Estrategia Internacional N° 14
Noviembre/Diciembre - 1999

17 years of bourgeois democracy in Argentina
The regime of "Democratic Counter-Revolution"

by Eduardo Molina

With the triumph of the Alianza candidate, Fernando de la Rúa, as Menem´s successor, the fourth consecutive "normal" presidential inauguration has taken place in seventeen years of "democracy". This is an exceptionally long period in the convulsive political history of the country; it has been also a period of dramatic changes in the economy and the social structure, that we analyzed in another article in this issue. Here we sketch an analysis of the regime that has accompanied the deep going colonization of the country and a massive lowering both of living standards and working conditions of the masses.

Bourgeois democracy and the semi-colonial countries

The rule of the bourgeoisie has taken on different forms throughout history, each one depending on the development of the class struggle. As Trotsky points out: "The bourgeoisie has created and destroyed all kinds of regimes. She developed in times of the most pure absolutism, of the constitutional monarchy, of the parliamentary monarchy, of the democratic republic, of the Bonapartist dictatorship, of the state bound to the Catholic Church, of the state that prosecuted the Church". Against the reformist idealization of "democracy", that regards it as a "pure" regime above all the classes, Marxism has always held that, "the democratic republic is the best wrap-up for capitalism; and thus capital, by covering itself in this wrap, the best one indeed, lays the foundations for its power much safely and strongly, since it remains unshaken whatever the change of personnel, or institutions, or parties within the bourgeois democratic republic."

The works of democratic institutions hide the class antagonisms tearing apart society under the cover-up that a "nation" and the "people" –all the "free citizens"- freely exert their will "choosing" their leaders. This fiction legitimates the rule of the bourgeoisie exerted through the capitalist state, ensuring thus its political hegemony.

For the proletariat, the freedom and rights "guaranteed" by the most liberal of the constitutions are just on paper, while the sacred private property of the exploitators is always defended by the weapons of the State against the so-called "dangerous classes". But the bourgeoisie needs to retain not only the monopoly of violence through its state institutions, but also widen its social base using different mediation mechanisms that ensure the highest possible control over the oppressed classes.

"Bourgeois democracy is able to carry out its task better, when it gains support from a wider layer of the petty bourgeoisie (...) the petty bourgeoisie in the cities and the countryside are still very important numerically. But the main thrust of development itself reduces their role in production, the value of the wealth created by the petty bourgeoisie in all nations has decreased much faster than its numerical importance (...) The more the petty bourgeoisie lost ground, less chances did it have of acting as an arbiter between capital and labor. Very large numerically, the petty bourgeoisie of the cities and the countryside, however, expressed itself in the electoral statistics of parliamentarianism."

Parallel to this, the massive growth of the proletariat forces the bourgeoisie to go for the co-optation of the working class organizations, corrupting their leaders. As Lenin said: "On the economical basis mentioned above (the super-profits coming from the imperialist exploitation of the colonies and semi-colonies), the political institutions of modern capitalism –the press, the Parliament, the unions, the meetings- hand out perks and political privileges corresponding to economic ones, for the employees and workers that are respectful, meek, reformist and patriotic. The imperialist bourgeoisie attracts and rewards the representatives and supporters of the "bourgeois workers parties" with lucrative and quiet governmental positions, in the Ministries of Industry, in the Parliament, and in all sort of commissions, in the editorial boards of legal and "serious" journals, or else with a position in the leadership of workers unions that are just as "serious" and obedient to the bourgeoisie".

All in all, this constitutes the "the mechanism through which the bureaucracy relies directly on the workers, with the state doing it indirectly, via the union bureaucracy" , as Trotsky wrote referring to Great Britain.

The same advantages of the bourgeois democratic rule turn into a weakness during critical periods, of sudden break-ups of capitalist equilibrium and of intensified class struggle, when the mechanisms tying down the workers and the poor alike to the regime loose their effectiveness, and democracy "breaks down".

Because of this, the democratic republic tends to slip into Bonapartism in the imperialist era, one of decadence of bourgeois society, of exacerbation of class contradictions, which in turn reflects the huge concentration of capital in monopolies, and the tightly-knit interests of these and the state. Moreover, a stable democracy tends to become a luxury that only the rich imperialist countries can afford in a long lasting fashion.

Semi-colonial countries have a much narrower material base, and therefore the class antagonism are sharpened by the backwardness and the dependency on imperialism, making the bourgeois democratic regime much more unstable and weak. The weight of foreign capital boosts the Bonapartist features of the regimes there, a development Trotsky had already described very well in the 30s: "The weakness of the national bourgeoisie, the absence of a tradition of local communal government, the pressure of foreign capitalism and the relatively fast growth of proletariat is at odds with the possibility of achieving a stable democratic regime. The government of backward countries, colonial or semi-colonial ones, generally takes on a Bonoapartist or semi-Bonapartist character."

Hence, "The government wavers between foreign and national capital, between the relatively weak national bourgeoisie and the relatively strong proletariat. This gives the government a sui-generis Bonapartist character, of a particular nature. Thus it raises, as it were, above the classes." The native ruling class tends to "govern either becoming a tool of foreign capital and oppressing the proletariat with police-based dictatorships, or else maneuvering against the proletariat, even giving concessions to it, conquering a certain freedom for itself vis-a-vis foreign capitalists."

The mutual relationships between such fundamental social forces governs the dynamics of the "ruling regime", namely, the combination of political, social and military institutions the bourgeois state resorts to throughout a period of time in history; a reflection of the general balance of forces between imperialism, the native bourgeoisie and the oligarchy on one hand, and the working class and the exploited masses on the other. In shorter sub-periods, the ruling regime takes on different concrete forms: bourgeois democracy, a semi-Bonapartist or a Bonapartist dictatorship, etc., according to the ebbs and tide of the class struggle.

The "Argentine case"

The whole series of governments and regimes in Argentina since the postwar period is a dramatic example of the violent oscillations and the great political instability resulting from an intense class struggle, that between the rightwing coups of 1955 and 1976, grew into successive episodes of civil war, without the proletariat or else counterrevolution being able to turn the tables in their favor decisively.

Peron´s government from 1945 to 1955 was a typical case of sui-generis Bonapartism, relying for support on the working class movement to resist the pressure of American imperialism. After the right wing "libertarian revolution" of 1955, a "libertarian" regime based on the proscription of Peronism, the main party of the working class, settled in. It launched a violent clamp-down on the working class movement, to force the take over by American capital. This ruling regime remained under different governments: the military Junta of the generals Lonardi and Aramburu, the elected government of Frondizi, Guido’s interregnum, and later on the government of Illia, from the Radical Party. These governments had to deal with remarkable workers struggles –as the so-called "Peronist resistance" of 1956-59. The coup in 1966 ushered in the new open military dictatorship of Ongania, that although lethally wounded by the Cordobazo (a workers’ uprising in Córdoba), will drag out through the administrations of Generals Levingston and Lanusse up to the elections in 1973.

The Cordobazo ushered in the greatest proletarian upsurge, also accompanied by of the urban masses, of all Argentine history, in a true revolutionary rehearsal that was part of the worldwide upheaval of 1968-76, opened up by the French events of May 1968. Along Argentina, revolution swept through the Southern Cone as well, fueling the revolutionary processes of Bolivia (1970-71), Chile (1969-73) and Uruguay (1968-73).

The ruling class tried to hold down the working class –now involved in an upheaval and accumulating experience, both of which were challenging the bourgeois-imperialist rule- by resorting to a "Gran Acuerdo Nacional" (Grand National Agreement), going for the return of Perón and the "comeback of democracy". The new democratic Peronist government only lasted three years. Amid big political crisis, it veered to Bonapartism, with the action of fascist gangs such as the AAA (Argentine Anti-communist Association), and resorting to the armed forces for internal repression. However, they were unable to defuse the increasing clashes with the labor masses, as the massive general strike of 1975 was to prove it (the so-called "Rodrigazo").

The impotence of the Peronist government to defeat the working class would lead to the bloody coup d’état of 1976, organized by the alliance between the most concentrated local capitals and imperialism to inflict a defeat of historical proportions to the working class movement, bringing about a quantum leap in the semi-colonization of the country. A semi-fascist regime was established, with selective civil war methods against the proletariat and the masses, that murdered (made "disappear") 30.000 people, and imprisoned, tortured, or else forced to exile to tens of thousands more.

However, the economic crisis of 1981 undermined the social base of the dictatorship among the middle classes, and it also had to confront a new workers’ and peoples’ upheaval. The attempt at deviating this upheaval by playing a "national" card on the question of the Malvinas just ended up in a failure, and forced the militaries to seal a pact with the traditional parties of the bourgeoisie –the Peronist and the Radical Parties-, pulling quickly out of power to the crisis-ridden armed forces. In this way, a "transition to democracy" is mounted, that will lead to the elections of 1983.

The "comeback of democracy"

Ever since the downfall of the military dictatorship in 1982, the bourgeois regime has been the mechanism of political rule at work in the country. We have branded this ruling regime "democratic counterrevolution" to clearly define its fundamental content: to impose a quantum leap in the semi-colonization of the country and in the exploitation of the proletariat. It just seeks to carry on with the work initiated by Videla’s dictatorship, this time under the disguise of the mechanism and institutions of formal democracy.

Such development in Argentina is just the reflection of much wider processes of international scope. After its defeat in Vietnam, US imperialism resorted to a "democratic" disguise, and even a "humanitarian" one, as a cover-up for the imperialist counter-offensive against the proletariat, the semi-colonial world and the old bureaucratized workers’ states. With this policies, imperialism was able to deviate and defeat the great workers and mass upheaval of 1968-74 in Europe (dismantling the Portuguese revolution and deviating the Spanish revolution, for example), although in the Southern Cone it had to resort to bloody coups d’état. However, imperialism went for a "transition-to-democracy" policy in Latin America in the 80s, when the dictatorships were no longer sustainable. The various peace agreements aimed at bringing in "democracy", sealed with the Nicaraguan FSLN (Sandinista Front of National Liberation), the Salvadorean FMLN (Farabundo Martí Front of National Liberation) and the Guatemalan URNG, all came in the wake of the defeat of revolution in Central America.

Now then, as we have pointed out above, bourgeois democracy in semi-colonies such as Argentina is far from being as stable as that in the imperialist countries. Specially today, a time of unprecedented looting by imperialism, increasing deterioration of the living standards and working conditions of the workers and the people, of direct actions by the mass movement and hence the open clamp-down of the bourgeois state. Why has bourgeois democracy lasted so long in such a relatively stable fashion then? It is true that it finds a major mainstay in the social-political role played by the urban and rural petty bourgeoisie, quite large in Argentina, in the control by the union bureaucracy of unions closely linked to the State, and also in the bourgeois Peronist leadership at the head of the proletariat.

However, the key for this lies in the two wars waged against the proletariat and the oppressed masses of the semi-colonial nation, both of which end in victory for the ruling class. Without these we cannot understand the relative stability of the democratic regime in the 80s and 90s: the bloody coup d’état in 1976 and the national defeat in the Malvinas war in 1982. These ushered in a period of remarkable historical exceptionality. These account for the relatively "peaceful" rule of international finance capital and its break-throughs in the 80s, without the bourgeoisie having to resort directly to a "police-based dictatorship" against the proletariat, being able instead to uphold the democratic wrapping.

The first war was the 1976 coup d’état, that brought about a defeat of historical proportions for the proletariat, murdering with selective civil war methods a whole generation of workers and peoples’ activists educated in decades of combat. The imposition of a semi-fascist dictatorship, a native instrument of international finance capital, was the first milestone in the road towards reshaping the country under the conditions imposed by imperialism.

The second battle was the victory of imperialism in Malvinas in 1982, that imposed a defeat of the semi-colonial nation at the hands of Anglo-American imperialism. This tied the country down with double chains, as shown later in the 80s with the burden of the external debt, and in the 90s with the imposition of wholesome privatization and the take over by foreign capital.

All in all, the exceptional conditions in Argentina that brought about a relative stabilization and a new long lasting ruling regime based on the forms of bourgeois democracy have mainly to do with a quantum leap in imperialism’s oppression over the country, after is victory in Malvinas, and the radical cut both in the fighting tradition and the consciousness of the Argentine proletariat as a result of the defeat in 1976.

Alfonsín’s Democracy

With the defeat in Malvinas came the collapse of the military dictatorship, and suddenly the traditional parties were back in the political scene Both the Peronist and the Radical parties, that had justified the coup, collaborating with the dictatorship by providing officials and mayors coming from their ranks. These parties built a "Multipartidaria" (a bloc gathering all parties) to oversee the "transition".

With Alfonsín, both the mechanism of coercion and consent used by the bourgeoisie are strengthened, due to the two previous defeats of the proletariat and the exploited masses mentioned above: "if the parliamentary regime is challenged by the worker’s struggle, the armed forces will come back; if we dare question the interest of imperialism, this will attack us as it did in Malvinas", such was the underlying consensus achieved by the new bourgeois democratic regime, among the middle class and the proletariat as well. These just bought into Alfonsin’s motto: "democracy will bring us food, health, and education."

Besides, basing themselves on the ample illusions of the masses, the traditional bourgeois parties played a key role at that time, the Radical Party acting as a bulwark for the middle classes, and the Peronists holding control of the working class movement.

The proletariat, (although it did not get back to level of struggle of the 70s), organized 13 general strikes and near 6000 conflicts in this period, most of them demanding pay rises. However, the union bureaucracy of the CGT played a decisive role in holding the working class down, preventing it from taking an independent stand to respond to the sharp economic crisis affecting the country, as a result of the "debt crisis" and inflation altogether.

Meantime, both the Radicals and the Peronists, and all the parties of the regime were busy trying to protect the hated crisis-ridden armed forces from the people’s mobilization that sought to make them pay for the crimes of the dictatorship. Especially after the Easter military pronouncement in 1987, these guaranteed the militaries that they would not go further than a "trial to the military Juntas" (the leading echelons), and later gave them total impunity. Thus, they went for a piecemeal reconstruction of the beleaguered military.

That was how the regime handled the high tensions of the period between 1982 and 1989, being able to choke the demands of the masses regarding the yet unsolved democratic and national problems. These were inherited from the dictatorship, and with the deepening of the semi-colonial dependency, became the driving force of the mass demonstrations, and also the protests by vanguard workers and advanced people’s activists. These took place against the background of the "external debt crisis", that shook the semi-colonial structure to its foundations, fueling a protracted and deep recession that combined with sky-rocketing inflation and provoked an unprecedented suffering for the masses.

The economic and political crisis that shattered Alfonsín’s government, peaked in 1989. Back then, as "hyper-inflation" was raging, there were "hunger revolts" in which the urban poor participated, with 14 dead. The siege was enforced across the country. The bipartisan regime had moved once again to put an end to the profound governmental crisis with a "Pact of Governability", which resulted in an anticipated inauguration of Menem. Meanwhile, the political subordination of the unions to the bourgeoisie allowed the ruling class to impose a reactionary outcome to such critical situation. Hence, "hyper-inflation" was truly a piece "economic terrorism" that inflicted deep wounds to the masses. Sometime later, they would buy into the solution proposed by the bourgeoisie, i.e., the stability of the currency, with its sequels of unemployment and increased exploitation of the working class movement.

The Menem government: a legitimate son of bourgeois democracy.

The center-left holds that Menem’s "authoritarianism" was a departure from Alfonsin’s "ample democracy". However, Menem’s regime was nothing but the natural evolution, i.e., the degradation of the bourgeois democratic regime in the semi-colonial Argentina, an embodiment of the strong Bonapartist tendencies fueled both by the take over of foreign capital and capitalist concentration alike.

The Menem’s regime was a combination of a government with strong Bonapartist features, with the presidency at its core, and a discretional recourse to decrees and the Supreme Court all alike, but always within the framework of the institutions of the bourgeois democratic régime. It relied on the role played by all the strands of the union bureaucracy as a direct agent, the remarkable bourgeois and imperialist unity around it, the defeat of the struggles and the strikes fighting back privatization, and finally it also counted on a widespread support among the middle classes. This was the political form that the rule of the most concentrated layers of national and imperialist capital took on. In order to push ahead with their program, they had to resort to the executive organs of the state, especially the most antidemocratic ones, resorting to the presidential "decrees of urgency and necessity". They just resorted to the parliament to get the endorsement of decisions that had been taken beforehand by the innermost circle of high officials, imperialist big capital and the top 30 national trusts alike.

These reactionary transformations counted on a widespread support, achieved through the hyper-inflationary terror -that hit back in 1990- and the ideological conviction of the middle classes, who had now been won over to the cause of privatizing the "inefficient companies". The resistance of the workers in these state-owned companies, mainly those waged by the telephone and railroad workers, were isolated and defeated by the open betrayal of the CGT. The work of the union bureaucracy was made easier by the role played by the left wing parties, mainly the Communist Party and the MAS (Movement to Socialism), that were the most influential left parties at the time, having conquered influence among vanguard workers.

Once they defeated the resistance to the privatization drive, the bourgeoisie closed ranks around the imperialist plan, a fact that allowed the strengthening of the ruling class as a whole, which now appeared as a monolithic bloc before the workers and the masses.

If the political stability of the regime in the 80s hinged upon the aspirations and democratic illusions of most of the middle classes, that also pervaded the proletariat, the economic stability of the early 90s and the strong increase in consumption that followed, after years of retreat, boosted a temporary illusion of progress among the middle classes.

Between 1991 and 1994, a wide and reactionary class alliance was formed, centered in the petty bourgeoisie (the well off sectors of this would become fierce supporters of the bourgeois- imperialist plan) and encompassing sectors of the proletariat and the urban poor, thus giving the regime a massive social base. In turn, this brought about bigger political stabilization and the strengthening of the Menemist government altogether.

The Olivos Pact sealed between Menem and Alfonsín, and the constitutional reform of 1994, in the zenith of Menem, expressed the solid unity achieved by all factions of the bourgeoisie and their parties, that set the judicial armory of bourgeois rule in tune with the needs of the imperialist plan. Such agreement was proof positive of the adaptation of the big "national parties" that came to life representing different factions of the bourgeoisie, now transformed into mere administrators at the service of the new establishment commanded by imperialism.

In the meantime, the weakened armed forces ceased to play their old blackmailing game as a "military party". Now, it is international finance capital the one who plays the role of "party of finance", imposing obedience with the threat of leaving Argentina if its conditions are not accepted. The Frontier Police force, the provincial police and the riot squads, have been all built up and provided with better equipment. They became the hitmen of the bourgeois state under Menem, while the diminished and beleaguered army took on a secondary role. Now it was assigned to take part in the imperialist interventions and the UN "peace missions", in an unprecedented leap in the subordination to the US.

The role of the unions under Menem’s government

The open betrayal of the Peronist union leaders, now turned into guarantors and agents of the implementation of the plan of the new establishment, blocked right from the start workers’ resistance, and gave Menem’s government a counterrevolutionary advantage that Alfonsín could not count upon.

Contradictorily, this role played by the bureaucracy did not improve their lot as a whole, as the privileged negotiators, as it had happened in the past, when their collaboration was rewarded with ministerial posts, seats in the parliament, consultation on political and economic affairs, etc. The bureaucracy now played a secondary role politically, being co-opted with perks such as union levies, healthcare funds, etc, and she was kept as a more direct agent of the plans of the government and the capitalists.

This reflected the most Bonapartist features of Menem’s regime, that in order to push ahead with the demands of imperialism needed to keep a strong bureaucratic grip on the working class movement, in turn clipping the wings of the "union lobby" when it came to major decisions. Meanwhile, the successive defeats inflicted on the working class and the political isolation of the resistance struggles meant there was no need to resort to an open and massive prosecution of the working class movement.

Historically, the Bonapartist character of the semi-colonial countries: "…determines the future of the unions: either they exist under the tutelage of the state or else are subjected to a cruel prosecution. Such state tutelage is determined by two tasks the state has to deal with: in the first place to attract the working class in order to gain support to resist the excessive demands of imperialism and, at the same time, to make workers obey by putting them under the control of a bureaucracy." This dialectic had a particular expression under Menem’s regime. While the state control of the unions grew apace, and the union bureaucracy was rewarded with all sort of perks and kickbacks, the role of the unions was undermined and the positions gained by the working class movement were systematically attacked (there was a wholesome loss of conquests then), bringing about decreased levels of union membership.

In this way, sacrificing the most elemental class interests, the bureaucracy "satisfactorily worked out its own social problem" using the control of the unions "even against any attempt by the workers at resisting the attacks of capital and the reaction" . This lead to the emergence of new layers within the bureaucracy and to a massive weakening of the links that they had with the masses. The pro-government CGT still gathered most unions, although different wings came to life inside it. Meanwhile, the CTA came to life as the "oppositionist" union federation, based on the teachers unions and a sector of state workers (ATE).

The collaboration of the union bureaucracy, both in its pro-government version and also the "oppositionists" propped up Menem, letting the government get away with the implementation of every single austerity plan pushed through by the bosses or else the government itself. They also kept workers’ ranks divided, keeping fights isolated, defeating them, or else leading them to a dead end (the CTA with the teachers and state workers in the provinces, the CGT in the general strikes). They did their best to keep the working class out of the political scene, and after 1996, when Menem started to go downhill, they stood by the bourgeois plan of leading the growing mass discontent towards the ballot box.

The "democratic" trap saves Menem

In 1995 Menem is re-elected thanks to the agreement codified in the Olivos Pact and the 1994 constitutional reform. However, the class struggle ate away his strength.

After 1993, the resistance of the masses to the capitalist offensive took on the form of a wave of provincial revolts, as the Santiagazo, and also the struggle of metal workers in Tierra del Fuego and other harsh and isolated struggles in different factories.

The "post-Tequila" recession during 1995 fueled mass revolts, where municipal workers, teachers and state workers from the provinces all came together, alongside the unemployed.

During 1996 and 1997, years of economic recovery, the unemployed rose up in the provinces, with embryonic self-organization and elements of civil war in the cities of Cutral-Có, Tartagal and Ledesma.

Parallel to this, when Menem and Cavallo tried to push ahead with a wage cut affecting the whole working class (doing away with family pay), the working class displayed its unified strength, paralyzing the country with the three massive national strikes of 1996, jointly called by the union federations.

This combination of upheavals in the provinces and the centralized national strikes, while big democratic demonstrations took place (against repression and impunity), might have ushered in a new situation in the country, heralding for the first time ever in the 1990s a change in the balance of forces in favor of the proletariat and the masses. This happened because the alliance of classes that supported Menem’s regime was falling apart, a new progressive alliance led by the working class with the support of wide sectors of the middle classes was coming to life.

The union bureaucracies of the CGT, CTA and MTA hold back the spontaneous tendencies towards a mass political struggle. The Argentine proletariat was thus joining in the working class counter-offensive sweeping through the world ushered in by the French workers in 1995. However, the limits of this wave of fights by the workers and the people lay in the weak protagonism of industrial workers, that had participated in the massive national strikes, but did not come to the fore in any independent action with their own methods.

This has made things easier for the union bureaucracy (the "oppositionist" CTA played an active role in the provinces), that succeeded in holding down and leading this process to the dead end of the bourgeois democratic regime. They just stood firmly by a firm "social pact", and the CTA tacitly said the bourgeois opposition should oust Menem via the ballot box, instead of workers from below. Meanwhile, the MTA and the UOM (metal workers’ union) rallied with governor Duhalde, by then the opposition within the Peronist party.

The regime resorted also to an additional maneuver: the formation of the Alianza between the Radical Party and the Frepaso , to sow illusions in an "anti-menemist" governmental reshuffle.

This new bulwark erected by the democratic counter-revolution, was based upon the yet solid bourgeois unity of the ruling bloc, boosted by the steady capital inflows in 1997-98, and the good businesses within the Mercosur in those years. It also contributed the fact that no vanguard sector of the working class movement was able to turn the milestones of organization and consciousness lay in the previous phase into permanent organizations. Finally, the bureaucracy also counted on the open collaboration of the Stalinists of the PTP (Partido del Trabajo y el Pueblo) and the Communist Party, and also the capitulation and impotence of centrism (MAS, MST, PO) that refused to go for an independent rallying of the vanguard.

Therefore the regime was able to cushion the weakening of Menem’s government, going on to rejuvenate the senile bipartisan régime , channeling the discontent -regardless of the sharp recession since a year and half before- through to the elections, that has just resulted in a victory for the Alianza. The bourgeoisie has thus attained a "quiet" political transition, backed by the bureaucracy and blackmailing workers with the crisis and the ensuing unemployment, keeping the essential continuity of the bourgeois-imperialist plan. It has also upheld the social pact with the bureaucracy and keeps, for now, the masses out of the scene.

The future of the "democracy for the rich"

Some commentators have gone on to say that the new electoral reshuffle means the so-called "transition to democracy" inaugurated in 1983 has now ended. They claim a stable regime has now settled in, like the democracies in the imperialist countries . On the contrary, the continuity of the bourgeois imperialistic plan and the decisive weight of the establishment in the decision-taking of the new government –a heir and trustee of Menem’s work and the Olivos Pact- can only boost the profound reactionary, semi-bonapartist features of the regime, whatever the disguise provided by a rejuvenated bipartisanship and a superficially renewed parliament.

The regime of the democratic counterrevolution in Argentina does not have enough wide basis so as to absorb the enormous pressures coming from the imperialist rule, the extreme exacerbation of social antagonisms, and the eating away of bourgeois unity for long (as can be seen in the formation of the "productive front" between sectors of the industry, the construction and the farmers). An additional element in the degradation of the state and its institutions is the rot of the bourgeois cliques (dirty business, corruption, drug traffic, arms smuggling, etc.) Last but not least, it is hard to believe that the masses are just going to put up with renewed and harder attacks against their already deteriorated living standards and working conditions without any resistance whatsoever.

In the last 17 years, besides, the masses have gone trough a great experience with bourgeois democracy. If we compare the prevailing mood now with that when democratic illusions boomed in the early 80s, the workers and the people alike have clearly grown disappointed with the institutions of this "democracy for the rich": the justice, the parliament, the traditional bourgeois parties. The erosion of the links subordinating the proletariat to the bourgeois Peronist leadership, with the union bureaucracy at its core is also remarkable. Although the regime counts on important mechanisms, mainly the elections and the universal vote as a leverage to use the illusions of the majority of workers and the people (as last October 24th has proved), the "normal" mechanism of co-optation and mediation have been seriously damaged, a potentially weak flank in the face of eventual sudden changes in the class struggle.

The future of semi-colonial democracy in Argentina is not one of long lasting stability and "improvement" then, but rather one of weakening of the foundations of the regime and also renewed tendencies to "short circuits", political crisis, Bonapartist relapses, and ultimately, the open unfolding of the class struggle.