by Federico Dertaube
In the 90’s, in the midst of the triumphant cries of the world bourgeoisie about “the end of history”, it would have been impossible for thousands of people to discuss anti-capitalism.
There was no need to defend it, it was the only possible reality. Today, despite the attempts to do so in a mocking tone, the right becomes hysterical with each questioning of the system. Defending him from all criticism is his identity. But…hadn’t he already inevitably triumphed? If so, they would not need to say anything. But obviously they have…
The Argentine ruling class and its political representatives (Peronists or gorillas), with all their fights and differences, share a common cry: the Argentine economy needs profound changes (counter-reforms) in order to get out of its endless entanglement. But, outside of their agreements, which are many, they also have deep differences on the course to follow. The chronic crisis is due to the fact that none of these great problems is solved.
This debate is, basically, what will be behind all the electoral discussions this year. His sympathetic presentation to the voters (with words like “future”, “team”, “everyone” and “together”) will have more complicated and less swallowable things behind it such as “adjustment”, “labor reform”, “retirement reform” , the future of weight and things like that. The one who will have the most difficulties presenting things as they are is the current government, although for Juntos things will not be simple either. The ruling party even shamelessly lies, like the president himself a few days ago saying: “Where is the adjustment? I do not see it”…
Interbourgeois nuances and divisions
On one side is the historic position of the Argentine “campo”, of the owners of literally huge swaths of the country. His is a mostly “libertarian” position: no restrictions on exports and imports, free circulation of currency, no protection from the State. Due to the natural conditions of the Argentine soil, added to a certain technological renovation and cheap labor, the agro-industry is very competitive in international terms. That is why they freely wish to be able to sell their products abroad, obtaining what they call “the full price” of them (that is, without withholdings of any kind), a product that is the fruit not only of “Mother Nature” but also of the work of the “invisible” of the field: the wage earners.
This position clashes -in a certain way- with the majority of the industrial bourgeoisie, more linked to the internal market and Mercosur. For her, free trade is its collapse due to competition with the most productive imperialist economies (even Brazil, to a certain extent, can be seen as more competitive although the qualification of the Argentine labor force makes the difference). Restrictions on imports, subsidies, taxes on the countryside, all of this is a necessary part of their very existence. Today the right tries to erase it from the collective consciousness, but the position of “free trade” was already imposed in the 90s, with all its disastrous consequences: historic levels of unemployment and poverty, looting, etc., with its monetary correlate in convertibility.
There is, however, something key that both positions have in common: the aspiration to redouble the exploitation of work. They all want to gain “competitiveness” with little investment and productive development: the easiest and cheapest way to do it is on the backs of the workers. That is why they share that it is “necessary” to reform labor laws, advance precariousness, etc. “Modernizing” labor laws is going back to moments before the existence of the welfare state.
It is quite clear which political force each position represents. If the free trade of the “field” is the position of Macri, Bullrich and Milei; Peronism continues to have the support of the majority of the industrial capitalist class. In the “medium” Larreta tries to present himself, who promises to benefit the countryside but at the same time rejects anti-industrial projects such as “dollarization” (at least, he has just made it explicit in recent statements).
The political year has not yet begun and the conditions in which the elections will take place are still too far away to foresee. In principle, due to the immense disappointment with the Frente de Todos government, the “photo” of the elections is that they will be skewed to the right, with good opportunities for Together for Change and a Milei in third place (although it cannot be ruled out some detachment to the left from Peronism).
The “film” depends on the class struggle of 2023. Last year ended with the impact of the fights of the Tire and the Health workers, and nothing indicates that things like this will not happen in this one. The fights over wages and working conditions will make it more difficult for the agenda of sinking wages and job insecurity that the right brings under its arm to be imposed, although the unbearable level of inflation helps them to install reactionary discussions such as the of dollarization. Meanwhile, the government led by Massa continues with the inflationary adjustment, which makes it very difficult for them to win the race for a second term.
While everything seemed dominated by these discussions, a third voice made itself heard in the most unexpected way. The call to the third Anticapitalist Camp of the youth of the New MAS, Ya Basta!, set up a debate that reached the mainstream media and made the right wing and the country’s main businessman, Marcos Galperín, react.
Surprisingly, in the first months of the year there was no talk about the candidates of the main parties. There was more talk, much more at least in certain media and platforms, about anti-capitalism. Against the youth of the Ya Basta! and the call to the camp, the right and the businessmen launched an ideological campaign to defend the system.
The “products of capitalism”
One of the “arguments” most used in defense of capitalism is that anti-capitalists, to be consistent, should stop consuming the products of “capitalism”… Social networks, our clothes, soft drinks, we should refrain from all this if we really We are against the system…
The answer to this prejudice is quite simple. What we consume is not a mere “product of capitalism” but of human labor (as Manuela Castañeira put it two years ago in Intratables). More precisely, of the human labor exploited by the capitalists. There is not and never has been a serious anti-capitalist force that has opposed the consumption of the products of the human hand and brain.
On the contrary: why have the socialist political forces already been participating in struggles for wage increases for two centuries? The answer should be obvious: so that workers can access better living conditions (more and better necessary consumer goods) while preparing the strategic fight to end all exploitation.
Let’s give an example easy to understand for anyone who is not a mere propagandist for the ruling class. In Marx’s time, most of the products of the English textile industry (that is, the everyday clothing of the working class) depended on cotton produced on slave plantations in the United States. No one would have dreamed of saying that anyone against slavery should live naked; that is to say, that the socialists of the time should not militate for better conditions of clothing, salary or accommodation or whatever for the workers and workers.
The trap of that “argument” is this: everything would be a product of the system as such, and of its employers and not what reality is: that all wealth is a by-product of nature and human work and that capitalists have great measure a parasitic function; They manage the efforts of others.
Science and technology, as such, are not a specifically capitalist product either, but rather depend on the degree reached in society by the development of the productive forces which, as such, are neither capitalist nor socialist in themselves: they are productive capacities. conquered by humanity in its development.
The facts are that even the greatest engineers or inventors are also often exploited by the capitalist class. There is a recent example that is very clear. Covid vaccines were the most anticipated by the entire planet in 2020 and 2021. Their distribution was very uneven due to a handful of companies monopolizing patents. No genius entrepreneur developed them, no “entrepreneur” “risked” any capital to do so. Salaried scientists developed them, states funded research with subsidies, workers produced them. An individual with a large shareholding, just by being rich, that is, a “parasite” in relation to the production of the vaccine itself, earned much more than all those who participated in that research and production chain without having done absolutely nothing more than owning the means of production.
We are not, and have never been, opposed to workers taking advantage of the products of development under capitalism. On the contrary, by freeing them from exploitation conditions, we want producers to be able to fully and freely take advantage of them.
“Go to Cuba”
Another of the arguments that comes from the factories of the libertarians and also from a lot of journalism in general, is that if you are anti-capitalist you should go back to the times of the old USSR or go to Cuba…
When it comes to Cuba, the problem is that in an isolated society, and to top it off so small, it is impossible for the productive forces and human labor that today and for many decades have been on a world scale, in the world market, to bear fruit.
On the other hand, what Cuba still has in common with the former USSR is that the capitalists were expropriated, but the working class was displaced from power and the entire economy and society remained under the command of a parasitic bureaucracy and not of society. formerly exploited and oppressed: socialist democracy.
No, sir: that is not where the anti-capitalism of the 21st century lives, but rather in all the struggles that span the world! He lives in the voice and the environmentalist struggle of Greta Thunberg who affirms that capitalism must be ended if we do not want it to liquidate the planet. She lives in the fights of Black LivesMatters and the global feminist movement that question patriarchy, the twin brother of capitalism. It lives in popular rebellions such as in Peru against the Boluarte coup, which question the Free Trade Agreements that have mortgaged the country and in countless other struggles that travel the world today, be it more or less conscious anti-capitalism.
It even lives on in the voice of staunch defenders of the system such as the UN Secretary General, António Guterres, who affirms that today’s capitalism is particularly “perverse”. And this is not to mention entirely capitalist magazines such as the German Der Spiegel, which in a recent edition questions whether Marx was not right in his critique of capitalism.
Regarding the video that our youth made inviting us to our anti-capitalist camp, most of the media shared it more or less slyly: La Nación, Infobae, Clarín, Cronista Comercial, América TV, TN, programs like Bendita on Channel 9, and countless other means.
However, it is not clear if they have understood that if our video in particular and the debate on the character of capitalism in general have had such an impact, it has to do with the emergence of a new generation that tends to connect more to the destruction of the planet, job insecurity, inequality in the distribution of wealth, etc., with the structural flaws of this system.
Even Marcos Galperín, owner of one of the most successful Argentine companies in recent decades, Mercado Libre, eventually came out to try to ridicule the anti-capitalist camp, not noticing his “straw tail” in this whole story. He has set up a business emporium, an Argentine start-up, based on the precarious work of tens of thousands of young workers in a similarity to the cases of Amazon or Starbucks internationally (significant thing, by the way, because it is one of the directly responsible for the undeclared and precarious working conditions against which SiTraRepA, the first rank-and-file workers union that is demanding recognition from the Ministry of Labor of this “national and popular” government, is fighting.
Capitalism, poverty and inequality
Let’s continue with Galperín. He wrote on his twitter: “Capitalism, systematically lifting millions of people out of poverty, for 200 years.” He accompanied that claim with a statistical chart from the World Bank. According to these numbers, “extreme poverty” would have been reduced from 99% of the world population in 1820 to 11% in 2015. Milei himself, in a conference, had used the same graph and the same argument, speaking of the “thunderous superiority of capitalism”…
Apparently, they think that with this final, very final argument, all anti-capitalist criticism is perfectly and automatically discredited. The problem is that there are many reasons why this mechanical approach is not correct, and it is even a complete deception.
To begin with, one can doubt the measurements of the beginning of the 19th century. In England there were something like the so-called “blue books”, which were reports for parliamentary chambers, which were practically not studied by their members and many ended up, paradoxically, in the hands of Marx, who did make very valuable statistical use. of them for their studies. But we allow ourselves to doubt that Galperín or Milei’s charlatan have these sources.
On the other hand, comparing the needs to sustain a more or less “decent” standard of living, two centuries apart, is complete nonsense. The needs change with the concrete historical development. Marx already said it in his theory of wages. For there to be an “average” salary, the specific historical conditions, morally acceptable in each era, had to be taken into account. To determine the “value of labor power” came into play “a historical and moral element” (Capital).
For example. Who could think of in the 21st century that someone without access to electricity, internet or sewers is not poor, extremely poor? Obviously, to the World Bank statistics used for their propaganda by Galperín and Milei. According to their own numbers, in 2015 extreme poverty in Sub-Saharan Africa reached 41.1% of the population. And, also according to the World Bank, in that same year 61% did not have access to electricity. We can celebrate then, according to them, because the numbers tell us that millions of people who still use firewood for light are not below the “extreme poverty” line, which was that year 2015 living with less than 1.9 dollars a day…
Examples of the same type abound. The world working population is far, far away from living in the midst of luxuries thanks to capitalism. If the approximate estimate of global “extreme poverty” was that it reached 11% of the population in 2015, still in 2021 more than half of humanity still did not have access to a toilet. You can even take into account things that were already basic to survive in 1820: according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (in the study “The state of food security and nutrition in the world”), in 2019, 2 billion people lived in “food insecurity”. That is, they suffered from hunger or were in certain risk of falling into famine.
Things are far from being as simple as the system’s apologists want to present it as mere “advance”. And yet, it is true that capitalism meant immense historical progress at the time (although still in the form of the exploitation of the labor of others). However, it would be like trying to cover the sun with one hand to deny that capitalism today is more regression than progress: increasing wars, redoubled arms buildup, job insecurity, destruction of nature, theft of the future from the new generations, obscene inequality in distribution. of wealth etc
There is something paradoxical in the media defense of this voracious twenty-first century capitalism: it is a movement that looks “offensive” but is actually defensive; but where does so much hysteria and so much appeal to common sense come from, if not out of concern for the resumption of the anti-capitalist experience of a whole new world generation.
The New MAS and the Ya Basta! They have the immense success of having installed this discussion in Argentina, inviting those who want to fight against all the miseries of this system to be part of the Camp and also of our organization. The much-discussed event will take place on February 18, 19 and 20 and the growth of the invitation is multiplying.
But it is only a part of everything that lies ahead. The militancy of the Nuevo MAS is preparing for a year full of challenges in the class struggle and for continuing to establish the need for an anti-capitalist alternative; an alternative program of measures to the adjustment versions of Juntos, FdT and Milei in the coming presidential campaign.