November 1, 2014
Striking the wrong note
The general strike announced for April 10 by the anti-government trade union umbrellas headed by Hugo Moyano and Luis Barrionuevo seems to be generally greeted with fatalistic acceptance as yet another bump on this year’s rocky road but more people should be asking by what right Moyano & Co. are threatening to bring the country to a grinding halt. Strikes are supposed to be an extreme measure after all attempts at a negotiated agreement have failed (as seems to be the case now with the teachers although they were shunning work even before any talks had started) yet collective bargaining has not even commenced for most of the unions going on strike, including those of Moyano and Barrionuevo. Even though Moyano has his usual litany of socio-economic grievances — slumping wage purchasing-power due to inflation, excessively low income tax floors, billions allegedly owed to the union-run social welfare funds, an urgent pension increase and even a crime wave which by no means spares the working-class — it thus looks very much like a political strike. As for which party, Moyano and his offspring notoriously lean towards Sergio Massa’s Renewal Front (even if allied with the dissident Peronist Francisco de Narváez in last October’s elections) and Barrionuevo very much more so — suspicions that Massa is instigating the strike may or may not be true but the Renewal Front is not saying anything to disown or repudiate the stoppage.
Unlike most previous protests with Plaza de Mayo rallies etc., this strike is purely dedicated to imposing total inactivity on the country regardless of how low the percentage of support might be — no speeches to justify this move. Given the support of the transport workers and Moyano’s own teamsters, the stranglehold on both passenger and freight traffic should guarantee success in those terms. But such success would in no way reflect the dire image of both Moyano and Barrionuevo in public opinion polls — the least credible faces of a trade unionism in deep disrepute. Before the labour mavericks make the full clout of their negative power felt, public opinion should find a way of showing them how weak they otherwise are.
A general strike backed by only two or three of the five main labour splinters and counter to public opinion is something of an oxymoron. It is clear enough who is being attacked with this major inconvenience to society as a whole — the strikers need to explain what is being defended. The right to strike is constitutionally enshrined but not before all channels have been exhausted and not against the rights of everybody else.