For the past 20 days the Argentinean ports of the agro-export sector are paralyzed and with them the exports that sustain all the accumulation in a semicolonial country like Argentina. The reason: a strike by oil and ginning workers who do not accept that the drop in their real wages imposed by inflation be compensated by the companies by less than 70%.
The struggle is taking place in the context of an increase in strikes around the world, which is also reaching Argentina. It has won the sympathy of workers from all the unions in the ports and has spread among them, but always under the control of the trade unions. Unionism whose organizations and cadres abundantly reflect in their trajectories their uselessness for the workers. In the old logic of the trade unionist, the maximum aspiration is to push the government to participate as a mediator in the negotiations – something that is happening at this very moment– because, according to Reguera, spokesman for the unions aligned in the conflict, nobody wants to spend the end of the year burning tires.
The unions have understood well that this conflict is going to raise a decisive question: the relationship between wage increases and inflation. In the classic model of crisis in the colonial countries, monetary tensions and inflation go hand in hand. This is the moment we are in now. The companies are trying to recover margins by playing on parity (the agreements) to delay payments and discuss as much as possible automatic increases coupled with inflation. But sooner rather than later, and this has been the case in all the previous crises of this model throughout the world, they will try to cut inflation dry by decoupling wages. That is, by generalizing a drop in real wages until prices stabilize. In these circumstances, the role of the trade unionsthroughout the world has always been the same: to promote great agreements with the state and the employers’ associations in order to articulate capital in a homogeneous manner and to promote it as a national sacred union with supposed sacrifices by all against the crisis, for democracy, etc.
Few cases like this allow us to see to what extent trade unions during capitalist decadence are no longer merely wholesalers of labor power, a series of monopolies of state capitalism, but their perspective and concerns are those of the buyers of labor power. Their mission is to homogenize the conditions of competition between capital applications. Their first goal is to ensure the profitability of investments, not to maximize workers’ income given the competitive survival of capital. In other words, the unions are purchase managers of labor power on behalf of the companies rather than commissioners of their sale on behalf of the workers. It is not that they need to maintain the profitability of the enterprise so that it continues to buy from them, it is that they do not need the labor power for their business.
That is why union-led strikes do not achieve anything that would not be possible without their help. And yet any struggle that is aimed at going beyond the dispute over extraordinary profits to question why the expected profits themselves cannot be spent on the needs of the workers will only find an obstacle in the unions. Whether combative or bureaucratic, Peronist or left-wing, the unions are a participatory institution of the state, which entertains us by burning tires and swallows in its structure whatever good will is entrusted to it. It is not with them that we will advance, but by taking the struggles into our own hands, with binding and sovereign assemblies open to all workers who want to join from as many companies as possible.