In the previous issues of Estrategia Internacional we pointed out that the situation in Argentina was characterized by a crisis of bourgeois hegemony, with the political institutions of the regime questioned by the mass movement and the ruling class was mired by internecine disputes.
In this historical crisis, however, none of the classes or class factions in conflict were capable of imposing a complete victory upon their enemy. The general picture is somehow a “strategic tie”, in which all contestants are bleeding out, the crisis of power remains unresolved and the ongoing revolutionary process is drawn out in time, with its ebbs and tides. The old parties of the regime are in crisis and deeply split.
In the meantime, new political phenomena have emerged; we speak of them as “parties” to mean rival class factions. First, we have the “party” of finance, the big private banks and the privatized utilities, which has been on the defensive after the fall of De la Rúa and the ensuing devaluation –Menem and López Murphy are both the main representatives, coming from two fractions of the traditional parties on the run. Menemism particularly seeks to recreate the no-longer existent conditions of 1990s capitalism. This faction has become weakened, because it is no longer reliable for the native oligarchy or the US State Department due to the rejection they arise in the society. However, this party should not be underestimated, because it is preparing, in the middle-term, to become a Bonapartist bulwark relying on a defeat of the mass movement. They also place their bets on a new upturn of the world economy that may bring about a new wave of direct investment, privatization and greater integration to the world economy via entry in the AFTA. By resorting to the demagogy of the 1990s “stability”, Menem has been able to reap some support among the poor strata of the population and within Peronism itself. Furthermore, his faction still has leverage both in institutions of the regime like the Supreme Court and the Congress. Last but not least, this quarter can be used by the US administration and the sharks of local finance as an instrument to blackmail and exert pressure against rival factions of the bosses that were benefited by the devaluation and the new capitalist cycle inaugurated by it. However, the overall balance of social and political forces is against them, and this section stands for now as a minority opposition.
The second “party” represents those who promoted the devaluation of the peso, and reaped juicy benefits from the “pesification” of their debt –i.e., the conversion of dollar-pegged loans into pesos. Here we find the exporters and a certain group of bosses oriented to the domestic market. In spite of the strong disputes opposing this heterogeneous group with the first quarter, both have a strategic agreement on two points: the wages eaten away by inflation should remain low, and all corporate debts with foreign creditors, worth more than 60 billion dollars, should be converted into pesos and therefore dramatically reduced. The state-sponsored bail-out of corporate debts and the cut on the value of labor provoked by the inflation are two basic foundations to boost profits and begin a new expansion cycle. However, the rifts have appeared in full light. This faction is made up of a pro-Duhalde faction of Peronism, today in government, the remnants of the Radical Party, the Peronist union bureaucracy (both Daer and Moyano) who hailed the current devaluation, the political strand of Peronism around the populist governor, Rodríguez Sáa and those economists who devised the so-called ‘Plan Phoenix’. This motley crew shares a view of a neo-developmental agenda driven by exports, devaluation and the protectionist barrier provided by a devaluated peso. The victory of Lula in Brazil is an incentive to relaunch the Mercosur, to widen the markets for exports and negotiate with the IMF from a stronger position. It is not true that multilateral agencias such as the IMF are opposed to this agenda. Quite otherwise, the IMF itself had insisted with devaluation, because the demise of convertibility has paved the way to boost exports, which in turn brought about a trade surplus and fresh cash into the state coffers. This resembles the agenda of the 1980s, and has been devised to allow to continuation of the payments of the foreign debt and enable US corporations to buy today’s under-valued assets at knock-down prices. By raising the banners of “production and work”, the stronger faction in government today has nourished expectations on an economic recovery, keeping the dollar and inflation at bay by means of the manipulation of the currency. In this way, the tailspin of the economy has been stopped -defusing one of the factors behind the December uprising-, creating for now an unstable and jerry-built balance, just by putting off the main problems (foreign debt, bank restructuring, etc.). Thus, new actions of the mass movement have been written off, for the time being at least. The main drawback bearing down on this quarter in its attempt at launching a new accumulation cycle is the balance of forces with the mass movement, which is reflected in the wear-out of the whole political regime and the disputes within the ruling class, all against the background of a world recession. Yet, the “devaluators” will not be able to overcome the narrow foundations of capital accumulation in this country -they will rather reproduce those shortcomings that historically hampered it. This time, it will proceed against a bakground of mass unemployment, wages well below their value and a two-tier Argentina. The rhetoric of the “left wing” of this sector, those who devised the Plan Phoenix, who have postulated the need for a “fairer distribution of wealth” and a stronger domestic market, dream of returning to the Argentina of 30 or 50 years ago -an unlikely return if the current capitalist regime remains in place. The center-left ARI shares this perspective. We could say that the ARI is half-way between this group and strand of neo-reformism embodied in the ‘opposition’ trade union federation, the CTA.
Indeed, to the left of the “devaluation party” stands the CTA, closely related to the ARI within the Frenapo (National Front Against Poverty). This third project for a reformist party is based on the same tenets than those of the “devaluators”; they have just raised criticisms as to the abrupt way in which devaluation was implemented, but they have never rejected it for what it is: a confiscation imposed on the people. Their coincidences with the Plan Phoenix come as no surprise, then, since they have agreed, right from from the start, that the Mercosur, the domestic market and the exports should all be rejuvenated to negotiate with the IMF. Little wonder, then, that Lula hailed the last CTA congress held in Mar del Plata, expressing his desire and conviction that “Argentine workers” will fight to boost and build the Mercosur. The CTA leadership has a rather peculiar view of what they call “crisis of hegemony “: according to it, the working class should build a new “bloc of power” with sections of the ruling class, just what Lula has done with the Brazilian bosses. The social base for such agenda are the state workers and the teachers -the bulwark of the CTA unions. However, the CTA’s scarce implantation among wage earners of the private sector is a big hindrance: no new “bloc of power” can be built without them. Notwithstanding this, the CTA is a rival to be reckoned with, mainly due to the appaling discredit of the old-seasoned Peronist union bureaucracy and the crisis cutting across the Peronist party. They are not so much discredited as a union federation in the eyes of the mass movement, and their demand for a fairer distribution of the national rent along with their opposition to “neoliberalism” are naturally regarded by wide layers of the population with sympathy. Last but not least, they count on the political support coming from the Brazilian PT. Their neo-reformist and neo-developmental agenda has even enticed the Maoists of the Revolutionary Comunist Party (leaders of the CCC) and those political currents intervening in the new vanguard and social movements strategically leaning toward them: an increasingly neo-Keynesian CP, the Patria Libre or the countless self-proclaimed groups of “revolutionary nationalism”. All of them stand for class collaboration, regarding “national liberation” as an independent stage of the socialist revolution. All of them have been co-chairing the CTA for a long time now.
However, the reformist politics of the CTA have been questioned and rejected by a wide fringe of left-minded activists. It is made up of thousands of militants coming from various social movements, groupings of unemployed workers who have refused to be part of state-sponsored ‘advisory councils’, new anti-bureaucratic activists in a number of unions, the occupied factories challenging the pro-government policies of the MNER (National Movement of Reclaimed Companies), the Popular Assemblies who refused to take part of the CGPs (Centers of Administration and Participation) of the Buenos Aires county hall, human rights activists, artists, students’ unions, etc. They have all been key actors of a whole series of struggles and movements that sprung up last year, which came all together in Plaza de Mayo to celebrate the first anniversary of December 2001 uprising. As the struggles of the mass movement ebbed, the neo-reformist tendencies grew stronger. But the continued existence of this major section of militants has forced the CTA to take them into account, and fight with them for the political representation of the new social developments and the widespread discontent of the population with both the government and the current regime.
This wide fringe made up of the new militant forces that emerged in Argentina, in which all the strands of the left -i.e., the populists, the autonomists, the various movements of jobless, etc.- participate is the fourth ‘party’ -a heterogeneous lot as well. It is a social, rather than political expression of the December uprising, one that speaks for the new working class militants and militant unemployed workers, the impoverished middle classes and various urban strata.
The four sectors that we have charted are essentially transitory ones, just like the entire national situation, cut across by a number of political fault lines and struggles, showing that no combination of factions and parties has managed to prevail over the rest and portray their interests as the general interest of the society as a whole. Right in the heart of the militant vanguard of today there is an ongoing strategic dispute as to the combination of classes, parties and programs that will represent the historical interests of the working class movement and the popular sectors.
Which social force will gain hegemony over the oppressed layers? What kind of party should be built? A unified course of struggle and the democratic organization of the vanguard movement are two basic things if the latter is to grow stronger and become an alternative for the mass movement. The programs and strategies of the various parties should be put to the scrutiny of the vanguard, but this is just the beginning, it is not political unity in itself. The political and ideological atomization prevail at the onset of the process, when the mass movement has not yet fought decisive battles. But in the heart of what we call the “fourth party” for the sake of description, the coexistence of heterogeneous political and ideological views is compounded by the lack of a radicalized and independent mass movement, which makes the vanguard more volatile. Thus, its potential political representation lacks a social base to use as a springboard for a struggle for power, and the perspective of a socialist revolution and building a revolutionary working class party are completely alien to it as well. But there can be no revolutionary party without a real revolutionary mass movement. This rather obvious conclusion has been, nevertheless, a rather controversial topic within the left.
It is unquestionable that Argentina has been a true laboratory where different theories, programs and strategies forged in the previous stage have been put to the test of the class struggle in this new period. Although the developments in Argentina are still unfolding in front of our eyes, a year has passed from the popular uprising and it is necessary to draw a thorough-going balance sheet, both on the dynamics of the process and the programs and strategies raised toward it. The mass movement has not yet come back into action, but it will presumably do so in the next period ahead. The future of the revolutionary process will largely depend on the ability of the vanguard to draw upon revolutionary conclusions, and thus be able to to influence the mass movement with them.
The common sense of the new social movements
The rather heterogeneous views and postulates of the so-called ‘autonomism’ have gained momentum among the political militancy, which mushroomed with the emergence of new militant and political strata last year. This phenomenon is not only a local ocurrence, but reflects an international development, in which the ideas postulated by Toni Negri, Paolo Virno and John Holloway have gained widespread acceptance, mainly within the anti-capitalist movement.
The most variegated currents have espoused those views: strands of the jobless (MTDs) in the Greater Buenos Aires area, independent students’ groupings, the political movement headed by Luis Zamora, and hundreds of Popular Assembly activists and diverse social movements. Although they might not claim a conscious allegiance to autonomism, or might not even have heard of autonomist intellectuals, their theoretical and political postulates have provided, de facto, an action guide for them. The spontaneous nature of the movement originated in the wake of the December 2001 uprising, plus a movement of popular assemblies reliant on wide gatherings and ‘citizens’, the exercise of direct democracy by wide layers of the population and their self-organization have all reinforced the common sense of thousands of activists, to the effect that the new processes described by the autonomist currents, their political strategies and the means they pursue, provide a more far-sighted and accurate response to the historical course of the Argentine developments. This perception has also been reinforced by the take-over of public spaces and democratic decision-making, on one hand, and a deep-going sociological development: most traditional unions and the organizations of the unemployed where by and large absent in the December shake-up, whereas the middle classes were at their core, prevailing over the millions of wage-earners in the months that followed.
State and revolution
The notion of ‘counter-power’ is a key concept of autonomism, a power that is exerted not in opposition to the powers-that-be, but as an alternative to them. This counter-power does not seek to smash the bourgeois state and seize power, a strategy put forward by ‘the old traditional left-wing organizations’, but to emancipate society by means of very same resources on which that counter-power is built upon. Beyond their nomeclature and categories, all these theories share the view those powers that are opposed to the powers-that-be, should not become ‘institutionalized’ or crystallized into a new power in any way. The minute they do so, they lose their autonomy and emancipating power, becoming a new ruling and oppressive power. For the autonomists the problem is not that of the withering away of the state, which becomes the expression of new globalized world relationships through the works of the Empire. The main issue at stake is the process by which the multitude’s power, or that of counter-power build upon a here-and-now communism, here and now, through the immanent works of the ‘multitude’.
In this regard, Argentina has been a proving ground, in terms of knowing if those views can respond to actual crises that bring the mass movement onto the scene. It was precisely in light of the Argentine process that autonomism postulated the power of the multitude and the new forms of ‘subjectivity’. The refusal to seize state power flowed from this as well.
Argentina is a country where all the juridico-political relationships have been altered, with the bourgeois factions fighting tooth and nail over the spoils, with a widening abyss between the expropriated middle class and the urban poor on one hand and the political institutions of régime on the other. It is a deeply polarized society with totally discredited social regime, in which the problem of political power becomes top priority. And this is not because the working class is about to conquer it, but because of the massive erosion of bourgeois power, which confronts the whole classes in society with the question of who has the power and who should have it. To be opposed, in these circumstances, to set out the fundamentals that shoould hasten the advent of workers’ power is tantamount to helping the regime’s survival and reinforcing capitalist domination in the last analysis.
The autonomist strategy has resulted in an intrinsical inability, of anti-political nature, to respond to the maneuvers orchestrated by the régime. Because in the realm of the day-to-day class struggle, the powers-that-be fight back by any means necessary. So, the dynamics of the real process that started with the December uprising has given the lie to the autonomists’ denial of politics. Although for the time being a serious systemic crisis remains in place, the government has managed, by means of demagoguery and relief schemes, to stave off new uprisings of the starving urban poor, isolating the picketers’ vanguard from the millions of unemployed workers. Furthermore, it has succeeded in preventing the debacle of the economy, which was the driving force behind the December uprising, downloading the burden of the crisis onto the shoulders of the wage-earners and the urban poor by means of the devaluation of the currency. It has also bailed out debt-ridden capitalists, preventing a widespread crack of banks and held on to the reins of power through a critical, convulsive and uncertain transition, shoring up the beleaguered political institutions of the old regime against the wishes of majority (‘all of them out’). The totally discredited union leaderships have also retained power and held down the working class movement by playing up on the ‘unemployment scare’. On the other hand, the new militant developments of the last few months have not only been unable to expand, but they have become more isolated as well. This is the case of the people’s assemblies. In the meantime, the picketers’ movement has been more and more subordinated to the tutelage of the state.
How are we to understand this dialectical evolution unless we resort to the Marxist formula stating that the ruling class should be displaced from state power, or else sooner or later it will strike back imposing new defeats against the mass movement? For the time being, the ruling class has been forced to resort to deception and maneuvers, but sooner or later they will try and impose lasting defeats. The watershed is still ahead of us, though, and the ruling class remains crisis-ridden and deeply divided. The mass movement has not yet fought decisive battles and the classes are mired in a catastrophic stalemate. By the same token, the tempo of the Argentine process will be longer than that of other revolutions, which gives the working class movement extra time to rejuvenate its forces, allowing for the ripening of a militant revolutionary vanguard as well. But this can only grow wiser by drawing the proper conclusions from its experience in the class struggle.
Although autonomists accuse both reformists and revolutionaries of ‘worshipping the state’, the truth is that the autonomist movement coincides with reformism or ‘the progressive strand of politics’ on many questions. Their most important common ground, of course, lies in their mutual rejection of socialist revolution and workers’ power altogether.
The reformists, the current CTA leaders among them, also seek ‘to politicize society and socialize politics’; they also preach on the ‘transformation of society’ and ‘social change’, but they reject the revolutionary overthrow of the capitalist class. Some may seek to enforce it via participation in the state, whereas others might set up self-managed undertakings within ‘civil society ‘; they both share a fundamental coincidence, mainly in our country, where the issue of political power is not just a theoretical truism.
At the other end of the political spectrum, we see the Movimiento Socialista de Trabajadores (MST) and the Communist Party, who have been the champions of the ‘constituted power’, either by putting forward a Constituent Assembly of constitutional nature, supposedly ‘imposed from below’ but actually convened ‘from above’, without a revolutionary overthrow of the regime, or else out of outright electoral opportunism. The MST proposed, for instance, the MP Zamora to form a joint electoral front, right from the first semester of this year, when millions were chanting on the streets ‘all of them out’ and the likelihood existed that Duhalde’s government could be ousted. At the same time, new reactionary solutions were being cooked up, and all this happened against the background of what the MST itself considered an ongoing ‘democratic revolution’. This move showed the constitutional illusions and the feverish electoral opportunism of this current, which placed all its bets to the ‘momentuous chance’ of getting a big ‘red caucus’ in parliament rather than the revolutionary potential flowing from the situation itself.
The State and direct democracy
Consistent with our characterization of the current period as one of a crisis of bourgeois power, we along with those who claim allegiance to the legacy of revolutionary Marxism have encouraged the development of bodies of direct democracy of workers as a sort of embryonic dual power, i.e., the anticipation of a new power, that of the workers and the people. Such organs of workers’ democracy should operate on the basis of a direct democracy of citizens, relying on whole chunks of the population, both in the countryside and the cities. The perspective of an alliance between the workers and the people, throught bodies rallying both producers and consumers and diverse layers of the exploited , is a prerrequisite for the victory of revolution. But a direct democracy of a popular nature will not mean the proletariat is set to loose its central role by fading into a ‘multitude of citizens’. Quite on the contrary, it will allow the latter to become part of a proletarian revolution -a process that will not be free of contradictions.
The huge civic explosion that followed the break of the middle class layers with the Alliance government, and the events of December themselves, are both a clear indication that their social, economic and cultural influence, pushes these heterogeneous social layers in the direction of participation in revolutionary developments. Furthermore, they are set to nurture -and the popular assemblies are a living proof of this- urban and regional bodies with a key role. It is very likely that as a militant working class movement gains momemtum in an unfolding revolutionary process, bodies of direct democracy based on production units will spring up, standing alongside communal-styled bodies. The different combinations and specific bodies that might develop will all be shaped by the process. The emergence and growth of the people’s assemblies, regardless of their ups and downs, relies on a revolutionary foundation, i.e. the shift of the middle classes to the opposition of the régime, in a move that paves the way for the workers and people’s alliance. This alliance has been hindered ever since the last revolutionary upheaval in Argentina -the so-called ‘Cordobazo’; the different classes rallied behind those parties historically speaking for them, the Radical and Peronist parties. The drives toward a democratic organization along territorial lines, the outright rejection of state cooptation and the active participation in public politics are all expressions of a break with the old ruling political institutions. But this break has been much more violent and conscious among the middle class than in the working class movement. The latter remained out of the streets in the momemtuous events of December has lagged behind in the following period, fuelling the illusion that out of the heart of the popular assemblies, based on direct democracy, and whatever the class nature of a new power in Argentina, a new power was in the making. A powe that was independent both from the capitalist class and the working class movement. The time had come for the power of a Rousseaunian-styled direct democracy wrapped up in autonomist robes, one speaking for civil society, the citizens and an spontaneous, fragmented multitude.
This ideology pervaded as well the unemployed workers movement, given their non-structural and territorial organization. The slogan of the “picketers and pot-bangers” together not only expressed the alliance between the two most active and militant sectors in these days, but also had an autonomist twist in that the unemployed workers movement was regarded as a sui generis “citizens’ movement”, which organized their own life and subjectivity, an expression of both counter-power and the overcoming of waged labor and the law of value.
But within a ‘society of work’, a democracy reliant on the assemblies, bearing no control of the means of production, no matter how ‘direct’ it is, cannot be other than a formal ruse. The purpose of a masses’ democracy is to establish – by taking control of all the productive forces and the media- the power of decision, planning, control, verification and correction of the reproduction of social life as a whole for their own benefit. The scattered strata of the population at large -the petty bourgeoisie among them- do not have access to the main means of production so as to introduce that kind of democracy. Only by expropriating a capitalist power flowing from the relations of production will the toilers -the associated producers envisaged by Marx-, exert their full capacity to decide on a production for their own lives -the power to exert that kind of control lie within the capitalist production in the factories, the service companies, the offices. Every major strike, especially those in the main branches of the economy, is a direct challenge against capital. Whenever a section of the working class movement, not to speak of a movement encompassing industry as a whole, gets organized in their workplaces, coordinating on a local and national level in order to wage a serious struggle against capital, bodies of self-determination of labor emerge. Factory councils, committees, coordinating bodies, up to their most developed expression, Russian-styled Soviets, all pose a fundamental challenge as to who controls the levers of the economy, political power and the state.
Such a drive was by and large absent in the revolutionary days of December and later on, except for small expressions and vanguard groupings like the Alto Valle coordination body, sponsored by the ceramic workers at Neuquén. This was the Achilles’ heel of the revolutionary upheaval back then, and this shortcoming led us to regard it not as an insurrection or a ‘revolution’, as other currents did. We believed it was unlikely that a new and deeper revolutionary crisis could immediately throw bourgeois power into disarray. However, the lack of a centralized proletarian intervention at the onset of the process provides a countervailing example: a true counter-power set to nurture a new emancipated society can only be based, especially in an urban and industrial country such as Argentina, in the millions of workers that make up society. Autonomism does not stand for a proletarian, sovietic, revolutionary strategy to win over those millions of wage-earners, and cannot therefore point to an anti-capitalist solution for the Argentine crisis.
Views on the State and direct democracy among the socialist left
Whereas the autonomists have extolled the virtues of direct democracy and self-management, regarding them from a purely ‘citizen’ standpoint, the political currents such as the MST and the Partido Obrero have turned their backs on this enormously progressive process.
The PO has posed the question of political power, but in opposition to the autonomists, their emphasis was on reaching political agreements between tendencies, rather promoting and encouraging the self-organization and direct democracy of the working class, as a way of proclaiming themselves the political leadership ‘of the mass movement’.
It is most surprising that these currents, which have churned out red-hot revolutionary prognoses, never fight to encourage the creation of such bodies. If the question of political power remains a key and yet unresolved issue, what kind of power should the masses establish then? It has been insisted that soviets cannot be built artificially, beyond and above the will and initiative of the mass movement. Of course, we are not out to invent them. Our duty is to spot the embryonic forms of these in the natural tendencies at work within the masses and their more militant sections, which should allow us to bring together more and more layers coming out on struggle for their demands. The various sectors on struggle have once and again demanded a united front of the workers and the jobless, trying to win the solidarity of the middle classes and assemblies for the occupied factories. In them lay the embryos with a potential for building coordination bodies, of a democratic and representative nature, on a local and regional level, to make the class struggle more effective. The Coordination Body in Neuquén has shown this potential is for real, a means for enhancing the authority and the prestige of the most militant sections in the eyes of the masses still passive. All this is just the ABC of a genuine Leninist perspective. However, it has been totally abandoned by those currents claiming allegiance to a working-class and sosialist tradition. The PO has not yet been able to respond to this elementary but decisive issue.
The last congress of the PO made hardly any mention of the kinds of organs to be built, the ways to help them develop, etc. Perhaps the party or a front of parties is regarded as the spokesperson for workers’ power; maybe the party is considered, like the old MAS believed, to have the ability of encompassing mass organizations within it. All these postulates entail a deliberate mix-up between potential mass organs that may lay the foundations of a new state, on one hand, and the party as the political vanguard of the masses, on the other. And this mix-up pervades the currents of the picketers’ movement, which have not been organized on a regional and national level with freedom of tendencies within them, so that the vanguard can choose from the programs and political strategies raised by the diverse currents. Instead, a ‘mass’ organization is set up by seeking reliance on state relief, and it toes the line of the political party that is standing behind it.
The PO has walked out of the only serious attempt made to establish a united front, the Alto Valle Coordination Board, sponsored by ceramic workers of Neuquén, just because the latter did not toe the line of the National Assembly of Workers. The NAW could have been a starting point to set up more organizations like that of Neuquén, but the PO just hampered this perspective. As a result, the NAW rallies only a minority of the vanguard, with some influence among sections of unemployed workers but a negligible one among labor. On the other hand, its delegates are not voted in a democratic fashion; they are just hand-picked among the various tendencies operating insided it -workers’ democracy has been by and large absent. They even denied the delegates representing Brukman and Zanon the right to speak on the basis that ‘you are not active members’, in a move that shows that the NAW is more a political bloc than a true Coordination body, let alone a ‘Soviet’. It is evident that the agreement between picketers’ tendencies has obliterated the task of building democratic organs of the masses.
However, from a socialist point of view, political power cannot be separated from organs of direct democracy and dual power. ‘The history of the workers’ revolutions has shown, once and again, that the basis of a new political power are laid from below, with the latter becoming more centralized and relying on local grassroots bodies, which in turn become a lever to rally the mass movement. This was the case, among other examples, of the Soviets in the Russian revolution, of the German, Hungarian and Italian workers’ councils; the committees of revolutionary Spain.’
The struggle for a new state entails a tendency to do away with the social division of labor, relying on the active participation of millions in the administration of the State and raising the cultural level of the masses of the population. Only by proceeding along these lines will the proletariat become a ruling class, i.e., as a conscious subject aware of its own destiny. But those remarkable premises are not created overnight, they must be set out on the eve of the revolution, and blossom through experience, having been fertilized by the practical and political education provided by the revolutionary organizations in previous stages. Above all, they must pass the crucial tests of political power before the revolution unfolds, during the phase of dual power, by taking over the factories, organizing food distribution, organizing self-defense. In this process, workers will opt for a program and a strategy they regard as the most accurate ones for the development of the revolutionary perspective. Without this previous experience, a workers’ government might as well become a wretched caricature that might succumb to the rule of a bureaucracy standing well above the interests of labor. The experience of the Stalinist bureaucracies, i.e., the police-styled control of power by a parasitic layer stuffed with social and political privileges speaking in the name of ‘the party of the working class’, which went over to restoring capitalism, is a lesson we should never forget. Specially those currents claiming allegiance to Trotskyism, which strongly denounced the bureaucratic deformations and the prosecutions mounted by the Stalinists, should put forward a perspective based on a conscious self-activity of the masses, seeking to develop a direct democracy of producers, to help workers become the main actors and empower them to stand as the leaders of all the exploited layers of society. The substitution of mass organs by the party is the clearest sign of a centrist and bureaucratic deviation, which brings about practical political consequences immediately, the first and most immediate one being an adaptatioin to the bourgeois regime.
When you are out to build the party over and above the needs and the advance of the class struggle, of class consciousness, you might as well end up destroying or boycotting any organization not controlled by your own party (for example, the PO and the CP regarding the Meeting of Occupied Factories called by Brukman and Zanon). On top of that, artificial organizations toeing party lines are created, even if they stand at odds with organized but ‘rebel’ strands of the vanguard (the non-existent ‘meeting of occupied factories’ organized by the PO at Grissinopoli plant, in which the hosting factory alone participated). Furthermore, this leads to a peaceful coexistance with the state, to strengthen the organization abandoning radical methods and programme, which are just resorted to for the sake of propaganda (welfare payment and food provision were transformed in ultimate goals of the unemployed workers´ movement) . Therefore, a working class policy is turned into cheap bourgeois dealings and wheelings to gain sets in the parliament, the unions and the students’ federation, as a goal in themselves but not as a revolutionary platform (the strategic alliance of the MST and the CP in United Left with the only purpose of gaining legislators, which goes hand in hand with opportunistic agreements in unions and within the students’ movement). Last Christmas, we saw the FUBA (Buenos Aires University Students’ Union) convene a congress in which not a single student participated, devoid of any political discussion and relying on the support of the bourgois Franja Morada to retain the leadership.
The consequence of this is the prevailance of one’s own apparatus, the lack of ideas, pragmatism and not very clean bargainings with the institutions of the bourgeois regime.
The MAS, for its part, has accused all those who do not share their complete revision of the analyses, characterizations and programme put forward by Trotsky against the Stalinist bureaucracy in the 1930s, as incapable of standing by a policy of workers’ democracy and a democratic socialism. Curiously, they have not put forward any soviet-styled strategy whatsoever, without which workers’ democracy is turned into cheap bourgeois democratism. Little wonder,then, that the MAS has just written off the perspective of the dictatorship of the proletairat. What kind of democracy, what kind of self-government can be established without an effective control of power by the working class based on soviet-type organs?
For different reasons, both autonomist currents as well as those claiming allegiance to workers’ and socialist perspective, have failed to hammer out a programme and a theoretical framework to endow the movement with hard-rock democratic organizations for struggle, embryos of workers and peoples’ power that are indispensable if the masses are to wrestle power away from the hands of the bourgeoisie. There can be no revolution without a party, but there can be no revolution without organizations of dual power.
The struggle against unemployment and the transitional programme
In a country with more than three million unemployed workers and many more under precarious labor conditions, the issue of unemployment is a central aspect of any revolutionary programme. In the past months this issue has also been a test for the different strategies and programmes being raised. The financial collapse and the ensuing devaluation, after four years of recession, have dealt a death blow to the informal economy. In this situation of unheard-of polarization and social decline, never seen in this country, wide sections of the urban poor have been push to rely on precarious subsistence economies, mostly the jobless, who have started their own production in their neighborhoods.
The pundits of autonomism have rushed to describe such practice as a growing movement of liberation from waged exploitation altogether. These self-managed activities were labeled as ‘an alternative to capitalist exploitation’ and spaces for the reproduction of social life beyond capital, producing a new ‘non-alienated subjectivity’.
To think that the idle strands of the working class can reproduce themselves via subsistence undertakings of the small unemployed workers’ movement that have gone for self-management, on the fringes of capital, is tantamount to retreat even from Proudhon’s views, relapsing into the utopias of the agrarian communist sects of the sixteenth century. To put it straight, the fundamental means of production in this country -energy, oil, big food makers, the metal works, the banks- are all in the hands of capital. How can we take the people out of misery without taking over those huge resources? How to take them back unless we wage a relentless class struggle, one with the workers of that same industry and companies as its main actor? How are we to take them back unless we defeat the state protecting them?
A few months ago we insisted in that ‘it is impossible to even think of putting an end to the present state of affairs and meet the needs of the mass movement without challenging the forces of the bourgeois state, seizing power and expropriating the massive social wealth accumulated in the hands of a bunch of parasites, which thanks to the anarchy of capitalist production, block progress and bring in increased starvation, poverty and degradation for most of the population’.
This is undoubtedly the only realistic perspective. The MTDs (Movement of unemployed workers) in the Greater Buenos Aires area have just found out that waged labor can be superseded, not by destroying capitalism, but standing on the fringe of it, putting an end to starvation not with the techniques and the science of the twenty-first century, but rather with the introduction of pre-capitalist domestic economies. And this in the century of ‘immaterial work’ and ‘cognitive capital’! Finding a solution to chronic employment entails trascending the restricted and dependant character of capital accumulation in this country, i.e., a rational and democratic planning of the productive forces, which entails overcoming dependence and capitalist anarchy altogether. The logical conclusion of this is the expropriation of the expropriators. Workers are relentlessly driven out of production because of such a pattern of accumulation, which provokes both an increasing destruction of productive forces and a heightened social polarization. To transform that anomaly into a foundation for freedom and the undoing of alienation amounts to a rather obscene celebration of the capitalist offensive of the past 25 years. The individual worker does not ‘free’ himself from capitalist exploitation when expelled from the capitalist process of value creation, nor is it a prerequisite for its advent. It is just capital doing its work, gaining extra value in this way, thus reinforces its control over the whole capitalist process.
To oppose to the reduction of working hours and a share-out of them, and stand for a state-sponsored ‘citizen’s allowance’ (welfare payment) is completely in line with the type of restricted and dependant capitalist accumulation so common in peripheral countries, and totally in accordance with the reactionary policies of governments today. We communists do not worship work just as it is, neither do we celebrate the ‘dignity of work’ along the lines of the Peronist and syndicalist tradition. But it is evident that the opposition to waged labor should start from demanding cuts into capitalist profits, a growing control of production processes and a steady decrease of working hours as new technology is introduced. The conquest of leisure means to conquest abundance, rather than mass unemployment, destitution, poverty and wretched living conditions. In this reactionary philosophy of the autonomists lies their organic inability to set out a programme and a strategy to unite the unemployed with the workers.
The first condition to conquer free time is, paradoxically, putting the bulk of workers to work by sharing out working hours with an average wage worth the cost of reproduction of the labor force. Under the current conditions, this entails cutting drastically into capitalist profits, fighting directly against capital and its state. It is a fundamental premise for the socialization of the means of production, being the only safeguard of the physical and moral preservation of the producers of all existent social wealth, to preserve the potential of the working class to overcome the capitalist mode of production.
The illusions of the autonomists bear dramatic consequences, because in a country with more than three million unemployed workers, communal undertakings to grow vegetables and make bricks can only be considered as minor trenches of a more far-reaching class war for the control of the productive forces as a whole. This requires a programme to bring together the working class as a whole, to weld the common interests of the workers and the jobless by raising an anti-capitalist programme. However, the organizations rallying the unemployed workers -not only those autonomist-minded ones-, which have been part of a wide vanguard of struggle, have for their part failed to raise a strategy to come together with millions of wage-earners. The programme raised at the uprising of Cutral Có -‘work for all’- has been dropped in favor of immediate demands for welfare and food provisions, which in turn have been used to mount productive undertakings, the quintessential tenet of ‘non-alienated’ work.
In turn, the unemployed workers movements oriented by the left have not been able to offer an alternative in this regard. It can hardly be said they have been even one step ahead. Many times it seems otherwise, as long as their strategy seems more and more subordinate to getting whatever is possible within the limits set by the government by means of the welfare plans, food provision, lunchrooms and community dining rooms. The transitional program has been replaced by a minimum program, just when we are witnessing the worst capitalist crisis ever in national history. Those movements not affiliated to any political current, many of them in the interior and sometimes of a more spontaneous nature than their counterparts in Buenos Aires, like those in Mosconi or Neuquén, have raised the demand for genuine work much more consistenly. For all their rhetoric against the government and the state, the truth is that those movements of unemployed workers to the left of the picketers’ bureaucracy led by Messrs, D’Elia and Alderete (which have build up their muscle in the demonstrations), have nevertheless been progressively tamed through a public agenda of state relief.
The PO has raised hue and cry over this characterization of the PTS, accusing us of regarding the unemployed workers as ‘classless and marginal’, ‘outcasts’, of setting the jobless against the workers, of ‘standing by a political strategy that disregards the jobless’, and of wanting to separate Brukman and Zanon workers from the ‘declassé’ . It goes without a saying that resorting to slanders will not bring us any closer to solving this issue. The whole question remains, since most picketers’ movements, included the one led by the PO, have dropped the demands for genuine work and a share-out of all working hours altogether. Out went the demand for a plan of public works controlled by the workers to meet social needs as well -as everyone knows, these demands have remained a dead letter, because they have never been fought for in the real struggles. Thus, the only program that can bridge the gap separating the workers from their brothers and sisters that are out of work, and bring them into collision course with the state and the capitalists has been unceremoniously thrown out of the window. The actual practice of the movement has been guided by a minimum program, thus writing off the demands it raised when it was born. In doing so, the PO and other unemployed movements turn unemployment into a fait accompli –i.e., a tacit acceptance of the capitalist relationships of production in their current historical circumstances– and the unemployed are given the role of asking workfare schemes from the state, not even a payment equivalent to the shopping basket (which has also been dropped). The PO has gone as far as proclaiming that the demand for ‘welfare payment and food provisions’, when ‘addressed to the state means a combat against the powers-that-be on a national, provincial and municipal level’ . If a minimum demand for state relief challenges per secapitalist political power, we could then say that the transitional program is now outlived. But this is not true. The past few months have clearly shown that a widespread minimum state assistance is compatible with the bourgeois state itself, and it was also used by the government presiding over such state to stave off new uprisings and even to regain some social support though the manipulation of a clientele. The World Bank itself recommends handing over such relief schemes to policymakers in semicolonial countries. As a matter of fact, this is what Lula has just announced in Brazil, although the PO was not there ‘to wrestle them from him’ and prove that Lula is at odds with capitalism. If the PO means what they say on this issue, they should seriously reconsider their characterization of the CTA-sponsored plan as neo-keynesian.
Handing over relief is not incompatible with capitalism. Still more, it can be used to coopt the most combative movements, to wipe out the methods of direct action as blocking the circulation of goods through road blockades (a measure frequently resorted to in the beginning), and prevent millions of unemployed workers from demanding what truly attacks the heart of capitalism, the share-out of working hours. And this can only be achieved by means of programmatic, political and organizational unity among the workers and the unemployed workers. The PO believes it has done its share already, gaining a pardon for its sins in passing, because they ‘work closely connected with the working class movement, as shown in the defense of the occupied factories (Brukman, Lavalan)’. But this speaks rather unfavourably of them, because to reduce the strategy of uniting workers and the jobless to a solidarity action, means to acknowledge the lack of a proletarian perspective. The PO sees a pipedream scenario when they claim that ‘the Picketers in Argentina have broken the capitalist attempt at playing workers against each other through competition’. This competition is alive and kicking: the government has put thousands of jobless on workfare schemes to work in positions in local county halls and the private sector -an inevitable drift in a country with millions of unemployed workers with a tendency to push the cost of the labor force even lower. This has been pushed through regardless of the picketers’ movements’ rejection of attempts at torpedoing bargainings and their defense of wages.
This division of the working class movement accounts for many of the hardships suffered by labor today, which might be overcome striving to achieve working class unity and a trascending of the capitalist state. The starting point should be, then, to make the working class come together on a programmatic, political and organizational basis, bridging the divisions nourished by capitalism: that close alliance can be seen at work at Zanón, whose workers have come together with the MTD of Neuquén. Alas! the PO is lagging far behind them.
As long as the program of the first unemployed workers’ uprisings of 1996-97 is not taken up and codified along revolutionary lines; as long as no close organic unity with all swathes of the working class, particularly its more combative sections, is built, the movements of the unemployed run the risk of being institutionalized as corporative-styled organizations, thus losing their early revolutionary edge of seven years ago. Last but not least, we should point out that this bizarre idea of the picketers being a new distinct social subject has been espoused both by the autonomists and the PO. We have already taken issue with with this idea somewhere else. Here, we want to add that the perspective of a general strike as a working class method has been written off altogether as well. However, for more than two months the PO announced a new ‘Argentinazo’ for December 20th, on the day of the first anniversary. They believed that peaceful protests, without the millions of workers bursting onto the scene with their own methods, with an insurrectional general strike, could bring down Duhalde and re-enact the revolt that ousted De la Rúa, this time on a superior level.
Factory occupations and workers’ control
The process of factory occupations and workers administration are without doubt two developments with the biggest revolutionary potential ever since last December. This trend challenges capitalist property directly, putting the right to work well above property rights, eroding by its natuere the free will of capital and the bourgeois legal order. As in all the advanced developments of the class struggle, a difference arouse between a drive to institutionalize the process and those pursuing an independent agenda in these factories. The first strand is that led by a lawyer, Mr. Caro, and his National Movement of Reclaimed Companies (MNER), closely bound to the Church and Peronism, who has encouraged expropriation acts favorable to the bankrupt bosses, with compensation payments, a rent of the premises of the plant, an expropriation limited in time, etc. The other tendency was represented by the Brukman and Zanon workers, who stick to workers’ control and demand a nationalization without compensation.
Regardless of these differences, the new development of factories occupied by their workers has boosted the view, already present within the unemployed movement, of going for a self-management of production. Autonomism considers this movement to be part of a new subject, one beyond post-Fordism, just like the picketers, casual workers and the ruined small-sized producers. And just like the productive undertaking mounted by the MTD, these sectors deemed bound to produce their own lives, their own subjectivity. In this way, this small sector of labor, which has taken over small and medium-sized companies driven against the wall by the slump, are torn apart from the rest of the ‘Fordist’ wage-earners.
In this case, the illusions of self-management on the fringes of the market are more harmful than those nourished by subsistence undertakings. In factories like Zanón, it is not self-consumption that dictates the tempo of production, but the demand of the market, production costs, the renewal of machinery, the price of raw materials, i.e., the capitalist market. And this means that, although to a certain extent there is greater freedom, self-awareness and non-alienation in these exemplary struggles, they depend entirely on developments well outside the factory itself. This contradiction can only be worked out successfully by in two ways. The first means accomodation to the capitalist market, the law governing trade, bringing in the self-exploitation of workers in their strive to achieve competitiveness and hiring new workers for a wage, in the medium term, to gain a greater share of the market and lower costs –the agenda for capitalist adaptation raised by Dr. Caro. The second way is to spread the process toward big industry and the service companies, seeking reliance on the further development of the class struggle. Although autonomism rejects, as a rule, the institutionalization (instituted power) of the reclaimed factories into cooperatives, their own logic pushes them in that direction nevertheless, because they refuse to fight for nationalization, economic planning and the centralization of the means of production, finally rejecting a new workers’ and popular power. For a company to remain in business along the lines of ‘self-management’, it must enter the arena of the market and join the dog-eat-dog war out there. The postulate of a small-scale socialism of proprietors is not new, besides. The French anarchist Proudhon codified it as a program for the working class more than 150 years ago. This petty bourgeois socialism devised by Proudhon undestood that property in itself was mere robbery. However, it could cease to be so on condition that certain social reforms were introduced, such as work coupons. In Marx’s words, these ideas codify ‘a pious wish to do away with money by means of money, of exchange value by means of exchange value, of merchandise by means of the merchandise and the bourgeois form of production’.
Self-management, just like the autonomists understand it, can only push the occupied factories down the road of cooperativism and their accomodation to the capitalist market, this time like proprietors with almost full rights. It pushes the workers in the occupied factories away from the rest of the class, transforming the wage-earners into ‘partners’ –the ideal goal for every single autonomist bent on ‘abolishing’ waged labor within capitalism.
Those capitalist methods of labor management can only be confronted with socialist ones, which rely on the class struggle and a conscious preparation, by spreading workers’ control and other forms of dual power up to a fight for power.
Self-management and the cooperatives can be introduced -with mixed results – in small companies with a medium or low technological level and capital investment. It is reasonable to think that the owners of big factories will resist any attempt at expropriation, up to include a civil war. Workers should also borrow huge amounts of capital to put constant capital to work. The issue of who possesses the big banks, the energy suppliers, etc., would arise immediately. At the same time, as we have said, we seek to overcome capitalist anarchy and take over the main levers of production to snap the country out of its ruin. In fact, the factories that today are occupied by their workers are an extraordinary lever, not just to ‘self-manage’ themselves along autonomist lines, i.e., in a capitalist way, but as a step forward to encourage workers’ control and challenge private property in big industries, the privatized utilities and the banks. At the end of the day, the task is to go for class-minded, anti-bureaucratic leaderships and develop the embryos of a new revolutionary labor movement. Workers control or direct labor administration in nationalized companies will thus be a school for socialist control and administration, educating workers in those issues hitherto in the hands of the bosses, creating in these same factories organs of dual power in the process. The growth of this development relies entirely on the class struggle and the balance of forces at large, not on legal technicalities and property forms.
Different variations of this model have been devised, more realistic ones, because they think not in terms of a single factory but in networks of companies, in those tiers with medium to low levels of technology. A move that means some sort of primitive socialist accumulation within the capitalist market. Yet, to think that a subsystem of medium technology can resist the pressure of big business is just a pipedream. What is interesting about this idea is that the working class movement appears as capable of confronting big business in its own terrain, on the grounds of the law of value rather than in a revolutionary class struggle. A lot has been said about the distance separating the original accumulation originated of a rising propertied class like the bourgeoisie, which prepared its own political revolution, and the kind of accumulation the working class is forced to do, since it owns nothing except for its own labor force. Such accumulation is of a very different nature, being mostly political and ideological.
The truth is that the occupied factories are an unstable phenomenon, and they have survived due to an unremitting economic and political crisis on one hand, and the militancy and the social, material and political support they received from the population at large, on the other. However, we must bring clarification on a strategy to avoid defeat or their accomodation to the capitalist market, and how are we to make such movement spread to the most important branches of production and the services. The left-wing currents have also failed to provide an alternative to the reformist cooperatives or to the ‘self-management’-prone autonomists in this regard. By and large, the left has remained on the sidelines of this process, and where they managed to get some influence, such as the MST in the Junin Clinic in Cordoba, they have essentialy put forward the same programme of cooperatives. Indeed, the MST has even advocated cooperatives in those cases where a bogus ‘expropriation’ amounted to a bail-out of the bosses and a heavy load for workers (Ghelco and others). Apart from that, there have consistently failed to come up with any serious reflection on this.
The PO has made a turn-about between the months of June and July, but as usual, they have not made it openly. So far, the PO had stood by the nationalization of all the companies that shut down and laid off their workers, which subsequently started production under workers’ control.
The perspective of nationalization was an extension of the program raised for the big privatized companies, the energy and oil suppliers and the banks. But from then onwards, they have figured out that anyone who stands by the nationalization of the occupied factories is guilty of ‘bourgeois étatisme’, a criticism curiously in tune with those raised by the autonomists that led them to flirtation with the cooperatives and to formulating a common proposal on the Grissinopoli food-making plant with the Peronist and center-left legislators . The agenda for the nationalization of the banks and key corporations arises out of the need to concentrate the productive resources and put them to work, not for the sake of private profit, but to meet social needs. Of course, the state-owned enterprises of the past were instrumental to capitalist accumulation -they were means for a redistribution of the agrarian rent towards local capitalists. But the slogan of the nationalization of those enterprises does not seek a return to the old state of affairs. Instead, it postulates that the workers and the consumers should take over them, and is connected to a string of anti-capitalist and anti-imperialist demands -i.e. a program that only a workers’ government could make good of. So, this is a demand for nationalization of a capitalist non-state on the grounds of a revolutionary mass struggle. There is not much to say about this, it all boils down to the historical agenda of Marxists, this time adapted to the deep crisis afflicting our country. And it remains valid not only for those big economic branches, but also for those companies that the bosses have led to bankruptcy through fraudulent proceedings, because it is just all about preserving the forces of the working class as such, preventing shut-downs and their exploitation -this time not at the hands of an individual capitalist but by the capitalists as a class though competition in the market in the shape of a cooperative. When the Partido Obrero reproaches the Zanón workers that they want a ‘new boss: the state’, they just forget the fact that the proletariat does not reclaim the property of any given capitalist owner; it does not strive to become ‘their own bosses’ along the lines of a cooperative; it just reclaims ownership of the whole means of production -i.e., state power. Insofar as that perspective is not a short-term possibility, the generalization of that experience can only proceed though the spread of workers’ control to all the branches of production; it cannot be a piecemeal evolution growing over from one factory to the next. The program raised by the ceramic workers, demanding workers’ control, a public works’ scheme to create new jobs for the unemployed and integrate the productive process between construction workers, the schools, the hospitals, etc, pursues a generalized participation of labor and the masses in the immediate task of finding a solution for unemployment and also in economic planning at large, over and against capitalist profit. Furthermore, a string of nationalized enterprises under workers’ control might be able to become integrated to various production branches as state suppliers, beyond the turnover of such undertakings. What people fail to see is that the independence from the capitalist state does not flow from the certificate of property (state-owned, private). Instead, it flows from an independent political organization of labor, which much be underpinned by workers’ control. However, workers’ control might be of use, on some occasion, for those individual capitalist being controlled, as long as workers as forced to look for scarce raw materials, find new customers, etc, in a drive that might turn workers’ control into participation in private profits. Be it state-owned, private or else transitorily self-managed, a factory under workers’ control can be an effective lever only if it orients itself to spreading the movement and challenges capitalist power altogether.
Outright rejection of nationalization, whatever form it takes, poses the following question: what shall we do with economic surpluses? The ceramic workers are striving to put their factory to work in line with social needs, which requires that those surpluses should be earmarked for expanding production, building houses and hospitals, etc, regardless of the profits yielded by the factory itself. And this, in turn, requires support coming from the state on the basis of taxation of the rich and other cuts into profits. But as an independent enterprise, a self-managed one, although the state might purchase all its production, that surplus should be earmarked for muscling out rival enterprises, which means throwing more workers out of production, if the former wants to avert extinction.
It is most curious, then, that the PO, which has taken reliance on the state for granted, in the sphere of relief for the unemployed at least, which has become their key demand, should now reject out of hand the demand of nationalization of all occupied factories under workers’ control. And the whole thing grows into a flagrant paradox when we consider that they are demanding the nationalization of the banks and the privatized utilities. The semi-autonomist stance adopted by the PO, therefore, transforms the workers into investors, even illegal investors if they are out of the cooperative bankroll. But if all this can be staved off by means of imposing conditions on the state (purchase, supplies, credit, etc) then it all boils down to the balance of forces on the field on one hand, and the political orientation being pursued, on the other, which leaves out the ‘inexorable bourgeois étatisme’ that Altamira has just found out in the last six months, after his 35 year-long political career.
The party, the vanguard and the masses
After decades in which Peronism reigned supreme among the ranks of the working class, preventing it from building its own revolutionary party, the December uprisings, combined with the decline and discredit of the traditional parties have ushered in an entirely new historical outlook. However, this does not mean that labor has broken away with its party already, but Peronism is a far cry from what it used to be and its influence has decreased sharply. The emergence of a new vanguard made up of thousands of activists objectively poses the need to build a revolutionary vanguard party rallying the thousands of militants rooted in those key levers of the economy, in the unemployed workers’ movement, in the universities and the schools. This party should also get ready, on a programmatic, strategic and organizational level, to recruit hundreds of thousands and influence millions in the coming revolutionary upheavals. The fate of the revolutionary developments in Argentina will by and large be hinged upon our ability to build such tool.
The autonomist movement eschews party building by its own nature. Those populist and nationalistic- minded currents, the CP among them, seek to tie workers up to the chariot of class conciliation, i.e., democratic or liberation fronts with different strands of the bourgeoisie. Therefore, they reject class independence, revolutionary party building and a transitional program out of principle.
Our party has issued a call to all those currents who claim allegiance to socialist and working class principles -the MAS, the PO and the MST (so far as it breaks its strategic bloc with local Stalinism)- and a wide layer of activists to openly discuss our coincidences and the existing differences in the eyes of the vanguard to try and build such a party. In our statement, we claim that ‘The time has come for us to finish off the ‘quangos’ and reassess the old differences in the light of the new developments. The time has come for us to show who wants to really build a party, and who wants to build just a sect. Gramsci stated that within a sect (and also the maffia), association becomes an end in itself, and familiar or particular interest is postulated as a universal principle. The party, on the contrary, as a vanguard or else ‘collective intellectual’ should be regarded just as a means, an indispensable tool, but one whose interest should tend to speak for a socialist interest at large, a socialist revolution to finish off the exploitation of men (which is the ultimate reason for the existence of the current political parties). We shall cast aside any sectarian ‘particular interest’ and do our best so that all those parties claiming allegiance to Marxism and revolution should be able to discuss with all revolutionary workers and students on a program and the methods to build a party of socialist and workers’ revolution in Argentina. That is our current responsibility, and history will condemn us if we fail in this undertaking.’
The MAS has posed, for the immediate period ahead, the building of a ‘political/social movement of workers’, whereas building a revolutionary party in which various strands should get together is a long-term goal.
In a document submitted to their VIII Congress, they say that ‘In the first place, we shall propose the creation of a social/political movement of the left to raise a minimum revolutionary program. This program could be drawn upon the people’s assemblies, the picketers’ programs or else those of the class-minded developments.’
We do not agree with the program being raised here, rather than the tempo, because the program is said to draw upon the experiences of the last few months. However, a program drawing upon token experiences will only fail to generalize the historical experiences of the working class in its revolutionary struggle. Furthermore, it will not be able to postulate and enduring solution to the crisis afflicting our country today. We would thus be condemned, at best, to agree upon minimum program that would be outdone at the first onslaught by the masses. The worst scenario is to make a hotchpotch of demands and views that might eventually distort the revolutionary program or else render it useless.
The PO, in turn, remains in a self-proclamatory attitude, regarding their own political organization as the ready-made party of the working class. However, none of these left-wing political organizations rallies more than one thousand militants each. No sensible party can claim, then, to be the political leadership of those millions that still have not broken away with Peronism. Still more, the influence of the left in the unions is negligible. To regard oneself a mass political leadership one needs to have earned the recognition of the working class and have implantation and roots at least in key sectors of it -but all these are still positions to conquest.
Sectarian self-proclamation always ends up backfiring against those advocating it, because it nurtures an illusion and a mirage that sooner or later is smashed by reality. Besides, it prevents parties from correctly grasping the tasks of the moment. The demand of political power, as we said, will remain a hollow shell unless we conquer the masses. This is the key task of today. And this requires a revolutionary policy within the mass organizations, the unions first and foremost, to challenge the sway of the union bureaucracy there. It is all too evident that a revolutionary vanguard party emerging from an eventual coming together of all those of us claiming allegiance to revolutionary socialism, one gathering thousands or tens of thousands of militants will no doubt boost its influence among the working class. For that, we need to win the new emerging layer of social militancy over to a program of socialist revolution. And this task would also be immensely benefited from the creation of a common party.
A party with those characteristics should be able to boldly go for a unified and democratic congress of assemblies, the picketers and the occupied factories. It should also be able to boldly set up coordinating bodies on a regional and provincial level, rallying all those quarters on struggle, which would thus become a platform to address millions in wait for a solution to hunger and unemployment, gaining influence on the unionized workers in the process.
The question of building a revolutionary party, then, rallying the vanguard and addressing to millions of workers and the people at large are key tasks still to be tackled -burning tasks of the period ahead.