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Argentina: The Revolutionary Left in the Struggle against Milei

Just weeks into his administration, Argentina’s far-right president, Javier Milei, has unleashed a draconian program of austerity, layoffs, and attacks on democratic rights. In this context, new possibilities are opening up for building a revolutionary workers’ party, an effort to which the Party of Socialist Workers (PTS) has concentrated its work.

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Photo: La Izquierda Diario

Editor’s note: This article is based on an article by Laura Liff that was published in Spanish at La Izquierda Diario. It has been extensively adapted for an international audience.

In December, the 53-year old “libertarian” journalist Javier Milei won Argentina’s presidential runoff in a landslide, gaining 56 percent of the vote, compared to 44 percent for Sergio Massa, the Peronist candidate and former minister of economics. The difference between them was almost 3 million votes, an unprecedented thrashing for the Peronists. It was a true political earthquake in the mold of Donald Trump’s victory in the United States in 2016 or Jair Bolsonaro’s win in Brazil in 2018. “Today begins the reconstruction of Argentina,” Milei declared after his victory. “Today begins the end of our decline. The bankrupt model of the all-powerful state comes to an end. Today we return to an embrace of the ideas of freedom, those of our founding fathers.”

Milei’s government has already launched a full-scale attack on the rights and historical conquests of working people, with more than 300 proposed changes to labor and tax laws.

Former president Alberto Fernández, a Peronist, left office with a country in ruins: about 40 percent of the population lives in poverty, and annual inflation exceeds 170 percent. The past four years of Peronist government show its strategic failures in negotiating with international finance capital. Each year, Argentina pays over $19 billion to service its debts to the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, and the Paris Club, while health care, education, and other social services been drastically cut.

In this context, a program to confront the new government’s agenda is beginning to emerge as a necessity for millions of Argentinians. After Milei took office, on December 27, there was a huge mobilization called by the most important trade union federation in Argentina, the CGT. But it is not only that: neighborhood assemblies have sprung up in the capital city, and state workers laid off by the Milei government have staged strikes and held demonstrations.

The need for a political alternative is more urgent than ever, one that is independent of the capitalist class and its parties. The emergence of a strong party of socialist workers will be a lever to promote the self-organization of the working class and oppressed people for the struggles to come. Such a party must also be internationalist, because the struggle against imperialist domination requires solidarity and coordination across borders.

The Party of Socialist Workers (PTS) in Argentina, the sister party of Left Voice, is part of a network of 15 newspapers in seven languages. In these publications we cover the latest battles in the class struggle, along with militant practice in every international struggle (against the war in Ukraine, against the Zionist genocide in Gaza) and in national rebellions, like the one in Chile in 2019 and the struggle to defend pensions in France this past year.

Our objective is to set up a new independent political force of the Left and the working class, an alternative to both the traditional parties of the ruling class and those that present themselves as “new,” but are in fact simply new manifestations of the old Right. We aim to build a political force that unites those below, to fight for a new society without oppression and exploitation, and a government of the workers.

In Argentina, we participated in the last elections as Workers Left Front — Unity (FIT-U), which has existed for 12 years as an electoral coalition on the basis of political independence from all the bosses’ parties and with a program that culminates in the struggle for a workers’ government and socialism. In the last elections it won five seats in the National Congress.

After Milei’s anti-worker pronouncements, many parts of the country have broken with the passivity of recent years, and people are taking to the streets to protest for their future. That is why we want to discuss the need to organize in a situation of widespread popular anger and create a collective solution.

A new period is opening in which decisive fights will take place. Milei’s popularity has fallen in record time, now that many of his voters feel cheated by his false promises and anti-worker actions.

In this new moment, the Left can play a decisive role. A new figure has emerged: the lawyer Myriam Bregman. With her participation in the presidential debates, she became one of the great personalities of the national scene. Together with Nicolás del Caño, Alejandro Vilca, and Christian Castillo, she has made it possible to reach millions of people with a revolutionary program. This work of permanent political agitation is fundamental to influencing the class struggle, beyond the modest electoral results.

During the last year and a half, the PTS has launched dozens of open assemblies throughout the country. In these assemblies, thousands of militants have collectively debated and organized participants in the workers’ movement, the women’s movement, and the student movement. Those who have joined us generally agree with our program and have contributed in various ways, for example, by working for PTS electoral campaigns and in different struggles — for women’s rights, for workers’ rights, or against austerity, or against the Zionist genocide in Gaza, among many other struggles. The open assemblies allow us to carry out discussions, hold workshops, and sponsor artistic or cultural activities, creating spaces in which we can have diverse experiences of collective militancy.

With the proposals presented in this article, we assume that our organization can contribute to building a great force that, in the heat of struggle, will prepare itself with a strategy to win.

Militant Strength in the Working Class

Our party in Argentina now has hundreds of workers with influence in more than 60 unions. Our comrades have led the fight to win a living wage and to reduce the working day to six hours. PTS members are represented in public transportation, airlines, education, health care, food, metalworking, automotive manufacturing, telecommunications, textiles, etc.

We have organized workers of the major agribusiness corporation Ledesma in the province of Jujuy. We have made inroads among the vineyard workers in Mendoza and among citrus workers in Tucumán, both of which are taking part in intense struggles. In the healthcare industry, we have helped build a combative trade union current in several provinces. We promote spaces with cultural workers, actors, and other artists who suffer budget cuts. They have already mobilized all over the country denouncing the cuts.

In education, we take part in several major unions, and we are fighting to build an alternative to the bureaucratic union leaderships. We are organizing hundreds of state workers who are struggling against the massive layoffs announced by the government.

In the face of factory closures, the PTS has played a leading role in organizing workers to restart production under workers’ control. The most famous example is the Zanon ceramics plant, which has been fully run by its workers since 2002. Our party militants have also fought to win and maintain production under workers’ control at the Chilavert WorldColor and Madygraf printing plants, which have each become important reference points for the working class and powerful examples of production without bosses. At these factories, the workers themselves organize all the economic aspects of the companies, demonstrating that workers could direct the entire economy. Our comrades have also taken part in organizations of the unemployed and alongside precarious workers fighting for affordable housing.

These are just some examples of our attempts at intervening, not without difficulties, in the workers’ movement. We believe these efforts will demonstrate their value in the coming period as new advanced expressions of class struggle begin to emerge. We must strengthen and broaden this work if we really want to help strengthen the working class, women and youth, and decisively influence the coming events.

Open the Road to Women and Youth

In 1938, Leon Trotsky wrote, in The Transitional Program,

Opportunist organizations by their very nature concentrate their chief attention on the top layers of the working class and therefore ignore both the youth and the women workers. The decay of capitalism, however, deals its heaviest blows to the woman as a wage earner and as a housewife. The sections of the Fourth International should seek bases of support among the most exploited layers of the working class; consequently, among the women workers. Here they will find inexhaustible stores of devotion, selflessness and readiness to sacrifice. Down with the bureaucracy and careerism! Open the road to the youth! Turn to the woman worker!

In Argentina, women have undoubtedly been the vanguard of the struggle, especially since 2015, a year in which women led the fight against femicides and gender violence and for the right to an abortion. The socialist feminist current Pan y Rosas (Bread and Roses), organized by the PTS, played a leading role in these struggles, and we wish to bring the country’s powerful women’s movement back to the streets, putting forward a feminism that does not separate the struggles against “economic” attacks from those in defense of democratic rights. “Bread and Roses” unites “bread” (social and economic demands) with “roses” (for democratic rights, against all forms of oppression, and for the right to a full life, art, and culture). This forms the basis of a socialist feminism that can remain consistent in the fight against capitalism and patriarchy.

We promote the creation of women’s commissions in the workplaces, in the unions, in the schools and universities, and in poor neighborhoods. Women can play a leading role not only in labor struggles but also in the political and ideological battles against the reactionary sexist offensive represented by Milei and his so-called libertarian followers. This is especially true of young women.

Pan y Rosas is a national and international group, with sections in countries across Latin America and Europe, with 20 years of experience in the struggle for women’s rights. The group encourages the democratic self-organization of women workers, and it dialogues and debates with other feminist currents from a Marxist perspective. The achievements of Pan y Rosas have allowed us to gain the respect of the women’s movement in Argentina.

Our influence is growing among students and working-class youth, with a presence in 26 universities (and 73 faculties) around the country, along with 42 tertiary schools and dozens of secondary schools. Within the schools and universities, we have a wide range of political and intellectual leaders. Our hypothesis is that the student movement can reemerge as a strong opposition, retaking the best traditions of struggle in Argentina. We also count on the experience of the comrades who, amid the pandemic, created a network to organize young precarious workers. Finally, a growing number of artists, rappers, filmmakers, etc., are collaborating with us and allowing us to intervene in artistic and cultural movements.

Building a New “Left Culture” in the Heat of Class Struggle

Milei’s emergence as a political phenomenon has led the neoliberal establishment to launch a broad ideological and cultural offensive. Fighting this ideology is an important part our struggle to establish a revolutionary party. Our international current has always focused on producing theoretical literature. This can be seen in the many books put out each year by our publishing house, Ediciones IPS, the weekly online journal of theory and politics, Ideas de Izquierda, in the monthly youth magazine Armas de la Crítica, in the Centro de Investigaciones y Publicaciones León Trotsky, in the Virtual Campus of La Izquierda Diario, the radio program El Círculo Rojo.

As Engels and Lenin argued, ideological struggle is indispensable. Today we would call this the construction of a new “left culture.”

Social media has become an important means of communication, political struggle, and ideological struggle, especially for the Right. The accounts of our public figures serve as a powerful tribune to sow socialist ideas among millions. The increasing use of the platforms by our militants, and especially among worker militants, brings our propaganda to countless rank-and-file workers, students, and young people. La Izquierda Diario has been steadily increasing its audiovisual production not only to amplify the struggles but also to put forward socialist proposals in the face of the economic crisis and “cultural battle” against the ideas of the Right. On social networks the videos of La Izquierda Diario are growing in popularity, with thousands of new followers and millions of shares on platforms like TikTok and Instagram.

Since Milei’s election, our media has been filled with reports from below, about the situation in workplaces and neighborhoods.

In the face of Milei’s war on the working class, the forces of the revolutionary Left will be put to the test. Our challenge is to construct a massive revolutionary socialist party, attracting the hundreds of thousands who have voted for the Workers Left Front in recent elections.

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Robert Belano

Robert Belano is a writer and editor for Left Voice. He lives in the Washington, DC area.

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