Forwarded from Nestor Gorojovsky (Argentina update)
lnp3 at panix.com
Tue Aug 5 15:51:46 MDT 2003
I owe the list a long posting on Argentinean politics. Rodríguez Saá, the
Peronist candidate my own group supported critically during the campaign,
seems to have been shattered by "electoral defeat", and my silence may be
understood as an indication that I have been shattered with my candidate.
Well, news on my shattering are greatly exaggerated (and if we are to
listen to the hardest core of the imperialist press, even those on
Rodríguez Saá's, but this is something I can´t discuss here now). As a
result of my not being shattered at all, however, I am extremely busy, and
IMHO a good report in English on the Argentinean situation in the last
couple of months needs more than some minutes snatched off my employer´s time.
Today, I will give my views on Lou Pr.´s posting on "what should be done in
Argentina". But in order to answer, I will have to begin with some comments
on the general political situation. Since no serious comment of it can fail
being traced back to the April 27th election and the performance of
Rodríguez Saá and his MNyP during the election and, particularly, AFTER it,
in part at least, I am beginning to give my own account of what has
happened here during these two eventful months.
THE GENERAL SETTING OF THE CURRENT SITUATION: A BOTCHED POST-ELECTORAL
SITUATION FOR THE LEFT OF THE NATIONAL CAMP
During the Presidential campaign, and against the forebodings of many among
his followers, Rodríguez Saá expected to arrive to a runoff with Menem and
overwhelm him. There were times when he would even dream with a result on
the first round that made the runoff unnecessary. He didn´t accept that
there would exist a possibility not to be (at the very least) second after
Menem, and April 27th, which left him out of the Great Game, took him
He felt it had been a terrible defeat, a "veredict by the Argentinean
people that they do not want our program now", and decided that "for the
time being, this is Kirchner time". He made many other mistakes, all of
which in the end turned what was no defeat at all but a grand beginning
into an actual -post-electoral- defeat.
The MNyP, in spite of many organizative and political shortcomings, in
spite of the venomous attitude of the media, in spite of the relative
desire for tranquility that had gained the spirit of the Argentinean masses
once the worst exponents of neo-liberalism were ejected, managed to impose
the agenda of the electoral debate, had been unable to beat the immense
forces conjured up against it. But it had obtained a 15% of the vote for a
hard, national-revolutionary set of immediate measures (not a general
programme, but a hundred or so of concrete measures, sometimes even stating
the date when they would be taken) in a very complex election where the
strongly government-backed winner obtained 22%.
It would moreover be added that Kirchner got to the Presidency thanks to
Rodríguez Saá. Without him, Duhalde would have chosen another, more
moderate, candidate. In order to fight off the "man of the default" (more
on this latter on), he had to strike an agreement with the most progressive
of the mainstream Peronist candidates, a candidate who would have never got
to Presidency without the MNyP on the streets.
Nothing of the above was enough, however, for Rodríguez Saá, and during the
first two months after the elections he heaped mistake. That is why I
stated above that he had not suffered was an _electoral_ defeat, but a
_post-electoral_ (to a great deal self-inflicted) one. (Some day I hope I
have the time to go on deeper on this issue, but today cannot do so: those
who can read Spanish may have interesting insights through the debates
collected on the Reconquista Popular archives). What really matters here is
that the net result of Rodríguez Saá's self-injuring blunders was that no
organized left-wing opposition to Kirchner has appeared _on the national
camp_, and Kirchner´s first interesting signals won the attention of most
of the anti-neoliberal voters in Argentina. This is the general setting of
my reply to Lou´s observation on "what is to be done".
THE "WHAT IS TO BE DONE" ISSUE: CAN THE "LEFT" OF THE ANTI-NATIONAL CAMP
Lou Proyect writes:
"The more I read about Argentina, the more it appears that the political
crisis on the left stems from the failure of the Marxist groups to rid
themselves of sectarian and dogmatic habits. The challenge to the Marxist
left seems to come primarily from autonomist and "libertarian socialist"
figures like Adamovsky who fetishize localized forms of resistance. If you
stop and think about it, the autonomist left has the same kind of
micropolitical orientation that the Russian economist current had in the
early 1900s. All Argentina needs is a few latter-day Lenins who can write a
"What is to be Done" updated for the current struggle."
IMHO, this is partly accurate partly wrong.
First, the _accurate_ side. The failure of the Marxist groups to rid
themselves of sectarian and dogmatic habits is, certainly, a basic problem.
That the challenge to these groups comes primarily from libertarianism is
also very true. And the micropolitical orientation of that autonomist left
is, certainly, much like the Russian economicists (even in their names:
doesn´t the "Lenin-Adamovsky" debate sound deliciously pre-1917 Russian?).
And some latter-day Lenins would be welcome, indeed (though I believe many
other countries would require similar people).
If everything is accurate, what is _wrong_, then?
What is wrong is that most of the above refers to a microcosm, not to
WAS DECEMBER 19/20 A TRIUMPHAL TRUMPET CALL, OR A BELL TOLLING FOR THE
ARGENTINEAN MAINSTREAM POLITICAL "LEFT" ?
The Dec 19/20, 2001, mobilizations brought to an end the most brutal age in
contemporary Argentina, the Infamous Age of Recolonization that began in
1976. But the 1976-2001 Age of Infamy, as well as its predecessor, the
1930-43 Infamous "Decade", wasn´t infamous simply because the most
reactionary interests in Argentina steered the country. In such a case, we
would simply call it Counterrevolutionary. We, however, are talking Infamy
here. What was so infamous with both periods, then? Well, what was infamous
was that the whole political arch, _from the Left to the Right_, behaved in
such a way as to reinforce the colonial structure, not to destroy it.
During all these long years, not only didn´t the National Revolutionary
Front have any opportunity to express itself, but there was a permanent
rumble and screaming from the quarters of the "Left" to help avoiding such
a development. This is what made both ages infamous.
So that when the ages came to an end (the Decade with the June 4th
nationalist military coup of 1943, the Age of Infamy with the wave of
popular uprisings that peaked on 12-19/20) what came to an end was a whole,
complex, system of political representations. And this must be said of
_every_ component of the semicolonial structure, that is both right _and_
left. Because even against their best wishes and hopes, the mainstream Left
parties in Argentina have been, once again, a "progressive" and even
"revolutionary" variant, but _a variant in the last resort_, of the general
structure of political representation cast in 1983: the seemingly endless
and perennial mould of the "formal colonial democracy".
This democracy required, requested, that some form of political Left
pretended to represent the deeply felt necessities of our people, while in
the best Lampedusian tradition everything would keep unchanged. The
grotesque display of the "progressive" Chacho Álvarez bringing to power the
not so much idiotic but ultra-reactionary de la Rúa in 1999 was probably
one of the most breathtaking circus acts by the most populated fringe of
the Argentinean "left". Without the "progressive" and "leftist" votes
purveyed by Álvarez, de la Rúa would _never_ have become President of
Argentina, so that this is not an irrelevant feat. Other "left" parties
-declarations aside: I am talking actions, not words- would oppose the
"reformist" Álvarez on every ground _except for_ the basic one: not a
single one of these parties put the semicolonial character of Argentina at
the center of their strategies. Thus, either by acquiescence with the
"almighty" Power, either by sheer denial, either by suicidal sectarianism,
the main issue in Argentinean politics, the illegitimacy of our foreign
debt and the consequences thereof, was not tackled by the "Left".
It was the Argentinean masses who tackled it, on the streets. And the
"Left" had no answer to such a demand, other than general slogans. This is
the sad truth. Thus. time will prove that either the 19/20 mobilizations
put the lid on the coffin of the _whole_ rainbow of colonial political
formations, or they will be lost for history.
THE GENERAL FABRIC OF THE "LEFT" BETWEEN 1983 AND 2001
I am optimistic. The colonial right has been, for the time being, cornered.
They are still powerful, and hold many of the positions of power that they
obtained after 1975. But they have also lost every bit of legitimacy even
though this seems to be refuted by the high percentages obtained both by
Menem and López Murphy on the Presidentials. Those votes can be easily
explained by other considerations than the ideological hegemony of the
Right. On this ground, they have suffered an enormous shot in the ass, and
are still in pain. The colonial Left, however, has not fared much better.
And this is twice as painful for them, because although they did not
understand quite well what was happening immediately after the 19/20
mobilizations began to change the face of this country, they were convinced
that, at last, their hour of glory had come. Allons, enfants!!!
Were these expectations reasonable?
During the long retreat of the 1976 military regime from power -between the
1982 events in Malvinas and the 1983 elections- one of its strongest men,
Gral. Harguindeguy, declared that in the future there would be a single
"accepted" Left, and that this Left was to be represented by the Partido
Intransigente. The Partido Intransigente was, like the Russian SRs of the
late Czarist times, a momentous zero, and for quite similar reasons.
Anti-militaristic, verbalistic, nothing-doing but terrific when set to
seeking some well paid post in the State, the leadership of the PI -many of
them, BTW, former members of the Radical party with no more "Leftist"
credentials than an anti-Peronist front with the Communists in 1973-
reduced their version of a Leftist agenda to a mixture of romantic
reformism and mainstream Western liberal "human-rightism". They had an
immense following in the petty bourgeois youth of the early and mid 80s.
And, fulfilling Harguindeguy's expectations, the PI set the general cast of
mind for almost all of the Argentinean Left during the whole 1983-2001
period, not because they were so powerful but because they were so petty
bourgeois. For we should never forget that through the "Left", in
Argentina, it is a fraction of the petty bourgeoisie, not the working
class, that speaks.
Some of these other Left or Leftist groups would be more vocal, others more
pungent, others more "revolutionary". But none of these "Left" parties
would come up with a concrete, clear, structured, general outlook of "what
to do to turn Argentina socialist" (except for the host of ultra-left
groups: for them, the problem could be shrinked to a direct link between
any local strike against a beastly boss -and, of course, every boss is a
beastly boss, we all know that, it is written on Capital, 1, is it not?-
and the House of Government, to be traversed at full speed in tennis shoes,
of course with flying colors in hand. Let it be said in their honoer that
although they offered no solution at all, at least they showed a
disposition to verbally tackle the issue of power.
Yet, during the years after 1983 _all_ of the mainstream Left in Argentina,
whether harking back to the Communist Party (which established a close
alliance with the Partido Intransigente from the very beginning), to the
"Trotskyist" groups, or to the variegated array of splinters from the old
Scialist tree, were slowly captured by the general mind of the Partido
Intransigente (which, of course, stood as much of actual politics as snow
stands of summer heat, and dissolved in a few years). So that when the
Regime actually fell as a result of the popular mobilisations of 2001, they
had no single serious Leftist program or set of basic guidelines for power
nor for reshaping Argentina.
MINIMALISM, THE ONLY WAY OUT!
Thus, the Znet report can only make sense if we remember that the
Argentinean Left couldn´t BUT understand the barter markets, the
neighborhood assemblies, the piquetero organizations and, to a much lesser
degree, the recovered plants movement as an _ersatz_ for actual
revolutionary organizing, not as an essential component, of a complex but
ultimately clear march towards power and socialism. The "non-autonomist",
organized, Left was, in spite of anything they may cherish, believe and
love, a more structured and demanding version of the autonomist left. They
_would not be able_ to integrate the different forms of popular creativity
into a single and unified mass movement towards a nationally organized
march to power.
So that _no other policy_ could be imagined for the Left but what they
(a) to structure (thanks to former experiences in structuring bourgeois
financial institutions such as the network of credit cooperatives) market
networks, which was made, at least in part, by the always money smart
structure of the Communist Party, but slowly whithered away (partly because
some swindlers rot it from within, partly because the slight increase in
liquidity of the overall economy after the 2002 default has been generating
another kind of solutions),
(b) to "enhance and revolutionize" -that is, to smother from within- the
(c) to "organize and network" (that is to split and ultra-split) the
Piquetero movement, or
(d) to "instill revolutionary goals" (that is, to bring them to the brink
of disaster) particular movements within the variegated and impressive
movement of plant recoveries.
THE CORE ISSUE WITH OUR CURRENT "LEFT" IS NOT ITS CLASS COMPOSITION, BUT
THE CLASSIST MEANING OF THEIR ACTIONS.
But this bet, at its own turn, reflected the fact that for any practical
purpose, after the 1976-83 regime most of the Left has been deprived of any
serious Marxist mind, relapsing deeper and deeper into the "progressive"
petty bourgeois dogma: human rights, Constitutional rights, individual
freedom. Thus, it had become a prime conveyor belt for petty bourgeois
uneasiness, discomfort and eventually rage to the political scene.
Try and wade through the reams of material that this Left has produced for
their mass actions. Read their leaflets. Don´t stop at the level of the
articles by sympathetic journalists. Go and have a taste of their concrete,
for-the-people, political literature. You will hardly find a concrete
analysis of Argentinean class structure (save for the selfsame general and
stale soapsuds where the "Left" has been wallowing for the last fifty or
sixty years), no answer to the current challenges, no charts for the
future, no blueprints for the eventual changes to be made on the mode of
production, no serious Marxist thinking, that is. When one goes to a mass
rally of what passes for "Left" here -some glorious exceptions marking the
rule rather than defying it- it is quite discouraging to verify that its
constituency is basically a depoliticized mass whose ideological core can
be summed up as widespread hatred of the military and the police, and of
any form of coercitive authority in fact.
During the years that ended with the 1975 coup, one could at least have a
good political debate, discuss whether Argentina was fully bourgeois or
semicolonial, feudal or capitalist, or if the Soviet Union was _actually_
socialist or not, etc. Not today. Today, of course you can find some cadre
who can bring the debate to a level resembling those of the early 70s, but
I am talking about the mass. The mass has been dutifully mesmerized into
depolitization, the Left having acquired a single feature from Peronism,
being its worst feature indeed: the drums permanently smashing your little
grey cells while you march to a millionth demonstration which will not
engage into a national movement of any kind.is is the actual issue here.
And if you don´t have the drums, then you have the loudspeaker with some
Lama-like officiant endlessly repeating some idiotic mantra which is deemed
to be the word of order for those who march.
BTW, and particularly because this goes to a widely international list:
this is in part a consequence of the perverted ways in which international
NGO´s finance some of the "Leftist" groups in Argentina _only if they take
up the "general democratic", that is, imperialist, human rights agenda_,
something that became evident when Hebe de Bonafini defended the Basque
nationalists and, behind her, many of her fellow comrades shrieked "Hebe,
the funds! Hebe, the funds!". Shortly afterwards, some of the funding to
Hebe´s organization dried up faster that can be told. The Golden Rule being
that in the end s/he who has the money is s/he who makes the rules, this
final result cannot be unexpected, nor undeserved. Decade after decade of
financial dependency compounded with a natural trend within a good deal of
our old Left (which had NEVER been anything else than, at most, "left
liberal", particularly when one thinks of the mass following of the
Communist Party) have, in fact, exposed the actual wood this flamboyant
tree was made of: petty bourgeois liberal individualism. When armed, they
turned terrorist, when unarmed, they are "constitutionalists" or
SHATTERED DREAMS AND POINTS OF DEPARTURE
As to concrete results: a far cry away from the hopes of our "Left", the
Argentinean people did not flock to the barter markets thus rejecting
capitalist monopolic corporations (more later), nor did they leave the
State to wither away while the Neighborhood Assemblies slowly took power.
Neither did the Piquetero organizations manage to establish a
confrontational model of social organization, nor the recovered plants
movement (where the Left is, by the way, much more marginal than it boasts,
simply because this movement is a genuine movement from below, from the
Argentinean working class such as it is, with little presence of petty
bourgeoisie) did manage to set itself as an example for workers under the
ugly yoke of, say, Ford Motor Corporation. Nope. Though an important
development in itself, the recovered plants movement did not rise up to
what any serious Leftist would expect from it: to seize power everywhere,
once and for all.
True, economist, autonomist, and semi-anarchist trends (sometimes dressed
up as "leftist Peronist", particularly among Piqueteros) generously pervade
the "barter markets and the Neighbors' Assemblies", to a meaningful though
lesser degree the "Piquetero" movement, and (much less yet) "the occupied
factories organisations". All these trends make the perspectives outlined
in the paragraph above quite unfeasible.
But the problem lies in that -and precisely because of those trends-
although neither of the movements above constitutes a real _strategic
option_ for a truly revolutionary, Leftist, Marxist Argentinean policy,
they are among the most respectable side products of these last 25 years.
They are, probably, their best (not their worst) feature. If they are to be
true to themselves, these social movements _cannot but_ be crisscrossed by
those trends. It is not a matter of ideological purity, but of social
WHAT DID THE "LEFT" DO WITH THE NEW SITUATION?
In my own opinion, the whole situation led to an electoral outcome, where
the Argentinean people would be able to vote a new leadership with a
candidate for the National Front among the choices. But let us assume I was
wrong. Let us assume that the situation had to be managed by resorting to
mass mobilisation, not to elections. What did the Left do?
The Left either did not help these millions of Argentinians to step the
long way upwards from immediate consciousness towards political
consciousness, either opportunistically pretended to turn their raw
practice into (crude) "theory", or either attempted to enforce these
movements into their own prefabricated, ready-built, strongly "Marxist",
Barter markets were an immediate, defensive, fully and openly economicist
attempt to escape the currency squeeze imposed by IMF-sponsored monetary
policies and the convertibility schema. There appeared two large networks
of them. One, organized around some organizations in the orbit of the
Communist Party, the second under the auspices of an NGO headed by Heloísa
Primavera, an Argentinean-Brazilian biologist and economist who had been
called upon by Rodríguez Saá to prepare emergency plans for a new currency
on the experience gained through the organisation of these barter networks.
They slowly died away as some currency began to appear on the market after
the devaluation, and after some swindlers destroyed many of their
Neighbor´s Assemblies were the hopeful expression of some sectors of the
"progressive" though generally "apolitical" fractions of the urban middle
class in that the Dec 19/20, 2001, mobilisations would turn out as a
complete renewal of Argentinean politics, where power would dissolve into
the hands of people, and government would become a matter of a somehow
democratic grassroots hierarchy of assemblies gathering at porches,
verandas, street corners, squares and parks. This was not exactly a
nationwide movement, it was essentially a movement of the Buenos Aires
agglomeration and most pointedly (though with a few exceptions such as the
Ramos Mejía Neighborhood Assembly), particularly of those sectors which
reside in the Federal District in Buenos Aires.
Now, from the point of view of urban sociology and structure this fraction
of the 13,000,000 large agglomeration in Buenos Aires (the _actual_ city),
the Federal District acts, more or less, like a mixture of Manhattan and -I
suppose, never been there- Brooklyn as regards the 17,000.000 people in the
agglomeration of New York City: the privileged core and its immediate
envelope of various shades of middle class (in the Argentinean sense, which
excludes the bourgeoisie) and petty bourgeoisie.
This was the main element composing the Assemblies. These were the choice
slab for the extreme Left gourmets. But as the spirits of the petty
bourgeoisie faded down (and, at least in part, the savings were somehow or
other returned back to their owners), these Assemblies began to lose
weight. However, these objective forces were strongly compounded by the
enormous efforts of the extreme "Left" organisations, which in a few weeks
turned the vibrant, original, popular mass gatherings into barren wombs of
empty sloganeering which, of course, not only did not deliver any fruit but
in the end were reabsorbed. There you can see, from time to time, a tiny
gathering of nostalgic neighbors who first organized some Assembly with
another tiny (but more organized) group of political activists who, in the
high hours of the night, debate the next step to be taken by the paralyzed
movement. Or, conversely, what you have are small Assemblies that have
reverted to social action (distribution of food, etc.) or simple
neighborhood tasks like making sure that the bulbs in the public lamps are
replaced (they even PAY for the bulbs), but at least without the booming
chatter of those "organizers" that the Left sent on them like a swarm of
The Piquetero movement, as could hardly be otherwise, was splintered. Some
of its fractions have become, in the open, a part of the political and
social reparation system of President Kirchner. All the other fractions,
save from a few, share in this shameful condition. If unemployment comes
down, then the Piquetero movement will lose steam. As Castells, probably
the head of the most sincerely Piquetero branch of the movement has stated,
they don´t fight for more subsidies, they fight for employment. Once they
are employed, they will not be Piqueteros any more. The Piqueteros are,
simply put, the unions of the unemployed.
As to the recovered plants movement, this is a quite different thing, and I
will try to deal with it on a different posting. But to show its
complexity, suffice it to say that most recovered plants were NOT organized
by the "Left" and, in fact, the main organizer of the recovered plants
movement was Dr. Caro, a young Catholic lawyer of the Southern Greater
Buenos Aires area, who is currently running for mayor of Avellaneda under
the Aldo Rico ticket. Aldo Rico, let me tell you, is one of the NAMES OF
THE FASCIST BEAST for our local "Left". I hope you understand that such a
complex subject matter will not be dealt with on this posting.
Hugs to all,
Louis Proyect, Marxism mailing list: http://www.marxmail.org
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