Trotskyist Party in Argentina Calls for a Unified Revolutionary Socialist Party
Below we reproduce a letter from the National Leadership of the Argentinian Partido de los Trabajadores Socialistas (PTS—Socialist Workers Party) to the leaderships of Partido Obrero (PO—Workers’ Party) and Izquierda Socialista (IS—Socialist Left) to the organizations of the working class and socialist left, to working-class fighters and militants, to the student and women’s movements, for moving forward in both discussion and common action toward a united party.
October 20, 2018
Let’s move forward in discussion and common action toward a united party of the working class and socialist left.
To the leaderships of Partido Obrero and Izquierda Socialista, with which we form the Frente de Izquierda y de los Trabajadores (FIT—Left and Workers’ Front);
To the organizations of the working class and socialist left;
To working-class fighters and militants, to the student and women’s movements;
At the PTS rally held October 6 at the Argentinos Juniors stadium, Nicolás Del Caño publicly announced our proposal to open discussion on the construction of a great united party of the working class and the socialist left. This proposal is based, first of all, on a political situation that is becoming more convulsive both nationally and internationally. The day after our rally, Jair Bolsonaro won 46% of the vote in the first round of the Brazilian presidential elections, thus demonstrating the progress made by the far right in the most important country in South America. Bolsonaro has already outlined a cabinet full of bankers, landowners and former generals in anticipation of victory. He is preparing a real war plan against workers and the oppressed, and looking to strengthen Brazil’s ties with U.S. imperialism. A victory for Bolsonaro will signify a qualitative step forward for the institutional coup that ousted Dilma Rousseff. A Bolsonaro government will have direct ties to the security and armed forces, and will have at its base a movement with fascist-like characteristics that poses the danger of attacking workers’ and people’s organizations as well as democratic liberties. It will seek to impose profound defeats on the working class and the people, such as the privatization of Petrobras and the sale of oil at giveaway prices, as well as a series of reactionary reforms, which are now hidden behind demagoguery before the next round of voting. Bolsonaro represents a further dangerous turn in South America’s situation, which already includes the right-wing governments of Mauricio Macri in Argentina and Sebastián Piñera in Chile.
Bolsonaro’s advance developed from the road opened up by the reactionary judicial-political-media operation known as Lava Jato (Car Wash), which helped push along the institutional coup, the imprisonment of Lula da Silva and his subsequent prohibition from participating in the election. But Bolsonaro’s advance was also a product of the policies implemented by Lula’s Partido dos Trabalhadores (PT—Workers’ Party). After years of governing with the capitalists, adopting their corrupt methods and boasting about guaranteeing their unprecedented profits, the PT wanted to demonstrate that it could still serve them. Dilma’s second term commenced with the application of austerity against the workers. But this only demoralized the PT’s social base and opened the road to the coup that put in government Michel Temer, who went on to speed up these attacks.
The PT’s strategy, a purely electoral one that kept the lid on class struggle and channeled discontent into the electoral terrain, ended up being incapable of offering any serious resistance to the institutional coup. Once it was in opposition, it responded to the hatred whipped up by the Lava Jato judicial operation and the Globo media corporation. But with its illusions in the judiciary system and in elections, the PT ended up being unable to stop the advance of the far right. The exceptional nature of the terribly manipulated elections favor the advance of the authoritarianism inherited from the dictatorship and aims to impose reactionary regime change. We share the hatred and the will to struggle against Bolsonaro, but we have the objective of promoting what we see as the central task for all politically conscious workers and youth, which is to help direct that hatred onto the only terrain on which it can succeed: class struggle, which can confront the coup, fight all the reactionary attacks and make the capitalists pay for the crisis.
We must confront Bolsonaro and the project he represents, not only for the sake of Brazil but also for Argentina. All forces of the working class and socialist left have the responsibility to place themselves at the head of this fight. The real possibility that a semifascist former military man will win the presidency in Brazil makes unifying the working class and socialist left more urgent than ever, for those on the center left have already demonstrated their impotence by adapting to the mechanisms of the degraded regimes. They are a dead end for the workers and poor people.
In our country, a new and historic set of attacks against working people, known as el saqueo (the looting)*, is now fully underway. Macri and the International Monetary Fund are plunging the country into a brutal recession. Inflation eats away at wages, utility prices skyrocket, unemployment and poverty are on the rise, while education, health and retirement benefits are under attack. The objective of all this is to free up dollars to pay off the fraudulent, illegitimate and illegal public debt. All the while rapid currency devaluation generates extraordinary profits for the speculators who plunder the country, for the landowners that poison our lands, for the exporters and for all those who have their millions hidden in tax havens, just like the majority of the members of this government of millionaire entrepreneurs and managing directors.
Under the slogan of “zero deficit,” they intend to deepen austerity with the 2019 budget, just like Fernando de la Rúa and Domingo Cavallo did in the past. The aim is to hide the overall deficit of around 8% of GDP, which will all be destined for the payment of the debt to speculators.
But as we in the Frente de Izquierda have continually pointed out, the government of Macri cannot carry out this austerity alone; it counts on the complicity of the governors who apply austerity measures in their provinces, from Juan Urtubey in Salta to Alicia Kirchner in Santa Cruz. Then there are the members of the Peronist Justicialist Party (PJ) who have given support to more than 100 of Macri’s new laws. All wings of the union bureaucracy have given a scandalous truce that combines paros domingueros (Sunday strikes—stay-at-home strikes with no active mobilization), the prevention of any plan of serious struggle, and the isolation of those workers who do go out and fight. The official leadership of the General Confederation of Labor (CGT), increasingly weakened as the split in its “triumvirate” demonstrates, makes a cult of obsequiousness to the government, while the new Frente Sindical (Union Front) of transport union leader Hugo Moyano and co. march to Luján, the site of the basilica built in honor of the patron saint of Argentina, to put themselves under the robes of the Pope. With the same impotent resignation demonstrated by the PT in Brazil, the Kirchnerists speak out against Macri on television, while in the unions they hand over workers’ rights like they did in the telecommunications union, guarantee social peace for the government like they did in the Subte (Buenos Aires Subway), and betray the enormous university struggle of thousands of mobilized teachers and students for a few crumbs.
The different wings of Peronism, including Kirchnerism, all say we have to wait for the 2019 elections. All that means is that el saqueo will be allowed to continue, which is the best help Macri can get to make his plan a reality. But the fight is now. It’s them or us. We were plundered under the dictatorship of genocidal terror, then later in 1989-91 with hyperinflation, and again in 2001-2, when millions were cast into poverty, when the mega-devaluation of wages took place and when thousands of small savers lost everything. But we are not condemned to following this same path. We have the strength to confront them and the strength to defeat them. We all agree that we must push the union bureaucracy to adopt a real plan de lucha (plan of struggle—action plan) that begins with a strike with mass demonstrations in order to deal with the IMF’s misery budget. We have to defeat the plan of Macri, the IMF and the governors with a real general strike and with millions taking to the streets.
A second aspect on which our proposal is based is the existence of new sections of the population that, as part of the resistance to this latest round of austerity, are both struggling and taking lessons of the role played by Kirchnerism.
It is a fact that the forces needed to defeat el saqueo are arising from below. There is the enormous marea verde (green tide) that flooded the streets for the right to legal, safe and free abortion and that had to confront both the Catholic Church and a regime of bosses’ and clerical parties. There is the student movement, which spread across the entire country and stood as a real player on the national scene. There are the workers now fighting austerity, like those from the Astillero Río Santiago shipyard, from the Hospital Posadas, the Agua Pesada (Heavy Water) Industrial Plant in Neuquén, the Río Turbio coal miners, Télam, and many others.
In the struggle for the right to abortion, we have seen how Cristina Fernández de Kirchner (CFK) called on people to “not get angry with the church”, when it was this reactionary institution that played a key role in the Senate’s vote against abortion reform. Considering that CFK continually denied women this right, and did not take any steps toward the separation of church and state while she was in office, this should not surprise us. At the same time, university students and teachers have suffered betrayal at the hands of the Peronist and Kirchnerist leaderships of the FEDUN and Conadu university unions during their conflict. The union signed a pay agreement with the government that included a pay raise far below current inflation, all while the conflict was in full swing and the intervention of the student movement across the country was still growing. More generally, all the bloc of Kirchnerist-aligned unions have managed to do is go and pray at Luján. In each of these events we can see where we’ll end up if we follow the disastrous strategy of waiting for 2019 for the possible return of Kirchnerism. These forces confront the crisis without proposing any way of overcoming dependency and underdevelopment, and when they were in government they consistently paid the public debt, never challenged foreign domination over the economy, and left public services in the hands of the privatizers and land in the hands of the soy producers.
Our Common Ground
Our proposal does not come out of nowhere. We have previously made statements of this kind, and on this basis we have existed since 2011 as the Frente de Izquierda y de los Trabajadores (FIT—Left and Workers’ Front), with its platform and joint programmatic statements.
The FIT has since its formation played a highly progressive role. Despite our differences, we have worked alongside the compañeros of the Partido Obrero and Izquierda Socialista, creating a political alternative based on working-class independence and fighting the various representatives of the bosses. This has all been based on a program that culminates in the struggle for a workers’ government that breaks with capitalism, the only solution to underdevelopment and national decline.
Some sectors of the left have joined with Kirchnerism, while others took part in center-left coalitions around figures such as Pino Solanas and now with Luis Juez. But the FIT has made its own way and confronted all these pro-system variants with an anti-imperialist, anticapitalist and socialist program. When neoreformist parties like Syriza in Greece (which ended up applying the Troika’s austerity program against its own people) or Podemos in Spain (which only intends to manage capitalism) were all the rage, our political coalition rejected them as false alternatives. In doing so, we gained growing support among the workers, the women’s movement and the youth.
That is why our proposal is not for a common party of “reformists and revolutionaries” or of “anticapitalists” in general, but of those who share the strategy of building a revolutionary party of the working class.
Why, after seven years of the FIT’s existence, have we not considered unity at a higher level, something that would enthuse thousands and thousands of compañeros and compañeras?
It is an objective necessity that when those from above declare war on us, and when Bolsonaro’s advance in Brazil serves as a harsh warning for the workers of Argentine of how the dominant classes are determined to impose their plans, we have to prepare ourselves for a scenario of much greater class struggle both locally and regionally.
We need to see tens of thousands of people added to the conscious construction of the political tool that allows us to win, a great party of the clasista (class struggle) left. It is not enough just to fight and mobilize for our immediate demands, whether we be workers, students or from the women’s movement. We must put in place the militant force that will allow us to reclaim the unions and defeat the bureaucracy, the enemy of self-organization, in all of our organizations; and will allow us to deploy the strength of millions in the streets and end this system of exploitation and oppression.
That is why our call to take this task in your hands, along with posing it to our partners in the FIT, the compañeros of the Partido Obrero (PO) and Izquierda Socialista (IS), and other forces of the working class and socialist left, is also posed to the thousands and thousands of workers who are taking up the fight against austerity; to the hundreds of thousands who support the Frente de Izquierda (Left Front); and to the left-wing sectors of the women’s and youth movements.
This is why we believe it is imperative that we take steps toward constructing a great working class, anticapitalist and socialist party, one that is at the forefront of the fight against el saqueo, and has as its objective the conquest of a workers’ government that brings imperialist domination and capitalist exploitation to an end. An internationalist party that consistently struggles against imperialist interference and, together with our Brazilian brothers and sisters, fights to defeat the golpistas (coup plotters) and the Bolsonaro right wing with the methods of the class struggle and politics, independent of the Partido dos Trabalhadores (PT—Workers’ Party), in order to avoid a new wave of reaction across our continent, and ultimately for the socialist unity of Latin America.
It is clear that there are points on which we do not all think alike, and that there have been many times when the different forces of the left have had different political and tactical practices. This is part of what we need to discuss. But why can we not discuss the existing differences in the framework of a program like that of the FIT, which we take as a base and all defend, in the one organization alongside the thousands of new compañeras and compañeros who enthusiastically join us in the perspective of building a united party of the working class and socialist left?
We start with the important agreements expressed in the programs of the FIT, such as its Programmatic Declarations of 2011 (in Spanish here and English here) as well as the declarations that have been updated (see for example, here). These texts are a very important basis for the formation of the clearly anti-imperialist, anticapitalist and socialist program that the party we want to build must have. In this sense, we will contribute to this discussion the Draft Program of the PTS that we prepared at a programmatic conference held in July this year.
We want a party that rejects opportunist agreements with the center left that only want to maintain this system. We want a party that can win with its own strength, and its own militancy, in the workers’ and student movements, and doesn’t try to draw up opportunistic agreements with different bureaucracies as a substitute. We want a party that can discuss our differences in a frank and fraternal manner and achieve common discipline in action to strike as a single clenched fist in the class struggle.
We know that we will not achieve this in a day. But the more we propose this as the struggle moves forward, the closer we will be to establishing this united left and working-class party, in the factories, the offices, in the neighborhoods, the schools and the universities, and prevent that the struggle of millions end in another round of frustration. Today more than ever, we need a party that has the strength, the strategy and the program to win.
If we agree on this perspective, it will not be very difficult to agree on the steps needed to begin to make it materialize.
As first steps, with regard to the forces that make up the FIT (which, naturally, are the first organizations to which we address this call). We have agreed at the FIT’s National Roundtable on a common action plan for confronting this crisis, with political agitation, demonstrations and round table meetings across the country. This plan will begin with the promotion of a joint action on October 24, the day the Congress votes on the 2019 budget. The FIT is calling for a national strike with demonstrations and a massive mobilization on that day in opposition to its passing. We have also agreed to prepare a statement with an independent position on the Brazilian electoral process and to hold a common internationalist mobilization at the Embassy of Brazil on Saturday, October 20, the same day that the #EleNao (#Not Him) mobilizations in Brazil will occur.
In this context, we want to move forward in the exchange of ideas regarding the proposal that we have spelled out in this letter, and have designated compañero Christian Castillo as the coordinator for the PTS for all the discussions that take place.
National Leadership of the Partido de los Trabajadores Socialistas (PTS—Socialist Workers Party), in the Frente de Izquierda y de los Trabajadores (FIT—Left and Workers’ Front).
October 13, 2018.
* Translator’s note: El saqueo (the looting): Name given to periods of rapid currency devaluation, rampant inflation and food shortages. The last two periods of el saqueo occurred in mid-1989, when protests, riots and supermarket looting forced the early resignation of President Raúl Alfonsin, and again during the Argentinazo of December 2001, when a strong devaluation reduced workers’ wages by 30%.
This article was first published at La Izquierda Diario on October 13, 2018.
Translation: Sean Robertson