Argentina demands a great change, but not just any
I met Andrés Rivera in a radio interview I did with him. he had published The revolution is an eternal dream and I, unable to see the novel’s exploitable veins, had given it an unfavorable review in a newspaper. He arrived angry, with a quarrelsome mood. “The other day a journalist tried to do a report on me without having read my work”, he measured me at the entrance. The first part of the program was marked by this tension, until a question dissolved the tension: “How is the revolutionary moment detected?” Rivera looked at me in astonishment, as if it were extravagant that my voice could emit something valuable, and the dialogue flowed.
History exhibits examples of locked societies, mired in dead ends: it is the moment in which an exhausted order must be demolished, the ruling classes displaced and their replacement replaced by a new elite. That movement is called revolution. You have to be cautious because the drifts are usually random: in Russia what in February 1917 was a bourgeois revolution became in October an oppressive regime worse than the displaced one. Both the English and the French revolutions, with their chiaroscuros, on the other hand, were the final step from a feudal regime to capitalism, but also the change from the absolutist monarchy to the constitutional monarchy and the republic. In England, the expenses of the crown began to be controlled, taxes were eliminated and the right to property was affirmed. In France, the new era was condensed under the classic discursive trilogy: liberty, equality and fraternity.
So constitutional systems were born in almost the whole world, that provide their own correction mechanisms. They have antibodies. Periodic elections, political trials, the division of powers, control of the press and independent courts constitute the menu of institutional remedies. Watergate is perhaps the most conspicuous example. But there are exceptional situations in which everything gets bogged down and everyday life splinters: what until the 20th century was the revolutionary emergency in the 21st century is the irruption of the anti-system: an eruption that capitalizes on the weariness with traditional politics and questions the very idea of republican democracy.
Does that happen today in Argentina? Despair and anger spread, there is a generalized chaos, the middle class knows that it is not going to progress and that its children will be worse and worse. That’s why young people emigrate and the middle layers consume on trips or slippers, burning their savings as if it were the last day of life. There is a blocked society: unions dominated by eternal mafias that manage social projects, prebendary businessmen, the patronage drip of public jobs, the recurring confiscation of private savings to finance waste, and provinces turned into stubborn medieval fiefdoms. It is, in effect, an exhausted regimen.
To all these cysts were added, like an unstoppable tumor, energy subsidies and social plans. Companies that ignore charging users for millions of bills and concentrate on a single transfer that comes from an official account. The unemployed unionizing with the State as a counterpart and partner, with poverty leaders who manage gigantic boxes and armies of poor people who crowd the streets with extortion. Quite a symbol that Cristina Kirchner has asked, nothing less than from the CTA, epitome of the state bureaucracy, that the administration of the plans be “nationalized”, passing from the picketers to the mayors: a dispute between Peronist gangs. The philanthropic ogre. They are wired territories: subsidies cannot be touched because every time a Latin American government tried to raise a rate, it was blown up; tests: Ecuador, Chile and Peru. Social plans cannot be touched because they set the country on fire. You cannot touch the campus of public employees because the unions declare war and stun with their drums.
Through the interstices of this economic disenchantment, the anti-system infiltrate like stowaways, which raise the need to destroy this new oligarchy. But the key word “caste” (in Spain it was used by Podemos and in Argentina, Milei), repeated ad nauseam, dispenses with nuances and seeks to delegitimize democracy as a whole.
Indeed, It is not discussed that it has to end with those privileges, but the problem is that history cannot be restarted every ten years, the greatness of a country lies precisely in its legal predictability, in that it can sustain a process of one hundred years of stability, in which crises are metabolized and resolved endogenously. A country with six military coups, with a dozen abrupt changes in the Supreme Court and with a tradition of compulsive confiscations cannot afford to continue its drunken rampage.
If, as a working hypothesis, we were to accept kicking the board once again, one would have to ask what do you want to build on the rubble of the old order, because the weather is never interesting. The alternative proposed by the anti-system is to return to the Paleolithic and let each one manage as best they can. The law of the strongest: that people be armed, that there be no public education, that street vendors compete with elbows on the sidewalks, that taxes are ignored, that the human body can be slaughtered and traded freely, that there is no currency and that the State does nothing in the face of ecological disasters. They only give in to their childish anarchism if they are the ones affected: as soon as a journalist criticizes them, instead of giving the public discussion, they run to denounce him so that the State imposes a punishment. Curious that they speak of “empirical evidence” when they propose a system that nobody applies in the contemporary world. There is a great distance between liberalism and this carnivalesque masquerade with cumbia music. The charismatic leader as a possessed on stage and his followers reduced to the condition of troupe are far from respecting the individual.
Argentina has structural problems, but its democracy works much better than in other Latin American countries. While in Chile, Peru or Colombia fragmentation disorganizes politics, anti-system leaders gain centrality and people end up voting for adventurers, in our country a competitive bi-coalitionism has been rebuilt, there are possibilities for alternation and the upstarts remain on the margins. Our economy is weak, but our democracy is not. That strength, that resistance of the political system is a condition for the possibility of economic progress, and not the other way around.
The historical process is dialectical: synthesis of impulse and moderation, of mistakes and learning. Argentina demands a great change, yes, but not just any change. We are not facing the leap from the absolutist monarchy to constitutionalism. There are no Bastilles to take or guillotines to dust. Dismantling a corrupt system and implanting transparent capitalism only requires audacity, imagination and some experience. It is essential to do it within the system, with patience, without falling into screaming dissolving utopias. The outsiders enjoy the glamor of the novelty, but also the flaw of their fatal arrogance of being improvised. It is the difference between doing archeology with brushes or with shovels: the latter go fast, but along the way they break the pieces they discover.