Faced with the constant attacks on their living conditions, the Argentinean working class is responding with a growing fighting spirit. The bourgeoisie in Argentina is preparing for the possibility of a wave of strikes in different sectors. That is why the government with the support of the unions is taking immediate measures to contain the anger in response to the deteriorating conditions – to the precariousness and the effects of globally rising inflation. Though offering wage increases by instalments has become very fashionable right now, this will not compensate for the loss of purchasing power due to inflation in all the countries of the world, including Argentina.
Argentina is currently the country with the second highest inflation in the region after Venezuela. By the end of 2022 the rate of inflation had reached 94%, the highest since 1991. The economic consequences of the war in Ukraine1 following the covid pandemic have been severe. Inflation has caused a deterioration in the material conditions of the population but this deterioration has become much worse for the working class in all countries. Inflation is eroding the purchasing power of workers while wages remain static. It is not by chance that on 26 August last year, the Argentine government has announced a 21% increase in the minimum wage in three stages, rising from 47,850 pesos per month (around 200 euros) to 57,900 pesos (243 euros) in November this year2.
Faced with the capitalist crisis that has hit Argentina, there have been many struggles in recent months, such as that of the workers of the Bridgestone, Fate and Pirelli tyre companies, which paralysed the Argentine car industry for several months, affecting the production of these factories. After lengthy negotiations between the Sutna (United Tyre Workers) union, the companies and the government, an agreement was reached to increase the wages of Sutna-affiliated workers. The wage increase will be in instalments, with the additional promise from the companies to also give each worker a one-off bonus to of 100,000 pesos (about 421 euros).
The parties, unions, the Piqueteros and the government are all against the working class
Like the struggles of the workers in the tyre industry, there are other struggles that have been taking place since before the pandemic that have been stifled and controlled by the parties, unions, Piqueteros and the government, illustrating how they all act in a coordinated way against the workers.
At the beginning of 2022, the German press agency DW (Deutsche Welle) said: “The president of Argentina, Alberto Fernandez, announced this Friday (28.01.2022) that an ‘agreement’ was reached with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to refinance the loan of more than 44 million that the IMF gave the country in 2018 when the liberal Mauricio Macri was head of government”.
Anticipating and pre-empting this announcement at the beginning of January 2022, Eduardo Belliboni, leader of Polo Obrero and head of the Unidad Piquetera, already announced that 2022 will be much more eventful than 2021. And so it happened. “The greatest mobilisation of demands against the government of Alberto Fernández”, called the “Federal March”, was prepared by organisations and social movements (Coordinadora por el Cambio Social, Polo Obrero (PO), Movimiento Barrios de Pie (MBP), etc., those grouped together in the Unidad Piquetera. The mobilisation, which emerged in different states, began on 10 May 2022 in the cities of La Quiaca and Ushuaia and ended on 12 May in the capital Buenos Aires.
The marchers voiced slogans such as: “For work and for wages; against hunger and poverty”. Eduardo Belliboni, said “The Federal March of the Piqueteros is becoming a march of the working people against the falling wages and for their own demands. It is uniting unemployed, employed and retired workers behind the leadership of the main trade unions. A prospect of unity and struggle is opening up for the popular movement, in support of the basic demands of the working class suffering from the government’s agreement with the IMF…We are demanding real jobs and a wage that will be enough to feed a family and allow us to live. We are marching against hunger and poverty that has reached scandalous levels in Argentina”.
The demonstration arose in response to the government’s decision not to extend further the “Promote Access to Employment” programme to those people in desperate need. Currently there are around 1,200,000 people receiving 19,470 pesos per month (equivalent to around 85 euros).
These protests are taking place at a time when we are seeing a new development unfolding in Argentina, with the various bourgeois factions clashing more and more openly with each other in the run-up to the parliamentary elections in November. The bourgeois factions that defend Peronism within the “Casa Rosada” are divided into those who continue to support “Kirshnerism” and others around Fernández, a struggle that has been going on for years. The presidential couple have not spoken to each other for two months and openly insult each other. The spokespersons of the former president call Fernández a usurper of the throne and remind her that she is in this position on a temporary basis. “The government is ours” warned Andrés Larroque, minister in the province of Buenos Aires and strongman of La Cámpora, the group led by Máximo Kirchner, Cristina’s son. Fernández replied herself saying that “Nobody owns the government, the government belongs to the people”.
On the eve of these November elections the struggle for power is increasing between the different bourgeois factions, the Peronists, the centre moderates, the right-wing around Macri alongside the emergence of a “psychedelic” nationalist populist and self-styled “libertarian”, like Javier Milei, who presents himself as anti-socialist, anti-communist, anti-Peronist, anti-traditional political parties, and openly claims to be a staunch admirer of Trump and Bolsonaro.
We have been reporting on the Piquetero movement: for some time:“Between June and August (2005) we have seen the biggest wave of strikes for 15 years”. We have reported that the Argentine proletariat was showing itself to be combative, fighting on its class terrain and showing a capacity to recognise itself as a class with its own class identity. In the same article we analysed and outlined how these workers’ struggles, on a difficult road to recovery, were still very weak and were overshadowed by “…a noisy and hyper-exposed media confrontation between the Piquetero organisations and the government”.
The Piqueteros, a movement mainly comprised of the unemployed, arose within the interclass struggles of late 2001, and acquired great notoriety due to the mass media which propelled them into the political limelight as the true standard-bearers of the “legitimate struggles” of the people seeking improvements in their living conditions. All the leftist groups, Stalinists, Trotskyists, Maoists, etc, collaborators in the mystification of the workers’ struggles, allied themselves with the bourgeois state to give the piqueteros a pseudo-revolutionary support, which deceived and confused the unemployed workers and those impoverished sectors of society even more, diverting them into the dead end of democracy and parliamentary elections, support for one or other messiah of the bourgeoisie, like the way Mr. Kirshner was presented at that time.
Since the end of 2001, year after year, the Piqueteros have continuously led demonstrations demanding an increase in economic resources for the social welfare programmes that benefit the weak and the unemployed, or for improving social programmes and policies to make precarious jobs more bearable, without having been able to change anything substantial in the living conditions of the workers. So absolutely nothing has been gained. Argentina is one of the worst countries in the region in terms of living conditions and wages. It is often compared to Venezuela. The workers are suffering the onslaught of inflation and job insecurity. The Argentinean bourgeoisie, using everything at its disposal, including the “popular organisations”, is inflicting greater sacrifices on society as a whole and the working class in particular. The trade union organisations, the political parties of the so-called left and all that motley assortment of popular organisations that promote false ideological and political concepts and ideas, contribute to this work by gently leading the workers into the bourgeois trap: from all angles they assail the IMF, attack the government of the day, defending democracy and nation at the same time. The populace will be led to the polls, gambling their future on whoever claims to be the current Messiah.
The IMF is clearly an instrument of capitalism, specifically serving the strongest countries of the world against the weakest. However, all the capitalists of the world exploit the workers of the world. In other words, not only the IMF, American capitalism etc., but Argentinean capital and the Argentinean state are also fully engaged in this exploitation.
It is a cheap trick to make a show of “anti-imperialist” opposition to the IMF to link the working class with the nation, with Argentinean capital and in defence of class exploitation behind the white-blue colour of the Argentinean flag. The mobilisations of the Piqueteros, Polo Obrero, the Peronists, the trade unions, present the population with a choice on offer between capitalists: siding either with the IMF executioner or with the so-called “independent” executioner, Argentinean capital.
The IMF is an instrument of capitalism, which does its work, just like the governments of Kirshner, Fernandez, Macri, and all the previous governments. All the political parties are its partners, from the right to the left, including all those who support the populist and psychedelic current of Milei, alongside the unions and the piqueteros. Their sole purpose: to prevent the proletariat from developing its struggle on its own class terrain.
Therefore, it is very clear that this movement orchestrated by “La Unidad Piquetera”, is a movement that acts against the class interests of the Argentinean proletariat. Its activity only sows further confusion. Its methods of struggle are not the methods of proletarian struggle. They lead to the dilution of the proletariat within the broader population, support the defence of the Argentine nation and the use of parliamentary elections as a mechanism to legitimise power, a policy that coincides with the whole bourgeois programme of the leftist organisations, which support the bourgeois state par excellence.
Finally, the bourgeoisie has already used the failed attack against Cristina Kirchner in an attempt to mobilise the population in the defence of democracy and national unity, uniting itself with its executioners. The bourgeoisie can use this ideological weaponry against the workers. This enables the bourgeoisie to create confusion in the minds of the workers, pushing them to take sides in the conflicts between the competing bourgeois factions.
Like the working class in Britain that is fighting back against the economic crisis, inflation, precariousness and exploitation, exacerbated by capitalist decomposition, the Argentinean working class must fight with all its might against all the ideological traps that are ultimately defended and used by these organisations that defend the bourgeois state and the capitalist order. 8.
 It is scandalous and a clear demonstration of how the unions divide and confront the workers that the wage increase only goes to the workers affiliated to the union.