by Prof. James Petras
February 21, 2016
The class struggle from above found its most intense , comprehensive
and retrograde expression in Argentina, with the election of
Mauricio Macri (December 2015).
During the first two months in office,
through the arbitrary assumption of emergency powers, he reversed,
by decree, a multitude of progressive socio-economic policies passed
over the previous decade and sought to purge public institutions of
Facing a hostile majority in Congress, he seized legislative powers
and proceeded to name two Supreme Court judges in violation of the
President Macri purged all the Ministries and agencies of perceived
critics and appointees of the previous government and replaced those
officials with loyalist neo-liberal functionaries.
Popular movement leaders were jailed,
and former Cabinet members were prosecuted.
Parallel to the reconfiguration of the state, President Macri
launched a neo-liberal counter-revolution:
a 40% devaluation which raised
prices of the basic canasta over 30%
the termination of an export tax
for all agro-mineral exporters (except soya farmers)
a salary and wage cap 20% below
the rise in the cost of living
a 400% increase in electrical
bills and a 200% increase in transport
large scale firing of public and
strike breaking using rubber
preparations for large scale
privatizations of strategic economic sectors
a 6.5 billion dollar payout to
vulture-fund debt holders and speculators - a 1000% return -
while contracting new debts
President Macri's high intensity class
warfare is intended to reverse, the social welfare and progressive
policies implemented by the Kirchner regimes over the past 12
President Macri has launched a virulent new version of the class
struggle from above, following a long-term neo-liberal cyclical
pattern which has witnessed:
Authoritarian military rule
(1966-1972) accompanied by intense class struggle from below
followed by democratic elections (1973-1976).
Military dictatorship and
intense class struggle from above (1976-1982) resulting in
the murder of 30.000 workers.
A negotiated transition to
electoral politics (1983) a hyper inflationary crises and
the deepening of neo-liberalism (1989-2000).
Crises and collapse of
neoliberalism and insurrectionary class struggle from below
regimes (2003-2015): a labor-capital-regime social pact.
Authoritarian neo-liberal Macri
regime(2015) and intense class struggle from above. Macri's
strategic perspective is to consolidate a new power bloc of
local agro-mineral, and banking oligarchs, foreign bankers
and investors and the police-military apparatus to massively
increase profits by cheapening labor
The roots of the rise of the neo-liberal
power bloc can be found in the practices and policies of the
previous Kirchner-Fernandez regimes.
Their policies were designed to overcome
the capitalist crises of 2000-2002 by channeling mass discontent
toward social reforms, stimulating agro-mineral exports and
increasing living standards via progressive taxes, electricity and
food subsidies, and pension increases. Kirchner's progressive
policies were based on the boom in commodity prices.
When they collapsed the capital-labor
'co-existence' dissolved and the Macri led
business-middle-class-foreign capital alliance was well placed to
take advantage of the demise of the model.
The class struggle from below was severely weakened by the labor
alliance with the center-left Kirchner regime .Not because labor
benefited economically but because the pact demobilized the mass
organizations of the 2001-2003 period.
Over the course of the next 12 years'
labor entered into sectorial negotiations (paritarias) mediated by a
Class consciousness was replaced by 'sectoral'
allegiances and bread and butter issues. Labor unions lost their
capacity to wage class struggle from below - or even influence
sectors of the popular classes. Labor was vulnerable and is in a
weak position to confront President Macri's virulent neo-liberal
Nevertheless, the extreme measures adopted by Macri - the deep cuts
in purchasing power, spiraling inflation and mass firings have led
to the first phases of a renewal of the class struggle from below.
Strikes by teachers and public employees over salaries and firings
have flared up in response to the barrage of public sector cuts and
arbitrary executive decrees.
Sporadic mass demonstrations have been
called by social and human rights movements in response to Macri's
dismantling of the institutions prosecuting military officials
responsible for the killing and disappearance of 30,000 victims
during the "dirty war" (1976-83).
As the Macri regime proceeds to deepen and extend his regressive
measures designed to lower labor costs, business taxes and living
standards to entice capital with higher profits, as inflation soars
and the economy stagnates due to the decline of public investment
and consumption, the class struggle from below is likely to
intensify - general strikes and related forms of direct action are
likely before the end of the first year of the Macri regime.
Large scale class based organizations capable of engaging in intense
class struggle from below, weakened by the decade-long 'corporate
model' of the Kitchener era, will take time to reconstruct.
The question is when and what it will
take to organize a class-wide (national) political movement which
can move beyond an electoral repudiation of Macri allied candidates
in upcoming legislative, provincial and municipal elections.