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Defying Repression: Socialist Electeds in Argentina Show Us What Revolutionary Parliamentarism Looks Like

Workers in Argentina are defying police repression and fighting back against the far-right government’s shock therapy. Trotskyist members of congress are not just protesting inside the chamber — they are on the front lines of the demonstrations, getting pepper sprayed and shot with rubber bullets.

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Nicolás del Caño, PTS leader and member of congress, defying police. (Enfoque Rojo)

The far-right government of Javier Milei in Argentina is trying to carry out neoliberal shock therapy. The working class has responded with a general strike and days of street protests, leading to the withdrawal of Milei’s anti-worker omnibus bill.

On the front lines of these protests were the parliamentary representatives of the Workers Left Front — Unity (FIT-U), an electoral coalition of four Trotskyist organizations that won five seats in the National Congress. Nicolás del Caño, Myriam Bregman, Alejandro Vilca, and Christian Castillo are from the Party of Socialist Workers (PTS), the sister organization of Left Voice in Argentina. The fifth, Romina del Plá, is from the Workers Party (PO).

As Argentina’s congress was debating the omnibus bill, thousands of workers demonstrated outside. Military police were deployed, using tear gas, pepper spray, and rubber bullets.

The FIT-U electeds used their platform in congress to express solidarity with the mobilizations. On the first day of the protests, Vilca, an indigenous sanitation worker from the north west province of Jujuy, was attacked by pepper spray from close range as he stood against a line of cops. Despite being attacked, Vilca and the rest of the FIT-U deputies joined the protests every day.

Later that week, Castillo declared in Congress, as the president of the chamber tried to cut him off, “We are going to leave. … We will not accept this session while outside there are rubber bullets, repression.” All the representatives of the FIT-U left in protest.

This is what socialists in congress can do.

No Socialism in the Democratic Party

In the United States, “socialist electeds” usually refers to Democratic Party politicians who were endorsed by the DSA, such as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Jamaal Bowman. Such “socialists” then proceed to trample over every principle of socialism, from breaking a strike to funding the Israeli war machine or endorsing coup attempts in Latin America.

Jacobin magazine famously declared that putting someone in congress was like “riding the tiger”: “You can get somewhere really fast if you ride the tiger! But you’re a fool if you think you have control over that tiger.” In other words, you should work hard to put AOC into office — and you shouldn’t complain when she betrays you.

But the FIT-U comrades show that a very different kind of socialist parliamentarianism is possible. They won their seats as part of a working-class, socialist coalition, on the basis of class independence. They aren’t part of a bourgeois party. They refuse any collaboration with the representatives of the exploiters and the oppressors. They aren’t aiming to help the “lesser evil” among bourgeois politicians — their goal is a workers’ government based on mobilizations.

In the spirit of the Communist International, the Trotskyist MPs in Argentina are using the parliamentary tribune to try to strengthen mobilizations outside of parliament. This combination has proved effective: while unions, feminist groups, and neighborhood assemblies protest on the Plaza del Congreso, the movement has a voice inside the parliament as well.

The FIT-U ran a presidential campaign earlier in the year, with Bregman running for president and Del Caño for VP. Bregman was one of five candidates on a national debate stage. She used the platform to call for the kinds of struggle that workers are now taking up against Milei. She was the only candidate to denounce Israel’s genocidal campaign in Gaza. She even went viral by calling Milei “not a lion but a kitty cat,” pointing out that he, like every other bourgeois politician, was backed by big capitalists.

You Don’t Hate Electoralism, You Hate Bourgeois Parties

Given all the DSA electeds’ betrayals, many workers, understandably, reject electoral politics. “They’re all corrupt!” — and this is true, in the sense that all bourgeois politicians are corrupt. But this only means we need genuinely socialist workers in the US Congress. They would earn only an average workers’ wage, donating the rest of their exorbitant salaries to a strike fund. They would speak as members of a revolutionary organization, not as horse traders lining their own pockets.

Reformists in the United States argue that there is, right now, no basis for an independent party of the working class. Yet the PTS is an important counterexample. The PTS did not come out of nowhere. It was built over decades by militants who intervened in every upsurge in the class struggle and who built up revolutionary fractions in the workers’ movement. Their current victories are based on their consistent refusal to join “progressive” bourgeois parties or coalitions

There is certainly a basis for thousands, perhaps tens of thousands, of people in the United States to take a similar approach: activists from the Black Lives Matter protests and the current Palestine solidarity movement; workers from the new unions at Starbucks and Amazons, and the big (partial) union victories at UPS and the Big Three auto companies; and countless youth who hate the Democratic Party and are interested in socialism. The class struggle is heating up in the United States, and many see the need for an alternative to capitalism.

That’s why we want to build a working-class party for socialism. Our struggles also need tributes in congress. As comrade Castillo said in parliament:

In every part of Argentina, from the North to the South, from the East to the West, resistance is growing against these austerity policies at the service of the IMF. And from this resistance, we hope that a fundamental solution will emerge. A solution that kicks out the IMF, that restores wages, that reduces the working day to six hours to end unemployment once and for all, and to begin building a society without exploitation and oppression, a socialist society.

Imagine if we had congresspeople like that!

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Nathaniel Flakin

Nathaniel is a freelance journalist and historian from Berlin. He is on the editorial board of Left Voice and our German sister site Klasse Gegen Klasse. Nathaniel, also known by the nickname Wladek, has written a biography of Martin Monath, a Trotskyist resistance fighter in France during World War II, which has appeared in German, in English, and in French, and in Spanish. He has also written an anticapitalist guide book called Revolutionary Berlin. He is on the autism spectrum.

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Samuel Karlin

Samuel is a socialist with a background in journalism. He mainly writes for Left Voice about U.S. imperialism and international class struggle.

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