The Argentinean disaster consists of a ruling class leading us towards health care collapse by prioritizing an unviable national capital which condemns workers to poverty and is oriented towards an increasingly difficult imperialist game which makes the development of militarism inevitable.
In this article
- The pandemic and the health disaster
- The priority is an unviable national capital
- …Condemning the workers to poverty
- …Doomed to an increasingly difficult imperialist game
- …And to the development of militarism
- The Argentinean disaster
The pandemic and the health disaster
Argentina is on the brink of healthcare collapse. So are Bolsonaro’s Brazil, Uruguay, governed by the Bolsonarist Lacalle and Piñera’s Chile. The cause of the Argentinean disaster being shared with its neighbors which are governed by supposed nemeses of Peronism. It is not the already rampant new Covid variants, but a policy shaped by the same priorities that allowed the variants to emerge in the first place.
In fact, the justicialist government acknowledged the need for new lockdowns even before the vacations. But instead of imposing new restrictions it first encouraged and then celebrated the renewed momentum from tourism. As Piñera in Chile and Lacalle in Uruguay -and with the same mediocre success– it chose to gamble everything on vaccination. But if among Andeans and Orientals betting everything on the race between vaccination and transmission was an already suicidal plan, in Argentina, without vaccines, it was simply criminal when even the nursing staff remained unvaccinated and accumulated more than 3,000 deaths.
It is true that the government has purchased vaccines in China and Russia, enticed Israeli companies to produce the vaccine on Argentine soil, negotiated with Cuba the purchase of its own vaccine – which is still undergoing clinical trials – requested field hospitals from the US military… and in the end has gone back to Putin for more batches. But the fact is that as of April 1, only 682,868 people out of a total of almost 45 million inhabitants had received the complete vaccine package. The city of Buenos Aires held the national record in relative terms with 2.67% of the population vaccinated. Misiones did not even reach 1%.
The priority is an unviable national capital
Obviously, the governments’ priority is not to save lives, let alone workers’ lives, but capital investments and state apparatuses.
In Misiones, the argument of the northern provinces’ governors, the poorest in the country, is that if they introduce new lockdowns the provincial governments will go bankrupt. The governor of Buenos Aires -the Kirchnerist Kicillof- and the head of government of the Autonomous City of Buenos Aires -the Macrista Larreta- agree: The economy must be saved… and only afterwards as many real lives as possible must be saved.
The national government, in a more modest fashion, has hired a consulting firm to disguise the brutality of the message. The consulting firm recommends, of course, not to carry out lockdowns in view of the rising poverty in the Conurbano, a traditional Peronist fiefdom in which, no doubt, the decimated families will be very grateful for the rhetorical deference and comforted because their misfortune is part of the general Argentinean disaster.
The implicit argument is that the return of capital’s profits will end poverty. An old lie that Peronist rhetoric has blamed Macrismo for a thousand times before.
The Argentine bourgeoisie and its political apparatus are trapped in the drama of the semicolonial countries. That is the whole secret of the Argentinean disaster. As typical abusers, they come back again and again to promise that this time it will be different, that this time they will stop exporting without industrializing and start building another model of food production, this time designed following human needs. But this is impossible, there is no capitalist or national solution to the conditions that the current phase of imperialism imposes on the whole world.
…Condemning the workers to poverty
The Argentinean disaster is the typical example of the exhaustion of semicolonial countries.
The inane industrial base already in place would require an unobtainable external demand even to get anywhere close to the theoretical full output capacity of today’s existing industrial park.
The dubious respites in GDP growth come from international price increases and last as long as they do, limited in the case of agricultural production, by the stress they generate on local staple food prices.
The dependence on industrial imports strains prices again and again (even despite falling demand we are now at 40% inflation).
In the midst of a global crisis of capitalism Argentine capital can only string together one worst year in history after another. And in the face of poverty… it can only aggravate poverty while pretending again and again to be surprised at the outcome of doing so.
The reality shamelessly described by the figures is that workers, increasingly precarious, have become permanent inhabitants of structural poverty. That Greater Buenos Aires has 15% destitute people… and 51% poor.
There are no social plans able to reverse that. There is no increase in corporate profits able to change that course. On the contrary, capital –and the state – can only recover themselves by sucking more and more income from labor. A general trend accelerated by the endemic burden of a debt that lives collapse upon collapse.
…Doomed to an increasingly difficult imperialist game
To escape from the trap, Argentine capital, like all other national capitals, would need new external markets which would allow for more production and the reinforcement of new masses of capital enabling the importation or development of new technologies and ensuring access to higher levels of industrial productivity… which in turn would require access to new markets.
That is, even if it has a lower chance of success than the major powers, Argentine’s national capital is as imperialist in its objectives as any other. The Argentinean disaster does not make the government policy representing it any less imperialist either. Foreign and defense policy can only be understood from there. That is why it has become the latest advocate of an EU-Mercosur agreement rejected by France and Austria, as well as undermined by Bolsonaro through his little Dolfuss, the easterner Lacalle.
But the main historical ally of Argentine capital in Europe, Spain, is in open retreat, overwhelmed by its own imperialist contradictions. And although the direct relationship with Germany is beginning to bear fruit, this fruit isn’t the expected one either.
The BMW agreement with Argentine capital is limited to the purchase of raw lithium… but says nothing about battery production. Not that it would significantly change Argentine’s semi-colonial position if that were the case, but it would change its capacity to attract capital and the rents generated for the national capital. Therefore, the Argentine lithium dream, as shown in the recent Argentine and Bolivian summit is to absorb the weak Bolivian industry and form with Chile, its main competitor, a new OPEC of the electric car era. For the time being… it remains a pipe dream.
On the other hand, Fernández, a man historically linked to Democratic Party interests in the United States, had hoped to find a relief or at least a chance with the arrival of Biden in the White House. But the U.S. Democrats’ agenda is no longer Clinton’s, but rather the economic war with China. Fernández instead of finding a new tone was greeted by a nuclear submarine in the Falklands. It was the first warning, an expression of disgust at the relations between Buenos Aires and Beijing. The second, the failure of the road show with which the Argentine government sought investors in the U.S..
The answer: abandoning the Lima group in order to align with the EU, mediating between Maduro and Biden, adding the Pope and strengthening the International Contact Group with the presence of Mexico and the European Union. An apparently blunt statement that actually left out the Chinese issue, the main U.S. target.
And the fact is that China is unquestionable today for Argentine capital. It is the only market in which its sales are growing and the only power intending to make major structural investments in the country.
However, the government is forced to keep on the freezer a good part of Beijing’s offers. As of today, the renegotiation of debt relief with the IMF is less a question of how much and when than a play of balances between the main imperialisms with interests in the region and showing excessive enthusiasm may backfire on it.
As of today, Argentina’s main supporters in the IMF are France and Germany on the one hand and a group of semi-colonial countries, the so-called G-24, on the other. But the key is still the US and there, taking China off the board, the only thing Fernández can do is exaggerate the winks to Biden by aligning with the Green Deal.
But if the big imperialist map is complicated for Argentine capital, the regional one has become an existential disaster threatening to bring the Argentine conundrum to a new level.
Bolsonaro began the year by lowering his tone, declaring to seek direct talks with Fernandez and promising support at the IMF. But when the virtual Mercosur summit arrived, Bolsonaro appeared with his allies well aligned towards the practical dissolution of the bloc. Although he gave the leading role to Lacalle, he left behind him some Argentineans frightened by a speech that placed them as a burden on the access of others to new markets… and to Brazil.
It is an existential question because, as the government readily acknowledges, should Brazil succeed in imposing the end of the internal import preference -as it already does with wheat– and open the ban on separate agreements with third countries and free trade zones, Argentina would lose a good part of its current exports. As of today, Fernández and Solá no longer even aspire to avoid this, only to do damage control. Bolsonaro seems to have delegated the first negotiations to an enthusiastic Lacalle in his role to keep the threat of a breakup at bay.
…And to the development of militarism
Prisoner of a geography of alliances imposed by the Brazilian imperialist strategy -which isolates it from the rest of the continent- and with a US that does not hesitate to carry out shows of force in the Malvinas/Falklands hand in hand with Great Britain, Argentina is doomed to militarism. It is the cherry on top of Argentinean disaster.
The aggressiveness of the British government and the inclusion of Argentina among its threats and war scenarios are not helping. The Argentine government may reply by saying that this is a show of weakness, but even though this is a correct assessment, it is well aware that this is the kind of weakness that precipitates armed conflict. So much so that, cautiously, it backed out on the eve of Falklands Day of the planned denunciation of the Madrid agreements. This was planned as a nationalist boast, a Peronist-style shot in the foot revenge. But it would have opened a path of border conflicts and armed friction with the potential to turn the South Atlantic into a small South China Sea.
But let us not declare victory. No horizon of peace lies ahead. In London there is open discussion about the future of the Malvinas/Falklands and there are those who are proposing to use the archipelago as a base against Chinese space deployment. They would not do so without US backing, which together with the nuclear submarine mobilized one of its new generation coast guard ships with the idea of stopping Chinese fishing in the South Atlantic. A type of mission which threatens to become permanent and which would be unaffordable without a development of the British military base in the Malvinas.
No analyst is unaware that the South Atlantic is entering the map of the imperialist conflict between China and the US. Just what the overall picture of the Argentinean disaster needed…
The Argentinean disaster
The Argentinean disaster is a summary of the future offered to us by capitalism: sacrifice of the lives of thousands of workers in the name of the economy in the immediate future, a massive impoverishment already underway and a not so long slope leading to war. It also shows that in these three axes, at the moment of truth, the right and the left wing, Kirchnerites and Macristas, bureaucrats, businessmen, bankers and trade unionists are together. Nothing can be expected from any of them. To reverse the Argentinean disaster is not to save national capital. Saving national capital is the disaster itself.