From Class Struggle 48 December 2002/January 2003

One year after the momentous Argentinazo of December 19 and 20, workers and poor people flooded once more to the Plaza de Mayo in the centre of Buenos Aires. Unlike last year where the state forces killed 33 mainly young people and the level of protest forced the resignation of the De la Rua government, this year there was no confrontation and Duhalde’s government did not fall. A temporary stalemate exists. The bosses are relying on the union bureaucrats and so-called socialist parties to divide and rule the workers struggles. However, the forces on the militant left wing of the movement are regrouping around the occupied factories to defend the most important conquest of the revolution and to unite workers on a revolutionary action program. A member of CWG just back from Argentina reports on the prospects of the continuing revolution.

Argentina December 20 2002

The mass rally on December 20 this year (100,000 in Buenos Aires and 100,000 in the rest of Argentina) shows that a temporary stalemate exists between the two main classes in Argentina. On the one side Duhalde’s government was not challenged. It was able to pay the IMF $20 billion, make another 500,000 workers unemployed, and still rely on the union bureaucracy to buy off the majority of unemployed with US $40 a month. On the other side, an increasing number of the ranks of unemployed, employed and students are becoming angry at the treachery of the bureaucracy and the ‘left’ parties, and are openly looking for ways to break from their control and find an independent working class solution to the bosses’ crisis.

While the bosses were able to prevent the workers from using December 20 to make another Argentinazo, what was significant about this years rally, was the emergence of a class struggle left wing of the mass movement that marched separately and that broke openly with the control of the official union bureaucracy of the CTA/CCC and the unofficial ‘left bureaucracy’ that has emerged in the last year to administer the unemployment schemes.[1] Instead of of falling into the trap of trying to bring down Duhalde with street fighting, these as yet small forces rallied behind demands for strike action, for defence of the factory occupations, and for general strike leading to national workers congress in the new year.

On balance it seems that the stalemate continues but that the current situation opens the way for a deepening and widening of the revolution, to overcome the splits in the mass movement, and to break from the bureaucracy by mounting mass defence pickets of the factory occupations by all the sectors in struggle.

Brukman and Zanon leading the fight

The most visible sign of this healthy development was that of the Brukman and Zanon occupied factories leading their own column, closely associated with two other colums, that of the FTC and that of the combined forces of the RSL, SC and DO.[2] All of these columns marched behind the banners of strike and take the fight to the streets on D 19/20 (instead of a stagemanaged ‘commemoration’ organised by the bureaucracy); to fight the union bureaucracy; for a general strike to bring down Duhalde and “get them all out”; for all factories to be nationalised without compensation and under workers control; and for a 3rd national workers congress of mandated delegates for every 100 employed, unemployed workers and popular assembly members.

It was important that Brukman led the way. Brukman is the factory that represents the most politically advanced workers who are calling openly for the nationalisation of their factory without compensation and under workers control.[3] For this reason the bosses are determined to re-take this factory to destroy it as an example of how socialism can work.[4]

Zanon is another leading example. Zanon is a large ceramics factory in Neuquen in the far west of Argentina whose workers are running it at 80% capacity and providing jobs for unemployed. Zanon was recently visited by Hebe de Bonafini a leader of the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo (Mothers of the Dissappeared) who immediately saw that workers were in control and were capable of producing without bosses. She reported that Zanon was proof that workers could run society not only in Argentina but the whole world.[5]

ISACO joins the occupations

In an important symbolic act, on December 20 itself, another factory occupation took place. This was ISACO a factory that made car parts, at one time employing over 200 workers, and which shut down in December 2000. It was finally declared bankrupt on 24 November this year. When the sacked workers heard this they decided to camp outside to prevent the factory being stripped of machines. They reoccupied the factory at 7 am on the 20th with plans to restart production under workers’ control. They took this decision conscious of the many other occupations that have already taken place.[6]

Defence committees

Almost all attempts by the bossses to get the police, the justice and the union scabs to retake these factories have so far failed. The recent retaking of the Halac medical clinic at Cordoba on the 17 December succeeded only because the numbers defending the clinc were too small to stop the police. The lesson being drawn is that all of the sectors in struggle have to unite to form mass defence committees against the bosses’ attempts to retake the occupied workplaces. Hence the common columns marching on the 20th put up the demand for unity to defend the occupations, clearly against the bureaucrats’ measures to divide the movement.

Build for a general strike

The second lesson is that as well as these defence committees, the rest of the sectors in struggle (unemployed, employed, and members of PAs) have to unite behind a general strike to bring Duhalde down. They take seriously the demand raised spontaneously last December 20: “out with them all, not one must remain”. But instead of organising another Argentinazo to bring Duhalde down, the union bureaucrats are conducting negotiations with Duhalde and the IMF to do a deal to rescue the Argentinean economy and avoid a popular revolution. They are jockeying to contest the April elections, or they are taking a fake left line and calling for elections for Constituent Assemblies as if these would solve Argentina’s crisis.[7] That is why the class stuggle tendency in the movement united behind Brukman and Zanon puts the demand on the bureacuracy for a general strike to bring down the government now, and a National Congress of employed, unemployed and Popular Assemblies.

‘Workers to Power’

The third lesson is that is all very well to bring down a government, but who will rule in its place? Again the experience of the unemployed movement that has called for “workers to power” for more than a year, combining with the lessons of the factory occupations, that the bosses’ property must be nationalised without compensation under workers control, all points to one solution – a workers’ revolution. That is why these class struggle currrents have united around the demand for ‘workers to power’ and for a 3rd national congress of workers early in 2003 that can become the basis of a workers’ government.

All the “left traitors” line up to serve the boss

Today the revolutionary situation in Argentina that was opened over a year ago by workers looking for their own solution to the crisis has been met by opposition from all the political currents across the spectrum of Argentina’s class structure top to bottom. Most workers have lost faith in any of the Bourgeois parties including the left Peronists like Duhalde (or De la Rua who is waiting in the wings with the retired General Rico as a running mate).

Nor are they enthusiastic to vote for left reformists like De Ellia and Zamora who promise ‘popular governments’ modelled on the popular front of the World Social Forum or on Lula’s government in Brazil. Hopes are being placed in Lula’s ability to help solve the Argentine crisis. As the pesos devaluation has restored the competitiveness of Argentina’s exports, the reformist left is looking to a revival of trade with Brazil to rescue the economy. But there is no way out of the crisis for workers via the bourgeois state. The most that can happen is that Argentina’s crisis will become joined with Brazil’s own ongoing crisis. This demonstrates clearly that the WSF is a reformist or ‘menshevik’ international that has to be confronted internationally by revolutionaries.[8]

Fake Trotskyists

The most treacherous of all are the self-proclaimed ‘workers’ parties and the left bureaucracy that put forward the solution of the Constituent Assembly. The Constituent Assembly is a bourgeois parliament that represents all classes. As we argued in Class Struggle No 43, the call for a Constituent Assembly when revolution is building is to reject the theory of Permanent Revolution. This theory makes it clear that in colonies and semi-colonies fighting imperialism, there can be no break with imperialism unless the working class leads a socialist revolution. The national bourgeoisie are completely dependent upon imperialism and workers alone have the class interest and class power to lead a revolution to expropriate the imperialists.

While the appeal of the elections to a popular front and the various Constituent Assemblies are being pushed non-stop, as yet none of these attempts to divert the revolution has won the support of the class struggle wing of the movement where the instinct is for ‘workers to power’. The situation is ripe for a revolutionary leadership to thrust itself to the fore and to take the lead in building organs of workers power against the union bureaucracy and against the bourgeois state.

Where to from here?

The current situation in Argentina is poised to break the stalemate and to develop in one of two directions. The bosses may succeed in dampening down the revolutionary situation with a new round of elections as a trap for the majority of workers, and the systemmatic repression of the factory occupations and militant wing of the mass movement. This would allow them to impose a solution to the crisis on the backs of the masses and avoid the threat of revolutionary upheaval.

But for this to succeed the workers revolution has to be strangled. The revolutionary situation that has opened up in the last year has demonstrated the necessity for the unity and coordination of all the sectors in struggle around the factory occupations to break with the union bureaucrats and launch a general strike to bring down the government and put a workers government in its place. The class struggle wing is now drawing these lessons and embarking on that road and building united fronts across the country. But that will not be sufficient. There needs to be a revolutionary party and program to lead the way forward.

The Revolutionary Party

The single crucial factor that will make the difference in which direction Argentina goes is the existence a revolutionary party. The instinctive struggle for ‘workers to power’ cannot happen spontaneously. It has to be built, defended and extended by creating organs of dual power. The occupations are the starting point because only they seriously challenge capitalist property rights. The intervention of the revolutionary left in the occupations is the test of their leadership. Here we see the vanguard of the workers testing out the revolutionary ideas of the more healthy parties. Some like the PO or PTS, who try to contain the struggle for sectarian or oppportunist reasons, are being exposed.[9] Those parties like the DO, the CS and RSL, and other militant workers that fight for the vanguard to adopt a revolutionary action program and for organs of workers power, will become the core of the Argentinean revolutionary party, and part of a new world party of revolution.

[1] Some instances of class struggle forces at least partially breaking with the bureacracy were; in Neuquen, Workers Democracy broke with the left bureaucracy demand to bring down the state governor and for a provincial Constituent Assembly, and called for a break with the ‘multisectoral’ popular front and for a Congress of workers that could lead to a Workers’ Government. At the Plaza de Mayo, the MTD Anibal Veron (named after the first piquetero martyr in Salta) marched to the Plaza but left rather than particpate in the union bureaucrats ‘commemoration’ of 2001; the joint column of the CS, RSL and DO, after marching to the square along with the FTC and Brukman/Zanon contingents, left to go to the Obelisk at Republic square to honour the fallen comrades.

[2] The Frente Trabajadores Combativos (FTC) is a class struggle formation of unemployed, employed and left groups and individuals who have broken from the bureaucracy. Socialist Convergence (SC) is a fraction of the Morenoist LIT (Workers’ International League) in Argentina with members in Brazil, Mexico, Venezuela and the Carribean. The Revolutionary Socialist League (RSL) is another ex-Morenoite group taking a non-sectarian approach to party building in Argentina. Democracia Obrera (DO) is a 1998 split from the PTS (Socialist Workers Party) committed to building reforging the 4th International and playing a leading role in building class struggle united fronts in Argentina.

[3] On December 21 the night after D20, Brukman hosted an adaptation of the Brecht play “The Mothers”, a homage to the women in the 1905 revolution in Russia. It also showed a documentary film on the life of Argentininan revolutionary film -maker Raymondo Gleyzer who ‘dissappeared’ during the dictatorship in 1976. The working class audience fully participated in this cultural act joining in the production and celebrating the links between these outstanding examples of revolutionary art and the living revolution in Argentina.

[4] On November 24 the police raided Brukman and arrested the workers at gunpoint. They were charged with breaking machines in the factory. They were released on a technicality and returned to find the factory in the ands of the boss and scab workers and guarded by police. With the support of hundreds of other workers who rallied in their defence they broke through the police lines and re-occupied the factory. Late in December they were issued with another court order demanding they vacate the factory. They are rallying support for another attempt by the state and the boss to remove them in January.

[6] At a recent meeting the ‘interbarrial’ of San Martin (North Buenos Aires) as well as student and teachers’ unions decided to join in a festival on the 11th in the factory to build support for a return to production but under workers and not the bosses’ control.

[7] Contesting the April Presidential elections is conceding now that Duhalde cannot be brought down by other means. Demanding a Constitutent Assembly, a new bourgeois parliament elected by all adult citizens, now, as the PO (Workers’ Party) does, concedes that dual power organs like workers councils or soviets cannot be built now. However, if Duhalde is not brought down and dual power organs are not created before April 2003, then both contesting the elections and calling for a Constitutent Assembly may be tactical options that can be used to advance the workers’ struggle.

[8] ‘Menshevik’ refers to the majority of the Russian Communist Party after 1902 that held that history occurs in a series of stages. The WSF and the Brazilian PT follow this ideology and this traps them into forming governments with ‘progressive’ capitalists to defend bourgeois democracy on the Lula model rather than fight outright for a socialist revolution.

[9] The PTS argued against the DO’s proposed demands for December 20 at two recent meetings in Brukman and were defeated. This did not stop the PTS bringing 20 workes from Zanon to try to reverse this vote. They failed and had to march behind banners that called for a break with the bureaucracy. The PO recently lost 300 of its supporters in La Matanza (a working class suburb of Greater Buenos Aires) because it is administering the work plans and taking money from the state.

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