What is the situation in Argentina before the elections?
The situation in Argentina is marked by profound contradictions. The country has simply been mortgaged, with a debt close to 100% of GDP, completely subordinated to the International Monetary Fund (IMF). More than a third of the population lives below the poverty line, inflation for this current year is over 50%, and young people are condemned to unemployment and precariousness. Meanwhile, the banking sector, public service companies, and major exporters have made staggering profits. During his four years of government, President Mauricio Macri shamelessly presided over what was presented as the bourgeoisie’s administrative council.
Before the primary elections in August, the regime did everything it could to impose the idea of polarization between Macrism, on the one hand, and the Frente de Todos (Front of All), led by Alberto Fernández and Cristina Kirchner, on the other. This translated into a bitter reversal for the government, which was defeated by nearly 16 points (31.8% versus 47.8%) by the opposition. The vote to punish the government was therefore channeled into support for Peronism, which absorbed almost all the currents of the left, the social movements, and the “popular left,” as they call it here, which would be the equivalent to the radical left. Everything seems to indicate that this scenario will be repeated tomorrow, during the first round on October 27.
In this context, the Workers Left Front—Unity (Frente de Izquierda y de los Trabajadores—Unidad, FIT-U) led a battle against the current that allowed us to obtain 700,000 votes in the primary elections, or a little over 2.8%. This has enabled us to position ourselves as the fourth force on the electoral spectrum and to consolidate ourselves as an independent class pole on a national level, with an anti-capitalist and revolutionary profile. We are a party that defends the perspective of a workers’ government. In the current situation, which is very much marked by hopes of change after four years of right-wing rule, this is not insignificant. For eight years now, the FIT has won between 700,000 and 1.2 million votes in national elections, more in legislative elections than in presidential elections. This has allowed us to have 40 elected representatives at the national, provincial, and municipal level. This year, moreover, the FIT has become the FIT “Unity” by expanding to include the MST and bringing together almost all the far left in Argentina, starting with the PTS, the PO, IS and, recently, the MST.
The FIT-U has managed to maintain itself throughout these years as an alternative to the various bourgeois blocs, making it an unprecedented experience in the history of the far left in Argentina. Since the middle of the 20th century, the far left in Argentina has always developed by oscillating between the two main poles that have characterized politics in this country: the Peronist pole and the republican-liberal pole.
What I think we should remember is that we are on the eve of a major national crisis, and that the FIT-U will arrives at that moment as an independent and now consolidated center. Of course we represent a political minority, but we are far from being marginal. The FIT-U has, through hard work, achieved a certain weight within workers’ organizations, student organizations and the women’s movement, in particular. We have fought consistently against Macrism while maintaining an uncompromising position toward Kirchnerism, and this has given us a visibility and recognition that goes beyond those who vote for the far left. This is an achievement of the FIT-U, linked to how we have been consistent in all the struggles in which we have participated, and also linked to our political coherence. This “dialogue” that exists and goes beyond the voters of the far left can be seen, for example, through our communication tools. In the case of La Izquierda Diario, the PTS’ online daily newspaper, we got more than 3 million hits in the month of August. We have become a reference point that goes far beyond those who support the FIT.
How did the FIT-U undertake this anti-capitalist and revolutionary campaign?
The FIT-U is the only party in the election that tells workers the truth. As we repeat in our campaign ads: “Macrism is leaving, but the IMF will remain.” Alberto Fernández, the candidate of the Frente de Todos, has repeated dozens of times that he intends to pay the debt, an illegitimate, fraudulent, and illegal debt. During the first debate last Sunday, he did not hesitate to say that much of the debt that Macri took on has ended up in the pockets of Macri’s friends. At the same time, at the heart of Fernández’s economic program is the need to come up with the money to pay off that same debt. For our part, we say clearly that it is up to capitalists to pay for the crisis. We must reverse the order of priorities and put work, wages, education, and health care before paying off the debt. We clearly state that we must refuse to pay this debt, that we must nationalize the banking sector under workers’ control to halt capital flight and establish a monopoly on foreign trade, which is now controlled by the major exporting groups.
Furthermore, in this campaign we remind people that Macri has needed accomplices to do everything he has been able to do over the past four years. He has never had more than a minority in parliament. Many politicians who are now part of the Frente de Todos, such as Sergio Massa and the Peronist provincial governors, have played a key role in supporting Macri and allowing him to pass a number of counter-reforms, such as the pension reform in December 2017.
The case of Mariano Arcioni is quite illustrative. He is the governor of the province of Chubut, in the south of the country. He is a trusted man of Fernández, but he is implementing harsh budget cuts in his province and is very brutally repressing the ongoing strike by public sector workers and teachers in the province. These governors, as well as the deputies who answer to them in Congress, prevented the passage of the abortion law for which hundreds of thousands of women have fought. It is these governors who, at a provincial level, support oil and shale gas extraction, open-pit mines, the massive use of pesticides that destroy the environment and the health of the population—allthis for the profits of a few multinational corporations that are filling their pockets.
Finally, another very important actor in the Frente de Todos is the Peronist trade union bureaucracy. It was this trade union bureaucracy that played a key role in ensuring “social peace” and in letting Macri’s attacks take place, particularly after the mobilizations of December 2017 against the pension reform, during which tens of thousands of people took to the streets, facing repressive forces, putting the government on the spot.
Today, Fernández defends the idea that a “social deal” is needed between these bureaucrats, the governors, and the employers who have become rich under Macrism. The working population cannot expect anything from this kind of operation and that is why we have to stand ready. During the first presidential debate, on October 13, I asked Fernández if he was prepared to reverse all the counter-reforms of Macrism, including the attacks on pensioners or the price increases for electricity, water, and natural gas that the poorest households cannot pay. Of course, he did not answer me, because he is preparing to administer what Macrism will leave him as a legacy.
The election campaign has won sympathy and broadened support for the FIT-U. But is it also a campaign in the service of struggles and for the construction of a revolutionary militant tendency?
This campaign was led not only by the FIT-U candidates, but also by the activists in our workplaces, in our schools, in the streets, as well as on social media, where we try to give free rein to all the creativity that young people are capable of, using new technologies to spread our ideas. Recently—and we had never done it before at this level—we organized a huge rally in the middle of the capital’s main avenue, the 9 de Julio, which until then had been “reserved” for meetings of bourgeois parties or rallies called by the union bureaucracy. We took up this challenge, in the streets, with the slogan that the capitalists should pay for the crisis. It was also a way of responding to the Frente de Todos candidate, who already sees himself as the next tenant of the Casa Rosada, the presidential palace, who keeps saying that we must not take to the streets to defend our rights. At the same time, on the same day, we held meetings in the country’s main cities, in Córdoba, Rosario, Neuquén, Tucumán, and other localities.
While the trade union bureaucracy maintains passivity, while inflation continues to rise and wages are cut as never before, the FIT-U and the PTS have participated in all recent struggles: the mobilizations of the unemployed, the fights against layoffs and company closures, but also by standing by the public sector workers and teachers in Chubut Province who have been on strike for several weeks against the nonpayment of their wages. In fact, if we look back, the FIT-U would never have existed without a far left that could link itself to the main battles fought by the workers’ vanguard in recent years. In the case of the PTS, we have always been in the front line of the main labor conflicts that have taken place both under Kirchnerism (in the food industry, at Kraft, but also in the railway sector, in the auto parts sector, at Lear, in the printing industry, with RR Donnelley’s fight, to name just a few examples), and also under Macri (with the fight at PepsiCo, the mobilization against the pension reform, in December 2017, and so forth). In our campaign ads, we insist that we are “standing alongside the workers, as we have always done.” We are only repeating what is, for us, a point of pride and what many workers recognize us for, beyond those who vote for the far left.
In addition, during the weekend of October 12-13, thousands of comrades from Pan y Rosas (Bread and Roses), the most important feminist socialist movement in Argentina, participated in the Plurinational Meeting of Women and Dissidents, which was held this year in La Plata. The comrades fought a political battle there, all the more significant since the FIT-U is the only political force that has included in its program, in black-and-white, that we support the right to abortion and the separation of church and state. In all the other slates, including that of Kirchnerism, there are countless candidates who oppose women’s rights and who are completely subordinated to the churches, starting with the Peronist governors who support the Frente de Todos.
Finally, and this is something very important to us, throughout the campaign we noticed an important wave of sympathy from several sectors of the youth. I believe, for my part, that this is one of the most exciting phenomena of this campaign and that we can feel it, very concretely, in the streets, on social media, in high schools and schools where we campaign with the comrades of the FIT-U. Young people are an absolutely fundamental force to give substance to a revolutionary project that is worth defending.
What are the prospects for the FIT-U? Is there a perspective that goes beyond the current electoral alliance?
As I was saying, Argentina is now at the IMF’s beck and call. In the presidential debate on October 13, we stressed the importance of the situation in Ecuador, where the working population showed that it is possible to defeat the IMF’s plans through mobilization. It is no coincidence that the rest of the candidates, including Fernández, said absolutely nothing about this. Ecuador is showing us the way. It is through class struggle that it is possible to defeat austerity policies, as the mobilization of the Yellow Vests in France has also shown. That is why we must be prepared.
For us in the PTS, the campaign is not just about winning seats in parliaments at the national and provincial levels. The campaign helps us to build up a militant, anti-capitalist, and revolutionary force for the class struggle. All our interventions, whether in elections or in parliaments, is geared toward improving the conditions for extra-parliamentary struggles. To do this, it is necessary to develop revolutionary tendencies with this perspective in mass organizations, trade unions, the women’s movement, or the student movement. These tendencies can play a decisive role in times of radicalization and the intensification of the class struggle, developing self-organization to overcome the trade union bureaucracy and defend an independent and hegemonic program in order to force the capitalists, once and for all, to pay for the crisis. This is what we defend as the FIT-U.
We are convinced that this is a very important achievement. This is an electoral front that defends a transitional program that aims to establish a workers’ government based on mass mobilization. The next Peronist government will try to impose a pro-capitalist solution to the current crisis. Beyond the demagogic speeches and promises of the candidates, this means that they will want to make the working class pay for the crisis. As the PTS, we believe it is urgent to move forward with the proposal that we have been defending for some time, namely the construction of a unified party of the revolutionary socialist left.
The existence of an anti-capitalist, revolutionary pole that defends class independence, the FIT-U, leads us to believe that this time the far left in Argentina will not align with one of the bourgeois blocs. As the crisis develops and we witness a sharpening of class confrontations, there may be a rupture of a significant fringe of the very heterogeneous but also very powerful Argentine working class—including the precarious youth, of the unemployed and the unionized sectors, of the combative fractions of the student movement, the women’s movement, and among intellectuals—with the different tendencies that preach class reconciliation, fundamentally with Peronism and its various expressions. These different sectors can converge in a revolutionary party with the far left.
First published on October 20 in French on RP Dimanche.
Interview by JB Thomas. Translation by Sophia S.