From Tijuana to northern Mexico, at the U.S. border, to the Patagonia in southern Argentina, Latin American workers are protesting against the attacks of governments to their life conditions. They are not being respected. From right-wing governments Pieña Nieto, Mexico’s president, or Mauricio Macri from Argentina, until those considered “leftists”, as Michele Bachelet, from Chile, or Nicolás Maduro, Venezuelan president: they are all targets of giant demonstrations and workers rage, who cannot stand so much exploitation anymore. The same occurs in Brazil, against Temer. We will talk about Argentina, Paraguay and Venezuela: our focus is to show Brazilians workers that they are not alone. Our Latin American brothers are together in this struggle for a better future, without exploitation and for a socialist world.
By Marcos Margarido.
Argentina: Three Historical Days of Struggle
The president of Argentina, Mauricio Macri, took office on December 2015, replacing Cristina Kirchner, who ended her second term involved in countless political scandals and accused of corruption.
Macri promised a recovery for the country and won the election, but he left the country worse than before and his popularity dropped. The Argentinian economy shrank 2,3% in 2016 and inflation reaches 40% per year. Industrial production keeps falling since he took the office, and because of this the unemployment rate has made a leap to 9,3%. Poverty affects 15 million of a population of 44 millions.
Workers give no truce to the government. There are several struggles ongoing, which show the will to defeat Macri’s economic program. Like oil workers from Chubut against the 1500 layoffs; or graphic workers form the Newspaper Clarín (the most important one in the country) currently occupying their workplace for more than 40 days now; and metal workers from GM [General Motors], where the bosses want to impose a 350 layoffs.
All of them were main actors during the three historical days of struggle. It all started on March, the 6th, when a teachers’ rally against the imposition of wage ceiling turned into a massive demonstration against the government.
The main federation, the CGT [General Workers’ Confederation] took advantage of the situation to organize a protest against Macri’s economic plans for the day after. This federation is led by “career” doormats, with a long list of services provided to bosses, including the struggles mentioned above, but they were forced to call the event due to pressure of the ranks and files.
What came next is unforgettable: in the biggest event against the government, workers’ pushed their leaders: “General Strike! Let’s defeat Macri by force! Enough runaround! Set a date for the General Strike!”.
But the doormats refused to respond the demand, and so an outraged mass took down the fences that were protecting the stage forcing their leaders to scape like rats, hiding. This action which will remain in the history of the working class like the day in which, for the first time, the rank and file made bureaucrats run away.
On March 8, it was women’s turn. On their international day of struggle, more than 50 cities made events that gathered hundreds of thousands of women of all ages, as well as many men. Carrying posters against domestic violence, against rape, and chanting slogans for the General Strike. It was a day that joint the struggle against male-chauvinist oppression with struggles against capitalist exploitation and the economic plan of the government.
Those were three great days of struggle. And there still was a fourth one, on April 6: eventually, the CGT and the CTA [Argentinian Workers’ Central] called the General Strike. Industries, health, education, transportation and banks stopped. The streets of Capital Federal, in Buenos Aires, were empty. Tens of flights were canceled and many streets and roads were blocked. Only emergencies were taken in hospitals, and there was no garbage recollection. The strike was a success!
There were several confrontations with the police and tens of arrested protesters. Such was the government’s way to “negotiate”. Union leaders, on their side, had the same policy of withdraw and betrayal as always. In the middle of the strike, they said they were open to negotiate the government’s economic policy. Yet the workers know that, if necessary, they can make these doormats run away again. As an old Argentinian saying states, the fight will be “headed by leaders or with the leaders beheaded”.
Paraguay: the Day the Masses Burnt the Congress!
In Paraguay, there is not an economical crisis like the one that affects countries like Argentina or Brazil. The economy has grown 3,5% in 2016. But not because of this the population live better. The wealth accumulated by the economic growth goes straight to the hands to a few landowners, soy planters, constructions businessmen (which grew 20% at the expense of the State), and the industrial sector (that grew 7% based on assembly plants of imported products).
Yet life conditions of workers and peasants keep getting worse. The expansion of soy plantations takes places at the expense peasants expelled from their lands; industrial growth is based on the reduction of salaries; and the state has become a paradise for corruption and private business through the Congress. Poverty reaches 22% of the population, almost half of which live in absolute misery, which means that they have nothing to eat.
As a consequence of this situation, the popularity of the Horacio Cartes administration has dropped from 57% in 2015 to 14% in 2016. This political and economic situation led to the attempt of approving a constitutional amendment which allows the reelection of president Cartes. The debate on the amendment is being postponed while the parties maneuvers and negotiate in the Congress. To guarantee its voting, the Senate regime has been modified by 25 of the 45 senators, in an office from the Guasu Front, closed doors. An completely irregular action.
However, a demonstration against the amendment, on March 31, changed the nature of the situation: thousands of people, with strong participation of the high-school youth, went over the fence that protected the Congress and expressed all their anger against the corrupt and exploiter regime and a president who aims to remain in power forever, and they occupied the Congress and set fire to the Main Hall. Police reacted killing a young man who was in the headquarters of the Liberal Party, and arresting more than 200 protesters.
The biggest betrayal is on account of the former president Fernando Lugo, removed from office by impeachment in 2012, and his Guasu Front, which supported the amendment for reelection. With approval, Lugo would have the right to run on the next election. Lugo and his supporters, who claim that impeachment was a coup, now join to the politicians of the Partido Colorado, the one that supported the bloody Stroessner dictatorship (1953 – 1989), to pass a constitutional amendment against the will of the population.
Venezuela: the Dream is Over
Venezuela, under the presidency of Nicolás Maduro, lives the end of one of the biggest frauds of the global workers’ movement: the so called XXI Century Socialism, invented by Hugo Chavez, president of the country for 14 years from 1999 until his death, in 2013.
Chavez ruled during a period of raise of oil prices, making Venezuela –the second biggest oil exporter in the world– a wealthy nation. However, he used all the money from oil to strengthen the capitalists who supported him, called boliburguesia [Boli-bourgeoisie], while the poor people lived out of welfare programs, like the Misiones (Missions, similar to the Brazilian Bolsa Familia). Instead of industrializing the country, the capitalists took advantage of the flux of money coming to their pockets to enrich themselves through the purchase and sale of dollars.
But the world economic crisis made the oil prices drop, so nowadays the Venezuelan population is starving. Children die from malnutrition, as well as entire families from food poisoning after eating food from the garbage. The street-sweepers beg while working, to complete their incomes. Restaurant and food stores employees steal whatever they can to feed their families. Poverty reaches 24 million of the 30 million inhabitants. A crowd is crossing the borders to Colombia or Brazil looking for a better life.
Inflation has reached incredible 800% in 2016, and the wage of those who have a job can barely afford basic food, because the prices increase everyday. The economy of the country shrank 1/5 in one year, reaching an official unemployment rate of 30%.
In midst of this social catastrophe, the government responds to the growing popular protests with anti-democratic measures and repression. Regional elections were suspended, as well as important unions’, like Sidor and the National Federation of Oil Workers. The collect of signatures demanding a referendum to anticipate the presidential election, which will only take place in 2018, was suspended by the Electoral Court [CNE]. Beyond all of this, the country is under State of Exception decreed by the government.
However, the political crisis worsened over the last weeks. The Supreme Court of Justice [SCJ – TSJ in Spanish] issued a sentence giving extensive powers to Maduro, and also gave itself legislative powers in replacement of the National Congress, controlled by the bourgeoise opposition. It also annulled the political rights of the right-wing opposition leader, Henrique Capriles, for 15 years. This decision bans the current governor of the state of Miranda to run for next presidential elections.
The general outrage forced the government and the TSJ to withdraw on their intentions and reignited the protests against the government: there were three protests on the first week of April only.
Unfortunately, the protests are led by the MUD (Mesa de Unidad Democrática), an alliance of right-wing parties that only has more attacks, privatizations and corruption to offer to the population. What they want is to take control of oil incomes and the country’s natural resources to assist their allies economically and keep the Boli-bourgeoisie away from this source of wealth. Nothing good will come out of this dispute to the workers.
This happens because the mains left-wing parties have capitulated to Chavez’s and Maduro’s governments, leaving the opposition flag in hands of the MUD. Instead of building an independent political alternative to Chavism and the bourgeoise opposition they preferred to associate to Chavez. Many leftist organizations joined the PSUV, Chavez’s Party, fully silencing any workers’ voice opposition. And they remain silent before the countless Maduro’s dictatorial measures, worthy of being called a coup if they were decreed by Temer, for example.
Reactionary Wave or Resistance of the Peoples?
In the middle of this situation of countless struggles, advances and setbacks; of tough workers’ and youth resistance against the attacks made by bosses and governments, many leftist state we are facing a “reactionary wave”. In Brazil, the PT and PCdoB spread this idea – even if we can hardly call them “leftists” anymore. But the PSOL is part of this too: to them, we live in a situation in which workers are cornered by the advance of reactionary forces, represented by different sectors of the neoliberal bourgeoise, against the progressive “left” sectors. Anyone fits in this progressive “left”, even the PT and Lula; Chavez and Maduro; Cristina Kirchner; Fernando Lugo, etc.
The root of this poor analysis of reality is that these parties have resigned to the perspective of a social revolution carried by the working class to seize the power in straight combat, so they make their bets on an electoral perspective, aiming to win the parliament and even the government. They have become reformists. So, they think the electoral victory of right-wing candidates and parties, such as trump in the U.S., Macri in Argentina, and the fall of Dilma in Brazil, mean a strategical defeat for workers.
Nevertheless, these victories happened due to the failure of the progressive “left” on presenting a policy to solve definitively the situation of exploitation and misery of the Latin-American peoples, or to even ease their situation. When they rule and the economy grows, they offer welfare programs and the job demand increases, but they fail completely when the economic crisis reduces jobs and wages. The most categorical example is Venezuela, but the other “progressive” governments follow the same steps. Thus, the population punishes these parties at ballots and votes on the opposition that has more money, appears on the news everyday and has the support of imperialist countries like the U.S. That is why the electoral victory of these parties is not the rule but the exception.
On the other side, the revolutionary left, like the PSTU in Brazil, the PSTU in Argentina, the PT in Paraguay and the UST in Venezuela, state that the ongoing struggle, carried out by workers –as seen, many times against union and political leaders– is the only way for a definitive liberation from salaried slavery imposed by capitalism. This struggle will suffer more defeats than victories, because our enemy is stronger; but the working class will know how to overcome its weaknesses and advance towards the conquest of a socialist society, as long as they count with a revolutionary leadership independent of the bosses.
Translation: Eduardo Correia Neto.