The muffled roar

Image: Lucía Montenegro


Faced with the “bus law”, Argentine society has demonstrated a dynamic of mobilization and protest in the face of the deterioration of the representative political nexus

Just over 22 years after one of the most important insurrectionary outbreaks in modern history, Argentina is once again approaching the evocation of the qualitative conditions that gave rise to that epic rebellion. The call "argentinazo” of December 2001 not only began when De la Rúa's government dealt a new and powerful blow to popular income, employment and savings, but also when, simultaneously, it intended to shield the offensive of the dominant classes and corporations through repression bloody legally protected under the cloak of the state of siege.

It is not the aim of these lines to establish precise analogies and differences between those moments and the current one, but simply to leave some notes that can be taken up at another opportunity, not without expectations regarding a new outcome revoking government powers, as actually happened then. Who wouldn't want a version that peacefully overcomes such déjà vu history, even in your daydreams? Any awakening will require the recognition of reality as a nightmare: it would be no small advance in light of very recent and no less hallucinatory very serious regressions.

It is unquestionable that an overwhelming part of citizens decided to take an electoral chance with a candidate who, with a disjointed inflection, anticipated the current economic council, guarded by a merciless and furious retaliation for any social achievement, civil freedom or protection in the face of the harsh economic direction. It anticipated its course both in the power of weapons in the hands of public forces and in the symbolic power of the demand for state terrorism and genocide in the field of public communication and political-cultural struggle. As if that were not enough, he supported his certainties in celestial forces guarded by an irascible mastiff advisor.

In the face of protests, one of its current legislative swords proposed “prison or bullet”. However, the remaining significant minority, out of astonishment (as in my case) or out of conviction (in others), expressed their support for a faction now on the run from the leadership that, in the best case scenario – making a lenient counterfactual methodological exercise – would have tried a “government of national unity”, that is, some type of agreement like the one Javier Milei is trying to consolidate these days, perhaps a little slower or with less voracious allies, although never disinterested. The fact that the punishment for the political faction that left was through triumphant pandemonium should expose the magnitude of popular suffering and the repudiation of the former's indifference.

The alternatives that converged in the election, Peronism in all its variants, including, say, anti-Kirchnerists (Massa and Schiaretti), on the one hand, and “gorilla” anti-Peronism (Bullrich and Milei), on the other, were both heterogeneous ( internally and among themselves), and ended up being shaped by the convergent decantation of four of the five options from the first round.

Those who, together, have exhibited an unparalleled skill in the unscrupulous use of “politics” and material and symbolic public resources for their own privileges and ostentation, for personal business and for the companies to whose interests they respond, including, without a doubt, her main confidant, Javier Milei, at the time a member of the alliance with the most important acquirer of such rewards: the party of former president Mauricio Macri. The latter is the guarantor of possible contractual breaches, as well as gendarme, after taking over the Ministries of Security and Defense, through his candidates for president and vice president. Thus, in a simplified way, Javier Milei would be the captain of the economic battleship, with Macrismo at the helm of the escort frigates, protecting it with the heaviest artillery.

The irony of history, reiterating itself as a farce, to use an old Marx allegory, by elevating the sudden winner to the grotesque, forced an improvised assembly of work teams and measures with which it has been difficult to mechanically and docilely bring together the majority needed from allies and adversaries. So far, the buffoon has received not only respect and courtesy, but also availability for dialogue and lubricant for his chainsaw. But not submission. From the majority of governors and their legislative representatives blackmailed by federal power, who engage in meetings and demands for exchanges, and from the many inveterate transgressors that Peronism widely produces, even more than the president's canine clones.

The legislative treatment of the bus law with which the president intends to start his bulldozer has been postponed twice, and has been modified every hour and everything seems to indicate that the only interest now is general approval, even if each article is rejected later, as long as the chapter on the delegation of legislative powers, which I will refer to later, remains.

In relation to the fifth electoral alternative in the first round, the self-styled “left” (in the strict singular, as it likes to describe itself exclusively), although it is not an accomplice to these increasingly degrading political practices, it also has no possibility of constituting an option real as long as it is just an electoral alliance of self-preservation of small groups in the face of the minimum number of votes required by the electoral system for formal political participation and consequent receipt of funds and advertising space.

The simple fact of celebrating (without any self-criticism) the growth of hundredths of a percentage (out of a total of less than 3%), obtaining only one deputy out of 130 (38 times less than Javier Milei's party) and no senator, reflects the irrelevant testimonialism that articulates this rusty and impotent tool. Never in Argentina's post-dictatorial history has the political decomposition of the institutional order been so evident, combined with a similar increase in levels of poverty and indigence, much less with the explicitly reinforced reimplementation of the dictatorship's economic program under Martínez de Hoz, who, incidentally, , would never have dared to undertake the plundering of resources, privatizations and capital flight that are immediately projected.

Perhaps some of the measures will be postponed. But the legislative project “Bases and starting points – a shameful paraphrase of Alberdi's founding text – for the freedom of Argentines”, which has undergone incessant hasty modifications since its original treatment in committees, although it eliminates the fiscal chapter, intends to maintain the chapter of legislative delegations which, if approved, will allow the president, together with the chief of staff, to exercise legislative functions through decrees. Interest is suggested in the event of a vote against emergency articles in economic, financial, fiscal, social security, security, health, energy, administrative and tariff matters.

Or even about the privatization of around 40 companies, the transfer of the “sustainability guarantee fund” for pensions to the treasury or the intended reform of the State. Also in repressive matters, since, on a case-by-case basis, the original bus law established that a meeting of three people in a public space could be considered a demonstration, although, in an act of consideration for children in playgrounds, it was modified, increasing this number to 30. Not only does it threaten to end public resources, but also elementary civil liberties, the right to assembly and association, expression and protest, human rights and guarantees, something completely anti-liberal, although disguised as libertarian .

It is no coincidence that a project of this type requires delegated powers and that a large part of the political leadership is willing to grant them. They like to assume them when there is no control or obligations and to delegate them when they imply responsibility. Radical conservatives conceive of democracy as a fiduciary representative bond, that is, based exclusively on trust, devoid of legal responsibility or immediately extinguished in the same act of voting, with representatives immediately autonomous.

However, Argentine society has demonstrated a dynamic of mobilization and protest in the face of the deterioration of the representative political nexus. And the only way to break with distrust is repeal, something that lacks a political institute in the Argentine constitution and electoral rules, although it is possible in practice, as it was in 2001. It is in this direction that the popular protest could move, even in cases like the last march, called by the union bureaucracy of the “fat guys” of the CGT, who, as soon as they saw the light in the window, called the door with the bell of a partial strike to be attended to. Even these, calling out to the streets, manage to partially drown out the feline's frightening roar.

*Emilio Cafassi is a professor of sociology at the University of Buenos Aires.

Translation: Fernando Lima das Neves

Originally published on the portal Faces & Grimaces.

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