Over the past decade and a half that separates us from the revolution of December 19th and 20th, 2001, the government and the whole bourgeoisie have tried to erase or distort the historical memory of the fight of the Argentine working class and masses.

By PSTU – Argentina.

 

And many young people that today lead the new struggles do not understand the process in its real magnitude. To prepare ourselves for the struggles we have ahead, It is essential To recover the historical memory, to analyze and take conclusions out of this process.

A Latin-American Wave

December of 2001 was not a “made-in-Argentina product” but part of an outbreak of mass mobilizations and revolutions across several Latin American countries. In Ecuador, Bolivia, Venezuela, among others, there were very important struggles with strikes, mobilization, presidential falls and even a power takeover for some hours.

All of these processes where the response of workers and masses of a large portion of Latin America to the intensifying recolonization and pillaging process by the US imperialism and its puppet governments, attacking life conditions every day and increasing misery. Its climax was the attempt to install the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA – ALCA in Spanish), an important leap in the recolonization that was defeated by the revolutionary processes. The Argentinazo[1] was part of this continental process.

What Happened In The Argentinazo?

December 2001 did not appear out of nowhere; the process grew from the periphery to the center of the country. The privatizations by Menem[2], the convertibility policy[3] and the “carnal relations” with the U.S. increased unemployment, labor flexibility, misery and starvation to the tolerance limit. This affected not only workers and the most impoverished sectors of the society but middle class as well.

The second half of the ‘90s started to show struggle processes in the provinces, like the Santiagueñazo [province of Santiago del Estero], the picketers from Cutral-Có [province of Neuquén] and Tartagal [province of Salta], and repression and deaths as a response to those processes.

As years went by, the situation became increasingly unsustainable and forced the union’s leaderships to call for general strikes, the last of them only six days before the Argentinazo. The attempt of taxation of the national universities was defeated by massive mobilizations that forced De la Rua’s Minister of Economy [Ricardo López Murphy] to resign.

The robbery of savings known as corralito [measures that limited extraction of savings from the bank], and the State of Emergency were the the straw that broke the camel’s back after many years. On December 19th there where many demonstration and lootings of supermarkets, and the declaration of State of Emergency in the afternoon of that day was the final flame that lit the wick: the masses went to the streets across the whole country, with saucepans on their hands [cacerolazos], demanding the resignation of De la Rúa and Cavallo, his [new] Minister of Economy.

During the dawn there was the first death of the revolution by the repression forces, so the next day the people confronted the repression systematically in the vicinity of Plaza de Mayo and many other cities across the country. It took ten hours of constant clashes and over three dozens of deaths to achieve the first victory: De la Rúa escaped from the Casa Rosada [Presidential House] by helicopter.

The process continued and overthrew 5 consecutive presidents in just one week; the massive mobilization continued and the pickets and saucepans where a constant during the summer of 2002. At that moment, everything was questioned: the regimen’s institutions, the politicians, the parliament, the police, etc., that had no legitimacy at all. The anti-U.S. feeling grew, together with new forms of organization: picketer organizations and popular assemblies, which eventually could not further develop and began to disperse thanks to the “apparatist” [focused in the apparatus more than in the process itself] and sectarian role played by the biggest left parties of the time, the PO [Worker’s Party] and the MST [Socialist Workers Movement].

Duhalde’s government[4] tried to stabilize the situation, but after the murder of Maxi Kosteki and Darío Santillán[5], in June 26th, 2002, the popular anger explode again and forced Duhalde to call for elections.

And so, in the middle of a great instability, on May 2003 Nestor Kirchner assumed the presidency by a branch of the Justicialist Party [Peronism].

The K Diversion

As mentioned before, Néstor Kirchner took office with the objective of stopping the revolutionary process, as the imperialism and the bourgeoisie could not afford for it to further develop. As it was proven that repression would not work and the new economic situation gave space to it, Kirchner began making concessions in the terrain of economics and HR, among others, to “normalize the country”. That is how everything achieved by the workers and the oppressed sectors during the “K decade” was in fact product of the Argentinazo, which of course nowadays the government tries to deny or distort.

Why Do We Say It Was A Revolution?

Many comrades might question if is not exaggerated to speak of a revolution when referring to these events, as they tend to call it outbreak or rebellion because a socialist workers’ government was not installed nor anything close.

This is subscribed by the stand of the majority of the left, which refuses to acknowledge as a revolution any process that does not culminate in a workers’, socialist government. Consistently, during the process of 2001 they raised words of order within the limits of the democratic bourgeois regime.

But what is a revolution, anyway? Through a simple definition we could say a revolution is a sudden or radical change. In Trostky’s terms, we could say it is the “history of the forcible entrance of the masses into the realm of rulership over their own destiny” [History of the Russian Revolution – L. Trotsky, 1930].

Is this not what happened on December 2001? We are categorical about this: 2001 was a revolution, which marked a turning point in our country. Anyone who does not see that and explains it as just another event determined by confrontations within the bourgeoisie with no real participation of the masses can end up believing that the concessions Kirchner was forced to make to stabilize the country (same as Chavez, Evo, etc. in their respective countries) where a product of their good will and not of their necessity to stop the revolutionary processes in course.

The Argentinazo did not manage to fully defeat the bourgeoisie and found a new society, but it stopped the imperialist plan from being implemented all the way, and it took historical conquests out of the government, which, for example, was forced to stop the payment of the external debt until 2007.

For A New Argentinazo Led By The Working Class

As the world crisis grows, the true face of the Kirchnerist project in favor of the rulers becomes more evident. Its policies are more and more kinder with the imperialism and the bourgeoisie and harsher with the working class.

We already demonstrated the strength of our outbreaks, and we will offer resistance once again against the adjustment plans they want to impose. This is why we must prepare for tougher struggles each time.

But how can we prevent our revolutions from being appropriated by the bourgeoisie once again? We need to take conclusions of the limits of the experience of 2001. We can fight a lot, we can make heroic actions, we can have a lot of martyrs and we can jeopardize the bourgeoisie, but if such process does not have a revolutionary leadership to lead our struggle towards a total change, so to a workers’ government that starts the construction of a new society without exploitation, sooner or later our struggles and efforts will be taken from us.

This is the arduous but necessary task we put all our efforts in from the PSTU and the IWL, and we invite all workers to do it with us.

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Originally published in Avanzada Socialista nº 81, December 10th, 2014

Translation: Guillermo Zuñiga.

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Notes:

[1] Argentinazo: term used in Argentina and Latin America to refer the revolution of December 19th-20th, 2001.

[2] Argentinian president who served two terms, from 1989 to 1999.

[3] Economic plan implemented between 1991 and 2002, imposing the fixation of 1-1 parity between the Argentinian Peso and the U.S. dollar [it eventually generated hyperinflation, as the economy and prices were set according the U.S. dollar but the incomes were in Pesos, progressively devaluated].

[4] Eduardo Duhalde was a Senator at the moment of the revolution. He occupied the position of interim President from January 1st, 2002, until the Presidential Elections on 2003, when Nestor Kirchner took pose.

[5]Maximiliano Kosteki (21 years old) and Darío Santillán (22 years old) where militants of the Unemployed Workers Movement (MTD), and were brutally murdered [left to bleed after being shot] by the police and the armed forces that were repressing a massive demonstration. It was known as the “Massacre of Avellaneda”, as it took place in the train station of the same name, in the region of Gran Buenos Aires. Many of the perpetrators where sentenced to life imprisonment, but not the ones that were politically responsible, giving the order to repress.