The Power of Argentine Unions

Argentina has had a turbulent political history that has only recently seemed to stabilize. The ideas of Marxism and in particular anarcho-syndicalism have played an important role in defining the labor movement in Argentina and also in shaping the political history of the country. Even today the unions of Argentina wield considerable influence, especially the Confederación General del Trabajo. 40% of all Argentine workers are unionized..

The Argentine Regional Workers' Federation (FORA) was formed in 1901. In 1915 ideological differences split the union into two distinct camps: FORA IX and FORA V. The latter held strict anarcho-syndicalist principles. These principles came down to direct action and direct democracy. This meant that they believed that workers should actively fight for their rights rather than vote for representatives to express their opinions in the Argentine National Congress. The other key intellectual strand of anarcho-syndicalism is that the workers should organize themselves and should all share equally in the profits of a company rather than paid a wage. Everything should be organized ‘from below’: workers would elect managers and positions would be rotated. Anarcho-syndicalism has often been cited as a social movement that could form the basis of a new type of communist society. It is a theory that has generated lots of intellectual debate. The noted political commentator and linguist Noam Chomsky is a self-proclaimed Anarcho-syndicalist wrote:

Now a federated, decentralized system of free associations, incorporating economic as well as other social institutions, would be what I refer to as anarcho-syndicalism; and it seems to me that this is the appropriate form of social organization for an advanced technological society in which human beings do not have to be forced into the position of tools, of cogs in the machine. There is no longer any social necessity for human beings to be treated as mechanical elements in the productive process; that can be overcome and we must overcome it to be a society of freedom and free association, in which the creative urge that I consider intrinsic to human nature will in fact be able to realize itself in whatever way it will.

FOR A V was violently suppressed and outlawed during the 1930s by the dictatorship of Jose Felix Uriburu. At the same time the major unions of Argentina reorganized themselves. Nevertheless, the anarcho-syndicalist influence remained strong in Argentine national sentiment.

In the 1940s Colonel Juan Domingo Peron used his influence over the unions to capture power. During this time unions were able to organize massive nationwide strikes to gain their demands for better wages and working conditions.

In the 1960s democracy returned to Argentina and the union movement came in from the cold and entered the mainstream of politics. This was seen as important at the time to stop Peron regaining power.

Today the unions of Argentina still contain those who want to fight directly for workers’ rights and control of industry and those who wish to use indirect power (through Congress leaders and laws) to improve worker conditions. Workers have the right to strike. They also have the right to use industry-wide bargaining. In 1988 Congress made illegal the hiring of workers without social benefits.

The challenges faced by workers today are perhaps different to those faced in the early Nineteenth Century. While the struggle for an anarcho-syndicalist society has declined relevance the need to protect jobs has become stronger. Globalization has a profound effect on the world economy. Effectively it allows for businesses to circumvent labor laws in one country by using labor from another country. The notion of exploitation has taken on a global dimension that the original union leaders of Argentina and elsewhere in the world could not have foreseen.

The Global Financial Crisis of 2008 triggered by the sub-prime scandal of America and fuelled by the insolvency of several European countries has meant that workers face more job uncertainty and the potential for degeneration through the lowering of standards of living through inflation than in any time since the labor movement began in Argentina. The former Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Dominique Strauss-Kahn said that "we face the prospect of a lost generation of young people, destined to suffer throughout their lives the worst unemployment and social conditions."

This is the reality of Globalism. It means economic catastrophe becomes global. www.diariogremial.com seeks to support not only the workers of Argentina but also of the world. While greed divides so the call for justice unites. Unionism must not only collect in nationwide solidarity but also in global solidarity. This website seeks to collect the perspectives of workers from all over the world. We do so without judgment. The internet is one of the main tools for worker debate. Where in the past capitalist funded dictators could smash our printing presses, now they cannot stop workers giving their opinions. This is what www.diariogremial.com is here for. Workers of the World Unite!

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