Argentina Ignites the Fire of Rebellion Against the Far Right




Argentina anticipates the near future in the US?

The working class in Argentina just dealt a powerful blow to the Far Right. After a one-day national strike that brought 1.5 million people into the streets across the country and a week of protests bringing together wide sectors of the working class and social movements, a pillar of newly-elected president Javier Milei’s austerity program the bill was withdrawn. After this setback for the government, the struggle to take down Milei’s entire neoliberal agenda is just beginning. 

The bill included a series of anti-worker and austerity measures, including massive privatizations, layoffs, and labor reforms. Much to the satisfaction of international capital — and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), which supported the reforms — the bill would have opened the country’s resources up to imperialist plunder. It was a pillar of Milei’s reactionary libertarian agenda.

The fact that the congress was forced to withdraw the Omnibus Law is a key victory for the movement against the government’s austerity plan and attacks on democratic rights. It shows that the working class and oppressed have the power to fight against the advance of the Far Right, not by taking a “wait and see” approach and relying on the institutions of the regime to come to the rescue, but by organizing from below and taking the fight in their own hands.

In December, the 53-year old “libertarian” journalist Javier Milei won Argentina’s presidential runoff in a landslide, gaining 56 percent of the vote, compared to 44 percent for Sergio Massa, the Peronist candidate and former minister of the economy. The difference between them was almost 3 million votes, an unprecedented thrashing for the Peronists. It was a true political earthquake in the mold of Donald Trump’s victory in the United States in 2016 or Jair Bolsonaro’s win in Brazil in 2018. “Today begins the reconstruction of Argentina,” Milei declared after his victory. “Today begins the end of our decline. The bankrupt model of the all-powerful state comes to an end. Today we return to an embrace of the ideas of freedom, those of our founding fathers.”

After Milei’s anti-worker pronouncements, many parts of the country have broken with the passivity of recent years, and people are taking to the streets to protest for their future. 

If the Peronists had remained in power, they would also have implemented austerity to appease the IMF, but they would have negotiated it with the unions and not in the way that Milei is doing now. Their entire strategy going forward is to try to re-legitimize themselves after four years of a terrible government in preparation for the next elections. They do not want Milei’s plans to be defeated in the streets by mass protests, and much less by the general strike that the PTS and the Left have been calling for.

What is certain is that Peronism’s strategy of a limited state intervention, which doesn’t affect the interests of the ruling class, failed to overcome the national crisis. What the left is putting forward is completely different: to fight for a workers’ government that begins to construct socialism to put an end to dependency and debt. 

Of course, the Peronists aren’t the only ones negotiating the law with Milei’s government. There are several other parties that make up what we call the “collaborationist opposition,” including the Juntos por el Cambio coalition of former president Mauricio Macri and various regional parties.

The movement in Argentina is paving the way for the fight against the Right internationally. The struggle presents unique opportunities because of three — potentially explosive — characteristics. First, workers, students, and retirees are organizing themselves from below to intervene in the struggle and debate the path forward, both in neighborhood assemblies and workers’ assemblies. Second, the organized working class is poised to play a decisive role, with the national strike — which occurred as a result of rank-and-file pressure — drawing wide sectors into the streets, in spite of the bureaucratic leadership of the main union federations CGT and CTA.

In this way, we have to pay close attention to the overcoming of this crisis, especially in the positive results the struggle is paying off, to learn how to defeat the Far Right in a potential new Trump Administration.

The Right’s Plan of Attack 

Even before officially taking office, Milei began advancing an aggressive neoliberal program aimed at “shocking” Argentina’s economy out of an acute crisis by slashing the rights and living conditions of the working class and poor, gutting social spending and opening up Argentina to imperialist interests. The government’s plans have already resulted in severe cuts, depreciation of wages, and layoffs in a context of soaring inflation and poverty that has only worsened since Milei took office. 

At the core of these plans is the “Decreto Nacional de Urgencia” (DNU), “Urgency Presidential Decree”; what is popularly called the “Omnibus Law,” and the “Security Protocol”. 

Together, these plans marked a drastic rollback of rights in almost every aspect of life for the millions of people living and working in Argentina.

The DNU, which Milei implemented in December, includes hundreds of provisions — it devalues the Argentine peso, strips price caps, slashes tenants rights, attacks the right to protest, targets environmental protections, and cements Argentina’s semi-colonial status and subservience to U.S. imperialism. It also proposes to make changes to labor law, increasing informal labor, severely limiting the right to strike for workers deemed “essential” and “critical” to the economy, and giving employers the right to fire anyone who occupies a workplace or blocks an entrance.

The heavy-handed nature of Milei’s government in its first few months expresses both an attempt to strengthen the state but also the relative weakness of the regime to impose its attacks, as is evidenced by the failure of the Omnibus Law. Now Milei and his allies face considerable challenges to their program in a context where there is not consensus among the capitalist class for exactly how to resolve Argentina’s crisis. Defeating the Omnibus Law was just the first step; Milei and his government are still resolved to implement austerity and rollback rights. 

New forms of power of the people

The people deliberate in the streets, gather and assemble to debate the future of the nation. This a tradition inherited from the 2001 revolutionary crisis, it resembles a form of power of the people as the Soviets in 1917, or the Asamblea de los Pueblos of Oaxaca in 2006, or several other forms of self-organization of the masses in many revolutionary processes all over the 20th and 21ths century, the most remarkable being the Commune of Paris. Argentina’s Asambleas Populares are part of this tradition as well.

As Eduardo Castillo explains in La Izquierda Diario:

[The assemblies] have become a vanguard political actor on the national scene. They are a genuine expression of a tendency towards self-organization that rejects verticalism. They return to a tradition of organization that was born in the great rebellion of December 2001. They express, to a certain extent, a response to the crisis of political representation. This rejection of the “old politics” is not anti-political, but rather represents a new form of active and conscious participation in political life. Today they are focused on defeating the Omnibus Law, the DNU, and the security protocol; however, the assemblies are deeply opposed to Milei and the model he represents. This fuels the prospect of their expansion in the heat of the economic crisis.

In these democratic assemblies, people gathered together to discuss the direction of the struggle, including how to participate in the anti-Omnibus Law protests, and debating different strategies. These are active cells of political struggles, ones in which socialists have a key role to play.

The role of Revolutionary Socialists

On the front lines of these protests were the parliamentary representatives of the Workers Left Front — Unity (FIT-U), an electoral coalition of four Trotskyist organizations that won five seats in the National Congress. 

Former president Alberto Fernández, a Peronist, left office with a country in ruins: about 40 percent of the population lives in poverty, and annual inflation exceeds 170 percent. The past four years of the Peronist government show its strategic failures in negotiating with international finance capital. Each year, Argentina pays over $19 billion to service its debts to the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, and the Paris Club, while health care, education, and other social services have been drastically cut.

In this context, a program to confront the new government’s agenda is beginning to emerge as a necessity for millions of Argentinians. After Milei took office, on December 27, there was a huge mobilization called by the most important trade union federation in Argentina, the CGT. But it is not only that: neighborhood assemblies have sprung up in the capital city, and state workers laid off by the Milei government have staged strikes and held demonstrations.

The need for a political alternative is more urgent than ever, one that is independent of the capitalist class and its parties. The emergence of a strong party of socialist workers will be a lever to promote the self-organization of the working class and oppressed people for the struggles to come. Such a party must also be internationalist, because the struggle against imperialist domination requires solidarity and coordination across borders.

In a context in which Milei openly fosters anti-communism, resulting even in death threats against these visible communists, they explain for the entire country how companies make a profit off of the exploitation of millions of workers who can’t afford housing and are destroying the planet. Milei implements harsh austerity in the name of “liberty,” but this liberty exists only for capitalists. As Cristian Castillo said in a recent speech from the floor of the congress: 

The only society in which liberty and equality can be compatible is a socialist society. The capitalist world in which we live has made it so that the 80 richest people in the world have approximately the same income as the 3,500,000,000 poorest on the planet…. When we can all appropriate the social wealth that we together generate, then truly the word “freedom” will not be a campaign slogan to justify the inequality and despotism of the rich, but rather it will be an argument for a material reality that can actually be expressed.”

Nonetheless, the bill’s defeat stands as a powerful example of how the working class — in unions, universities, neighborhood assemblies, and in congress — can fight and defeat the Right. By harnessing the power of self-organized struggle and by refusing to compromise, the mass movement in Argentina won. To continue to fight the Right and protect the rights of workers and the oppressed, the mass movement must keep organizing from below, refusing to put their faith in the union bureaucracies and “lesser evil” politicians, which attempt to rein in the mobilizations.

 As comrade Castillo said in parliament:

In every part of Argentina, from the North to the South, from the East to the West, resistance is growing against these austerity policies at the service of the IMF. And from this resistance, we hope that a fundamental solution will emerge. A solution that kicks out the IMF, that restores wages, that reduces the working day to six hours to end unemployment once and for all, and to begin building a society without exploitation and oppression, a socialist society.

by Carlos B, based on several articles published by La Izquierda Diario