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General Strike: Argentina Rises Up Against Milei’s Shock Therapy

More than 1.5 million workers walked off the job today in a massive general strike in Argentina against President Javier Milei. But more strikes and demonstrations are needed to defeat his brutal and authoritarian neoliberal reform program.

James Dennis Hoff

January 24, 2024
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Tens of thousands gathered at the congress in Buenos Aires, Argentina to protest against President Javier Milei's anti-worker measures on January 24, 2024.

On Wednesday, hundreds of unions and hundreds of thousands of workers, students, unemployed, and retired people took to the streets in cities across Argentina and the world to protest the neoliberal President Javier Milei’s emergency measures and reactionary, anti-worker omnibus bill, which is currently being debated and amended in congress. In Buenos Aires in particular, massive crowds (upwards of one hundred thousand people) composed of labor unions as well as independent blocs of combative unionists, left organizations, and organizations of the social movements descended on the Plaza De Los Dos Congresos and surrounding neighborhoods, completely shutting down the city. In addition, protests were held or scheduled to be held in front of Argentinian embassies in cities across the world including Paris, Berlin, and New York. 

Led by the large umbrella union CGT (General Confederation of Labor) and the CTA (Argentinian Workers’ Central Union) the proposal for a one-day general strike was called last month as part of a broader nationwide movement against Milei’s neoliberal agenda. But today’s strike is just the beginning, and the Argentinian Left, including the Partido de los Trabajadores (Party of Socialist Workers, PTS) —  the sister party of Left Voice — are calling for more than just a single day of work stoppage and are organizing to indefinitely extend and expand the strike until all of Milei’s proposals and austerity measures are fully defeated. 

As PTS leader Christian Castillo explained: “To defeat the government’s attack — Milei’s so-called “chainsaw” plan — we need to plan the struggle ahead. A half-day strike and a march, no matter how massive, is not enough.” 

At the center of the strikers’ demands is an end to the controversial omnibus bill that was proposed to Congress just days after Milei took office. That bill puts forward an emergency program to further liberalize the economy that includes hundreds of changes to Argentinian law that would, among other things, severely weaken workers rights, privatize massive parts of the economy, drastically reduce retirement and public services, and keep Argentina under the yoke of the International Monetary Fund (IMF). These proposals follow a series of emergency cuts and layoffs and come amid a historic economic crisis for Argentina, which has experienced more than 200 percent inflation since the end of 2022, and more than 25 percent just since Milei took office. This has only been exacerbated by the Milei government’s recent decision to devalue the Argentinian pesos by more than 50 percent in an attempt to solve the country’s trade deficit on the backs of working people. 

Milei is also proposing bills that will allow him to entirely bypass congressional approval for future legislative changes, a maneuver that reveals the fundamentally Bonapartist nature of his regime and his plans to rule by decree in order to institute a program of shock therapy the likes of which have not been seen in Latin America in decades.

You might also be interested in: All Eyes Are on Argentina Ahead of Its January 24 National Strike

In response to these attacks, protesters and those on strike are calling not only for an end to the omnibus bill, but of all the emergency measures proposed by the Milei government since he took office in December, including a draconian security protocol, still in effect, meant to severely limit demonstrations that creates harsh penalties for blocking traffic or wearing masks. Wednesday’s demonstrations, which took over streets in neighborhoods throughout Buenos Aires, and other major cities in Argentina, including Mendoza and Córdoba, were a direct rejection of those protocols. 

Though it was the CGT that called the general strike, today’s demonstrations did not come out of thin air. Argentinians have been protesting and organizing cacerolazos (protests which include the banging of pots and pans) and neighborhood assemblies since shortly after Milei’s inauguration. These Assemblies have taken the form of regular demonstrations and mass discussions and debates in neighborhoods all over Buenos Aires and other major cities across the country. The PTS has been participating in all of these assemblies, putting forward a revolutionary politics of mass mobilization and self organization that go well beyond the timid calls of the union bureaucracy, which is planning to send its members back to work after just a single half day of protest. In contrast to this strategy of maneuver, the PTS is calling for an all-out indefinite general strike to defeat the omnibus law and all of Milei’s neoliberal measures. As PTS member and FIT-U (Left Front Unity) Congressperson Myriam Bregman argued, we cannot trust the labor bureaucrats limited opposition to Milei:  

[We] have been encouraging all sectors that oppose the government’s policies to do so actively and to coordinate their actions. It’s likely that the union leadership may use the size and power of the mobilizations on January 24 to sit down at the negotiating table with the government. We must be prepared to overcome the bureaucracy if this happens.

In other words, we cannot allow the labor bureaucracy to hijack and appropriate the anger of the streets and channel it into electoral politics. Only the self-organization of the working classes, independent of the Peronist so-called opposition, can defeat Milei’s plans to turn Argentina into a paradise for the imperialist exploiters of the global bourgeoisie. 

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James Dennis Hoff

James Dennis Hoff is a writer, educator, labor activist, and member of the Left Voice editorial board. He teaches at The City University of New York.

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