Teachers, civil servant and all the people of Santa Cruz



 


A nearly two-month-old struggle is drawing to its end. The new governor of the province, Kirchner’s trusted man, travels carrying a proposal for the teachers. Everything seems to foretell a great triumph. And everything contains fundamental lessons for the forthcoming days.


 


A family, 17 years in power


Kirchner’s widely spread progressive discourse and demagogy may still deceive many, but not the inhabitants of Santa Cruz. Kirchner reached the post of governor in 1991, right in the midst of Menem’s days. He built an empire there, with features similar to those of Saadi of Catamarca or Juarez in Santiago del Estero.[1]


He was the one who handled the oil privatisations in his province and a servile legislative power. The “provincial contractist fatherland”[2] obtained fabulous returns, always favouring the same three friendly companies, which many believe to be run by Kirchner’s figureheads. The budget estimates of the province are “inflated” year after year with public over evaluated works collected by the De Vido and Kirchner.


It is a province of 200 000 inhabitants and fabulous oil and fish wealth, with enormous royalties controlled by a group of professional politicians. The entire population has been living submitted by means of a system of complicity, alliances or fears.


The lowest basic salary for the civil servants of a province is to be found there. Teachers, earn 161 Argentine pesos (about $53) a month are among the favourites. The salary for auxiliary personnel in the educational system stands at 49 and nurses 59. And there is jail and repression for those who dare to fight. In 2004, 24 teachers were under court action. Our comrades from Caleta Olivia spent months in jail for asking for a job. While all this is happening, Kirchner has 600 million dollars “hidden” abroad, and probably they will never come back home.


That is what the population of Santa Cruz rose against in solidarity with the teachers and the civil servants.


 


A heroic struggle


Teachers, civil servants, judicial workers, municipal workers and all the other sectors grouped in MUS (Board of Trade Unions) have been fighting together for years now. It is a veritable workers’ united front, superior to the trade union framework for it challenges global premises and government policies.


This organism, headed by the leadership of the ADOSAC – teachers’ trade union – came out to fight. By doing so, they earned the support of the population and turned into the leader of the overall task of challenging the authoritarian and corrupt regime, the crisis of which comes from some time ago: the previous governor, Acevedo, fell because of the struggle of the oil workers in Las Heras.


That is why, right from the beginning, the struggle combined workers’ demands (salary, all to the basic) with democratic and popular demands and it rapidly collided with the central administration, who rapidly acted as the direct employer. Demonstrators chanted “this is for “Lupo” (nickname given to Kirchner in his native province) who is watching us on TV” leaving no doubt as to what it was all about. And once again the chant of “out with all of them” could be heard in the streets.


The massive character of the struggle of each town in the province, the democracy when taking decisions and the sheer guts overruled the militarisation of the city, the activity of the gangs of bullies responding to Front for Victory (K’s political party – translator’s note) and the raids. They forced the administration to negotiate in the midst of the strike. The struggle accrued as other state and municipal workers joined in.


Two months on strike, dozens of escraches (fast, mini-demonstration aimed at exposing a determined person or group – translator’s note) massive assemblies, etc. Repression was responded by a demonstration of 20 000 people in Rio Gallegos, a city of 80 000 inhabitants. There are only 2 200 teachers there. It was an authentic workers and popular rebellion: people versus power. It was like the “argentinazo” of the year 2001 with an important difference: workers were in the middle of the stage this time, and an organisation of workers’ coordination, the MUS, leading the population. All the contradictions, the relative support of the Church or of the UCR (Unión Cívica Radical – a bourgeois party – translator’s note) cannot conceal this essential fact.


 


Repression backfired


The regime staked everything at repression against the municipal workers. But this backfired. Down came Sancho (vice governor in charge of the office) and Virizat, minister of government. Sergio Peralta took over with Alicia Kirchner attending and soon they were surrounded y 20 000 mobilised people not precisely to support them. The provincial regime has been fatally wounded.


The arrogance of Alicia K, knocking around “her town”, prevented her from seeing that things had changed. Her lunch was regarded as provocation against fighting teachers.


This fact made the Church and the UCR to flock round the administration to see if they could put an end to the crisis, the vacuum of power, and search for a way out. But they have no way out except to let the workers what they are demanding, and that would be a great triumph.


 


Nothing will be the same any more


Pedro Muñoz (secretary general of ADOSAC) told us the other day, “nothing will ever be the same again in Santa Cruz for people have lost their fear”. But it is not only that: they have proved that nothing can stand against mobilised people.


The workers’ and popular rebellion has left lessons that are difficult to wipe out and not only to the people of Santa Cruz but for the entire Argentine working class. The workers and the people have actually exerted their power in the streets. The MUS acted the role of power organ of the workers.


As a result of the 2001 rebellion, the national political regime clings to K’s personal prestige. In Santa Cruz this is no longer watertight. How long before something like this happens in the entire country? Everything seems to indicate that K (or his wife[3]) it up against an all but restful second term in the office.


When we walk out into the streets once more, the way we did against De La Rúa, we must bear in mind these lessons: we have to do so with the working class leading, with grassroots democracy.


 


Ricardo Perrotta


 


Interview to Pedro Muñoz, secretary general of ADOSAC


 


“OUR STRUGGLE REPRESENTS THE DEMANDS OF ALL THE WORKERS AND OF THE COMMUNITY”


 


After a meeting of teachers of MIC[4], held in the Federal Capital City on May 12th, we spoke to Pedro Muñoz, secretary General of ADOSAC


 


Lucha Socialista (periodical of the Argentine section of IWL-FI): How can you explain the fighting spirit and the resilience of the Santa Cruz comrades?


Pedro Muñoz: ADOSAC has a long history of being very critical about the Kirchner administration and we posed this every time there were conflicts with the miners, with oil workers, and this was now reflected on to our comrades, the teachers. This way of acting on behalf of our trade union provided us today with this enormous accompaniment that makes us so strong to go on in spite of the fact that we are in compulsory conciliation. Also the insight that our struggle represents not only ADOSAC but also all the workers and the community in general as well.


 


LS:  How important is the existence of MUS for that purpose?


PM: It is precisely MUS what represent the junction of comrades who are fighting for the same things: for better basic wages, for the whitening of our salaries and definitely for the stability of all workers. From this point of view, MUS is what pulls all the fighting sectors together and carry on with the struggle.


 


LS: What do you think of the change of characters that the administration has performed in the governor’s office in Santa Cruz?


PM: It is obviously a swapping of faces, but Santa Cruz will not be the same again. Now, if the administration does not give satisfactory answers to the demands of salaries and social needs and unless they communicate in a different way with the community, there will be hardly any way out of the crisis. There must be a deep change in their salary policy and their communication policy with the community, or else the conflicts that took place not only in Rio Gallegos, but also in the entire province will go on.


 


LS: what solidarity measures would be effective today for Santa Cruz?


PM: The best thing would be a generalised struggle, something that CTERA (teacher’s national trade union central) has no intention of taking up. But we are very thankful for everything the comrades from all over the country have done about the strike funds; it  was every important and allowed us to have a continuity of the strike.


 


LS: There has just been a plenary meeting of the teachers of MIC proposing activity in solidarity with Santa Cruz and also the construction of a list of opposition for the next CETERA elections. How do you assess that?  


PM: It is very important to build a list with comrades emerging from the grassroots and are accompanied and supported by teachers, in this case, and not by other sectors. I believe that this list should be made with a union criterion not with a party criterion. I see this as a very important point because it will provide the accompaniment of comrades who do no militant activity in these parties or in other groupings, those that are just grassroots teachers that can accompany a list of this unitary and federal type, taking into account the amount of people who have to participate in different provinces.


 


LS: Many comrades take it for granted as something natural that leaders of ADOSAC should head this list. What do you think?


PM: the ADOSAC candidates were elected by ADOSAC, ratified in the grouping we are leading. All comrades can propose that we occupy a determined place on the list. But which comrade will occupy the vacancy on the list  is something that has to be decided by ADOSAC comrades themselves. If this is what de put into practice for everything else, it is also valid for the conformation of a list. In these things it the trade union democracy that runs the thing, or at least the democracy of the grouping.








[1] Saadi and Juarez: old Peronist chieftains from the inland provinces where they ruled for many years.


[2] Contractist fatherland: name given to bourgeois sectors whose main source of income are the contracts with the state.


[3] Kirchnerism has not yet defined if the official candidate in the forthcoming presidential elections will be Kirchner himself or his wife, current senator, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner.


[4] MIC: Inter Trade Union Classist Movement