Argentina: The coup-plotting oligarchs are trying to paint themselves as the democrats. They will not succeed!

Statement by Patria y Pueblo (Homeland and People), translated and introduced by Federico Fuentes for Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal

On July 16, with the casting vote of Argentina’s vice-president Julio Cobos breaking the deadlock in the Senate, the Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner government's proposal for a new system of variable tax increases on the exports of foodstuff such as soya was rejected by parliament. The vote comes on the back of more than 100 days of social unrest, including roadblocks by agricultural producers that cut the supply of food to the cities and pro- and anti-government protests filling the streets of Buenos Aires the day before the vote. The vote has sent the Fernandez government into crisis just over six months after assuming the presidency.

Within Argentina’s left, and more broadly in Argentine society, an important discussion has been occurring as to the significance of this protest movement and what position to take in regard to it and the Argentine government. Links has provided English readers with translations of the views of Argentine Marxist economist Claudio Katz and a group of left intellectuals, union leaders and social organisations organised under the banner of ``Otro Camino para superar la crisis’’ (Another path to surpass the crisis), as well as the controversial position of the Movimiento Socialista de Trabajadores – Nueva Izquierda (Socialist Movement of Workers–New Left) of supporting the rural protests against the government.

Below Links provides a translation of another position within the Argentine Marxist left, that of Patria y Pueblo, which defines itself as ``the socialists of the National Left’’, and which has consistently given critical support to the Fernandez government in its battle with the "rural oligarchy". The declaration was issued only days after the vote in the Senate.

For more background information, see the articles published in Green Left Weekly.

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The bill to ratify the March 11 Ministerial Resolution 125, regarding export tariffs ("retentions") on soya, was delivered to the Senate, having been modified with exemplary liberality by the government deputies to meet the demands of the small and medium soya growers from the pampa húmeda [humid pampas region] and extrapampeanas [outside the pampa] areas. But the senators, due to a deadlock and the negative vote of the vice-president, rejected it.

None of the projects presented by opposition senators better conciliated the interests of those affected with those of the country as a whole than the one handed over by the house of deputies. Why then the negative vote? Many senators gave an explicit response to this question when they explained that this issue was no longer about tariff policies, and had transformed itself into a debate over who holds power in Argentina. While it is true that some of them focused on the forms in which this power is exercised, the sedition led by the Sociedad Rural Argentina[1] points towards a questioning of power itself, beyond any eventual good intentions of those who assumed this formalistic position.

There is no doubt that formalities count, but in order to exercise power with the "elegance" demanded by these legislators, the rules of the democratic game demand that the executive branch exercise it without a fraction of society daring to debate this right. As if this was not enough, a crowd of irresponsible politicos mounted the wave of these seditious protests in order to take revenge for the electoral results of October 2007[2]: many of the senators who rejected the resolution belonged to parties led by these spokespeople of the Apocalypse.

All of the senators knew that the debate was no longer (or never was) over whether to take more or less rent from the chacareros [owners of small and medium-sized farms known as chacras, ranging from 50 to 400 hectares], but rather over the right of a legitimately elected government to decide its customs policies. It is no coincidence that those who voted against resolution 125 rushed to declare that "they were not against the retentions". It's true: they were against the necessary strengthening of the central executive power in a country dislocated by three long decades of imperialist, neoliberal, quisling and oligarchic hegemony.

Now they are elbowing each other to get in front of the cameras and microphones to declare their profound anti-coup plotting faith. Their message is: "We want the president to continue in her role"... it’s just that they should dictate which course to take! What we are dealing with is an attempt to reduce presidential power in order to impose a de facto pseudo-parliamentarism. In any part of the world – and in Argentina as well – what the media and the protagonists are already calling a "decisive victory", "the birth of a new Argentina", "historic day" and other arcane esoteric verbiage (that obscures the nub of the question) is quite simply an institutional coup.

The vice-president, Julio Cobos, now tenderly known as el Cleto[3] by the seditious agrarian sectors, has played a sad role in all this. Defining himself as a progressista seeking to "contemplate the interests of diverse sectors", his contemplative progressism led him to vote in a manner which debilitated the executive power to which he belongs, the only one capable of challenging concentrated capital over what portion it should take of national wealth. He makes an effort to remain "contemplative", rather than improving the conditions in which to act. In this way, from high up within the government, he has become part of a subversive move aimed at not recognising popular sovereignty, because no one, except perhaps the vitivinicola [wine growers’] consciousness of Cobos, convokes the Argentine people to ask them if they prefer it if legislators usurp for themselves functions that constitutionally belong to the executive (determining tariffs on foreign trade) or for things to stay as they have been until now.

Worse than the attitude of Cobos, however, is that of those senators who obtained their seats on the lists of the Frente para la Victoria (Front for Victory) or the Concertación Plural (Plural Concertation). They have treated their voters with scorn, imposing on the electoral majority that voted them into parliament the will of the ruralistas to hoard for themselves all the extraordinary rent that the world market is currently generating.

But this will is completely alien to the Argentine people: it is almost like a natural curse, a monster exuded out by thousands and thousands of hectares of fertile prairies integrated into an agricultural production system whose sole objective is to sell meat, cereals and oilseed to this market. For these senators, the defence of private confiscation of agrarian rent which belongs to all Argentinians is more important than the incorporation of the agricultural sector into an industrial Argentina that invests this rent in factories, food production and biofuel plants, and all related activities that would allow a modern country to enter into the world market with products of high added value. It is a sad irony that those who, in the name of a movement that 60 years ago erupted on the Argentine political scene in order to lay the foundations of a self-centred industrialisation, today attempt to perpetuate the asphyxiating rural-centred development that continues to find its mythical golden age in what the people commonly refer to as the Década Infame (Infamous Decade)][4].

It is almost not worth mentioning those ultra-"leftists" who, with their "Maoist", Stalinist and "Trotskyist" leaders, stoke the discontent of the well-off chacareros to the point of transforming them into shock troops of the recycled, though old, oligarchy. But the role played by the social democracy of Hermes Binner [5] and the vociferous and petition-signing ultraleftism from the urban sectors, forces us to take them into consideration in characterising this oppositional [alliance] as a new version of the Unión Democrática[6], behind which, although now very silently, is always the embassy of the United States. Only in this way can we explain the coincidence of their positions with those of Mauricio Macri[7], who put the Museo Sivori (Sivori Museum) – a municipal building, and therefore property of all the inhabitants of Buenos Aires without distinction for political colour – at the service of the Mesa de Enlace[8], at the same time as he shed crocodile tears for the "tremendous damage" done to the grass in Plaza Congreso, which according to him was caused by the pro-government tents erected in front of the national congress[9].

On behalf of the party, Patria y Pueblo, the socialists of the National Left, we affirm that in order to reverse this conjunctural retreat it is necessary to form a powerful National Front that revolutionises the Argentine political system, opening the path to the conduction of public affairs by the most humble, and in doing so guarantee, with the mobilisation of the people in the streets and the countryside of the homeland, the irreversible deepening of the path opened by the grand mobilisations of December 2001. Completely wiping away the political and ideological detritus that from March 24, 1976, suffocated the country, these rebellions constituted themselves as the true origins of the electoral legitimacy of the governments of Nestor Kirchner and Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner. Its patriotic and revolutionary mandate showed the path forward in order to avoid the swamp that the reactionary and pusillanimous quislings of all strips, who continue to try to survive in the old and worn-out political structures of the past, would like to take us into: what served as the mechanism to throw off the representatives of the old order is also the most powerful defensive bulwark that this government, which emerges from the forced escape in helicopter [by then president, Fernando De La Rua].[10]

These four months have allowed us to clearly demarcate the line between the two groups, part of this old historic battle between two Argentinas. It is the unwaivering task of those who have been flouted by the senatorial foul play to take this reality as their starting point.
Compatriots, join our ranks, the struggle has only begun!

Translator’s notes

[1] Argentine Rural Society: a private organisation that unites the large landowners tied to agricultural activities in Argentina.

[2] In the October 2007 national elections, Fernandez de Kirchner, in an alliance with forces from the Peronist party, Partido Justicialista, and remnants of other traditional parties organised in the Frente para la Victoria [Front for Victory] and Concertación Plural [Plural Concertation], won the presidency with just under 45% of the vote. Fernandez's vice-presidential candidate, Julio Cobos, was an ex-member of the Union Civica Radical [Radical Civic Union].

[3] Julio Cobos’ middle name is Cleto

[4] Infamous Decade refers to the 1930s, when following the September 3, 1930, coup, oligarchic governments publicly stated that Argentina was “the 6th dominion of Britain”. The era was defined by well-known nationalist writer Arturo Jauretche as “an agreement between the Sociedad Rural and the British Empire, signed (forcibly) by the Argentine people”. It was out of the struggle against this colonialism that Peronism emerged.

[5] Hermes Binner is the current governor of the province of Santa Fe, from the Partido Socialista (Socialist Party).

[6] Democratic Union: anti-Peronist alliance formed in 1945 to oppose the candidature of Juan Peron. The alliance was backed by the US embassy, and involved the Unión Cívica Radical, Partido Socialista, Partido Comunista y Demócrata Progresista. The National Left (of which Patria y Pueblo are part) argue that the Union Democratica can also be understood as a semi-permanent historical category in Argentina and other semi-colonial countries, whereby a broad front, ranging from the ultraleft to the ultraright, unite behind the objectives of the anti-national ruling class against national-popular regimes.

[7] Mauricio Macri: business owner, right-wing neoliberal, and chief of government of the City of Buenos Aires.

[8] Interchange Roundtable united the four main rural organisations of Argentina in their battle against the government – Sociedad Rural, Coninagro, Federación Agraria Argentina and Confederaciones Rurales Argentina.

[9] When it was announced that a bill to ratify resolution 125 would be introduced into parliament, both pro- and anti-government supporters erected tents in Plaza Congreso, in front of Congress, were they held numerous protests, musical events, distributed information and collected signatures on petitions.

[10] Referring to the fact that ex-president Fernando De La Rua, in power in 2001, was forced to escape from the presidential palace in a helicopter, as hundreds of thousands surrounded the building in the December 2001 uprising, known as el Argentinazo. It also a reference to the argument by some on the centre left who stated that Fernandez had a similar destiny in front of her.