Javier Milei, far right president of Argentina, has called for a crackdown on protests (PICTURE: Mídia Ninja)

Argentina’s main trade union federation, the General Confederation of Labour (CGT), has announced a general strike against the government of far right president Javier Milei for 9 May. Milei won the presidency last December vowing to smash up the welfare system and “liberate” big business.  He shut nine of 18 government ministries including those responsible for education, the environment and women, gender and diversity.

But he has faced waves of opposition. A general strike in January involved 1.5 million workers, brought tens of thousands on to the streets and triggered four days of mobilisations. It forced Milei to withdraw his repressive Omnibus Bill that tried to ram through widespread privatisations, public sector job cuts and attacks on workers’ organisation.

And on 24 March big protests demanded justice for the victims of the country’s military dictatorship that ruled from 1976 to 1983. Milei identifies with that dictatorship. The grandfather and uncle of vice president Victoria Villarruel took part directly in the crises carried out by the military rulers.

But despite the opposition, Milei continues with his assaults. In just a few months the poverty rate has soared from 45 percent to 57 percent as inflation slashes the real value of wages.  Milei’s response is to slash jobs, push for a 20 percent cut in pensions and to renew the privatisation programme beginning with the state airline and the state news agency.

The general strike call wouldn’t have happened without pressure from below. Bus drivers recently staged a major strike over pay that shook the Buenos Aires metropolitan area.  In several cities, metal workers organised big marches.

Sacked airline workers and civil service workers marched last week over job cuts but also against the wider attacks from Milei. Teachers, other school staff and university workers plan mass protests on Tuesday of next week. Such strikes and protests give hope that the far right can be confronted. But the union leaders are at best half-hearted in their response. The CGT refuses to call for a strike on the days when the new Omnibus Law will be discussed in the parliament. But building from below can stop Milei.

And in the course of these struggles workers are also asking how Milei was able to win the election. That is largely the responsibility of the Peronists, named after army officer Juan Peron, who took power in the mid-1940s. From 1946 to 2023, ten out of 13 presidents were Peronists. They promised to look after workers and the poor but failed them, and as disillusion spread, the far right grew.

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