Can Duhalde Restore the Prospects of Capitalism in Argentina?


After promising with great fanfare that he would announce his economic recovery plan on Jan. 4, Argentina’s hastily installed new president, Eduardo Duhalde, decided to postpone the unveiling. The bare facts are that within the capitalist framework he has few options, but he also has to try to ride the waves of a mass upsurge the like of which Argentina has never seen.

Indeed, few countries have ever seen as catastrophic a collapse of the credibility of the bourgeois politicians as Argentina. Only Hungary after its defeat in World War I comes to mind. There the collapse of the bourgeois politicians was so complete that the parliament had no choice but to put into office a government dominated by Bela Kun’s Communist Party.

In Argentina, all the bourgeois press and pundits are saying that Duhalde is the “last chance of the political class,” that is, of the bourgeois political parties. That might seem a sort of vindication for a politician who had been the black sheep of Argentine bourgeois politics, but may also be a poisoned chalice.

Duhalde, the former governor of Buenos Aires province, the country’s most important, has represented the old populism of the Peronist party. He has been an outspoken critic of the neoliberal program espoused by the majority of the Peronist party itself, to say nothing of the traditional bourgeois conservative party, the Radicals, who were forced to drop governmental power like a hot potato by the Dec. 20 uprising.

Ironically, in the last presidential election, the fleeing Radical president, Fernando de La Rua, overwhelmed Duhalde in the Argentine capital, gaining 60 percent of the vote.

Duhalde has already been denounced by the former Peronist president, Carlos Menem, for heading toward devaluation of the peso, which in accordance with neoliberal doctrine, has been pegged to the dollar. Menem said, quite correctly, that the measure would divide Argentinians into two classes, the strong, who hold dollars, and the weak, who have only pesos.

What Menem did not acknowledge is that this division has always existed, and the strong are now getting their dollars out of Argentina as quickly as they can. Duhalde argued, equally correctly. that the dollar link can no longer be maintained.

Duhalde is now busy getting pledges from Argentine businessmen that despite the devaluation they will not raise their prices. The Argentine working people will soon find out that these promises are even more devalued than those of the politicians.

The basic problem is that the international capitalist offensive, under the flag of neoliberalism, has destroyed the Argentine manufacturing and service economy, and what is left- basic agricultural production and assembly plants-cannot employ the population.

There is no solution to this problem but nationalization of the economy and a state monopoly of foreign trade. And those are basic socialist measures. They cannot be carried out without a socialist revolution.

The Argentine working people already have an historic experience of significant state regulation of foreign trade, under the first Peronist regime in the early 1950s, which they remember as a golden age.

Argentina has also had the richest and most enduring experience of working-class mobilizations in Latin America. Likewise, it has more revolutionary left activists probably than in any other country in the world, even France.

The last decades have brought fragmentation and confusion to the revolutionary left, but they did not stop its growth. And if the present upsurge leads to clarification among these forces, they may have the basis for forming a revolutionary political leadership on the national level.

The imperialists seem to have decided that they can afford to let the Argentine economy fall because in the last decades they have sidelined it by destroying its manfuacturing sector and buying out its service sector. But this may prove a disastrous miscalculation for them.

The stricken body of the Argentine economy is still four times the size of the Thai economy, which has been touted as a showcase of development in the Third World.

And a counteroffensive of the workers and impoverished masses in Argentina could set an example for the entire Third World, which is being ruined by the imperialist economic offensive.

The coming months in Argentina are likely to be a time of intense testing and battles. The worldwide revolutionary movement will have to be attentive to the lessons of these tests and ready to offer its solidarity in these battles.

In the context of a deepening worldwide crisis, they can be crucial for mounting general fightback against the disasters with which the capitalist system threatens the great majority of the world’s people.

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