HUGE DEMONSTRATIONS swept Argentina again at the end of last week. People swarmed onto the streets of Buenos Aires after the new government of President Duhalde tightened the restrictions imposed by the previous president, De la Rua, on people getting money from their bank accounts.
Many public sector workers have not been paid and depend on their savings for survival. So too do workers who received some redundancy pay when they were sacked or sold their homes in order to eat.
One eyewitness said, 'Unemployed workers and the lower middle classes were chanting in unison, 'Get rid of the lot of them,' 'Duhalde and De la Rua-the same rubbish,' 'Take back the privatised enterprises,' 'The whole supreme court must resign'.'
The police waited until 3.30am, when the more respectable members of the middle classes had left for home, and then attacked the protest, leaving many injured. The bitterness at the base of society is continuing to grow. The unemployed have no money for food, public sector workers are not getting paid, wide layers of the middle class are completely destitute, and chemists' shops and hospitals are running out of medicines.
The new government has no solution to the crisis. Ministers are making speeches denouncing the owners of the privatised companies and banks for wrecking the economy. But they then make enormous concessions to these companies. The freeze on bank accounts does not stop the rich taking their money out of the country and across the River Plate into Uruguay.
The government's radical language has been enough to buy the silence of trade union leaders. This means that, just as the mass of the population are bitter against all the old pro-capitalist politicians, there is no one offering a national political alternative to their policies. One minister has claimed that if the government's approach fails there will be civil war.
In several important localities people have responded by beginning to create their own Popular Assemblies, which raise both local and national demands:
'The Assembly for San Cristobal and Boedo demands: punish the police murderers who killed demonstrators last month; the release of political prisoners; abolition of VAT on basic goods; taxation of the rich; and benefits for the unemployed. It also demands: work for all, with sharing of work between the employed and the unemployed without any reduction in wages; dissolution of the supreme court; nationalisation of the banks and the privatised firms, under control by the workers; no payment of foreign debt; and a popular constituent assembly.'
Such demands do begin to pose a real alternative to the crisis, not just for workers but for the impoverished middle classes as well. But to be effective there needs to be revolutionary party with a national presence campaigning for them.