General Strike in Argentina

El Retiro, the main and usually bustling train station in downtown Buenos Aires, was quiet during the May 9 general strike.

On May 9, Argentinian workers’ unions conducted a general strike in a show of opposition to the austerity measures and so-called reforms of recently elected radical libertarian President Javier Milei. Milei, who lists right-wing economist Milton Friedman and other “free market fundamentalists” among his heroes, is attempting to stop inflation by slashing government spending, which means heavy cuts for the Argentine masses. He also wants to link the economy to the U.S. dollar, which would also dramatically slash the purchasing power of working people. One commentator called his policies “One of the most extraordinary economic experiments I think anyone has seen” and “Thatcherism on steroids,” referring to Britain’s right-wing Prime Minister in the 1980s.

The coalition of the three largest trade union federations in the nation – the CGT (General Confederation of Labor), the CTA (Argentine Workers Central Union), and the Autonomous CTA – with the support of a variety of left parties and coalitions, including the revolutionary FIT (Workers Left Front – Unity), called for and carried out a near complete strike that brought airports, trains and train stations, nearly all bus transportation and many other public services to a halt in the nation of 46 million. Schools and universities closed, as well as most ports and large-scale commerce, and the strike was effective in the largest cities as well as many smaller towns and cities nationwide. It was the second one-day general strike this year to show opposition to Milei’s proposed reforms.

For decades the Argentine economy has been in a state of crisis, pulled between the needs of the population for a basic social safety net and the will of international capitalism, in this case represented by the International Monetary Fund and the global capitalist banking system. Even when unions’ bureaucracies get their preferred candidates (Peronists) into office, the crises are not eliminated, and the working class isn’t free of economic pressures. The crises are much more than just Milei or whatever right-wing president takes office. The problem is the system.

The general strike in Argentina showed the potential power of the working class and the way to confront attacks.