Debates: Where is the PTS – Trotskyist Fraction Going?

By Pablo Vasco

At the beginning of last March, in virtual mode, the Trotskyist Fraction led by the Argentine PTS held its 13th international conference. Out of three days of debates, one was dedicated to Argentina, on the basis of a report by its leader Emilio Albamonte1. Here we polemicize with their positions, which we believe to be unilateral and mistaken regarding the social subjects, distant from the working class and electoralist regarding the Left Front Unity.

Several of the ten points that make up Albamonte’s political report to the TF conference are not only evident, but also likely to be shared in their general lines by all revolutionary Marxism and even by broader sectors: Javier Milei’s alignment with Israel and the United States (point 1); his brutal attack against labor and social conquests (2); his model of a country subjected to financial capital and corporations (3); the attempts of previous governments in the same direction (4); the outlook of the middle classes (6); the risks of dollarizing the economy (7); the federal problem and the crisis with the provinces (8).

However, in some of these same items and especially in the remaining three (5, 9, 10) there are some very partial and unilateral characterizations, on the basis of which the PTS develops a policy that we consider to be globally mistaken.

For example, in point 3, according to Albamonte, after the end of the last dictatorship “the negotiated transition gave rise to the democracy of defeat… that we have had for 40 years”. For us this simplification minimizes the important democratic victory that the fall of the military dictatorship entailed. In Argentina there was no settled transition in the style of what happened in Chile or Spain. On the contrary, the resounding defeat of the Armed Forces by the popular uprising and the betrayal in the Malvinas War not only cut short for four decades the usual Argentine alternation between bourgeois democracies and military dictatorships, but also opened the process, unprecedented worldwide, of trial and conviction of the repressors in civilian courts for a genocide committed by the State itself.

With the same logic of minimizing the achievements of the mass movement, in point 4 Albamonte barely mentions, in passing, the “2001 uprising that toppled De la Rua”. But it was neither a mere uprising nor did it only topple De la Rúa. Although it lacked a revolutionary leadership with substantial influence, the Argentinazo was a powerful revolutionary outburst of workers, unemployed and middle sectors that broke the whole established order and caused a crisis among the capitalist class and its leaders: it overturned four presidents in eleven days, defeated the UCR (one of the two legs of the traditional two-party system), overturned the bourgeois political regime and wrested from it great economic-social and democratic conquests:

  • In 2002, a universal subsidy to more than two million unemployed people: the Heads of Household Program.
  • In 2003, more social welfare programs and the nullity of the impunity laws – Full Stop and Due Obedience – which allowed the reopening of the trials and convictions of the genocidaires2.

Nothing less: these are conquests that even today, more than two decades later, the bourgeoisie is still struggling to reverse.

On “poisoned conquests” and social subjects

In point 2, taking the ambiguous Gramscian concept of the Integral State (the bourgeois mechanisms of social control), Albamonte defines the achievements of workers and popular sectors as “conquests that were poisoned by the bourgeoisie by going hand in hand with the development of different bureaucracies, in the unions, in the social movements, etc. that ‘organize’ the life of civil society and the mass movement”….

Of course, we do not ignore the growing integration of the trade union bureaucracy into the bourgeois state, nor the state co-optation of certain social organizations: we denounce and fight against those practices. But this sectarian amalgam of poisoned conquest/bureaucracy demonizes in advance any workers’ or people’s conquest and any trade union or social organization. It is like existence always somehow conditions consciousness; this position of the PTS3, which militant presence is decreasing at the union level and is directly null in the movement of unemployed workers, comes from much earlier. It is a kind of analysis-justification. We have already polemicized extensively against their contempt for combative unionism4 and the social movements linked to the currents of the left5 , directly attacked by Milei and his government.

At the same time, in point 5, on the working class and its division between the formal sector -with bargaining agreements- and the informal sector–with lower wages and fewer rights-, we agree that “it constitutes one of the main problems for the revolution in Argentina”. However, and although he cites some symptoms of conflict (teachers, health, march in Siderca), Albamonte characterizes a labor panorama of rather quietism: “the  proletariat on the payroll at this moment is in a conservative position”, “the climate in the workers movement is conservative, especially in the industry”, and, in point 10, “there is still much conservatism in the masses due to the fear and inaction of the bureaucracy to give time to Milei”…

A distorted view of the working class and its role.

Similarly, in point 9, Albamonte’s review of the last 20 years of workers’ and popular struggle in our country is skeptical, biased and self-referential, therefore very mistaken:

“From 2005 to 2014 the phenomenon of grassroots unionism developed… We converged… we were part of a whole series of important strikes, the one of Kraft in 2009, then Donnelley, and finally, in 2014, the great defeated strike of Lear… we fought for 6 months almost in solitude “6.

During the government of Mauricio Macri, “except for the days of December 2017 against the pension reform, there followed 8 years of decadence, job precariousness and increase in poverty, marked by the unwillingness of the bourgeoisie to attack on scale and by the unwillingness of the proletariat to resist the degradation”. In this framework, the most visible phenomenon was that of the piquetero marches, which is an important particularity of the country… We never accepted this type of activity….

“In this situation we are left as a sort of unarmed prophets… I consider it very positive… when there is a low class struggle it is also necessary to strengthen political agitation and propaganda… we continue an activity against the current in the factories, in the work structures in general”…

And with Milei: “Our discourse sounds abstract because it proposes a solution linked to the class struggle, absent in these years… Since the new government took office, we argued that we had to make ourselves strong in the vanguard sector that was beginning to emerge, and we turned to the neighborhood assemblies since their inception”…

Real life is far from that version. The PTS line in the Kraft and then Lear conflicts privileged the decisions of a small sector of activism, separated from the rank and file, with actions that were never debated or resolved by the majority of the workers. Together with police repression, this sectarian vanguardism isolated these struggles and facilitated the role of the bureaucracy in breaking them. That is why the PTS, far from being “the real fusion between the revolutionaries and the advanced sectors of the workers’ movement” 7, as it boasted in 2014, continues to retreat: it lost the leadership of Zanon and of the ceramics union in Neuquén, it lost weight in the Food union and other unions where it was active. And for that very reason it is not surprising that for years the PTS has not led a single union or had a single secretary or general secretary in the whole country.

By the way, the class struggle was not “absent in those years” as Albamonte says. In addition to numerous piquetero struggles -in which the PTS did not intervene- and the battle against Mauricio Macri’s pension reform, there were numerous conflicts in the state, teaching, health and even private sectors. In the heat of those conflicts, class unionism continued to develop, with positive units like in the SUTNA, ATEN or the Combative Trade Union Plenary, which the PTS finally had to join after having vilified it. But such trade union organizations or other similar ones in the public health sector -such as APyT Garrahan, ALE, CICOP and Fesintras-, only receive false accusations and divisionism by the PTS. Does that party think it is the very essence of revolutionary classism?

In Argentina, the process of building a new, struggling and democratic trade union leadership is being expressed both inside and outside the traditional trade union organizations: inside, in delegates, commissions and internal boards, anti-bureaucratic opposition groups and tickets, and also some recovered unions; outside, in the self-organized movements, as in the case of the teaching and health sectors in several provinces. Obviously, instead of opposing the latter to the former, as the PTS does, every genuinely class-conscious current must work to coordinate and articulate both sectors in the daily struggles.

Assemblies vs. the working class?

Along with minimizing the working class, both employed and unemployed, their struggles and the leftist militancy in both sectors, in point 10 Albamonte adds another bias: he overestimates the neighborhood assemblies. As a new emergent of popular vanguard, with its center in the City of Buenos Aires and the conurbano, around 60 assemblies with 30 or 40 people each have emerged and in total they group a couple of thousands: militants and independent activists; voters of the left or, in lesser numbers, of Kirchnerism and Peronism8. It is a progressive phenomenon, they participate in actions against the government and support other struggles, but this resurgence does not reach the magnitude of 2001, when the inter-neighborhood assembly of Centenario Park coordinated around 150 assemblies with a hundred or more activists each.

In turn, the assemblies are one of the various processes of struggle and organization currently unfolding, which converge in a very progressive multi-sectoral coordination. This space of unity includes combative unionism, social movements, neighborhood assemblies, Unidxs por la Cultura, other groups -environmentalists, human rights, etc.- and left-wing political parties. The student movement now joins this group firmly, coming from a massive federal university march with strong support from the middle sectors.

Each sector of the multi-sectoral coordination has its own particularities and operates by consensus. Even so, every political current that claims to be Trotskyist or at least Marxist should reaffirm the strategic importance of the working class, the only social sector that, because of its structural role in production, can organize around itself a new model of society, a socialist society.

Instead, Albamonte places the assemblies as the preferential social subject that should be the vanguard of the struggles and the political alternative, and on top of that, to do it exclusively through the PTS: “The new thing, linked to the development of this phenomenon, is that voters of the FIT become politically active and begin to approach the left… not by way of direct relations with party militants but from our political agitation… People who voted for the FITU, with no direct relation with the left, who approach and want to be militants, either in the assemblies or in Pan y Rosas.”

Then, as a task he proposes: “without vanguard, only with the party, only working in the structures as groupings, which we also have to do, only with that, we are not going anywhere. We have to strike from the outside with the most advanced sectors, as is the case of the assemblies, to try to merge and conquer kinds of action committees… we are referring, taking up an idea that Trotsky had put forward at the time, to institutions of unification and coordination of the different sectors in struggle” 9.

And Albamonte ventures further: “We must have a special discourse towards the FITU sympathizers because if we make 10% of those 800,000 voters who supported us in these elections, around 80,000 people, participate in the assemblies, we would achieve something very important. That is my hypothesis… Our strategy is to promote the assemblies, to develop the articulation with other sectors, thus the promotion of the national encounter, looking for a dynamic where these instances develop as action committees and in the perspective of setting up mass united front organizations, what in the revolutions was called councils/soviets”….

Assembly fetishism and disregard of the FIT Unity?

In our opinion, this strategic orientation of the PTS contains two big problems, one of an objective nature, about the national situation, and the other subjective, about how to strengthen a political tool of the revolutionary left:

Albamonte’s first problem is to fetishize the incipient neighborhood assemblies of the AMBA above all other mobilized sectors, especially above combative unionism; and to assign them the arduous task of articulating the country’s social conflicts, thus transforming them into supposed action committees and then -nothing less- into mass soviets.

In reality, and without minimizing the assemblies, it will be the class struggle itself in the country which will mark the concrete dynamics of the different social sectors, with its ups and downs and its greater or lesser consistency. And even if it is like Albamonte’s “hypothesis”, for now it does not seem feasible that it will be the PTS who will make them grow from some 2,000 or 3,000 current members to 80,000… Unfortunately, in several cases the opposite is happening: the apparat schemes of PTS militants drive truly independent neighbors away from the assemblies.

On the other hand, the translation of Trotsky’s tactic of the action committees is not only schematic but also deformed in its class content: he proposed to promote them in France in February 1934 in the face of a powerful general strike with mobilizations against an attempted fascist coup; that is to say, as instances of self-organization of mass sectors but starting from the working class: “to create factory committees elected by the workers” 10.

The second political error of Albamonte and the PTS, in our view the most important, is their misguided conception of the Left Front Unity, strongly diverted to false hegemonism and electoralism.

For example, in point 9 it says: “Since 2011, we have promoted the Left Front which has been very progressive in the Argentine political process of the last decade.” “The Left Front has been a left-wing political reference in the country for more than a decade”. And in point 10 he adds: “The FITU, with a leading role of the PTS, plays a significant role in promoting coordination instances.”

First, we must leave aside so much navel-gazing oblivious to the reality that the FITU is what it is only because of the ” push”, the “leading role” of the PTS and “Myriam Bregman’s reach on social media”. The Left Front Unity is made up of four parties and that whole is always greater than the sum of its parts. The PTS may have circumstantially better known figures, but it is weaker in decisive aspects for any revolutionary alternative that claims to be such: militant volume and insertion and leadership in the working class and popular sectors.

That said; if according to the PTS the FITU “fulfills a significant role promoting instances of coordination” and is “a political reference of the left”; and this party really wants, as Albamonte says, “to contribute to arming the vanguard, not only for the struggle but also for the political combat with Peronism” and “to avoid a scenario where we fight now and then Peronism comes to take everything back to a dead end”, why do they not make a single proposal for the Left Front Unity to position and strengthen itself as a political alternative to so many struggling people who are disappointed by the PJ and are distancing themselves from it and long for something different? Why do they reduce the FITU to collecting votes every two years? Is it because they only understand it as their own electoral quarry or because they are skeptical about making it advance as an option to dispute power? Don’t they know that among the assembly, union, piquetero, student, cultural, environmental, gender and human rights activism a permanent political debate is ‘after Milei, what’?

From the MST we have been insisting on another proposal, that overcomes this electoral ceiling and makes the FITU rise to the strategic challenges of the times. As our leader Alejandro Bodart proposed in a recent rally held in Plaza Congreso: “to call all together for a big open congress of the Left Front to be able to debate not only among the militancy of the four forces of the front, but to have a policy to integrate as a militant force the tens of thousands that many times vote for us, support us, believe that ours is the exit program but that today are not militants because we do not give them the possibility of joining us and for that to strengthen us. We need to discuss why the mass movement instead of coming to the left remains again in the nets of the popular front; how do we prevent the Church from telling us that they are the ones who can form an alternative behind Grabois; how do we manage to prevent the emergence of new mediations so that after this the cycle of new frustrations is repeated”.

Bodart explained it clearly: “We need the Left Front to take up the challenge of the time, and it is not only to prepare ourselves for the next election, it is not even only to participate together in the struggles. It is also to contribute to the emergence of an alternative that is seen as an alternative of power in the face of the mass movement. And it is possible because Peronism is on the rocks; we must not let it recover. Peronism is responsible for the situation in which we find ourselves. A few years ago it brought us Macri, now it brought us Milei; if you continue supporting Peronism, what monster is going to come next? We need to work so that after this the revolutionary left is the alternative. And for that we have to make the maximum efforts, take responsibility and not look the other way… we believe that the time has come to transform the FITU into a movement with internal life, with the possibility for the people not only to vote for us, but to participate, to discuss; not only to elect our representatives, but to define together with us what is the better policy to confront the kinds of Milei and to win the workers so that they definitively abandon the PJ”.

“In this country, where there are thousands and thousands of us who consider ourselves Marxists, socialists, revolutionaries, we are faced with the responsibility of giving our class a way out. And it can only be socialism, revolution, but it can only be done if there is an organized political force of tens of thousands. Or does the PTS not want a leftist front like that, a rallying, open, participatory front, of thousands and thousands of militants, be they from any of the four parties or independent, because surely in that sphere it would not be preponderant?

Thus, today the dilemma about the strategy is not so complex: assembly populism, self-congratulation and electoralism or multi-sectoral coordination from the working class and open call of the FITU to activism to set up a strong political movement of the left, which in the heat of the mobilization opens the road to a government of the workers and socialism in Argentina.


1. (7/3/21)

2. Es llamativo que en un informe tan extenso, publicado precisamente el 24 de marzo, ni se mencione la cuestión de los derechos humanos y democráticos.

3. (7/3/21)

4. (2/5/23)

5. (12/8/23)

6. Los subrayados son nuestros.

7. (20/11/14)

8. Según Albamonte, sumando a quienes integran los grupos de Whatsapp y a veces van a alguna asamblea, totalizarían 10.000 personas.

9. Ídem nota 3.

10. Un programa de acción para Francia, junio de 1934. En (pág. 38)

11. (10/4/04)