What about Politics in Time of Crisis?

On the Illegitimacy of Debt

In this article I would like to refer, through a couple of notes, (1) to the debt contracted by Mauricio Macri and his acolytes with private banks and the International Monetary Fund, and (2) to the legitimisation that, in recent days, the government of the Argentine Nation headed by President Alberto Fernández, accompanied by both Houses of Congress, made of these spurious loans by authorising the refinancing agreement with the international organisation.

As has already been repeatedly explained and is public knowledge, without any of those involved attempting in any way to refute this public denunciation, the indebtedness contracted by the government of Mauricio Macri was illegitimate in two ways.

On the one hand, in order to achieve it, local legislation was not complied with, with the manifest complicity of some of those who today occupy the highest governmental positions in the ruling party.

On the other hand, and what is even more important for our argument, the regulations of the IMF itself were also breached, which facilitated the loan for political and geopolitical motivations – the re-election of a neoliberal hawk in the region – allowing, in addition, the deliberate and dizzying flight of foreign currency, in order to satisfy the interests of speculators, and lay the foundations for structural reforms that favour and will favour foreign interests in the country.

“No Return to the Past”

In recent days, we have heard over and over again from government officials and journalists aligned to the official narrative that the agreement with the IMF was the only alternative, the only play in town. It has also been argued with increasing impatience from some that the agreement to be signed is the best possible deal. This has been followed by a suspicious and insistent enumeration of the usual bad omens if the extravagant views of the usual radicalised ultra-Kirchnerism, the delusional left and the extreme right are anything to go by.

Obviously, the arguments put forward by the Kirchnerist opponents and the left deserve serious consideration, and the attempt to associate them with those offered by the extreme right or the so-called “libertarian front” is just a ploy in bad faith.

Those who supported Alberto Fernández’s decision enumerate the virtues of the agreement, underlining the possibility of achieving “stability to start growing”, and reject outright any “counterfactual” (so they call it) approach to the way in which the whole negotiation process was carried out. The dismissal of the historical trial, in many ways, echoes the opposition’s demand “not to go back to the past”.

In this case, the ruling party tells us, we are not even allowed to look back at the immediate past to study why the best we could get is, in many ways, worse than what we received from Macri’s government, despite the repeated expressions of triumph articulated by Minister Guzmán, the president himself and the whole cast that accompanies, in many cases with evident discomfort, the resounding failure of the negotiation, due to a mixture of negligence, bad faith, and ideological perversion of the presidential team.

Alberto’s Solution: Exploitation and Dispossession

Now, the question at hand is simple to explain. What opponents of the agreement have been asking the executive in recent weeks, especially when the details of the agreement were still being kept secret, is how the debt to the international b organisation is to be repaid.

The question is pertinent, and has ethical and political implications that cannot be ignored. First of all, let us agree that it has become abundantly clear that neither the IMF, nor the large economic groups in Argentina, nor the foreign corporations operating in the country are willing, despite being the main beneficiaries of the swindle perpetrated, to pay the price. This simplifies the picture enormously, because if this is not the case, the debt can only be paid off in two ways.

The first way is adjustment, which will primarily affect the workers and the general public, from where the surplus value will be extracted, which will go into the coffers of the IMF. That is, through the concerted exploitation of the population, which the Argentine state, administered in this case by a Peronist front, will ensure through the concerted robbery of the workers and the general public to meet the demands of the IMF, leaving the net profit of those who committed the crime intact.

The other way is the systematic dispossession of the country’s resources. We know that we are at a global crossroads of unbridled competition from the great powers and powerful corporations for natural resources and markets. Argentina is a desired prey. Its food, mining, energy and other resources are coveted by international speculators and global powers.

In this context it is worth asking why the government of Alberto Fernández surrendered without protest to the demands of its creditors without using any of its rights to exercise a claim for justice that would have spared the Argentine people the defencelessness and opprobrium, the misery and indignity of exploitation, and the degrading experience of seeing their sovereignty trampled underfoot.

A Class Alliance Against the Classless?

Everything indicates that the political-bureaucratic “caste” of our representative democratic system, supported by the middle and wealthy classes of the country, have handed over the popular classes as a bargaining chip in order to save themselves. Or would it perhaps be better to call the members of the class of the betrayed “the class of the classless”, because they no longer belong to that totality we call “Argentina” in which only the subsets of “the classes that count” count, in which “those who do not count” have no place?

It is in this framework that we must interpret that, for those who defend “stability” as a virtue in itself (and consider it “the condition of possibility” for an indeterminate future of growth), extreme poverty, widespread destitution, exclusion, social violence introjected or expressed in crime, the curtailment of a future horizon for the generations to come (lost generations) are not real “urgencies”.

It is as if they believe that today’s hunger can wait until tomorrow to be satiated. As if the lives cut short in the present will rise from the dead when the programme designed with the IMF finally bears fruit.

The current malnutrition, and the deepening of the records of inequality and exclusion, are not reversed with time, they become chronic in bodies and souls, they incapacitate for life. Not eating today, not being educated today, not being healed today, cannot be solved by imagining a tomorrow of opportunities resulting from the stability achieved in the present through a programme of adjustment and legitimisation of injustice. The country does not need stability, it needs radical transformations. It needs truth and justice.

Stabilisation versus Radicalisation

In this context, then, if one thinks in terms of “stability” what is recognised is Argentina’s role in the world as an underdeveloped, poor country, and its government as an administrator of exclusion and chronic poverty, in order to contain these two obstacles that prevent (in the official narrative) the “growth” demanded by local elites and international corporate power for their benefit.

Let’s face it: Alberto Fernández’s discourse and policy is “neoliberalism with a human face”, and his political disposition is “neo-colonial” through and through.

The middle classes and the bureaucratic caste have accepted with this agreement the rules of the game imposed by what some shamelessly call “real” power. The Frente de Todos (Front of All) has handed over the popular classes, the classless, those who do not count, and is preparing to defend the privilege of belonging, its own inclusion in the social totality, at any cost.

The Frente de Todos won the elections with a pledge that took account of this tension between those who count and those who don’t. It promised a country with “everyone inside”. The government’s negotiation with the IMF, and the complacency it shows with the concentrated powers in the country, contradicts that promise.

This new crisis reminds us, once again, that the ultimate problems faced cyclically by Argentina, and with it Latin America as a whole and all the peripheral nations of the world, cannot be defined exclusively under the supposedly all-encompassing term “people”. For “people” is not a substantive entity, but a composition or aggregation of classes, constructed within the framework of social and ecological relations of exploitation and dispossession. Among all classes, the most prominent and paradoxical is the class of the “classless”. That is to say, the class of those who do not count, who always end up becoming the bargaining chip of the people.

Here the theological analogies are extraordinarily educational. It is the people who, in the end, crucify Jesus of Nazareth, the God-man who symbolises in a substantive way the classless, the excluded, the “infinite exteriority” that terrifies the existing order or social totality that normal politics represents.

The classless, that denied portion of the cyclically betrayed “people”, expelled from the kingdom, has always been the limit of that ensemble which is, in Peronist terms, the “organised community”.

For this reason, today more than ever, we have to look at that part of the people ignored by representative politics, by the socially constructed totality, in order to avoid a new crucifixion for the rest of us to live. We must be more Christian than ever, more anti-capitalist than ever, more decolonial than ever.

In this sense, nothing is more risky in times of danger like the ones we are living in than allowing the new forms of fascism that are looming on the horizon to captivate the imagination of the excluded with the solution of violence and the will to power. We will certainly not avoid this by making “odes to representative politics”, and denouncing “anti-politics”, as we did ad nauseam in the “luminous” era of Kirchnerism. What we need is to radicalise. That is to say, to go to the root of the problems, to stop being “superficial”.