Argentina: The omnibus bill has fallen, a popular triumph!

By Juan Carlos Giordano, National deputy-elect. Socialist Left-Left Front Unity

7 February 2024. Once the news became known, the militants gathered in the Two Congresses Square. They exploded with joy there and in the rest of the country. The population met the event with broad sympathy, honking and banging pots and pans. “Unity of the workers, fuck those who don’t like it”, was chanted. It’s no surprise considering the facts. We are part of this great joy as this big step has been achieved.

The request to “pass to committee,” sending the reform package back to square one, was the government’s elegant way of covering up a resounding defeat. “Severe defeat for Milei”; “Milei without a law”; “The government suffered a hard setback”, are some headlines in today’s newspapers. It’s an unprecedented event, as it is the setback of the first law of a newly elected government. Pichetto’s calls to save the government came too late. The law is so harsh that even the governors’ deputies withheld support for many of its articles. These governors are “dialogue-minded” and have no real quarrel with the government. They defend big business and are against the working people. Even the right-wing Carolina Píparo voted against aspects of the bill. The decision had been made and there was no turning back. The all-or-nothing failed the far-right in the government.

Last night, a TN journalist said “Milei is on fire”. He learnt the bad news at three o’clock and started tweeting heatedly. He was in Israel, giving his support to the Zionist genocide against the Palestinian people.

Milei says “The caste turned against the change that Argentinians voted for at the ballot box”. This is the same old justification, but it is now falling apart. First, because a large part of what Milei calls the “caste” of bosses’ politicians who have been acting since the dictatorship until now has joined his government. Secondly, although millions, fed up with the previous government, mistakenly voted for Milei believing his promise for a change, two months later they saw it was a lie. On the contrary, the situation is quite different. Milei has redoubled the austerity Alberto Fernandez, Cristina and Massa had been applying.

Yesterday on television, we saw the popular repudiation of the savage 250 per cent increase in transport in the AMBA (Greater Buenos Aires). Wages in December lost 13 per cent in real terms. The government itself recognises that poverty has already reached 50 per cent. The consequences of stagflation announced by Milei include recession and uncontrolled inflation, fueled by the government and resulting in soaring prices and unaffordable utility bills. There is an unprecedented loss of wages and pensions in such a short period.

The law fell while social protest grew. On 24 January, workers pulled out a strike and mobilisation from the CGT leaders. A conflict had started on 20 December, when combative trade unionism and the left won Mayo Square against Bullrich’s repressive protocol (Minister of Security). The massive banging of pots and pans followed this, and the CGT marched to the Court on 27 December. The neighbourhood assemblies grew, and the national unitary spaces like United for Culture. Different forms of struggle developed: in some workplaces against dismissals, against the cuts in the railways by the combative body of delegates of the Sarmiento Railway, a strike at Bridgestone against dismissals, etcetera. These struggles and the growing social unrest were essential to force the law to be rolled back.

“The vote or not of the law won’t change the economic course of our government,” said the pro-Macrista Minister of Economy, Luis Caputo. There is no doubt about it. The situation is crystal clear. The government won’t change. That is why we must take advantage of this defeat of the government that strengthens the fight against further austerity and repression, demonstrating that we can win. We must continue the fight against any attempt by the government to return to the omnibus law, against the DNU (Emergency Bill) and the whole chainsaw plan, against the tariff cuts, the layoffs and fundamentally, for an immediate increase in wages and pensions. For all this, we must demand a new general strike and a national plan of struggle from the CGT and CTA. The CGT disappeared after the strike of 24 January, when Daer had said, “We are going to continue the struggle”. The CGT was not in front of the Congress, where the fighters and the left repudiated the treatment of the law and suffered repression. In every workplace, assembly, and demo, we must keep this demand.

From the Socialist Left, we salute the fighters for this great step we have taken. We vindicate the role of the Left Front Unity, with its seats fighting in Congress and in the streets, while Peronism gave votes to Milei like the deputies of Tucuman, and Scioli, who joined the government. Only some union leaders of Kirchnerism timidly took part in the rally on Thursday, but without calling for a strong mobilisation to overturn the law. We call to strengthen the Left Front with united policies, for a workers’ and popular economic plan, to break with the IMF and stop paying the foreign debt, and for a government of the workers and the left for a Socialist Argentina. Keeping our guard up to continue confronting Milei’s chainsaw plan.