What I learned in Argentina

What I really learned in Argentina was that “resistance” and mass organization do not necessarily point toward the overcoming of the capitalist mode of production in any way. Back in the U.S., where the Left is so weak, any sign of movement from the working class is both immensely celebrated and also intensely scrutinized for signs of revolutionary subjectivity (not explicitly visible, of course, but nonetheless expressing itself unconsciously through action, we are told).

The movement of worker cooperatives and solidarity networks in Argentina have become world famous in the past decade since their emergence in the midst of the 2001 economic crisis. I came to Argentina excited to learn more about them, since I had heard so much about them and their revolutionary example and potential. I learned, while I was there, that they express nothing of the sort, that they rather express everything that is backward about the process of capital accumulation in Argentina. Capital does not accumulate by way of its historic purpose: revolutionizing the means of production in order to produce relative surplus value by increasing labor productivity. Rather, industrial capital in Argentina accumulates by way of small national and fragmented international capitals producing for the domestic market using obsolete technology and making up for their inability to valorize at the general rate of profit by appropriating ground-rent from the primary sector.

The cooperatives are all tiny capitals which use extremely old technology and basically engage in hyper self-exploitation, only surviving through subsidies from the national state, which are quickly disappearing under the Right wing government of Macri who expresses the contraction in ground-rent that fueled the social spending of “Kirchnerismo”. These cooperatives and other political action of the working class represent its resistance to the absolute degradation brought about by the international fragmentation of the working class in the past decades.

Mass movements and workers’ activity are certainly necessary, but do not in themselves point to an anti-capitalist tendency in any way. We need to think about this when we uncritically celebrate movements in other countries and wish that if only we had something similar here. It is not enough for hundreds of thousands of people to be in the streets, even if they are demanding “out with them all!” Nothing can replace the revolutionary political action of the international working class which puts forth a positive program for the abolition of nothing less than capital and the wage system itself.

 

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