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Argentina: Milei's victory ensures continued misery and intensified repression of proletarians



The Argentinian elections held on Sunday, November 19 proclaimed as the winner, Javier Milei, candidate of La Libertad Avanza, who have presented himself as a kind of outsider to traditional politics. Both histrionic and buffoonish, Milei has turned social networks and his more than grotesque media appearances into a kind of emblem, a flag designed to show his rejection of traditional political forms. And it was largely thanks to this, thanks to an image rather than a program, thanks to permanent scandal rather than a medium-term prospect of government, that he managed to beat first Patricia Bulrich, the candidate of the traditional right united around the Radical Civic Union, and then the Peronist candidate Sergio Massa, former Finance Minister in the government of recent years.

In the end, the results are not as strange as the press would have us believe: Milei will only be able to count on 38 seats out of 257 in Congress, and will still depend on the formation of a bloc with the traditional right-wing of  Macri and Bulrich to be able to realize its governing program. In a pattern also familiar in Spain, the "change" parties rely on the old political structures, which in reality serve to maintain their power. The situation in which Javier Milei comes to power is critical for Argentina. After four years of a Peronist government that ensured the continuity of the Kirchner dynasty (first Néstor, president of the country from 2003 to 2007, then his wife Cristina, also president from 2007 to 2015 and vice-president of the outgoing government), and due to the socio-political structure of "left-wing" Peronism, corrupt to the core and based on vast clientelist networks established with the unions and other civil organizations, the country's reality has notably deteriorated. This is why the candidacy of Massa , identified for his action in government as one of those responsible for this situation, was able to mobilize against him both La Libertad Avanza and the part of the Radical Civic Union controlled by former president Macri, who provided means, money and infrastructure to the small "ultraliberal" party.

In economic terms, the situation is the worst Argentina has seen in the last forty years, and that's saying something. In December of this year and year-on-year, inflation will rise by 210%; the low value of the peso [the national currency] makes imports incredibly expensive, essential in a country that is a net importer of industrial, technological and even agricultural products. In short, poverty has increased throughout the country, with more than 20% of the population lacking the minimum essentials to live on, and in recent years there have even been reports of children dying from hunger. The measures taken by the Peronist government have not alleviated this situation.

On the one hand, the Central Bank's action in issuing bills of exchange as compensation for commercial banks to obtain peso deposits has only increased inflationary pressures due to the expansion of its financial commitments and the interest paid on them. In addition, the country's obligations to the IMF are weighing on the economy, forcing the IMF itself to point out, in its July note, that the country is unable to meet the requirements for access to its Extended Fund Facility. Finally, the worst drought in decades has hit hardest a country whose economy is largely based on agricultural exports.

Faced with this political and economic situation, Milei's appearance as a kind of illuminated figure in national politics, as someone outside the "caste" (a professor of economics by profession, he belongs to the so-called "Austrian" current, admittedly marginal within bourgeois economic thought) seems the radical remedy that was lacking. On the one hand, because of the anti-caste rhetoric so dear to populism on the right and left, and the reference to the deep state as the true origin of social unrest, accompanied in this case by ultra-liberal rhetoric on the need to reduce the state to its simplest expression. And, on the other hand, for its economic invective, on the need to dollarize the economy, abolish the Central Bank itself, privatize all public enterprises, etc. It is precisely these outbursts, along with the buffoonery of the character, that have attracted the attention of the international press and forged the aura of the providential figure that accompanies him.

But what can we expect from Milei?

 As in other countries where such a figure has triumphed (Brazil with Bolsonaro, the USA with Trump, Italy with Meloni or Wilders in the Netherlands), what comes first is authoritarianism, the promise to toughen the law, prosecute crime and subversion, etc. It's not for nothing that Milei, detractor of the state in his speeches, is full of praise for the Argentine police, who, along with the army, have a very long history of assassinations behind them. This call to order, the banner of the petty bourgeoisie's demand for peace against the social tension that recent capitalist crises have brought to the surface, is the main objective, the rest being subordinate to it. It's easy to understand why, in addition to the so-called "anarcho-capitalists", Milei has appointed Victoria Villarruel, linked to the extreme national right and a defender of the Videla dictatorship, to the new government and as Vice-President of Argentina. The criticism of the "caste" that the new government brings to its own program also works in this direction: the idea of a government reform based on order and the iron fist is very dear to this petty bourgeoisie which, crushed by the big bourgeoisie and its state, fantasizes about the belief that it is black intrigues, families or political clans that will destroy it and reduce it to misery, and not the implacable economic and social course of capitalism.

Secondly, Milei's proposed economic reforms aim to liberalize the public sector - notably YPF (1), the airlines and public television - in order to contain spending. In this respect, Milei's message softened as soon as he came to power: from the verbal excesses of the campaign, he switched to "clean up first, sell later", which may well mean never selling, as the "caste" that corresponds to the national upper bourgeoisie may not want to get rid of it. Be that as it may, the long chain of privatizations we've been witnessing for the past forty years in all capitalist countries shows that transferring these profitable sectors or enterprises to national or international capital does not, in the medium term, imply a reduction in state spending in overall terms. From its inception, the bourgeois state has been capitalism's principal agent in terms of ownership, capacity to intervene in the market, and so on. The systematic increase in public spending, in the budget, is an irrevocable fact that derives from its need to intervene in every aspect of social life in the bourgeois world, and there is not and will not be any government capable of avoiding it, even if it wanted to... which it never does.

As for the financial adjustments aimed at stabilizing the peso's position against the dollar, so as to mitigate the galloping inflation affecting the country, we can only imagine a relative and temporary success. Although exchange liberalization measures (in Argentina, there are several peso-dollar exchange rates, with a difference of several thousand between the official rate and the much more realistic black-market rate), including all the necessary adjustments aimed at reducing government obligations that contribute to the peso's devaluation, may have the desired effect, the cause of Argentina's chronic inflation lies in the country's productive structure: the relative absence of a domestic industry means that almost all finished products have to be imported, which in turn forces the country to depend on agricultural exports. Fiscal and monetary adjustments will do nothing to change this situation, and the idea that they will trigger some kind of virtuous circle that will increase the inflow of dollars into the country and apply a balm to the current situation, will at best only produce a situation of great fragility that can only be reversed at any moment.

So what can we really expect from Milei and his government?

Economic adjustments will be made against the proletariat and against the great mass of the poor people who populate the outskirts of Greater Buenos Aires and the country's major cities. In the medium term, "fiscal discipline" will mean heavy demands on the working class, who will see how the reduction in public spending will be that of the miserable subsidies thanks to which a good proportion of them survive today. In addition, financial reform will undoubtedly be aimed at containing wages, thus limiting the peso's devaluation and inflation. And if the reforms are ultimately aimed at dollarizing the economy, this wage cut will be even greater, as wages will be fixed in dollars and forced downwards.

This situation, as promised by Milei during his election campaign, will be accompanied by tougher repression against organized sectors of the proletarian class, even when they are led by collaborationist or Peronist unions. Participants in picket lines, strikers, workers organized in cooperatives... will be constantly in the crosshairs of the new government, which will intervene harshly to ensure that its measures do not meet with a strong backlash from proletarians. In the meantime, let there be no doubt, the political "caste", trade unions and co. will remain intact, ready to enter government when Milei falls. The Milei government represents a new stage on a path that began, in a way, in 2001, with the social unrest caused by the economic crisis and the "corralito" (2). These revolts were markedly inter-classist in character, and therefore confused and without perspective (the image of Congress attacked by a mob wearing the national flag on its head is emblematic), but a sector of the working class was able to express itself, albeit in a very limited way, instinctively tending to break with both the democratic orientation of the revolts and the traditional organizations of Peronist trade unionism (CGT) and Peronist parties.

These tendencies were quickly stifled by both the state's repressive efforts and the policy of collaboration with the bourgeoisie imposed by the official left and the Trotskyist far left. Kirchnerism, a particularly aberrant form of the 21st-century socialism that opportunism brandished in those years, was the salvation of a bourgeoisie that, until then, had failed to maintain a single one of its governments. Since then, both the country's structural crisis and the worsening international situation have paved the way for a solution like the one Milei is proposing today.

Argentinian proletarians, for whom a very difficult period is now beginning, because the bourgeoisie has switched from the policy of sticks (more and more) and carrots (less and less) to open threats, will only be able to learn the lessons of this situation if they break with the terrible influence that nationalism and democratism exert on them through opportunist political and trade union organizations; only if they fight against the bourgeois offensive, not within the framework of the organizations which still control them today and which can only guarantee defeat in the face of any enemy demand, but with their own classist means and methods, with their own independent organization on the terrain of immediate struggle, with a view to breaking not only with the inertia which today prevents them from reacting, but also with the great force represented by the counter-revolution which has dominated for decades.



(1) YPF, Yacimientos Petroliferos Fiscales, is a company specializing in the exploitation, exploration, processing, distribution and sale of oil and its derivatives, 51% of whose shares are held by the State.

(2) During the Argentine economic crisis of 2001, in order to prevent the collapse of the banking system, a restriction was imposed on the availability of cash in bank accounts and savings, known as the "corralito".


November, 23d 2023



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