The following was printed in Proletarian Revolution No. 64 (Spring 2002).

Comment by Vicente Balvanera

Argentina Solidarity List, March 4, 2002


The statement of the LRP-U.S., Argentina: Crisis and Revolutionary Program is a serious, internationalist document written by a serious organization, and greatly enriches the debate taking place among revolutionaries who recognize in the struggle of the Argentine working class and people the anti-imperialist spearhead in the continental and international class war. It struggles to overcome the hysterical preaching of the sectarians: “Our fight for a revolutionary party has nothing in common with those sectarians who want to preach from a mountain top. We not only openly say what is, i.e. that the working class needs its own party, but we fight to prove it in action, through the struggle itself.”

However, I am passionately opposed to the conclusions reached, and wish to share the fruits of what is just an initial study of this important document.

1. The first part puts forward what is one of the major lessons of the Argentine situation: that the revolutionary process is born out of and is a maximum expression of, the world capitalist crisis, the objective contradictions of capitalism itself. Something those of us who are in the major imperialist powers need to study and comprehend profoundly. Great clarity is achieved through the characterization of the puppet “governments [acting] as local enforcers overseeing the increasing drain of surplus value created by “their” workers and flowing into the imperialist coffers.... Even with the threat of greater instability, even with the inevitable mass anger over increasingly desperate conditions, indigenous rulers today can only momentarily appear as nationalists and populists.” Excellent too is the mention of the developments in Argentina as living proof of the theory of permanent revolution. This is also an extremely important point we need to see more clearly.

2. Why have the PO and PTS been chosen, and the excellent and serious suggestion made to study the documents on their websites? The obvious answer is that, to a greater and lesser extent, these are two Trotskyist organizations who undeniably form a major part of the revolutionary leadership in the struggle itself, and who are placing their resources at the service of the objective needs of the working class, and who through years of struggle, organization and regular publishing of revolutionary press have earned the right to say that they have long since sunk organic roots into the Argentine working class and its struggles. In this sense, any document written at this juncture which does not highlight the important gains made by the working class, the National Assembly of Workers, its resolutions, program and plan of struggle, already being complied with in actual practice, limits the whole discussion to an excessively abstract plane.

For if we cannot defend the gains of the working class, we are preaching from a very high mountain top indeed. Because if it is true what the comrades of the LRP say in their statement, “A mass action strategy designed to address the needs of the immediate situation, hallmarked by key slogans and demands, is also absolutely critical”, we cannot then ignore a historic, working class program and plan of struggle, unanimously voted on Sunday February 17. We cannot ignore the National Assembly of Popular Assemblies to be held March 17th! We cannot ignore the national four-day march, voted as part of the plan of struggle, which will start out from the four corners of Argentina and end in Plaza de Mayo as part of the profound growth of both the struggle and working class forms of action. (See March 11-15 National March, Prensa Obrera 743.) This article, which calls for the occupation of the banks, the railways, etc., says in one paragraph “The only way to break the resistance of this regime is by developing the mass struggle. After all, it is regime that stays in power only through a police encirclement of the House of Government, the security services and the Gendarmerie” – hardly a long-term electoralist program!

We must base ourselves on the real development of the working class forms of organization, as it really is in its contradictions, movement, development. Neither can we lightly dismiss the Popular Assemblies (for that is what they are called), their Inter-neighborhood coordinating assembly held week after week with thousands of delegates, their plan of struggle and the consequent implementation of this plan of struggle. The statement of the LRP reads “All evidence points to the fact that the middle class is generally dominating the existing popular assemblies in the neighborhoods and other locales, even though workers are also often present.”. Comrades, I would submit to you that this is a very false assumption:

First of all, are the teachers who fought the police in La Plata just the other day, and very nearly gained entrance to Buenos Aires Legislature, resisting the budget cuts and structural adjustment demanded by the IMF and US Treasury, are these brothers and sisters “middle class”? Are the bank clerks who will start their general strike on March 8, “middle class”? Are state employees, “middle class”? Indeed, are independent workers who exploit no-one, but are ruined in the current situation, “middle class”? Because janitors, office workers, bank-clerks, state workers and office workers, transport workers, etc., all attend the Popular Assemblies. And they would not appreciate hearing the passive attribute of “being present”, either. We need to lend scientific rigor and go beyond this term “middle class”. Comrades, they are workers too, they are no less revolutionary subjects than any other worker. (I am not ignoring here the overwhelming and qualitative need for leadership on the part of the industrial proletariat, whose lack of direct participation in the process, through the work of the trade union bureaucracy, is precisely what is not taken into account in the LRP analysis). Secondly, the Inter-neighborhood assembly, week after week, enjoys the participation of organized working class delegates (telephone workers, railway workers, etc.) encouraged to participate on an organic level. Also, in each popular assembly, workers involved in nearby conflicts participate. The Brukman textile workers who operate their factory under worker control, have attended practically all of the Inter-neighborhood assemblies, and members of the nearby popular assembly attend their assemblies regularly, for example. So as the factory committees form, they naturally inter-organize with the neighborhood assemblies. Thirdly, the Popular Assemblies, even though they may have started out in urban centers all over the country, are now spreading to working class neighborhoods. And as they do so they spearhead the challenge to the encrusted Peronist party machine. This is the true significance of the dastardly attack against the popular assembly (for that is what it is) of the working class township of Merlo at the hands of Peronist party thugs; and of the overwhelming solidarity of all popular assemblies, who massed 1500 specially sent delegates to the regular Friday night meeting of the Merlo popular assembly, on top of the traditional pot-banging confluence in Plaza de Mayo. So, the Popular Assemblies are already being led by the working class, in a very real sense. Of course, there exist the same bourgeois and petite-bourgeois pressures in the class struggle going on inside the Popular Assemblies. Whole groups emerge, trying to defend whatever illusion of privilege they can muster for themselves, against “proletarian tyranny”: the group “Libertarian Socialists”, for example, who preach the good word against the “Trotskyist” leadership, forever trying to influence the workers participating against the need for a revolutionary working class party, who spew tons of hate against the PO, the PTS and others, every day; and they are fought every day in the debates of the Popular Assemblies. Because, among other reasons, the PO and PTS have put a maximum of resources into guaranteeing that they grow strong and extend, and coordinate and take on more and more revolutionary tasks (see What’s being debated at the popular assemblies? by Gabriel Solano, Prensa Obrera 743).

3. The LRP document correctly explains that there is not, as yet, a widespread conscious conviction that capitalism must be destroyed and socialism built among the masses; and that the organized working class has not yet entered on the scene, being controlled by the union bureaucracy. The LRP recognizes: “Right now the calls for the international and the party in Argentina are chiefly propaganda slogans; they are aimed at a layer of advanced workers. There is no expectation that the great masses of workers will quickly change their minds on the matter, although they will over time. A mass action strategy designed to address the needs of the immediate situation, hallmarked by key slogans and demands, is also absolutely critical.” It is in this context that the call for a sovereign Constituent Assembly must be understood, which the PO has repeatedly insisted can only come about as part of a continuous general strike. To this end I am in the process of translating an article written by Jorge Altamira over a year ago, which explains this. (More than ever, for a free and sovereign popular assembly) Additional explanation is given in the recent The imminency of “hyper[inflation]“ and the new political collapse, Prensa Obrera 742, Feb 21, 2002). The LRP statement says “The slogan for a constituent assembly is appropriate in a situation of governmental crisis where the masses are focussed on democratic demands. That is not the case in Argentina. It has been very useful where the rights of national or racial minorities are forefront issues for the revolutionary struggle. But such democratic issues are not central in Argentina now. In Russia in 1917, before the Bolshevik Revolution, the demand spoke to the peasantry in a vital way. Today in Argentina it only serves to build up illusions among the masses of workers and even the middle class – precisely at the time that they are fed up with bourgeois governments and elections.” But the uprising which overthrew De la Rúa was sparked out of demands democratic in character before all other considerations! It was the Martial Law, the State of Siege, which broke the camel’s back. Hence the most important slogan heard on the streets that day was not “give us our money back” as the bourgeois media (and not just the bourgeois media, unfortunately) tried to make believe; but rather “jerks, jerks, the state of siege, shove it up your asses! (Que boludos, que boludos, el estado de sitio, que lo metan en el culo!)“, meaning only a jerk could believe that the Argentine working class and people will accept another military coup, which is what the “bourgeois democratic” governments are a continuation of. See my post (Jan 22, 2002) responding to the January ICL article where I explain that the illusions in bourgeois democracy are very high in Argentina, including important sectors of the working class. Therein the importance of the mistrust of political parties, the widespread conviction that at the bottom of it all is a problem of “corruption”, a theme so readily managed by the social democrats and reformists. The bourgeois press, too, plays on this mistrust, and in the shadow of its biggest nightmare, that the masses take consciousness of the need for a revolutionary workers party, warn that the popular assemblies (the La Nación articles cited on this list) will be “taken over” by Communists and Trotskyists (something criminally echoed by vile sects like the so-called Democracia Obrera). Also, I want to raise the point that the most revolutionary slogan of all, at the heart of the uprisings in North Salta, whose spreading all over Argentina is at the heart of the piquetero movement, is the call for work for all, the classic transitional sharing of all work hours among all the workers via sliding scale of wages and hours, in whatever this is actually voted. This should form the programmatic heart of any call for a general strike, together with non-payment of the debt and other points.

4. Which brings me to a question of method, a question which I have suffered myself over the course of the years. Why do revolutionaries often call for the disolution of existing revolutionary organizations which are undeniably leading the revolutionary struggle in actual practice, instead of dialoging with these organizations and with their rank-and-file, in unity of action, where disagreements arise? What if various organizations take up your slogan “General strike to repudiate the Imperialist Debt” and work it internationally, and then send a workers delegation to visit Argentina, and debate these questions there? Wouldn’t that be a more scientific method (praxis over contemplation)? Aren’t we tired yet, of the method you put forward, abstract and propagandistic to the core, invalidating all that exists as real leadership in the revolutionary struggle itself?:

“For the achievement of socialism, the revolution must be internationalist. And therefore it can only be led by a proletarian vanguard party which is a section of a re-created proletarian Fourth International.... [VB: who wouldn’t agree with that?] Organizations and individuals regarding themselves as communist have an obligation to fight against the dominant stream, to use this opportunity to build a revolutionary party, however small its initial numbers.”

We must abandon this class-destructive approach, and in a hurry.

saludos revolucionarios,
Vicente Balvanera