Sun Feb 05, 2023
February 05, 2023

Employed and unemployed workers’ unity for a new Argentinazo

Social movements have once again taken a leading role in the Argentine political scene. In the first months of the year, more than four thousand picket lines exposed unemployment and poverty.

By PSTU – Argentina

In response to this, Javier Milei [1] launched the “Argentine Anti-picket Movement.” The rich attack social movements, paying clowns like Milei, and using their media like La Nación, Clarín and TN. For that, they have nefarious characters who play at being journalists like Viviana Canosa or Mauro Viale’s son, who talk very angrily and deceptively about the “choriplaneros,” as they call the picketers. They say that they are lazy people and honest “taxpayers” provide for them. They even blame the poor for inflation and the rising dollar. Unfortunately, these campaigns are echoed among workers and the people. So, we want to expose some of the lies and myths that the rich and the bosses spread to divide us into employed and unemployed workers. We will also polemicise with Peronism and Juan Grabois, and the electoral politics of the parties that make up the FIT-U [2]. We propose the sharing of available working hours without a reduction in wages. And for that, we must protest outside the companies to demand full employment, in unity with employed workers.

The same is spent on paying the IMF as on assisting the unemployed

How much does the state spend on social benefits? 8.4% of total public expenditure is spent on social programmes. The most relevant are the Potenciar Trabajo, the IFE and the Tarjeta Alimentar. Next on the scale of total expenditure is debt interest payment, which accounts for 7%. In other words, around the same amount is spent on paying off the debt to international loan sharks as on providing economic assistance to those without jobs due to the state and government’s responsibility. The benefits received by the unemployed are barely enough to cover some expenses and the vast majority do odd jobs. To take them off these programmes, as some propose, is to plunge them even deeper into poverty, in a country where the economic model does not guarantee full employment.

Capitalism generates the poor and unemployed workers

Official figures say that in the first quarter of the year unemployment fell by 3.2% from the same period last year. Does that mean this will be a tendency and that we are heading towards a situation of full employment? We think not. There is an anaemic recovery of the economy after the pandemic, which generated an increase in employment, but in no way will this economic growth guarantee genuine work for all. This is so, first of all, because we are an agro-exporting country. We are a semi-colonial country that lives mainly on selling raw materials. Agribusiness accounted for 74% of Argentina’s exports in 2020. We are the world’s leading exporter of soybean oil and flour, yerba mate and beans. This is our place in the world division of labour. But the countryside generates very few jobs and tends more and more towards automation, resulting in the expulsion of the working class.

On the other hand, industry only has a chance of survival by turning to the domestic market, because it cannot compete with the more developed countries, and it does so by generating increasingly precarious jobs, with long working hours, producing with as few workers as possible. And above all, the bosses use unemployed workers as an “industrial reserve army” to keep wages low. They need the fear of unemployment to make workers accept worse working conditions. Thus we see that low-wages precarious jobs are created, with 12-hour working hours. One in four workers is “overloaded” according to the Permanent Household Survey of 2022; this means that they have to work more than 35 hours a week to make ends meet. This is why employment has increased along with the number of poor workers, who now make up 45% of the population. On the one hand, there are over-exploited workers and, on the other hand, more than 7% of the population is unemployed. These are the absurdities that we live in Argentina and elsewhere.

Sharing of working hours without reduction of wages and a sliding scale of wages

So, we propose the share of working hours without wage reduction and, faced with inflation that impoverishes us every day, we propose the sliding scale of wages to ensure an “automatic rise in wages in relation to the increase in the price of consumer goods.” In this way, we demand the right to work and to a dignified existence for all, and we call for solidarity between employed and unemployed workers to fight for it.

We must fight for jobs for all and to put an end to accidents and injuries at work due to long working hours, for enough resting time to enjoy life, study, think, and engage in social activities. But we know that employers will not give up their profits. They do not want to reduce working hours, on the contrary, they want us to work as many hours as possible, as we saw above. That is why in order to achieve the sliding scale of wages and working hours it is necessary to confront this economic model and its leaders and political and trade-union agents. To prepare this fight is to prepare a new Argentinazo, as we have been arguing together with several social organisations.

For a public works plan

This would also generate employment, with the construction of schools, hospitals, housing, sewers, asphalt, roads, and reconstruction of the railways, financed by non-payment of the public debt and high taxes on the big capitalists.

Let’s protest outside the companies to demand work

As we said, we are in favour of economic assistance to the unemployed comrades. What is more, we believe that they are paid too little, that this “aid” does not get them out of poverty, and that the Universal Wage of 12,000 pesos demanded by Juan Grabois is absolutely insufficient, which in the end ends up legitimising unemployment and job insecurity. That is why we have to aim our guns in the fight for genuine work.

President Alberto Fernández announced the investment of 715 million dollars over the next three years to increase production of the Raizen refinery, in Dock Sud. This will mean 4,000 jobs and 3,000 new contracts with SME suppliers. There we have to mobilise the whole neighbourhood of “Villa Infamable” which is in front of the refinery to demand jobs for the neighbours.

Industrial activity grew by almost 4% compared to the first two months of 2021. Automotive production exceeded 48,000 units and grew 12.9% year on year, reaching the highest level of production since mid-2018. In Vaca Muerta, crude oil production in the first quarter reached the highest level in ten years. And natural gas production grew 12% year on year. That’s where the jobs are. The social organisations should organise a plan of struggle to demand work directly from the companies. The CGT and the CTA should do the same, but they won’t do it. These sold-out trade-union leaders have been negotiating for years to increase working hours, lower wages, legitimise precarious jobs and outsourcing, separating inhouse from contract workers. Many of them have even become employers. That is why they have to be pushed to fight through direct action, beginning with the fight for jobs. Meetings inside the factories to discuss wages, working conditions, sharing of work hours without wage reduction to generate employment for the unemployed comrades and a sliding wage scale to face the poverty generated by the unbridled increase in prices. No to overtime, an end to accidents and injuries at work to reach a more or less decent wage. We have to organise the employed and unemployed workers to fight together in this struggle.

Electoral meetings are not the solution

We agree with the PO, PTS, MST, Nuevo Mas and other organisations that we have to unite the employed and unemployed workers, but the discussion with them is how, for what, with what objective, with what programme and perspective. First of all, we believe that they are organising in the wrong way because they divide the meetings between each party that organises them. And, most importantly – and we want to be clear on this – the sharing of working hours without wage reduction and the sliding scale of wages will not be achieved by voting next year for FIT-U candidates such as Myriam Bregman, Nicolás del Caño, Gabriel Solano or Manuela Castañera. It will be through violent struggle, on the streets, with the mobilisation of workers and the people. “‘Realizability’ or ‘unrealizability’ is in the given instance a question of the relationship of forces, which can be decided only by the struggle.” (Trotsky, Transitional Programme). The current government of Frente de Todos is not even capable of raising taxes on agribusiness, or of carrying out a minimum price control after making a fool of itself with the announcement of the “war on inflation,” much less will it confront the multinationals and local capitalists to impose the sharing of working hours and the sliding scale of wages. Their deputies and senators will not do so either, because this Congress is made to guarantee business for the companies, not to attack their profits.

To end unemployment we have to defeat this economic model. But for that, we have to confront the state power that sustains it. It is not enough organising demonstrations or testimonial meetings of the left at Plaza de Mayo. We have to organise the anger towards a new Argentinazo, to seize government for the workers and the people, break with imperialism, expropriate the main industries, monopolise foreign trade and plan the economy. And to do that we have to prepare ourselves, breaking with the electoral logic. We know that next year there will be elections and that we are not in a revolutionary situation, but we need to seriously discuss the perspectives and the tasks we have set ourselves, fighting the idea that the problems will be solved by electing more left-wing MPs because the bosses will not let us touch their property, and neither will their government. They will put, as they have always done, the gendarmerie, the police and the judiciary at the service of the capitalists to defend their properties and profits. Therefore, there is no peaceful way out, only the people in arms can get the multinationals and vultures of the financial system out of this country, and topple their representatives in the Casa Rosada and the Congress.

Notes:

[1] Javier Gerardo Milei is an Argentinian economist and far-right politician currently serving as a federal deputy of Buenos Aires.

[2] FIT-U: Workers’ Left Front – Unity. It’s an umbrella for the electoral activities of Trotskyist parties.

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