Argentina: The early elections and the tasks of the revolutionaries

President Duhalde has announced that elections will be brought forward to March. This news comes after the damage caused to the government by the brutal repression of the piqueteros at the end of June, with civil war raging inside the Peronist party, and constant harassment from the IMF pressurising the government to apply austerity measures. Against a backdrop of sharpening economic and social tensions, Duhalde is in an untenable position. David Rey looks at the tasks of Marxists in the upcoming elections and the need for organisation and a clear socialist programme.

President Duhalde's announcement to bring forward presidential and parliamentary elections to March next year has brought about a clear change in the Argentine political situation. This news comes after the damage caused to the government by the brutal repression of the piqueteros at the end of June and in the middle of the current civil war within the Peronist party between the various chiefs to win the party's official nomination as presidential candidate. If we add the constant harassment from the IMF, which is pressurising the government to apply austerity measures to the Argentine economy immediately as an essential condition to receiving more funds, against a backdrop of sharpening economic and social tensions, we can see that Duhalde has been forced into untenable position.

By bringing forward the date of elections, the Argentine ruling class is looking to buy time by releasing some of the pressure that has built up over the recent period and by diverting the attention of the masses from their most pressing problems. After seven months during which the masses have dominated the political agenda through their actions in the street, the government now wants the focus of attention to shift to the electoral arena with its cynical promise that all can be resolved in nine months' time after a new president is elected. Given the high level of tension within the country and the weakness of the Duhalde government, we cannot rule out the possibility of even earlier elections, perhaps around November or December of this year.

The failure of the Duhalde government's strategy

The Argentine bourgeoisie currently does not have a reliable candidate with enough support within society to enable him or her to successfully implement the demands of US and European imperialism (through the IMF) and is therefore fairly worried by the upcoming electoral battle. However, Duhalde's whole strategy that was based on applying the IMF's measures before calling early elections has unravelled over the last few weeks, leaving him with no other option.

This strategy was a four-part plan aimed at increasing the very low level of support that the government enjoyed amongst the population. The first part consisted in driving the petit bourgeoisie hysterical with warnings of social disorder and an upsurge in violence and crime. The government used this as a good excuse to bloodily repress the most militant section of the piquetero movement in order to isolate it from the rest of society and accuse it of being a movement of lumpens and vandals. The outright collaboration of the moderate leaders of the piquetero movement, such as Alderete and D'Elía (the respective leaders of Corriente Clasista y Combativa and the FTV-CTA), with the government helped this strategy enormously. The second part involved the buying of social peace in industry with the promise to increase the wages of private sector workers by 100 pesos. In this case, it was the official CGT that provided the government with much needed support. Thirdly, the government hoped to sign an agreement with the IMF by the middle of July in order to obtain the fresh funds needed to alleviate the country's extremely tense social and economic situation. Lastly, and after having fulfilled the first three parts successfully, a consensus candidate needed to be found within the Peronist party (e.g. Reutemann, governor of Santa Fe province) to fight the elections at a time when he or she would have the best chances of winning them.

The bloody repression of the piquetero demonstration on June 26 that left two dead was a disaster for the government. A wave of national and international indignation came down on the perpetrators, helping to discredit the forces of order and their political masters in the eyes of the population even further.

The IMF, instead of watering down its demands, became even more insistent to the point of actually insulting the government emissaries sent to negotiate with it. The IMF's message was clear: massive cuts in public spending are needed, whatever the price.

To make things worse, the battle within the Peronist party to be the official presidential candidate violently blew out into the open. Menem is manoeuvring openly for himself as the declared agent of the multinationals - the very same multinationals that gobbled up most of the state sector under his mandate. Rodríguez Saá and Ernesto Kirchner, governors of San Luís and Santa Cruz provinces, both representatives of the populist crowd-pleaser faction within Peronism, are also putting themselves forward as potential candidates as well as Macri, one of the richest men in the country, who is currently plotting with the various Peronist "barons" in order to cultivate their support. Finally, Reutemann, the unofficial candidate, who has generated little enthusiasm within the party or outside it, put off declaring his candidacy, given the situation, before finally throwing in the towel once the early elections were announced.

The proposal to hike wages by 100 pesos in the private sector has been revealed as a fraud. This measure would in fact exclude workers in the black and grey economies, who account for a quarter of the total workforce, as well as agricultural workers, domestic servants and civil servants, meaning that less than 25% of the working population would actually benefit from this rise. In fact, not even this is true as many private companies are refusing to implement this rise because of the supposed ruinous state of their finances. Only the automobile manufacturers and some others have stated that they will honour this commitment. In any case, this rise is completely fictitious as it will only be applied for six months (from July to December) and will not be extended to the rest of the workforce after this period. In the best case scenario, this 6-month increase will lead to a 12% rise in wages, but given that inflation has already eaten up around 40% of salaries, those workers who will benefit from it will actually be able to recover very little from the drop in purchasing power that they have suffered.

The electoral battle

Labour movement activists cannot ignore the fact that the bourgeoisie has been relatively successful in its efforts to temporarily focus the masses' attention on the upcoming elections.

A merciless struggle has now opened up within the Peronist movement. Menem, prompted by the massive drop in the government's prestige and the panic within the party bureaucracy, which is afraid of being booted out of power after the elections, is putting himself forward as the country's "saviour", pointing to the country's economic "successes" during his period in power. However, the reality is that Argentina's current disastrous situation is largely the fault of this so-called "saviour" who sold off the country's wealth to the multinationals, which, before the economic crisis set in three years ago, spent the whole time sending capital and profits outside of the country. Menem's battle cry is dollarisation of the economy, which squares perfectly with the interests of the multinationals and the banks. The former would then be able to repatriate their profits in dollars and the latter would be able to once again start to recover the dollar-denominated loans granted to companies and individuals, at the cost of pushing the latter even further into poverty.

Following Reutemann's withdrawal, it appears that Sota, the governor of Cordoba province, is rapidly becoming the most likely unofficial Peronist candidate. He represents the sector most tied to the domestic economy and aims to maintain the devaluation of the peso, but agrees with Menem in wanting to drastically cut public spending and hike the prices of basic services (light, gas, telephone and transport) so that the multinationals that control these privatised services can increase their profits, despite the fact that working class families will go even hungrier as a result. There will be primaries in November to decide the official Peronist candidate for the upcoming elections.

Having not been able to win enough support within the Peronist party itself, men such as Rodríguez Saá and Kirchner have decided to stand as independent candidates in these elections. Saá has already created his own electoral movement and has secured the support of a part of the trade union bureaucracy, the CGT of Moyano, with his crowd-pleasing populist and "patriotic" rantings, despite proposing not one single concrete economic measure able to lift the country out of its current crisis.

Unión Cívica Radical, the Argentine bourgeoisie's traditional party, has almost disappeared from the political scene and therefore will not take part in these elections at all.

The "centre-left", a term chosen with the specific aim of hoodwinking the masses, is represented by Lilita Carrió who is organising an electoral coalition formed by her party, the ARI, parts of Frepaso, such as the mayor of Buenos Aires, Aníbal Ibarra, and perhaps the Peronist Kirchner. The latter are the representatives of capitalism with a "human face" and are promising everything to everybody, from business leaders to workers and to small savers. Their main demand is that the upcoming elections should not only concern the president and part of the parliament but also all congressmen, senators, provincial governors and mayors. By doing this, they hope to strengthen their political representation as much as possible, to the detriment of the Peronists and Radicals, who have lost an enormous amount of popularity.

These elections are revealing the fear and treachery of the Argentine bourgeoisie. Whoever wins the presidency, he or she will not have a parliamentary majority as the Peronists and Radicals will still have most of the deputies, as only a third of parliament is up for election. The next president will therefore be able to use this parliamentary majority to continue regardless with the bourgeoisie's policies, at least until September 2003 when all parliamentary seats will be up for election.

Luis Zamora - what programme for the Left?

Luis Zamora is undoubtedly the figure on the left with the most support amongst workers and their families. This is extremely positive, as never before in Argentinean history has a representative of the Left rallied so much support amongst the working class and youth. Zamora speaks out against capitalism, of the need to reorganise the country on new social foundations and is also for an end to foreign debt repayments. He takes part in demonstrations every day, is very accessible and talks in the same language as the man on the street. Unfortunately, Zamora has a number of faults, one of which is that he is resisting proposing a concrete programme of measures. He also has a mistaken and even semi-anarchist conception of how to organise which in reality helps to spread reactionary "anti-organisational" prejudices amongst the mass of the population and that tomorrow might boomerang back on him and his organisation in a very deadly way. For example, Zamora proposes a "horizontal" type of organisation, declaring that there is no need for parties, structures or leaders.

Nevertheless, despite his rather muddled ideas, many workers and their families do see him as a leader, "their" leader, whether he likes it or not. And this is not a bad thing. The Marxists of El Militante believe that workers will necessarily and inevitably choose leaders able to represent and co-ordinate them in their daily and more long-term struggles. Such leaders must be subject to the permanent control of those they represent. They must be elected and subject to the right of immediate recall. In order to eliminate careerism and corruption, we also propose that these representatives, as they cannot have a full-time job given that they must devote all their time to the working class struggle and representing workers, must in no case receive a salary that is higher than the average wage of a qualified worker. If workers' representatives have the same living conditions as workers, they will think like them too.

Furthermore, no movement or organisation can work efficiently without solid internal structures. Such structures are not there to suffocate grassroots militants. On the contrary, they are there to be used by the membership to control the activity of their elected representatives. How and to whom is Zamora accountable for his leadership, if the grassroots of his movement does not have the structures and bodies to implement this control? And how is it possible to organise a movement whose aim is the transformation of society around one single person, Zamora in this case? Apart from Zamora, there is no other person in his movement with a public role or at the local or national level that can speak in his name.

Comrade Zamora has declared that all Left parties must dissolve themselves and adopt this type of organisation. We are in total disagreement with this.

Workers and youth are overwhelming in favour of Left unity, and this is a very positive factor. Some groups such as Izquierda Unida (the United Left) are continually campaigning for this. Instead of dissolving the Left parties, a United Front of all the Left organisations, as well as the popular assemblies, piqueteros' organisations and trade unions must organised around a common political programme. Such a development would be a great inspiration to the mass of the population, which is suffering the effects of capitalist crisis. This common programme has been already been approved in countless popular assemblies and piqueteros' and workers' meetings and should include at least the following points:

  • Nationalisation of the banks, monopolies, multinationals and large farms under workers' control.
  • Nationalisation under workers' control of all companies that close down or sack workers.
  • Organisation of Factory Committees comprised of workers elected by assemblies in all workplaces in order to implement workers' control of production and the accounts in order to avoid all accounting frauds and flights of capital.
  • Extension of neighbourhood and popular assemblies to all areas and districts, with the participation of workers, the unemployed, students and small shopkeepers. These popular assemblies must be linked up to all the factory committees and piqueteros' organisations in a given zone.
  • A freeze on all public service tariffs and the introduction of a much lower "social tariff" for the families of the poor and unemployed.
  • A Minimum Wage of 650 pesos.
  • Wages to be indexed to prices so that purchasing power is not lost and to prevent the erosion of living conditions. Wages must be adjusted to prices every three months.
  • If a job cannot be found for an unemployed person, the latter should receive the minimum wage until he or she does find employment.
  • Transport subsidy for all students
  • A call to the grassroots membership of the CGT and CTA for them to discuss and vote on whether to adopt this programme.
  • Encourage the creation of police and soldiers' committees so that the forces of order cannot be used to suppress the people and so that all fascist and reactionary elements can be rooted out and expelled from their ranks. Link up these committees to the popular assemblies and the factory committees.
  • For a workers' government. The building of a new society on new foundations can only be achieved through the full participation of workers and their families in the management of the country's economic and social structures, through factory committees, popular assemblies and the piqueteros' organisations.

Are elections the solution to workers' problems?

The Marxists of El Militante believe that the Left must participate in these upcoming elections. They will provide a good opportunity to raise awareness of this programme and organise meetings and rallies with tens of thousands of people up and down the country. People who have never heard these ideas before could be reached and more workers and youth could be encouraged to get involved in parties, trade unions and popular assemblies. Whatever the result of the elections, there is no doubt that this process will strengthen the Left. In the next few months, the majority of workers and their families will once again be able to see the rottenness of this system and the institutions and organisations that it has created to dupe and oppress the people. The election of workers' deputies to parliament will help to organise the workers. Parliament can be used as a tool for spreading revolutionary ideas through the press, the radio and TV and therefore help the working class reach revolutionary conclusions far more quickly. It will increase the Left's popularity and spread its programme and ideas to millions of people around the country. No one can deny that comrade Zamora owes his current popularity and renown to his intelligent use of parliament to raise public awareness of his ideas and to attack the political representatives of the capitalist system.

However, on the other hand, it would be an error to rely entirely on electoral tactics. History shows us that the socialist transformation of society to which we aspire can only be achieved through the struggle and the direct participation of the mass of the workers in the streets, factories and neighbourhoods, through the creation and organisation of structures based on workers' control to replace the structures on which this rotting system is based on. These structures of workers' control are the Factory Committees, the neighbourhood and popular assemblies and the organisations of the workers and unemployed workers. The parliamentary struggle should only be used as an auxiliary to mass action in the streets, which has been able to overthrow two presidents and has made the Argentinean working class aware of its power and strength within society.

For as long as the commanding heights of the economy (the banks, big business and the large farming estates) remain in the hands of the capitalists, the working class will never be able to free itself of its chains. The parliamentary struggle should not be used as an excuse to give up the more important tasks of; (a) patiently explaining our programme and vision of society to the widest possible layers of workers and youth; and (b) organising and penetrating the grassroots membership of the biggest trade unions of the CGT and CTA in particular in order to get rid of the bureaucratised and corrupt leadership and replace it with genuine fighters, ready to represent the legitimate interests of the working class. We must continue to increase public awareness of what we are doing and continue to organise marches, demonstrations and strikes in order to show our strength to workers and their families and to prove to them that the working class should be controlling and managing the productive forces in society. Only when the majority of the workers accepts this programme and organises and participates in these organs of workers' power, can the transfer of power from the corrupt and parasitic minority that governs us today to the working class and the other oppressed layers in society be initiated.

The social situation

The economic crisis is worsening. Now more than 6 million workers are either unemployed or under-employed, which is more than half the Argentine workforce. More than 50% of working class families now live below the poverty line. In the first six months of this year alone, the number of unemployed increased by 400,000. Purchasing power is continuing to shrink thanks to the rise in prices and the freezing or cutting of wages.

The financial situation is also getting worse. Investment has fallen more than 50% this year and the flight of capital out of the country is continuing despite the restrictions placed on the circulation of money within the financial system.

Some sections of the bourgeoisie are enjoying a real bonanza at the moment. For example, thanks to devaluation, the rich farmers are making billions of dollars from increased exports whilst at the same time increasing the prices of meat and vegetables for the domestic market, with the cynical excuse that they cannot have one price for exports and another one (lower) for the internal Argentine market.

Inflation, which is affecting basic products above all, has still not blown up into the hyperinflation of the end of the 1980s. This is because the dollar's rise against the peso has been restrained so far and household consumption is extremely sluggish.

The companies that provide basic services such as transport, telephone, water, light and gas (and which were all sold off to foreign multinationals over the last ten years) continue to pressurise the government to allow them to hike their prices. They complain that the conversion of their revenues from dollars to pesos is losing them money. For years these people have stuffed their pockets and now they want to save their necks even if it means throwing millions more working class families into poverty! The government recently announced that it would allow an increase of between 2%-10% in these tariffs. This is just more proof of how the private ownership of the means of production is completely incompatible with interests of workers and their families and their right to live and work in dignity.

This also shows that any attempt to mitigate or to conciliate the interests of two opposing social classes is impossible.

An upsurge in the struggle

The bloody repression of the piquetero demonstration on June 26 acted like a thunderbolt on the consciousnesses of millions of workers and youth. An unrestrained wave of anger amongst tens of thousands of workers, unemployed and especially youth rolled over the length and breadth of the country. Over the following three weeks, on June 27, July 3 and July 9, thousands of people demonstrated in the streets to show their disgust at this police brutality in marches and demonstrations called exclusively by the Left and the piqueteros' organisations. This is the first time in Argentine history that the Left has been able to mobilise so many people in such a short space of time. The government was forced to sack a number of police chiefs in the capital and a number of provincial ministers had to resign. These events have forced the government to postpone, at least in the short term, its harshest plans for repressing the movement that began last December.

However, these events have had even more far reaching consequences - they have shaken up the structures of the most active trade union of the moment - the CTA. Its most well-known piquetero leader, D'Elía, has been completely discredited in the eyes of large layers of grassroots militants due to his conciliatory positions towards the government and his declarations that tended to justify the police repression of the demonstrations. A large section of the grassroots piqueteros of the CTA have actually left their organisation the FTV-CTA, but correctly decided to stay inside the CTA federation itself. It is a Marxist principle that the most militant worker activists should not leave their unions, even those led by the most degenerate of bureaucrats, so that they can remain with the rest of their class brothers and sisters within the same organisation. The youth section of the CTA has also demanded that D'Elía be expelled and has criticised the dithering of the General Secretary of the CTA, Víctor De Gennaro.

De Gennaro's refusal to allow the CTA to participate in the first demonstration on June 27, the day after the bloody repression of the 26th, triggered a very strong reaction amongst wide layers of the membership, who subsequently forced the CTA to take the initiative in organising the demonstration on July 3 in order to save their leaders' face. Some unions belonging to the CTA federation have decided to strengthen their relations with the most militant of the piquetero organisations - the CTD Aníbal Verón. In parallel, some unions of the CGT federation have decided to affiliate to the CTA, amongst which various large branches of the UOM metal workers' union, which during its last conference decided to leave the CGT and not work with any other trade union federation on an official basis any more.

The current leadership of the CTA, which has no problem with the so-called "free market" system, must now try and explain to its membership what workers have gained under the capitalist system in Argentina and the future that it holds for them. Their support for the ARI party and other petit-bourgeois organisations have only disorientated the workers who have been looking to the CTA for a more militant form of trade unionism. The CTA leadership has continually refused to call on its membership to join the various demonstrations called by the Left in the recent period as it fears that it will be "contaminated" by the most militant sections of the workers, youth and piqueteros. Making such calls would fly in the face of its policy of conciliation and class collaboration, which has its political expression in its support for the ARI and the Duhalde government. However, this policy is reaching its limits as the grassroots of the CTA is now actually beginning to pressurise its leaders from below to abandon this policy. This is creating opportunities for the Left worker activists present within this organisation, which they must exploit immediately.

The leaderships of the two CGTs are losing more and more face every day. There are rumours that Moyano and Daer might join together. However, they are bound to pay for their wholehearted support for the Duhalde government and its anti-working class policies sooner or later. They are currently using the deep economic crisis and workers' fear of being sacked to keep the heavy battalions of the working class in the industrial and transport sectors under control. This is because losing your job in today's Argentina means a one-way ticket to poverty. The "passive" attitude of this layer of workers does not therefore reflect their satisfaction with their leaders or Duhalde but the fact that they too are suffering from the effects of the capitalist crisis. This section of the working class needs to gain more experience before moving into struggle and applying massive pressure to their current leaders for them to lead the fightback or replacing them with new leaders from their own ranks who are prepared to do so. Such an inevitable development will be either triggered by a period of hyperinflation that will quickly gobble up their wages or by another event that will act as a similar shock to their consciousnesses. Furthermore, many workers have been led to believe that the possibility of a new president and a partial renewal of parliament might result in some degree of change; i.e. "let's put up with it for another few more months and let's see what happens." However, when the all the hopes of millions of workers for a real change in their living conditions are cruelly dashed by the new government, all the accumulated bitterness, frustration and anger will boil up to the surface resulting in a radical transformation of the situation, and the decisive sections of the working class will take the lead of the movement of the masses. The Argentine revolutionary process will then move to a higher stage. It is extremely important that all worker and Left activists bare this in mind to avoid giving way to pessimism or getting impatient.

The capacity to struggle, the heroism and the sacrifice of the unemployed workers organised in the piqueteros groups has placed them at the vanguard of the Argentine revolutionary process. With their example and determination, they are showing the rest of the working class and the most militant sections of the youth the tasks that need to be carried out. However, we must be aware that alone they cannot achieve victory. The piquetero movement must use its strength and organisational capacity to do all that it can to link up with the employed workers in order to help them reach revolutionary conclusions more quickly and to incorporate them decisively into the struggle. In addition to their road blocks, they should go directly to the factories to give out leaflets, organise joint meetings with the employed workers, vote resolutions and take part in all the strikes and protests that the latter might organise, etc.

The movement of the neighbourhood assemblies was given fresh impetus following the killing of the piqueteros on June 26. Although admittedly fewer workers and local residents have been participating in these assemblies compared with the beginning of the year, the latter have been constantly active, demanding basic infrastructures for their areas and taking part in the piqueteros' and workers' demonstrations on a local and national level. The structure built up by these neighbourhood assemblies is one more conquest of the workers' movement and will play an important role in the next revolutionary wave that is being prepared.

Amongst the youth, we also think it important to underline the campaign by high school students to obtain a subsidy for their transport costs. Many working class families find it impossible to pay for their children to travel to where they study, given the loss of purchasing power and the high level of unemployment. These students are demanding that bus tickets be cut from 35 to 5 centavos so that they can travel around properly. There have been many demonstrations and school occupations and many high school students have participated, with their own banners and delegations, in the various marches and demonstrations up and down the country in the last few weeks.

Our position on the demand for a Constituent Assembly to govern the country - once again!

As we have explained in other articles on the revolutionary process in Argentina from the start, the demand put forward by the majority of the Argentine Left for a Constituent Assembly has proven itself to be completely inadequate and, given the country's current circumstances, particularly reactionary.

In order to divert the masses' attention from the real objective thrown up by the revolutionary movement, which is none other than the struggle for a workers' government, other bourgeois and petit-bourgeois parties have also been calling for the creation of a Constituent Assembly in order to mask the socialist objectives of the revolutionary process. For example, the ARI, Frepaso and the Peronist Kirchner, have added their support to this demand. Even Duhalde has announced a reform of the constitution, which to the masses may have sounded similar to the call for the abovementioned Constituent Assembly.

Unfortunately, following the news of the early elections, some groups on the Left have not only reiterated this demand but are in fact placing it as the central platform of all their campaigning. Allow us to repeat what exactly the creation of a Constituent Assembly would mean. A Constituent Assembly is a bourgeois parliament whose task is to draft a new constitution for the country. Nothing more and nothing less. Argentina and many other countries with bourgeois-democratic systems have seen many a constituent assembly down the years that have never changed the fundamental structures of capitalism as they have left its foundations intact, e.g. the private ownership of the means of production - the banks, the land, the factories etc.

No bourgeois constitution is able to end the unemployment, exploitation and poverty that afflicts millions of working class families. And there will be no exception to this rule if Argentina finally decides to create a constituent assembly this time. If such an assembly were set up on the back of enormous illusions, it would only lead to a sense of frustration, deceit and desperation once it fails, which could be exploited by reactionary forces to mount a counter-revolutionary coup d'état.

Real change for the working class will only happen when we are capable of taking power from the bourgeoisie and wresting from it the control of the means of production. The latter needs to be expropriated and handed over to the organs of workers' power that we have already described above. To propose anything else is not only utopian, but creates false hopes and deceives the workers.

The way in which some groups on the Left justify this position is surprising to say the least. They admit that the Constituent Assembly is a bourgeois parliament that will resolve nothing. But that it is necessary to support such a demand because the masses "still have illusions in bourgeois democracy" and that they must go through the experience of a constituent assembly in order to realise that the real solution is a workers' government.

This line of reasoning is totally false. At precisely the same time that millions of unemployed workers and youth are witnessing the collapse and treachery of the bourgeois democratic system in Argentina, these people want to increase illusions in the latter and thus lower the masses' political consciousnesses, instead of raising the perspective of the socialist transformation of society.

It seems that these comrades have forgotten the small detail that it was the masses' action that led to the resignation of two presidents (not elections, but mass demonstrations!), which is without precedent in all the country's history. These events threw up the slogan "Out with them all!" Despite the confused nature of this slogan, it reveals a deep mistrust of the country's institutions throughout society. They also seem to have forgotten that the initial elements of workers' power, although in embryonic form, have started to grow up in the shape of the popular assemblies, in parallel to the official institutions.

A Marxist and revolutionary organisation must base itself on this reality in order to raise the political consciousness of the masses and to outline the ultimate objectives of its struggle, namely the transformation of society: "Let us guide and fashion our own destiny by ourselves." Never before in the history of Argentina have there been better conditions for a whole series of fundamental socialist ideas to take root in society; e.g. the nationalisation of the banks and multinationals under workers' control; the taking back of the privatised companies into public ownership, etc - and these ideas have been voted on and adopted by hundreds of popular assemblies and marches.

Of course we are in favour of a society which enjoys the maximum level of democracy. But we must explain that this can only be achieved under Socialism, when every member of society is able direct, manage and control all aspects of economic, social and cultural life and not a bunch of bankers and businessmen, which has been the case up to now.

The Left has won great authority and respect amongst large swathes of workers and particularly amongst the youth. They participate in its meetings, its marches and read its political programmes. In the coming elections, given the Left's lack of access to the media, the bourgeoisie and petit-bourgeois parties will have enormous resources with which to get their message across. They will promise all sorts of crowd-pleasing solutions but no break with the system. If workers and youth who are new to politics and eager to see fundamental change see that the petit-bourgeois ARI and the Left are both proposing the Constituent Assembly as the solution to all the country's ills, they will undoubtedly opt for this solution. However, given that the ARI and other groups also criticise Duhalde and denounce corruption, there is a strong possibility that these workers will vote for them as they have more chance of winning a majority than the Left. Therefore instead of unmasking these professional politicians who are tricking the masses, the Left is indirectly helping them to increase their standing amongst the masses by defending the same, mistaken, demand for a constituent assembly.

Other comrades justify this position by saying that in Argentina there are many middle class people who still have illusions in bourgeois democracy. We do not agree. The working class is numerically far stronger than the middle class. In any case, the workers and the impoverished middle classes cannot be hoodwinked by high and mighty legal talk any more. They want to see concrete solutions to their problems. Neither is the middle class one homogenous, uniform grouping. The lower layers of the middle class share the same living conditions as the working class whilst the upper layers and the bourgeoisie will never accept a revolutionary programme. Furthermore, recent events have shown that many sections of the middle class are actually taking part in the popular assemblies and are ready to accept a genuine socialist programme. By repeating such talk, these comrades are unwittingly repeating the same arguments that the social democrats have always used to justify their capitulation to the bourgeoisie, i.e. that the middle class is more numerous and that the workers are a minority in the population, therefore the socialist revolution is impossible.

These comrades are also using another even more twisted line of reasoning. They are saying that most workers now do not see the need for workers' power or a workers' government and therefore in order to raise the question of taking power, the Left must call for a Constituent Assembly as a more softer and painless way of challenging the rule of the bourgeoisie. And they add that the Constituent Assembly must be called by the workers, the popular assemblies and the piqueteros organisations, etc, themselves and be given the task of implementing the socialist programme. In addition to the fact that the first part of this analysis is completely false, as we have already demonstrated above, we repeat that if the working class is sufficiently strong to oust the bourgeoisie and to start applying its own programme, we assume that it would be prepared to start the building of a workers' government without the need of a Constituent Assembly. It would seem that these comrades are afraid to call a spade a spade, and are saying "Constituent Assembly" when they should be saying "workers' government" - a workers' government based on its own organs of workers' power.

We are not political adventurers and are aware that conditions are still not ripe for a workers' government immediately, because the decisive majority of the working class has still not been convinced of the need for this programme. However, this does not mean that we should look for short cuts by proposing confused and mistaken demands such as a Constituent Assembly. On the contrary, we must reach even more sections of the working class and youth and patiently explain our programme and perspectives to them, in the confidence that our campaigning and experience will convince them of the accuracy and necessity of our ideas.

In the next few months, the Argentine workers will undergo great trials and tribulations. However, more and more will come to the conclusion that the socialist revolution is the only way out. Therefore, all worker and youth cadres must be educated and prepared for this eventuality in order to correctly equip them for the extraordinary events on the horizon.

The comrades of El Militante are fully confident in the ability of the Argentine working class to transform society and that the ideas of revolutionary socialism will be the ones that guide them in the decisive battles ahead.

Join the revolutionary socialists of El Militante in the fight for a Socialist Argentina and a Socialist Federation of Latin America!

July 19, 2002

See also: