On the Call for a Constituent Assembly in Argentina
30 March 2002
The international workers movement has a vital interest in the dramatic developments in Argentina. In discussing the question of the constituent assembly with Workers Power comrades at your public meeting in London on 21 March, it was suggested that I should write to you for clarification.
Since the beginning of Argentinas current political crisis in December, Workers Power has intermittently raised calls for the convocation of some sort of constituent assembly, while simultaneously advocating the creation of workers' councils, a revolutionary party and a workers' government. Revolutionaries raise the slogan of a constituent assembly in situations where the masses of working people have illusions in bourgeois electoralism typically after a period of right-wing dictatorship. But Argentina has had a functioning bourgeois-democratic regime for almost 20 years, and there is widespread anger at the entire spectrum of the capitalist political establishment. In this case, campaigning for a constituent assembly can only create, rather than undercut, popular illusions.
It is entirely possible that at some point the reformists, trade union bureaucrats or Peronists may themselves propose a constituent assembly, or some other parliamentary gimmick, in order to contain the struggle of the masses within the framework of capitalist democracy. In that case it would be necessary for revolutionaries to seek to expose the reactionary content of such demands and counterpose the necessity of organs of proletarian dual power.
But in a statement dated 21 December 2001, the International Secretariat of the LRCI took a different approach, and proposed that if the bourgeoisie sought to escape its difficulties with new elections:
revolutionaries must argue for the election of recallable deputies to a sovereign constituent assembly. In such elections it would be vital for workers delegates, delegates of the urban and rural poor, to stand to make sure that it was not dominated by the corrupt politicians of the rival oligarchies.
This position was tacitly reversed in an LRCI statement of 19 January entitled The Struggle Against Duhalde Continues which sharply criticised all talk of participation in any sort of multi-class formation:
The slogan for workers assemblies and committees (co-ordinations) [is a] crucial one in the current situation. It has to be advanced in all partial, local, regional and national struggles occurring [in] the next period. Given the current situation the slogan of popular assemblies or similar multi-class bodies actually runs the danger of leaving the workers open to other class forces and populist demagogues.
The confusion of the centrists is represented in their confusion of mass meetings with soviet-type bodies, composed of delegates: it is represented in using the constituent assemblies as the basis for a workers government....
All that was missing was an explanation of your earlier confusion over the use of this demand. But then, in the February issue of Workers Power, the constituent assembly demand reappeared in the middle of a lengthy statement by the LRCIs International Secretariat (From rebellion to revolution, 28 January). This time it was given a more leftish spin as a sovereign, revolutionary, constituent assembly, but it was still posed as a means of responding to the continuing mass mobilisations in which the middle classes play a prominent role whilst the organised working class have not entered the political scene in an organised fashion. Workers Powers revolutionary constituent assembly is clearly projected as a bourgeois formation:
At the same time, the statement suggests: To make such an assembly respond to the will of the people it would need intervention and control by workers organisations and democratic popular bodies . The idea of calling for a bourgeois parliamentary assembly under workers control is a classic example of what Trotsky called crystallised confusion.
The key task of Trotskyists in Argentina today is to struggle to forge a revolutionary leadership based on a programme of proletarian political independence from all wings of the bourgeoisie. The influence of Peronism (bourgeois nationalist populism) within the Argentine workers movement cannot be combated by attempts to project demands for a constituent assembly as the road to a workers government. This can only create confusion and help set the stage for defeat.
Your infatuation with the constituent assembly demand appears to be linked to your pursuit of the Partido de los Trabajadores por el Socialismo (PTS). It seems that adaptation to the PTS has produced political confusion around more than just the constituent assembly question. On page five of the February issue of Workers Power, in the midst of an interview with a PTS member, there is a box advocating the creation of a revolutionary workers party with real influence in Argentina. It is suggested that to realise this goal, the Partido Obrero, the Movimiento Al Socialismo (MAS) and to some extent the Movimiento Socialista de los Trabajadores (MST) should combine forces to launch a new political party with a revolutionary programme according to the actual situation. In other words, a mutually-amnestying swamp.
On page eight in the same issue, a statement by the LRCIs International Secretariat praises the PTS for put[ting] forward the fundamental elements of a revolutionary strategy and calling on all militant working class and popular forces to come together to create a mass revolutionary workers party. Yet to cover its left flank, the LRCIs IS also warns against a regroupment of those who call themselves revolutionaries or Trotskyists as something that could:
be much worse because it will lead the revolutionaries straight into the opportunist swamp. Such a fusion can only be realised on less than [a] revolutionary programme. This would not strengthen the revolutionary forces but fatally weaken them. It would prove a rotten block, [sic] breaking down at the first serious challenge. It would blunt the edge of revolutionary criticism precisely when it was most needed.
It strikes me that the PTS is not the only one willing to blunt the edge of revolutionary criticism in pursuit of a rotten bloc.
Published: 8 April 2002