October 20, 2014
How general a strike?
Today’s general strike against a democratic government promises to carry negative achievement to new heights because its ends are nothing more than its means — bringing the country to a halt via a stranglehold on transport. Success in this negative aim seems assured but nothing else. Not even the world of organized labour is unanimously behind this stoppage with just the CGT splinters responding to Hugo Moyano and Luis Barrionuevo and grouping only a minority of trade unions fully behind the strike while the CTA unions under Pablo Micheli seek to back it on their own terms (while some picket groups threaten to make their own contribution to preventing people from going to work) — both the CGT and CTA groupings under Antonio Caló and Hugo Yasky repudiate this initiative. As for the political spectrum, government supporters are obviously critical but it would also be difficult to find opposition voices enthusing over the schemes of Moyano and Barrionuevo (long the most disreputable faces in the generally shady world of Argentine trade unionism). Thus Renewal Front leader Sergio Massa (whose hodge-podge support extends to both Barrionuevo and a son of Moyano and who has been accused by some government supporters of instigating the stoppage, partly for that reason) said: “A strike should always be the final instance in a conflict, not the first” — even if he took his time saying so.
Even if Moyano has tossed various extraneous grievances into his package (notably crime), this strike is fundamentally about wages like most industrial action and as such it is an exercise in futility. Far from halting the steady real wage erosion of the last few months, this strike will only advance it. If workers are not winning the wage-price race, the reasons are to be found (economic analysts almost unanimously agree) in a scenario of accelerating inflation and slow growth slipping into stagflation — one day’s lost production only worsens an economy already in slowdown, further reducing the output to satisfy wage claims and balance price demand. On the economic front, this strike can only change things for the worse, never for the better.
Moyano and Barrionuevo will inevitably cry victory at the end of today but a stoppage based on halting transport has no more right to claim success (or popular support) than the proverbial little boy who picked up his ball during a playground match and ran home because things were not going his way. In a word, few enough people want today’s strike and absolutely nobody wins.