Forwarded from Nestor Gorojovsky (Argentina update)

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Tue Aug 5 15:51:46 MDT 2003


INTRODUCTION

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 
completely unawares.

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 
FARE BETTER?

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 
actual Argentina.

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 
actually did:

(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 
neighborhood assemblies,

(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.

IDEOLOGICAL DEGRADATION

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 
"economicists".

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 
constituency.

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", 
organizational straitjackets.

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 
organizative cells.

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 
Lenins.

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,

Néstor


Louis Proyect, Marxism mailing list: http://www.marxmail.org




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