and demoralized. Only now is it beginning to gather its forces in order to face decisive conflicts.

The middle classes didn't know what to do. First they poured into the popular assemblies, but after a few months it was clear that these neighborhood debating forums were not going to change anything since they had no power. So most people got bored and went home. There are still small nuclei of dedicated petty-bourgeois idealists within the assemblies fighting against the fundamentally anti-revolutionary nature of these bodies, but not many. The majority of the middle class has drifted into political resignation, i.e. they realize that they alone cannot change anything so why even try? But a large section has moved over to Naomi Klein / attac / Porto Alegre / Lula / Neo-Reformism, they have begun to support "reformed Reformists" who promise "change" and "another world is possible."

This phenomenon is represented in Argentina by a year-old split from the Radicals, the ARI.


Sorry, I'm out of time, so stay tuned for the two other right-wing parties: the ARI and Recrear Argentina.

– Dzhon Rid


Posted: Mar. 09 2003, 15:17

hi john!
ve read about radical new occupations in argentina the last days on indymedia!?
there was an articel that telefonica in buenos aires is occupied? and that they also tried to take a car factory! do know something about? have u been there? are they now under workerscontrol? its allso interesting because these would be the first profit companies under workerscontrol!?

Reply to Reply

Posted: Mar. 09 2003,21:59

To be honest I don't know too much about the recent occupations. All last week we were preparing a party in support of the occupied factories, which took place last night and it turned out pretty cool. Plus I got really sick for a few days because of a bad empanada...

(That sounds like a joke but it was actually pretty terrible.)

From what I can gather the Telefonica workers have occupied five buildings to protest their bad working conditions. Most of them are university students working part time who have no job security, no health insurance, etc., and want long-term contracts. This conflict has been going on for a number of months; one of the first protests I attended in Buenos Aires was an act by part-time Telefonica workers.

After the conflict began, the workers organized a delgates' body which published a small newspaper and was developing a plan for struggle. It looks like this organizing finally paid off...

As far as I can tell the Telefonica buildings are not under workers' control – they are being occupied but the workers are not "producing," i.e. not offering any telephone services. If you dial 110 for information right now you get a message that "this service is not available." It is possible that the workers have a plan to put the whole phone company under workers' control, but that seems unlikely. It is much more plausible that they are using the occupations to pressure the company into giving them contracts.

[Doesn't anyone remember the last time that workers took over a telephone central and ran it themselves? Barcelona, 1936. And that didn't work out too well...]

There are rumors that police violence has already begun and rumors that a lot more police violence is in store. I'll look into this right away, tonight if possible.

As for auto factories, I have no idea...

(To be honest, since I'm leaving Argentina in two days my mind is starting to drift back to Europe and all the wonderful things we will do there. So I fear that my previously intense concentration on the events in the Argentinian Revolution is waning a bit.)

– Dzhon Rid


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