Argentina's riddles



In the intense political life of Argentina, the theoretical-political debate on its prolonged crisis has been restarted

Argentina is approaching the 40th anniversary of the end of the dictatorship, in its usual context of economic turmoil and political uncertainty. The financial and exchange turbulences anticipate another hard adjustment in the popular standard of living, but in a scenario of flourishing future businesses.

The management of this intricate combination will be in the hands of the next president, who will emerge from an intense sequence of provincial, primary and general elections. The tough competition for this trophy contrasts with the little interest it arouses among the majority of the population.

The reduced impact that the polls showed on the course of the country explains this retraction of citizenship. It is not indifferent who will be the next president, but the prolonged Argentine crisis goes beyond what has been done by one or another government.


recycled myths

Social fracture is the most visible and everyday drama. To the expansion of poverty and precariousness join the degradation of education, the growing housing deficit, the demolition of the health system and the emigration of the most qualified professionals. This degradation tends to become natural in view of the decrease in income. Each crisis places the social scene at a lower level than the preceding context.

The naive expectation of 1983 (“with democracy you eat, educate and heal yourself”) was undone. The consolidation of the constitutional regime did not change the permanence of the downward trajectory of the economy.

The most inconsistent explanations attribute this setback to the idiosyncrasies of Argentines, as if the country's inhabitants shared a self-destructive gene. Right-wing interpretations avoid this nebulosity and attack the have-nots to exonerate the powerful. They claim that the poor do not want to work because they have lost the culture of work. But this statement contrasts with the decrease in unemployment, with each recovery in the level of activity.

The productive regression obeys the lack of genuine employment and not the behavior of the victims of this bankruptcy. Reactionaries attack social plans, as if they were a choice and not a forced means of subsistence. They denounce the women who support their homes, with the absurd accusation of “getting pregnant to receive the benefit per child”. They generally exalt education as a magic solution, omitting that education cannot counteract the absence of jobs.

Specialists in belittling the humble absolve the ruling classes. They praise the creativity of capitalists, the cunning of bankers and the audacity of entrepreneurs. With these praises, they hide that those mainly responsible for the course that the country is taking are the administrators of power.

Neoliberals attribute the economic decline to high public spending, ignoring that these expenses do not exceed the international or regional average. With this lack of knowledge, they attack employment and public companies, not to mention the regressive tax system in force in the country.

They are also unaware that the fiscal imbalance is a consequence of helping the wealthy. All governments have fine-tuned these subsidy mechanisms, with bailouts for bankruptcies, currency insurance, nationalization of bankrupt companies or the conversion of private debts into public bonds.

The right focuses the Argentine problem on “populism”, forgetting that, in the last 40 years, social demagoguery and concessions to the dispossessed have not prevailed, but state support for the main capitalist groups.

The great paradox of this bailout lies in the fact that its beneficiaries condemn the politicians who provide these funds. A recent questioner of the “caste”, the millionaire Eurnekian, expanded his textile company with credits from state banks, profited from state-regulated media, consolidated with the privatization of airports and made his fortune in partnership with YPF.

This same duplicity is displayed by Galperín, Rocca, Magnetto, Pérez Companc, Fortabat, Macri and all the popes of the business world. The right is very lenient with the elite who transferred their companies to tax havens to avoid paying taxes. But it is relentless with workers who seek to maintain their income. It presents any popular aspiration as an obstacle to distributism, unsustainable consumption or “wage extortion”.

The right considers that Argentina has fallen because of its divorce from the West. I imagined the country as a godson of Paris (and now of Miami), casually located in Latin American geography. With this vision, they idealize the landlord past and embellish the oligarchy that profited from the exploitation of tenants and wage earners. They also omit that this exalted model sowed the seeds of later lasting imbalances.


The agro-export remodeling

Heterodox criticisms of neoliberalism have debunked many fables about the Argentine economy. But these criticisms often emphasize the effects rather than the causes of national regression.

Several Marxist views have correctly pointed out that Argentina's woes are not national exclusives. They are misfortunes generated by a capitalist system that affects the popular majorities across the planet. This observation is very useful, but it does not shed light on why local imbalances are greater than those in similar economies.

In few countries, convulsions with the scope and periodicity that shake our country can be verified. Nor were there many degradations comparable to those suffered by a nation that, in five decades, increased its percentage of poor people from 3% to 40% of the population. This overwhelming setback coincides with the failure of all models tried to reverse this decline. The consternation generated by this result explains the skepticism, disbelief and pragmatism of many thinkers. But this attitude does not allow us to understand what is happening.

The starting point for this clarification is to recognize the objective location of Argentina as a median economy in the Latin American universe. Within this underdeveloped configuration, it was located on a lower step of the semiperiphery.

Like other dependent countries, it emerged consolidating its primary specialization. But it had a high land rent, in a context of low indigenous population to exploit it. This absence was compensated for by a large flow of immigration, which created a “barn of the world”, a supplier of meat to the metropolises.

In the second half of the XNUMXth century, it lost these export advantages to new competitors, but countered this displacement with advanced technologies that increased agricultural productivity. This extractive model of pools and direct sowing reproduces a specialization in basic inputs that expels labor. Rather than absorbing immigrants and creating small farmers, it has fed the informal worker population in cities for decades.


reinforced imbalances

Argentina had a precocious industrialization, with resources that the State recycled from the agrarian income. But it never managed to form a self-sustainable and competitive industrial structure. The sector does not generate the necessary foreign exchange for its own continuity. It depends on imports, which the State guarantees through indirect subsidies, for an activity with a high concentration in a few sectors, great foreign predominance and low integration of local components.

These industrial branches were greatly affected by the new profitability parameters imposed by neoliberal globalization. The same decoupling had an impact on other countries affected by the transfer of investments to the Asian continent. But Argentina's adversities are greater. The economy that inaugurated the import substitution model was not able to overcome the consequences of this anticipation.

The country was more out of place than its peers in relation to the new pattern of assemblies and value chains imposed by transnational companies. It does not have the compensation that Mexico has for proximity to the US market, nor does it have the size of Brazil to expand the scale of its production.

Structural imbalances result from the waste of income that was not used to build an efficient industry. The dispute over this surplus generates intense conflicts between agribusiness and the industrial sector. This tension is projected onto the entire productive apparatus and fractures society in a succession of lasting crises.

The magnitude of these convulsions (1989, 2001) is, in turn, one more consequence of the fiscal and financial measures adopted by the State to manage the crises. This intervention reinforces the imbalances caused by the struggle for income.

The State arbitrates between the different dominant groups, with four instruments that end up aggravating the imbalances. The first mechanism is devaluation, traditionally applied to boost the income of exporters who are dissatisfied with income taxation by the State. This currency devaluation fuels rising prices without improving competitiveness.

The very dynamics of inflation works as a second instrument of intervention, which consolidated a permanent scourge. The monetary symbols that removed the zeros from the denomination of the peso have already been lost, effectively enshrining the functioning of a bi-monetary economy.

Inflation is high because the economy suffers from a prolonged recession, which reduces investment, deteriorates productivity and contracts the supply of products. But it became an autonomous procedure for the appropriation of popular income by large companies. It was incorporated as a habit, as part of day-to-day business management. The capitalists got used to raising prices and sustaining an inertial inflation, which ensures their profitability, with the support of the State.

The third mechanism of State intervention is public debt, which in recent decades has taken on a frantic pace. This lack of control develops in close correspondence with a ruling class that invests little. After having transformed the country into the main contractor and debtor of private loans, Mauricio Macri aggravated this trend with the loan granted by the IMF.

The management of these liabilities involves an influential financial capital that monopolizes the charges. The payment of interest on these debts imposes, in turn, a hemorrhage of resources that makes the continuity of any economic model unfeasible. Reserves periodically face a critical situation, and this hole makes it impossible to sustain any currency stability.

Capital flight is the fourth driver of the crisis. It increases the decapitalization of a productive apparatus that coexists with the expatriation of 70% of its GDP. The dominant groups retain significant portions of the profits they earn in the local circuit outside the country. Public debt tends to finance a drain that suffocates periodic recovery in the level of activity.

The mechanisms that emerged to mitigate the dispute over income between agriculture and industry no longer fulfill this function. After so many years of corrosive action, devaluation, inflation, public debt and capital flight have become self-propagating instruments of an uncontrollable crisis.


Neoliberal failures and unsuccessful neodevelopmentalists

The liberal recipe for reversing Argentina's endemic setback boils down to the simple liquidation of the least profitable sectors. This manual does not hide its affinity with the minority interests of agro-export and financial capital. It seeks to demolish the essentials of the productive apparatus, burying two thirds of the population with this steamroller.

The devastation of backward industry and much of the public sector is sponsored for nothing. Neoliberals assume that, once the “industricide” is consummated and the drastic reduction of state employment, investments will multiply and a spillway will emerge.

This social engineering experiment has not been successfully implemented in any part of the world, and there are 20 million Argentines left to apply it in our country. What most resembled this scheme was the Menen-Cavallo model, which ended with the explosion of convertibility after a decade of privatizations, trade liberalization and labor deregulation. This scheme foundered in a scenario of acute depression, unemployment peaks and uncontrolled debt. The right has no other program and always returns to the same script.

Its extreme variants propose dollarization, which would lead to hyperinflation, the expropriation of deposits and the auction of the ANSES [National Administration of Social Security] Guarantee Fund. More conventional trends flee this adventure and defend the resumption of Macri's bankrupt model, with higher tariffs, cuts in pensions, destruction of labor rights and privatization of public companies.

Economists on the right differ as to the pace to be defended for the next adjustment and the consequent speed of reducing retentions and unifying the exchange rate. They insisted, without success, that the current model explode before the elections, through a mega devaluation or a run on the banks. They seek to provoke chaos in order to induce the acceptance of greater suffering (“shock doctrine”).

They suggest that such a catastrophe will allow the further gestation of an export-driven economic paradise. These fantasies succumbed time and time again and are now confronted with the international decline of neoliberalism. Around the world, there is a shift towards opposing policies of greater state regulation.

Neo-developmentalism promotes a very different remedy to rebuild the economy with heterodox policies favorable to reindustrialization. It encourages the program applied in other countries affected by the presence of income from agro-exports that discourage investment in manufacturing. It favors the channeling of this surplus towards industrial activity, but presents significant differences in relation to classic developmentalism. It replaces the former protection of the most vulnerable branches with a plan for insertion in global value chains.

During the progressive cycle of the last decade, this model was tried in several Latin American countries. Kirchnerism resorted to one of these variants, taking advantage of the internal scenario generated by the 2001 crisis and the international context of high valuation of raw materials.

This script supported the reactivation and recomposition of employment, but without reversing the economy's structural problems. This irresolution led to the resurgence of inflation and the fiscal deficit, in a context of great hesitation to reindustrialize the economy, with greater capture of soy income.

The same vacillations led to late and ineffective exchange controls and the postponement of progressive fiscal reforms or changes in an investment-averse financial system. But the main defect of this model was the continued subsidy to capitalists, who used the resources provided by the State to evade capital. Neo-developmentalism has shown great shortcomings in reversing economic decline.


Immediate fit with future business

Over the past four years, the economy has continued to falter. Macri's neoliberalism did not persist, but Kirchner's neodevelopmentalism was not revived either. A management marked by inefficiency prevailed.

Officials attribute their inaction to the adversities generated by the pandemic, drought and war, omitting that all countries faced the same adversities with different results. In fact, Fernández consolidated a highly orthodox model, based on several regressive pillars.

First of all, it validated the very high inflation as an instrument of adjustment. The high prices first affected food, due to the refusal to increase withholdings, and later became generalized due to the inflationary effects of the agreement with the IMF. The capitalists had the official endorsement to continue their uncontrolled price hikes.

With some reactivation, recovery of investment and stabilization of employment, Fernández's model led to a collapse in wages. It consolidated precarious employment and status of the formal worker, favoring the enormous profits of the companies. It also sustained inequality, which expanded with the tourism boom in an ocean of the dispossessed.

The scheme of the last three years reinforced the primarization, in order to pay the external debt with the increase of the exports of basic products. Unconventional exploration of gas and oil, the unregulated extraction of lithium and the lack of control over waterways are part of this submission to the IMF.

Fernández manages the end of his mandate in the midst of a deep crisis, with great pressure of devaluation and a Central Bank without currencies. Every day he improvises a juggling act to get to the elections and avoid mega-devaluation. But in this agonizing survival, he has driven a domestic debt bomb by refinancing bonds at unsustainable rates. Instead of forcing banks to lend to the productive sector, it consolidates the bubble that fattens financiers.

The next adjustment being prepared by the powerful includes tariff increases, wage cuts and a contraction in social spending. This IMF-supervised trampling follows three possible paths. On the one hand, the ferocious variant of Bullrich, which emits messages with the symbols of 2001 (“shield”). On the other hand, the equally brutal, but agreed-upon side, which is conducted by Larreta, through a package of abuses approved by Congress. The third way is the continuity of the masked deterioration implemented by Massa.

This context of imminent adjustment coexists with the prospect of large future businesses, which enthuses the establishment. Argentina was in a privileged international position as a major supplier of raw materials. For this reason, foreign investment is approaching the peaks of the last decade and the “red circle” has vetoed all attempts at a monetary (and/or bank) run sponsored by Macronism. The elites don't want an outbreak that threatens the booming profits forecast for the coming years.

They already envision the reversal of the drought and the proximity of a harvest with high prices. They are betting on the doubling of lithium exports and imagine a large energy surplus with the supply of the new gas pipeline. They are also multiplying plans to convert the country into a major supplier of minerals and a permanent supplier of fish, which is being plundered by ships arriving from several continents.

Argentina has become one of the main bootlegs in the dispute between the United States and China. The IMF works as Washington's instrument to obstruct Beijing's presence, vetoing investments in nuclear energy, ports, power stations and 5G technology. China has achieved an unprecedented role and is negotiating the expansion of credits in yuan to finance its exports and support its subsequent capture of natural resources.

O establishment local is incapable of adopting a common position in the face of the demands of the Americans and the offers from the East. Its political and cultural dependence on the North collides with the attractive businesses offered by China. To resolve this dilemma, it is necessary to manage in advance the stormy adjustment that the next government will implement.


failed hegemonies

Argentina continues to deal with an unresolved crisis of hegemony, which prevents the ruling classes from establishing the necessary alliances for lasting political stability.

Alfonsín was not able to build this minimum consensus to face the corrosion of the economy. Menem managed to maintain some cohesion around convertibility, but it eroded sharply when inconsistencies in his model came to light. He managed to introduce the greatest advance in neoliberal restructuring in recent decades, but he never came close to the stability achieved by his peers in Chile, Peru or Colombia.

Kirchnerism forged another type of consensus and maintained a significant leadership until 2012. The reappearance of the economic crisis recreated tensions and the tenuous hegemony dissipated again in the face of a new right-wing opponent. The supremacy forged by Macri was more transitory and was completely diluted in 2017. Finally, Fernández was the antithesis of any hegemony. He revealed a great inability to deal with his political enemies. His authority was pulverized after the pandemic.

This succession of failures reaffirmed the instability that previously affected dictatorships and civil and military rulers. Misgovernment has been a permanent feature of Argentine crises. This inconsistency corroded the administrations of the three dominant political formations (radical, peronist and right-wing). None of them managed to satisfy their constituents or their references from the dominant groups.

Faced with this fragility, economic power opted to reinforce its influence over the unelected state bureaucracies. With this sponsorship, the judiciary increased its performance through vetoes, injunctions, candidate conditioning and election supervision. He pursued opponents with unusual virulence and turned the Court into a parallel power that sets its own agenda and manages its own affairs.

The same centrality was achieved by the media, which hold greater and more relevant power than other political actors. Its displacement from the parties generates great imbalances. The press tends to boost scandals in order to support patronized characters over disgraced figures. But through this manipulation, it undermines the management of public affairs and deteriorates the helm of the state.

The same tripod of economic, judicial and media power has been the architect, in Latin America, of the lawfare against the exponents of the progressive cycle. In Argentina, this bombing increased instability. The elite of capitalists, judges and communicators who control the real power undermined the authority of governors, ministers and presidents, increasing the disorder in the country.

Argentina is also distinguished by the absence (or weakness) of military power, which maintains its traditional influence in the rest of the region. After the failure of the dictatorship, the defeat of Malvinas and the elimination of Carapintada, the old protagonism of the army was annulled. This shift has reduced the use of coercion to counteract political vulnerability. This lack deprives the capitalist class of an important instrument of domination. The armed forces do not exercise the overt power, or underlying role, that they do in Colombia, Brazil, Chile or Peru.


The Mainstream Right and Extremists

In the party spectrum, there was a great mutation of radicalism, which did not manage to survive in its traditional format the decline of Alfonsín and the catastrophe of De la Rúa. It persists as a large structure of governors, mayors and legislators, but without any trace of progressivism.

The UCR [Radical Civic Union] was subordinated to Macrismo, which managed to forge the first right-wing formation to win elections. This pre-eminence remains after Macri's failure. The centrality of the dispute between Bullrich and Larreta in the PASO [Open, Simultaneous and Mandatory] primaries confirms this role of the PRO [Republican Proposal] in the face of declining radicalism.

Both formations converge on the priority of crushing social protest to install a repressive regime. What happened in Jujuy anticipates a future government of this coalition in any of its versions. Morales introduced a constitutional reform that reduces rights, suppresses midterm elections and facilitates his family's corruption, with the aim of expropriating the original inhabitants and handing over lithium to big companies.

To consummate this outrage, it facilitated shooting in the eyes of demonstrators, promotes millionaire embargoes against detainees, promotes unprecedented criminal convictions and supports the police incursion into the University. All members of Together for Change they spread the same lies to cover up the reappearance of sticks, bullets, infiltrators and unmarked cars in demonstrations.

The only disagreements in this bloc revolve around the intensity of aggression against the people, in a presidency that they anticipate is very close. Bullrich is in favor of a virulent onslaught, at great risk of provoking a popular rebellion. Larreta defends a more agreed aggression, which could be ineffective for the ambitions of the dominant classes.

The internal rivalry between both candidates makes these discrepancies transparent. O establishment celebrates Bullrich's brutality but is suspicious of its feasibility. He approves of all her bravado and forgives her economic ramblings, but he also values ​​Larreta's ability to align disparate forces in a long-term regressive project.

This conventional right has gained an important electoral base, fueled by disappointment with the current government, but it does not have the support in the streets of previous years. There are no pots or marches like in Nisman's time or during the pandemic. Macri's failure is recent and affects the credibility of the PRO. Furthermore, the right has replaced its usual demagoguery with confessions of adjustment, which revive the fears of the population against such attacks.

Mainstream variants of this spectrum face new rivalry from their far-right competitors. Unlike 2001, this trend emerges as a channel for capturing dissatisfaction with the political system. The Bolsonaristas of the Macri era (like Olmedo) are no longer marginal. Now they compete for space with traditional conservatism.

Milei was manufactured by the media and arrived in politics without any previous trajectory. It was installed to enforce an aggression agenda and facilitated that function with ridiculous beliefs. His delusions include the expectation of receiving high wages in foreign currency, extinguishing the fiscal deficit by setting fire to the Central Bank and overcoming national decay by eradicating the “political caste” (of which he is now a part).

Libertarians were promoted to reintroduce a repressive climate and encourage punitive demagoguery, which includes the free carrying of guns. Its exponents do not hide homophobic, elitist or racist expressions, nor outbreaks such as selling organs or minors. Cristina's failed assassination attempt also demonstrated that this extreme right does not limit its actions to verbal delusions.

The centrality achieved by Milei is linked to the influence of the same current in Europe, the United States and Latin America. It is not an exclusively local phenomenon, but it generates paradoxical adversities for its promoters. It is true that it facilitates the popularization of fallacies sponsored by the powerful, but at the same time, it fractures the coalition forged by the “red circle” to secure a next government.

In the 2021 midterm elections, the Together for Change demonstrated that he could win the presidency in the first round. The extreme right erupted to reinforce the reactionary leadership, but created an ungovernable monster that affects the plans of the establishment.

A competitive election of Libertarians could erode PRO and UCR supremacy and drive an adverse wedge into the right-wing bloc. The crazy campaign against the “political caste” also reduces the negotiation field of Milei himself, who has improvised the hiring of candidates in the provinces. For the time being, media power has waned support for its fascist creature. The future of this Frankenstein is a big question mark.


Disillusionment with the Fifth Peronism

A singularity of Argentina is the persistence of Peronism as the dominant political structure. It maintains a great influence as a culture, identity, electoral strength and power network. He managed to recover from the defeat of Alfonsín and the disillusionment with Menem with a new internal mutation, which confirmed the plasticity of his five versions.

The classic strand (1945-55) was inspired by military nationalism and supported the industrial bourgeoisie, in conflict with foreign capital and local elites. It implemented unprecedented social improvements for the region and forged a Welfare State close to European social democracy. On this basis, he gained lasting support in the organized working class.

The second Peronism was totally different (1973-76). It was marked by the violent offensive of reactionary sectors (López Rega) against radicalized currents (PJ [Justicialist Party], Montoneros). The right launched fire at the vast network of militants forged during the resistance to Perón's ban. It acted with counterrevolutionary fury in the insurgent context of the 70s. The presence of these two extreme poles in the same movement was a particularity of this Peronism.

The third Peronism was neoliberal (1989-99). It introduced the policies of privatization, trade liberalization and work flexibility, which the Thatcherists implemented in other latitudes. He was not the only convert of this period (Cardoso in Brazil, the PRI in Mexico), but no other embodied such a shameless defection from the old nationalism. This same reactionary mutation was seen in other cases, such as the MNR in Bolivia or the APRA in Peru. But these formations definitively abandoned any connection with their popular base and faced dissolution or decline.

The three Peronisms of the last century illustrate the multiple varieties that this movement has assumed. It led to major crises and surprising reconstitutions. From each collapse emerged a new project adapted to its time.

Kirchnerism led a fourth progressive Peronism. He resumed the improvements of the first period with other fundamentals. The old conservative paternalism was replaced by new post-dictatorial ideals of citizen participation. The internal confrontation with the right was not dramatic and was resolved with a distancing from duhaldism.

Kirchner rebuilt the state apparatus demolished by the collapse of 2001. He restored the functioning of the structure that guarantees the privileges of the dominant classes. But he consummated this reconstitution by expanding assistance to the impoverished, extending democratic rights and facilitating the recovery of living standards.

Cristina introduced a more combative brand, formed in the confrontation with agro-soybeans, the media and vulture funds. This polarization broke the balance that Néstor had maintained with all the power groups. His fourth Peronism was located in the regional center-left (alongside Lula, Correa and Tabaré), but established ties with the radical branches of Chávez and Evo. He did not share the institutional deification that prevailed in Brazil or Uruguay.

Fernández's fifth Peronism embodied an unprecedented failure. Justicialism has always included contradictory experiences, but it has never had such a useless aspect of simple validation of the status quo. After the first test of conflicts (Vicentin), the right sprained his arm and Alberto accumulated a record of defeats. He could not even defend his health protection policy, and when inflation began to pulverize wages, he opted for submission to the IMF.

This impotence contrasted not only with Perón, but also with Néstor and Cristina. There was not the slightest hint of a dispute with agribusiness (2010), nor initiatives comparable to the nationalization of oil (YPF) and pension funds (AFJP) or the media law. Fernández's failure puts him in the same compartment as other leaders of the progressive new wave (such as Boric in Chile or Castillo in Peru), who have disillusioned his followers.


Three scenarios for justicialism

The current frustrated experience generates three possible scenarios for Peronism. The first possibility is a reconstitution of the right, with the stamp of Schiaretti and the Córdoba PJ allied to the Cambiemos. This is the same profile that promotes the leader of Jujuy's justicialism. With his management of the legislative bloc and the main newspaper in the province, this character supported Morales' reform and the repression of demonstrators.

Other governors would adapt to the new map of the interior and the Senate, which could emerge from a new pre-eminence of PRO and UCR. This orientation would be in line with Tolosa Paz's attack on the piqueteros and with Berni disputing the heavy hand of the police with Bullrich.

Massa fits this perspective because of his categorical right-wing background. He has always been a US Embassy man with strong sympathies for Republican Trumpism. That's why he supported Guaidó and accompanied Macri. He maintained a prudent silence in the face of repression in Jujuy due to his patronage ties with Lieutenant Governor Haquim.

The current official candidate never shared Alberto Fernández's timorous temperament. For that reason, he could emerge as an effective enemy of Kirchnerism, if he manages to reach the Casa Rosada. In that case, he could repeat Lenín Moreno's treacherous trajectory in Ecuador.

Massa could also embody a new version of Menemism. O establishment foresees this prospect and perceives you as a trusted member of your own circle. After a year at the head of the Ministry of Economy, he reinforced the adjustment, with cuts in primary expenses and in pensions and social plans.

A very different scenario could emerge for Peronism if officialdom suffered a major electoral defeat that fractured the Front of All. In this case, justicialism would enter a phase of disintegration, similar to that which occurred after Alfonsín's victory or the collapse of Menemism.

There is a third possibility of preservation and eventual reconstitution of the PJ under Christian rule. Cristina Kirchner managed to maintain her pre-eminence through an intelligent differentiation of the demolished figure of Alberto. It knew how to preserve this protagonism with the argument of banning, which was, at best, a threat and never a reality. Had such a ban effectively existed, it would have been appropriate to contest elections (as at the time of Resistance), with appeals for blank votes.

Cristina did not come forward, after assessing all the disadvantages of a defeat or a triumph without the possibility of forming a solid government. Faced with this adversity, she opted to support a future plan with Kiciloff, Wado and Máximo. But her resignation also erodes the viability of that project. Battles that are postponed can turn into lasting defeats. To avoid this risk, Lula again presented his candidacy against Jair Bolsonaro.

The background to the problem is that Cristina does not have an alternative economic plan to Massa's. Therefore, it limits itself to silently confirming the adjustment with praise for capitalism. Her appeal to renegotiate the foreign debt on other terms has already failed during Alberto's administration. Her message of a promising past that would reappear in the future also lacks credibility. If this project were viable, it would have started to implement it during the current government. Currently, Peronism does not offer a credible way out of the crisis.


The Pillars of Resistance

The social relationship of forces is decisive in the Argentine scenario due to the enormous centrality of popular struggles. The omission of this incidence makes it impossible to understand the current dynamics.

The main workers' movement on the continent is located in our country. His willingness to fight was verified in the 40 general strikes carried out since the end of the dictatorship. The majority adherence to these stoppages remains, as an unusual fact in other latitudes. Union membership is also at the top of international averages.

Argentina has some similarities with France in terms of the influence of trade unionism and its power in the streets. This protagonism of workers affects the region in a similar way to the role played by French employees in Europe.

But the main novelty of recent decades has been the consolidation of social movements of informal and unemployed workers. These organizations result, to a large extent, from previous trade union experience. Its emergence was consummated during the 2001 crisis, when workers deprived of employment were driven to block roads to demand their rights. They resorted to this modality for a simple subsistence need.

The struggle of these movements made it possible to sustain the State's social aid, which the ruling classes granted in the face of fear of a major revolt. These plans became indispensable for the reproduction of the social fabric. What initially appeared to be a temporary response to the economic collapse has become a structural feature of Argentine life.

The new forms of resistance are linked to the former belligerence of the working class. They facilitated the return of progressivism to government and play an active role in organizing the dispossessed. They gave rise to a solidarity network connected to the development of many localities.

The street protagonism of the piquetero movement makes it similar to its indigenist counterpart in Ecuador. They are formations that come from very different traditions and organize equally divergent sociocultural conglomerates. But they are related by the political impact of their actions.

In Ecuador, the neoliberal government of Lasso was overthrown recently, determining the end of that administration and its probable replacement by correísmo. An equivalent influence was demonstrated by the picket organization in precipitating the end of Duhalde and the consequent rise of Kirchnerism. Over the past two decades, they have maintained a strong presence as visible exponents of popular malaise.

Argentina also has a huge pool of human rights fighters. The democratic consciousness that prevails in the country is evidenced annually in the large marches on March 24th. The massive participation in this commemoration illustrates how four successive generations kept the memory alive.

The validity of the democratic achievements is corroborated by the 300 trials for crimes against humanity, with 1115 convictions. The genocidaires remain in prison and all attempts to free them have failed. The “two for one” proposal was resoundingly rejected and Maldonado's crime triggered a great commotion. After 47 years of searching, a new grandson was recovered in the relentless battle for identity. Other achievements, such as the laws on abortion and gender equality, are part of this framework.

It is important to highlight these advances – which contrast with the economic and social degradation – to avoid unilateral evaluations of the last 40 years. Characterizing this period as a mere “failure of democracy” is an oversimplification. Amid terrible setbacks in living standards, considerable democratic successes have been maintained.

To some extent, these improvements build on the enduring legacy of public education. Mass schooling in secular institutions forged an ideal of coexistence and progress, which was not replaced by the Chilean model of privatization. Despite the dramatic collapse of public education, the right has not managed to generalize elitist beliefs, nor has it managed to nullify the vitality of critical thinking in universities.


Recycled Social Link

The strength preserved by the trade union, social and democratic movements is the country's main asset and the pillar of a popular resolution of the crisis. That is why the right has as a priority the weakening of this resistance. Its candidates have been brutally sincere in their claim to destroy popular organizations. Keep in mind the 2001 rebellion and the serious setback suffered by Macri when he tried to reform pensions. Reaction from below against the next adjustment is the great nightmare of PRO strategists.

This popular power that infuriates enemies is often ignored in the field itself. The thesis of “passivity”, “neutralization” or “co-option” of fighters exemplifies this disqualification. After many battles, in practice, a contradictory dynamic of concessions to counteract conflicts prevailed.

It is equally true that, over the past three years, the deception generated by Fernández has provoked only very limited protests. There were triumphs of many unions and relevant union actions, but the widespread response of the oppressed was contained. Therefore, unlike in 2001, the ruling class does not face the next elections with fear (or disorientation). On the contrary, it has great confidence in the main candidates for the presidency.

Argentina did not participate in the recent wave of protests that held back the conservative restoration in the region (2019-2022). These revolts forced the hasty departure of right-wing leaders in Bolivia, Chile, Peru, Honduras and Colombia. In our country, social discontent has not given rise to equivalent revolts, although it has given rise to the same type of progressive victories at the polls.

Under the Fernández government, popular reaction was less than usual in the face of the terrible adjustment under way. The CGT [General Confederation of Labour] bureaucracy managed to maintain the demobilization of the rank and file. The discontent was partially channeled through marches and picket camps, which showed great courage in the face of the demonization orchestrated by the mass media. This mobilization had the merit of opposing the amnesia of popular traditions promoted by the right. It also facilitated the persistence of significant levels of militancy and politicization.

There are several reasons that explain the limited resistance of recent years. The effectiveness of social plans, which act as extended coverage to mitigate social disruptions, played an important role. In certain sectors of the population, there is also a certain resignation in the face of inflation, insofar as it coexists with continued employment. The current crisis is profound, but it is not a repeat of 2001. The permanence of informal jobs offsets the malaise, and the deterioration of income is seen as a lesser evil in the face of the drama of unemployment. On the other hand, the impossibility of saving induces the middle class to consume or go into debt to avoid adversity.

But beyond these circumstances, the massive mobilization in Jujuy illustrates the kind of response the next government could face. Morales managed to divide and frighten the popular movement after his coup against Milagro Salas. But after he won the election, he felt emboldened and precipitated a surprised reaction from below.

The response came from teachers, was followed by other unions and brought together environmentalists and indigenous communities. O "malon of peace” that arrived in Buenos Aires illustrates the continuity of this battle. In addition, the salary improvements achieved by teachers demonstrated that the fight generates results. Jujuy was a likely test of things to come.

Observing the last decades retrospectively, it appears that Argentina continues to face an unresolved impasse in the social relations of force. This concept was used in the 1960s and 1970s by several intellectuals to conceptualize the scenario created by the weight of the working class and unions. The same notion was used again in 2001, after a rebellion that contained the neoliberal adjustment. That balance persists to this day.

The dynamics of recycled impasses is the background of a context that the ruling classes are unable to change. The permanence of this balance feeds the hopes of overcoming the crisis with a popular project.


Critical kirchnerism and the left

The two forces most committed to the social and democratic struggle are critical Kirchnerism and the left. This intervention is very different in terms of persistence or consequences, but both sectors have the necessary militant embryo to push an alternative direction.

Critical Kirchnerism includes a heterogeneous group of formations integrated in the front of All, but with strong questioning of the policies of the last four years. The turning point with officialdom was the agreement with the IMF. There are many gray areas in between, but the position on the deal distinguishes the two segments.

Resignation predominates in conventional Kirchnerism. Its theorists justify this attitude with the “conjunctural adversity of power relations”. But they forget that this balance is not an invariable fact, but an effect of political action. This practice consolidates or reverses unfavorable scenarios.

On other occasions, they justify passivity by warning of the greater danger of the right. But they ignore that this threat is always recreated by the powerful to ensure their domination. They often sponsor more brutal enemies, to make the executioner of the day acceptable. The acceptance of this blackmail currently involves the validation of Massa against Larreta.

Critical Kirchnerism rejects molding to the current scenario, but postulates the convenience of a battle within Peronism. He accepts the bitter medicine of voting for Massa in the presidential elections, after having forged his own space around Grabois. With this previous grouping, he hopes to condition the unwanted candidate of officialdom, in case he lands in the Casa Rosada.

But it should be remembered that Alberto was much more conditioned by Cristina's vice-presidency, and this barrier did not prevent the disaster of his government. It is also clear that the possibility of influencing a determined right-winger like Massa will be far less than any pressure on the vacillating Alberto.

The project of forging a radicalized strand of Peronism is nothing new. It has the traumatic background of Perón's relationship with the PJ. A review of this experience would allow us to remember how frustrating the attempt to create an alternative pole within the verticalized PJ has been.

The left faces another kind of disjunctive. A socialist formation was consolidated around the FIT [Left and Workers Front], with a minority electoral presence, but unprecedentedly visible. She is distinguished by the combativeness that she demonstrated once again in Jujuy. Instead of sending formal messages of support, its leaders have put their bodies to the protests.

In the difficult scenario that lies ahead, the presence of a greater number of left-wing parliamentarians would be very positive, to reinforce resistance in Congress and on the streets. The proposals of this formation are also necessary to face the tepidity of progressivism. A better project will only emerge with the exposure of scathing criticism of the inconsequence of this space.

But no one votes for the FIT with the expectation of facilitating their near, future or distant arrival in government. This disbelief limits the prospects of this force. The FIT itself does not present itself as a government option. It lacks any strategy to achieve this goal and does not go to the polls to emerge victorious. Its only perspective is linked to the irruption of a revolutionary process, which has not been seen in recent decades.

The assessment of this last gap is omitted as well as any chance of winning the government to dispute power in a long period of transition. Such a policy would require recognition of the qualitative difference that separates the struggle for supremacy in a government, a political regime, a state and a society. The differentiation of these instances would allow us to conceive of socialist paths that the FIT does not consider.

The evaluation of these ways would also lead to the promotion of large electoral agreements for the conquest of prefectures or provinces. The search for these objectives would force a reassessment of rejected alliances with critical Kirchnerism.

But none of these debates are part of the agenda that opposes two sectors of the FIT in the PASO. The divergences that separate the two lists are difficult to understand for many supporters of these forces. Even more surprising is the presentation of other minority lists with the same strength outside the front.

In the intense political life of our country, the theoretical-political debate on Argentina's protracted crisis has restarted. If these elaborations give rise to a new horizon in critical kirchnerism and in the left, the popular project will begin to emerge and awaken the enthusiasm that this construction requires.

*Claudio Katz is professor of economics at Universidad Buenos Aires. Author, among other books, of Neoliberalism, neodevelopmentalism, socialism (popular expression)

Translation: Fernando Lima das Neves.

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