A presentation by Wladek Flakin of the Trotskyist Fraction – Fourth International (FT-CI) at an event on November 16, 2017 in Athens. The event, titled “War, Imperialism and Internationalism”, was organized by the anticapitalist coalition ANTARSYA at the Polytechnic Institute in Athens. It was the 43rd anniversary of the massacre at the Polytechnic and the 100th anniversary of the October Revolution.
Kalispera, sindrofi ke sindrofises! (Good evening, comrades!)
Thank you for the invitation. You invited the PTS, the Socialist Workers’ Party from Argentina. No comrade could travel from Argentina. I am a member of the same international tendency, the Trotskyist Fraction – Fourth International. I’ve come from Berlin to give you some central elements of the Argentinian experience.
Latin America is a laboratory of the class struggle. At the turn of the century, we saw a wave of “post-neoliberal” movements in Latin America. In English this was called the “Pink Tide”. Most Latin American countries had governments that were called “populist” or “progressive”. This experience was influential around the world. Neo-reformist projects in Europe, – especially Podemos, but also Syriza –, base themselves on the ideas of Latin American populism, such as Hugo Chávez in Venezuela and Evo Morales in Bolivia.
But the cycle of “post-neoliberal” governments in Latin America has ended. It’s over. All these governments have ended in disasters. In Argentina, for example, the Kirchners have been implicated in numerous corruption scandals .These center-left governments opened the door to an aggressive right all over the continent. In Argentina, the billionaire Mauricio Macri (an Argentinian version of Trump) won the presidency and has started dogged attacks on the workers and poor.
There is a shift to the right. However, in this context, we have seen an enormous electoral success of the Workers’ Left Front in Argentina (in Spanish: the Frente de Izquierda y los Trabajaodres, or FIT for short). In the parliamentary elections one month ago, the FIT got 1.2 million votes. This translates into three deputies in the national congress, and 40 more elected representatives at the provincial and local levels.
The FIT is active in 22 of the 24 provinces. The comrades got half a million votes in the Province of Buenos Aires, where the industrial proletariat is concentrated. In the province of Jujuy in the north, a sanitation worker named Alejandro Vilca got 18,3% of the vote (and beat the Peronist candidate in the provincial capital).
What is the FIT? It is a coalition of three Trotskyist parties, including the PTS. (And also the PO, the sister organization of the EEK from Greece). The great merit of the FIT is that it remained independent of the “populist” and “progressive” governments and their hangers-on.
The Argentinian left experienced a major division around 2008.There was the Agrarian Crisis, a four-month lockout by the big landowners, in conflict with the Kirchner government. A part of the left supported the government. Another part of the left, including the MST, sided with the big landowners and the oligarchy. The groups that remained independent of both of these bourgeois camps later went on to form the FIT.
The FIT is not a party, but rather a front. There are differences between the parties, and these differences are discussed publicly. (For example, differences about the institutional coup in Brazil, about the crisis in Venezuela, about the civil war in Syria etc.) But for six years, the FIT has maintained a position of class independence – it has an anticapitalist program that culminates in the need for a workers government breaking with capitalism.
This is a fundamental difference to Syriza’s idea of a “left government”, which is based on the institutions of the bourgeois state. We want a workers’ government based on organs of self-organization – councils or soviets.
For elections, the FIT uses popular transitional demands. In the election one month ago, the central campaign was to reduce the working day to six hours (five days a week) in order to distribute the available work among everyone.
The PTS uses all media – from traditional campaign posters and flyers, to Facebook and Whatsapp, to all kinds of viral content like video games – so this message reaches the youth. Nicolás del Caño, the principal candidate of the FIT and the PTS, gets extraordinary support from young people. This is no coincidence – young people suffer most from unemployment, from precarization, from the crisis of the education system.
The PTS has built up a digital newspaper – La Izquierda Diario – which gets almost three million visits per month. This is a real workers’ press with more than 100 articles per day, competing with the big bourgeois newspapers. We have also built up an international network, with eleven digital papers in five languages. Our English-language publication is called Left Voice.
The PTS and the FIT have been in parliament since 2013. Comrades like Nicolás del Caño and Myriam Bregman use their seats as tribunes. They demand that a parliamentarian shouldn’t earn more than a teacher. They apply this principle to themselves: they only take a workers’ wage, and donate up to 90% of their salaries to strike funds. Especially Nicolás del Caño of the PTS was in the front lines of struggles – he has been injured numerous times by rubber bullets.
This revolutionary parliamentarianism complements the work in the factories. When the workers of PepsiCo went on strike against the closure of their factory this year, the struggle was led by workers from the PTS – and supported by parliamentarians from the PTS.
The PTS presents workers as candidates. Workers like Raul Godoy from the occupied ceramics factory Zanon, who visited Vio.Me in Greece several years ago. Or Claudio Dellacarbonara from the subway in Buenos Aires.
Now these seats will help the struggle against the austerity measures being prepared by Macri, the bosses and the imperialist powers. The planned reform of the labor law will get support of a part of the center-left opposition of Kirchner.
On August 1, the activist Santiago Maldonado was disappeared by police at a protest against big landowners in the south of the country. The repression was coordinated by the national security minister – the government of Mauricio Macri was implicated in the disappearance. Santiago’s body was identified just days before the election. Hundreds of thousands of people in Argentina have gone onto the streets and said: It was the state! We are calling for an international mobilization on December 1 in front of Argentinian embassies throughout the world.
To sum up, how did the FIT and the PTS gain so much influence? By fighting for class independence, while building up revolutionary fractions in the factories, in the schools and universities, in the women’s movement, in the LGBTI* movement.
There is a kind of opportunist common sense on the left that says we need to join up with reformists in order to gain mass influence. But the FIT and the PTS provide empirical evidence that this is not true: It is possible to reach millions with a revolutionary program.
100 years after the October Revolution, the central conclusion is that revolution needs to be organized. It needs a party. And such a party can’t be founded the night before the revolution. We are still a long way from the party we need. But I would say that the outlines of such a party are becoming visible in Argentina.
We think the FIT is an example for the international left. We think the left needs to organize internationally on the basis of class independence and a revolutionary program. We hope than ANTARSYA will be a part of this process.
Nicolás Del Caño, recently elected as national deputy sent this message to the audience: