As our readers will be aware, comrade Alan Woods, the editor of the In Defence of Marxism web site, was in Argentina for 10 days, from December 1 to 10. The balance sheet of this visit is extraordinarily positive. It has made the ideas and publications of this web site and political tendency better known in Argentina. The main purpose of the visit was to present the Spanish edition of Reason in Revolt (Razon y Revolucion) in Argentina. The interest was so great that all the copies of Reason in Revolt were sold out. In all, over 300 people attended the five different events we organised. And many people left their addresses to be contacted for our future activities. Alan Woods was also interviewed by two radio programmes.
The organisers of the main event at the university were actually expecting more people. But this can be explained by the prevalent mood among the working class activists at this particular moment. The movement in Argentina is passing through a temporary lull after a whole year of enormous activity and where, apparently, there are no significant changes in the social and political situation.
To the degree that the masses of the working class have remained relatively passive right from the beginning of this process there is a feeling of certain isolation among the activists. The Duhalde government remains in place. The economic crisis, although it seems to have touched the bottom, does nothing to stimulate a struggle for demands by the workers, etc. The electoral perspectives and the election of a new president and a new government are also factors that help to explain this mood of "truce".
The role of the trade union bureaucracy of the CGT and, to a smaller extent, of the CTA, also helps to reinforce a mood of passivity. There are clear symptoms of tiredness and frustration among certain layers of activists, something completely normal in this kind of process. The situation undoubtedly will change in the next months. The masses of the working class need to accumulate some more experience (particularly after the formation of a new government in a few months time) in order to develop their consciousness. The absence of a real revolutionary party with mass influence also adds to the existing mood among the activists. Lastly, it has to be taken into account that December is a month of final exams in the universities and the attention of many students is centred now on finishing their studies.
It is important to make these observations, because in other conditions, or even just a few months ago, the attendance to these meetings would have been better, but this does not mean that we are dissatisfied with the results achieved. On the contrary, there was a tremendous mood at these meetings with great interest on the part of those present in our ideas.
Most of the meetings were to present the book Reason in Revolt in Argentina. The first meeting was in the Library of the Madres de Plaza de Mayo (the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo), on the evening of Monday, December 2. Around 70 people attended. The meeting was introduced by a left wing intellectual, Alberto Guillis, who was very enthusiastic about the book and is a regular collaborator of the Madres de Plaza de Mayo. He heads the Universidad Popular of the Madres, "whose objective is to form Marxist and revolutionary cadres" in his own words. Alan gave a very stimulating speech and people listened with great attention. There was not much time for debate, but there were very complimentary interventions on the book (a woman in particular said that the book should have been distributed in Cuba!) and interventions on the political situation in Argentina. Because all the copies of the book had been sold out there are now plans early next year to produce an edition for Argentina. After the meeting, the chairman, Alberto Guillis, proposed inviting Alan Woods next year to participate in courses and debates in the Universidad Popular of the Madres.
The second meeting took place on Wednesday, December 4 in a bar known for its cultural activities. It was a small meeting of around 20 people who had shown special interest in deepening the discussion.
On Friday 6 and Saturday 7, Alan Woods was invited to participate in the Faculty of Philosophy in a political education school organised by a Marxist magazine, Razon y Revolucion. The fact that this is also the title of the Spanish edition of Reason in Revolt is a pure coincidence! On the Friday Alan spoke in the most important meeting of the day, under the title "The workers and power". Eighty people attended.
Alan introduced the debate with a speech on the international situation. Because of the delay in starting he was only given 20 minutes to speak, clearly insufficient time for such a subject. Even so, many people commented that his intervention was the clearest of all. At the end he received a big applause. Afterwards piquetero leaders spoke about the PO and the Coordinadora "Anibal Veron". At the end there was time only for a short debate but Alan was able to reply to some of the questions raised. Again all the copies of Reason in Revolt available at the meeting were sold out together with other Marxist texts.
The most important meeting was on Saturday, December 7, with the presentation of Reason in Revolt, as part of the same political school. Around 100 people attended. Alan's speech was electrifying and at the end of his speech there was, again, a huge applause. Apart from Alan, there was also another speaker, a left-wing university lecturer, who was supposed to be there to make a criticism of the book. Unfortunately, he used an unintelligible language and the audience found it difficult to follow what he was saying. In his reply Alan said: "Comrade Juan, your speech must have been very profound because I understood nothing!" From the laughter which this provoked, most of the audience must have felt the same way. At the end of his reply there was an enthusiastic ovation. This speech made a huge impact on those present.
On the Sunday evening Alan spoke at a meeting with a small group of piqueteros. The meeting took place in a very humble house in a "villa miseria" to the south of Buenos Aires. Alan spoke about the international situation and raised the urgent task of organising the Marxists in Argentina and most of those present agreed with this.
As we mentioned above Alan was interviewed by two radio stations on the situation in Argentina. Both radio programmes are very popular among left activists in Argentina. They were "Mate amargo" and the programme of the Madres on FM "La Tribu". The latter was on the foreign debt. The interview with the Madres was also published on their web site [see also our web site], which is also very well known.
As a result of the various meetings held now a lot more workers, youth and students know the ideas of In Defence of Marxism. Many expressed an interest in maintaining contact and continuing the discussions that have begun. Several people have offered their help in getting Reason in Revolt published in Argentina, thus making it more readily available for the huge number of people who wanted to buy it but could not because all the copies had been sold out.
Although the general mood may be one of tiredness, Argentina is an extremely politicised country. None of the problems that led to the Argentinazo have been solved. Many factories have been occupied. Demonstrations are taking place all the time. The movement will take of again. It is inevitable. The conditions of the masses make it so. We plan to deepen our links with the Argentinean workers and youth and offer all our help in clarifying the ideas and tasks of the movement, and hopefully together we will be able to transform Argentine society along socialist lines and then spread this to the whole of Latin America and beyond.
Based on reports by comrades who attended these meetings.
December 20, 2002