Tony Saunois, Committee for a Workers’ International secretary
The election of far right Javier Milei as Argentine President, known as “El Loco” – the madman – has thrown down the gauntlet to the working class. The programme he has announced after taking office, if enacted, amounts to a tsunami of attacks on the working class. It is the programme of the ‘Chicago Boys’ on steroids.
Included in an emergency decree, and then a mega reform bill known as the ‘omnibus law’, are hundreds of explosive measures. They include a wave of privatisations, brutal spending cuts, a massive expansion of presidential powers, and attacks on the right to protest and strike.
Of 18 government departments, nine have already been closed, including those responsible for education, the environment, womens’ and gender rights. The Argentine peso has been devalued by more than 50%. Argentina had been at the forefront of progressing womens’ and gender rights in Latin America, but now Milei is threatening to roll back these reforms, and threatening a referendum to take away the right to abortion.
Argentina has been in the grip of a devastating economic crisis. It has worsened since Milei’s election. Monthly inflation hit 25% in December, compared with 12% in November. Annual inflation is at 211.4% and is the highest in three decades. Over 40% of the population is living below the official poverty line.
Milei came to power following a devastating economic crisis which the outgoing corrupt Peronist regime was incapable of resolving. Support for the Peronists had slumped as corruption and attacks on the working class undermined its traditionally strong working-class base. The vote for Milei was a cry of desperation of the oppressed and ravaged middle class.
Yet the declaration of war thrown down by Milei is set to provoke massive class battles and struggles. After only 45 days in power, he has confronted a massive general strike. Up to 300,000 rallied in Buenos Airies and in other protests throughout the country. The powerful Peronist-controlled trade unions were compelled by the pressure from the ranks to call action. The strong state sector, in which they have a powerful base, is under a massive assault.
The crucial question is what now? A 12-hour general strike to mobilise workers and the masses was an important step forward. However, this is not enough and a national plan of struggle is urgently needed to confront Milei’s government.
The right wing are preparing for a bitter struggle. Although they do not have a majority in the Congress, they threatened the deputies of the Trotksyist FIT, which has five seats in the Chamber of Deputies, with “prison or a bullet”, illustrating what lies ahead. It is urgent that the bureaucratic leaders of the trade unions be challenged and a programme