Argentina: The Left and the Struggles at the Front of a Day of Action

In the context of the call for an “Open Tribune of social organizations and sectors in struggle,” various organizations of the left, like the MST and its union organization ANCLA, and the PTS-MAC, held a huge rally at the Obeliso in Buenos Aires. The unrest generated by relentless austerity against the people; the rejection of collective negotiations and wage raises for essential workers; the waste of funds to pay an illegal and fraudulent foreign debt; the increase in investment of the repressive apparatus, together with the disappearance followed by death of Facundo Castro, motivated this political sector to shout “enough!” for the accumulated anger. A first step in raising a third political force in the country; the one on the left.

By Nico Zuttión

A large caravan of cars, motorcycles, bicycles and people on foot gathered at the Obelisco of the City of Buenos Aires. Under the open sky, at the end of the evening, health workers, teachers, delivery workers, all essential in this pandemic, along with thousands of social activists and left-wing militants were present at the “Open Tribune of social organizations and sectors in struggle.” Once again, with this rally, the city of Buenos Aires became a spectator of how different claims turned the anger against the government in the street. This time driven by the left.

Flags and banners demanding increases of salaries, pensions, the health budget, an end to precariousness, decent housing, “ni una menos” (not one woman less), no to the police, in short, that the obvious be prioritized in the face of the social, economic and health crisis that is being experienced, were concrete demands for the government of Alberto Fernández. His stance, increasingly in favor of the bosses and the IMF, and encouraging a repressive escalation, prompted the rejection and massive militancy of the left and sectors in struggle that fight against an orientation that is leaving the country in ruins.

The workers´ testimony

The beginning of the event was in charge of two delivery workers. Carlos Mareco, from the “Dar Vuelta Todo” (turn everything over) group, gave the opening statement with his testimony, commenting that “in this great congregation of struggle, delivery and fast food workers are present. Beyond being told that we are partners, collaborators and freelancers, we are aware that we are workers who are denied our rights.” And he denounced that “while the police received salary increases of 60%, we are still paid the same rates as two years ago, while they tell us that we are essential.” Closing, he called for a worldwide strike of distributors for October 8.

For his part, Marcelo de La Red, a Glovo delivery worker, denounced his employer, which has decided to flee the country with the huge profits it has accumulated over the years, leaving hundreds of workers in the street.

Other contributions came from the voice of Paula Viña and Eduardo Lusa, LATAM workers who have been fighting for a long time against the emptying of the company. Paula Viña, of the aeronautical traffic sector and member of the MST´s ANCLA organization said “for 6 months we have been fighting. LATAM took advantage of the pandemic to unload the crisis on our shoulders. Meanwhile the union leaderships have been abandoned us.” In addition, she said “these are no times for halftones. We hear the government saying one thing in its speech, but giving in to the interests of businessmen. The solution is to make LATAM, the entire company, part of the flagship airline, Aerolineas Argentinas, so that no family is left without a job.

Workers from Madygraf and the Italian Hospital, from the Bordó organization of Sanidad (private healthcare workers´ union) of different clinics and laboratories, were also present to showcare the event´s working class unity. One of those present from ex Doneley under workers´ management stated: “we took over the factory when the bosses decided to close it and we put it to production. We continue fighting for our jobs. This factory is an example of resistance in this stage of crisis that we know will continue to deepen, we believe that we can be an example for all workers who find themselves in the same situation.

For the staff of the Italian Hospital, member of the Bordó of Sanidad group, César Latorre, general delegate and also member of ANCLA, spoke. In his speech he emphasized: “we health workers knew that a great health crisis was coming. We also proposed a fundamental solution. We participate with the International Socialist League in a campaign for the unification of the health system, however, the concentrated sectors of power, the private clinics, the large laboratories, have been lobbying for this not to happen and they have achieved that the great part of the population does not have access to healthcare.” He also added a condemnation of the union bureaucracy, dedicating words to Daer, manager in the private clinics business and closed by stating that “we are going to continue the fight to send the union bureaucracy to the dustbin of history.

Against evictions and police violence

Families from the lands occupied in Guernica, Los Ceibos (from the city of González Catán) and San Fernando (Victoria) spoke at the event. One of the representatives who took the stage stated: “we are here to let you know that we are there because of a need for decent housing for everyone, not only in Guernica but in different parts of the province. And to show them that even if there is repression and evictions, we are going to continue fighting for a piece of land because it is a necessity and a right for everyone.” Following this testimony, a letter was read denouncing the situation experienced by hundreds of women who are part of the land occupations.

A space was also given to the denunciation of cases of police assassinations that are a common practice of the repressive forces. Marina Candia, mother of Ignacio Seijas; Yesica Escudero, wife of Fernando Leguizamón; Mariana and Matías, parents of Alan Maidana and Cintia Alfonso, sister of Lucas Verón, demanded the truth and justice against impunity.

The voice of the Left

As announced before the event, the public figures of the left organized in the FIT – Unity were also part of the rally. Nicolás del Caño, on behalf of the PTS, intervened saying that “today different sectors of workers and young people have converged and we have taken to the streets, because the streets are ours, not of those who defended the thieves of Vicentin, of those who defend millionaires and the privileged or ask for the quarantine to be lifted. Here are, as we saw on this stage, the comrades whose wages have been lowered, who have suffered layoffs, unregistered workers and many others who have been dismissed though registered.”

For the MST, Celeste Fierro took the microphone: “The first thing is to express the joy for having built together this great day of struggle, in which each of the claims that are lived in the country are expressed. We have been raising this for a long time and it is very important that it has taken place today. Each of these struggles that the different speakers were just expressing are our response to the attacks on our rights, on those of the working class and the popular classes by the bosses, the government and the police. We are here to tell you “enough is enough” and to express with strength each one of those struggles.

She referred to the conflict between the government and the Buenos Aires Police. In this regard, she emphasized: “The government responded quickly to the cops´ extortion and increased their salary, but it makes the real essential workers wait. The Buenos Aires Police is responsible for the fact that today we are demanding justice for Facundo and intends to evict the families of Guernica. We tell them that we will not allow it. With this police, the only solution is to disband it and take Berni out of that place right away. The government has to respond to the essential workers; it has not given any answer to health workers, nor to the precarious youth or to LATAM, to the comrades who maintain the communal kitchens where more and more families arrive every week. We say “enough is enough” and we propose another path, different to the one that the national government takes. That path is to stop paying the foreign debt so that those resources can go to solving the problems of the working class.”

Cele Fierro ended up proposing. “We have to put this action at the service of everything that still needs to be done, we want the comrades who have not yet seen it to reflect on it, because today more than ever it is necessary for a third alternative political force to stand up from the left, against the PJ and Juntos por el Cambio. We cannot allow the thousands of people disgruntled with the path chosen by the national government to believe that the only alternative is the reactionary right of Bullrich and Macri. That is why our responsibility is to to strengthen a great political alternative with the FITU in the eues of millions, this is the great task we have! To make an anti-capitalist and socialist voice stronger against this decadent system in crisi. We are the workers who can govern this country!

The front line, present

Before closing the event, the floor was given to the true heroes of the moment, the health workers who, despite the ill-treatment of the government in power, have been fighting a monumental battle in the development of the pandemic. The front line had a voice through Natalia Aguilera, nurse at the San Martín de La Plata Hospital and Guillermo Pacagnini, Secretary General of CICOP and leader of ANCLA. Natalia denounced that “health workers are essential for our obligations, but not for our rights. In these 180 days the government not only did not prepare the system, but also did not solve the deep problems of emptying that we have in hospitals.”

For his part, Pacagnini criticized the management of the pandemic saying: “This government, like the other capitalist governments on the planet, has prioritized the economy of the rich at the expense of the health of working people. Today we have reached 600,000 cases, we have one of the worst results in the world, they cannot explain why the pandemic got out of control and they blame individual responsibility. From the left we explained from the first moment that there is a different way out and that is not what the government did.” He also added: “From the left we said that you have to tilt the table over to the other side, you have to put money into healthcare and you have to take it out of what is destined to the debt, out of the pockets of those who take It offshore. We demand a single health system, but universal, and truly free, so that everyone is safe.”

He concluded by contributing to the struggle faced by classist unionism and the left: “Patches are insufficient. Some propose that the union struggle is enough. This fight is very important, but we know that what we gain today in this system, we can lose the following day. We fight for a different society, a workers’ government, so that there is healthcare for all, but this can only be achieved with the unity of trade unionism and a political variant, which is the left.”

Justice for Facundo

The closing of the act was marked by the demand for justice for the disappearance followed by death of Facundo Castro. With a video by his mother, Cristina Castro, in which she denounced the actions of the Buenos Aires Police and demanded the resignation of the province’s security minister, Sergio Berni. For that closure, Cele Fierro, Alejandro Bodart, Vanesa Gagliardi, Nicolás del Caño, Myriam Bregman and Alejandrina Barry were invited to go on stage. Together with health workers, they invited everyone present to take thousands of photos of Facundo’s face. With that emotionality and request for justice, the event concluded. In this way, the organizations that participated in the event, spoke out against the repressive escalation that is sustained by the government of the Frente de Todos in the face of growing popular unrest.

First conclusions

This so-called “self-organization to struggle” is a healthy sign for workers. The joint action on the part of the MST, the PTS and other sectors in struggle functions as a kickstart for a more than necessary showcasing of the socialist and anti-capitalist left. It is because of this path that a pole of reference has to be built for the thousands of workers who are affected by the policies implemented by the Fernández government. That path, as Cele Fierro said, has to deepen the FIT Unity.

Faced with the false divide and emboldening of a reactionary right that uses the economic and social debacle to argue against the Frente de Todos, the left and the FIT Unity have the responsibility to present themselves as a political alternative. An alternative that must have a fundamental program in search of solving the demands of the majority. Again, taking it as the founding action of a third political bloc opposed to the variants of the regime, the initiative is celebrated and must continue with more actions and the implementation of plans of struggle to continue the fight to make those who generated the crisis pay for it, an economy at the service of the workers and a model that puts the needs of the people before the profits of the capitalists.