October 26, 2014
Against the left is not always right
Countless readers will no doubt have had more than one day in their lives ruined by pickets and legislation to prevent the indisputable rights of social protest being at the expense of other fundamental rights is perfectly in order but such laws deserve a better champion than Security Secretary Sergio Berni. A Peronist government seems to be engaging in curious role reversal when it makes an Army lieutenant-colonel on leave its main mouthpiece for controlling social protest. This career choice should not deny his current performance the benefit of the doubt (after all, the founder of Peronism was an Army officer of similar rank) but Berni cannot voice his objections to the traffic nuisance of pickets without voicing a vehemently gratuitous McCarthyism, singling out the Marxism (especially Trotskyism) often underlying these social protests.
No analysis of this issue can be politically innocent. Trotskyist activists obviously do not proceed on the basis of pure social idealism but have a very concrete political agenda — objectives which only seem encouraged by the trends of the last couple of years which seem to serve their cause according to a “the worse, the better” logic. If the traditional Peronist trade union bosses make their priorities upping the income tax floor (currently reached by little more than 10 percent of the workforce) and collecting alleged arrears for their health care schemes whose financing is so suspect, it should be no wonder that Trotskyist shop stewards are often undercutting them at the workplace (even if their candidates also made a grievance of the income tax floor in last year’s midterm elections and reaped electoral dividends as a result) — especially when a third of all workers are informally employed with no social benefits, sometimes earning less than the minimum wage. By the same token, Berni is not obliged to be politically blind and has every right to do what he can politically to counter this powerful challenge to the Peronist trade union base. But McCarthyist rhetoric coming from the official of an administration standing up to the “vulture funds” headed by major Tea Party donor Paul Singer is simply too much.
Ultimately, pickets are a means towards the end of defending social rights and can only be considered wrong when they start interfering with other rights — why not centre this debate on rights and not Berni’s chest-thumping defence of brutal police repression while straying into McCarthyism?