Statement of the League for the Revolutionary Party (LRP-U.S.), February 26, 2002. Published in Proletarian Revolution No. 64 (Spring 2002).
The potentially most revolutionary class struggle in the world today is taking place in Argentina. In December, mass uprisings overthrew the De la Rúa government. Divisions within the Peronist party, under pressure from all sides, forced the ouster of the replacement government of Rodríguez Saá. Protests have continued under the new regime of Duhalde, as have a range of attacks on the masses.
The latest weapon for these attacks is the devaluation of the peso, which signifies a drastic drop in the wages and living standards of employed workers. Side by side with this, the brutal increase in unemployment continues. As well, the bourgeoisie and their banks continue to clutch onto the small holdings of frightened petty-bourgeois and middle-class people via a freeze on withdrawals (el corralito).
Behind these attacks is the mounting crisis of profitability, which is eating away at the heart of the world capitalist system and compelling the ruling-class exploiters to drain the workers and other toilers of the oppressed nations at a vicious pace. Nowhere has this been more true than in Argentina. Imperialist investment, from Europe as well as the United States, is the subjugating force within the economy. Of course, the domestic bourgeois parties carry out the subjugation. The Duhalde regime entered the scene with the largest international debt in history. In order to pay it, a necessary precondition for obtaining desperately needed new credit from the imperialist banks, the bourgeoisie now wants the masses who are already suffering so much to pay even more.
It was inevitable that the working class of Argentina would rise up. The current period of nationwide upheaval was sparked by a wave of highway shutdowns launched by the unemployed piqueteros, a new and critical feature of the class struggle. The eruption has also included eight tightly controlled “general strikes” in the past 2 years, as the union bureaucrats have sought to let the powerful organized working class let off steam. There have been factory occupations and other quite militant actions by workers as well. The storming and looting of supermarkets by unemployed and underemployed workers, as well as lumpen elements, further demonstrated that the most oppressed layers of society are rising up. And in the end, the middle classes, facing bankruptcy, joined in with cacerolazos (protests typified by the banging of pots and pans), emphasizing their tremendous frustration and anger. The climactic confrontations with the police on December 19 and 20 at the Plaza de Mayo included middle-class residents, students, leftists, and individual workers, with only a few small union contingents at best.
Certainly, none of these forces have been pacified by the current political setup. Duhalde is a Peronist who reflects the outlook of an important sector of the industrial bourgeoisie in the province of Buenos Aires. They needed to lower the price of their exports in order to compete on the world market. As well, he has strong ties to the Peronist trade union bureaucracy, which in turn is tied to these industries. He depends heavily on the union heads, with their proven ability to slow down, divide, derail and betray the working class. To ward off a total political collapse, he has also glued together a “national salvation” government composed of the main ruling-class parties.
His task is to halt the mass movement and continue the assault on the working class. If he has any hope of averting a decisive class conflict, he must invoke his record as a politician who embraces a mild nationalist and populist direction, while at the same time acting to reassure his imperialist masters. But today there are a multitude of conflicts and contradictions within and between the bourgeois parties. As well there is the absolute inability to satisfy the needs of the working class and middle class layers. The regime has no lasting solution and is therefore essentially weak.
Today more than ever, “third world” governments act as local enforcers overseeing the increasing drain of surplus value created by “their” workers and flowing into the imperialist coffers. Witness the ruling parties’ slavish adherence to the “free-market” austerity policies demanded by the IMF. 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. They are on a short leash.
With the increasing immiseration of the masses of Argentina, Latin America and the world, Trotsky’s Theory of Permanent Revolution is confirmed in the negative. Nationalism, no matter how radical in form or action, can not achieve real national liberation from imperial power. All sectors of the indigenous bourgeoisie are at this point tied hand and foot to imperialism. The petty-bourgeoisie and the modern middle class layers inevitably follow pro-bourgeois politics unless the working class poses its own alternative. Only the socialist revolution, with the proletariat in the leadership of the ranks of the other oppressed classes, can carry through the struggle to end imperialist domination. Only the revolution can end scarcity and open the path to prosperity and equality for the exploited and the oppressed. 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.
As Trotsky taught, essential to this whole perspective is the intervention of authentic working-class revolutionists in the immediate struggles of the masses, always fighting for the path which will link the current battles to the need for the party and international socialist revolution.
Given the depth of the economic crisis, the ruling class’s inability to find a stable government to resolve the political crisis, and the continuing mass mobilizations, the situation remains pre-revolutionary. The essential limitation on the situation is the crisis of leadership which Trotsky stressed over 60 years ago. Simply stated, the working class must have its own party, representing the highest degree of class consciousness. The proletarian party is the only vehicle by which the class can fully assert its independence as a class, assert its leadership over the struggle of the impoverished masses of other classes, and fit itself to take state power.
The material basis in Argentina is more than ripe for the building of such a party out of the struggles of today. The Argentine working class is powerful and organized, with a militant tradition – despite the tremendous setbacks it has suffered since the mid-70’s. But for over half a century, it has been tied to Peronism, a populist bourgeois nationalist current. Under Peron’s rule workers had initially won significant concessions (unionization, wage and social benefit increases) as the national economy developed. In recent decades, however, there has been a growing disenchantment with what Peronism has meant in practice – particularly since the regime of Menem.
Duhalde hopes to divide and wear out the working class. Although he has the trade union leaders on his side, his success is far from guaranteed. The working class, in its attitudes as well as self-activity, has been clearly moving away from Peronism, but there has been no decisive break. It has not yet found an alternative it believes in.
The left in Argentina has failed to pose such an alternative. By the “left” we refer broadly to the pseudo-Trotskyists, Stalinists and Maoists, as well as the bourgeois radicals.
For the openly bourgeois radicals of both Peronist and social democratic stripes and the major Stalinist (CP) and Maoist (PCR) formations, open class collaboration is the order of the day. Nevertheless, given their potential for growth in the working class, and specifically their role in the unions, these tendencies must be fought politically with increasing vigor by revolutionaries in Argentina.
In this document, however, we deal explicitly only with the pseudo-Trotskyists. Not because we are any closer politically to them than to other leftists. Centrism (revolutionary rhetoric covering reformist policies) and even outright capitulation have become the dominant character of groups that describe themselves as Trotskyist today. Nevertheless, these groups generally retain much of the rhetoric of proletarian revolutionism. Even if they have abandoned the essential program and method, they are likely to attract advanced workers unless they are effectively exposed.
In preparing this statement, we followed mainly the available documents of two major groups, the Partido Obrero (PO) and the Partido de Trabajadores por el Socialismo (PTS). Our initial criticisms here reflect what we see to be true of the PO and PTS in general, what they have failed to say as well as what they have said. In the future we will do specific polemics on these groups as well as others. (Our readers should refer to their websites, which have selected articles in English as well as a full collection in Spanish: www.po.org.ar and www.pts.org.ar.)
What is the current relationship of the left to the working class? Over a million voters (6 percent of the total) supported several left slates in last fall’s parliamentary elections. Votes, of course, are not equivalent to real ability to influence masses in motion, although they show that there is more openness to the left than before. At the same time, the dominant attitude of much of the working class (as well as the middle class) is general hostility to politicians, including left politicians. In fact, 50% of participants in the fall election refused to vote for any party by nullifying their ballots.
In one sense the distrust of the left is merited. The left in Argentina is not only middle-class both in composition and politics, a common phenomenon internationally, but it is particularly associated with electoralism, a strategy that has gotten the working class nowhere. Nevertheless, the working class, however militant its activity, is dead without its own political party. The situation in Argentina is even more dangerous. History tells us that if the working class does not exert decisive revolutionary leadership, the petty bourgeoisie and middle classes, now in turmoil, will eventually flock to the right. Either the working class poses a hard alternative in time or a crushing alternative will come from the right. The revolutionary proletarian party is needed in order for the workers to fully assert their class independence, their leadership over the struggles of the impoverished masses as a whole, and to fight for state power.
Given this reality, revolutionaries and potential revolutionaries have a tremendous opportunity and also a tremendous responsibility. 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.
Such a party will only fulfill its function if it is based on a clear revolutionary program. The program must speak directly of the need for workers’ socialist revolution and the smashing of the bourgeois state. The fight for the party takes place within the working class itself; it is not a private activity of intellectual saviors who keep from the workers what they say to themselves behind closed doors about the necessity of socialist revolution. This essential method conditions our approach to party building within the working-class vanguard layers as well as in the mass work that must occur today.
From what we can see the major “Trotskyist” organizations have failed to plant the pole for the proletarian revolutionary party. For this alone they must be condemned. It is no accident that along with this they have also failed to advocate a mass action strategy that can actually lead the proletarian struggle forward.
Writing from afar, we obviously do not have an intimate knowledge of the scene in Argentina. But as internationalists we still can and must advocate a clear overall revolutionary strategy where we see one dangerously lacking. In this way, we are also laying the groundwork for further international discussion with revolutionary minded workers in Argentina, in and out of groups, beginning with this document.
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. The working class has to defend itself, starting from where it is now, saddled with the leaderships it has now, in order through the process of struggle, with the intervention of revolutionary workers, to transform itself into a class fit for revolution and with a revolutionary party fit to lead it. 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.
From what we can see, the major “Trotskyist” organizations are failing on the level of their mass work as much as on the propaganda front for the revolutionary party. What we have today is a popular anti-government struggle that is undifferentiated by class and unclear about its methods and aims. The point for a vanguard should be to fight to raise consciousness of the iron-clad need for working-class independence and hegemony over the struggle today. The mass action strategy we propose is exactly aimed at pointing the way forward on these essential questions. We suggest action proposals, slogans and demands as revolutionary tools to point the way forward to our fellow workers in common struggle.
A call for a general strike must be at the heart of any working class mass action strategy for Argentina. The general strike, or mass strike, is a classical weapon in the armory of Marxists. It is designed to put the working class into action as a class, show the class its own strength, exert leadership over other classes and make the workers conscious of the need to fight for state power.
The general strike we advocate is in total contrast to the recent so-called “general strikes” called by the labor bureaucracies. A serious general strike is not a quick protest display and it is not a strike of only some sectors, or a strike settled over narrow issues while the major attacks continue. Rather it is determined to last until it achieves significant goals which will qualitatively alter the balance of class forces; we mean a general strike of indefinite length.
A serious general strike stops the entire nation from functioning, paralyzes industry and transportation and chokes off profits – the be-all and end-all of capitalism. It creates through the prolonged struggle a dual power situation which poses the question of state power – which class, the bourgeoisie or the proletariat – shall rule. In contrast to the sporadic and restricted general strikes which have been called by the union bureaucrats, no left group has posed this kind of general strike. As well, while some left groups called for a general strike to bring down De la Rúa, and at times for other purposes, they have used it as a peripheral demand rather than as the central call for mass action. In this they have simply accepted the limits on the struggle imposed by the labor bureaucracy, as if nothing more were possible from the major unions.
The mass movement that brought down De la Rúa was mainly powered by the unemployed workers and the middle classes. Employed workers, including union workers, participated, as individuals and in small groupings. But under the control of the bureaucrats, the trade unions themselves stayed on the sidelines. A number of barriers to united working class struggle must be transcended. 1) The working class must be united – employed and unemployed. In fact this unity can only be built in action against the bourgeoisie, which is what the general strike does. 2) The working class needs to show such strength that its authority to lead the struggle is established and it can swing much of the ranks of the middle class behind it in support. Without a powerful class action like a general strike, the tendency for the middle class to dominate becomes inevitable.
There is another main point to be made about the general strike call in Argentina right now; it is not a call that could be successfully employed if it did not meet the objective needs of the struggle and situation. Every worker in Argentina knows that the central immediate problem is the debt owed to imperialism. That is the first and foremost reason that they are being squeezed right now, to pay back the debt. Therefore the foremost demand of the general strike must be to “Repudiate the Imperialist Debt!“ Such a demand is obviously necessary and clearly in the interest of all workers, employed and unemployed. As well it speaks to the beleaguered petty bourgeois and middle class elements. At the same time, repudiation is in contrast to a moratorium or a default, both of which are just delays of payment. When the imperialist creditors accept only a delay, they still retain priority rights over others in obtaining state payments. And in today’s crisis, the U.S. Treasury Department has in fact advocated the present default as a way of getting an edge on its European rivals, who are at the moment more heavily invested in Argentina. Repudiation is a direct attack on property rights and the world banking system.
After all, the enormous debt has been incurred by the bourgeois governments’ accepting the imperialists’ right to siphon profits out of the country. It is not an obligation that the working class accepts. Default, renegotiation and devaluation of the peso are weapons of the bourgeoisie designed to further reduce working-class living standards as a way of alleviating the capitalists’ crisis.
As a campaign to end the debt becomes more serious, it must also take a hard look at the interrelationship between imperialist debt and “local” debt, championing the needs of workers as well as the middle class and petty bourgeoisie in reference to killer interest payments from the banks. Local or imperialist in name, there is one system which is choking the ability of the masses to thrive.
At the moment, only the union bureaucrats have the authoritative power necessary to launch a general strike. Revolutionaries know that the need in this situation lies overwhelmingly in a fight with the industrial union bureaucracies so as to call out the most decisive sectors of the working class. The ability of the betraying bureaucrats to keep the unions out of the struggle to depose De la Rúa, and to try to derail the unemployed workers as well, is ample testimony to the need to concentrate fire on these labor lieutenants of capitalism. The left has failed to challenge the bureaucrats to call an indefinite strike over the debt and other attacks. It does not campaign for such a fight against the union tops within the unions.
But the general strike has to be posed as a challenge to the union bureaucracy to call and mobilize the ranks for such a strike. This form of demand on the bureaucrats was always a critical part of Trotsky’s action proposals where the unions were under non-communist control.
Either they will be forced to actually carry it out or they will stand exposed before the ranks if they refuse. If the labor bureaucrats do accede to mass pressure and call such a strike, revolutionary workers must continue to warn that the union leaders will inevitably seek to betray the strike. They must be open about the fact that only a revolutionary leadership will go all the way in the fight for proletarian interests, and therefore it is urgent to build this party leadership.
The only way to overcome the union bureaucracy is to make the fight within the unions for action and for leadership. The bureaucracy can’t be side-stepped. Tied to the call for a general strike is the need to call for workers’ strike committees to conduct the strike. Such committees will develop as the arena for a struggle for an alternative leadership to displace the bureaucrats as workers see their own power. As well, we point out that they can be the embryo for workers’ soviets or councils, institutions that are unambiguously proletarian.
The general strike demand should also be placed on other existing formations and organizations of the masses; besides the unions, this would mean chiefly the organizations and groupings of the unemployed. Action committees or strike support committees can be formed among the unemployed to continue strategic shutdowns and other massive protest acts, to be coordinated with the strike. Joint rank and file committees of employed and unemployed workers are already a necessity of the struggle and will be vital if the general strike is to succeed.
As well, action committees should be formed in the neighborhoods, and non-urban areas, to coordinate the delivery of food and essentials to the populace – as well as to build protests and actions. 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. Middle class layers, especially the lower and middle layers, are needed and welcome to the struggle. But they can’t be the leading force if the struggle is to take a serious anti-capitalist direction.
Revolutionaries are not able to give ultimatums to our fellow workers; we only try to convince others as to what our common aim should be. Nor is the general strike we advocate counterposed to the existing struggles of workers. Rather factory occupations and other ongoing militant actions by workers whose jobs or wages are threatened must be defended, while we fight to extend the struggle into a general strike. And limited “general strikes” called by the bureaucrats are also a situation wherein revolutionaries agitate to turn it into an indeterminate general strike, a general strike to repudiate the imperialist debt.
By itself the general strike doesn’t answer the question of state power; the proletariat can only come to power via the seizure of state power led by the revolutionary party. However, by showing the mass of the mobilized, fighting workers how powerful they are, and by raising the question of which class should rule, it can help transform the idea of building the revolutionary party into the realm of practical mass action.
As well, a general strike to repudiate the debt raises another key necessity of revolutionary strategy, the need for international proletarian unity. The demand for a general strike based on repudiating the debt should be made an international demand. The Argentine unions must be pressured by their members to call on, and campaign for, union federations throughout the world to strike for cancellation of the debts of their countries to the imperialist banks and states. This would help answer the fears of Argentine workers that a unilateral cancellation by Argentina would devastate their job situation. If other oppressed and exploited countries were forced by mass struggles to cancel their debts, that would be a massive body-blow to imperialism. Revolution would be on the agenda around the world.
The Argentine working class has the power to initiate such a chain reaction. The sight of a powerful working class like that of Argentina leading the way toward refusing to pay off the imperialists could spread the fight like wildfire. For starters, the Brazilian CUT could be forced to follow suit, and the rest of Latin America could not remain far behind.
Revolutionary and transitional slogans are not a laundry list of all good things. Repudiation of the imperialist debt is objectively key for a country like Argentina; no start on solving other critical problems faced by the masses can be made unless this immediate chokehold on the economy is ended. But other demands are inescapably linked to this call. High among these is the demand to “Nationalize the Banks without Compensation.” This is another form of repudiation of the imperialist death grip on the national economy – and a necessary step toward taking hold of the financial resources needed to prioritize the needs of society and run a productive economy. The banks must be nationalized without compensating the exploiters who are now using them as weapons to suck the blood of the masses who are the only productive force.
The large number of privatizations, wherein vital industries have been sold off to high-bidding foreign imperialist interests – who have turned around and laid off masses of workers – must also be addressed. The demand here is “Re-nationalization of Privatized Industries without Compensation.” Other failing industries which are shutting their doors and throwing workers onto the streets, are also vital to society and must be nationalized as well. “Nationalize the Failing Industries.”
The scourge of mass unemployment is devastating the working class. The wages and conditions for still employed workers are plummeting too. Nationalization and re-nationalization of major industries is of course a key way to protect jobs, save industries and sectors – as well as to further repel the imperialist penetration. Also integral to resolving the mass unemployment is the demand for “Jobs for All at a Living Wage.” Alongside this, we put forward the demand of an “Escalating Scale of Wages and a Sliding Scale of Hours,” to show how all the available jobs can be shared among all the available workers. These demands join employed and unemployed workers in a common struggle, since it is clear that such a re-organization is the only way to satisfy the needs of the whole class.
The vitality of these and other key slogans can only be realized in struggle, with the intervention of genuine revolutionaries in dialogue with the masses. Trotsky’s aim was to raise transitional slogans that linked the most pressing needs of the working class today to the overall necessity for socialist revolution and a workers’ state. The Transitional Program aimed to put the theory of permanent revolution into practice, rejecting the notion of a separate fight for bourgeois democracy now to be followed by a fight for proletarian revolution only at another stage in the future.
Instead, the Transitional Program provides tools by which revolutionaries can win their fellow workers to a common fight today – in order to use the struggle itself to convince those who do not yet believe that capitalist rule has to be overthrown. For example, on the question of debt repudiation, we take into consideration that the majority of workers do not yet realize that the imperialist debt burden is not a result of bad capitalists pursuing bad policies. Revolutionaries argue that it is an inescapable function of the system itself. We openly say that debt repudiation, like the other transitional demands we raise, is an impossible demand for any section of the bourgeoisie to fully accept. But since we understand that many workers are not yet convinced of this revolutionary view, we propose a joint struggle around these demands. We say that a workers’ revolution will be proven necessary to win these demands but we know that other workers do not agree about that yet. The course of the struggle itself will demonstrate who is right. Our approach to transitional demands contrasts with most of the pseudo-Trotskyist left, who use the Transitional Program as an excuse for not saying, even in their material addressed to advanced workers, that it is necessary to smash the capitalist state and replace it with a workers’ state. (For more on our understanding of the Transitional Program, see Myth and Reality of the Transitional Program.)
The left in Argentina is failing to arm our class politically. It doesn’t raise the party as central nor do they raise a challenge to the labor bureaucracy for the mass action of a general strike. On top of this, we are stunned by the virtually suicidal absence of slogans for armed working-class defense. It is already crucial in Argentina today to raise the call for “Arms to the Working Class!“ This is not only a lesson to be learned from history. Piquetero demonstrations, factory occupations and the struggles to obtain food from the supermarkets have already been met with state and thug violence. More than 30 people were killed by police and the army in the December uprisings.
In a number of situations the piqueteros and others have made spontaneous attempts at self-defense. However, in any situation where there is a potential attack or confrontation with the armed forces of the state, the masses need the best trained fighters and an organized plan of action. The demand for the trade unions to put all their resources into forming and training workers’ defense guards is an inescapable necessity. We call for workers’ defense guards to be formed in the workplaces and factories, industry by industry. This provides the natural basis for serious organization. There must be coordination with defense guards to be erected by the piqueteros as well as with neighborhood and other efforts.
The defense units today will defend the working class against the police, who are the class enemy but who can be neutralized by the armed workers. As well, these defense units could be the embryo for the future workers’ militia – the only way to avoid another military bloodletting regime. The military’s current restraint is a function of the mass hostility to the army because of its murderous history in power. Nevertheless, a military coup is very likely in the future if no revolutionary alternative is built. Short of that, increased armed repression under Duhalde (or successor civilian regimes) is a certainty.
The military threat is already lurking in the background. It can only be ended if the masses are armed and organized into workers’ militias. A mobilized defense against the forces of repression, which are aided and abetted by imperialism, cannot be created without serious planning and training. That is why we have to start today with the basic agitational demand for armed workers’ defense guards, along with the explanation of the necessity of the workers’ militia.
The military question can not be separated from other questions of political strategy. Arming the working class in Argentina is key. An international campaign to defend the Argentine workers against repression will be another vital part of the effort to hold back the internal and external forces of repression.
For most of the larger as well as many smaller left groups, the key slogan that frames all their programmatic demands has been the call for a constituent assembly. What does that mean in reality? A constituent assembly is a multi-class body elected according to the most democratic possible bourgeois rules to decide a country’s form of government.
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.
Indeed, the call for a constituent assembly implies a passive electoral (if not immediately parliamentary) road forward, not one of mass action. The left clings to its electoralist leanings by doggedly advancing this slogan as central, despite the fact that it doesn’t fit the situation. Revolutionaries must clearly explain to the workers that the road forward must be the road of mass struggle, not electoralism. Through its actions, the working class has been ahead of the left on this in any case.
By raising the constituent assembly as the culminating point of struggle for this period, a period which both the PO and PTS have identified as “revolutionary,” they are posing a fight for a new government as the goal of their vision of the struggle. In contrast, the general strike which we advocate poses the question of state power. To crown the struggle with the mass slogan for the constituent assembly rather than the general strike can only signify a stagist conception. The elitist left has decided to keep the goal of socialist revolution to itself; all that should be discussed now and posed for the struggle is a change to a more democratic but still bourgeois form of government. Not even in their material addressed to advanced workers do they raise the need for a workers’ state instead of just a change in government. The vanguard workers are to gather that the fight for state power is to be postponed until another whole stage of history.
The constituent assembly call also runs contrary to the vital need to establish the independence and leadership of the working class. In the same spirit, the Argentine left has chronically called for “people’s assemblies,” which exist today mainly as middle-class formations with some workers in them. And left groups have frequently raised the call for a “Workers’ and Peoples’ Government” – another slogan that blurs the class line. These slogans, together with the framing use of the constituent assembly demand, show that the “Trotskyist” left in Argentina is burying authentic working-class Trotskyism in the mud.
In response to the actions of the masses, groups like the PO and the PTS have felt pressure to move to the Left. We cite just a few examples to show how their centrism has been operating.
A key document by PO leader Jorge Altamira, entitled A Government Without Solutions Usurps the Sovereignty of the People (12/30/01) concludes: “We call on all leftist organizations to set a strategy that can lead the revolution underway to victory. Today’s slogan is: Down with the political continuity of bankers and bankrupt capitalists. Popular assemblies. Out with the agents of the hated regime. For a sovereign Constituent Assembly in the nation, provinces and municipalities.”
This is a left populist program. All leftist organizations (which includes those that are openly class collaborationist) should set a common strategy that gets rid of the bad capitalists and puts in instead a sovereign constituent assembly. This is a call for another bourgeois-democratic formation and for it to be sovereign – i.e., to rule!
A month later, the PO came out with a statement Bush or the Popular Assemblies (1/31/02), which ended: “There is a complete crisis of the capitalist system and its political regime. In this framework, the Duhaldes can only lead us to an ever-greater misery. The slogan of the coming struggle is: ‘Out with them all’ and ‘Not a single one should be left.’ We must multiply the Popular Assemblies and fuse them with the piqueteros’ struggle. We must strengthen the authority of the Popular Assemblies and the Piqueteros’ Assemblies in order to turn them into organs of power of the exploited people. A Popular Constituent Assembly, called by the mobilized people, should take into its hands the social and political reorganization of the country on new bases.”
Here we see that the PO has moved to the left. A bit of class consciousness has taken hold; now the piqueteros, the unemployed segment of the working class, is to be “fused” with the middle-class-dominated Popular Assemblies. This time the Constituent Assembly should be “popular” (and apparently no longer sovereign). And through a magical method of revolutionary exhortation (multiply the Popular Assemblies, strengthen the authority of the Popular Assemblies), these assemblies are to be transformed into “organs of power.” How these bodies become fit to take power without the organized working class centrally involved is left a mystery. The fantasy continues: all “the mobilized people” should somehow handle the “social and political reorganization of the country on new bases.” But how to get this reorganization without a social, i.e. socialist, revolution is another mystery.
The PTS stands to the left of the PO. It wrote, in a flyer distributed on 12/31/01 and available on their website: “The revolutionaries of the PTS struggle for a workers’ and peoples’ government. The majority of the population doesn’t see it this way yet, but millions are demanding ‘All of them must go. We don’t want any of them!‘, the slogan shouted in Plaza de Mayo. To them and to all workers, combatants and human rights organizations, to political parties that call themselves democratic, especially those on the left, we propose to increase the mobilizations aimed at stopping any antidemocratic or anti-popular pact or solution to the crisis. The most democratic solution is a free and sovereign Constituent Assembly, where we can discuss and decide in favor of the majority of the population, which would have to combine legislative and executive powers. That would put an end to the Supreme Court – that cast of corrupt judges – and determine the election of judges by the secret vote of the people. The mandates of the members of the Constituent Assembly should be recallable mandates, in order to put an end to the ‘representatives of the people’ who swindle their electors. During the term of their mandate they will receive a salary equivalent to that of an average teacher or worker, to put an end to rich politicians and to make government cheaper.”
Thus the call for a “workers’ and peoples’ government” was used to evade the call for socialist revolution and a workers’ state. The PTS’s constituent assembly is another conscious fudge: it is depicted in terms that Marxists traditionally use for an organization of workers’ power – full executive and legislative powers, recallable delegates, salaries no greater than those of the average worker – along the lines of the Paris Commune of 1871 and the Russian Soviets of 1905 and 1917. But calling a bourgeois-democratic assembly a workers’ soviet doesn’t make it one!
The PTS also turned more to the left with the new year. In an article entitled They want to clean up the expropriating regime (La Verdad Obrera, 2/7/02), they wrote:
A truly democratic Constituent [Assembly] that gets rid of all the dregs of the old regime and its politicians, and makes it possible that ‘Not a single one should be left’ will be completely achieved only by completing that which was initiated on the 19th and 20th of December, with insurrectionary actions headed by the working class that impose a Revolutionary Constituent Assembly. An instance where the people deliberate and resolve everything in favor of the majority of the population, concentrating in one chamber the executive and legislative power. That it may eliminate the institution of the Supreme Court and determine judicial elections by the direct vote of the people.
As the PTS explains in the February Estrategía Internacional, in the article Crisis of Bourgeois Rule: Reform or Revolution in Argentina, it faced the problem of distinguishing itself from other left forces, including bourgeois left forces and the PO, who were also raising the constituent assembly but as a “reform of constitutional type.” So the PTS added the “revolutionary” and “insurrectionary” verbiage. But what needs to be done is not to dress up a bourgeois-democratic slogan in revolutionary clothes but to say what is. Calling for a bourgeois-democratic solution can only lead backwards in the Argentine situation.
At a time when the Argentine working class is in the lead of the class struggle worldwide, facing an increasingly bellicose imperialism, it is criminal that organizations which consider themselves proletarian and revolutionary campaign for a bourgeois-democratic program, however revolutionary their phrasing. Proletarian revolutionaries in Argentina have to fight to win over the best elements from these centrist organizations as part of the struggle to build a Trotskyist party, part of the World Party of Socialist Revolution. Re-create the Fourth International!