The expectation for his words had been growing. It was no longer just a matter of waiting for his eventual definitions of candidacies to give a signal towards a political space still disorderly, but, when it was his turn to speak, the scenario would already be another and much more complex. That Thursday the country felt, once again, on the brink of the abyss. The front pages of the newspapers, the television graphs, the radios, spoke of only one thing: the exchange rate run thousandththe price of the blue dollar and inflation.
In that context, the task would be doubly difficult. Cristina Kirchner, at the Teatro Argentino de La Plata, should face the challenge of trying to offer convincing responses to a deep crisis and, simultaneously, seek to give morale -before the electoral dispute- to a base of hers disappointed by the failure of these almost four years of the Government of the Front of All.
An attentive reader of the theoretical developments of Ernesto Laclau and Chantal Mouffe, the vice-president appealed again -to try to get out of that trap- to the dichotomization of the political field, seeking to establish an antagonism that splits the public debate in two, between a they that would include all the current right-wing opposition aligned with the policies of the 90s and a us for which she called to discuss a program with a preponderant role of the State directing the capitalist market, seen by her as “the most efficient way of producing goods and services.” She is not the only one who poses her electoral politics today in terms of dichotomization and antagonism: wanting to break the rift that has predominated to a large extent in Argentine politics in recent years, Javier Milei seeks to divide the discussion between him and “the caste ”.
From the point of view of small electoral politics, the novelty of the vice president’s speech -as already analyzed in this newspaper- was due to the intention of bringing the “libertarian” candidate into the ring of polarization, built as the main enemy of the speech. This movement seeks to delimit its own electoral base on which the referent of Freedom Advances would be advancing at least in part, and in turn dividing Peronism’s electoral competitors, trying to ensure that a clear winner does not emerge from the PASO, so that hope remains open towards the October elections and a probable runoff, for which a candidate far-right would be a perfect enemy. From there to that it turns out well, is another matter.
On another level, however, the dichotomization of the political space thus posed acts as a factor to move the public debate towards the naturalization and acceptance of the current state of affairs, by way of carrying out a campaign of fear in the face of something worse that may come. If, on the one hand, the growth of Javier Milei is proportional to the magnitude and duration of an economic crisis and of political representation that has been extending and deepening for years -going through governments of different political persuasions-, on the other hand, this growth is used politically by the vice president. To the radical -and demagogic- solutions proposed by the Milei, such as dollarization, a campaign of the malmenor to avoid catastrophe.
In this discursive operation, the rejection of the policies of the 90s gained more relevance than ever in Cristina Kirchner’s address. Equating Milei (not without reason) with Domingo Cavallo, dollarization with Convertibility, and recalling the roles and positions of candidates such as Horacio Rodríguez Larreta and Patricia Bullrich in those years, the vice president postulated that now “we are all discussing what failed 20 years ago. The bomb exploded in the face of 40 million Argentines.
In that “them and us” of the 90s, however, the construction of a historical account cut to size operates. We are not referring -only- to the verified but swept support of Néstor and Cristina Kirchner for the Menemism of the first years -without going any further, a key man in his space like Oscar Parrilli was the informant member of the privatization project of YPF- but also to differential treatment that the current Minister of Economy and possible candidate, Sergio Massa, or “Sergio” simply, receives before that accusatory court, as he is now friendly called in the vice president’s speeches. If there are Menemistas in our space, let it not be noticed. The trajectory of the leader of Tigre, who in those years went from Alvaro Alsogaray’s Ucedé to Menemism (to later go through other spaces in the following two decades), is not very different from that of other references of the Frente de Todos such as Alberto Fernández, Daniel Scioli and a very long list. There are plenty of Menemists.
Of course, this is not a problem of the past. The appeal to the collective memory of the catastrophe that ended in 2001 and its association with the different variants of the current right-wing opposition is the way to seek that dichotomous division of the political space in which it would only be possible to align with Peronism to prevent the return of those evils. Within this framework, in the absence of reasons to be enthusiastic about a Frente de Todos that has already failed -in its version albertista or in your version massistaalways with the factual support of Cristina- defeating the right acts as an empty signifier to try to close ranks as broadly as possible.
However, this 2023 version of the malmenor increasingly implies a turn to the right. If ever those mechanisms operated as illusion, the truth is that now they are sold as a certain defense of the barely sweetened official status quo, which consists of postulating themselves as the best administrators of the IMF regime, but without ever questioning its essential core, which is the legitimization of the illegitimate and illegal mechanism of looting and dependency, nor the control of capital (largely foreign) over all the strategic levers of the economy. Cristina Kirchner’s postulate regarding a capitalist economy with more weight in the direction of it by the State as a way progressive looks like an increasingly empty and illusory orientation after decades of neoliberalism and especially after the leaps in subservience to the IMF in recent years. The ongoing massist adjustment that Cristina supports is even a permanent shrinking of the State that contradicts those postulates. Even more: the economy is run less and less sovereignly and every three months you have to go to the United States to take an exam.
In the run-up to the national electoral contest -also simultaneously with many early elections in the provinces-, and in a context of an acute crisis of Central Bank reserves that always has the country on the verge of a nervous breakdown, the debate on how confronting the right cannot be based -once again- on the repeated tragedy of evil.
From the Alliance of Fernando de la Rúa and Chacho Álvarez to overcome Menemism, or the Frente de Todos to bury macrismo, historical experience shows -more than enough- that these possible logics have not only led to 40 years after the end of the dictatorship, the decadence, national backwardness and dependency have deepened, but also that the right is advancing on the political level, although -as we always insist- they have not yet conquered relations of forces to apply their programs. For this progress, no less is the contribution of the Peronist union leaders who, with their complicit passivity, are the best friends of these directions: the long years that we have spent adjusting and degrading living conditions would be unthinkable without them. Again: when was the last general strike?
What it is about is not to repeat history as a farce -believing to opt for a little more or less bad face before the IMF to always end up worse than before-, but to build an alternative for the left, anti-capitalist and based on the class struggle. Because what is -and what is to come- hand in hand with the IMF and a capitalism in crisis, is nothing but barbarism.