December 21, 2014
How general a strike?
August 28 may well go down in local history as the day Boca Juniors fired their most successful coach Carlos Bianchi rather than the date of the second and less effective general strike of 2014 (and the third against Cristina Fernández de Kirchner’s Peronist presidency). If indeed it deserves to be called general — either in this metropolis or throughout the country (among major provinces, Mendoza and Tucumán were one story while the stoppage went almost unnoticed in Córdoba and Santa Fe with equally mixed results elsewhere). While strike leader Hugo Moyano spoke of 80-85 percent adherence, Cabinet Chief Jorge Capitanich and the Labour Ministry insisted that three-quarters of the country worked on Thursday so that they cannot all be right. But rather than look for some more objective statistical analysis (which does exist and points to around three workers out of every eight giving themselves a holiday), the success of the strike is perhaps best measured by Moyano’s future plans. The teamster apparently leans towards making his follow-up move a Plaza de Mayo rally next month, thus strongly suggesting that he has drawn at least two conclusions from Thursday’s stoppage — that he has the numbers to fill the Plaza but not to bring the country to a halt and that this form of protest would free him from dependence on the leftist pickets who accounted for so much of whatever success Thursday’s strike had.
One obvious difference between Thursday and the April 10 general strike was the far greater availability of public transport with the buses and most of the subway system running. Yet a visibly relieved Moyano was not off target when he spoke of mostly empty buses proving that transport was not the “determining factor” it was assumed to be. But while the occupancy was more typical of a weekend than a weekday, the availability of public transport deprived workers of the ideal excuse for absenteeism — if some still gave themselves the day off anyway, many went to work because keeping their jobs was more important to them than any of the grievances aired by Moyano, even the erosion of real wages this year.
Thursday’s strike was futile and inconclusive but for that very reason it is more likely to mark the beginning than end of any process as the last year of a lame-duck presidency draws closer with growing risks of socio-economic turbulence — a situation which can bring no comfort to either CFK or Moyano because (as Thursday’s protagonism of leftist pickets showed), a snowballing protest movement will not necessarily retain the leadership of established trade unionists.