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As far right takes over, Argentinians protest against changes in labour contract laws

By Harsh Thakor* 

Javier Milei is the new president of Argentina. For the first time a far-right candidate comes to power. His capturing power is victory for neo-fascism nationally and internationally and illustrates how bourgeois parliamentary capitalist democracies, sow the seeds for its germinating. It manifests the escalation of the far right trend or waving of the neo-fascist banner on a global scale, springing from the unparalleled economic crisis.
The weakness or lack of presence of a genuine socialist alternative party or movement has bred the ascendancy or created the ground for the far right. Javier Milei, the candidate of the Liberty Advances far-right libertarian party, triumphed in the second round presidential elections in Argentina held on November 19. Milei accumulated around 55% of the vote, while his opponent, center-left peronist Sergio Massa of the Union for the Homeland coalition, trailed behind with 44.3%. Milei took office as president on December 10.
In his victory speech, Milei told supporters, “The situation in Argentina is critical. There is no space for gradualisms nor for lukewarmness or ambiguities… If we don’t advance rapidly with the structural changes that Argentina needs, will we face the worst crisis in our history.” He added, “Our commitment is with democracy, with free trade, and with peace. We will work elbow to elbow with all of the nations of the free world.”

Impact of Milei

Milei’s victory has made heads roll across Argentina’s progressive and left movements who envisage that many of the country’s hard won rights including free healthcare and higher education will be threatened or even overturned with a Milei government. Furthermore, Milei’s resolve to cut public spending in addition to his promise to dollarize the economy and dissolve the central bank, will send Argentina’s already struggling economy into complete bankruptcy. In 2022, Argentina registered over 100% inflation and the poverty rate currently stands at 40%.
A letter was signed by over 100 economists from across the world ahead of the elections, summarise the fatal consequences of Milei’s proposed economic reforms. They wrote, “In short, Javier Milei’s dollarization and fiscal austerity proposals overlook the complexities of modern economies, ignore lessons from historical crises, and open the door for accentuating already severe inequalities. As Argentina navigates its complex economic landscape, it is crucial to approach policy making with balanced, empirically grounded strategies that are not only appealing in the short run but also sustainable, equitable, and enabling in the long run.”
After the results were released, social leader and pre-presidential candidate Juan Grabois wrote, “Face adversity with fortitude, sustain our organization with wisdom and firmly maintain our convictions because, stronger than ever, with the Constitution in our hands and the People in our hearts, we are going to return… much, much better. No one gives up here, if persecution touches us it will be the forging of the future… and may the dream of a just, free and sovereign country with land, shelter and work for everyone live forever.”
Colombian President Gustavo Petro saluted Milei’s victory but added, “The extreme right has won in Argentina; It is the decision of your society. Sad for Latin America and we’ll see… neoliberalism no longer has a proposal for society, it cannot respond to humanity’s current problems.”

Policies

Milei has pledged to cut all relations with China, Brazil, and leave MercoSur, stating, “I don’t make deals with communists.” Meanwhile at a recent campaign rally Milei waved the Israeli flag and months ago had stated “Should I assume the presidency, I will align with the United States and Israel as key allies. The level of alliance with Israel is so profound that I intend to relocate the Argentine embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.”
Milei endorsed more than 11 labour laws and modified 20 aspects of the Labour Contract Law. It will now be easier to fire, protests are curbed if not banned, and surveillance will be the order of the day.
The Decree of Necessity and Urgency (DNU) 70/2023 announced by President Javier Milei on Wednesday December 20, struck a mortal blow on the working class. In proposed deregulation of the economy, a “shock stabilization plan,” and extending the privatization of public companies. Billionaire, Tesla CEO, and owner of X, Elon Musk celebrated Milei’s victory saying: “Prosperity is ahead for Argentina.”
This year marks the 40th anniversary of the return of democracy in Argentina.
Human rights defenders as well as victims and survivors of the country’s last civic-military dictatorship had also anticipated his endorsement to dictatorship. In a presidential debate ahead of the first round, he asserted that the widely accepted number of 30,000 detained and disappeared was incorrect and that it was actually 8,753. He had also stated that there is “a distorted view of history”, and accused people of utilising human rights “ideology” “to make money and carry out shady deals”. His running mate Victoria Villarruel held an event in September in honour of the victims of the left-wing guerrilla groups and to mask the “lie” of human rights organizations of the 30,000 detained and disappeared.

Reactions of a communist leader

“What is coming is very hard, but we communists know very well what we are facing,” said Norberto Champa Galiotti, member of the Central Committee of the Communist Party, after knowing the results of the runoff that highlighted the far-right candidate, Javier Milei, as the new president of the nation.
“Milei is part of the right, but he is the worst expression of it, that of fascism,” he said and added that “now, with the alliance that he established with Macri, he is also the representative of mafia power in the country.”
 .When asked why Milei won, the PC leader analyzed that “Milei won because the people voted, rightly, with their pockets and daily problems in mind, with the feeling that when you go to the store, the supermarket or the "To load fuel, your income is not enough to survive." In that sense, he explained that "the people voted with the table, the refrigerator and the pocket that this bad Peronist government left them, which on top of that offered them as an electoral alternative to the minister of economy, that minister who could not solve any of the economic problems." that affect the Argentine people.”
And he insisted that “it cannot be ignored under any point of view that today with his salary the worker cannot solve the elementary questions of life” and stressed that “this situation sustained over time generates the worst monsters.” Thus, the paradoxical situation arose that “the people voted for a change, but for the wrong change.” It happens, he pointed out, that "it is evident that there is exhaustion among the people regarding the conciliatory policies of Peronism." However, “it must be said very clearly, it is impossible to solve the problems of capitalism with capitalist measures.”
Given this panorama, one of the reasons that explain the triumph of the fascist right is that “among the options for change, it was not possible to articulate a socialist alternative, which really implies a change in the system, and not its deepening.” Due to this combination of factors, a proposal was voted that instead of a change in the system “represents the exacerbation of its worst dimensions.”
Now, with the electoral consensus achieved, “Milei arrives to end the State reforms that Menem began in the 1990s and that he was unable to expand.” In effect, he "comes to privatize everything and to put the country at the service of multinationals." About, He asserted that “the change that was chosen by society represents a leap into the void but not into the unknown, we communists know well what is coming.”
One of the most worrying data, said the communist leader, is that “from the primaries to the runoff, Milei maintained a floor of seven million votes.” With this floor, “to which the votes and support of Macrism are added, a base of electoral consensus for the extreme right is consolidated, a truly unprecedented situation.” for the history of our country.” What is certain, he said, is that “from now on, beyond the explicit threats of repression, strong resistance will also be displayed by sectors of our people.”

Street protest

Thousands of Argentines splurged on the streets on December 20, “against the economic austerity measures” implemented by Javier Milei’s government. The day was escalated by high tension early on, following a major police operation undertaken at the main entrances to the city of Buenos Aires.
The Minister of Security, Patricia Bullrich, announced that she would debut her “anti-picketing protocol”, presented last Friday December 15, and threatened that they would not allow the demonstration to take place. However, the call to mobilization managed to overcome the fear that the government tried to install.
The peaceful mobilization was organized by left-wing social movements and political organizations, though social movements and parties linked to Peronism did not participate. The dominant slogans of the mobilization were in condemnation of economic adjustment and austerity, the agreement with the IMF, and the new restrictions on the right to protest.
In addition to marking 10 days since the start of Milei’s right-wing government, December 20 is a commemorative date of mobilization for social movements and left parties of Argentina as it marks the start of the December 2001 uprising which compelled the then president Fernando de la Rúa to resign. The mobilizations in December 2001 took place after De la Rúa declared a state of siege and undertook heavy repression that left 39 protesters dead.
The official document of the mobilization, read in Plaza de Mayo, condemned Milei’s economic plan intends to “fill the coffers of the IMF, the creditors of the fraudulent external debt and the most concentrated sectors of the capitalist class.” Adding that the plan patronises concentrated economic sectors was being carried out “while people are being told that ‘there is no money’.”
Furthermore, the document denounced that “Milei, together with Patricia Bullrich, is carving an illegal protocol to prohibit popular mobilizations and social protests. This is a plan to strip all basic democratic and resurrect the path of the genocidal military dictatorship 40 years ago, an illegitimate, illegal and undemocratic initiative. They know that the Argentine people will not take lying down of these merciless attacks on our rights.”Police several times tried to block protesters from reaching Plaza de Mayo. At the end of the mobilization, social organizations reported that the police arrested three protesters.
While the event was taking place, the president of Argentina, Javier Milei, went to the headquarters of the Argentine Federal Police along with several of his ministers. The protests sent shivers down the spine of the ruling party .A most significant polarisation against forces of neo-fascism.
The weakness or lack of presence of a genuine Socialist alternative party or movement has bred the ascendancy or created the ground for the far right.
---
*Freelance journalist

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