1. Imperialist capital, the national bourgeoisie
and the Argentine proletariat.
attempt to understand how the mutual relationships between imperialism, the national
bourgeoisie and the proletariat in the country have expressed historically, and also in
the 1990s, is essential if we are to set out the strategy of the internationalist
revolutionary Marxists for the nation, and to raise a program for proletarian revolution
The native bourgeoisie arrived to the
historical scene belatedly, when the level reached by the world economy ruled by
imperialism left no room for the independent development of a national capitalism. Just
like in every industrially backward country, it was foreign capital that played a decisive
role. In close dependence on it, and tightly related to the old landowning oligarchy, the
Argentine bourgeoisie proved once and again incapable of taking the historical tasks
corresponding to her class in its hands. Meantime, the relative weakness of the national
bourgeoisie increased throughout the century, both in relation to the proletariat at home
and to imperialism. Because of this, the Argentine bourgeoisie an exploitative
class, and also semi-oppressed by imperialism- even though it to maneuvered with the
different metropolis to defend and improve its position in the exploitation of the
country, it never led and never will lead any serious fight against imperialist rule, and
for a genuine national emancipation. She is just too afraid of unleashing a mass movement
of the workers, who would threaten its very social existence.
The1976 military coup represented a
quantum leap in this historical development. The alliance of the national big bourgeoisie,
the old oligarchy and imperialism imposed a severe counterrevolutionary defeat to the
masses, crushing the mass upsurge in the 70s, thus ushering in the dismantling of the old
structure of the country -in which the positions conquered by the proletariat had become a
threat for its rule-, and opening the doors to an increased semi-colonization.
This is proved by the whole record of the
national bourgeoisie in the 20th century, that under the direct rule of either the
landowning oligarchy, bourgeois nationalism, "development"-oriented governments,
the military dictatorships, or else under the disguise of bourgeois democracy, has not
only proved helpless and reluctant to accomplish the tasks of national emancipation once
and again, but also it has revealed itself as an openly anti-national, anti-working class
and anti-peoples class, becoming more and more the agent of foreign capital.
This does not write off the possibility
of clashes with imperialism, -even the upper layers of the landowning oligarchy comes into
contradiction with the metropolis-. But it shows that the working class is the only
"truly national" class, because by freeing itself it can, at the same time,
release the rest of the exploited classes in the nation from imperialist oppression,
giving the lie to all the bogus ideologies of the left nationalists, the populists, the
guerilla supporters, the Stalinists and Maoists alike, who even today preach the
conciliation of the working class with the native bourgeoisie to achieve "national
liberation". At the end of the century, we the supporters of the Fourth International
in Argentina reaffirm that : "Not a single one of the tasks of the bourgeois
revolution shall be carried out in those backward countries under the leadership of the
national bourgeoisie, since the latter has sprung to life through foreign support right
from the start, as a class that is alien and hostile to the people. Each stage of this
development bounds her more tightly to foreign finance capital, of which is essentially
the agent ... The leadership is, by the nature of things, in the hands of the proletariat,
who, right from the start, is set against not only the foreign bourgeoisie but also to its
own national bourgeoisie. Only this class that has nothing to lose but its chains is
capable of leading the struggle against imperialism for national emancipation to the very
2. The 1990s: four aspects of the
increased semi-colonial character of Argentina.
The implementation of imperialist plans
in Argentina was legally codified in the Acts of Convertibility and State Reform supported
by all bourgeois factions and parties. These were pushed through in the conditions brought
in by the ebbing of the working class movement after the economic terror of the
hyper-inflation in 1989, and by a number of defeats to major resistance strikes and fights
waged by workers against privatization schemes in 1990-91 that were openly betrayed by the
official leaderships of the working class. The whole of these elements, along with a wide
reactionary class alliance, based on the middle classes, and in sectors of the working
class and the pauperized masses, gave Peronism in power the force to push ahead with the
imperialist bourgeois plan that provoked a profound transformation of the old country.
Following the method of the Marxist
historian Milciades Peña, we claim that there are four key guidelines today, that help us
understand this increased semi-colonization, namely: a) The productivity of human labor
or, what is the same, the intensity of capital, in all the levels of production is still
low with regard to the advanced countries, although in the past years it has incremented
in some branches; b) the role of Argentina in the international division of labor is
limited to providing food, raw materials and some commodities; c) the country has become
more and more indebted and it is more dependant on both the credits and capital flows
coming from the major imperialist countries; d) finally, essential resources of the
country are being given away to imperialism.
a) Enclaves of advanced technology
in some branches stand side by side with the low productivity of labor and increased
One of the keys to understand the
semi-colonial backwardness is to measure up the productivity of labor in relation to that
of the imperialist metropolises. The growth of output per worker in industry is brought
about by two means: the assimilation of more advanced technologies and the better use of
In the past decade we have seen, along an
unprecedented waste of human energy provoked by the highest unemployment ever, and the
brutal unprecedented speed-ups, the partial assimilation of state-of-the-art capitalist
technologies in some branches. However, this does not make up for the increasing widening
of the technology gap between our country and its dominant power, US imperialism.
The crisis of capitalist accumulation
initiated in 1974, drove the main countries, particularly the US, to develop technological
innovations (information technology, computer chips, biotechnology) which have widened the
technological gap between the dominant imperialist metropolises and semi-colonial
Argentina, as well as the whole Latin America. Taking the continent as a whole, labor
productivity in manufacturing industry in the 1970s represented just 26.5% of that in the
USA. Argentina along with the main countries in the region, finally accomplished some of
this advances twenty years later, after a long retreat, following a typical semi-colonial
In a zero to a hundred scale of
technological development, Argentine industry stood at 30 early in the decade, and now
stands at 50. But this rise starts from a very low level, since in 1991 the age of fixed
capital (machinery and equipment) already averaged twelve and a half years. And this is
due mainly to the short term effect brought about by the arrival of transnational
Except some branches of agro-industry,
specifically in the production of soy oil, that reached levels of competitiveness
comparable to those of the US, and the investment in telephones and telecommunications,
the intensity of capital, i.e. the productivity of labor measured in terms of investment,
still remains far behind that of imperialist countries.
This way, of the 22.5 billion of direct
foreign investment, some 60% went to privatization schemes and banks, and only 10% of it
was invested in new plants. Out of the total investment (both national as well as foreign)
in the period 91-96, only 14% went to the opening of new plants. It is not surprising that
the gross investment in 1996, was only 18.1% of the GNP, 6.2% below than that of the year
1974(9). This means the investment in the 90s did not even reach the levels registered in
the mid 1970s, at the beginning of the world crisis.
The use of human labor shows the same
tendency. From 1974 until the early 1990s, the total number of employed workers increased
by 30%, although the added value of the economy remained constant. Between 1990 and 1995,
the total amount of workers decreased, but the product increased 30%. This means: the
productivity fell from the 1980s until the beginning of the 1990s, and from then on, up to
1995, an important recovery ensued. In spite of it, the productivity -excluding
agriculture and mining - remains in fact slightly below that of 1974 (10).
In industry, the essential increase of
labor productivity, of an accumulative annual 8% between 1991 and 1998, is due to the
super-exploitation of the working class, based on the sackings of workers and a brutal
speed-up. This is almost an absolute factor in the case of construction, where the
increase of productivity was a byproduct of increased working hours. The retail trade was
also affected when the big supermarkets muscled in.
The opening of the economy lowered the
cost of imported capital goods, replacing both local equipment and labor. This is so,
mainly, in sectors bound to privatization or the processing of raw materials. In the
branch of telecommunications, this is manifested in the strong increment in the
installation of phone lines (that went from 12 to 24 lines every one hundred people in the
past decade), as well as the increase in the lines per employee in the companies, that
jumped from 47 in 1985, to 311 per employee in 1997, although this has also to do with
The cooking oil branch, in 1973-74, with
67 plants and 6.895 workers, produced 252 tons per worker on the average. In the years
93-94, a smaller amount of plants and workers (59 and 4.934, respectively) produced an
average 2.472 tons per worker (11).
In these branches, the increase of
productivity, we insist, is bound to the installation of new machinery and equipment from
abroad, in detriment of home-made equipment, what led to abandon the modest efforts of
previous decades in the field of scientific and technological development. An "uneven
and combined" development has thus settled in, with a few branches working at the
most complex technological levels, nearing the most advanced ones worldwide, and the
destruction of the bases of local know-how and technology for the whole industry at the
same time. Because of this, even the quantitative and marginal productivity break-throughs
based on investment, just reinforced and worsened the semi-colonial bounds tying down the
Argentine industrial base, thus making the country more dependent on foreign technology
and imperialist capital inflows alike.
b) Argentina lags behind in its
industrialization level, establishing itself as an exporter of commodities and
subordinated role in the international division of labor dominated by imperialism, and the
increased investment of foreign capital, have even reversed the pseudo-industrialization
underpinned by a tariff-protected domestic market, the base for the
"import-substitution pattern". In the last 25 years, the share of industrial
goods in the GNP in 1974 amounted to 28.3% (with a million and a half workers), whereas in
1990 went down to 21% (with a million two hundred thousand workers), reaching an all-time
low 18% in 1998 (with a million industrial workers).
The restructuring of Argentine industry
meant a concentration in some high profitability branches, oriented to exports towards
certain niches of the regional market, namely, the Mercosur, and to the domestic market as
well. Industry is more and more geared to the production of commodities, this means that
it revolves around raw materials processing plants and the manufacturing of low added
value goods. In the second place, it is less sophisticated: it has given up the production
of machine tools, capital goods or high technology products; and in thirdly, it is less
integrated: the different branches of the productive infrastructure are more and more
geared to foreign industry, and they correspond less to the needs of the domestic market.
The so-called "modernization"
concentrated in some decisive branches that had lagged behind in the previous stage, and
that became highly profitable for its new owners under the new circumstances, as it
clearly happened with the telecommunications.
The increased influence of foreign
multinational into the economy took place by means of: 1º) the privatization of the
state-owned companies, i.e., petroleum, gas, power supply, water, telephones, railroads,
airlines; 2º) major purchases of old industrial plants mainly by food-processing
transnational companies like Nabisco, Danone or Parmalat; 3º) a steady increase of
investment in the car industry, particularly by Fiat, the comeback of General Motors to
the country, and the entrance of Toyota, under a special régime of tax breaks and state
protection; 4º) The arrival of big supermarket chains to the country.
This unequal development reached its
highest peak in the countryside. While regional economies or small plots, either decayed
or stagnated, with the resources in the hands of big landowners, who took advantage of the
high international prices of the 1990s, underpinned a significant agricultural recovery.
The production of grains and cotton grew from 27.4 million tons in 1988-89, to 57.4
million tons at present time, peaking in 1996-97: over 65 million tons, in what some have
pompously branded the "second revolution in the pampas". This was based both on
a 20% growth of the cultivated surface and increased yields reaped through new
technological investment (a more extensive use of fertilizers and agrochemical, new seeds
and production systems). Thus, the export of grains, oils and foods remains the
fundamental component of the Argentine external trade. The countryside still accounts for
60% of the total exports of the country.
To sum up, a few branches concentrated
almost all of the investment and expansion, while the industry oriented to the domestic
market started to collapse, causing a twofold process of relative de-industrialization on
one hand, and productive specialization concentrated in some highly profitable branches
producing commodities on the other. This drive to the production of commodities is far
from being balanced by the industrial exports to Brazil and the Mercosur, and it reveals
the reversal in the countrys industrial capacity. Argentina is thus increasingly
establishing itself as a semi-colonial supplier of raw materials and semi-manufactured
c) The submission of the country
was worsened by means of the foreign debt, the privatization of public companies and the
opening of the economy.
Argentina received part of the capital
outflows towards the "emerging markets" in the 1990s, in exchange for the
submission to the conditions of the Brady Plans, going for the renegotiation and the
capitalization of the foreign debt. This gave place to a renewed cycle of borrowing,
boosted by the MNCs multinational corporations- and the economic trusts that had
benefited before with the nationalization of the debt some years ago. The law of
convertibility was brought in, with the overvaluation of the peso, with the aim of
attracting foreign capital, guaranteeing the stability of the currency (12).
Hence, the imperialist plundering has
brought about a wholesale indebtedness of the country, one that continues to grow apace.
From 1991, Argentina paid the IMF some 59.7 billion dollars worth of interests and
payments alike, and it borrowed new loans worth 63.5 billions. Although the net financial
transfer was, in the period 1991-97, favorable to Argentina in 4 billion dollars, the
total foreign debt rose, in 1997, to 124.3 billion dollars, more than twice as much as in
1991. The annual interests went from 2.9 billion dollars in 1993, to 8.2 billions in 1999,
i.e, they increased more than 180%.
By means of privatization schemes, the
Argentine state has got rid of a major network of utilities, of transport companies, and
industrial plants that had all played a decisive role in the national economy for decades:
YPF, Somisa, Argentinean Railroads, Segba, Entel, Airlines. Far from introducing
"deregulation", the state adjudicated in favor of big capital, guaranteeing the
monopoly of the services at high prices. It is evident that the privatization of these
companies was a decisive step in the reshaping of the Argentine economy, since the state
handed over the decisive levers of the economy to the hands of a handful of national and,
fundamentally imperialist bosses, closely associated with each other. In 1998, almost half
of the top 50 companies with highest returns were privatized companies, and the remittance
of returns by the multinationals to their headquarters abroad was worth 3 billion dollars
per year, an outflow that added up to the exacting burden of the foreign debt.
The "disruption of foreign
trade" has been the other side of the coin in this growing submission to imperialist
capital The opening of the economy to the imports and the lowering of customs tariffs, has
resulted in an increased entry of foreign products into the domestic market, particularly
those coming from the United States. This facilitated the strategy of the MNCs aimed at
the import of inputs or equipment, and the take over of a profitable market for the
products manufactured by their headquarters at home, via "inter-companies"
Renault is on top of the ranking of the
top 1000 companies that imported the most in 1998, bringing in from France autoparts worth
319 million dollars. Volkswagen follows with autoparts worth 207.9 millions from Germany,
and then comes Ford with 155.4 millions worth in motors from the USA.
Among the first top 45 importers in
Argentina, 35 are imperialist companies that imported from their headquarters abroad their
own products worth 2.94 billion dollars in 1998(13).
Against the claims made by the UIA (the
Argentine bosses federation) about the imports coming from Brazil, we see that just 7 of
the 45 top importers bring their products manufactured in their plants abroad. But out of
seven companies, 6 of them - General Motor, Fiat, Scania, Gillette, Movistar and Unilever
-, are also imperialist companies. Siderar, of the group Techint with branches across the
region, imports itself iron planks from their plant located on the other side of the
frontier, being the only national group of the Mercosur among them.
The whole MNCs, whereas they account for
just 38% of the exports, they also account for a massive 60% of the total exports of the
country. This means a chronic trade deficit that has to be financed with a growing
borrowing, increasing the external indebtedness. The fact that industry should depend for
its operation on this mechanism, far more than the already dependent "import
substitution model", increases the vulnerability of the Argentine economy.
d) The era of the "carnal
The hacks of the establishment went even
further this time than their predecessors who, in 1933 signed the Roca-Runciman Pact
declaring Argentina was the "most valuable jewel of the British crown". This
went hand in hand with a reinforced submission to imperialism, which has been brilliantly
defined by the foreign minister, Mr. Di Tella, like "carnal relationships with the
The direct interference of the US
ambassadors, the signature by Argentina of the Treaty of Nuclear Non-Proliferation and the
scrapping of the "Condor" missile project; the participation in the UN Peace
Missions in several countries; the status of extra-NATO ally of the United States; the
recent agreement on Malvinas which favors Britain; the recurrent monitoring missions of
the IMF that dictate policy-making, which later are made into laws, as the recent Act of
Fiscal Convertibility pushed through the Congress; or the candidates to Menem´s
succession paying obedience to Wall Street: all these facts prove that the ruling class
the pro-government version as much as the "opposition"-, have given up on
the essential attributes of the political sovereignty of the country.
In conclusion, taking these four elements
as a whole, and from a historical point of view, we can see that the political and
economical semi-colonial character of Argentine capitalism has been deepened, in a new
spiral of uneven and combined development. This combined development is also reflected in
the class structure. The old proletariat has disappeared, and a new one has come to life
in other branches and big companies, therefore laying the basis for setting out the
driving forces of proletarian revolution in Argentina.
3. The new class structure of the
a) The new establishment
A new establishment has come to life,
basing itself on the association between creditor banks, multinational companies and big
bosses at home who made a big business out of privatization mainly, but also with the
purchase of old national private companies, and by means of the take over by imperialist
companies and banks alike. Such was a process of concentration and centralization of
capital that drove to a tight intertwining of both local and foreign capital, to
unprecedented new heights in the history of the country.
In the last ten years the operations of
the imperialist companies in Argentina have massively increased: Ford, Fiat, Renault,
Volkswagen, CEI-Citicorp Holding, Soros (companies IRSA and Cresud), Exxel Group (that
controls 14 companies), Repsol, Shell, Amoco, Telefónica, Telecom, HSBC, Cargill,
Dreyfus, Unilever, are some of the foreign groups that lead all the sectors of production.
In the year 1998 alone, about 77
companies worth above 10 billion dollars passed on to foreign hands. By then, they
accounted for 53.2% of the total sales of the top one thousand companies of the country. 6
times more than in 1990! They account for more than 30% of the GNP. Out of the top selling
500 industrial companies, the imperialist ones went from a 36% share of the GNP in 1990,
up to 51% of it in 1995.
Foreign capital reigns supreme in the
financial and banking systems alike. Above 40% of the deposits of the whole banking system
is in the hands of foreign bankers. This take over by foreign capital in banking made a
quantum leap in the wake of the "tequila" financial crisis, and has just gained
momentum ever since: out of the 10 top banks in the country, 7 are foreign-owned: Banco
Río (owned by the Bank of Santander), Banco Francés (owned by the Bilbao Vizcaya Bank),
the City Bank, the Boston Bank, the Banco Hipotecario Nacional (National Mortgage Bank
owned by Soros), the Bansud (Banamex), and the Banca Nazionale del Lavoro. Only the Bank
of Galicia, owned by the Escasany family, is in the hands of national private capital; the
two remaining big banks are state-owned: the Banco Nación and the Banco de la Provincia
de Buenos Aires.
The big national trusts belong to a more
select elite within the establishment itself: Techint of the Rocca family, Pérez Companc,
Arcor group of the Pagani family, the group Clarín, Macri´s Socma, Escasany, Fortabat,
the Urquía Group, Zorroaquín, Roggio, Soldati, Pescarmona and some other names make a
short list of 30 groups that own 75 companies among the 1000 top selling ones. These
account for 22.3% of the total sales, 9% of the Argentine GNP and they hire 129.353
workers (14). Some of them have extended their operations abroad, spreading to the region,
like Techint, Pérez Companc and Bunge and Born, who have more positions in Brazil than at
home. Thus, they have accumulated assets abroad worth 8.6 billion dollars, for the year
However, the big "national
bourgeoisie" did not fade away, but rather it concentrated and got even richer, as
smaller partners of the MNCs, mainly bound to privatization schemes. These very national
groups stashed 57 billion dollars away into foreign banks between 1991 and 1997, more than
they did during the military dictatorship (15).
Those that benefited the most were the
joint ventures that muscled in privatization schemes. Out of the top 200, one-third joined
in privatization, and they account for two-thirds of the rise in the profits of the whole
sector. Almost all privatized companies are now in the hands of joint ventures made up of
major local groups and foreign companies, and they also are among top-earning
corporations. 35 of the 50 more profitable companies of the country are linked to
Foreign capital has also muscled in
landed property, Soros and Benetton having become the biggest landowners in the country.
But this came along a process of concentration of the land that was already on the run by
the end of last decade: in the province of Buenos Aires there are 1.294 proprietors with a
total surface of 8.776.071 of hectares. The top layer of this landowning bourgeoisie, is
made up of 53 proprietors who own 44.000 hectares average each one, in the richest
agricultural area in the country and one of the richest in the world!
The oligarchy of the concentrated
agrarian capital is made up of only 536 landowners that concentrate 5.2 million hectares
in their hands. That top landowning bourgeoisie owns land in several regions, allowing
them to go for a potentially wider productive diversification. This, along a highly
efficient capitalist exploitation of the soil, enables them to face the ups and downs of
the market both at home and abroad, and to sustain their rent accordingly. The Rural
Society of Argentina represents this high oligarchy, whereas the Agrarian Federation
rallies the small and medium farmers, and the Coninagro or the CRA both represent other
high layers of the agricultural bourgeoisie.
b) The other sectors of the
This process of massive centralization
and concentration of capital meant that thousands of companies were driven against the
wall, even during the boom, and it also widened the gap between the top layers of the
establishment and whole swathes of local entrepreneurs that lagged behind. These, the
so-called "independent national companies" (or "independent from the
trusts", like Trotsky said), are a sector of the bourgeoisie that is not part of the
30 top local groups. If we take the top 1000, there are 583 companies which account for
almost one-fourth of the total sales of the whole thousand, one-third of jobs and 16.4% of
total assets (17).
Between 1984 and 1994, the so-called
"PyMES" (small and medium-sized companies, a category including well off layers
of the petty-bourgeoisie with some employees) in the manufacturing industry, saw a 11%
drop in the number of plants. The most affected were those hiring between 6 and 10 workers
(-26,4%), and those hiring above 50 people (-25,6%) (18). The UIA has been acting as a
spokesperson of these bourgeois sectors, for example footwear, textile, auto parts makers,
who want to bring in higher tariffs for the imports.
The so-called "independent national
companies" in the industrial sector, the bourgeoisie of the "PyMES", the
regional bourgeoisie, the medium-sized farmers, are all economically, financially,
technically, culturally and politically dependent on the establishment. In spite of their
subordinate role, in an economy increasingly dominated by the MNCs and the big bosses,
they retain a strong social weight given their number, the fact that they have many
employees and their widespread connections with the middle classes. That is why they are a
mainstay for the dominance of big capital as "second and third line" exploiters.
Even if sometimes the pressure of big capital drives them to openly clash for some
concrete and partial aspects with the former, they bow down to the elite, full of
admiration and respect (they dream about being part of it some day), and they burn with
hate and fear of the workers and the poor alike. To put up with the pressure of the MNCs
and the big corporations, they appeal to the worst super-exploitation of the working
class. Little wonder then that they have been the main beneficiary of the wholesome
introduction of non-unionized jobs and casualised labor.
Against the beautifying of the Pymes
carried out by the reformists, populists and the union bureaucracy all alike, to justify
the class collaboration with these "national" entrepreneurs, the fact remains
that, due to their class interests and their fear of the masses, these layers cannot be
won over for waging a progressive national fight, let alone one aimed against private
c) The petty bourgeoisie and the
modern middle classes
The reshaping of the country by big
capital brought about a sharp polarization of the urban and rural middle classes, throwing
whole swathes of these into poverty, and turning others into proletarians. On the other
hand, it favored a minority of the top middle classes who saw their revenues increase
significantly. The official indexes tell us that the richest 20% of the population has
seen a 26% rise in their revenues in 1996 with regard to the year 1975. Meanwhile, 40% of
the poorest layers have seen a 30% drop in their revenues, whereas the remaining 40%
between them experienced a 12.6% loss in the same period. However, we do not get the whole
picture of the earnings according to the class structure by looking at those figures,
since the big bourgeoisie that gets the lion's share constitutes just 0,5% of the
economically active population: 65.888 individuals only. These data point to a regressive
and polarized distribution of the national rent.
This polarization divides even more the
heterogeneous conglomerate of layers and social sectors that are the middle classes (small
farmers and small milk producers or sugar producers; the traditional urban petty
bourgeoisie made of merchants and workshops with less than 10 workers; a "modern
middle class" of professionals and wage earning technicians).
The superior strata, well off, that
represent 15% of the economically active population's (about 2 millions), are consolidated
as high middle class increasing their earnings (19) and benefiting with the crumbs of the
The bad off layers of it, the poor petty
bourgeoisie that represents 22% of the economically active population (about three
millions), share the same life conditions as the workers.
The take-over of retail trade by the big
supermarket chains, alongside the widespread concentration of property, both in industry
and the countryside alike, and of the nations wealth in the hands of the big capital
with regressive taxation on top of that-, have all led the inferior strata of the
middle classes to destitution and ruin. Some of them have even fallen below the living
standards of average workers (e.g., many small farmers), or else have been turned into
proletarians, becoming wage earner or unemployed altogether. Meanwhile, the low and
poorest sector of the middle classes have swollen with sacked industrial workers, or else
those formerly employed in privatized utilities, now working as taxi drivers, small
shopkeepers and all kinds of self-employed. This sector coming from the proletariat is
just the legitimate son of a decomposing capitalism.
The small poor farms that are usually run
with a permanent family labor, without exploiting waged labor, only encompass 163.246
families in the whole country. These poor small farmers that have lost weight in the class
composition of the countryside, are swindled by the wholesale traders, the big mills, and
the banks alike, being periodically ruined en masse, as shown by the growing emigration to
the cities, and the participation of this sector in the road blockades of the recent round
of rural protests.
Also, a very low stratum of rural middle
class has come to life, the socalled "medieros", for example, Bolivian
immigrants that move around with their family groups. They are super-exploited, dwelling
in country houses in the "green belt" around Buenos Aires, and they represents
28% of the labor force in the rural area of the city of La Plata, in contrast with a 1.4%
of permanent agricultural wage earners (20). Although sometimes they are hired as
journeymen, they constitute a kind of land-less peasantry.
This tearing apart of the middle classes
is a source of social instability, and also has the potential for provoking abrupt turns
in the political arena. This has also nurtured the emergence of a progressive development,
such as the new university student movement that, back in May, fought back the educational
budget cuts. The student movement, although is not a specific sector of the middle
classes, but just a heterogeneous social layer made up of different strata -high, middle
and low- of the petty bourgeoisie (with a small proportion of workers in it), has just
burst onto the scene, reflecting the widespread discontent of sectors of the oppressed and
the exploited classes with the regime.
d) The new working class
As Marx and Engels stated in the
Communist Manifesto, "we regard the modern wage earning working class as
proletarians, who having being deprived of their own means of production, are forced to
sell their labor force in order to earn a living". If we make a definition along
these lines, the Argentinean working class constitutes 61% of the economically active
population, that means a total of 7.989.378 workers (21). It is the overwhelming majority
Against those claiming the working class
is no longer the subject of revolutionary changes, let us point out that when the Marxist
theory was first put into practice in the victorious proletarian 1917 revolution in
Russia, the working class back then was a tiny minority in that country, surrounded by a
sea of peasants. The urban working class is the majority today, both in the developed
countries and in most semi-colonies, Argentina among them. The mainstream bourgeois
newspaper "La Nacion", at odds with their own ideology, says that: "the
theories pointing out to a decline of the wage earning society in the last few
years would therefore not apply, at least to Argentina". But the revolutionary nature
of the proletariat does not flow from its number alone, but from the fact that is a
surplus value-producing class par excellence, which due to its role in the production and
distribution process is able to grind the whole economy and capitalist society to a halt.
She eventually should be able to put them to work under her control and government in a
superior regime. The transformations of the 1990s, have not diminished this role in the
least. The concentration of capital mentioned above, has nurtured big workers contingents
in new branches, although in different and relatively smaller production and distribution
units, and in diverse plants under the control of the same capitalist.
A handful of holdings concentrates most
of the workers in industry and services. We will only show data provided by the bosses
themselves, which obviously don't include casualised and "outsourced" workers,
both of which have grown significantly along the decade.
The top 1.000 companies alone -that churn
out 167,157 billion pesos, almost half of the GNP-, employ a total 654.461 workers. The
top 500 corporations have 591.332 workers (91% of the labor force in this sector). The top
100 have 421.515 employees (65%). Almost half of the workers in the top 1000 companies are
concentrated in the top 50 companies: 317.208 workers (22).
Techint corporation has 27.500 employees.
The Exxel Group, 35.552. Macri´s SOCMA group: 20.000 employees. The Coca Cola system,
18.000; the Arcor trust, 13.000. Telecom 12.630 and Telefónica 11.107 workers. Roggio
employs 11.000 workers, the Pérez Companc corporation 6.800, and the media giant Clarín
employs 11.400 workers.
Disco Supermarkets have in turn 17.000
workers, Coto 10.300 and Carrefour 8.500. The privatized YPF in hands of Repsol, in spite
of the mass sackings still has 10.000 workers.
Another source, the Ministry of Labor,
says that there are a total of 867 companies paying a risk-at-work insurance that have
above 500 employees, employing 1.764.793 people. The top 47 have above 5.000 workers each,
totaling 802.529 workers in all (23).
These new labor concentrations shaped by
the new establishment show the decisive strength of workers in all the vital centers of
the economy of our country, located around a handful of big cities and urban districts.
Thus, their potential for paralyzing production and disrupting distribution remains
intact. In turn, this heralds the perspective of putting them to work under a superior
social and political régime.
These numbers gives us a rough view of
the weight and concentration of the different sectors (since they do not take casualized
and outsourced workers into account, nor those working in sweatshops).
In line with the developments in the
whole international working class movement, the weight of workers in the services and
trade has increased altogether compared to the industrial proletariat. Likewise, they have
been concentrated in large utilities and retail chains.
Of the total 848.984 retail trade workers
in all the country, 200.000 are concentrated in large supermarkets. The top 7 supermarket
chains -Disco, Coto, Norte, Carrefour, Tia, Wal-Mart and Jumbo -, employ in turn 60.265
In turn, there are 501.929 workers in the
branches of transport and communications. Dozens of companies in these sectors have more
than a thousand workers. The two main mail companies have 22.342 workers in their staff -
15.568 in Correo Argentino of the group Macri and 6.774 in the Exxel Group-owned Oca. Bank
employees and the clerks working at other financial houses amount to 526.155 (24), with
the former increasingly concentrated in a handful of big banks.
Industrial workers still have a decisive
weight: there are 60.000 workers in the car industry. There are 20.700 auto workers the 9
terminals owned by the MNCs, who could grind production to a halt in the entire branch.
Ford has 4.700; Volkswagen, 3.701; Renault, 3.588; Fiat, 2.869; General Motor, 2.000;
Mercedes Benz, 1.687; Scania, 1.001; Toyota, 850. Auto-parts makers like Dana Argentina
have 2.750 workers, and Lucas Indiel 715. The tire companies, in turn, like Fate have a
1.500-strong staff, Firestone 1.088 and Pirelli 598.
There are more than 15.000 steel workers
in a few plants: Siderar has 5.974 workers. Acindar 4.061; Siderca 3.916; Aluar 1.889;
Aceros Zapla 1.206 and Decker 600.
The top 10 food companies have 40.640
workers in all, distributed as follows: Arcor 13.000 workers, Ledesma 4.300; Molinos
4.275; Canale 4.000; Danone 3.840; Bagley 2.680; Nestlé 2.600; Azucarera Concepción:
1.898 and San Sebastián 1.838 workers. Others like Ingenio Tabacal have 1.200 and
Refinerías de Maíz 1.198.
12.496 workers are employed in the top 5
dairy products companies: Sancor has 5.283 workers; Mastellone 4.500; Milkaut 1.280;
Williner 942 and Molfino 491. In mills and oil-making companies, Cargill has 2.230, Nidera
1.039, La Plata Cereal 582 and Aceitera Gral. Deheza 350.
In the meat packing industry, workers are
distributed as follows: Cepa 1.416, Quickfood 1.096, Rafaela Foods 960 and Frigorífico
San Carlos 520 workers.
In the beverage industry there are more
than 25.000 workers in the main companies. The Coca Cola corporation alone has 18.000
workers, the Cervecería (beer) Quilmes 2.413, Peñaflor 1.600 and Resero 1.000. The two
main tobacco companies are Nobleza Picardo, with 2.000 workers and Massalin Particulares
In glass production and construction
materials, Loma Negra has 3.013 workers, Corcemar of the group Minetti 1.500, Ferrum
In the textile branch, Alpargatas has
6.500 employees, Gatic 4.900, Grafa 1.060.
In the pharmaceutical, chemical and
petrochemical branches we find the following companies: Bayer with a 1.467-strong staff,
Dupont 850, Atanor 811, Basf Argentina, 807. In the medicine-making sector Bagó has the
lead, with 964 workers, and Grupo Sidus 889. In cleaning products and cosmetics, we find
Unilever with 3.342 workers and Cosmetics Avon with a 1.400-strong staff.
All in all, the industrial proletariat,
in spite of being well below its peak -1.525.257 workers back in 1974-, stood at 1.007.909
workers back in 1994. It still accounts for the relatively high percentage of 12.6% of the
total 8 million wage earners. The number of companies that have between 500 and 1.000
workers shows that the industrial working class remains the most concentrated social
layer, in spite of the relative increased weight gained by the services and retail trade
To this we should add up (because the
statistics do not consider them a part of the industrial proletariat), around 345.000
construction workers, according to the figures furnished by the UOCRA construction
workers union- and the Builders Federation.
Within the urban working class we should
include 530.009 teachers in the whole coutry. Social services and health sector workers
stand at 397. 865.
To them we should add the hundreds of
thousands of workers in the provincial public administration, which remains the biggest
employer in the interior of the country.
On the other hand, both the enormous
concentration of the land in the last two decades and the changes in the forms of
production in the countryside, have brought about an increased capitalization and, an
ensuing proletarianisation of the social relationships there: there are 344.172
agricultural workers, almost half of them in the Pampas 25.
Far from what many pundits (and also the
CTA the "alternative" union federation- in its meetings) claim, it is not
true that the proletariat has melted away into the exploited in general, or else that
"production units have no longer a major role". On the contrary, wage earners
are not only the most massive social class, but also hold the levers in key areas of the
economy in the urban centers.
Having said this, the fact remains that
the concentration and centralization of capital that has reshaped the proletariat, has
meant at the same time the violent expropriation of all type of conquests this had
achieved in the past with its struggle, causing an enormous deterioration of both working
conditions and living standards, and also a quantum leap in unemployment and precarious
labor. Overall, the 1990s meant a quantum leap in the surplus value from the working class
movement, both directly or indirectly.
The labor class has bore the brunt of the
regressive distribution of incomes. Resorting to mass unemployment as a lever against the
labor movement, the bourgeoisie has achieved an important reduction of the wages, forcing
workers to put up with the lowest wages ever since the 1940s, around half of the average
wage back in 1974: the same level as under Videla`s dictatorship!
Half of the workers in the country earn a
maximum wage of $550 monthly, i.e., less than half of the cost of the shopping basket.
Sweatshop workers get a pay between 30 and 45% below this. The industrial wages went down
9% during the convertibility. As a result of this, whereas before the 1976 coup wage
earners got 48% of the total national income, back in 1998 their share fell to less than
20% of it.
Unemployment has been a key weapon in the
hands of the big bosses, standing around 18% in 1995, and going up again to 15% in 1999,
one of the highest in Latin America and four times above the historical levels. There are
around 2 million unemployed, to which we should add 2 million underemployed, and around 4
million sweatshop-style workers. The rate of precarious labor stands at 50.7% in the City
of Buenos Aires and its suburbs, the Greater Buenos Aires (26). In Argentina as a whole,
two out of three workers don't have a full-time job.
Alongside a swollen the industrial
reserve army and structural unemployment, there is drive to replace adult workers for
young ones and women alike in all the companies. At the same time, these two sectors are
the most affected by unemployment. Underemployment among the youths stands at 55.3%. Along
with the unemployment of the working youth, this shows that capitalism can only
incorporate smaller portions each time of the new generations of workers to the labor
In conclusion, while capital has
concentrated a powerful working class in big companies and holdings, it has also wiped out
major conquests, "outsourcing" a growing percentage of the proletariat, and even
throwing millions out of production and into structural unemployment. The 2.123.170
unemployed workers looking for a job -the only ones incorporated into statistical data as
economically active population - and the 5.866.208 wage earners, more than one-third of
them working in precarious jobs, all highlight the sea change in the internal composition
of the working class and the classes structure of the country altogether (27). In the
short term, this along the nefarious action of the bureaucratic leaderships that
joined in the bourgeois offensive, dividing rank and file workers-, has prevented the new
working class movement from going over to the offensive, also holding back the fighting
disposition of the most concentrated working class sectors.
1. León Trotsky, Stalin, "The great
organizer of defeats", Yunque Editorial, Bs. As. 1974.
2. León Trotsky, "Imperialism and
national revolution", published in the newspaper Crítica of Buenos Aires,
3. León Trotsky dwells on this concept
in several articles published in "Latin American Writings", CEIP León Trotsky,
Bs. As. 1.999, p. 304.
4. "The Chinese Revolution",
text of Trotsky that appeared in 1945, in the Fourth International magazine.
5. See his work "Industry,
Industrial Bourgeoisie and National Liberation"
6. See "The betrayed
revolution", León Trotsky.
7. Giovanni Stumpo et al. Transnational
companies, industrial restructuring and economic policy in Latin America, CEPAL, 1998.
8. Data from the Center of Studies for
Production, of the Secretary of Industry, Trade and Mining.
9. Hugo Nochteff, The Argentinean economy
towards the end of the century: present fragmentation and absent development, (1998).
10. Alfredo Iñiguez. "Dimensions of
the employment in the Argentina", in Employment and Globalization. National
University of Quilmes. 1997.
11. Jorge Katz, "Structural reform
and technological behavior
", February of 1.999.
12. The overvaluated peso that held down
the exports and favored the imports, has affected the industrial sectors of the
bourgeoisie, favoring the commercial bourgeoisie and of the services, including the owners
of the privatized companies. On the other hand, the monetary stabilization, when impeding
the transfer of cost to rise the sale price, like it was traditional in Argentina, at the
time that determined the crash of the obsolete or less profitable companies, it forced the
industrial bourgeoisie to look for an outcome lowering the labor costs based on the
expulsion of workers and on an unprecedented increase of the work rhythms. In the 1980s
the devaluation of the Peso, with its inflationary consequences, and in the 1990s the
monetary stability, have demonstrated to be, as it is pointed out in the Transitional
Program of IV International, two ends of the same rope with which bourgeoisie chokes the
13. Data of magazine Market, 'Ranking of
companies 1998', June of 1999
14. "The Latin American
15. E. Basualdo, Página 12, August 1999.
16. Daniel Azpiazu, Privatization and
regulation in the Argentine Economy. FLACSO. April of 1999.
17. Data of ' The Latin-American
18. Martha Manseo, "The new bloc of
power and the new dominance model (1976-1996)", in The Argentinean Economy at the end
of century (several authors), Buenos Aires, 1998.
19. National Census of 1991.
20. Roberto Benencia, 'Labor
Transformations in the Argentine farmland', in Employment and Globalization, 1997.
21. Population Census of 1991.
22. Data of Revista Mercado, July of
23. MTSS, Report of Joint, December of
24. Data of the Economic National Census
of the INDEC 1994.
25. This means a growth of 22% among the
years 1969 and 1988, according to the data of the National Census of 1988.
26. The rate of labor precariousness
indicates the relationship between the sum of the unemployed workers and the ones in
part-time employment, and the total EconomicallyActive Population.
27. These global data belong to the last
Census of the INDEC of May 1998. These have probably changed as a result of the recession
of the last fifteen months in the country, but they illustrate the ratio of employed
workers as to the unemployed.