DEDICATED TO THE MADRES DE LA PLAZADE MAYO
Argentina: The Big Bed and the Popular Uprising ( Under the Bed
This account is based on a variety of
stories told to me by various friends and companeros who were active
in the Argentinazo. I am indebted to them for their time and
confidence in sharing their experiences and personal observations.
No doubt this account will be attacked by those who find it offensive
as an anarchist provocation based on hearsay. All I can reply is
that I trust the street fighters' version more than that of their
The bed was big.
It had to be, because underneath you had the leaders of the entire
Argentine Left plus the heads of the three trade union
If one may ask
an impertinent question: What were they doing under the Big Bed
during the popular uprising - the historic Argentinazo? Many things
( that only they can tell you ) and nothing. This paradoxical
situation can be easily explained. The leaders spent several days
and nights discussing among themselves and within their groups and
issuing many revolutionary manifestos from their allocated places
under the bed. Except for militants who fell under the the spell of
the uprising, the leaders were notable by their absence from the mass
demonstrations, marches and food distribution programs at the
Under the bed,
the Left was distributed in four corners according to their wisdom:
the electoral, the intellectual, the revolutionary and the
voyeuristic. In the center of the bed the leaders of the three trade
union confederations congregated: the official, the dissident and the
revolutionary left square was in turn subdivided into the Partido
InOperario (PiO), the Partido de la Revolucion Socialista - Para
Ayer (PRS-PA), Partido de la Revolucion Socialista - Para Manana (PRS
- PM), Partido Bolchevique Sin Saqueo (PB-SS) and the two sections of
the formerly unified Partido Proletario ( PP) divided into the PP-AL
( Anti-Lumpen ) and the PP-AE ( Anti-Espontaneismo ).
Argentinazo the PiO usually had the biggest banners of self-promotion
in every march. But in the Argentinazo they were notably absent.
However they made up for it by issuing the most leaflets,
pronouncements and manifestos to the "awakened masses".
They were as generous in their advice to the rebellious workers as
they were cautious in protecting their cadres.
The absence of
all the leaders of the revolutionary left was not the product of any
consensus - among the quarrelsome Secretary Generals, rather it was
the result of deliberations between each secretary general and their
argued that the Argentinazo did not meet the requirements of a
revolution - there were no Soviets not even of a reformist character.
At best, they said it was a popular rebellion. The reason it
was not a revolution, according to the Secretary General was the
absence of a revolutionary vanguard. The vanguard should prepare
itself to intervene when and if Soviets appeared, according to an
internal document circulating under the bed.
thought that objective and subjective conditions were not mature.
According to the Secretary General the Argentinazo was only the
first stage of a "molecular process, whose class character had
not yet become visible."
The PiO alerted
its cadres to sell the newspaper but avoid participating in direct
confrontations, in order to avoid "confusing our program with
the popular front nature of the middle class caceroleros."
According to an internal document, " the workers and unemployed
were mixed with the middle class in the demonstrations and it was
important to wait until further polarization developed to clarify the
The two wings of
the PP were absent from the Argentinazo because " there was no
programatic or political leadership" . In a word, the masses did
not consult the vanguard. According to the two oracles of the two
PP's, the sacking of stores was not the road to revolution.
According to the PP leaders the correct path was for the clerks and
supermarket workers to unite with their party and demand the
expropriation of capital. The division of the PP was over the
question of the characterization of the "process". One
sector , the PP-AL, argued that the "so-called "
Argentinazo was basically a "lumpen-dominated activity which
however had some misguided unemployed youth who should be approached
by PP cadres."
section, the PP-AE argued that it was a "purely spontaneous"
protest lacking leadership and program, in danger of being
infiltrated by the extreme right, opportunist Peronists etc The
Secretary General ordered the cadre to go back to the factories and
convoke an assembly to discuss a General Strike, and not be
distracted by the rebellious petit-bourgeois youth.
The leaders of
the Trade Union Confederation met in the center of the Big Bed. The
Grand Caliph of the Sindicalismo Oficial denounced the President
after he was forced to resign and defended the subsequent
President before he resigned. His main objection was the
Government's seizure of the union pension funds, which prevented the
Grand Caliph from finishing payments on a multi-million dollar
penthouse in Miami. The President of the Sindicato Disidente Oficial
denounced the President before he left office and had his
picture taken with the second President on his first day in office.
He called the Argentinazo a "victory for the people over the IMF
and the Banks" and then told them to go home and wait for the
new President to realize the "national popular revolution".
Since he spoke from under the bed only his paid functionaries heard
and applauded. The secretary-general of the Disidente-No-Oficial was
the most vehement in denouncing the outgoing President. During the
Argentinazo he was so deeply involved in elaborating a Program to
Fight Poverty that he failed to see the poor fighting the police in
the streets and alleviating their poverty by taking food from the
supermarkets. During the uprising, the secretary general was
negotiating with other trade union chiefs. According to a spokesman
his absence from all the mass marches and meetings in the plazas was
due to his concern with strategic planning. He couldn't be bothered
with day to day protests.
left welcomed the fall of the Presidents and demanded new elections.
The left of the left demanded elections for a constituent assembly,
at the commemoration meeting for the 30 street fighters who were
killed. No doubt the various revolutionary-electoralist left parties
will find excellent reasons to fight among themselves for "hegemony"
in the electoral lists.
Some of the left
intellectuals were angry enough to join the street demonstraters (
their bank accounts were frozen and they were not able to go on
vacation ). Some wrote of the "end of neo-liberalism" and
the "historical significance of December 20" based on their
observation of the televised events, the news on the internet and, in
some daring cases, observations from their balconies and reports by
the local kiosk venders. The sound and the fury of the mass
demonstrations sprang from their written words, but not a word was
heard in the bloody plazas and avenues.
voyeurs were actually in the streets - in their individual capacity.
They actually smelled the gas. They witnessed the crowds,
from a distance. They moved quickly and perceptively when the police
appeared on horseback. They saw the bloody faces, the battered
Madres, the street fighters. They noted it all. They were impressed
by the valor of the demonstrators and disgusted with the violence.
"If only it had stayed peaceful" was a common refrain sent
out to the lengthy list of e-mail correspondents.
The Big Bed
housed the organized Left. All of them were preparing to come out
from under the Big Bed and do battle when conditions matured, the
lumpen stayed in the villas, and the proletarian summoned them -not
any workers, it had to be a disciplined, organized, class-conscious
working class meeting in Soviets.
In the meantime
while the unruly multitude was in the streets and the police were
firing real bullets, under the Big Bed was the best place to develop
a pristine and lucid class perspective.