9th April marks important headway in the struggle and waning of the government, bureaucracy and employers.


Called by CTA Argentine Workers’ Central)[1]-CTERA (Confederation of Workers of Education) national strike and a one-hour strike complied with in some of the branches and companies engulfed by the CGT (General Central of Workers)[2] and the mobilisation of 9th April in response to the murder of Carlos Fuentealba, marks the highest pitch of workers’ and popular struggles in many months as over 150 000 people mobilised in the streets throughout the country and millions joined the strike. At the same time, national government and bureaucracy are not any fitter for the wear and tear and struggles have made considerable damage to the interests of the employers.


It is not only a peak of struggles for wages. For years, bureaucracy has been carefully preventing the working class from hoisting the banners of democratic struggles as their own, particularly so in the case of the demands affecting the genocidal and repressing military men. The national strike and the mobilisation of the 9th repudiating the murder committed on Carlos Fuentealba where millions of workers, apart from ample sectors of the middle class, participated and sympathised was an important step forward from this point of view.


So far the struggles do not jeopardise Kirchner the way De la Rúa was in December 2001 but in such provinces as Neuquén, with important resources in oil, gas and minerals – among other things – governor Sobisch can already kiss his political careen goodbye even if so far he has been able to avoid being pulled down by the mobilisation.


This conditions national election. There is a clear wasting away of the national administration due to increasing dissatisfaction with inflation and salaries. Kirchner and his wife, Cristina, are still the “sheriff’s horse”[3] for the national elections. But the seething anger caused by inflation, low salaries, repression and floods cannot be solved from the state and the bad condition of the infrastructure is already evidenced, for example, in the blackouts and floods in cities each time it rains and that affects the administration.


 


No matter how hard they try, administration’s and employers’ efforts to soothe the tempers with deceit and repression are a failure


Struggles for wages accrue with an epicentre in the Patagonian provinces and in Salta. The government and the employers – both state and private – have been trying to limit the increase to not more than 15% imposed by K, but so far they have not been able to do so, mainly due to the struggles of the teachers in the provinces headed by leaders not controlled by bureaucracy.


Furthermore, the murder committed on a teacher of working class stock, Fuentealba former militant of the old MAS, teacher and fighter, very much loved by workmates and pupils alike, produced a wave of indignation in the entire country. Even Kirchner’s prestige was affected. It was his repressive attitude towards the struggles for salaries of the toiling masses what provided the background for the action of the police in Neuquén and the assassination of comrade Fuentealba.  It is enough to have a look at the gendarmerie in kindergartens and schools of Santa Cruz[4] or the ruthless repression unleashed by the governor of Salta, close ally of Kirchner’s.


K’s attempt at drawing a line between himself and the right that claims for “iron hand” against workers is beginning to wear away. So much so, that during his 9th April address, one of his staunchest allies among the trade union bureaucracies of the CTA, Hugo Yasky[5] could not help repudiating not only the murder committed on Fuentealba but also the presence of gendarmerie in Santa Cruz.


Simultaneously, state capacity of repressing is also wearing off. When comrades Kosteki and Santillán were murdered on the Pueyredón Bridge in June 2002, Dualde became weaker and he had to rush national election and accelerate his exit from office; this opened a situation when the administration had to act much more carefully in the use of repression. The K administration reflected this right from the beginning when he tried to disguise as “defender of human rights”.


When workers and toiling masses repudiated the murder on Fuentealba, they placed the state in an even worse condition for maintaining the intervention of gendarmerie and police against workers’ struggles the way K is intervening now in Santa Cruz. The attempt at reverting the strike wave by means of repression has suffered a bad reverse. A TV commentator gave a significant example: he said that the Argentine envoys to the negotiations in Spain, mediated by King Juan Carlos, will have to reject the claim of the Uruguayan government that K should put an end to the blocks on the bridges over the Uruguay river in Entre Rios. According to the commentator, Argentine representatives will have to say, “The reaction of the Argentine people against the death of teach Fuentealba prevents us from forcibly removing the members of the Gualeguaychú and Colón assemblies from the bridge.


In spite of the best efforts by Moyano[6], Yasky and remaining bureaucratic leaders set on making the claims fit into what the administration wants to give, a rood of salary increase of 15%, they have so far failed at controlling the situation.


Neuquén teachers have just refused a new increase decreed by Sobisch in his despair to decompress the situation and they are still camping by the house of government while one strike follows the other in the different provincial branches. And in Santa Cruz, the 96 hours strike is being complied with in spite of all the attempts at bullying the teachers with gendarmerie while 500 comrades are occupying a school in Rio Gallegos. At the same time, the negotiation between the government and the heftier trade unions, such as metallurgic, railway, service and metro are still on. The government keeps on decreeing compulsory conciliation to prevent struggles from cropping up.


 


WHAT KEEPS ON ENERGISING THE ANGER


AND THE STRUGGLES IS INFLATION AND GROWING LACK OF PROVISIONS TOGETHER WITH INSUFFICIENT SALARIES


 


The anger is there in the first place because the salaries, which have been lagging heavily behind the cost of living – today calculated at $2500 (Argentine pesos)[7] – keep on dwindling because of the inflation, notoriously higher than the official estimates. Now lack of provisions in articles of top priority such as milk, meat in what is known here as the “popular cuts”, and so on.


We have already pointed out in these pages to the main factors and mechanisms that control Argentine economy. In the first place we have, through the policies of the Kirchner administration, the imperialist policy of looting on the subjugated countries. The multinationals and a few “national” companies produce for export in quest of the advantages accrued by international prices of raw materials and invest only what is absolutely necessary to sustain this piracy.


The government keeps the peso low with respect to the dollar in order to favour exports. And that already is an inflationary factor, because it makes exports more expensive. At the same time, the policy of incentives for exports concentrates production round corn and soybean together with other oleaginous crops, the most profitable raw materials, in detriment of milk, meat, etc. But milk and meat are also produced mainly for export. The companies press to increase prices in the home market to the level of international prices or else. they withdraw the product from the Argentine market, and that will lead to inflation combined with inadequate supply. What is lacking on the shelves today is precisely milk and meat.


Oil and gas are produced for export in spite of the fact that Argentina has very little reserve of both and companies do not explore in search of new oilfields. Energy, transport and other services together with their infrastructure are at the limit of their capacity and in fast deterioration, but companies do not invest in maintenance and in spite of relative freezing of tariffs, harvest enormous profits due to the thousand of millions of grants they receive from the state. These grants allegedly go to keep the fares low on buses and trains and the gas and light bills, but there are thousands of millions that do not go to increase salaries or to improve infrastructure, so this is a cost that Argentine toiling masses are paying for when they receive unsatisfactory wages and their schools, hospitals, motorways, electric networks and airports are falling down in a headfirst plunge.


There are about 37 500 million Argentine pesos in reserves in the Central Bank and the administration admits that what is being collected could easily suffice for the increase in salaries that teachers and civil servants claim for, but they will not touch any of it for it is there for pay off the commitment with imperialism – determined by the Law of Fiscal Liability – to keep the fiscal surplus and reserve so as to guarantee the payment of the foreign debt and join the administrations of the entire world that accumulate reserves in dollars so as to keep the American currency high for otherwise it would plunge down suddenly.


In short, it is the looting on the country by the multinationals and government policy suited to that purpose, including the payment of the foreign debt what produces inflation, lack of supplies and low salaries. The control over the Indec[8] where rates are to be “creative”, the treason of the trade union leaders who uphold the 15% “roof” and refuse to unify the struggles, the policy of the alleged “defence of human rights” that revealed its real nature when the gendarmerie entered into action in Santa Cruz and when Carlos Fuentealba was killed in Neuquén, all that is not enough to halt the anger. And the inflation is the main factor of discredit for this administration for people see that the government cannot control it.


 


FOR A NATIONAL STRUGGLE PLAN


 


In spite of the fact that the anger grows, struggles continue and we did take a firm step forward with the 9th April mobilisations and the government and the bourgeoisie find it more difficult now to repress us, even if the rope gets tighter – this is what we call polarisation – we still cannot achieve the increase necessary to reach a salary capable of buying what a family needs to live on and punishment fro the murderers of Carlos Fuentealba and the end of repression.


We also have to impose such measures as freezing prices of high priority articles and the suspension of exports until full supply of milk, meat and other food is reached.


What we need to reach such measures is to unite all struggles, just the way we did on 9th April and a general strike, but it must be summoned by the CTA and the CGT and it cannot be a sole isolated action but a plan of struggles, with progressive strike and mobilisation in the whole country until are demands are met.


9th April has proved that we can advance in that way. The way to do so is to encourage assemblies in all the places of work and plenary meeting of representatives with mandates in all the section and unions which is where workers and their representatives will be able to discuss their demands and the measures to be taken to achieve them. This is how the Patagonian teachers are acting.


Another good example is what is taking place in the metro. Floor stewards gave an impulse to assemblies in all the sectors to vote demands for the negotiations between government, representatives of workers and representatives of the employer. Now that ministry of labour ion complicity with the UTA[9] bureaucracy has decreed a compulsory conciliation, they are holding new assemblies to decide what to do next. We all ought to do what the teachers in the south and the metro workers are doing.


But it is not enough to discuss demands and measures for each company, sector or branch. Out of each assembly and plenary meeting a cry must rise demanding that Yasky and Moyano are to get together but not to shake hands for TV but to decide a nationwide strike and a plan of struggles that we need to impose the salary increase, the freezing of prices, full supply of all we need and the end of repression and punishment for the murderers of Carlos Fuentealba.


This plan is to be built from the grassroots upwards by means of assemblies and plenary meetings of representatives where the real voice of the workers can be heard.






[1] Trade union central essential presence among teacher and civil servants



[2] Trade union central encompassing most of the industrial braches and in private service.



[3] Expression denoting a sure favourite in a competition



[4] Patagonian province, home for Kirchner who was its governor



[5] Head leader of CTERA



[6] Head of the lorry drivers trade union and secretary general of the CGT



[7] 2599 Argentine pesos is equivalent to just over 800 dollars.



[8] National Institute of Statistics and Census, which is where the government has just dismissed the head of the board for having estimated the figures of inflation “too high”.



[9] Trade Union grouping bus drivers and metro workers