It was almost automatic, as Macri announced the agreement with the IMF the memory of the workers went back to 2001. That was a difficult and painful year; the crisis was so strong that money did not last until the end of the month and popular families were starving. But we also said “enough” and went onto the streets to confront and end the De La Rua government. We ask: was 2001 only a year of hardships, and was it thanks to Kirchner that we stopped such situation? To recall the memory and drawing conclusions from 2001 proves otherwise.
By Lorena Cáceres.
How did we get to 2001?
2001 was the high point of a process of adjustment that began in the Menem administration and was deepened by De La Rua, despite his electoral promises of changes. Argentina, following the IMF’s orders, plunged into a horrible situation: recession, five million unemployed, factory closures, privatizations, AFJP (Retirement and Pensions Funds Administrator, private companies which were responsible for pensions and retirements administration), more working flexibility, issuance of Cuasimonedas (patacones, lecop, etc.), a 13% cut in public workers’ wages and a financial corralito (blockage of withdrawal of deposits in current and savings accounts).
No one that has gone through this wants to live that again, so it is not necessary to wait any longer to know the outcome of this film directed by the IMF and Cambiemos (Let’s Change, political coalition headed by Macri), with the support of all the governors and the “responsible” opposition. In 2001, we saw how governments led us to dire straits and now they are trying to do it again.
What did we do?
The version of those who want to appropriate the popular struggle suggests that we workers accepted the misery without protesting and then Kirchner came forth to save us. Nothing further from reality!
Despite the attempts by the Alliance government, outrage began to grow. In the provinces, they blocked the roads, took to the streets and demanded subsidies for the unemployed because they could no longer live in such condition. Repression intensified and the neighborhoods’ struggles grew and organized through the pickets movement. The working class, due to the bureaucracy’s truce with the government, accumulated defeats, and although in the factories there was fear because work was reducing, part of the CGT was forced to carry out actions and strikes, through which it managed to partially quiet down the popular wrath.
The union leaders, at the time, did not organize the struggle in a consistent way to stop the adjustment. Today, the same leaders who were not consistent against De La Rua support Macri through passivity.
But the bureaucrats’ contention policy had a limit. We were tired of everything and everyone, we took the streets chanting Everyone out, let there be no one left! What the Argentinian people did was heroic: they took the streets, disobeyed the state of siege, and many died confronting the repression.
December 20 [day that De la Rua left the Casa Rosada in a helicopter] was celebrated with joy, despite the accumulated pain and fatigue of hours of combat. But we did not stop there. The Legislative Assembly (composed of Peronistas, Radicales and other employers’ representatives) proposed temporary presidents who did not answer the general demands, which took the people to the streets again forcing them to resign one after another.
Despite the IMF, Argentina had to suspend the payment of the public debt, and this was a victory of the fight. The popular uprising, which overthrew the government, made employers and imperialism tremble. The non-payment of the debt, at this point, allowed for the creation of a policy to fight hunger through, for example, social plans.
It was the struggle waged on the streets that managed to fulfill many demands that, later, Kirchnerismo wanted to take ownership of. The fear of popular mobilization caused both Peronism and Radicalismo to work together to present a new candidate who would take power back to the hands of the business’ representatives. Even though not everyone fell, as workers aimed, they had to make concessions and even change their speeches, like Kirchner did with the DDHH (Human Rights and Cultural Pluralism Secretariat) demands.
For a New Argentinazo so that workers can rule
Today, when we think of 2001, we know how much we are capable of if we fight. It is not necessary to suffer so much to take to the streets and take down everyone who now implements the adjustments. We have to remember the best experiences and overcome the mistakes. The only way to stop Macri and the IMF’s adjustment is by taking both of them down. We cannot trust those who brought us into this situation.
Peronism, that claims to be resisting, supported De La Rua until the very end and wants to do the same now with Macri in order to get to 2019 [elections]. Therefore, we know that no acceptable proposal will come from the employers’ political spaces. Only we workers know what we need, not those that defend the interests of the businessmen.
The Rio Turbio miners had to fight hard to be rehired. They are the clear example that, now, the working class is standing and it is not afraid. We need for this working class to head the struggle, through self-organization, taking down the union bureaucracies, becoming the leadership of all those who go to the streets to defeat Macri and to not accept for all the same to come back to power.
These lessons show prove us that we can overthrow this government, and also to not make the same mistakes in this regard. We do not need to anticipate the elections nor for the left to gain more seats in the Assembly. In order to defeat Macri, we need a new Argentinazo that imposes a workers’ government that can carry out an economic plan at the service of the poor people, and not serving the interest of imperialism.
We went to the struggle in 2001, and we are going to the fight now. We do not need to wait anymore for the workers to rule.
Translation: Marcos K.