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Argentina: Elections Show Need For A Socialist Alternative
THE FIRST round of Presidential elections in Argentina has left former Peronist President Carlos Menem in a run-off with the government-backed Nestor Kirchner, also a Peronist standing for the Union de Centro Democratico.
These elections have revealed a massive political fragmentation amongst all of the parties. There were three Peronist candidates, three former members of Union Civica Radical, four candidates from the socialist left and three supporters of the military, retired generals.
Menem and Kirchner have supported right-wing, pro-capitalist policies and offer nothing for the working class and poor in Argentina.
Although Kirchner opposed "social exclusion" and gave more emphasis to a 'traditional' Peronist policy of radical populist nationalism, which is why his support increased during the campaign, he is not a friend of the working class.
Menem is from the corrupt caste of pro-capitalist politicians who have aroused the bitter hatred of the Argentine masses. He pioneered the IMF privatisation programme in Argentina. His programme was of a Thatcherite neo-liberalism which marked a break with the policies of previous Peronist governments.
It's possible that Menem will win the second round although this is far from certain. He has pledged to 'crack down' on the daily protests of the unemployed organised in the 'piqueteros' movement.
These election results unfortunately represent a disappointment for the working class of Argentina. Menem has emerged as the leading candidate with almost 25% of the vote to Kirchner's 21.9%.
Socialists cannot support either in the second round. These elections show the urgent need to build a mass socialist alternative by workers, young people, the unemployed and urban poor.
Various 'Trotskyist' parties failed to win substantial support. The largest vote went to Patricia Walsh from the Izquierda Unida - United Left - dominated by the Movimiento Socialista de Trabajadores which won 337,166 votes - 1.75% of the total. In 1989 the Izquierda Unida won 2.5% of the votes caste.
The elections reveal the impasse which exists in Argentina. Mass protests and uprisings brought five governments crashing down in a matter of weeks during December 2001 and January 2002, as a financial and economic crisis shook Argentina to its social foundations.
The economic crisis has left the mass of the population devastated. Despite claims of a small economic revival, a staggering 57.5% of the population still live below the official poverty line. In the poorest districts around Buenos Aires the infant mortality rate has reached a staggering 30%. This is in a country which boasted the highest standard of living in Latin America.
Out of desperation and the absence of an alternative, voters returned to the political corpses of the past in a desperate hope of reviving these ghosts and re-establishing some of the stability and economic growth of the past.
But, on a capitalist basis the 'good times' for Argentina are over. However, the idea of a democratic socialist planned economy and socialism as an alternative to capitalism has not yet been embraced by the masses. Neither has it been clearly explained by any party with a sufficiently powerful authority and support amongst the working class.
Whoever wins the elections will be faced with a continuing social and economic crisis and further splits and divisions amongst the political parties. Neither Menem not Kirchner will be able to form a stable government.
The task facing the working class in Argentina is to build a mass socialist party that will offer an alternative to the rubble left by capitalism.
In The Socialist 3 May 2003: