By Marcos Ariel – ISA Argentina)
When it was finally officially confirmed that the far-right candidate Javier Milei had won the open, simultaneous and compulsory primary elections (PASO). With more than 30 per cent, there was great surprise among political analysts who expected him to be defeated.
The right-wing opposition coalition Juntos por el Cambio (Together for Change) was the favorite, but suffered a heavy defeat, coming second after a fierce internal battle between the “moderate” wing led by the head of government of the city of Buenos Aires, Rodríguez Larreta, and the leader of the hard wing, Macri’s former security minister, Patricia Bullrich, who won the internal battle, but could not celebrate, since both internal lists together obtained 28.27%. No prediction by Juntos por el Cambio foresaw this result. They saw themselves in first place, ahead of Kirchnerism, but with Milei in third place.
The other major loser was Peronism and its various sectors that had rallied behind the candidacy of the current economy minister Sergio Massa. The defeat of the Peronist coalition renamed Unión por la Patria was to be expected, although Massa aspired to be the single most voted candidate, something that also failed to materialize. They came third with 27.27%, making it one of the worst elections ever for Peronism.
The Frente de Izquierda-Unidad, which aspired to occupy part of the space left by the Peronist debacle by adding more deputies, had a poor election, stagnating with 2.65%, a percentage slightly below the PASO presidential elections of 2019, and in several provinces did not surpass the proscriptive floor of 1.5% to present candidates in the general elections of 22 October.
Moreover, these results come amidst high absenteeism: only 69% of the electorate turned out to vote.
The election result of a virtual tie between the three candidates Milei, Bullrich and Massa makes the outcome in October uncertain and deepens the political crisis at the top. Milei’s victory raises a lot of uncertainty for the bourgeoisie given the unlikely possibility that he can carry out his reactionary programme without unleashing a popular rebellion. Beyond the result in October, these elections will probably mean the end of the bi-collaborationism with which the capitalists have governed the country for the last decades. The deepening of austerity and the attack on the already deteriorating living conditions of the working class will be greater regardless of who becomes the next president.
Anger channeled by the right
Undoubtedly Milei’s victory is causing a lot of concern amongst those workers and youth most active in struggle, who must draw the best conclusions to correctly interpret this situation, prepare ourselves to intervene in the class struggle that will undoubtedly deepen in the next period and not give in to the pressures of Peronism that will once again ask for a vote for a right-winger so that another right-winger does not win.
Although the vote for Milei expresses an aspect of programmatic support from a more conservative and retrograde sector of society, what is fundamental is that it is a vote that expresses anger and rage at the critical social situation. With his discourse against the political caste, he was seen as an anti-system rebel by a large sector of society, especially young people who used their vote as a punishment for Peronism and the right-wing opposition that governed for the last ten years and are responsible for the crisis. They are certain that with either of the two majority coalitions there will be no improvement in their lives and they see in Milei the hope that perhaps something will change. It is no coincidence that he skilfully appropriates the slogan of the argentinazo, the mass uprising that rocked Argentina in 2001: let them all go.
On the other hand, he appears with a concrete economic proposal: dollarisation. In a country dependent on the US dollar, his proposal is interpreted as synonymous with stability, purchasing power and quality of life.
These are the two central themes that allowed him to reach a large part of the working class and lower middle class population, mainly young people between 16 and 30 years of age, mostly men, with no expectations of progress of any kind, suffering from the lack of work and job instability.
But the responsibility for the advance of the ultra-right does not lie with the youth but with those who took their future away from them. Those responsible are in the Casa Rosada. Peronism and its various sectors that in 2019 promised that they would return to power to stop the right, investigate the fraud of the foreign debt and transform the lives of the people. Instead this “leftist” government co-governs with the IMF, applying a daily adjustment that has led to 40% of the population living in poverty, with an inflation rate of 113% and a devaluation of the dollar to over 700 pesos (when Alberto and Cristina Fernández took office the dollar was worth 70 pesos).
This aspect is fundamental to understanding why the anger was expressed on the right and not on the left. It is not by chance that Milei attacked socialism and the left, identifying this government as socialist. But if Milei finally becomes president and tries to implement his programme of brutal austerity and the stripping of democratic rights, will these working class youth accompany him?
A shift to the right, yes, but an electoral one
Undoubtedly the electoral process has shifted to the right, the identification of the Kirchnerist government as left, communism, socialism, feminism, etc. has allowed both Milei and JxC to debate acquired rights such as the iron fist against crime, abortion, human rights, pickets, indigenous communities. There is also a large right-wing ideological component of votes for Milei, but also for Bullrich, and between them they have more than 11 million votes. Both want to put an end to the right to strike and implement further austerity measures. And although it is clear that there is a right-wing electoral shift, this should not be automatically transferred as a synonym for a right-wing shift in society. It is hard for this to be transferred to the class struggle, which will ultimately determine the future of the working class.
That the vote for Milei is a vehicle for punishing the ruling caste is expressed in the fact that he won not only in 16 out of 24 provinces but also in those where there were big struggles. Thus he wins with 40% in Jujuy which was the protagonist of the great popular rebellion against the right-wing governor Gerardo Morales, Rodriguez Larreta’s vice-presidential candidate, who wanted to reform the provincial constitution to take lithium-rich lands away from the indigenous communities and hand them over to foreign companies. Moreover, in the recent provincial elections where Milei’s vote did not exist, the FIT had a very good election, beating Peronism.
His best election was in the province of Salta where he won with 50% of the votes. In this province just 3 months ago there was a huge teachers’ strike which was brutally repressed by the governor Gustavo Saenz, an ally of Sergio Massa.
In Chubut, where there was a huge rebellion in defense of water against mining, the far-right also won.
Even in historically Peronist provinces such as Tucumán, where the ruling party won the provincial elections a month ago, he also won in Santa Cruz, a bastion of Kirchnerism, which for the first time in 32 years has lost provincial power.
In just a few weeks these provinces, did teachers, workers, indigenous communities really move to the right and support a programme of privatization of education and public health, of handing over lithium and other common goods?
Undoubtedly there is an element of reactionary opposition to these struggles that was channeled in the vote for two far-right variants such as Patricia Bullrich, who won the internal election of Juntos por el Cambio, and Javier Milei, the most voted candidate. But the fundamental thing is that he was used as an electoral tool to punish the national government and JxC.
This is important to determine that in the event of becoming president and implementing his programme of attacking the working class, it will be difficult for his voters to support him. Nor does he have a national party structure to be able to contain the anger. Unlike Trump or Bolsonaro, he does not have a party or a sector such as the army to support him. Nor does he count on the structure of the evangelical churches that are not part of his party. This weakness was seen in the early provincial elections where he obtained terrible results and also in the PASO where he had very few militants.
Peronism sinks, but still breathing
Peronism has had its worst election ever and for the first time is in third place. Although they were defeated at the national level, they avoided a loss due to the fact that they won in the strategic province of Buenos Aires. Furthermore, the bad election of Juntos por el Cambio which is ahead by just one percentage point gives them hope of being able to reverse the situation for October and make it to the run-off and remain in power. For this they will use all the economic resources of the state to get part of the 30% of absentees to vote and fundamentally they will stir up fear of the fascist monster, just as they did in the 2019 elections. There will be great pressure to vote for the lesser evil, Massa.
All these calculations are useless if the social crisis is not addressed, and in this the ruling Peronism provides no answers. On the contrary, the day after the PASO, the minister and candidate Sergio Massa decreed a 22% devaluation of the official dollar, which was quickly passed on to the prices of basic necessities. Thus, for example, the price of medicines increased by 25%, fuel by 12%, food by 15%, meat by 60% and bread by 20%. These price increases are to be added to the accumulated price increases for the year, so that by the end of the year inflation is expected to be over 200%. Services such as public transport, electricity and gas will also increase. The announcements of stable price agreements with food companies and large supermarkets are not being fulfilled.
This is the reality suffered by the working class and the campaign of fear may not work and the run-off will be between Milei and Bullrich.
Obviously it is a danger that Milei will win, but at the same time the candidate of Peronism is a right-winger who, besides being the one who applies brutal austerity measures that the people are suffering, and in his first statements also went against the right to strike, criticizing the teachers’ strikes, he is also a former leader of the Ucedé (a now defunct pro-dictatorship right-wing party) and is a direct representative of the Yankee embassy. Peronism will ask the working class to vote for its own executioner.
The best way to prevent the ultra-right from coming to power or, if they do, to prevent them from implementing their plans is to fight now against the IMF and the government’s austerity measures, we cannot wait until October as the Peronist trade union leaders or the popular left that is part of Unión por la Patria (Union for the Homeland) are trying to do. The tactic of joining Peronism to “change it from within” failed with Alberto and is failing with Massa, who in his first post-election statements was against the right to strike and protest.
The Frente de Izquierda Unidad has a poor election
The collapse of Peronism did not translate into growth of the left. Of the 6 million votes that Peronism lost in four years, none went to the revolutionary Left, which is mainly grouped in the Frente de Izquierda — Unidad (Left Front — Unity). As we pointed out above, the punitive, rebellious, anti-system vote went to Milei.
The internal crisis of the FIT prevented them from seeing that the monster was growing. The inevitable dispute in two lists, on the one hand Myriam Bregman — Nicolás del Caño (both from PTS) which won over the list headed by Solano-Ripoll (Partido Obrero and MST) made them forget about Milei, whom they minimized, and on the other hand the differences were not made clear to left voters.
But the decisive factor in the stagnation and regression in the elections is due to the failure of the forces that make up the Front, which has been in existence for 10 years, to create a force that goes beyond elections, that acts in unity in the daily struggles of the working class and is a reference for the thousands of activists who do not form part of any of the forces that make up the FIT-U. Such an organization would have the capacity to confront Milei and all the defenders of capitalism.
This debate, which was raised in a positive way by the PO and MST and was reflected in the plenary of the left convened in Buenos Aires in July, must be followed up with new plenaries and calls to organize activists all over the country.
The falsely optimistic balance sheets, mainly on the part of the PTS, which sees “consolidation of voters”, high percentages in specific places and “resounding victory” in the internal elections, do not serve for the task of bringing together in unity all of those who are confronting the three candidates of the austerity measures.
The members of the FIT.U must reflect and change not only in the face of the October elections in order to try to win as many votes as possible, but fundamentally to prepare for the period that is opening up of ever greater attacks on the working class, but also of ever greater struggle. It is necessary to put aside false optimism and pedantry, to “get off the pony”, to organize the resistance.
Milei, Bullrich and Massa will pass, but the anger and rage will remain. Will the left be up to the task of leading the future rebellions of the indignant Argentine masses?
The future lies in organization and struggle
Whoever believes that a victory of Milei or Bullrich in October is the end of history is mistaken. The Argentine working class has a great tradition of struggle. This was recently demonstrated in the Jujuy protest, the teachers’ strike in Salta, or the huge popular mobilisations in Chubut and Mendoza in defense of water.
We are the country of the Ni Una Menos and the Green Tide; of the struggle for equal marriage and the massive women’s meetings; of the Nunca Más and the trials of the genocides, which continue to this day; of the Mothers and the recovered grandchildren; the country of the great piquetero movement (mass movement of the unemployed) and the organized working class. In short, we are the country of the argentinazo, whose embers are still smoldering and will burn again sooner rather than later in the working class and the Argentinian masses. This tradition of struggle and rights won will not be easily erased by Milei, Bullrich or Massa. Our strength lies in the streets.
The rebellion in Jujuy shows us the future, whoever wins we will have to fight for our rights and to have a life worth living. Don’t be paralyzed by the fear of the advance of the ultra-right, get organized and fight. That is why we are building a revolutionary organization in Argentina as part of an international organization that brings together activists from all over the world, called International Socialist Alternative. The fight against the extreme right is not only something in our country but also in other countries. We fight against war and fascism; for LGBTIQ+ rights and socialist feminism; for the defense against climate change. Always together with the working class to organize a revolution that will tear down this capitalist system and bring to power those who never ruled before: the workers.