Argentina: From Populist Offensive to Renewal of Workers’ Struggles?

Translation of a contribution from a French sympathizer of the ICT

Health, education, transport, civil service: since the election of the "anarcho-capitalist"(1) Javier Milei in November 2023, Argentina has seen strikes on an unprecedented scale in all principal economic sectors. On January 24, 2024, there was even a general strike and extremely well-attended demonstrations in Buenos Aires to denounce the “ultra-liberal” policies of Argentina’s extreme-right(2) President, supported by a coalition encompassing social democrats as well as those nostalgic for the military dictatorship.

The election of Milei represents a turn in the political life of Argentina and Latin America: like the rise of right-wing populism in Europe, Brazil, and the United States, it attests to an acceleration of the political crisis, on the heels of an economic and social crisis, expressed by supposedly "dégagiste"(3) and "anti-establishment" slogans. This demonstrates the bourgeoisie can no longer be placated with half-measures to save its tottering and decadent system, half-measures of the type enacted by successive left- and right-wing governments, aimed at maintaining a semblance of social peace. On the contrary, as the country is sinking deeper into crisis, a social war is being prepared.

In three months, the new president enacted a series of measures in order to tackle the economic crisis Argentina has experienced since 2018, measures with a singular agenda: bleeding the proletariat dry with the harshest austerity policy Argentina has known since the 2001 crisis. This policy—called the “Omnibus Law”, notably comprising privatization of public enterprises, massive reduction of social expenditures and direct taxes, deregulation of large parts of the economy, and elimination of tens of thousands of civil service jobs—has already inflicted very tangible effects on the quality of life and the already hellish, daily lives of workers: housing crisis,(4) food shortage, falling real wages, 13 point increase in poverty levels (!), 250% inflation, 2.8% recession in 2024, etc…

Faced by this class war, undertaken by the government hand-in-hand with the bosses, the proletariat responded (sometimes spontaneously) with hunger riots, massive demonstrations, blockades, and sectoral or general strikes. It attests to the strong combativity of the Argentine proletariat, which, in the course of its history, we can see has experienced particularly intense class struggles, even revolutionary ones—be it the Tragic Week of 1919, the 1921 Patagonia Rebellion, or the Cordobazo in 1969—with the bourgeois state in Argentina having been on the verge of collapse each time. More recently—but without reaching the same intensity—the Argentine proletariat was forced to struggle as a result of a crisis of considerable proportions in 2001, following the neoliberal policies of Carlos Menem. A new crisis, starting in 2018 and linked to the introduction of an IMF-backed austerity policy, amplified by the then-government of the Péronist left, and likely to intensify with the current policies of Milei, will necessarily lead the proletariat to go down the route of class struggle once again. Nonetheless, today the strikes remain caged by the main union in Argentina: the CGT. This union, integrated into the orbit of the Péronist state in the 1940s, is still directed by the Péronists today. It has supported all the capitalist and anti-social policies of the Kirchners and Sergio Massa, Minister of Economy under the previous left-wing government and Milei’s opponent in the second round of last year’s presidential election.

Milei has not invented anything: already under Massa, Argentina was negotiating with the IMF to restructure its debt and enact large cuts to energy subsidies, to reabsorb the deficit and aspire to ending the economic crisis. However, the crisis seen in the Argentine economy is structurally linked to the fifty-years old, historic crisis of capital, and the tendency of the rate of profit to fall. The capitalists are therefore obliged to multiply anti-worker attacks, in order to rejuvenate the flagging, capitalist apparatus and augment profits—above all in the case of Argentina, extremely dependant on foreign capital and international investors, to whom it is necessary to make guarantees of "stability" and "liberty". So, in the coming weeks and months, it can be expected that attacks against the working class will multiply, in Argentina as in the rest of the world.

The proletariat cannot have confidence in the unions, notably the CGT. Their false radicalism only funnels protests into the electoral circus, in favor of the "left" of capital. This has already been demonstrated by their trademark, conciliatory policy vis-à-vis the new state power: demonstrated by their hopes that the Omnibus Law would be censured by the Constitutional Court (without a fight, moreover)(5), and by intermittently proposing peaceful strikes and mobilizations. They are like all good guards dogs to whom the act of negotiating with the bosses over labor-power has been entrusted… Entrusted in order to avoid any radicalization of the working masses. But all this is also true of capital's extreme left: Trotskyism. The Workers’ Left Front, gathering four Trotskyist parties, participated in a "Federal March" on May 18, 2023 in Buenos Aires, with different Péronist and Piquetero organizations—a "united front" in short—to "put pressure" on the government of Alberto Fernandez(6) (the old Péronist leader elected in 2019, also supported by the Stalinist and Maoist extreme left, bringing things full circle). We recall that one of the principal theorists of Trotskyism in Argentina, Nahuel Moreno, supported the military dictatorship’s repression of the guerillas,(7) advocated for the creation of a large, "legal", and "democratic" center-left party,(8) and supported the coming to power of the social democrat Rául Alfonsin, speaking of a "triumphant democratic revolution".(9) Similarly, the Piquetero movement (road blockades by proletarians and unemployed, who set up barricades), at the forefront of the social movement in 2001-2, was rapidly institutionalized, and is today either dominated by the parliamentary extreme-left or by the Péronist left.

For several years to come, Argentine proletarians will endure a most deplorable situation, where children have to rummage through garbage to find things to eat.(10) Indeed, because of the structural weaknesses of their economies, the emerging countries continually experience the effects of the crisis, and do not possess the same possibilities as central countries do to defer the eruption of capitalism's insurmountable contradictions.

For the proletariat, there does not remain but one option if it wants to escape the barbarism that menaces it—a barbarism which Milei is only one of the most caricatural expressions of. The proletariat will have to organize itself, outside the left-wing parties and the unions that confine the struggle, by affirming a clear class program: against Milei and his clique, against the left and extreme left of capital, against the unions, against national and transnational capital; for the overthrow of the bourgeois state, the installation of the power of the workers’ councils, following the insurrectionary, mass strike led by the workers’ avant-garde party… This path is certainly mined with pitfalls, but, for the Argentine proletariat today, as for the rest of the proletariat tomorrow, there is no other escape.

Just as day necessarily follows night, we know that this inhuman society will be succeeded by the emancipation of the working class: communism.



(1) Ultra-liberal ideological current calling for the disappearance of the state in favor of privatization of all spheres of society (including the private sale of children in Milei's case).



(4) and

(5) The demonstration of December 27, 2023, called by the CGT, for example, took place right in front of the Buenos Aires Palace of Justice: quite a symbol!


(7) Nahuel Moreno, una biografía reciente, Prensa Obrera, Nro. 979, janvier 2007




Sunday, March 17, 2024


Although it may not be a welcome comment, I am still going to say that the last line is not at all assured, that the thorny question of adequate revolutionay class consciousness stands in the way, that there is no guarantee of positive outcome even if the Argentinian proletariat go "all the way today", the issue can only be resolved globally.

However, I hope the author is right.