League for the Revolutionary Party statement, May 12, 2002. Published in Proletarian Revolution No. 64 (Spring 2002).
The Argentine economy is being strangled by an international debt of over 150 billion dollars. Under the military reign of terror from 1976 to 1983, the debt exploded from $8 billion to over $45 billion. Much of it was due to the regime’s arms purchases and its “neo-liberal” economic policy, easing foreign acquisitions and investment. Since then, under bourgeois-democratic governments supervised by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and other imperialist agencies, the debt has tripled. Most of that increase came from new loans contracted to repay the older debts.
Argentina has already paid over $200 billion to the imperialist financiers; its current obligations are over $25 billion annually. Without this burden, Argentina would not be facing the terrible economic crisis it is now in, with unemployment near 25 percent, nearly half the urban population living under the official poverty line and the gross national product expected to shrink by 5 to 10 percent.
Until recently, Argentina was in the vanguard of neo-liberal “success” stories. During the 1990’s, it privatized its public assets and opened its financial markets to imperialist investors more than any other country. The resulting flow of U.S. and European funds initially boosted the economy. But this was accomplished by sharply increasing imports of capital goods and de-industrializing much of the economy. With little left to privatize the flow of foreign funds ended, and Argentina’s capitalists have dumped the burden of their looting onto the working and middle classes. Workers in Argentina and the U.S. should stand up to the imperialists’ demands and fight for a repudiation of the imperialist debts.
Argentina’s current government has declared its inability to pay the debt; this amounts to the largest debt default in history. But no bourgeois government will dare take the step of repudiating it. The Argentine rulers need to stay on good terms with the financiers. No bourgeois class can survive independent of world markets and world finance. They only bargain over time and rates. Debt renunciation defies capitalist principles and their imperialist enforcers. It will take either a workers’ revolution or the bourgeoisie’s fear that a fighting working class is after its neck.
The working class can free itself from the national divisions that imperialism uses to keep workers apart. Hostility to the IMF in Argentina is seething and massive. Even the “dissident” union bureaucrat Hugo Moyano is under pressure; he recently had to mouth off against Duhalde’s relation with the IMF, calling it “prostitution without charge.”
A campaign for a general strike to repudiate the debt in Argentina would speak to the mass anti-IMF hostility. It would answer the burning needs of the workers and impoverished and point to the path of an international struggle of workers and oppressed peoples. It is the only way out of the debt morass.