Miguel Mendez – Chicago, IL (USA)
On Sunday, 19th November, Argentina had the runoff of its Presidential elections.
The contestants were the incumbent Minister of Economy, Sergio Massa – amid one of the biggest economic crises in the second largest economy of South America (a 140%+ inflation and 40% of the population in poverty) – and the far-right “libertarian” and outsider Javier Milei.
The final result was Milei’s victory, with a wider margin than predicted by the polls (56% against 44% for Massa) and winning in all regions of the country.
This result reanimated the far-right in Latin America and can potentially have regional and global impacts. Far-right politicians, such as Donald Trump and the former Brazilian president Bolsonaro (and even Elon Musk) immediately celebrated Milei’s victory in social networks.
On the other side, left-wing and centre-left politicians, such as the Colombian president Gustavo Petro and Brazil’s Lula commented in the opposite mood.
In fact, Milei’s victory –in an important country like Argentina– does not follow the previous tendency of left and centre-left electoral wins in the region. And that, with a possible return of Trump to the White House could change the geopolitical landscape in the region.
MIlei’s ultra-liberal and reactionary policies
Milei’s agenda is very right-wing, in all areas.
He denies the climate crisis, defends the military dictatorship who violently ran the country in the 1970/80s and downplays its crimes. He is against abortion rights (a recent conquest of the women’s movement in Argentina) and claims he will work against the relations with “communist”, as he calls them, countries such as China and Brazil –the country’s biggest trade partners– and to put Argentina out of the Mercosur (the regional trade bloc). Also, MIlei supports the Israel genocide in Palestine – waving an Israeli flag in the last days of his campaign.
In economic terms, MIlei follows the ultra-liberal “right-wing libertarian” agenda. He promises to privatize “everything”, starting by the oil giant YPF (which currently is 51% under state control, after being privatized in the 1990s). Milei promises to shut down Argentina’s central bank and dollarize the economy. Certainly, Milei will attack the Argentinian working class, even more aggressively than the current neoliberal government, which is responsible for the deep crisis where the country is in today.
However, it is still not clear if Milei will be able to implement his “libertarian” agenda. The economic policies that he defends would probably harm even more the Argentinian economy in the short term – as we know by the previous experiences of dollarization in other countries. Also, cutting relations with Argentina’s main trade partners is not a very wise move, especially for a country which desperately needs reserves.
On top of that, MIlei’s party has only 32 seats in the Argentinian lower house, i.e, less than 15% of the House, and a bit more than 10% of the Senate.
Working-class resistance: Defeat Milei and present a workers’ alternative agenda
But that won’t be the only problem for MIlei. The Argentinian working class has a strong tradition of combativeness, despite the powerful Peronist influence. The social and economic conditions in the country are terrible – and will be aggravated with MIlei’s policies. Also, very powerful social movements, such as the Women’s marches which achieved victories on abortion rights won’t be silent under MIlei’s attacks.
There’s the real possibility of a strong working-class response, with strikes and social unrest. That must be the mood and the response from the Argentinian and Latin American Left. Intervene, encourage, build these social movements as a response to Milei.
And obviously, not to defend the previous government –who put the country in that situation and opened the doors for the far-right– but making the case of an anti-capitalist response to the crisis. Not sorrow, despair or fear, but social struggle. That’s the way to face and defeat the far-right – the fascists and its other variations.
Unity to defeat Milei
Argentina has a long tradition of socialist organizations. In these elections, they ran separately on the primaries but, correctly, presented a unified alternative (FIT-U) on the first round of the presidential elections – reaching nearly 3% of the votes in a very polarised election.
That is a small figure compared to what is needed to win the election or reach the runoff – but very important to establish an alternative pole, independent of Peronism, for the disputes and struggles of the next period.
Now, it is time to keep the Left in a united front against Milei. A united front not only with the left organizations and with workers in struggle, but also with social movements such as the women’s, the youth, indigenous movements, etc. Prevent Milei to implement his agenda, fighting the ultra-neoliberal agenda, is what’s on for the Left in Argentina. And, when struggles and upheavals come, be prepared to show to the Argentinian workers and population that the far-right won’t solve their problems, the only real anti-establishment way is towards the radical, socialist, revolutionary Left.