National Sections of the L5I:

The MAS, the Izquierda Unida and the Argentine elections

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In the recent Argentine parliamentary elections, Luis Zamora, a leading member of the Movimiento Al Socialismo (MAS — “Movement Towards Socialism”), was elected a deputy. One other MAS member was elected a local deputy for the Buenos Aires region. The press of the International Workers League (LIT), founded by the late Nahuel Moreno is loud in its praise for the “success” of its Argentinian section: the “first Trotskyist MP” its members have boasted.

But was this really a great triumph for Trotskyism in Argentina? Sadly not. In fact it represents yet another sorry step in the history of Morenoite centrism. The MAS fought the election as part of an electoral block — the Izquierda Unida (IU — “United Left”) — with the Argentinian Communist Party. This block received half a million votes in the national deputies list.

Despite the pretensions of the MAS and the LIT, the programme of the IU is neither that of a principled united front for action, nor a revolutionary answer to the crisis facing the Argentine masses. It is yet another opportunist bloc in which political clarity is sacrificed for short term electoral gain. The MAS may have one MP, but they have no programmatic base for using that MP as a revolutionary tribune in the class battles which are to come.

Argentina is currently in the thralls of one of its most severe economic crises in recent history. The Radical government of outgoing President Raul Alfonsin had failed in all its attempts to revive the economy. Burdened by enormous debts to the imperialist banks, with inflation running at 80% and more per month, with growing shortages and power cuts throughout the country, the Radicals went to the country promising only more austerity as a way out of the crisis.

The victory of the other major bourgeois party, the Peronists, came about due to the overwhelming support that its leader, Carlos Menem, received from the Peronist-led trade unions and the working class in general. Apart from occasional bouts of “anti-imperialist” rhetoric against the banks and the British over the Malvinas, Menem remained studiously vague about what his economic policies would be.

A further element to the political crisis in Argentina has been a series of revolts by sections of the army designed to halt all investigations into the “dirty war” conducted under the military dictatorship during which 30,000 “disappeared”. By the revolts and threats of coups, the army has managed to block virtually all attempts to bring the army officers responsible for the murders and tortures to the courts, courtesy of course of concessions agreed by Alfonsin and Menem.

It was in these circumstances that the United Left was launched in October 1988 on the initiative of the MAS. This was not the first time that the MAS had made a bloc with the CP. At the end of 1985 the two parties formed a “Peoples Front” (FREPU). This grouping fell apart in 1987 when the CP joined with other “democratic parties” in supporting Alfonsin’s “Act for Democratic Compromise” which involved fundamental concessions to the military. The MAS refused to sign and in the following period overtook the CP in terms of its growth and support, especially in Buenos Aires.

By 1988 the MAS was courting the CP again. Moreno’s justification for seeking such electoral blocs with the Stalinists was that they were part of a strategy aimed at “hugging the CP to death”. With the CP’s electoral support in decline, the Morenoites combined their opportunism with a ludicrous triumphalism predicting to the “death” of the CP as an important force in Argentina. The MAS was soon to learn that the CP could “hug” as hard as the “Trotskyists”!

The founding of the Izquierda Unida
The IU was finally launched in October 88 by the MAS and the CP’s front the FRAL, which contained the Humanist Party and a few other small petit bourgeois groupings. They appealed to others to join including the Intransigent Party, a split to the left from the Radicals. Both the CP and the MAS had been attempting to draw this party into an alliance since the FREPU was launched but had consistently failed. So right from the outset, the IU was not seen as being a bloc of workers’ parties, but was aimed at including “left” elements of the bourgeoisie.

The programme of the IU therefore had to be tailored twice over: first so as not to scare off the CP, then so as to attract any potential bourgeois allies.

In order to decide on who should be the candidates in both the presidential and parliamentary elections, the IU held a series of US-style “primaries”. It was at this point that the MAS got a rude awakening as to the real strength of the CP and its allies. The candidate supported by the CP’s front, the FRAL, was Nestor Vicente.

This ex-Christian Democrat, ex-Peronist, ex-Radical and openly proclaimed Catholic (the ideal candidate for such a bloc!), won the primaries, leaving the MAS with the second prize of running for the vice-presidency.

The LIT like to present the IU as having “a working class, anti-imperialist and anti-capitalist programme”.1 They argue that:

“Argentina’s United Left is a workers front. In that sense it is qualitatively different from coalitions like the Broad Uruguayan Front, the Peruvian United Left and other fronts that the Communist parties impose in Latin America with class conciliationist programs harmonious with the world political pact with imperialism urged by Gorbachev”.2

One look at the programme of the IU shows what a false picture this is. In fact the programme is perfectly in harmony with the reformist politics of Stalinism and the right-centrist MAS happily accommodates to it. Despite being couched in radical phrases, the IU’s programme for combatting the capitalist crisis shows clearly how the MAS guts the Transitional Programme of its revolutionary content.

For example, to deal with soaring inflation the IU calls for price control on the leading companies . . . “where they agree”! And if they don’t? The workers will lose out. Where is the key demand for the protection of workers’ living standards — the sliding scale of wages? Where are the demands to mobilise the masses in price watch committees, to mobilise the trade unions for action to win this demand? The centrists of the MAS obviously have no use for such demands which would offend their Stalinist allies and certainly scare off any radical bourgeois elements. The programme has been diplomatically trimmed to meet the needs of the MAS, not those of the masses.

Similarly absent is the consistent call for the expropriation of the capitalists. While the IU are willing to countenance this for factories that go bankrupt and close down, the demand mysteriously disappears when it comes to dealing with the banks and major industries, precisely at the point where it is most vital.

The fine sounding first point of the IU programme illustrates the whole problem with the method of the MAS. “For the non-payment of the fraudulent external debt” it says. Fair enough. But this sits uneasily with the rest of the programme. As the MAS would surely readily agree, if Argentina were to cancel the debt and break with the IMF and the World Bank it would undoubtedly have to face a massive imperialist blockade. Yet the programme does not even attempt to address this problem.

And with reason. The only possible solution would involve the demand for a workers’ government which immediately proceeded to expropriate the capitalists, their banks and industry, to arm the workers in defence of these actions and against imperialism, and to take active steps to spread the revolution beyond the confines of one country in Latin America. The fact that none of these questions are even raised shows that this demand is just for “negotiation”, a threat to get a better deal from the imperialists. The Argentine workers should not be persuaded by the IU’s promises: without the necessary revolutionary strategy, any IU government (in itself an unlikely prospect) would quickly find itself up against the limits of its own rhetoric.

All this is no accident: it reflects the whole approach of the programme towards government and state power. And here the document is reformist through and through.

The programme puts forward the purely parliamentary road to socialism so beloved by the Stalinists. It calls for a “constituent assembly, with full freedoms and sovereignty”, a purely bourgeois demand (and a bizarre one in the case of Argentina with its developed parliamentary democracy). Throughout this “anti-capitalist” document there is no mention of workers’ councils (soviets) as essential organs of working class struggle and as the form of the future state. In the absence of this, the call for “a government of those who have never governed . . . the workers and the popular masses” is nothing but a smokescreen.

What about Lenin and Trotsky’s insistence that the bourgeois state has to be smashed and that it cannot be transformed? All this is absent from the “anti-capitalist” programme of the IU.

A reformist line on the state
On the crucial question of the repressive state forces the programme is at its most cravenly reformist. With typical sleight of hand, point 23 proudly declares for a “dismantling of the repressive apparatus”. This turns out not to be a demand for the dissolution of the bourgeois army and its replacement by a workers’ militia, for the arming of the people, but a call for the “trial and punishment for those guilty of the disappearances’ i.e. a purge of the “bad elements” in the army! This is hardly radically different from Alfonsin’s promises on coming to power!

Point 18 makes clear the IU’s commitment to defend the Argentine bourgeois state, when it declares “For substantial military reforms to compulsory military service that guarantee respect and dignity to the soldier and for military instruction according to the needs of national defence”! Where is the “anti-capitalism” here?

In case anyone thought this was a position imposed on the MAS by the CP, the MAS paper Solidaridad Socialista expands on the MAS’ reformist conception of “democratising” the army. In an article entitled “Our proposals for the armed forces” the paper sets out its position on changes necessary in the armed forces thus, “the changes should be in the direction of their democratisation, so that they cease to be institutions of the exploiters, for the repression of the workers”.3

Allende and the Communist Party of Chile in the Popular Unity peddled exactly the same illusions with regard to the armed forces and that led the Chilean workers to bloody defeat. The “Trotskyists” of the MAS want to repeat the lesson in Argentina!

As good pseudo-Trotskyists, the LIT claim that they are in favour of a programme of permanent revolution for the imperialised world:

“The underdeveloped countries can only achieve genuine democracy and national liberation through the taking of state power by the working class, supported by the peasantry, in a socialist revolution.”4

All this is just so much fine talk. We find the real content of the LIT’s opportunist “Trotskyism” in the programme of the MAS and the IU.

In the section dealing with “anti-imperialism” the IU programme clearly shows the marks of the CP’s perspective of a democratic stage:

“For a second Latin American Independence beginning with a break with all the economic, political, diplomatic and military pacts which hold back our people and for a break with US imperialism.”

This evasive formula could clearly mean an “independent” capitalist Argentina. It makes no mention of socialism (the whole programme itself is careful to avoid this dangerous word, preferring vague talk of “social liberation”). Yet how else can Argentina or any other country in Latin America suffering imperialist exploitation break the economic and political stranglehold of imperialism? Given the IU’s silence on this fundamental point it seems that the Argentine CP has “hugged” the Trotskyism out of the MAS!

Throughout the whole programme the most notable absence is the question of mobilising the workers in struggle against austerity and the state. This is of the utmost significance because a revolutionary communist election campaign should stress the necessity of direct working class action to achieve even its most basic objectives and the impossibility of using parliament to defeat the bourgeoisie and overthrow their system.

The IU election programme thus reveals itself as an opportunist propaganda bloc where the content of the propaganda is tailored to suit what the reformist CP will accept. There is no way of using the IU’s 29 points as the basis for a working class fightback against austerity, or for charting the way to the revolutionary overthrow of capitalism.

The only call for mass mobilisation of the workers is in opposition to the threat of a coup d’etat. The MAS might claim that this is a “code” for the insurrection. The truth is that the IU’s programme is totally in line with a reformist method which seeks to mobilise the workers electorally, in order to institute a “left government” which will legislate for socialism.

The general strike, arming the workers, forming workers militias, soviets, conducting revolutionary work in the army with the aim of breaking it up as a repressive force, all these crucial elements of a real “anti-capitalist” “anti-imperialist” programme of action are absent. It is little wonder then that when the IU’s presidential candidate was interviewed by the newspaper Clarin and asked about the question of a government of the workers, he immediately replied:

“On the subject you ask about, the dictatorship of the proletariat, it is not a subject talked about these days, neither in the IU nor the FRAL.”5

And one can add “neither in the MAS” when it comes to presenting a programme before the workers!

Legalist reflexes
The increasingly rightward drift of the MAS was demonstrated in the election period not just by its reformist bloc with the CP but by its reaction to the Tablada Massacre, where members of the ERP (Revolutionary Peoples Army), a guerrilla tendency long thought defunct in Argentina, launched an attack on the La Tablada barracks, believing it would cause a leftist rising. After their surrender and capture many were murdered by the army in cold blood. Even the bourgeois press was shocked at this blatant resurgence of the “Dirty War”.

What would have been a revolutionary response to such an incident? First and foremost it would have been to defend the ERP, however misguided their actions, against the repression of the bourgeois state. But what most concerned the MAS was to demonstrate their commitment to bourgeois legality and to distance themselves from “putschism” and declare that “terrorism was not Marxism”.6

This piece of scabbing on the victims of state repression was taken further when the “Madres de Plaza de Mayo” (an organisation of the mothers of those who disappeared under the dictatorship) called for a demonstration on the anniversary of the 1976 military coup. One of the slogans of the demonstration was the denunciation of the La Tablada massacre. This was enough for Zamora to declare his opposition and for the MAS to organise a boycott!

The recent elections in Argentina have entirely confirmed the hopeless centrism of the MAS and the LIT. Morenoism has demonstrated again its deeply opportunist practice and electoral cretinism in its heartland of Argentina. Its “left” face of 1979 when it broke with the United Secretariat of the Fourth International over the USFI’s opportunism in relation to the Sandinista regime, is long gone.

Its opportunist manoeuvres with the Argentinian CP have already cost it 200 militants who split to form the Workers Party for Socialism (PTS). But if these comrades are to learn the lessons of the split they will need to look beyond the most recent turn of the MAS.

They will have to examine the origins of Argentine Trotskyism’s collapse into centrism. These origins lie in the collapse of the whole Fourth International into centrism by 1951. Only by learning those lessons and developing an irreconcilable struggle against Stalinism, Peronism and centrism within the Argentinian working class, will it be possible to build a real revolutionary workers’ party, worthy of the name of Trotskyism.

The programme of the Izquierda Unida
1. Non-payment of the fraudulent external debt, be it in the form of capital, interest payments or so-called “capitalisation”. Break off the deals with the IMF and the World Bank.

2. For an immediate increase in pay, allowances and pensions. Restoration of the basic living wage so that it covers all family needs.

3. For an end to inflation: for the restoration of price control for the leading companies—including the large commercial monopolies—where they agree, and with the participation of the trade union and mass organisations of the people.

4. For an end to price rises and over-pricing. Prices in the public sector services to be accessible to the poorest sections of the population. For the freezing of these prices to the levels existing prior to the “Primavera” plan.

5. For the right to work: for full employment on the basis of a plan of prioritised public works, and of the revitalising of the productive sector and regional economies. For guaranteed state unemployment benefits equal to the basic living wage, so that the unemployed can survive the present situation. For nationalisation, without compensation, of all factories that close down. This to be under the control of the workers in the plant (having beforehand studied its economic feasibility), in order to guarantee the right to work.

6. For an immediate embargo on the wealth of all those capitalists who have taken $30 billion out of the country, and of those companies which have transferred their external debt to the state. If, in sixty days, they do not repatriate and re-integrate these funds the embargo will be put into action and their capital will be seized.

7. Full support for the struggles of the workers and the people against the current economic plan. For an alternative economic plan that benefits the masses and which is elaborated by the organisations of the people and the workers’ movement, the basis of which is proposed by the IU in this document.

8. For the nationalisation of the banks, the exchange system, foreign commerce, insurance companies and all the monopolies.

9. Against privatisation: for the cancellation of all the contracts that involve handing over state industries to the multinationals (petroleum, telephones, airlines etc). For a state monopoly of public services; and of the exploration, exploitation and commercialisation of all natural resources and their derivatives. For the defence of the state industries, for the removal of civil servants linked to the interests of transnational monopolies in order to prevent fraudulent bids and particularly to secure efficiency on the basis of workers’ and users’ control.

10. For an agrarian reform that expropriates the large land holdings, the large bourgeois land owners, and gives the workers, peasants and small farmers access to the individual or collective exploitation of the land. For the restructuring of the small land holdings to make them profitable. Support for agrarian co-operative projects.

11. For cheap credit from the state bank for small producers and merchants.

12. For a political taxation system based on the principle of “the more you have the more you pay”. For the elimination of taxes which affect the spending power of the mases. For the prevention of tax evasion by the rich and for the imposition of strong and progressive taxes on the large estates and capital holdings.

13. For an end to the commercialisation of health and essential services and a securing of health for all through the establishment of free and integral health care, with the use of preventative medicine integrated into a plan of national centralisation, based on public hospitals. This will mean the nationalisation all the laboratories and health centres.

14. For state taught education: egalitarian, unrestricted, free and secular, at all levels and in the service of national and social liberation. Increase in the budget for education. Decent salaries for all teaching staff. For an end to state subsidies for private education. For independent scientific and technological development to prevent a “brain drain”.

15. For a law controlling the universities, elaborated with the participation of students, staff, non-staff workers and graduates, which guarantees real autonomy as well as free and open access.

16. For a plan of decent housing for the people with the provision of long term state credit at low interest. For an emergency housing law that suspends the evictions of families. For a just and fair rents law that ensures that rents do not rise over 15% of the family income. For an integrated rent system which does not operate against the interest of the small proprietors. For a fixed expiry date for the renting of houses which remain uninhabited. For a definitive lowering of prices of occupied plots and housing and for the imposition of a stronger progressive tax for those that keep prices high.

17. For the rights of women workers: equal pay for equal work and access to all professional levels. For creche facilities in working class districts and places of work. For a special complementary family wage for single mothers. For the encouragement of the participation of women in positions of leadership in the unions proportional to the number of women workers in each sector.

18. A guarantee for full rights for youth, especially in education and in work. For the same work and the same pay as adults. For the right to vote from the age of 16. For substantial reforms in compulsory military service that guarantee respect and dignity to the soldier and for a military instruction according to the needs of national defence.

19. For full enforcement and extension of the democratic freedoms consecrated in the national constitution. For full maintenance of the following freedoms: to meet, of association, press, to life, to work, to form unions, to defence in a trial, to the privacy of the home and correspondence, etc. For the repeal of all restrictive legislation regarding the right to strike, to trade union organisation and politics. For voting rights for all foreigners that have been in the country for five years or more.

20. For an end to all privileges for civil servants (executive, legislative, judicial sectors and of the armed and security forces). They should earn the same as state employees, on the same wage scales, without privilege, early retirement and easy jobs.

21. For a constituent assembly with full freedoms and sovereignty.

22. Against all attempts at a coup d’etat. For the mobilisation of the workers and people in order to prevent it.

23. For the dismantling of the repressive apparatus; for the investigation and exposure of its activities. Trial and punishment for those guilty of the disappearences, abductions, tortures, military uprisings and any other form of state terrorism. Abolition of military immunity. Clarification of the whereabouts of the disappeared. For the abolition of the “Full Stop” (otherwise known as the statute of limitations) and “Due Obedience” laws, and all those laws aimed at absolving the killings. Against all forms of amnesty. Against the “National Security Instruction” and the “Law of Defense”. For the return of the abducted children to their families. Freedom for all political prisoners.

24. For a new, anti-bureaucratic, combative leadership for the workers’ movement, committed to national and social liberation. Against the trade union bureaucracy which betrays struggles and which imposes the politics of the social contract and consensus in the interests of the bosses. For trade union democracy. For the workers’ right to decide in their trade union organisations without interference from the bosses or the state.

25. For the recovery of our sovereignty in the Malvinas and the islands of the South Atlantic. For the expropriation of British assets in Argentina. For the dismantling of the NATO nuclear base in the Malvinas. Against the process of “de-Malvinification” which intends to revive and strengthen imperialist relations. Break the military pacts such as TIAR which tie Argentina to imperialism.

26. Against the USA’s policy of armament and imperialist aggression throughout the world.

27. For Latin American integration with all countries which break with imperialism. For an independent foreign policy and active solidarity with all peoples fighting for liberation. For effective support for the struggles of the neighbouring peoples of Nicaragua, El Salvador, Chile and Paraguay. For unconditional defense of Cuba against imperialist aggression.

28. For a second Latin American independence, beginning with a break with all the economic, political, diplomatic and military pacts which hold back our people. For a break with US imperialism.

29. This programme can only be put into practice on the basis of a government of those who have never before governed in our country: the rank and file, the workers and the popular masses whose interests lie with the achievement of national and social liberation.