Argentina: People in revolt

By Michael O'Brien
Socialist Voice March 2002

TO A superficial observer the struggle of the Argentinean masses against the government's economic mismanagement has abated. However, the evidence from the ground tells a different story. None of the problems that brought people to the streets in the first place have gone away. It is true that the scale and frequency of the protests has dipped since the end of 2001.

However, what is in fact taking place is that the most conscious organisers in the communities and workplaces are taking stock of the situation and discussing a way forward. The forum for these discussions are various neighbourhood and rank and file assemblies who have played the key role in organising the protests and are now endeavouring to work out a plan of action and a programme of demands.

A delegate conference of the neighbourhood assemblies in Buenos Aires met in February to this end. There is widespread recognition that while the protests have served to mobilise people and make them aware of their own potential and caused a partial retreat on the part of the regime and the IMF, that this in itself won't effect permanent change. A member of the Committee for a Workers' International was invited to address this gathering.

The point we made is that the assemblies are highly representative bodies of workers, unemployed and the ruined middle classes. They are made up of the most respected and capable activists. The ruling class has clearly demonstrated its inability to rule. This is borne out by the five presidents in quick succession, the flight of capital and the massive 'blank vote' in the last elections. All these factors taken together lead to the conclusion the protests and strikes should continue but that side by side with this the assemblies have to take on responsibility themselves for the running of affairs in the interests of ordinary people.

This begins with the distribution of food and the organisation of services, which in the case of education is already taking place. Factory committees should be established that would elect delegates to the 'assembly of pickets', who in turn need to link up with the local neighbourhood assemblies. This would lay the basis for the working class to take over the means of production in the interests of ordinary people. An appeal also needs to go out to the ranks of the army to organise their own assemblies and accept the legitimacy of the neighbourhood and workplace assemblies.

This would in effect begin the process towards socialist change. Past revolutionary situations show that unless a programme for socialist change is struggled for within the working class and its organisations the unions, co-ops and neighbourhood assemblies private property and the levers of power will remain in the hands of the ruling class and they will weather the 'storm'.

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