Andrea Lanzette is a member of the Socialist Movement of Workers (MST), a trotskyist political party that formed part of the Workers’ Left Front – Unity (FIT-U) coalition in the recent Argentine elections. The FIT-U consolidated itself for a second consecutive election as the fourth largest political force in Argentina.
Decembrist spoke to her about the return of Peronism to power, the feminist movement, and how Argentina sees itself from a workers’ perspective in the current Latin American context.
Decembrist: With the return of Peronism to power, how do you see the new political panorama in Argentina and the role of the FIT-U and the MST?
Andrea Lanzette: The world is shaking. There is a new situation in which people are rising up in profound processes with diverse claims but with a common thread connecting them all: capitalism goes no further. Argentina is also part of this dynamic that divides the haves from the have-nots.
The people that come up against these unresolved, dormant processes do so against the ruling classes that in the majority of cases apply the IMF or imperialist formula. Beyond the speeches, the new government in Argentina is not on the side of those sectors that demand real solutions.
With the first law it presented before the Parliament it has already proposed an economic framework to comply with the IMF. It’s taken for granted that the new government wants to pay all of the illegitimate debt, which means an adjustment, and it started with pensioners.
In this context, from the point of view of the left and the MST in the FIT-U, we believe we must denounce these measures and prepare to support workers and the people that will face the adjustment. There, the government will face those of us who always face the taking away of our rights.
We are heading towards more adjustments, because unlike the previous PJ (Partido Justicialista, party of Peronist movement) government that had a tailwind behind it economically and could govern making adjustments but at the same time with very partial concessions to the people, now the new PJ government is in a different situation.
It is working in the context of a deep international crisis that may break out sooner rather than later into new forms of crisis.
D: In the recent elections, the FIT-U consolidated itself as the fourth main political force of the country, an impressive result for a group of openly anticapitalist parties, but at the same time the result was disappointing. Why did the FIT-U not achieve a better result and how will its strategy change in the short and long term?
AL: The causes of the result are varied and it’s impossible to understand them individually. The result was modest but at the same time important – close to 800,000 people voted for the anti-capitalist and socialist left – that’s why we don’t feel the result was so disappointing but instead demonstrated a solid base from which to try to progress further.
There are objective reasons for the result we achieved. There was a strong media bias towards the candidates of the regime, and the resources used to achieve that bias had an effect on millones. For this reason, we consider the result the FIT-U achieved to be positive and that it shows a strong base.
Now, there are also subjective reasons for why, despite in the face of such bias, the result wasn’t better when it could have been. The unity we proposed years ago was accepted late and the provincial elections, in which we were not united as the MST and the FIT, had already passed.
For this reason, we say that we should have built this strong unity that brings together women, youth and the workers’ movement much earlier. Additionally to this, we have to go forward taking action together in the class struggle in the face of every political event, whilst we also invite in all the intellectuals and activists that support us. These are the challenges that face us.
D: In Argentina, the relationship with the IMF is always a contentious issue. Fernández has spoke about a new agreement with the IMF but says that he will respect the current debt. The FIT-U is the only political force in Argentina that is proposing the no-payment of the country’s foreign debt. Without a large number of legislators to oppose Fernández in a parliamentary way, how do you plan to face the IMF?
AL: As I said before, on the global level payment of debt and the IMF formula is being called into question. People can see what this formula does in Latin America and how it leaves countries that apply it devastated.
People are rising up against this formula and its consequences, as the Argentine people have also done, like when they faced pension reform in 2017, which marked the beginning of the end for the Macri government. Or like the people of Mendoza, who only a few days before the new government assumed power, faced the mining industry and defeated a law that worked to promote extractivist policies to transfer profits to multinationals.
Today, the people question very seriously the prosperity that these activities of ferocious capitalism supposedly offer.
Similarly, the people also question the means in which the debt has been incurred and where all this money has gone. It’s public knowledge that the money goes missing and there is agreement amongst large sections of society that it needs to be audited, now more than ever.
This is why we add to our policy of no-payment a sector of society that also sees the consequences suffered as a direct result of the debt. With that in mind, we believe that in this combination, the left will find greater consensus and approval of our cry of no-payment. May it become a real exit from the adjustments and the hunger.
It’s a tough fight but it’s very important. We are going to denounce the government, the PRO (Republican Proposal, party of Macri) and all those sectors that want to remain a country with no sovereignty, dependent on the IMF.
D: If the FIT-U was in power, how would it respond to the question of the large debt that Argentina has?
AL: No-payment is the key point. First, because the debt is illegal and illegitimate. Because it is extortionist and condemns the people to hunger.
But beyond no-payment and using the money to resolve the structural problems of our country such as jobs, health and public education, it is paramount to audit it. We must see how the money was spent. We must also work out who benefitted from the money to prosecute them and force them to pay it back.
D: During the Macri government, there existed a clear alliance between the state and the church that was very much against the feminist movement. Abortion has been an issue that has demonstrated this alliance as well as the violence of the state in repressing pro-abortion protests. Can you describe this state-church alliance in Argentina and how the feminist movement is facing it?
AL: The church is the enemy of women’s rights and of dissidents. It was during the Macri government and it has been throughout its entire history. In this regard, the feminist movement knows the church will battle against its rights.
That’s why along with legal abortion, we demand the separation of church and state and the elimination of all subsidies the state gives the church. Also, we view the church as an institution that is not only machista and patriarchal, but in the case of the Catholic Church, is also a cover-up institution for abusers, as demonstrated by the case of Priest Lorenza in La Plata.
This shows that the FIT-U is the only party that is 100 percent green (the pro-abortion colour in Argentina), without mixing pro-life and evangelical candidates like the government does. We denounce that the current government not only has a certain unity with the church and that it is part of the social pact, but that it also has officials and legislators that are active defenders of the curia.
That which does not guarantee the full achievement of our rights, we do not mobilise for. Only mobilisation can curb the church and win us the rights that we still lack, such as legal abortion. Our “March 8” must be massive and must be green to demand now more than ever “Aborto Legal Ya!” (Legal Abortion Now!).
D: Argentina already has a series of relatively strong laws in relation to women’s protection, for example, last year the Brisa Law was passed, which grants welfare to the children of murdered women. Despite this, the indicators of violence against women continue to get worse with almost one women murdered per day, how is this explained, and what is needed to truly combat violence against women in Argentina?
AL: Although the laws on this issue are good, without a budget they are dead. To seriously tackle this problem in Argentina the laws need a real budget. The current budget allocates $11 per woman annually, an insufficient and dismal budget to combat violence against women.
There are no refuges, no effective safety networks nor resources for job reinsertion. Prevention is not valued and effective implementation under the ESI (Integral Sexual Education, sexual education program) requires a political decision.
Just a few days ago, one of our colleagues from our organisation was murdered by her ex-partner by gunshot. This femicide was part of a terrible reality towards the end of the year, December was disastrous in Argentina.
One woman per day was murdered at the hands of a healthy son of the patriarchy. So, if a real budget is not granted, this reality may get even worse.
D: Argentina is one of the few countries in the world with a trotskyist political force that has a large number of members and that can seriously compete in national elections, why do you think this is?
AL: Current world events show that mobilisation is the most important tool to change our reality, and that is always a priority for us.
Moreover, in countries where elections actually have a certain degree of importance for the people, the left must be part of the fight with the goal of making our influence and ideas grow, revealing the lies and crisis of the old capitalist institutions.
In this sense, Argentina has been consolidating a base of leftwing voters that allows legislators from this front to be at the service of the struggle, something important and positive without abandoning the first of our strategies, permanent political mobilisation.
In this vein, in the next legislative elections in our country, even considering the clear bias, it’s possible our front can grow its number of legislators, just as in the most recent legislative elections, when the MST won a seat in Córdoba with our compañera, Luciana Echevarría, and as part of the FIT-U when we won another seat in Neququén and in Buenos Aires. All new seats at the service of the ongoing struggles.
But along with our electoral participation, the most important part of our work is the militant presence in the social struggle, in workers’ centrals, among the youth, and within the feminist movement.
Trotskyism is an undeniable reality in our country and is attractive to the new type of activism that is surging. That’s why we place our bet on continuing to strengthen the MST within this context and support from there the construction of the FIT-U.
D: Inevitably, the international and Argentine media will say that the return of Peronism is the return of the Pink Tide to Argentina and that the “left” is back. How can you build a new and independent left that can break free of the Pink Tide and be a truly anti-capitalist movement that at the same time can win power?
AL: Peronism continues to show its limitations. In this new world, people do not stick with “what can be done” because this brings them hunger and does not resolve structural problems.
There is a feeling, mainly among the youth, that more is possible and that there is a necessity to turn everything around. A new future that shows there is no possible future for the earth and the environment within capitalism, and the necessity to work against capitalism to destroy the patriarchy.
The anti-capitalist feeling is growing in the world, it brings in new activists, parties and revolutionaries, that not only see that it is possible but that it is necessary and inevitable if we want to survive.
Discontent against capitalism is growing in the world, along with it the anti-capitalist and socialist tools grow too, like the ISL (International Socialist League), an international organisation of which the MST is part, that today groups together more and more parties from all over the world and is a leader in all the ongoing events.
Honestly, I don’t see the possibility that half-hearted, lukewarm ideas, and populist, false enlightenment can advance as they did in other moments if they keep trying to negotiate with the enemies of the people.
Today, there is more strength and will in the fight against capitalism. Those who do not face it sooner or later end up showing their limitations and become condemned by the leaders of world events. There is no place for the faint hearted, it is the time of anti-capitalists, Bolivia is an example of this.
The coup was built upon the discontent of a process that did not advance and that tried to manage the economy in line with capitalist corporations, specifically in relation to lithium.
The people started to see it and raised their discontent with Evo. Later, imperialism took advantage of this deterioration with the coup that we denounce. But, it goes to show that any process that does not go forward, goes back, and that is how it transpired in Bolivia.
D: Fernández offered his support to Evo Morales after the coup and seems ready to bring Argentina back to the leftist block of Latin American governments. Do you think under Fernández there will be a change in Argentina’s foreign policy?
AL: He (Fernández) hosts Evo, but greets (Chilean President) Piñera, or receives Trump’s emissaries. You have to realise that some actions are opportunistic to present himself as different but are accompanied by other actions that are done to give signals to the international establishment.
So, in a similar way to Macri, he prioritises international standards to the detriment of the necessities of the people.
Piñera was even invited to the inauguration, and although he didn’t come mainly for reasons of social pressure than anything else, Fernández had placed him next to other leaders, despite what Piñera is and embodies.
What’s more, Fernández, through his chancellor, has said he intends to continue being part of the reactionary Lima Group, which says it all.
For whatever change there may be in his foreign policy from Macri’s, on the central points there will be much continuity. The IMF is not worried about it.
D: During recent months, many Latin American countries have experienced popular mobilisations that have seriously challenged the state, generally in countries with rightwing governments. Although Argentina has until recently had a rightwing government, it has not seen the level of popular action of countries such as Chile or Colombia. Why do you think something of the same magnitude has not happened in Argentina and how do you see Argentina in this regional context?
In a certain way, Argentina is part of the dynamic of the region, perhaps anticipatorily. Our country has a long history of struggle that has been winning a solid foundation of important rights.
In 1982, mobilisation pushed out the military, and in 2001 we had the Argentinazo (Argentina Uprising), two processes that were extremely important for our country.
A fruit of both is that now governing Argentina must be done with respect for a series of rights that are very important for our people, that is a great problem for any bourgeois or business party.
That’s why, for example in 2017, thousands of us took to the streets against pension reform, and from then on Macri could go no further with his reforms.
Likewise now, still without large mobilisation Fernández has had to retreat on a number of sensitive points of his new adjustment due to a lack of social consensus, in just the same way it was with teachers’ and scientists’ retirements and the state reform. Having retreated, but still having left the adjustment for pensioners, it will mean a cost to him of his own base.
It’s the same with the mining industry in Mendoza. The people out in the streets made the provincial government retreat, challenging the national agreement on mining. In no time, Argentina will be there in the more general trend with everything it has, but in a certain way it is a forerunner in that struggle.
D: Do you have any comments about the coup in Bolivia?
AL: Well, I already commented in a previous question. We repudiate the coup and we combat it in the streets with actions of solidarity from here and travelling with our MST colleagues to Bolivia to visit our mining comrades.
In this context, as I said to you, we see it as unfortunate that the MAS (Movement to Socialism), the party of Evo, in government has not brought profound anti-capitalist changes and has decided to govern alongside corporations.
After the reactionary rightwing coup that took advantage of the social deterioration, the MAS ended up negotiating with the coup-mongers, accepted the resignation of Evo and validated the Añez government, whilst the people were fighting in the streets of Bolivia.
In this context, they will go to new elections with an open outlook but having lost a great opportunity to have a reformist and positive policy that now only ends up giving way to new rightwing regimes in the region.
Facing the coup-mongers must not stop us from saying these things and criticising everything that there is to criticise, because they are very important political outcomes for the future of Bolivia and the entire continent.