Assessment of the 2019 elections.
Alberto Fernández’ victory in the general election was marred by a huge improvement of Macrism -of over two million votes- and a percentage decline of Peronism from 49.49% to 48.04%. This election was only second to that of 1983 in the largest concentration of votes being between the first and second parties, reaching 88.5% of the ballots cast.
What is the reason behind such a result? We must consider two devaluations during the interregnum between the primary and general election, a frustrated freeze of gas prices, three sets of price rises, the beginning of a default, the slump of 20 billion USD of Central Bank reserves, a deepening in the recession and the spike in poverty and even hunger statistics.
Such a recovery of Macrism -which included victories in the provinces of Mendoza, Santa Fe, Entre Ríos, San Luis, and also a widening of the difference in Córdoba and the capital, on top of several unthinkable victories in counties of Buenos Aires- can only be explained by Alberto Fernández’ campaign’s shift towards the right. The candidate of the conservative coalition between Kirchnerism, the dissident Justicialist Party [Peronism] and Sergio Massa, centred his campaign on the markets, not on the streets.
Alberto Fernández’ main task was to seduce capital, which he began by declaring himself in favor of a “reasonable dollar” and the foreign currency purchase control, continued with several “missions” to the US in which Sergio Massa (Rudolph Giuliani’s man in Latin America) was a privileged envoy, and finished by meeting with investment funds and the most concentrated mining groups of the planet. One of the strong points in this task was the meeting with “refoundational” pretenses in Tucumán with the leader of the Argentine Industrial Union (UIA) and Héctor Daer of the General Confederation of Work (CGT), for the sake of a social pact which can guarantee the governability of a continuity of the IMF’s austerity.
The issue of the payment of the foreign debt was the centrepiece of the new president’s crusade of courtship directed at capital. So much so that this has afforded him some friction with the IMF, which wants to impose a deduction in the inevitable debt restructuring, in order to guarantee its own payoff. But what hasn’t been a topic of this dispute is how to “switch on the economy,'' one of the phrases coined to lay low in the face of a desperate electorate, which is a victim of the rampant social catastrophe of the capitalist crisis in which the campaign has unfolded and the transition will transpire.
Against the streets
Against Peronism’s electoral tradition, the call to take to the streets came from the right. On Alberto Fernández’ side, the stance which prevailed until the very last minute, and which guided every popular organization of the eclectic universe which has been co opted by the Frente de Todos (front led by Alberto Fernández and Cristina Kirchner), was to avoid the streets. Macri mobilized a social base with his slogans against corruption and “populism,” against “Venezuela and the past”, while all the union and piquetero [the jobless movement] bureaucracy was playing a formidable role of containing the social crisis which isn’t far from those which have unleashed rebellions in Ecuador and Chile.
While Macri was increasingly calling onto God in his speeches and even put on the light-blue scarf [symbol of the anti-abortion movement] to absorb Espert and Gómez Centurión’s votes, Alberto Fernández -who was voted by a fair part of the “Green Wave” [pro-abortion movement]- was campaigning with the upper crust of the Catholic Church.
Nicolás Dujovne [former Finance Minister] had already boasted that never in Argentine history had such austerity been imposed without the government collapsing. The coalition of Alberto Fernández, Cristina Kirchner and Sergio Massa, joined by all the wings of the union bureaucracy from Daer and “Cachorro” Godoy, until Moyano and Yasky, has guaranteed that the darker chapters of austerity could come without the government collapsing and the masses taking to the streets.
The most representative example of this situation was the huge strike of teachers and civil servants in the province of Chubut, which was criminally isolated by both camps of the political dispute so as to wear it down. Ctera’s strikes [Buenos Aires’ teachers’ union], in the face of the state devised repression by the oil union’s bureaucracy and the death of two teachers, only masked the containment strategy which included a plea to be incorporated into the CGT.
The centre-left and the left became subsumed in its support of Peronism: Patria Grande, the Comunist Revolutionary Party (PCR), De Gennaro’s sector, Yasky’s Argentine Workers’ Confederation (CTA), groups in the so-called “Vatican Triumvirate” (piquetero organizations with close ties to the Church); these were all supporting acts which totally handed over the initiative to the Peronist right. The women’s movement’s sector linked to Kirchnerism gave up any endeavour to fight for legal abortion and women’s rights to the anti-abortion operators like Tucuman province’s governor Manzur, who was the linchpin of the league of the “24 governors” with which Fernández promises to work with.
Argentina and Chile
The contrast between Chile, which is questioning thirty years of both poles of the Pinochetist democracy -the Concertación and Piñera’s right- and its inheritance of super exploitation and surrender, and Argentina, where 81% of voters have cast their ballot for two social forces which are responsible for the path which has produced one of the most explosive capitalist crises in Latin America, is evident. May we add that 98% of the election went to forces responsible for the Argentine disaster, when Peronism, including Lavagna, Massa and Pichetto, were the masterminds of the governability of the capitalist intent of free capitals and indebtedness as a way-out to the crisis when the Kirchnerist government was ending. This is not because the Argentine workers do not have a will to fight, as it has been made evident by the great national strikes or the strike in Chubut, but due to Peronism having worked systematically to channel all the rage towards the electoral process.
This speaks of a monopoly of the bourgeoisie in the national political stage. Some which has already been preempted by the provincial elections, in which the majority of the vote being hogged by the bosses’ parties was confirmed. This issue did not surprise us, as from the pages of Prensa Obrera we called this fact out and alerted about the transition, realignments and the relievement of duties which were being orchestrated in the face of Macrism’s collapse. The vote for Alberto Fernández is of a contradictory nature: it explains the discontent and dissatisfaction with a government responsible for the hardships which it has been imposing on the people, but on the other hand, it expresses the hope and support for a capitalist solution which preaches a rescue and stimulus policy for capital and businesses, and the commitment with the IMF and the creditors. In other words, the hope that the country could overcome the crisis without affecting capital’s interests, foregoing an anti-capitalist policy.
The Peronist spectrum as a whole boasts that Argentina is not Chile. They are the national and popular version of Dujovne, it is the other side of the coin which is austerity and the dumping the capitalist crisis on working-class shoulders, without the chaos of a popular rebellion.
But the Frente de Todos will have to govern, and the contradictions between popular expectations and the administration of a capitalist crisis will immediately commence its political erosion, and they will have to come clean. It is true that the message that “this will be very difficult” and it “will take time” has been astutely communicated. But what the Latin American rebellion in Ecuador and Chile, and the political setbacks of Evo Morales in Bolivia and the Frente Amplio (center-left front led by Pepe Mujica and current president Tabaré Vázquez) in Uruguay, has shown is the infeasibility of the containment policies in light of the global crisis which has set foot in Latin America with recessions and debt crises.
The Latin American bourgeoisies have not changed their agenda, they insist on labour, pension and tax reforms in order to rescue States bankrupted by the bailouts to the creditor banks, with or without the IMF in the mix. In Argentina they are not leaving this agenda out of Fernández’ social pact discussion table, with the aggravating circumstance which is that -unlike Chile- in Argentina the IMF has given the biggest loan in its history and payments are due. The countdown in Argentina towards Latin America’s new reality, in which the masses begin to intervene, has begun. In the period of popular rebellions at the beginning of the century, nationalisms executed a vital function of containment for the capitalist class of the region. This new experience with class-collaborationist nationalism will be processed, considering that it will have the counterrevolutionary role of defending the system against the masses in the context of an aggravation of the global crisis.
If we look closely, the transition began on August 12th. The commitment between Macrism and Peronism was permanent regarding the arbitration measures of the state in the exchange market, the delay of rate hikes, the miserable salary bonuses accepted by the CGT and the tax breaks of doubtful impact.
In this transition Macrism becomes the opposition with an important percentage of the vote, but fragmented in Radicalism which hid Macri away during the last provincial elections, national deputy Carrió who didn’t even go to await the results at Juntos por el Cambio’s headquarters and Governor of Buenos Aires María Eugenia Vidal holding a rally without Macri and the characteristic yellow hues nowhere to be seen, after allowing people to vote for different parties in the national categories in order to save some counties from the defeat in Buenos Aires province.
Peronism arrives in power with a jumble of dissident Justicialist Party leaders, Kirchnerism and Massa’s people, whose leader recognized Guaidó in Venezuela while Cristina made the most of the victory night to salute Evo Morales’ controversial triumph in Bolivia, in the meantime Alberto Fernández received a polite invitation from Trump not to abandon the Lima group [group of countries who support interventionism in Venezuela] if he wanted any kind of aid in the face of the desperate situation of the foreign debt.
The free net reserves of the Central Bank are now hovering around 6.5 billion dollars, according to Ámbito Financiero newspaper. It is a sum which doesn’t even amount to the textbook minimum necessary to attend to the foreign trade of a country such as Argentina. On the other hand, the foreign currency purchase restrictions curtails demand very much, but the agricultural exporters aren’t bringing in any dollars, as they are still withholding the harvest awaiting a final devaluation before the promised price and salary agreement.
A blow of this nature -which would make the issue of dollarized rates and fuels even more explosive- presents the masses with an absolutely unbearable inflationary potential. These tendencies are joined by the dismantling of the Leliqs [bonds in pesos with an 80% interest rate which banks that have loaned to the Central Bank possess], which is occurring at the cost of incorporating pesos which add pressure to the dollar and have pushed the Contado con Liqui to 80 pesos [trading of bonds in pesos purchased in the country which are then negotiated in a foreign market]. In the shape of a currency exchange split or a plain and simple devaluation, the blows to the masses which are on the horizon make the social situation explosive.
The transition began with a fraternal photo between Fernández and Macri, but it’s sitting on a volcano: on Monday the country risk rose to 2,275 points and the stock market fell. Let the games begin...
The nature of the situation reduces Alberto Fernández’ margin to maneuver. The honeymoon period which he will enjoy will be tremendously short. The deep crisis will force him to make definitions during the transition itself, even before taking office. This time he can’t shield himself in the fact that he hasn’t been elected yet, and his fingerprints will be all over the process, even if he seeks to detach himself and foist the cost of the dirty work on Macri’s administration.
The Worker’s Left Front - Unity (FIT-U) and its campaign
The Workers’ Party (PO), since its XXVI Congress and even before that, pointed out that the main battle would be with Peronism, which in each early election became a way to channel the popular rage against the growing bankruptcy of Macri’s government.
But the setback in the votes in the general election regarding the primaries was new for FIT-U, something which hadn’t happened since the first primaries it participated in centred on the democratical stance of overcoming the proscriptive minimum of the ballot in 2011.
Votes for FIT-U in the legislative categories and for other parties, mainly the Peronist presidential ticket, in the executive categories reached 100% in Salta province and the Capital, and was also significant in the Province of Buenos Aires duplicating this phenomenon’s levels in 2015 in the national deputy category. This shows an unprecedented polarization scenario unparalleled since 1983, the FIT-U suffered a drain of votes from its own electoral base. The fact that the votes for our presidential ticket and executive tickets in the provinces were low is indisputable. Incumbent Mayor Larreta’s landslide for reelection forced us back in the face of a polarization of 90% of the votes in the Capital, despite a great political campaign by Gabriel Solano (FIT-U’s candidate for mayor) which was recognized by everyone.
In this situation, once again the vote for the solitary autonomist Zamora -although even more marginal- stopped FIT-U from putting a national deputy for the Capital in Congress, and the restrictive electoral minimum in Buenos Aires left us very close to getting a national deputy of ours elected. The nature of FIT-U’s candidate Myriam Bregman’s campaign in the capital must be analysed separately, as it was aimed by part of the Socialist Workers’ Party (PTS, one of the members of FIT-U) at a sector of Kirchnerism, which even led PTS to retract the presence the presidential candidate from the regional campaign.
In our credit we must highlight this political campaign of FIT-U as the most radicalized one since it was founded. This is due to us putting the need to cut ties with the IMF’s regime and the non-payment of the foreign debt front and center when this issue has shaken all of Latin America, and also because we underscored that the crisis must be paid for by the capitalists. Both stances acquired more objective force with each passing day of the political struggle.
On the other hand, we took to the streets despite Alberto Fernández’ order not to. We developed a campaign of class struggle, for Chubut, with the Polo Obrero (the Workers’ Party’s unemployed movement) and the independent piquetero movement, with the unions who got out and fought and with the Combative Union Plenary (PSC), with the occupation of factories such as Kimberly Clark, with the families of the victims of police violence in Monte, rallying thousands of women to wage a political battle in the 34th National Women’s Summit. It may not be a coincidence that the newly formed FIT-U in Chubut had the best results in the country.
As a corollary to this campaign of working-class political independence and class struggle, the Workers’ Left Front - Unity brought its campaign to a close at the doors of the Consulate of Chile, where we had already marched to. A revolutionary hallmark that shows huge differences between this alliance of the left and all the ones that have existed in the past in Argentina.
The Workers’ Party’s strategy will be to boost the intervention in every struggle and to unfold a political campaign which can allow the working class’ vanguard and the struggling movements to overcome this new nationalistic experience which the bourgeoisie has produced from thin air in light of the gargantuan crisis of the economic and social regime as soon as possible. This political campaign will be aimed at unmasking the capitalist policies and solutions in play in the face of the national crisis. It will address the need to shed light on its devastating effects on the masses, and at the same time, to show its explosive contradictions and infeasibility, due to the scope of the global capitalist bankruptcy, which has Argentina as one of its weakest links. We will oppose capitalist policies with a workers’ program and political way-out. Our intervention will aim to promote an irruption of the working class as an independent factor in the political stage, and to transform it into an alternative. The Workers’ Left Front - Unity, which refused to fulfil this role in the period before the elections, will be put to the test as it has to overcome its own limitations to being a politically intervening component in the class struggle, so as to establish a continuity with the political fight it waged during the election.