Duhalde's government of 'National unity' is a manoeuvre against the Argentine revolution

A new government of national unity and a new President, Eduardo Duhalde, have nominated in Argentina. This is clearly an attempt to derail the revolution through parliamentary manoeuvres. Roberto Sarti of the Italian Marxist journal, Falcemartello, looks at the latest situation in Argentina.

The government of Adolfo Rodriguez Saá fell after only seven days in office. A new government of national unity and a new President, Eduardo Duhalde, were nominated yesterday. The governor of San Luis has accused his Peronist party colleagues of having stabbed him in the back. The truth is that he was dumped, but only after the December 28 mass demonstration had made it impossible for him to stay in office.

He had promised all things to all men. But what he could not do was to release bank accounts from seizure. Just as he could not print the necessary quantity of argentinos (the proposed new currency) that was needed to pay wages and pensions, for this would have meant a d e facto devaluation of the peso. This would have directly affected the interests of those bankers and capitalists around the world who have made huge profits in Argentina over the past ten years, and who have no intention of putting an end to this now!

Thus the populist and class-collaborationist plans of third millennium Peronism (that the new President had clumsily attempted to set up) have evaporated into thin air.

They have evaporated because the Argentine masses are no longer prepared to be fooled. Only one week earlier they had brought down the De La Rúa government, and aware of their own strength they came out onto the streets once more with another "cacerolazo". This time the massive mobilisation, in the capital, itself was enough to force the new President to resign. The most desperate broke into the Parliament building ransacking several rooms. However, what was most striking was the powerlessness of the "forces of law and order". It is striking but it should surprise no one, because the inability of the forces of reaction to counter-attack is one of the features of the first period of the rising wave of revolution. We saw the same features during the Albanian revolution in 1997 and again in Ecuador in 2000.

The police and army powerless to intervene

The petit bourgeoisie (the so-called "silent majority"), the traditional bastion of reaction and repressive measures is totally backing the demonstrators. The Argentine press has reported many episodes of discussions between demonstrators and the police where the latter appear to be embarrassed and express solidarity with the demonstrators over the repression that took place a week earlier. The daily paper, Pagina 12, has reported several cases of insubordination where ordinary policemen have refused to obey their superiors when these have given the order to attack demonstrators.

Another clear indication of the present climate is what happened in one are on the outskirts of Buenos Aires. Hundreds of people attacked a local police station where an ex-police officer had taken refuge after killing three young people in a bar. The fact that people are openly challenging bourgeois legality is a further indication that what we are facing in Argentina is a revolutionary situation.

That is why at the moment the option of a military coup is ruled out. The right wing has to swallow this and attempt to use a government of national unity instead. Eduardo Duhalde is the new 'saviour'. He was Menem's vice-president up till 1995 and the Peronist candidate defeated by De La Rúa in 1999. He is the personification of the "progressive wing" of Peronism. He has declared that it is his intention to apply the "doctrine of the Church" while he is in power. In other words, he is going to give alms to the poor and protect the wealth of the rich and powerful. Of course, all this will be done without carrying out any "extreme" measures!

The Radicals, the Peronists and the majority of the Frepaso (left coalition) MPs have voted for Duhalde. This will be a government whose only goal will be that of "restoring order" and thus of saving capitalism in Argentina. However, in spite of its big parliamentary majority support within society as a whole is very slim.

And this support will be even further reduced once the programme of this government becomes clear to the masses. The Minister of Industry will be the Chairperson of the Argentine Confederation of Industry! They will carry out a staggered devaluation, pegging the peso not only to the dollar, but also to the euro and the real. For now bank accounts are still being kept frozen and wages may be paid in Treasury bonds! In other words, far from having a stable government that is supposed to last until December 2003, we have all the ingredients for a new social explosion!

National Unity or New Revolutionary Order?

The Parliamentary Left has once more revealed its utter bankruptcy. Graciela Fernandez Meijide, an important leader of the Frepaso, has justified her party's support for Duhalde out of "fear of anarchy". Once again we see how the reformists out of fear of the revolution prefer to bow down before the bourgeoisie. Oh, but we forgot the more courageous representatives of the Frepaso and the Ari (a new petit bourgeois grouping that has broken with the Alianza) who stood out byÉ abstaining!

All the traditional parties are in crisis. At the same time no one trusts the bourgeois institutions: the government, the judges, the financial system, etc. The fall of Rodriguez Saá and his replacement by Duhalde have accelerated the crisis of Peronism.

Peronism is divided as it has never been before in the past. In the same way, the present revolutionary situation is also a rare historical event.

Those organisations in Argentina that claim to be Marxist are facing a historical opportunity. The authority of the Peronist trade union leaders has been, and will be, seriously put to the test by this revolutionary crisis. The fact that the leaders of both CGTs have accepted the false promises of this government will not have gone unnoticed among the rank and file trade union members in the factories

We are seeing a situation where the masses know perfectly well what they do not want but don't have clear ideas about what to put in its place.

Two things are needed. On the one hand the widespread anti-capitalist mood must be channelled towards a revolutionary programme for the nationalisation, under workers' control, of all the finance houses and large national and multinational industrial complexes.

On the other hand, the burning hatred of the masses towards the institutions of bourgeois democracy should be used to raise the idea of building alternative organs of power (especially now that that official state institutions are so discredited). As we have explained before, the building of factory committees, linked up on a district level, with no representation for the bosses, is the main task now facing the Argentine working class and its vanguard.

The present revolutionary crisis will undoubtedly be protracted, but events in epochs such as the one we are passing through develop very quickly. We hope that in Argentina a revolutionary vanguard will be able to emerge, with the necessary political and organisational strength that is necessary to face up to the extraordinary tasks that will loom in the coming period.

Roberto Sarti,
originally written for the Italian Marxist Journal 'FalceMartello'