Argentina up in arms
Monica Hill
volume:  
volume 37
issue 5
October 2016

Latin American journalist Carlos Aznárez wrote an article on Sept. 8 about the current Argentine regime. He opened with these warning words:

Ten months are not a lot to a country, but in Argentina, under the current neoliberal and deeply retrograde government, they feel like a century. [Pres.] Mauricio Macri hasn’t held back when it came to imposing adjustments on all the whole population — except on the business class linked to transnational companies, soybean producers ...

Neoliberalism normal. Macri’s dedication to big business and free trade came out immediately after he took office last December when he imposed huge cutbacks of government energy subsidies. Soon after, humongous price increases (tarifazo) descended: a 2,000 percent hike in gas, 700 percent in electricity, 350 percent in water, and 100 percent in public transportation. With familiar “austerity” sermonizing, Argentina’s new president explains his right-wing strategy this way:

“… I am asking you, all citizens, time and time again, that based on this responsibility, we truly collaborate by reducing personal energy consumption, because what the country most needs at this moment is to consume less energy.”

Actually, Macri is wringing money out of Argentine working people and retirees to guarantee huge returns for foreign oil companies and thereby keep them in Argentina. His goal is to make it profitable for international capital, Shell Oil in particular, to invest and produce in Argentina. Like every neoliberal terminator, he is firing public workers, privatizing everything in sight, and subsidizing big business by price hikes on the necessities of life — energy, water, sanitation and public transportation.

As Juan Marino of the Tendencia Piquetera Revolucionaria (TPR) puts it bluntly, “This government is not capable of a solution because its program is the tarifaz. It is the rate hikes.”

Pounding protests. Pot-banging protesters (famously known as Cacerolazo) have been pouring through the streets of the capital Buenos Aires and throughout the country since April. Factories have been occupied, roadblocks mounted. Not a week goes by without dissent over rate hikes and the 200,000 newly laid-off workers. In July and then in September there were two major marches of hundreds of thousands denouncing government attacks on social services, unions, consumers, small businesses, teachers and schools.

The protest against Mauricio Macri’s reactionary regime is broad. It includes the formal labor movement such as the Central de Trabajadores Argentina (CTA-Autónoma) and new kinds of organizations such as the Center of Workers of Popular Economy, which connects to the large informal economy and to politically radical unions. Students pour into the streets as do their striking teachers. Also marching are consumer groups and an army of independent dissidents fed up with bourgeois politicians.

What’s needed is centralized democratic leadership with take-the-power vision. Or as journalist Carlos Aznárez puts it: “We mustn’t go back but move forward, seeking to destroy capitalism, setting our eye on socialism and not taking shortcuts nor using euphemisms [such as “mixed economy”] that only slow down the process.”

Take heart from the words of the Sept. 2 demonstration leader Hugo Yasky, head of one of Argentina’s major labor federations: “The people won’t kneel to the economic power. The countdown for a national strike has just begun.”

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