Events are moving very fast in Peru. On 9 November, the president Martin Vizcarra was removed from office; a week later the new Merino government has fallen under the pressure of the mass movement unleashed in recent days. The crisis in the bourgeois state has opened the floodgates of the class struggle in the streets and the working class and the youth have defeated the regime in this first battle.
The bankruptcy of the Peruvian political regime
As in many Latin American countries, bourgeois democracy is totally useless to maintain a barely stable regime. In one country after another the state is used to fill the pockets of the bourgeoisie at the cost of plundering the people's resources or striking shady "business" deals with private companies, granting them resources, assigning them projects, modifying the laws to allow them to make illegal investments, etc. This is our daily bread.
Particularly in the Americas, the scandal with the Odebrecht company have led to the impeachment of the president and politicians of all parties. In Latin American, we can look at the following information: “According to the United States Department of Justice, Odebrecht paid some 788 million dollars in illegal commissions for more than 100 public construction projects in 11 Latin American countries, as well as Angola and Mozambique, in Africa."
According to this article, with data from the Global Financial Integrity consultancy, Latin America loses about 140 billion dollars each year due to corruption, 3% of the region's GDP. Odebrecht is not the only corruption case, almost all countries and all companies are involved in these acts of corruption, in addition to money laundering, tax evasion, etc. In other words, the national and international bourgeoisie is incapable of respecting the formal rules of its bourgeois democratic regime. Corruption is inherent to capitalism.
In the case of Peru, this has gone far beyond the average; the last six presidents have been involved in acts of corruption, some are imprisoned and others are pursued by the law: Alberto Fujimori is in prison serving a 25-year sentence for corruption, homicide and money laundering; Alejandro Toledo was arrested in the US and extradited to Peru for corruption; Alan García committed suicide to avoid facing the bribery charges against him in 2019; Ollanta Humala is on probation for the Lava Jato corruption case in Brazil; Pedro Pablo Kuczynki was dismissed in 2018 and is under house arrest for money laundering; the latest one is the deposed president Martin Vizcarra who is accused of bribery and corruption.
What we have here is the bankruptcy of the political regime of the Peruvian bourgeoisie, which is incapable of keeping bourgeois democracy safe from the same rottenness of local and international capital.
The accusations that the Peruvian Parliament has submitted, to depose the former president, in the form of a "dismissal", sound like empty phrases in their mouth. Everyone knows that the current parliament is full of corrupt scoundrels who are trying to cover their own backs with the parliamentary coup. In an interview with a member of Alba Movimientos, José Carlos Llenera, on Telesur, mentions that at least 50 percent of the members of the current congress are being investigated for corruption. These figures have no intention of stopping corruption with the removal of the president, but rather to cover up their own corruption by diverting attention elsewhere.
This is understood by the majority of the Peruvian people, who did not believe for a moment all the smoke that was thrown in their eyes by the media, to justify the parliamentary manoeuvre.
Merino, who has fallen today, due to the mobilisation of the masses, represented the most corrupt and reactionary of the Peruvian bourgeoisie: a cattle rancher who was linked to the darkest elements of Opus Dei, mining companies and the more recalcitrant fujimorista elements. Their plans were clear, to hide their own corruption, to launch a series of attacks on all sectors of the population and to secure next year's elections.
The mass movement has to go on the offensive
The masses responded immediately, not so much defending Vizcarra, nor "democracy" in the abstract, but against President Merino whom they considered totally illegitimate. On 12 November, a large national march was called with the presence of tens of thousands in Lima and tens of thousands in cities throughout the country. The movement had the support of some political parties and some of the press, but in reality it reflected an explosion of spontaneous anger from below. It was a cry of "enough is enough" against the entire regime.
There are many reasons why the masses took to the streets. Peru is the country with the highest death rates per number of inhabitants in the Covid 19 pandemic, the plans to “reactivate” the economy involve wage cuts, layoffs, violations of worker's rights, increased working hours, etc. In short, place the weight of the crisis on the backs of the workers.
Along with the health and economic crisis are the programmes of the bourgeoisie that imply, in all areas, modifications to allow the few rights to be swept away for the interests of private companies. What is behind the massive mobilisations, which have resulted in deaths and hundreds of injuries, is a deep malaise against the current regime, against the economic situation, the inability of the government to solve the health crisis, against corruption, the exhaustion with the bourgeois politicians, etc.
On 14 November, a new great national march was called again with mass participation. In all the mobilisations, the youth were at the forefront and have begun to defend themselves against the brutal police repression. The 14 November march has resulted in two young people being killed by the repression in addition to hundreds wounded in varying degrees of severity.
In the face of the growing offensive of the masses, the ministers of the new Merino government began to resign like rats abandoning a sinking ship. The Armed Forces, which had endorsed Vizcarra's dismissal and the transfer of power to Merino, now refused to attend a meeting called by the president. Clearly, the ruling class went into a state of panic, faced with the very real possibility that the mass mobilisations in the streets would sweep away the entire regime.
The resignation of Merino, who has lasted only five days in power, is a desperate attempt to save the regime. From the institutional point of view, the ruling class is trying to find a solution to rebuild the battered legitimacy of the bourgeois institutions. "The Republic" demanded in its editorial a new president of the congress who would take over the presidency of the country, who would not have voted for Vizcarra's dismissal. On Wednesday 18, the Constitutional Court is expected to rule on the legality of the decision to remove the former president from power.
These are two possibilities that the ruling class could consider to save the regime: a new president not involved in the manoeuvre against Vizcarra or even annul the decision and reinstate him in the presidency. Neither of these options will really solve the deep crisis of the regime that has given rise to these manoeuvres and that has opened the floodgates to an insurrectionary movement from below.
It is essential to understand this, because the masses have to continue with the fight, to solve these fundamental problems and not stop the mobilisation with a change of president or with promises of parliamentary or presidential elections in 2021.
Before the fall of Merino, the General Confederation of Workers of Peru (CGTP) had called for a national strike of workers for 18 November “in defence of work as a human right, health and life. For a popular democracy." This call for a strike must be maintained, despite Merino's resignation. The problem is not to swap one corrupt capitalist politician for another, the problem is the capitalist system and this strike must serve to organise the battalions of the working class and the youth to embark on the path to the establishment of workers' power.
The mobilisations of the youth, the workers, of the middle class, must be maintained, we have seen that the struggle works and we can achieve our objectives if we remain in the streets and organised. But the spontaneity of the movement has its own limits.
The movement has to take a step forward, organising committees in the workplaces, in the working-class neighbourhoods, and coordinating them by convening a National Assembly of Workers and the People in Struggle, with spokespersons elected in mass assemblies of workers, youth, peasants and the working people in general.
Can a Constituent Assembly solve our problems?
As part of this mass movement, the slogan of a Constituent Assembly has been raised as well as an end to the Fujimori Constitution of 93.
The CGTP union, for example, proposes "the formation of a Provisional Government with popular participation that immediately summons a Constituent Assembly for a new Political Constitution that agrees a new social contract for a new Republic." Also the Broad Front led by Verónika Mendoza, whose bench supported Vizcarra's dismissal by 6 to 2, now opposes Merino and also demands a constituent process.
In reality, this demand by sectors of the mobilised masses represents a profound demand to reject the entire regime, rotten to the core. But we have to ask ourselves. What does a “provisional government with popular participation” mean? Who is going to form such a government? And more importantly, who is going to give power to that government? It cannot be ruled out that the current congress could form a “provisional” or “technocratic” government with limited objectives, whose task would be precisely to try to rebuild the damaged legitimacy of the bourgeois institutions and prevent the masses from taking power in their own hands.
In order to speak of a "government with popular participation" or a "constituent assembly", the first thing to do is overthrow the existing government and sweep away the rotten congress. For this, the masses of workers, youth and other sectors of the movement must equip themselves with their own parliament.
The proposal advanced by the CGTP has another important flaw. There is talk of establishing "a new social contract", if this means anything, it means a new "contract" between capitalists and workers, perhaps one that is perhaps a little more favourable to the workers, but the slogan remains within the limits of the capitalist system. And the problem is precisely that the existence of the capitalist system, and more so in this situation of deep crisis, is incompatible with the "defence of work as a human right, health and life" that the CGTP proposes as an immediate programme.
Here we see the weakness of the political programme advanced by both the CGTP and the Broad Front. This programme is based on the illusion that capitalism can be “democratised,” that a “kinder” type of capitalism towards workers is possible. The reality is that this is not possible. The organic crisis of capitalism, aggravated by the pandemic, exacerbated by corruption, which is expressed particularly acutely in Peru, is precisely the origin of the current regime crisis that the country is facing.
It is necessary to build a programme that breaks with capitalism. That it is precisely stated that in order to guarantee the right to employment, health, life, education, it is necessary to expropriate the capitalists, the ranchers and big landowners, the multinationals, the 40 families of the millionaire oligarchy that control the economy and the politics of the country.
It is necessary to convene a great national assembly of representatives of the people - workers, unions, women's organisations, students, housewives, poor peasants, etc. to draw up a plan of struggle, including a national strike to sweep away all rotten institutions and the corrupt bourgeois regime and the workers themselves are in control.
To end the health and economic crisis, bold action must be taken. A call for the expropriation of the commanding heights of the economy and that they come under the control of the workers, nationalisation of the banks, nationalisation of the mining companies, etc. Only by having sufficient resources under the centralised control of the working class, could sufficient resources be allocated to provide for hospitals and schools, to give work to all idle hands, etc.
This assembly, this organised power of the people, would really be what the masses understand by a "constituent", not a bourgeois parliament called by the current institutions, but a workers and peasants parliament.
In this historic week, the masses in Peru have demonstrated their courage, their willingness to fight and their power, as the masses in Ecuador and Chile did a year ago. Endowed with a revolutionary leadership and a clear socialist programme, they would be invincible.
Neither Vizcarra, nor Merino, nor the congressional den of thieves - get rid of them all!
National Strike and National Assembly of Workers