PETRAS ESSAYS IN ENGLISH

29 de december del 2001

Argentinazo: Positive Lessons of Mass Direct Action

James Petras

The Argentinazo is the fourth and biggest popular uprising against authoritarian neo-liberal domination and political impunity. In 1982 the people and soldiers rose up to denounce the military following the Malvinas disaster. The result was the trial and conviction of the genocidal generals. The second major mobilization was against the threat of a military coup by Seneilden ? in 1988 ? - that effectively blocked the resurgent military. The third mass direct action was the street fighting and expropriation of food from supermarkets in 1989, toppling the Alfonsin regime.

The Argentinazo of 12/20 succeeded in overthrowing the De La Rua - Cavallo regime and the temporary repudiation of the foreign debt.

The historic lessons of these four mass direct actions is clear. None of them were led or organized by the official trade unions or the "left" parties. All of them succeeded where previous ritual general strikes, parliamentary protests and elite negotiations had failed. The Argentinazo was the most sustained ( 5 days ) , and extended ( national ) popular uprising in the history of Argentina, and it was the most successful in terms of political power and changes in regime and political agenda. In contrast, the three trade union centrals over the past 2 years had no effects on the policies and regimes: ineffective negotiations and sporadic and sectoral strikes, had no impact. The left parties elected deputies were impotent in an impotent Congress.

The unemployed workers movements and their direct action cutting highways were the "dress rehearsal" - for the Argtentinazo. They provided the experience and the spirit of direct action that detonated the Argentinazo. Piqueteros and Argentinazo are synonymous with successful mass action.

There is one additional lesson from the past: after each past successful uprising, when a new regime consolidated power, it reversed concessions. Alfonsin signed puntal final, Menen deepened the neo-liberal agenda. The Argentinazo is a powerful example of the power of mass direct action; to extend and deepen the initial changes, the activists of 12/20 must be organized to advance beyond the promises of Saa and create an alternative government of popular power.

December 26, 2001