Argentina: Opportunities for the left grow amid debates within the FIT-Unidad

by Sergio García and Mariano Rosa • Published 15 February 2022

Argentina held its general legislative election on 14 November 2021. The government was defeated but it managed to avoid the collapse that it had faced in the primary elections – PASO[1]on 12 September. The Left Front,[2] of which the MST[3] is a member alongside three other organisations, came out as the third most voted for force nationally, winning new national, provincial and municipal legislative representation. These results foreshadow the prospect of a country with a growing social and economic crisis and with new processes, struggles and possible ruptures in the base with Peronism.

The political year closed with an important event: the FIT-Unidad called a national action in Plaza de Mayo and all the squares of the country to reject the agreement with the IMF which is the main issue on the bourgeois political agenda nationally. With about 50,000 people and 100 organisations responding to the call, the action contrasted with a rally held the day before, called in reaction by the national government in support of the general orientation of the ruling coalition, which was significantly smaller. All this poses a huge challenge for the FIT-Unidad, which has positive aspects and is well positioned politically with its anti-capitalist and socialist program. But it also has contradictions, problems and debates on the type of project. We share our vision about all this and the political debates that we have been having in the MST, so that the anti-capitalist and socialist left can take a leap towards building a great alternative of power in our country.

– Sergio García and Mariano Rosa, for the national leadership of the MST in the FIT-U

1. Introduction: A brief overview of the political history of contemporary Argentina

To better understand the current situation and perspectives of the country it is useful to have as a starting point a series of historical references about modern Argentina. We develop a brief synthesis below.

a) The formation of capitalist Argentina as a nation-state and the bourgeois democratic regime

The year 1880 marked a turning point in the configuration of the national capitalist state. The process of expropriation of land from the first peoples of the central-southern Patagonia was completed and the structure of the latifundio – enormous, privately owned farming estates – and the position of Argentina in the international division of labour as a supplier of raw materials to the industrially developed capitalist centres, especially to Great Britain, was consolidated. This period, dominated by the landowning oligarchy of the original capitalist accumulation, had, on the political side, a type of institutional regime based on a single party with different fractions of the oligarchy in both tension and agreement.

It was not until 1916 that the secret, universal and mandatory vote for male adults was sanctioned by law. In parallel, a combative working class had developed since the end of the nineteenth century. It was politically dominated by the tendencies of anarchism, the Socialist Party and after the Russian Revolution, the Communist Party, the latter became the founder of the first and most powerful workers’ trade union federation in the country: the CGT (Confederación General del Trabajo). In the bourgeois camp, the UCR (Unión Cívica Radical) emerged as a national party of the urban petty bourgeoisie and the small farmers, which managed to defeat the conservative party of the landed oligarchy and ran the government from 1916 to 1930. In that year the first classic military coup of the twentieth century in the country took place. The decade of the 1930s saw the agrarian and world crisis, mass southern European immigration (mainly from Italy and Spain) and migration from the countryside to the big cities, which combined to feed a capitalist orientation that is the process known as industrial development by import substitution. The accumulation of reserves from international trade as a result of Argentina’s neutrality in the two World Wars allowed it to fund an incipient industrial development out of which the modern working class emerged from the countryside and European migration from the impoverished south.

In this context of the late 1930s and mid-40s Peronism arose as a bourgeois-nationalist party which sought to organise the working class into large, industrial unions – no longer by trades, as was the case with anarchism and the left previously. It won political and union leadership over the workers’ movement, based on handing down important economic concessions and democratic rights, fundamentally displacing the Communist and Socialist parties which were aligned with US imperialism. Peronism expressed a current that opposed the penetration of US imperialism in a country that, until that moment, was essentially located in the orbit of British imperialism. It ruled until 1955, when it was displaced by a pro-US military coup. During this period it consolidated itself as the leadership of the labour and mass movement in the country. Thereafter, it was banned for 18 years.

b) The dynamics of the political regime until 1982 and 2001: the pendulum between bipartisanship and military coups

With the emergence of Peronism, Argentine capitalism ruled based on a combination of two alternating regimes until 1982:

* Short periods of bipartisan bourgeois democracy (led by Peronism and the UCR).

* Military coups, which interrupted those periods of bourgeois democracy, in order to contain polarisation or pre-revolutionary situations.

The coups which apparently displaced the UCR or Peronism from the government, had, however, the purpose of saving those parties from falling due to a revolutionary ascent, that is, of being brought down by the independent action of the mass movement. Thus, during the periods of military rule the army gave the two bourgeois parties time to recompose themselves, doing the “dirty” work of repression and reversal of workers’ gains, to then return to some form of bourgeois reopening and again, to the radical-Peronist alternation.

This pendular dynamic lasted until 1982. Then, the last dictatorship, whose capitalist, pro-imperialist, neoliberal and genocidal character – with 30,000 disappeared – and, in addition, with a military defeat in the Malvinas on its back, precipitated a process of mass mobilisation, with a general strike and confrontation in the streets. This process threw the dictatorship from power and forced an improvised bourgeois-democratic exit, which lasted until 2001 with, once again, alternation between Peronism and the UCR.

What was new about this period was that, as the military dictatorship had been swept away by a profound process of mass irruption, the army was politically disabled from being brought to power in favour of the bourgeoisie in the event of a crisis. In fact, the movement for memory, truth and justice, which to this day continues to mobilise against those responsible for the genocide is a very powerful factor of mobilisation in the country. It has won the imposition of life imprisonment on some of those responsible, and remains an obstacle to the bourgeoisie’s ability to repress the workers and mass movement.

The bourgeoisie and imperialism have thus been forced for almost 20 years to administer capitalism in crisis with the battered radical-Peronist alternation, which has exposed before the mass movement the reality that in the end both applied the same plans of austerity at the service of the IMF and big capital. This experience ended with the crisis of 2001 and a triumphant semi-insurrection that brought down five presidents in a week and forever buried traditional bipartisanship.

c) From 2001 to the present: from the Argentinazo to the regime of weak bourgeois coalitions

In the heady days of December 2001, the streets were filled with songs that said “Out with them all, not one should remain” and “without radicales or Peronistas, we are going to live better”. With a bipartisan regime discredited by the mass movement, and lacking confidence in the success of a military coup, the bourgeoisie improvised a new scheme: bourgeois coalitions based on the old parties, but now prettified by their alliances with components from the more recent period. Thus, from 2003 to 2015, Kirchnerism ruled presenting itself not as “Peronist” but as the “Front for Victory”. It capitalised on the tailwind of the international economy with very high commodity prices and the lowering of labour costs due to a brutal 400 percent devaluation of the peso and the use of an idle industrial capacity of around 50 percent. At the same time, it deployed a modernised image of itself in tune with the Latin American progressive wave, discursively taking up banners of the left such as the struggle for human rights, anti-imperialism, the denunciation of corporations, Latin Americanism as an identity, etc.

Thus, for a period, Kirchnerism managed to pause the profound shift to the left that started in 2001. But, as it did not provoke any structural changes in the dependent capitalist matrix, the changing winds in the world economy after the 2008 crisis led to its electoral defeat in 2015, at the hands of a moderate right-wing coalition with a pro-business, anti-populist profile referenced in what would later become the “Lima Group”. The right-wing was immediately confronted in government by a mass movement in the streets. It barely managed to complete its term, saved by the complicit role of Kirchnerism in parliament and, above all, in the workers’ federations. In 2019 a new coalition with Kirchnerism as a central component snatched the presidency, capitalising on a strong desire to “punish” the disastrous Macri government.

This is how we got to the current government, with a mass movement yet to be defeated, with an accumulated experience against the right, with relative expectations in the new government that denounced the “fraudulent debt of Macri with the IMF” and promised to “recover all the rights lost in four years”. None of this happened, but rather the opposite is true. That is why the current context is defined by the beginning of a thaw of the elements or tendencies of a left turn that, incipiently, have been expressed in the FIT-U vote (with the logical distortion of being in the bourgeois democratic electoral terrain), but also in the streets with actions such as that of December 11 against the IMF called by our Front.

The current moment, the post-electoral scenario and the challenges and debates within the left, are the subject of the rest of this article. A final comment before moving forward: we consciously ignored developing the history of the revolutionary left in the country, which in any case can be the subject of another work.

2. The defeat of Peronism and the prospect of more crisis and social convulsions

Argentina has now lived through two years of Peronism, via its governmental coalition: the Frente de Todos (Front of All).[4] All sectors of the old Justicialista (Peronist) party came together, along with progressive organisations, centre-left sectors and a sector called the Frente Patria Grande (Great Fatherland Front) that calls itself the “independent left”, but lost all its independence by joining a bourgeois front. Also Maoism and the Communist Party of Argentina are part of this capitalist coalition. It has the open support of all the trade union bureaucracy of both the CGT and the CTA (Central de Trabajadores de la Argentina).

That great unity formed in the Frente de Todos was consummated to take advantage of the sentiment of millions of working families, popular sectors and even middle-class sectors and part of the industrial bourgeoisie against Macri and his right-wing political project. From 2015 to 2019, four years of the Macri government caused the economy to collapse, increased levels of poverty and unemployment and brought the IMF back to the country, indebting it to the tune of US$44 billion. This money was extracted from the country by a model that favoured the financial system, the big exporting agrarian bourgeoisie and the extractive corporations.

The Frente de Todos had won the presidential election of October 2019, promising profound changes and to leave behind the Macrista model. When, almost two years later on the night of 12 September 2021, the results of the legislative primary elections came out showing a strong defeat for the government, the message from the polls was clear: these changes and improvements had not taken place. The results expressed a punishment vote and the strong disappointment of the masses, opening a new situation. The Frente de Todos suffered a significant loss of votes, falling from 48 percent in 2019 to roughly 30 percent at the national level, even though all the wings of Peronism were united, making it one of its worst elections in many years.

However, this decline in votes did not feed the right-wing opposition. A large part of them went to the left and to an expression of the extreme right (third and fourth force respectively), to the blank or null vote and to electoral abstention. Juntos por el Cambio (Together for Change), the right-wing opposition coalition, won the primaries in 17 provinces but without growing its voter base. It maintained its electoral space, unified its voters and social base, but without qualitative changes. The recent experience with Macrismo and the right in the government was enough to dissuade an important sector of the population from seeing it as an alternative, despite their anger with the current government. Another phenomenon appeared to the right, the so-called libertarians, who combine neoliberal “Austrian School” economic policies with an anti-political discourse. This includes Javier Milei[5] in the city of Buenos Aires, another neoliberal economist, José Luis Espert in the province of Buenos Aires and minor expressions in the rest of the country.

The general elections of 14 November dealt a new blow to the ruling Peronism that lost in all the main districts of the country. But it managed to recover in the largest one, the province of Buenos Aires, regaining some of its losses in the primaries. Therefore, despite having lost, it avoided a collapse and thus has a little more room to manoeuvre going forward. Since its defeat in September, the Peronist government had gone from crisis to crisis, with a number of very public faction fights. In that dispute, a new cabinet emerged, with increased representation for the more right-wing and traditional figures from what remains of the Partido Justicialista apparatus, the provincial governors of the country, all with the support of Cristina Kirchner, the vice-president. This confirms that the decisive sectors of the coalition realise they must remain united to manage a government that can resist social pressure in the coming period.

In the midst of this internal crisis, the social and economic reality dealt a new blow: an inflationary jump, a devaluation with the dollar reaching 200 pesos, and the country-risk rate skyrocketing. The daily life of millions of working families is marked by extremely low wages, unemployment and the inability to make ends meet on meagre incomes. In this context, the internal disputes of the government were seen by a large part of the population as bureaucratic politicking unrelated to their urgent problems. Thousands of workers and young people who supported the Frente de Todos two years ago, have begun to walk away in disappointment.

Faced with this situation, the government prepared a series of announcements trying to convince the population that the worst of the crisis had already passed, and spent millions in the last month before the general elections. With this it tried to temper the unfavourable social mood. Now it is sailing in “troubled waters”, the political regime as a whole is in crisis and new economic tensions are looming.

The context of this situation is marked by the latest agreement with the IMF, whose negotiations overshadowed the electoral campaign. The government has advanced towards signing an agreement that legalises a $50 billion scam, and an ongoing submission to the IMF’s designs, and its illegal and illegitimate debt. The right-wing opposition obviously supports this path, although it hides behind theatrical parliamentary “debate”. Indeed, within the framework of this new agreement, the right also wants to stage an offensive over working conditions. It is not by chance that, together with influential capitalist sectors, they are arguing the need for a labour reform to remove more rights and make employment conditions more precarious. .

With an agreement with the IMF on the horizon, the country is now moving towards a major crisis. Argentina is part of the global and regional capitalist crisis that started years ago and that the irruption of the pandemic has exacerbated. It is no coincidence that in the last two years, Latin America has experienced rebellions, revolutions, social polarisation, and electoral and political experiences that reflect a search towards the left in various countries.

Our opinion is that this whole process will deepen, creating the conditions for new actions of class struggle, more opportunities to challenge for the leadership in the organisations of the labour and student movements, and a greater opening of the political space for the left. This does not mean that we are going into an easy situation, nor do we encourage unilateral or over-optimistic perspectives. There will always be strong disputes, clashes with other leaderships connected to the government, and political struggles against all the possibilist and reformist sectors that will argue that the right can return to the presidency in 2023 to try to contain their bases. But in the midst of this dispute we will clearly have better conditions to move forward because of discontent and ruptures in the Peronist working-class base, a process which will be amplified as the government moves towards more austerity and an agreement with the IMF.

The government will walk on the ledge. On the one hand, it will want to rebuild its strength. But, we cannot rule out the hypothesis that the country could move towards a major crisis with abrupt changes or even early elections, because the presidential figure is very weakened by the profound erosion of the last months. We must not lose sight of the fact that we are talking about a country that twenty years ago had the Argentinazo, a semi-insurrection that liquidated the bipartisan model as it had existed before and brought down five presidents in one week. A similar process, now under a Peronist government, would have much greater consequences and new phenomena would emerge. Of course it is not certain that this will happen, but it is a possibility worth taking into account.

Our party is preparing for this new situation of crisis and volatility. That is why throughout the electoral campaign we waged a political struggle and called to vote and strengthen the FIT Unidad and to organise with the MST. Our argument is that the left needs to be prepared for this coming crisis. As always in Argentina, the situation will be very dynamic, it will open up new phenomena that will change the situation and generate repercussions throughout the region.

3) The left in the September primaries and in the November general elections

One of the main facts that emerged from the 2021 electoral process is that the left consolidated its position as the third national force. The FIT-Unidad obtained over 5 percent of the vote nationally – more than one million votes – in the September primaries. This was a very important political achievement of which we are proudly part, having contributed our campaign in the primaries and our own votes for that result.

Among the important numbers obtained by the left there were some very prominent votes, such as those achieved jointly by the two lists that competed in the FIT-U primaries: Jujuy 23 percent, Province of Buenos Aires 5.2 percent, CABA 6.2 percent, Chubut 9.4 percent, Neuquén 7.8 percent, San Juan 6.9 percent, Santa Cruz 7.8 percent, Salta 5 percent, La Rioja 5 percent and Mendoza 4.9 percent, among others. They are signals that in the face of the austerity applied by the previous and current governments, and in face of the debates between both sides of that false divide, an important section of the population opted for the left that is united in our Front.

Progress of the MST within the FIT-U

The important number of votes obtained in the primaries by the FIT-U are a product of both the votes of List 1A (PTS of Bregman and Del Caño, PO, IS[6] and other sectors) and the novelty of the 10(R) “Revolutionise the Left” list that we promoted with Alejandro Bodart, Cele Fierro and other MST referents throughout the country, that obtained more than 280,000 votes, almost 30 percent of the total votes of the Front. Thus the MST has clearly become one of the main forces of the FIT-U, as the other list (“1A”), formed by three parties and several other organisations, got the rest. This amount is not divided equally, there are clear differences in strength between the three groups.

Among the results obtained by the MST lists within the FIT-Unidad, the most important victories were achieved in Salta, San Juan, La Rioja and Entre Ríos, together with the important growth in provinces like Mendoza (above 30 percent) and in Jujuy. We also achieved very important results in Río Negro, Chubut, Neuquén, Santa Fe, Córdoba, Catamarca and La Pampa, among others, a good electoral result in the City of Buenos Aires and the important result in the province of Buenos Aires.

These results, as a whole, reflect progress by those of us who propose that the FIT-Unidad advances on the basis of its anti-capitalist and socialist program, opens up, changes and surpasses its current existence. That is why we believe that now, in light of the results, neither the specific weight that the MST represents nor the ideas and proposals that we defend, and with which we achieved a more than respectable amount of electoral support among workers and the youth throughout the country, can be ignored.

This support we received for our politics, and which gained a lot of visibility throughout the campaign, contrasts with a more blurred campaign of the PO comrades, who lost positions and visibility, in addition to a strong defeat in Salta. And it contrasts even more with the position of Izquierda Socialista, which almost everywhere remains submerged behind the politics and the candidacies of the PTS and the PO without any political influence. The IS uses conservatism and an anachronistic discourse that denies the different perspectives and tries to cover them under an artificial single mindset. In short, a regrettable politics that is not at all related to what we must do on the left if we want to move towards becoming a great alternative. One more important point, very relevant for us: the political and electoral contribution of the MST added an amount of votes so that in the final result the FIT-U was the third and not the fourth national force.

The results also show the weakness of the forces that are outside of FIT-U, who paid the price for their divisive stance. The MST also came out of these elections with greater support than the Nuevo MAS,[7] which obtained about 130,000 votes, less than half of what the MST obtained in the primaries and slightly more than 10 percent of what the FIT-U obtained. Another sector that came out defeated in the elections is the one headed by Jorge Altamira (a split from PO), with 0.2 percent of the vote.

The Left Front in the general elections

We arrived at the general elections on 14 November with common lists of the FIT-U and achieved a very important result. We were again the third national force, increasing the overall vote by around 20 percent, reaching 1,300,000 votes, or about 6 percent of the national vote. For the first time we won four seats in the national Congress: two for Buenos Aires, one for the City of Buenos Aires and one for Jujuy. The FIT-U also won two seats in the state legislature of the province of Buenos Aires and two in the city of Buenos Aires. In a historical event, for the first time the left entered the legislative Councils of various municipalities in Greater Buenos Aires, a clear sign that the relationship between Peronism and parts of its social base is beginning to crack, with parts of the latter beginning to look towards the left.[8]

In addition, very important results were obtained in different provinces, reaching 25 percent in Jujuy, in Chubut 8.5 percent, in Neuquén 8.1 percent, in Santa Cruz 7 percent, in Buenos Aires 6.8 percent, in the City of Buenos Aires 7.7 percent, among others.

The important result obtained by the FIT-U is a great political accomplishment which was achieved through the unity of the anti-capitalist and socialist left and is at the service of the working class and the youth. Our party is a prominent part of these results, not only because we had an important role in the campaign and the dispute against the capitalist parties, but also because we will be part of the rotation of the national, provincial and municipal legislative seats, with some exceptions. The result of the FIT-U confirms that there is progress and a search by important sections of the population outside of the traditional parties and that this process can advance much more in the coming times if we are able to attract new sections towards the left. Hence the importance of the debates that we are having inside the Front, that in light of the results will gain much more relevance and importance.

We need to have the greatest audacity to intervene in the FIT-U without fearing the debate of ideas and proposals within the left. We believe that it is positive that more voices were heard in the primaries of the FIT-U, a result of the understanding that if there is no agreement on the formation of the electoral lists, or even on the criteria to do so, the correct political path was for our party to present its own list in the primary. This also allowed the sum of both lists to make the Front the third force in the country and also in key places such as the province of Buenos Aires. If we truly believe that we can be an alternative of power, a reference and organisational channel for thousands in all areas of struggle, far beyond the elections, we must continue building our Front in unity, but without hiding debates, without impositions and understanding that there can be differences and nuances on the base of a common program and agreements.

4) Positive elements, potential and limits of the Left Front

As we have said, the general elections of 14 November marked a turning point, and a conjuncture of greater social and political upheaval will come, in tune with the winds of rebellion, shifts to the left and social polarisation that blow in the world and the continent. The very good election result of the Left Front is an important step in preparing ourselves for that perspective.

At the same time, as the MST has been proposing in this campaign and since we joined the Front, we need a stronger, bigger, more convincing and open Left Front. In this sense, as we anticipated in the opening lines of this article, 2021 ended with an important event that had the FIT-U as the protagonist: the call for a national day of mobilisation on 11 December against the agreement with the IMF, with its epicentre in Plaza de Mayo and reproduced throughout the country, that mobilised more than 50,000 people and 100 organisations in Buenos Aires alone. This came the day after the national government had called a rally, hastily improvised, in support of the ruling party’s orientation, supporting the agreement with the IMF. It was a petty demonstration composed of the clientelist apparatus without the least enthusiasm and smaller than the one we did with the Front. The image of the two squares, showing a polarisation between the government and the FIT-U around the axis that organises all national politics (the agreement with the IMF), and to the advantage of the left, could not be silenced by the large bourgeois media and had an impact on national discussion.

We place this event as a point of reference and political turning point, because it showed all the political potential of the FIT-U as a motor for street action and a pole of attraction for organisations that oscillate between governing progressivism and the revolutionary left. In a general sense, it was the confirmation of all our insistent strategic proposal as orientation for the Front: to overcome the limited –although important – electoral front stage, to transform ourselves into a political pole in the process of class struggle that appears as an alternative, seen by millions as an option in the face of the decline of the ruling progressivism.

Obviously this was just one action, but it reflects our political approach. We believe we need to strongly push for these kinds of actions and spaces of coordination against the IMF and all the austerity plans, with the perspective that it is only the starting point for a broader orientation of the FIT-U beyond the electoral process.

If we were to outline the debates around the project within our coalition, we would say the following:

a) The MST is committed to making the Front a great political movement based on its correct anti-capitalist and socialist program. We are convinced that, facing the evident fact that no organisation within the left has its own hegemony or mass influence, it is crucial to act in united fashion beyond the bourgeois elections in all fields of the class struggle. We propose that the FIT-U evolve towards a political movement or party with freedom for tendencies, that fights for the leadership of organisations and key sectors of the labour movement, the youth and social movements, that debates in its meetings a common intervention in all of these spaces for struggle. At the same time, we should design forms of organic participation for thousands of independent activists who sympathise with the FIT-U and today are not part of any of its parties, but who could be part of the Front if there were institutions such as assemblies, plenaries or other forms to channel the enormous energy and potential militant contribution militant contribution which exists in reality.

Unfortunately, in spite of our insistence on this proposal, until now the comrades of PTS, PO and IS have refused to move forward with such a plan. For example, the PTS knows that the FIT-U is still only an electoral front but doesn’t have any proposal to overcome this. Every once in a while they speak of forming a single party with democratic centralism, which is not viable in the current reality. PO only speaks of a united front in the struggles and a FIT-U Congress. IS, the smallest force, sees its position threatened by any bold shift in orientation by the FIT-U, and so does not have any proposal on this matter.

The debates about how to build an important left alternative are logical and at the same time they are not new. It is worth mentioning that the integration of the MST into the Front and therefore the constitution of the FIT-Unidad, was only due to the combination between a relative electoral setback of the FIT in 2019 and an advance of our party in the elections at that time. Faced with that fact, the forces then involved in the Front accepted, for the first time, a political agreement and our integration into it. But this did not eliminate the debates over revolutionary strategy, over how to become a real alternative of power in the workers’ and mass movement.

b) We want a Front with democratic mechanisms to make every decision, plurality of voices and a real representation of every organisation. It is worth noting that the MST values the unity achieved with the FIT-U, even if it is at the electoral level for now. It has served to challenge all the forces of the capitalist regime, be they of the right, centre or progressive-possibilists and, therefore, it has played an undoubtedly progressive role in that sense. All of this is based on a correct and profound program that points towards breaking with the system. That is why it appears as the only truly alternative force. It is why in this campaign the government was worried about it at times, because our Front could snatch an even greater section of its working-class and popular social base. The FIT-U could appear in key debates, such as on the issues of the IMF and foreign debt among others, as the only alternative with a program opposed to all the rest, clearly at the service of the working class and popular majorities.

However, having said all this, there is an important political debate for the orientation of the Front that expresses important agreements and also differences of conception and strategy, elements which have points of contact with international debates. If we want to become an alternative for millions we must start by taking advantage of the best elements of each organisation, their influence and insertion in every aspect of reality, and not from unnecessary disputes and unilateral electoral points of view. We have debates over this issue with the PTS comrades as they start from trying to impose a certain hegemony through their well-known electoral figures, when at the same time they are neither hegemonic in the labour movement (where they are very weak), nor in the student movement, nor in the social front, nor in the organic capacity of militant mobilisation. Their relative advantage in the electoral arena leads them to push so that everything that is done as a Front has electoral results as a point of reference. This conception borders on a very marked parliamentary adaptation that does not help the FIT-U. The PO and IS agree with this basic orientation of the PTS, expressing a conservative stance that seeks to defend their electoral positions in the Front. In spite of having differences on several issues, the three forces have a mistaken strategic point of agreement. This leads them in practice to try to impose a monolithic vision on the coalition, to reject the debates and ideas that the MST proposes as “factional or divisive”. They also refuse the idea of making the Front a movement or party of tendencies with democratic mechanisms to decide everything.

In the pre-electoral debate, as a result of our decision to have our own list for the primaries since we defended the right to express our positions to improve the front, the other three parties agreed on a electoral regulation with a restrictive minimum of votes that in practice acted as a “punishment” for the “political sin” of publicly arguing for our positions in favour of an orientation for the FIT-U that we are convinced would help it grow, always on the basis of defending its program and existence.[9] These practices, which we hope will change and be corrected in the future, are an expression of a debate that exists throughout the left, not only in Argentina. And now more than ever, standing on the important position achieved by the FIT-U, we must argue for a Front without a forced consensus or hegemony.We need a FIT-U that builds forms of democratic political deliberation to decide and resolve.At the same time, wepropose to open the Front by making it a movement, without dissolving the current parties or losing political and organisational independence, generating democratic mechanisms of deliberation and resolution that integrate sectors that sympathise with the FIT-Uon the basis of its anti-capitalist and socialist program that we defend.

c) In short, we combine the analysis of where the country, the region and the world are going – more crisis, discontent and ruptures from below – with the necessary policy of intervening in this process, not ignoring it, and widely calling to strengthen a pole of the left. And that cannot be done if one only aspires to convince people to vote for the FIT-U, but doesn’t give them any role in making our Front bigger, stronger, more capable of action. We have learned, following Trotsky, that when there are crises of other forces and competitors, our duty is to intervene in those crises, to generate more contradictions, to develop a clear line so that when there are more ruptures and detachments, we can attract sections towards the anti-capitalist and socialist left. Only in this way can progress be made with broad swaths of workers, women and popular sectors. The electoral result and the successful call against the IMF are two irrefutable proofs of the potential of this orientation that we propose.

This debate is decisive for the future. With the current political orientation, even with our good recent electoral results, we will be limited to winning a few seats in congress and achieving a certain social influence. But there will be no qualitative change. On the other hand, if we revolutionise the politics of the Front and go all-out, united on the basis of a shared anti-capitalist and socialist program, to change the model of the electoral front towards that of a great political movement that openly and collectively discusses the way forward in all the areas of the class struggle, we could take great steps towards being a true alternative of power in the country, and really have an impact on future events of crisis and mass irruption in Argentina.

A revolutionary or a conservative orientation

This debate is profound and takes on a particular aspect due to the composition and structure of the left in Argentina. With a strong tradition and influence of Peronism for decades, Trotskyism has also carved its own independent way, and we have gained a very important political and social influence, with real roots. This reality, together with the right turn of forces that came from other left traditions and were assimilated into Peronism, means that today the actually visible left is the Left Front, there is no other influential alternative.

Therefore, we are not in a country where a small group of revolutionaries have to decide whether to tactically enter for a period of time into a broader or programmatically diffuse project, something that might be correct to do in light of certain difficulties. In Argentina it is the other way around. We are the ones who can and must convene and incorporate and lead other sectors, convince their bases that we are a better leadership, that we have a better program and a better project. It is a key debate, because we can either have a bold and revolutionary orientation on this issue, or maintain a line with sectarian, conservative aspects that means nothing changes, that in the end shows a certain scepticism, of not believing in our forces or that the working class and the youth can advance by evolving politically.

Ultimately, we are discussing political strategy because there are two different projects and political orientations within the FIT-Unidad. The MST represents and fights politically for a revolutionary project, which sees what has been achieved up to now as a very valuable starting point, but seeks now to make a qualitative leap in the dispute between sections of the masses, and towards political power. We are and we will continue to be a left wing within the FIT-U that wants to transform everything that today limits the Front and wants to have an offensive policy. Among other reasons, there is a danger that the sectarian stance can lead to phenomena arising outside of the Front, that can become an obstacle to the advancement of the left. This reaffirms once again that sectarian politics always ends in opportunism and in strengthening competitors who are neither anti-capitalist or socialist.

The perspective for the Left Front may be one of greater advances and important leaps, and we will continue to put in all our militant strength and ideas towards this goal, working in unity on the basis of the important agreements we have with others in the FIT-U, despite our differences. But a qualitative leap forward towards the objective of conquering a workers’ government not only depends on objective conditions and a search to the left by sections of the population. We must also try to overcome our subjective limits and contradictions, with the objective of truly transforming ourselves into an alternative of power for the working class and the people. That is our goal, and why we continue to argue our position, even as we jointly build the FIT-U with other comrades.

5) Strengthening the party and the International Socialist League, a key strategy

All this debate on the different projects within the left is not a matter of propaganda, nor is it a philosophical discussion. It is a very deep political struggle, which requires our greatest strength in its prosecution.

For this reason, although we place the task of advancing in the construction and growth of our party at the end of this text, we actually consider it to be a top priority. There is no way to advance in our orientation and project if the MST does not over the next period become much stronger and bigger than it already is in the country.

Scenarios of major struggles and very strong social convulsions will come. This will generate new opportunities and challenges for the revolutionary left, and at the same time will deepen the debates that already exist. We need to prepare for these moments, in order to have a greater chance that our ideas can advance within the FIT-U, and the broader movement. This is essential for a left-wing alternative like the FIT-U to play the role that it can play and overcome its present limited and electoral stage.

At the same time, building the party is not reduced to strengthening ourselves only within the Left Front. Rather, our task is to make a much more solid party, rooted in the processes of the labour movement, advancing in the leadership of unions, internal commissions and delegate bodies. Advancing in leading sectors of the student movement and intervening in the processes of struggle of the precarious youth. Advancing in our positions in the popular neighbourhoods and in the environmental and gender fronts that are very dynamic and generate a lot of left-wing activism.

This advance also has a priority task, that of politicising and forming a new and large layer of cadres in the strategy of a revolutionary party and in its internationalist character, politically nourishing ourselves with the analysis and contributions of the ISL, taking on the tasks and campaigns that are proposed and carrying out and helping in what we can to its development.

After the November elections, we entered a new situation with opportunities, risks and exciting challenges. Our task is to prepare and strengthen ourselves thoroughly to intervene in the entire period that is opening, with a stronger MST and contributing to the FIT-Unidad with our ideas for a revolutionary course in the politics and the orientation that the Front needs to assume.

[1] Mandatory primary elections that are held two months before the general elections. Only the forces that exceed 1.5 percent of the votes in the PASO can go to the general elections. In other words, they are a proscriptive electoral measure.

[2] Frente de Izquierda y de Trabajadores Unidad, often referred to as FIT-Unidad or FIT-U.

[3] Movimiento Socialista de los Trabajadores (Workers’ Socialist Movement).

[4] Frente de Todos is the governing coalition led by the historic Partido Justicialista with all the wings of Peronism inside, plus a series of organisations that come from the left such as the PCR (Revolutionary Communist Party), PC (Communist Party) and the Patria Grande (Great Fatherland) front, among other sectors.

[5] Milei represents a new liberal approach, using anti-political caste discourse, encouraged by the media, to attract the attention of the population dissatisfied with the traditional parties and prevent that dissatisfaction from only going to the left.

[6] PTS: Partido de los Trabajadores Socialistas; PO: Partido Obrero; IS: Izquierda Socialista.

[7] Nuevo MAS (Nuevo Movimiento al Socialismo) is a small and very sectarian party on the left, whose main public figure is Manuela Castañeira, that refuses unity and persistently attacks the FIT-U.

[8] The municipalities of Greater Buenos Aires, where around 15 million people live, have always been a terrain dominated by Peronism and the left has never managed to place council members there. This election is the first time that this barrier has been broken in five major municipalities.

[9] The electoral regulations of the FIT-U were prepared by the PTS, PO and IS, and it prevents a list that does not exceed 20 percent of the votes in the PASO from being part of the first rotation of a position that comes out in the general elections, entering into the rotation only if a second seat is won. Thus, this undemocratic regulation attacks the rights of other lists in the primaries and tries to “punish” those who dare to present an alternative list. The MST presented an alternative regulation without any type of restrictive floor, as it should be on a left front. And we will demand that it be modified towards the next elections.

Choosing between life and Capital in Latin America: Interview with Jeffery R. Webber

Róbert Nárai speaks to Jeffrey R. Webber on how the unfolding health crisis in Latin America is reshaping politics across the region. (This interview was conducted on 15 May 2020. In the meantime, figures for deaths and infections in Latin America have increased significantly.)

The broad left party question after Syriza

Mick Armstrong revisits the question of broad left parties to draw some conclusions after the experience of Syriza in Greece.

Revolutionary strategy and the united front

Rick Kuhn looks at the history of the revolutionary strategy known as the united front, which aims to draw wide layers of workers away from the influence of their reformist leaders and into revolutionary struggle. Rick’s study draws out lessons for socialists from these experiences.