On Thursday, July 1, in Argentina, columns of protesters gathered in different points of the capital, Buenos Aires, as well as around the country, to protest the Fernandez government’s austerity plans, made in concert with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), along with the horrible living conditions. On July 19 another demonstration in the city of Jujuy attracted thousands to protest governor Gerardo Morales’ repressive measures against local activists in the anti-austerity and piquetero movement.
Argentina is in a deep economic crisis. The Minister of the Economy, Martín Guzmán, just resigned after making the agreement with the IMF, and was quickly replaced by another of the same ilk, Silvina Batakis. The IMF, that omnipresent loan shark that pressures countries throughout the world, by holding out its billions for capitalist projects in return for government agreements to squeeze the working population, wants assurances that Batakis will make good on the plan agreed to by the previous Minister, and force the popular masses to take it in the teeth for their new loan package, as planned.
The IMF recently approved the first review of this $44.5 billion loan package. This deal is tied to cuts in energy subsidies, and to reducing Argentina’s budget deficit… as always on the backs of the working people and the poor: cuts in energy subsidies will mean higher prices, cuts in public works will mean a loss of jobs, then there are cuts in university funds, cuts in pensions, the cuts of state salaries, freezing social assistance and more. With inflation heading toward 70% by the end of 2022, many in the popular classes are fighting back.
On July 1 they congregated on the central square of Buenos Aires, the famed “Plaza de Mayo,” and the centers of political power to make their voices heard. The “piqueteros”, well organized and numerous organizations of the unemployed, are at the forefront of the fight for a better life in Argentina; known by this name because of the impressive picket lines they set up to block roads. They are demanding an immediate solution for the hardest hit sectors: an immediate $155.00 emergency bonus, a minimum wage above the cost of monthly basic needs, and universal insurance for the unemployed equal to the minimum wage.
Meanwhile, Vice President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, considered a “progressive,” is proposing a project for a Universal Basic income of 14,400 pesos. This is 111.70 U.S. dollars per month: misery wages. Kirchner has also taken the lead in an offensive to “reform” the administration and management of social aid plans, with the aim of ending the Piquetero organizations once and for all. The Polo Obrero, the piquetero organization tied to the Trotskyist party, Workers’ Party (Partido Obrero), along with the other piquetero groups, are not having it.
This popular movement, organized in the working class neighborhoods, is fighting for an independent, alternative way out of the crisis, expressed in the action plan of the “Unidad Piquetera,” a collaboration of the many piquetero organizations.
The Piqueteros in Argentina are leading the way – a fight that we see playing out on the world scale, from Sri Lanka, to Panamá, to Ecuador, where capitalism and its spawn: the pandemic and the war in Ukraine, and climate change, are pushing people to their limit.