Dear comrades of the FLTI,
Thanks for sending us your documents on the recent events in Argentina. I have been asked by the International Secretariat of the Revolutionary Communist International Tendency (RCIT) to send you our views on your documents on the Hunger Uprising on 20/21.12.2012 which you sent us. In addition to your documents, we have also reviewed the statements from PO, PTS/FT, PSTU/LIT, IS/UIT and Convergencia Socialista. (1)
The first and most important thing one has to say is that most of the centrist left in Argentina fail to recognize the essential character of these events: it was not just lootings (“saqueos”) but a spontaneous Hunger Uprising which spread to about 40 towns in two days. We have seen similar Uprisings in other semi-colonial countries in 2008 or indeed in Argentina itself in December 2001.
Despite minor differences between them, it seems to us that the statements from PO, PTS/FT, IS/UIT (the three form together the Frente de Izquierda y de los Trabajadores), PSTU/LIT and Convergencia Socialista share a common political logic. This logic is that they basically explain that the culprits for the saqueos are the Kirchner government and the multinational corporations and their policy which impoverishes the people. Therefore – they continue – the people are poor and it is “understandable” that they loot the supermarkets. What should be done? Their answers are a number of social and economic demands as well as appeals to the trade unions to organize a fight for these goals.
While none of these points are wrong, they lack the most important issues and fail to understand the essential character of the uprising. What all these statements have in common is that for them those who rebelled – the poorest and most oppressed lower strata of the working class – are only “poor victims”. They must be defended, full stop. They don’t see the Uprising as a mass event where these sectors of the working class enter the stage of the political scene as actors, as a revolutionary subject and not as a blind victims.
Therefore the centrists don’t support the Hunger Uprising but excuse it (“the looting is the fault of the government”). For the same reasons they have no slogans, proposals to organize the rebellious masses of the lower strata of the working class. They don’t call for the formation of mass assemblies and action councils in the poor suburbs and shanty towns, they don’t call for the formation of armed self-defense against the police repression forces. They only put forward demands to the trade unions. That’s all.
All this reminds us very strongly to the reaction of the British centrist left when they were faced with the August Uprising of the poor, migrants and Black people in 2011. They all ignored or even condemned the Uprising. At that time we supported the Uprising, sent a delegation from Austria to Britain and elaborated our analysis and programmatic positions extensively.
At that time we said, that “a revolutionary organisation would have intervened by disseminating revolutionary ideas to help raise the activist’s consciousness from spontaneous outrage and hatred against the system to a political class consciousness. For this it would have distributed leaflet and made agitation and propaganda for the central tasks. Revolutionaries would not have called only for the “right of self-defence” but would have called for building organised workers and oppressed self-defence units now. It would have called for the organisations of the labour movement to come and help build these self-defence organisations. It would have called for councils of action, i.e. mass assemblies in the communities, to discuss the most urgent tasks and elect delegates to coordinate and build a movement of the workers and oppressed. It would have called for spreading the struggle nation-wide by calling the workers movement to join and link the struggle against the police repression and poverty with the movement against the cuts. The perspective would have been a general strike against the cuts, against racism and for the overthrow of the Tory government. A revolutionary organisation would have tried to organise the resistance to drive out the police and to stop acts of vandalism. It would have explained that looting is no solution. It would have argued that the task of workers and oppressed self-defence units is to prevent acts of vandalism, of looting small shops etc.” (2)
Naturally the concrete conditions in Argentina today are not the same as in Britain 2011. In Britain the trigger for the Uprising was the murder of a black man by the racist police while in Argentina today the trigger was the hunger. But basically we think that the approach for revolutionaries should be similar.
It is a characteristic failure of centrism to limit itself to calls for solidarity with the victims but to fail in supporting their concrete struggles for liberation. Trotsky’s condemnation of the centrist politician Georg Ledebour in his relation to the struggles of the nationally oppressed people, written in 1932, hits also well the political failures of the centrists in the Argentine Hunger Uprising today:
„Nevertheless, Ledebour’s position even on this question does not leave the precincts of centrism. Ledebour demands that a battle be waged against colonial oppression; he is ready to vote in parliament against colonial credits; he is ready to take upon himself a fearless defense of the victims of a crushed colonial insurrection. But Ledebour will not participate in preparing a colonial insurrection. Such work he considers putschism, adventurism, Bolshevism. And therein is the whole gist of the matter.
What characterizes Bolshevism on the national question is that in its attitude toward oppressed nations, even the most backward, it considers them not only the object but also the subject of politics. Bolshevism does not confine itself to recognizing their “right” to self-determination and to parliamentary protests against the trampling upon of this right. Bolshevism penetrates into the midst of the oppressed nations; it raises them up against their oppressors; it ties up their struggle with the struggle of the proletariat in capitalist countries; it instructs the oppressed Chinese, Hindus, or Arabs in the art of insurrection and it assumes full responsibility for this work in the face of civilized executioners. Here only does Bolshevism begin, that is, revolutionary Marxism in action. Everything that does not step over this boundary remains centrism.“ (3)
Compared with these centrist responses to an obviously sharp explosion of the class struggle, the LOI/FLTI – from what we can see from your statements – reacted very differently. You demonstrated a revolutionary approach to these events. You consider them as a legitimate rebellion and an indicator of the coming revolutionary crisis. While other organizations confined themselves to “understand” the rebellion, you declared your support and solidarity. This means that you were not at the sidelines, but on the right side of the barricade.
This is no minor issue. Revolutionary organizations are tested in the class struggle and how they react to the sharp turns, explosions and pressures from the ruling class. While other organizations in Argentina failed the test of the Hunger Uprisings, you reacted in a fundamentally revolutionary way.
You are completely correct in saying that the main critical thing to say about the Uprising is its lack of organization and perspectives – a point we also made during the British August Uprising. While the centrist left says that it is bad that the saqueos happened at all, you say it is bad that they were not organized sufficiently and were not transformed into a conscious political struggle. Furthermore you point correctly to the responsibility for this lack of organization and perspectives to the bureaucratic leadership. In addition you correctly link the failure of the bureaucracy to their material interest and their orientation to aristocratic layers of the working class. You also rightly stress the need to link the struggle of the non-unionized, lower strata of the working class with the unionized, often better paid sectors of the working class. And you rightly emphazise the need to build rank and file committees and call for a national congress of workers – employed and unemployed – delegados.
In this context that we want to discuss what we consider as a weakness in your statements. What is missing in our opinion is the application of the communist united front tactic. You don’t raise any demands to the union leaderships. This seems to us to be in gross contradiction to the method developed by the Bolsheviks and later systematized by the Communist International and the Fourth International.
We have summarized our understanding of the Marxist United Front tactic in our program in the following way:
“An important tool for overcoming the crisis of leadership of the working class is the Marxist united front tactic. Revolutionaries stand for the greatest possible unity of the proletariat in the struggle for their rights. They also take into account that today there are still many workers who in one way or another have hopes in their traditional leaderships. They also recognise that the rotten nature of these forces can be exposed to the masses not only by revolutionary propaganda, but by their experience in practice. They, therefore, propose to the other organisations of the labour movement the common struggle for concrete demands. The central aim is to fight shoulder to shoulder with the workers who for now still follow the non-revolutionary leaderships. Of particular importance is the formation of common united front organs at the rank and file (action committees in the enterprises, neighbourhoods and schools, common workers' militias, etc.). To this end, they direct the proposal to form a united front especially to the rank and file of the non-revolutionary parties and organisations, but also to their official leadership. These tactics may also include a critical electoral support for non-revolutionary forces. The common struggle must never lead revolutionaries to give up the necessary criticism of the insufficient policy of the petty bourgeois leaderships and in particular to criticise them sharply when they betray a struggle. Rather, the united front tactic for Bolshevik-Communists is legitimate only under the condition that it is coupled with the readiness to immediately expose the betrayal of false leadership without any fear. Only through the application of such a united front tactic can the Bolshevik-Communists ultimately break away large sectors of the worker class who are today still under reformist leadership of the bureaucracy and win them a revolutionary perspective successfully.” (4)
So, putting demands of reformist leadership doesn’t mean in any way to spread illusion in them or to mitigate the necessary revolutionary criticism. It rather means to find a way to those organized sectors which still follow the union bureaucracy. This sector of the working class is obviously of strategic importance. This could be seen in the militant general strike on November 20, which was called by the unions (CGT of Moyano, CTA of Michelli and CGT “Azul y Blanca” of Barrionuevo).
There is only a single sentence in the three documents you sent us which indicates such a united front orientation which we found in your balance sheet of the general strike on 20th November: “Unions and labor organizations must break with the bourgeoisie and its institutions such as the Labour Ministry, the bosses’ Justice, Legislatures and Parliament!” (5)
This is of course correct. But why do you limit your united front tactic to only such a brief and general demand? Would it not be useful to call the trade union bureaucracy to fight for the necessary demands which you raise in your leaflets?! We think if you employ such a systematic approach it would be more in accordance with the united front tactic which Lenin argued for in his book on Left-wing communism.
Let us finally state that we think that it is decisive to fight for the organization of the lower strata of the working class in rank and file committees and to fight against the bureaucratic control of the unions and the piquetero movement. Indeed these two issues are related to each other since it is necessary – as Trotsky explained repeatedly – that the lower strata, the unorganized workers must be brought into the trade union in order to better fight the bureaucracy and the dominance of the aristocratic layers.
As you stress Argentina might approach in the near future a pre-revolutionary situation, a second Argentine Revolution after the failed attempt in 2001/02. I could personally observe the problems of the Revolution at that time when I stayed twice in Argentina for altogether 6 months in 2002 (as a representative of our predecessor organization the LRCI/LFI when we were discussing with the PTS at that time). The organizing of the masses inside and outside of the trade unions in action committees – including in particular of the lower strata of the working class –, the intransigent struggle against the reformist bureaucracy also from inside the trade unions (which includes necessarily the application of the united front tactic) – these are decisive steps towards united the working class around a plan for struggle. The revolutionary events in December 2001 saw a combination of various forms of struggle – the street fighting, the mass strikes, the looting of the super-market. The decisive question now is how to advance the struggles to an insurrectional General Strike in order to pose the question of power.
As you are of course aware yourselves this poses the question of building a Bolshevik fighting party as an urgent task of the day.
Let me finish with a request: We would like to publish on our website your document “Urgent– Report on the Uprisings for Bread in Argentina” together with an edited version of this letter from us. Would you agree to this?
I remain with best wishes for your work and look forward for an intensification of our discussion and collaboration!
26.12.2012, Michael Pröbsting (International Secretary of the RCIT)
(1) FLTI, Urgent – Report on the Uprisings for Bread in Argentina (December 24, 2012); LOI: Leaflet (19.12.2012); LOI: And after November 20 what? (23.11.2012); PO: The Partido Obrero, On The Events In Bariloche, Rosario, Campana And Other [Argentine] Cities, El Partido Obrero, ante los hechos de Bariloche, Rosario, Campana y otras ciudades, 2112.2012, http://po.org.ar/blog/2012/12/21/el-partido-obrero-ante-los-hechos-de-bariloche-rosario-campana-y-otras-ciudades; PTS: Argentina: Statement of the PTS, in view of the instances of looting, 23 December 2012, http://www.ft-ci.org/article.php3?id_article=6049?lang=en; José Castillo, IS (UIT): El ajuste de Cristina es el responsable de los saqueos, 22/12.2012, http://www.izquierdasocialista.org.ar/comunicados/db/195.htm; PSTU (LIT): LOS SAQUEOS DE LA MISERIA, Declaración del PSTU, 21 12 2012, http://www.pstu.com.ar/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=513:saqueosdelamiseria&catid=59:cnacionalportadapestana&Itemid=68; CS y otras organizaciones escrachamos a los verdaderos saqueadores del país: el gobierno y los monopolios, http://www.noticiastroskas.blogspot.co.at
(2) Our analysis, perspectives and tactics of the August Uprising in Britain 2011 have been published in our journal Revolutionary Communism No. 1, pp. 17-41 (September 2011). They can also be read on our website. See: Nina Gunić and Michael Pröbsting: The strategic task: From the uprising to the revolution! These are not "riots" – this is an uprising of the poor in the cities of Britain!, http://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/europe/britain-uprising-of-the-poor; RKOB: The August Uprising in Britain - A Report of the RKOB delegation on its visit in London in August 2011, http://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/europe/britain-report-from-uprising; Michael Pröbsting: What would a revolutionary organisation have done? August uprising of the poor, the nationally and racially oppressed in Britain, http://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/europe/britain-august-uprising/; Michael Pröbsting: Five days that shook Britain but didn’t wake up the left. The bankruptcy of the left during the August uprising of the oppressed in Britain: Its features, its roots and the way forward, http://www.thecommunists.net/theory/britain-left-and-the-uprising/)
(3) Leo Trotzki: Was nun? Schicksalsfragen des deutschen Proletariats (1932); in: Schriften über Deutschland, S. 246f.; in English: Leon Trotsky: What Next? Vital Questions for the German Proletariat (January 1932), http://marxists.org/archive/trotsky/germany/1932-ger/index.htm
(4) Revolutionary Communist International Tendency (RCIT): The Revolutionary Communist Manifesto, published in 2012, pp. 24-25; online on the RCIT website at www.thecommunists.net/rcit-manifesto
(5) LOI: And after November 20 what?, 23.11.2012