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(en) (sup - en) Argentina Erupts: An analysis of a popular uprising By Marc Silverstein

From "Marc Silverstein" <autonomarc@hotmail.com>
Date Tue, 8 Jan 2002 05:21:17 -0500 (EST)

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


The events began on Tuesday, December 18 and spread to the suburbs of Buenos 
Aires on Wednesday. Food riots and other examples of direct action were 
reported throughout northeastern Argentina, in Buenos Aires, Cordoba, 
Rosario, and looting occurred at several stores and supermarkets. Thousands 
of poor Argentineans banged pots and pans and demanded food outside of 
businesses, only to face state repression. Stores were counseled by the 
government to not give out food independently, but often the clamor of the 
people forced them to. Argentina is Latin America’s third largest economy, 
but in recent years has been in serious economic crisis. The week prior to 
the rioting a general strike and road blockades were gaining in momentum. 
The unemployment rate of the country is 20% and 2,000 people a day fall 
under the poverty line. The militancy of the past few weeks is nothing new. 
In 1989, there were massive protests and rioting against unjust economic 
policies, which helped topple the government.

These food riots quickly turned into massive anti-government demonstrations, 
as over one million people in Buenos Aires, out of a population of 2.7 
million, marched through the streets demanding an end to the neoliberal 
economic policies of the International Monetary Fund and the 2002 austerity 
plan. In order to pay back I.M.F. loans, poor nations are forced to accept 
Structural Adjustment Programs (or S.A.P.’s), which mean the gutting of 
social services and infrastructure. Argentina is in $155 billion debt, and 
the liberalization of the national economy has meant suffering for the vast 
majority of Argentineans.

When the government began to see the insurgency for the threat it really 
was, it immediately tried to crack down on the revolt. Confrontations 
between demonstrators and police in Cordoba and La Plata became common, and 
led to the deaths of 28 people, hundreds of injured, and thousands of 
arrested. It’s unfortunate that these 28, who died fighting capitalist 
globalization just as much as Carlo Guiliani did, aren’t given nearly as 
much attention in activist circles. On Wednesday, the government declared a 
‘state of siege’. Assembled groups of three or more people were made 
illegal, and all constitutional rights were disbanded. The army decided not 
to aid in the repression of the populace, and this led to a serious crisis. 
At this time many cabinet ministers resigned, and Argentina was in utter 

On Thursday, the President Fernando De la Rua, and the Economy Minister 
Cavallo, adamantly pro-privatization, resigned after two years in office. De 
la Rua fled into a helicopter to save himself from the anger of the 
demonstrators surrounding the Presidential Palace. The “Pink Palace”, 
Argentinean equivalent to the White House, was taken over by the people. 
There was an air of defiance, but also of hope as the corrupt administration 
was toppled. This looked like a potentially revolutionary situation and the 
question became: What are we going to do next? Various answers came from 
various places.

Hundreds of demonstrators clashed with security forces outside of the 
Congress building. Argentina’s congress named Eduardo Duhalde president (the 
fifth within two weeks) on January 1, 2002 to serve until 2003 presidential 
elections. This is clearly a move to maintain capitalist social peace, and 
to prevent an insurrection. Duhalde, an old style Peronist, was forced to 
make cautious statements and to make some sort of concessions to the people, 
with empty platitudes about “populism”.  Hundreds of police surrounded the 
Plaza de Mayo to quell the unrest. Duhalde is a former governor of Buenos 
Aires whose government was frequently charged with corruption. Jorge Ocampo, 
a 38-year old electrician said, ``The problem is that there aren't any 
alternatives; our political leaders are all either scarred by charges of 
corruption or seen as part of the system.'' It’s clear that nothing at all 
will be changed through electing a new ruler, and that what’s required is 
complete social transformation.


Privatization in the 1990s under Menem led to massive layoffs, and price 
increases for public utilities, such as electricity and phones. The IMF made 
it clear that they were not going to lend Argentina money. In December 2001 
people not wanting their pesos to be devalued, rushed to the banks to 
convert the pesos to dollars on a one-to-one rate. Economy Minister Cavallo 
made a law limiting the withdrawals to $1,000 a month, angering the middle 
class. This is one reason why the middle class joined the demonstrations. 
Very few people in Argentina have money in the banks, and the impoverished 
masses are making more radical demands than the middle class; fighting for 
the end of capitalist injustice and for a really democratic, humane, and 
just society.

Mark Weisbrot, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, a 
Washington D.C. based think-tank writes: “For 20 years now, Latin America 
has followed Washington's advice and slashed tariffs, swallowed IMF 
austerity plans and sold off tens of billions of dollars of state assets to 
foreigners.” When Argentina was forced to “peg” its currency to the dollar, 
which made the peso overvalued, it made it nearly impossible to escape 
recession. A mild recession was turned into an international economic crisis 
created directly by the IMF.

In 1999, the World Bank and Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) approved 
the use of S.A.P.s. It was approved as part of a $2 billion pilot 
experiment. The “budget cuts” that President De la Rua promised the IMF were 
not fully pushed through, so the IMF, which has lent Argentina $18 billion 
since 1999 decided to end financial aid. The IMF demands fiscal austerity, 
which hurts the poor most of all and demands that social services be 
sacrificed to the business interests and financial investments of 
multinational corporations.


It’s imperative that the people don’t fall into the dead-end of social 
democracy or reformism. It doesn’t look very likely that the government will 
succeed in enforcing a military dictatorship onto such an ungovernable 
populace, so their only other option is to use social democratic politicians 
who vaguely promise change and reform and claim to be on the side of the 
people. This is just another tactic used to pacify the unrest, and once 
their power is consolidated they will build up a highly powerful police 
state to make sure nothing like this ever happens again. This happened in 
Bolivia, in 2000. There was a near-revolution; with most of the country shut 
down by a general strike, and road blockades throughout most cities. The 
town of Cochabamba won a victory over corporate takeover of their water, but 
unfortunately they eventually gave in to the reformist pleading for ‘order’. 
As some of the graffiti from Paris May ’68 said, “Those who make revolutions 
only half-way merely dig their own graves”.

The Communist Party and the trade union leaders of the C.T.A. (who “don’t 
want things to get out of hand”) will opportunistically try and recuperate 
this insurrection, but it is to be hoped, considering the inspiring fact 
that few party banners were to be seen in the streets and that much of the 
organizing was spontaneous, that they will not succeed.

As anarchists, where do we stand? How can the mass of working people form a 
dual-power to the state and organize their society along lines of direct 
participatory democracy, social equality, and mutual aid? What forces in 
Argentina already exist that have a coherent theoretical understanding of 
anti-authoritarian principles and tactics, and how are these principles and 
tactics going to be popularized and agitated for?

The most well-known and most established anarchist group in Argentina is the 
OSL (Organizacion Socialista Libertaria) which has been active in labor 
struggles for many years now, and in radicalizing the working class. In the 
paper En la Calle, ‘the voice of organized anarchism’, they state: “We must 
throw ourselves fully towards building people's organisation, because if we 
the people are not capable of giving ourselves the society which we want and 
need, ex-President Menem is there waiting to be called, as a replacement 
part so that nothing changes, waiting like a wolf in the darkness to eat the 
carrion left behind by financial capital after the long neoliberal fiesta 
which burnt its last candle today.”

The Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo are struggling to redress the crimes and 
‘disappearances’ of Argentina’s military dictatorship of 1976-83. The OSL 
reported that five or six Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo were beaten up. The 
most promising answer to the question of organization are the burgeoning 
Argentinean soviets (Asambleas Populares). The people of Almagro, Buenos 
Aires have formed a popular assembly as a real alternative to the state.

In their “Declaration” they write: "(...) The state of assembly and 
mobilization (is) the only way to guarantee our right as workers, neighbors 
and Argentineans (...) We call all the neighborhoods of the Capital to 
create and take part in all the assemblies and forms of organization set up 
by their neighbors and organizations. And we call to create connection 
commissions (comisiones de enlace) with the assemblies already formed or 
about to be formed."

Among their demands are the immediate resignation of the Supreme Court, the 
immediate liberty of all political prisoners, and an end to the neoliberal 
policies of the IMF and World Bank, which starve the people of poor nations. 
Their call for a “convocation of a free and sovereign Popular Constituent 
Assembly in all the country, based on popular assemblies in the 
neighborhoods, factories, counties, and provinces” is clearly a radical one, 
demanding the solidarity and support of North American radicals.

A danger to keep in mind is that if a popular revolution becomes successful, 
and mutual aid counter-institutions are created on a large scale, the U.S. 
or the U.N. could militarily intervene as a “peacekeeping force”. This is 
not as unrealistic as it sounds. There are numerous examples of states or 
coalitions of states intervening to crush popular revolutions and 
experiments in self-sufficiency (Nicaragua, Chile, Cuba). Apart from the 
Leninist take-over of these revolutions, there were also real practical 
experiments in self-organization, direct democracy and mutual aid. Keep in 
mind that Bush described Argentina as a “key friend and ally” and isn’t too 
eager about the possibility of losing U.S. hegemony in Latin America. The 
truth is, Argentina is a materially wealthy country, and could provide the 
means of subsistence for every individual if organized rationally and with 
people in mind instead of profits.

After September 11, the U.S. government has a new arsenal of repressive 
legislation and a whole new batch of excuses with which to crush popular 
dissent. A popular revolution in Argentina could be conflated with 
“terrorism”, and moral legitimacy for a military attack would be maintained 
in the eyes of ‘Middle America’.

This would especially be bolstered by the fact that the people of Argentina 
might have to arm themselves in self-defense against any kind of imperialist 
attack. This is not unlikely; arms already play a part in the political 
scene, as anti-Duhalde leftists and Peronist supporters fought in the 

Hopefully these earthquakes will shake the rest of Latin America and help 
mobilize the people of Ecuador, Bolivia and Brazil, whose militancy is not 
in doubt. These countries are equally being fucked by the IMF and World Bank 
and only self-organization and practical self-sufficiency will be able to 
create a credible alternative.

If North American anti-capitalists remain in solidarity with the people of 
Argentina, and real links are built between the two continents, then Bush is 
going to have a hard time planning a military intervention in the coming 
struggles ahead.

For more information and the latest news in English and Spanish, check out: 
http://argentina.indymedia.org, http://www.ainfos.ca, and 
OSL can be reached at libertaria@infovia.com.ar


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