16 de julio de 2019

The historical continuity of the Partido Obrero

The historical continuity of the Partido Obrero

Foto: BCM Ojo Obrero Fotografía

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In recent days, the internal situation of the Partido Obrero has been the subject of political debate in the main media of the country and has been widely distributed through social networks. The issue was on the front page of the newspapers, and dozens of radio and television programs were interested in the debate, requiring the opinion of PO leaders. More importantly, the split with the Partido Obrero that Altamira has announced publicly has been cause for concern -which we share- within broad layers of workers and youth. Properly analyzed, this broad coverage reflects the position won by the Partido Obrero in the country in the consideration of the most combative and politicized sectors of the masses, but also in that of the general population and that of other social classes. This characteristic of the Partido Obrero distinguishes it from other organizations that claim themselves of the historical tradition of the Fourth International and even of the radical left, both in Argentina and internationally. In short, the Partido Obrero is a historical construction with deep roots and a program that has achieved mass influence in some sectors.

This unique position won by the Partido Obrero leads us to characterize the split carried out by the group commanded by Jorge Altamira as a criminal attack, not only against the organization that he founded 55 years ago, but also against the proletariat of our country and the exploited masses. This characterization is further aggravated when we take into account the methodology with which this split is carried out, making public allegations that put into question the democratic character of our party. It is impossible to ignore that this occurs in the middle of the electoral campaign, and therefore Altamira is also attacking the struggle that the Left-Unity Front must wage against all the capitalist blocs.

There is a coherent political line coming from Jorge Altamira, because he, before leading this split, had publicly attacked his party in his balance of the local provincial elections of Córdoba, accusing it of ‘feminist' and class conciliation political deviations (accusations that, of course, he never demonstrated). He did the same after other provincial elections and, even more importantly, he also questioned the program of formation of the Frente de Izquierda-Unidad. He did so despite the fact that the 22 points of the agreed platform are categorically placed in the defense of worker’s government in opposition to all capitalist variants.

XXVI Congress 

The split provoked by Jorge Altamira occurs just two months after the end of the XXVI Congress of the PO, which, without a doubt, was a school of political debate and an example of internal democracy. Between January and April 17 internal bulletins of debate were published, with more than 300 texts elaborated by the militants. Because of their length, these texts could occupy several volumes of a library. The national political situation, the international situation and a balance of the activities of the party themselves were put to debate. The contributions to the debate were submitted by the entire body of militants, both more experienced leaders and new comrades. The debates were processed in cell meetings and in plenary sessions of debate that were held especially to consider the documents and to vote resolutions on the discussion. At the end of the congressional debate, the delegates who attended the XXVI Congress were voted. There, during four days, the political theses and work guidelines were debated and voted, and the National Committee of the Partido Obrero was elected. During the process of the congressional debate, we also held a National Electoral Conference with elected delegates, which voted to launch the campaign of the PO and the Frente de Izquierda y de los Trabajadores [Left and Workers Front-FIT], and nominated several candidates, including Romina del Plá to the presidential formula. Accusing a party that experiences an internal democracy of this intensity of being bureaucratic is slander. This would already be outrageous coming from our political adversaries, but becomes absolutely worthy of disavowal when the slander comes from a historical leader of this organization.

During the congressional debate, Jorge Altamira was able to defend his political positions. He presented an alternative document to the one presented by the national leadership on the Argentine political situation. He voted for the international document (which was drawn up by the members of the International Commission, without his collaboration) and rejected the activities report document (but without submitting an alternative one, or a joint, total and coherent criticism).

During the development of the XXVI Congress itself, a preferential time was granted to Altamira to defend his positions. Altamira’s positions, nevertheless, were in frank minority; and he was not elected by the militants as a member of the National Committee. The documents presented by the leadership won 80% of the votes of the delegates, and a similar percentage voted the thesis presented by the leadership in the National Electoral Conference. A subsequent Electoral Conference of the City of Buenos Aires, held in mid-June, voted the candidacy for Gabriel Solano for chief of government [mayor] of the City for 94.5% of the votes against the 5.5% obtained by Marcelo Ramal. Despite the overwhelming balance of strength that expressed the position of the militants, Jorge Altamira publicly attacked that internal election on his Facebook page, calling it an undemocratic act.

In the aftermath of the XXVI Congress, the elected National Committee proposed to Altamira and Ramal to continue with the tasks that they were carrying out, one in the international commission and the other one on the editorial committee of Prensa Obrera. Both rejected this proposal of integration. Instead of making a political defense of the broad democracy of the PO, its annual congresses and its debates, both through written documents and through plenary sessions of debate (and instead of contrasting this internal democracy against clientelism and gangster methods of capitalist politics), Altamira is dedicating his time to questioning his own party through the media, using the grossest lies and falsifications.


The debates that marked the XXVI Congress began long before the three months set in the party statutes. Towards the end of 2018, and in a somewhat casual way, a written debate about what was called "the strategic initiative of the bourgeoisie" was developed. Following a criticism of an article by Altamira in our magazine En Defensa del Marxismo [In Defense of Marxism] (which affirmed that in Brazil and in Latin America the bourgeoisie had lost the initiative, and that this initiative was potentially in the hands of the working class and the revolutionary left), a highly clarifying polemic on issues of political strategy and method developed. Altamira's thesis contrasted with the electoral result in Brazil, where Bolsonaro had managed to win the elections, while the Left that claims to be revolutionary had been reduced to an absolute marginality. Altamira’s group stubbornly defended this thesis, stating that, in the imperialist era, the bourgeoisie was unable to have a strategic initiative. Thus, world wars, fascism (to prevent the spread of Bolshevism to all Europe), fratricidal wars armed by imperialism - as happened in Yugoslavia -, capitalist restoration of the workers’ States, were presented as expressions of the world crisis, and not as actions of the capitalist class itself to defend their class domination, fighting tooth and nail. In a derailment from the course of Marxism, Marcelo Ramal came to affirm that fascism was not the counterrevolutionary strategy of the capitalist class but a manifestation of the crisis. Real class struggle was sacrificed, and the fundamental terms of Marxism were reversed: the motor of society ceased to be the class struggle, and that place was occupied by the "capitalist crisis". The subject became a passive object of material determination.

Altamira’s group tried to cover up this break with Marxism, accusing the party leadership of an 'anti-catastrophist' turn. But the turn belongs to Altamira. As several comrades pointed out to him in texts published in our internal bulletins, Jorge Altamira deliberately confused the world crisis and capitalist bankruptcy, as a specific category that shows a historical decadence of the current social regime -and whose deepening poses destabilizations and political crises, and the emergence of revolutionary situations - with the incapacity of action of the bourgeoisie and imperialism. The fundamental conclusions presented by Trotsky in the Third Congress of the Communist International were ignored. In his famous text entitled "A School of Revolutionary Strategy", he demonstrated how, contradictorily, the bourgeoisie achieves its greatest political acumen (achieved over centuries of exercising its class rule) when the material bases of its domination are decomposing, and when it proves itself incapable of developing the productive forces of society. This contradiction shows the validity of socialist revolution, in opposition to those who have shelved it in the name of the triumph of capitalism. Said contradiction also reinforces the need for the construction of revolutionary parties on a national and international level. This is so because the bourgeoisie will not surrender its power because its regime is in decline, it will have to be snatched away by means of a social revolution. This conclusion, that at first sight is elementary for a militant of the Fourth International, was described as 'anti-catastrophist' by Altamira and his group. In this way, they are showing their retreat to fatalistic or mechanistic positions, that ignore the centrality of the class struggle and the tasks of construction of the party and of a workers vanguard.

This debate had a manifestation in the Latin American Conference, held last November. There, Altamira and his group developed a curious argumentation, which they could not sustain through to its conclusions. Imbued with the wrongful thesis of the inability of the bourgeoisie to take initiative, they went a step further and denied that there is a "capitalist offensive" in Argentina and Latin America. The attempts to advance in labour and social security reforms in Brazil and in our country (and more generally the disputes between international powers for the appropriation of the natural resources of the region) were simply denied in the name of the "crisis". It is precisely the depth of the crisis, that far from negating the offensive, makes it more dire as the only way out of the crisis that the capitalist class has is to reinforce the exploitation of the working class in order to increase the profit rate.

Turning their backs to the masses

When this controversy had not yet concluded, the period of debate of the XXVI Congress of the PO formally began. This allowed us to judge its true scope. Facing the political thesis presented by the majority of the outgoing National Committee, Altamira presented a text of his own, in which there it was no analysis of the class struggle of Argentina, the relationship of forces and the positions of the different tendencies that act in the mass movement. The document admitted this flaw and promised to correct it in the future. Six months after the presentation of the document, this has not yet happened. But the omission was consistent with the debate that had arisen months ago.

If, finally, the subject happens to be the "crisis" and not the classes in the struggle that they wage, then what is the importance of analyzing the state of the situation of the workers movement and its vanguard? We had fatalism and mechanism, in its purest conception, expressed in a congressional document. Disavow of class struggle led the group referenced in Altamira to consider that the Leninist maxim of having "an ear stuck to the masses" leads to adaptation ... to bourgeois democracy. The surprise between cadres and militants could not be greater! Historical leaders of the PO reneging on the ABC of Marxism. The consequences of this position were immediately felt.

Ignoring the most irrefutable evidence, Altamira’s group denied that Kirchnerism and nationalism are an obstacle to the conquest of the masses. While the Party struggled, through political action and agitation, to overcome the blockades of Kirchnerism or the trade-union and “piquetero” bureaucracy, Altamira rejected the proposal to "defeat the austerity plan of Macri and the governors" as "defeatist" (!). While militants were making efforts to the maximum of their capabilities in order to break the isolation of the hard struggles of the period (Interpack plant or Textilana plant), Altamira denied that they were isolated at all. While the PO intervened in all the struggles and organized huge mobilizations, such as those of the Polo Obrero, Altamira made allegations of electoralism against his own party, while he theorized about a tendency to popular rebellion that would be a result of the regime crisis (instead of a result of the concrete intervention of the mass struggles). Meanwhile, he proposed the slogans used by the PO in 2001 (Down with Macri, Constituent Assembly). He did so ignoring the difference between a situation marked by popular rebellion and the current crisis, where the bureaucracy, the Partido Justicialista (Peronism) and electoral expectations in a sector of the masses have guaranteed Macrism a truce. Following the thesis that Peronism is not a blockade for the Left, Altamira proposed the slogan 'Down with Macri' for provincial elections where Macrism did not pass 20% of the votes, as in Tucumán or Córdoba. The Partido Obrero has promoted popular rebellion against Macrism during the entire Macri government, but we are not going to fall into the trap of using an electoral slogan that politically sides with the pro-IMF replacement of political managers of capital in favor of a new government of the Partido Justicialista.

Altamira has affirmed, for example, that the women's movement had already broken with the bourgeois parties and clashed directly against the State, when the Plenario de Trabajadoras [PdT- Plenary of Women Workers- Partido Obrero’s women organization] was fighting within the women's movement against the influence of Kirchnerism. He predicted a "pre-revolutionary situation" if the abortion bill was rejected in the Senate. Then, he shamefully opposed the call of the PdT for a referendum on abortion, finally arguing that we should present signatures to that effect "in court", in order to avoid Parliament… when the law would have to be voted by Congress! Altamira has rejected the political vindication that the PO and the PdT make of the whole “green tide” [the deepening in the rising of the women’s movement in its struggle for legalize abortion], criticizing partial aspects such as the proposals to reform sexual education or the use of “inclusive language”. In the end, he refuses to develop a revolutionary and class intervention in the women's movement, discarding the leading role this movement has played within the PO and the Frente de Izquierda y de los Trabajadores itself as a "feminist" pressure.

This rejection of the Frente de Izquierda by Altamira was later joined by denouncing the Plenario Sindical Combativo [Combative Trade-Unión Plenary] as an agreement between “sects”. The PSC has regrouped the vast majority of the struggling sectors in the Argentine workers movement and made possible a common intervention in workers conflicts and national strikes. Altamira’s group has systematically ignored the development of the Polo Obrero, calling it a force of reformist social care. But this political force has shaken the whole country with its line of a systematic campaign of struggles, weaving a very important united front of action against the cooptation of Macri, minister of Social Welfare Carolina Stanley and the “Papal” triumvirate of social organizations [orientated by the Catholic Church]. Altamira’s position is opposed to the paths of political development that the party opens up in the masses.

Propagandism and elections

These outlandish claims then evolved into anti-electoral positions. In a document of the Altamirista group, it was stated that "we prefer 2,000 workers to 10 deputies," as if the political conquest of the working class at this stage could be opposed to revolutionary intervention in the electoral process. This anti-electoral cretinism, coming from Altamira, was especially striking; because in 2011 it was he himself was who developed the position that the formation of the Frente de Izquierda recovered socialist electoral politics, allowing a class demarcation and prioritizing it over internal struggles between the Left. The change of position, with no doubt, was motivated by the place that Altamira played at every moment. When he was the candidate, electoral intervention of revolutionaries had a certain weight, and when he was not a candidate, this changed. Thus, subjectivity replaced the objective analysis of political action.

As he developed these positions, Altamira was turning to an ultra-left and fanciful critique of PO policy in the legislatures and parliaments. He made a political attack against the vote in favor of the Micaela law [for gender-conscious education for public officials], ignoring our own position (which explains the limits of that initiative) and the fact that the law was a concrete claim of relatives of victims of femicides. He also attacked [provincial deputy] Guillermo Kane's project of impeachment against Governor Vidal for the massacre of Sandra and Rubén in Moreno [who died in a school explosion because of faulty gas connections, resulting from budget cuts], arguing that the project itself, in order to prosper, would need the support of the Partido Justicialista and Massism [two capitalist parties]. But this project served to unmask the political support that these blocks gave to Vidal! While our parliamentarians were on the streets, facing the austerity plan, Altamira developed the thesis of a "parliamentarist" adaptation of the PO. Nonsense, which he sustained even by resorting to falsification, in the internal debate, of the parliamentary interventions of [our national deputy] Romina del Plá.

This political and theoretical regression of Altamira’s group showed their tendency to become a propagandist group, as a product of having to face the difficulties and blockages that the class struggle objectively presents against the task of political conquering of the masses for our positions and against the task of organising the workers vanguard in a revolutionary party. This clear political involution came hand in hand with the slogans that this group raised and with a revision of the method of the Transitional Program of the IV International. While this method seeks to draw a bridge between the current consciousness of workers and the seizure of power by the working class (and by this way overcoming the contradiction between the readiness of the objective conditions of the revolution and subjective immaturity), Altamira’s group gives up these transitional slogans in the name of "calls for power", such as the Constituent Assembly (which, to make matters worse, are slogans that should be used in an episodic way; because they are bourgeois-democratic proposals that can be used by the forces of the regime for their own benefit). The method of the Transitional Program is another one: the question of power goes through the whole program, articulating a system of slogans that drives the intervention of the working class in collision with the capitalist class. The Transitional Program even values the slogans called 'minimal', as long as they serve to mobilize workers against the State, its parties and the capitalist class. The centre of the Transitional Program is the political conquest of the masses in order to overcome the subjective backwardness that prevents ending the regime of domination of capital, regime long out-dated by history. Altamira’s group ignores this method simply because they have given up conquering the masses through a relentless party struggle.

inner regime and combat party

The debate of the XXVI Congress connected this deep controversy with the inner regime of the Party. It did so in a peculiar way, facing the unfounded denunciation from Altamira that the party was at an advanced stage of bureaucratization. But the broadness of the controversy by itself was enough to refute the Altamirist thesis. Moreover, the debate aroused in the party, the polemics in the National Committee that were known to all the militants, the regular congresses held annually, together with special conferences convened for different topics, showed an overcoming of the past existing regime (an internal party regime that had an extreme personalist style on the part of Altamira). The growth of the party, of its influence and of its militants, had positively impacted within the PO, moving forward from a strongly personal leadership regime to a collective one. That transition was not made without overcoming resistance. The Altamirist group saw in that modification a strategic setback because it identified the Partido Obrero program with Altamira himself. In an internal text, Marcelo Ramal went so far as to describe Altamira as the "program-man". The setback into becoming a propagandist group was accompanied by a high dose of personalistic messianism.

After being in a minority at the recent XXVI Congress, Altamira and his group are now seeking a new modification of the inner regime, but one that radically modifies the character of the party itself. The PO is a combat party, based on a revolutionary program. Its inner regime is adapted to that strategic definition. The Statute of the PO puts forward the right to form a tendency or a fraction, in order to loyally develop the internal debate in the party (that can assume, in certain situations, the form of a hard political struggle). At the same time, this broad internal debate (that, we repeat, can reach the formation of tendencies or fractions) goes hand in hand with the defence of the unity of action of the party on the basis of what is democratically voted at party organisms. Holding annual meetings of the PO is the consistent expression of this political method. However, Altamira’s group has proclaimed itself as a "public fraction" in order to act as its own party, developing its own proposals and activities outside the organization. But our Statute does not qualify such "public fraction" for a reason that is strategic and not disciplinary, which has to do with the defence of the unity of action of the Party. This is a non-negotiable principle, which projects the defence of the united front of class within our organization. On the other hand, the difference between a fraction and a separate organization is the obligatory recognition for the fraction of the congress and the National Committee that the congress elects, something that the Altamira group has refused to do.

Altamira’s proposal aims to drastically modify the nature of the PO. With its new conception, instead of a combat party we would become a "party of tendencies", in the trend of the Brazillian PSOL or of the Anti-capitalist Party of France. In these parties, the tendencies act as independent parties, with their program, propaganda and activities. Their congresses are not the supreme instance of resolution of what the party will do in a unified way, but a record of the relationship of forces established between the different tendencies. A version of this party was proposed to us by the PTS last year. The PO National Committee rejected this proposal, showing that the proposal was covering up a programmatic retreat to “Movementist” and reformist “democratizing” positions.

On the other hand, Jorge Altamira on his own, in an "Altamira responds" video, felt that the proposal was healthy and called to open a debate to finalize it. The character of the party is determined by its strategic objectives. The so-called "parties of tendencies" that we have just enumerated have been formed on the basis of renouncing the revolutionary program. In the case of the Unified Secretariat, this went so far as to remove the dictatorship of the proletariat from its program. In the case of Altamira and his group, involution takes on another form: that of trying to transform the PO into a propaganda group, which renounces the conquest of the workers' vanguard and through it of the masses. In that line, Altamira follows a course similar to that followed by Guillermo Lora, historical leader of the Bolivian Partido Obrero Revolucionario (POR). Lora never gave up the revolutionary program formally, but destroyed the POR, reducing it to an impotent sect. In the POR, this setback was determined by the difficulties it encountered in overcoming Bolivian bourgeois nationalism (which continues to prevail over the working and peasant masses to this day). Lora decided to replace the Transitional Program and its political method by calling the masses to “rise themselves” to the level of the revolutionary program, condemning the POR to passivity. The PO cadres had the chance to see this involution of the POR and created the antibodies to prevent history from repeating itself in our party.

The divergences raised by the divisionist group well could have been constrained to an inner debate of the party. Our method of regular annual congresses and the publication of positions in internal bulletins offered the framework to develop a loyal political struggle. Altamira's decision to advance into a split (self-proclaiming a public fraction that is, in fact, another party) shows a pronounced degree of political decomposition. The thesis of the program-man, defended to the point of embarrassment by Ramal, has embellished with a revolutionary varnish a petit-bourgeois position of prioritizing personal appetites over the own party.

The validity of PO

The critical assimilation of this experience of the POR was reinforced by the action of the Partido Obrero, which has conquered for its ranks proven cadres from different generations of revolutionaries. Within the PO are the cadres that come from the 1960s and 1970s decades, those who founded the organization and went through the criminal dictatorship of Videla and Massera; along with those who joined the struggle against the democratic experience of Alfonsinism; and those who faced the decade of 1990s, in times of international capitalist restoration.

These cadres and the vast majority of the militants are now the protagonists of a struggle of historical and strategic importance: defending the Partido Obrero against a liquidationist fraction promoted by its own founder. The vitality of our party, its revolutionary character and its enormous reserves of struggle are enabling us to achieve what no other party that claims the historical heritage of the Fourth International achieved so far; which is to overcome the liquidationist tendencies when these come from its own founding leader. The blow that the rupture precipitated by Altamira implies to the Partido Obrero leaves, nevertheless, this favourable balance, which will become part of our political and theoretical capital.

The historical validity of our party is assured by its cadres and its militants, who have learned the lessons of class struggle, even when its blows strike our own organization.

The policy of our Partido Obrero, in the face of this artificially provoked split, is and will be that all those leaders and comrades who want to return honestly to the revolutionary struggle of the Partido Obrero, have their place here.

More than ever, long live the Workers Party! Let’s go for the international unity of the workers, for the re-foundation of the Fourth International and socialism!



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