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On Sunday, December 10, far-right libertarian economist Javier Milei was inaugurated as president of Argentina. He had won a run-off election against Peronist candidate Sergio Massa on November 19. During the election, Milei positioned himself as the anti-establishment candidate while advancing a radical neoliberal program, including a shock therapy for the economy and austerity for workers. He is in favor of drastically cutting the state and eliminating several ministries, like the Ministry of Women, Equality, and Diversity as well as the Ministry of the Environment. He even proposed eliminating the central bank of Argentina, and dollarizing the Argentinian economy. In addition to being a climate change denialist, he had advocated the rollback of, for example, abortion and LGBTQ+ rights.
Milei made headlines for these and other radical proposals and rhetoric, but he didn’t come out of nowhere — we need to understand his election as an expression of widespread popular discontent with the political establishment and with the two parties that have ruled Argentina for the past two decades, overseeing protracted economic and political crises. This establishment includes the outgoing government of Alberto Fernández and Cristina Kirchner de Fernández.
Inflation in Argentina is above 140 percent, among the highest rates in the world. Four in Ten Argentinians live in poverty, which is a four-fold increase since 2018. Meanwhile, booming industries like lithium extraction and agribusiness are generating multimillion-dollar profits, which are flowing to corporations and foreign multinationals. Rather than increase social spending, the successive governments have attacked workers, forcing them to bear the burden of these crises. And next year, around $20 billion will go toward servicing the country’s debt with the International Monetary Fund.
During the election, despite some rhetorical differences from Milei, none of the establishment candidates, including Massa, offered an alternative. Instead, all effectively promised more austerity, more extraction of natural resources, and more attacks on workers. They would continue to keep the country’s labor force and resources open to — and subservient to — imperialist exploitation. All these candidates ultimately had to offer during this election, in the face of Milei’s reactionary candidacy, was lesser evilism. This might sound familiar, and we will certainly be drawing some instructive parallels during this episode.
The party that did offer an alternative was the PTS, or the Party of Socialist Workers, and the Workers Front – Unity coalition they were part of, it was headed by Myriam Bregman and Nicolas del Cano. They put forward a complete break with the IMF and financial imperialism, they advocated funding social services like healthcare, education, and housing programs, and the nationalization of natural resources. In the November election, the coalition received 800,000 votes five members will join the national congress. There, these politicians will continue to fight for the working class, against capitalism and imperialism.
On this episode, we interview Left Voice member Juan Ferre. Juan is a medical doctor and sociologist, and a Postdoctoral Fellow in the Program in Latin American Studies at Princeton University. Before moving to the United States, he was a member of the PTS and worked as a physician at a public hospital in Argentina.
In addition to explaining the factors that led to the Milei’s rise and victory, Juan describes the parallels that this moment has with the 1990s in Argentina under Carlos Menem. Most importantly, we discuss the importance of organizing an independent, working-class resistance to Milei, and linking this to a revolutionary struggle against capitalism and imperialism. We also talk about the lessons we can learn internationally, including here in the US.
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