Across Latin America

Movement builds against capitalist austerity and IMF dictate

(The Workers' Advocate, Vol. 13, No. 4, May 25, 1983, p. 9)


. This spring, workers across Latin America have taken to the streets in militant strikes, demonstrations and rebellions. In one country after another, the workers are saying NO! to the terrible misery wrought by the worldwide capitalist depression. As reported in the accompanying articles, even the most entrenched military regimes, such as Chile, Argentina and Brazil, are being rocked by the mass actions of the working class.

. A powerful factor which is giving impetus to the class struggle today is the severe economic crisis. The current crisis is truly a worldwide crisis. It has brought ruin and suffering to the workers and poor everywhere, from the richest and strongest capitalist economies to the poorest ones. But the worst burden falls on the shoulders of the working masses of the dependent countries of Asia, Africa and Latin America, where even in the "best" of times, the toilers live in the most terrible conditions.

. The crisis in the rich capitalist countries has led to sharp drops in the export earnings of the poor countries. This hits especially hard at these dependent export-oriented economies. Unemployment and starvation spread ever wider among hundreds of millions of toilers.

. These countries end up with heavier and heavier debts to the bloodsucking bankers of the imperialist countries. Unable to pay back their interest payments, the capitalist rulers of the dependent countries beg for more loans from the foreign banks and the International Monetary Fund, the Western imperialist-dominated world banking institution which is the "lender of last resort." It is the working masses who are forced to bear the burden of these debts. Austerity measures are piled up one after the other on the already poor and starving workers and peasants.

. But as the protests across the countries of Latin America show, the workers are saying "Enough!" They refuse to quietly lie down in front of the cruel offensive of the domestic capitalists and the international financiers. In this article, we look at some of these inspiring struggles which have broken out this spring.

General strike paralyzes Peru

. On March 10, the working class of Peru shut down the country with a general strike against the economic policies of the government. The day before the strike the government declared a state of emergency and banned all strikes and demonstrations. But the workers courageously defied this edict. One million of them -- 85% of the country's total urban work force -- went out on strike in Lima and other cities. The strike paralyzed Lima, shutting down industrial plants, shops, businesses, banks, hospitals and public transport.

. The government called 15,000 soldiers into Lima to break the strike. The army attacked workers' demonstrations with tear gas and gunfire. The workers, supported by students, threw up barricades across major thoroughfares and fought the troops with rocks. The army then attacked the barricades with tanks. By the end of the day, four workers had been killed and 20 injured.

. Such fierce repression is nothing out of the ordinary for the Peruvian government. The recent period has seen a big wave of terror unleashed against the workers and peasants. In recent months the army has carried out a series of massacres in the countryside.

. The present government of Peru is derided by the masses as the "Wells Fargo Cabinet," because of its close ties with the California-based bank. The government has indebted the country to foreign banks to the tune of $12 billion, and debt service on these loans consumes 50% of the national budget! To maintain these interest payments, the International Monetary Fund last summer loaned Peru $952 million. With this, they also imposed an austerity program which requires that the government sacrifice everything else for foreign debt service. Thus the government has removed subsidies for consumer items and thereby caused rising prices for food, gasoline, and electricity and phone rates. With 70% inflation and 60% either unemployed or underemployed, the working class has been hit very hard by these measures.

Two-day general strike shuts down Ecuador

. In March, the government of Ecuador announced a new round of austerity measures against the working masses. Shortly afterwards, the major trade unions of the country called for a general strike in protest. This strike began on Mach 23 and continued through the next day. The entire country was brought to a standstill. The workers put forth demands that the government revoke the new austerity measures, such as the increases in the price of milk and fuel. The strikers also demanded increased salaries, a freeze in prices and dismissal of the economic ministers of the government.

. As in Peru, the government banned this strike but the workers defied this order. In support of the strike, students carried out militant demonstrations which closed the public schools and universities.

. This latest strike is part of the growing anti-austerity movement launched by the working masses against the government of President Osvaldo Hurtado which took office in May 1981. This struggle gave rise to two big general strikes last fall, which we reported on in the November issue of this paper.

. A few years ago, apologists for capitalist rule in Latin America were waxing enthusiastic about the prosperity which Ecuador's oil wealth was allegedly bringing to that country. But despite having this important resource, Ecuador's economy is a capitalist economy, and a dependent one at that. During the oil boom, the rich did enrich themselves but the poor remained poor.

. Then in the current economic crisis, Ecuador's earnings from its major export goods, oil and bananas, have fallen sharply. As well, the country has run up a big debt to the foreign bankers and has been unable to meet its payments. The capitalist government here, as elsewhere, has traveled the same route of imposing austerity measures to placate the international bankers and the IMF. But the workers and other sections of the people have continued to resist this assault. And they have refused to be intimidated by the growing reaction imposed by the government.

Strike movement develops in Mexico

. Mexico is yet another country where oil resources were supposedly opening the door to prosperity. But here too, this has not brought improvement in the conditions of the working masses. The economic crisis and the huge $80 billion foreign debt piled up by the Mexican oligarchy have brought disaster for the masses. Since last fall, the Mexican government has been imposing one austerity measure after another. This has given impetus to the growth of the class struggle.

. At the beginning of this year, the government granted workers a wage increase of 25%, with another increase of 12.5% due at mid year. But with the skyrocketing inflation, this remains a huge wage cut. In the last few months, a number of strikes have begun to break out.

. In February 8,000 workers struck DINA, the state-owned Mexican-French diesel consortium which includes Renault de Mexico as a subsidiary. DINA was planning to lay off 2,500 workers and impose rigorous productivity measures on those remaining on the job. To oppose this, the auto workers occupied plants and held mass rallies. By striking for a month, the workers were able to win some reduction in the number of planned layoffs, as well as a 20% increase in wages and an additional monthly food allowance.

. As part of his austerity program, President Miguel de la Madrid has also been slashing aid to education. As a result there have been a number of strikes at national and state colleges. Educational employees at universities in Mexico City, Guerrero, and Juarez carried out strikes in recent months for higher pay and for increased funding.

The Forces for Great Revolutionary Upheavals Are Growing

. The strikes, demonstrations and rebellions of the working masses across Latin America show that powerful revolutionary upheavals are impending across the continent. Everywhere, the masses are refusing to accept the status quo and are making their voices heard loudly. The ruling governments of the capitalists and landowners are unable to find any solutions for the deep economic crisis. They only offer the working masses even more austerity measures and bring out the big stick of increased repression. But the political crises being suffered by the fascist regimes of Pinochet and the Argentine generals show that repression, even of the most ferocious kind, cannot hold back the class struggle of the toilers.

. Indeed, there are no solutions to the terrible misery faced by the masses under continued capitalists rule and imperialist slavery. The exploiters have to be overthrown through revolution. Only this road can put an end to the plunder of the land and labor of the Latin American people by the imperialist bankers and corporations. Only this can do away with the parasitic fat industrialists and landowners who live in luxury off of the backs of the toilers. Only this can mobilize the tremendous creative energies of the toilers for putting an end to the dependent character of the economies of these countries and advance towards all-round development for the benefit of the masses.

. Today, with their strikes and protests the workers and peasants of Latin America are preparing the forces for the revolution. The current struggles show the great weight which the working class has in the general revolutionary movement. Those who can bring entire countries to a standstill can certainly, with proper organization, unity and consciousness, smash the chains of capitalist and imperialist slavery and open up the road for a brighter future. []

Unemployed Workers Rebel in Brazil

(The Workers' Advocate, Vol. 13, No. 4, May 25, 1983, p. 9)


. As elsewhere in the capitalist world, the workers and peasants of Brazil are being devastated by economic crisis. With each passing day, the misery facing the masses increases. And the anger of the poor also goes on mounting. In early April, this discontent boiled over into powerful rebellions of the unemployed. The tremors set off by these actions reverberated through the top ranks of the military dictators and capitalist board rooms in Brazil. They also spread nervousness among the imperialist banks and corporations on Wall Street and other Western capitalist centers who have invested billions to plunder the working masses of Brazil.

. The actions of the unemployed broke out in a number of places, including Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil's two biggest cities. But they were mainly centered in Sao Paulo, the city of 12 million which is the country's auto and steel industrial center.

. The situation in Sao Paulo has been quite explosive for some time. The unemployment rate here is well known to be quite a bit above the conservative estimate of 15% made by the local businessmen's association. For almost four years, the poor of this city have been fighting to survive the economic depression, without any unemployment compensation or social security.

. The rebellion in Sao Paulo grew out of a movement that has been developing among the unemployed. This struggle has been organized by the Committee of Struggle Against Unemployment. A prominent force in this organization are the militants of the Communist Party of Brazil, PC do B, the Marxist-Leninist vanguard of the Brazilian proletariat. (Note that this is a different party then the Brazilian Communist Party, the PCB. which is the pro-Soviet revisionist party. )

. This spring, the meetings of the Committee have attracted large numbers. On April 4, its ranks were swelled by thousands of unemployed workers who had rushed to a nearby factory after a few vacancies were advertised. The crowd decided to march to Morumbi Palace, the seat of the regional governor of Sao Paulo. The workers marched for five miles under the slogan, "Jobs and food for the unemployed!"

. When the workers arrived at the governor's palace, they demanded that the governor meet with their leaders to discuss their demands. These included demands for unemployment compensation and public works programs. At first, the governor arrogantly refused to meet with the protesters. At this, the demonstrators became enraged and began chanting, "End the unemployment or we will stop Brazil!" They assaulted the governor's palace despite the fact that it was guarded by hundreds of police. The workers ripped up an iron fence around the palace grounds and used the iron rails to fight the police. They also fought with rocks and sticks against the heavily-armed police. Finally, scared of the anger of the masses, the governor decided to meet with the workers' representatives and made some promises of spending more on public works programs.

. On the following two days, widespread riots broke out in the city. In downtown Sao Paulo, thousands of the urban poor, who have been facing starvation, broke into food stores -- bakeries, butcher shops, supermarkets, etc. -- and cleaned them out. Some banks were also attacked. The governor called in 10,000 special police to suppress the masses. The troops attacked with clubs, tear gas and gunfire. In the fighting, two people were killed, a hundred injured and 700 arrested.

. In the face of the revolt of the unemployed and the prospects of even greater actions to come, the authorities in Brazil were forced to promise certain concessions. The Sao Paulo government agreed to create 40,000 jobs, and even the federal government of General Figueiredo outlined some plans to alleviate the conditions of the jobless.

. Nevertheless the government is still refusing to set up unemployment compensation. The fight for this is continuing. The lessons of the April rebellions will not go forgotten by the masses. They will certainly remember that even the minimal promises of relief have been forced through the weapon of mass action. And it is by continuing to build up the mass struggle that the working masses of Brazil will get any further improvements in the conditions faced by the unemployed.

. Indeed, the ruling authorities in Brazil and the entire capitalist establishment are scared to death of the actions of the toiling masses. This is the case not only with the military dictators who control the Brazilian federal government but also certain liberal and social-democratic opposition politicians. The governors of Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro are characters of this type. In the recent actions of the unemployed, both these governors exposed the capitalist fangs hidden behind their sugar-coated words. Franco Montoro, the governor of Sao Paulo, not only sent the police against the rioters but has also opened up a repressive drive against the left. Meanwhile, Lionel Brizola, the governor of Rio who had posed as a great champion of the poor, has opened up a campaign against squatters. Overall, it is reported that closer links have been established between the opposition governors and General Figueiredo over the need to maintain capitalist law and order against the masses.

. But it is hardly likely that a few minimal relief programs or the brutal repression of the security forces can keep the lid on the popular movements of the Brazilian toilers. The economic crisis facing Brazil is very, very deep. Like the rest of the dependent and neo-colonial countries of Asia. Africa and Latin America, Brazil has been hit hard by the depression in commodity exports to the rich industrialized countries. As well, Brazil is hard hit by the world financial crisis. With its foreign debt of $88 billion, it ranks among the biggest debtor countries. The depression has made it hard to meet its interest payments. It is having trouble with the payment plan it worked out with the foreign banks last December.

. The response of the Brazilian government has been to go begging to the IMF, like the other debt-ridden dependent countries. And this has brought IMF-imposed austerity measures such as wage cuts, reductions in public spending, hikes in gasoline prices, etc. But these measures are only helping to further contribute to the mass discontent among the workers and peasants of Brazil.

. The actions of the unemployed in Sao Paulo herald the greater waves of class struggle that are bound to come against the reactionary Brazilian government. They are also an inspiration for the struggle of the unemployed throughout the depression-wracked capitalist world. They show the great rebellion that is brewing throughout the hundreds of millions of unemployed who have been cruelly tossed into the streets by the capitalist bloodsuckers. []

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