Argentina After the Elections: Political Changes and the Strategies of the Left

By Sergio García, MST leader and member of the National Board of the FIT-Unidad

Macri is exiting, Alberto Fernández (AF) is about to enter, but the IMF continues. There will be changes and continuity. What government and regime are we heading towards? What social responses will there be? Amidst the polarization, the FIT-Unidad achieved a significant vote, but fell back a few steps. Our proposals to advance.

Macri and his political coalition have just lost the national election and this is not a minor issue: the project designed and mounted by the great pro-imperialist bourgeoisie to execute the structural changes they needed and, at the same time, secure Argentina, along with Bolsonaro’s Brazil, as allies of US policies in the region, exits the government. With their electoral defeat, these reactionary changes are stalled halfway. And, in these four years they have not been able to take the mass movement out of the streets: albeit with inconsistencies, the resistance and the confrontation of the austerity plan were expressed several times.

In fact, Macri´s defeat was reflected electorally now because the old union bureaucracy and the PJ[1] diverted the great rise in struggle of late 2017, when thousands confronted the labour and pension reforms. That was the beginning of the end for this government: it never managed to recover from those days. It did not fall earlier because his trade union and political allies held it in place, but it ended up defeated because its relationship with a broad sector of society was broken and it was unable to recover support for its project.

Macri´s departure from the presidency is a political blow to US intentions and plans in the region, which attempted to recompose its political and economic power in the continent through the Lima Group, with Macri, Bolsonaro, Piñera, and Duque of Colombia. With Macri, the US is losing an important ally and an obedient minion. Out of pure pragmatism, Trump and Fernandez already had a friendly telephone conversation a few days ago. The US president will now try to reach a new political and economic agreement with the Peronist government, which, like so many other times, even with double speak, will be willing to accept.

Peronism in Power: Signs of Change, Decisions of Continuity

Though he has not officially been sworn in, Fernandez is already acting and travelling as the Argentinian president. He has recently met in Mexico with AMLO. At that meeting, he gave a glimpse into his new political architecture, which has many convenient phrases but no significant changes. He showed himself willing to look for a progressive cooperation in the region, and also hinted that he would not leave the reactionary Lima Group. He plays it ambiguously, trying to show changes while not breaking away from the imperialist powers.

On this base, he is on his way to a re-negotiation with the IMF, a crucial issue for the upcoming times. The Fund asks for a clear plan of payments and interest guarantees, and more decision power over the structural changes it seeks in order to approve new deliveries of money. The US asks for Argentina to comply with the IMF, and Fernandez wants to comply with the entire external debt, though he knows that, in his discourse, he has to contain his electoral base, which voted against the IMF´s austerity and expects important changes. The country will navigate through that unstable equilibrium in the following months. Needless to say, the IMF does not sign deals that are not useful to its policies: it wants its members and associates tied to its plans.

Between the internal and external debt in dollars, Argentina has deadlines totalling 140 billion dollars for the next four years. Fernandez and the PJ have already declared that they will comply. Evidently, if they do, they will not comply with the social demands of the combative Argentinian people. Through these tense contradictions, a not very distant discontent will accumulate, and its first expressions will not take long to emerge.

The PJ and Fernández are going to be facing very difficult times and they are aware of it. That is why they promote a social pact between employers, the union bureaucracy, and the churches. Through this pact, they intend to contain people’s demands for a long period, a scheme that does not exclude the possibility of the Peronist bureaucracy, with its unions, acting as a repressive apparatus against the processes of struggle that may emerge from below.

In parallel, Fernández is already organizing meetings with governors, investors and big companies around two main priorities – both implying a high level of continuity – of what he says will be his “motors”: Vaca Muerta for oil exploitation, in order to attract new million-dollar investments at the expense of a greater surrender of resources, environmental destruction and militarization of the region; and large scale mining, for that sector´s corporations, who are experts in liquidating entire areas at the service of their profit.

In these issues, as well as in his endorsement of the external debt fraud, and his direct relationship with the Vatican and its reactionary agenda, the characteristics of the government of Fernández and the PJ become clear. At the same time, these official priorities will spark disillusion and new waves of struggles and political debates that will begin sooner rather than later.

An Analysis of the Left´s Electoral Results
The elections took place in an exacerbated process of polarization, promoted by the government and the PJ, and induced by the mass media. Therefore, they practically became a run-off election, with little space for the remaining forces. In this more than difficult context for socialist and anti-capitalist forces, what predominated was a “lesser evil” and punishment vote against Macrism on one hand, and its also massive counter-effect against the return of Peronism. In both tendencies, the left saw its electoral flow slightly reduced. The FIT-Unidad presidential candidacy surpassed 2% with over 600.000 votes, and the legislative positions obtained a slightly higher amount (800.000). Sadly, we fell short of electing a national representative by a small margin, though we did obtain a seat in the legislature of the City of Buenos Aires, in addition to several provincial representatives and councillors that we elected a few months ago in Neuquén and Córdoba.

For a better understanding of the left´s electoral reality today, we cannot reduce the analysis of the results to the objective causes. Every serious and critical evaluation must take into account the relevance of the subjective factor, meaning the policies of the left in the previous years and months. Taking this into consideration is the only way to correctly and integrally obtain an understanding of the evolutionary left´s electoral situation.

From this perspective, we cannot ignore that the FIT of the previous years (PTS-PO-IS) had a great opportunity at its best moment that it did not manage to take advantage of. After reaching important peaks of electoral support and counting with a high level of social, trade union and intellectual support, it did not respond to its own reality in the only way it should have: opening their front to lead a greater unity of the left, breaking out of the limited electoral terrain and extending that unity to a joint intervention in the class struggle.

It only decided to take this indispensable unitary path this year, and on the verge of the deadline for presenting alliances, losing valuable political time by presenting separate lists in many provincial elections, during the first half of the year. After this, we were able to reach an agreement and, with the incorporation of our MST, advance in the formation of the FIT-Unidad. Several media outlets spread this great news under the title “a historic unity of the left”, when there was already a dynamic not of ascent but of political-electoral retreat.

It is worth noting that the conformation of the FIT-Unidad was very necessary and positive, yet late. This conditioned our chances of reaching the August primary elections in much better shape. From that point, the dynamic of polarization did the rest, in addition to some partial mistakes during the campaign, within the framework of a very successful policy in general. As we evaluated at the FIT-Unidad National Board, the campaign was the most left wing and politically correct one since 2011.

Summarizing, on the basis of all the positive points, we also highlight a critical vision of different aspects. We will go over conclusions from previous years and the present, with the conviction that not forgetting important critical aspects must be positively useful for our political response to future challenges. Our central task is to collaborate with qualitatively improving our unity of the left is a central task.

The FIT-Unidad: Advances and Limits to Overcome

The elections have passed and the time for assessments is also coming to an end. However, for those who analyse reality to understand it better and fight in better conditions to transform it, the relationship between assessments and future tasks has a unique value. We believe the present, and especially the future of the FIT-Unidad, is linked to the development of a combination of political factors that depend on the members of our front.

On one hand, we vindicate the formation of the FIT-Unidad, and plan to maintain and improve it. To this end, we have a comprehensive anti-capitalist and socialist political program, the foundation and outline of our unitary construction. This program passed the test of the electoral battle and that is why we were the only political option with proposals that constituted a clear alternative to the candidates of the system and the capitalist regime. In the campaign, our main public figures accompanied every struggle. Del Caño and Del Plá, from the presidential formula, with candidates like Cele Fierro, Alejandro Bodart and Vilma Ripoll of our MST, Bregman and many others, were spokespeople and militants of an anti-capitalist and socialist policy throughout the campaign. We also held a historic event on 9 de Julio Avenue, with thousands and thousands of militants and supporters, and organized the closing rally of our campaign in support of the Chilean people, in front of the consulate, highlighting, on the last day of the campaign, on which side we stand and what our commitments are.

These clearly positive and meritorious achievements, must be combined in the future with the modification of some essential issues that have to be reconsidered if we want to break the current dynamic of electoral retreat, and embark on a new path of growth in different aspects. Hence, the importance of a proper assessment and of being consequential with it. It is equally important to relaunch our front on new bases, that we sum up in the following points:

  • We propose that this great unity of the left act as a permanent political front, and not only during electoral months. That we try to answer politically to every event in a unitary way, showcasing our front, and disseminating our opinions and proposals. We have to avoid the trends that, in one way or another, lead to electoralist conceptions, because we need something qualitatively different and superior.
  • With the same goal in mind, this shift must be extended to our intervention in the processes of the class struggle, in the working class with the unity and coordination of the combative unionism, in the feminist and LGBT+ movement, and in the rise of the environmentalist struggle, among the youth and the unemployed. There cannot be a separation between our intervention in the social struggles and the political struggle: they are part of the same strategy; separating them weakens our intervention in both.
  • We also believe that we must have a policy of extension and renewal of our front, on the basis of democratizing debates, our organizational methods, and our active relationship with the intellectual, environmental, social, feminist and LGBT leaders, and groups and organizations that defend our policy and program. We need to turn the FIT-Unidad outwards to strongly reposition it.
  • On this political and methodological basis of joint action during 2020, it is also imperative to democratize the preparation of lists for the 2021 elections, through fair and realistic agreements, internal elections or another democratic mechanism to guarantee that we all are protagonists, and to fully utilize the strength and public figures of each organization.

We pose these debates, among others, in our front, as a contribution to the strengthening of the FIT-Unidad for the upcoming period and the challenges we will face. It is necessary to turn this unity into a project that – backed by the mobilization, the working class, the youth, feminism and the popular sectors – radically presents itself as a political alternative, attracting new sectors, renewing and expanding to present the mass movement with a working class, socialist and anti-capitalist policy.

Argentina, the Regional Context and Our Strategic Challenges.

As everyone can see, there is a new ascent of the class struggle in our region. It manifests itself in various ways and with logical inequalities, in a combination of a rising class struggle with social and political polarization. In the last weeks, its dynamic was marked first by Ecuador and then by Chile, as the main processes. Nonetheless, it is a more widespread phenomenon of ascent, with manifestations in Colombia, Haiti, Honduras, Argentina, expressions of repudiation of Bolsonaro in Brazil, the political crisis in Peru, and let’s not forget the enormous feat of Puerto Rico a couple of months ago that overthrew a government. And this is happening in other regions of the world, too.

Political change in Argentina will find, as long as the austerity plan continues, new expressions of the class struggle and working class and popular resistance; possibly, also, of the youth and the feminist movement, which has grown to large scale proportions in our country. There is no doubt that this will happen and it will enrich an ongoing regional uprising.

It is precisely in this framework that we, as revolutionaries, have important opportunities and political challenges ahead of us. If there is something that unites the tasks and perspectives of Chile, Ecuador, Brazil and Argentina, it is the imperative need to strengthen the anti-capitalist and socialist political alternatives that struggle for a workers´ government. The struggles that these peoples lead must be strengthened in the political field as a priority and a strategic task. As our comrades of the Movimiento Anticapitalista do in Chile, growing as a revolutionary organization while seeking a political articulation with other anti-capitalist groups. There are efforts by sectors of the left wing of the PSOL in Brazil, to give that party an anti-capitalist and socialist course, struggling against its conciliatory tendencies. And we are doing our part in Argentina, building the MST and being an active part of the FIT-Unidad, which received international support from an important number of organizations and individuals in this campaign, something that we deeply appreciate. In our country, thanks to Trotskyism´s strong tradition, and the important accumulation of cadres and militants trained in revolutionary Marxism, the possibilities can be even greater and, logically, the responsibilities, as well. Whether the FIT-Unidad rises to the occasion in this new political stage, depends on the policies and orientations of our own front. That is why, from the MST, we raise proposals and will insist on making changes to be applied in practice, strengthening the political struggle of the left against the political forces of the regime and the possibilist, reformist and skeptical theories that stand in the way of the leap we need to take.

If this great unity of the left that we have built can improve itself, surpassing its limitations and problems, we will be a great contribution to the regional struggle against the capitalists´ plans. This is our political objective. In the upcoming period, we will strengthen the MST nationally as a revolutionary party more inserted in the working class and the youth, in order to be as strong as possible in promoting socialist, feminist, internationalist and working class politics. As the Argentine section of the ISL, we accept this responsibility in the upcoming challenges. We invite the activists, the vanguard and the left wing electoral base that accompanied us these months in different activities, to join us in the construction of this militant and revolutionary political tool.

[1] Partido Justicialista, traditional Peronist bourgeois party.