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(en) Workers Solidarity #76 - Argentina- a living laboratory of struggle

From Worker <a-infos-en@ainfos.ca>
Date Fri, 8 Aug 2003 08:24:02 +0200 (CEST)

A - I N F O S N E W S S E R V I C E

"Argentina has become a living laboratory of struggle, a
place where the popular politics of the future are being
invented" John + Jennifer Whitney www.nologo.org
On Sunday May 18th Argentineans went to the polls and
elected Nestor Kirchner - widely considered a puppet of
the former populist president Eduado Duhalde. Yet on
December 19/20th 2001 Argentineans "churned through 3
presidents in a row" as thousands poured into the streets.
Their slogan: "que se vayan todos" (everyone must go).
Yet quite clearly "everyone", in the shape of an old school populist president, is back.

This begs two questions. Firstly how did such a
formidable protest/popular movement evolve, and
secondly where is it now?

What happened in Argentina was rooted in the economic
crisis bought about through the government's slavish
obedience to the dictates of the International Monetary
Fund in 1990s. When, finally, the government had to give
in and decouple the peso from the dollar there was 40%
unemployment (official figure 21%) and those who could
afford to save saw 30% of their savings wiped out.
Obviously this led to resentment!

Preceding the real crisis, though, was a huge movement
which began in the rural interior of Argentina, the
Piquettes. These were mass roadblocks involving up to
thousands of desperate people - poor labourers and the
unemployed. Without even the power to strike they built
large community based groups which blockaded
highways, forcing concessions from local governors and
later from central government. The Piquettes showed the

When the economic crisis began to hit hard at
white-collar workers, and even the middle class, they
quickly began to organise in a similar manner. This
struggle led to two vital developments. Firstly the
beginning of neighbourhood general assemblies organised
on a street or area basis.

The second was the reoccupation of factories left vacant
by bankrupt owners. There are now up to 200 "Fabrica
Ocupada", some of which have actually become quite
profitable. For example, the occupied Frigorifico
Yaguané meat packing plant is now the leading cold
storage plant in Argentina.

Though attendance is dropping at neighbourhood
assemblies there is still a very large and undefeated
social struggle. Occupations and assemblies continue.
The Piquettes movement remains strong in many areas.

However there is no doubt that the political parties have
swarmed out of their lairs and are busy "reoccupying
space". It seems that the establishment have adopted a
carrot and stick approach.

On the one hand repression has increased. Recently the
occupied Brukman plant was evicted by a massive force
of riot police. The 115 female employees, along with 7,000
supporters, attempted to get back in but where beaten
back. Hundreds of police chased protestors all the way
into a nearby hospital, firing tear gas into wards. This one
incident does demonstrate that resistance is still high and
the state is ready to use a lot of repression.

Secondly assemblies have begun to be taken over, first by
Trotskyists and Leninists, later by more conventional
reformists. Unfortunately the reaction to this points out,
for me, the biggest problem: apoliticism

The movement has continuously rejected all forms of
"politics" ("que se vayan todos"). This is understandable.
However the state and the establishment never ignore

The assemblies and the Piqeuttes movements have been
very localised and fought to preserve this autonomy.
Unfortunately by not joining together, federating and
strengthening their positions they are losing ground.
Many 'real people' are now abandoning the assemblies
which were mass, popular and vibrant, leaving behind
hollow fronts for different left parties.

The mistake was not to build alternative politics
nationally - to federate - unite and coalesce to build an
alternative poll of attraction to the state, which is now
filling the vacuum. Our anarchist comrades in the OSL
(Organisation of Libertarian Socialists) have
continuously pointed this out.

As one OSL supporter wrote on infoshop.org: "their
critique spells out the danger of apolitical popular
organising ... In Argentina the extreme right is organised,
have political parties and get government funds. They are
shrouded in populist imagery and sentiment and appeal to
many in the poorer classes".

The popular movement in Argentina has not been
defeated. The newly elected president will go on the
offensive with all the powers at his disposal. However
the assemblies, occupied factories and Piquettes will
resist and may even experience a new growth. But until
they can organise on a national scale and point to a strong
libertarian alternative they face an uphill struggle.

Conor Mc Loughlin

See also

* Some Anarchist history and theory on revolution

This page is from the print version of the
Irish Anarchist paper 'Workers Solidarity'.

Print out the PDF file of this issue

Print out the PDF file of the most recent issue

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