October 23, 2014
The impact of today’s general strike by anti-government trade union groupings is difficult to assess in advance (especially since the failure to recruit the bus-drivers for this stoppage will deny it the guarantee of success enjoyed by its April 10 predecessor) although various other conclusions can be drawn ahead of the event. Any strike against a Peronist government by even a fragment of organized labour is already a freak occurrence in Argentine history, to which should be added the growing estrangement of the far left with a government currently battling vulture funds with frequently anti-imperialistic overtones — it remains to be seen if the traffic havoc of their pickets will compensate for continued bus transport in ensuring the strike’s success.
Bouyed by the guaranteed impact of its stranglehold on transport, the April 10 general strike carried negative achievement to new heights by making its ends nothing more than its means — i.e. bringing the country to a halt. Lacking this advantage, today’s strike will need to seek a new basis for legitimacy because its trade union support is no more unanimous now than it was then — basically the CGT splinters responding to teamster Hugo Moyano and Luis Barrionuevo with the pro-government CGT and CTA groupings of Antonio Caló and Hugo Yasky (including most industrial unions) shunning their move.After four months of official indifference to all the grievances deployed to justify the April strike (ranging from more union-related demands like raising the income tax floor for pay slips or alleged healthcare fund arrears to more general complaints concerning inflation, unemployment and even crime), it is less easy to argue that a strike should always be the final instance in any conflict, not the first. The opposition line is generally to sympathize with the grievances but not the strike method.
Yet a strike is in some circumstances an exercise in futility. Thus if one of the main grievances is the steady real wage erosion of this year, this stoppage will only accelerate it because if the economy is already falling into stagflation as a result of slowdown accompanied by rising prices, one day’s lost production will only worsen the imbalance between supply and demand. Strikes only benefit union leaders by demonstrating their clout rather than the ordinary worker and who would want to favour the likes of Moyano and Barrionuevo (who would not need to be in the pay of the vulture funds, as initially suggested by Cabinet Chief Jorge Capitanich, because their traditional financing techniques are hardly more reputable)? Few enough people want this strike and nobody wins.