Argentina: The budget of the Front of All. With the IMF’s script

We republish the editorial of Alternativa Socialista No. 816, newspaper of the MST in the FITU, Argentine section of the International Socialist League.

A budget against the people. The presentation of the 2023 budget in Congress ratifies the course of austerity that the government has been carrying out, deepened since the assumption of Sergio Massa as economy minister. The elevation of Massa as a sort of prime minister not only meant the designation of a storm pilot to get out of the serious crisis of the government, but also the recomposing the ruling alliance to be able to carry out the IMF plan. If someone had expectations that Kirchnerism would put up a fight to change course, reality took it upon itself to show that they did not even consider it; the budget was discussed and supported by Cristina Kirchner, Máximo and Kicillof, confirming that the turn to the right belongs to the Frente de Todos as a whole. An adjustment as hard as the anger it generates and begins to force CFK to ask Massa for some kind of social gesture.

Numbers that scandalize and hurt. In the same week that Massa appeared in congress, the INDEC released the poverty and extreme poverty rates for the first half of the year, which reflect the seriousness of the social situation as a result of official policies. Almost 40% of the population is below the poverty line and extreme poverty has increased. With inflation continuing at around 7% per month, the outlook is for this situation to worsen even more. Meanwhile, the concessions to the big employers are increasing: to the “soy dollar” the “techno dollar” will be added. The data shows that large companies, including food companies, have multiplied their profits to unprecedented levels at the expense of increased misery. The bonus that the government is discussing is just a patch that does not change this dynamic: the rich getting richer while millions of families sink into poverty and hunger.

Tailored to the IMF. Returning to the draft budget for next year, it is confirmed that it is drawn up at the service of fulfilling the commitments with the IMF. The reduction of the deficit from 2.5% to 1.9% and the increase in the items allocated to the payment of external debt condition the entire project. As usual, unreal figures are drawn at the service of austerity. Beyond the dubious growth of 2% of GDP, it predicts an annual inflation of 60%, an unbelievable figure that seeks to hide the budget cuts in social areas and at the same time leave the government room for maneuver to reallocate items with the election year. When 2022 will end with an inflation of the order of 95% and the budget itself anticipates a devaluation close to 90%, the official forecast of 60% inflation for 2023 does not withstand analysis. That is why most consultants, including CIFRA (of the CTA) anticipate that it would be between 75 and 85%. In this way, when the numbers are analyzed from the perspective of real inflation, what is observed is a cut in social budgets and a liquidation of salaries that will continue to lose purchasing power.

Austerity numbers. In real terms, there will be a reduction in items of at least 4.3% in Social Security (which includes pensions), 4.6% in Housing and Urban Development, 1.7% in Promotion and Social Assistance, in addition of a cut close to 10% in universities and the same in the Ministry of Women, Gender and Diversity. Debt payments, on the other hand, will increase by 13.7%, being the only item that increases significantly, in addition to security expenses (read repression). As if that were not enough, there will be more subsidy cuts, which will imply new increases in utilities. In short: a fierce adjustment on the working people.

Argentina up for auction. In his presentation, Massa stated that “The big players are going to be the knowledge economy, mining and agriculture sectors because they are going to function as engines in the global reality that we are considering” and that they will seek to “expand the consensus in terms of LNG, green and gray hydrogen and hydrocarbon reserves that allow us to be an important player at a global level”. This roadmap is the deepening of extractivist plunder, according to the promises that he made during his tour of the US to visit US corporations. It is no coincidence that they continue to postpone the wetlands law while the governors and the bourgeois press redouble their offensive to stop it.

With the agenda of the right. The most complete proof that this is a budget tailored to the IMF and the employers’ associations are the praise from the right-wing media and the willingness of Together for Change (JxC) to support the project. It is not strange, since ultimately it is a budget in accordance with the measures that the bourgeoisie and the right have been calling for. As the minister himself clarified, “the Budget project comes to meet the objectives that this Parliament has set itself when Argentina decided to renegotiate the 2018 agreement with the Fund and carried out a new agreement of extended facilities.” There will probably be tensions and pressure for further adjustments (there is talk that the opposition will ask to eliminate transportation subsidies) as a result of the upcoming electoral dispute and the JxC internal struggle, but everything suggests that they will end up supporting it.

On the path of the Social Pact. The unity that is created to approve the “law of laws” is part of the national unity demanded by the US ambassador and promoted by Cristina and the Front of All (FdT) in recent months. It is a chapter of the social pact that they are trying to build and that was expressed in the unity of the bosses, the mass media, the entire right, the union bureaucracy and the government itself in the attack on the tire workers’ struggle. It has the same common thread: to defeat the working class and popular resistance to the adjustment that attacks wages and working conditions, to increase the precariousness and labor flexibility demanded by corporations. The animosity with which they tried to defeat the SUTNA (tire workers union) is explained by their need to give an exemplary lesson that the bosses cannot be defeated and, above all, prevent the spread of the example of a militant leadership that could endanger the pact with the union bureaucracy. They failed in doing so.

SUTNA’s victory shows that winning is possible. The bourgeois press of recent days reflects the fear of the bourgeoisie that the example of the tire workers’ struggle will spread and blow up the possibility of the social pact that they intend to weave with the union bureaucracy. For this reason, at a time when the struggles of the working class and the popular sectors are growing, they come to the crossroads. Discounts for teachers in Santa Fe, Santa Cruz or Chubut; the persecution of the educational community in CABA; the repression of the native communities in Río Negro and the mobilization of the Unidad Piquetera last week show that the FdT and JxC on the same side of the trench. But SUTNA’s victory shows that we can win. And the struggles, far from relaxing, increase the pressure. Supporting and coordinating all of these struggles is the first step in defeating the budget cuts. To that end, it is key to strengthen the new activism that arises in these struggles and militant trade unionism.
Mobilize against the budget and build a new leadership. Preparing a great mobilization against the budget project is a first-order task in which the Plenary of Militant Unionism should take the lead, while calling on the union centrals to break their truce with the government and call to confront this new attack on the working class. In the heat of these struggles, it is necessary to continue developing the emergence of new militant and class based union leaderships, and also a new political leadership, of the workers and the left. As we have been fighting for from the MST and the FIT Unity. This is key not only to defeat the adjustment but also to impose a plan opposed to that of the government, the right and the IMF. Break the agreement with the Fund and adjust the bosses to put our wealth at the service of the needs of workers and the people.