This past weekend, the Party of Socialist Workers (PTS) in Argentina held over 100 open assemblies across the country’s large expanse. Thousands of workers and young people took part. This was not just one of the largest shows of strength for the country’s Left in recent decades — it was a powerful example of working-class democracy in action.
The aim of the assemblies was to gather together the growing number of people who are turning toward socialist ideas — nearly 6 percent of the electorate voted for the Workers’ Left Front, a coalition of Trotskyist parties, last year — and to democratically decide on the way forward.
Assemblies took place from Tucumán in the north, to Neuquén in the Andean foothills, to Trelew in the far south. Participants debated how to respond to the inflationary crisis and what methods are needed to fight the austerity measures of the government.
In the capital city of Buenos Aires, over 1,500 people joined the assembly. Myriam Bregman, a congress member representing the Workers Left Front (FIT-U), delivered the closing remarks. She told workers they didn’t have to accept the “lesser evil” of bourgeois politics. Instead, she said, workers had the power to “put capitalism where it belongs: the dustbin of history.” Working-class self-organization in assemblies is an essential part of a revolutionary strategy to beat capitalism.
In attendance were oil workers, teachers, agricultural workers, train drivers, and young people in precarious or “gig” jobs. Over 70 hospital workers took the stage and received a standing ovation in solidarity with their ongoing strike.
Bregman and other PTS leaders also called on the country’s unions and left-wing parties to organize a national workers’ conference to coordinate all the workers’ struggles that are now taking place.
In other cities, speeches were given by worker leaders like Alejandro Vilca, an Indigenous sanitation worker and member of congress, and Raúl Godoy, a leader of the Zanon tile factory under worker control. The MadyGraf printing press, another factory occupied and managed by its workers, hosted a major assembly with hundreds of participants, most of whom were workers from the surrounding manufacturing zone. At every one of these assemblies, everyone in attendance could take the microphone, and proposals were decided by majority votes.
The worldwide cost-of-living crisis, sparked by interruptions in supply chains following the global pandemic and the war in Ukraine, has taken a heavy toll on working-class and poor people in Argentina. The country’s inflation rate is among the highest in the world; over the past year until September, prices rose by an estimated 83 percent. Salaries have not kept up with the steep inflation, meaning that most workers experienced cuts in their real wages over the past two years.
The working class is beginning to fight back, however. Tire manufacturing workers waged a month-long strike for salary increases and won a more than 66 percent raise despite the resistance of the government and the bosses. Hospital workers are now on strike against cutbacks to healthcare spending and have organized major mobilizations with thousands in the streets.
The governing Peronists, led by President Alberto Fernandez and Vice President Cristina Kirchner, have attempted to position themselves as “progressives” who will challenge the agenda of the country’s Right. However, this government has taken new loans with the International Monetary Fund, increased natural gas extraction, and is now imposing cutbacks to health and education budgets.
In order to beat back the neoliberal attacks of the IMF, facilitated by a supposedly progressive government, the working class and the oppressed in Argentina will need to coordinate the different struggles that are taking place across the country. Open assemblies, based on the methods of proletarian democracy, can unite the different struggles. These 100 assemblies show the role that socialist members of congress can play: they don’t give any support to bourgeois governments; instead, they use their positions to support workers’ self-organization.