Between 2019 and 2020 massive social uprisings shook the political scene in Chile, Ecuador and Colombia. The drops that overflowed the glass of popular (in)patience were the increase in the cost of public transport, the price of fuel and a tax reform.

Beyond the cathartic explosion, the generalised rage was unleashed against the continuity of neoliberal policies sustained for decades in Chile and Colombia and adopted by the electoral betrayal of Lenin Moreno in Ecuador. It’s not thirty pesos, but 30 years, was one of the main slogans of the Chilean “cabros”, who, like their Colombian and Ecuadorian generational peers, made up the “front line” of the stampede, to which social, indigenous and trade union movements later gave organic solidity.

With the arrival in government of the liberal far right in Argentina, the brutality of the package of economic measures, the anti-people mega-presidential decree of “necessity and urgency” and a repressive protocol against protest – all in the space of just two weeks, many are wondering whether something similar will happen in the country in the year about to begin.

An immediate initial reaction was shown through a march by Trotskyist and piquetero groups, together with successive spontaneous “cacerolazos” (spontaneous pot-banging) in various cities of the country and the public rejection of grassroots trade unions and social organisations. For its part, a broad political arc, mostly in opposition, expressed – in a tone of institutional political correctness – the unconstitutionality of the mammoth bill that violates the division of powers, branding the new executive as arrogating monarchical or dictatorial powers to itself.

Are these the signs of a collective uprising in the face of the new government’s declared intention to minimise the state and eliminate rights acquired in long struggles, or are they just a weak and predictable sign of resistance to the rampant onslaught of big capital on the national patrimony and the particular situation of millions of people?

Puppets, middlemen and puppeteers

Fired up by a broad electoral triumph, the (mis)government that has just taken office has embarked on a policy of shock, unequivocally demonstrating its privatising and mercantilist vocation. In spite of the tactical attack of trying to impose quickly, without any consensus or debate, a profound restructuring of the role of the state, the current president has already announced that “there will be more” of the same potion, administered with similar cruelty by the military regimes, the neoliberal neanderthals of the last decades of the 20th century and, more recently, by the Macrista government.

Strictly speaking, this first barrage is aimed at returning favours or simply showing a servile disposition to banking and multinational business, creating a “scorched earth” scheme for the social expropriation of natural resources and juicy businesses derived from the regulatory inhibition of the state and collective submission to private rules.

The supposed legitimisation wielded by the defenders of this impoverished and antiquated 17th-century version of “freedom” is that of having won support through the popular vote. A vote that was undoubtedly based more on the rejection of the previous government’s ineffectiveness in significantly improving the lives of large groups than on the endorsement of the programme that the new administration is now arrogantly and omnipotently deploying.

The term “administration” is a sincerity granted by US political jargon to replace the term “government”, to which the president, now anointed with the presidential sash, does honour. In this scheme, the president is merely a puppet of the established power. But the puppet master is not his godfather Macri, who is merely an intermediary with the real economic power, geopolitically aligned with the side opposed to a new multipolar order.

The plan of this government of the governed seeks to revalidate the adhesion achieved at the ballot box of the millions of refugees in the “entrepreneurship of precariousness”, a mostly young sector excluded from the formal economy and exploited, among other variants, by the entrepreneurial modalities of work through digital platforms.

The individualism nurtured and fed by these forms of production and social relations is a breeding ground for the fallacies of libertarian ideology. One might even say, its everyday and structural seat. By taking over the reins of public policy and promoting itself as the only way out, this ideology only feeds the rupture of the social fabric and the law of the jungle. It thus exercises a new kind of state terrorism, stigmatising social leaderships and all kinds of organic forms.

The strategic objective of this social jibarisation is to atomise the collective fabric and weaken its capacity for joint action in the pursuit of new rights.

Resisting, insisting, existing, never giving up

Against this backdrop, there is agreement among opposition political sectors (and some even closer to the current government) that the effective application of the decree must be prevented through legal actions and by demanding its passage through Congress.

Although these actions are undeniably valid from a tactical-legal point of view, they can only put a brake on liberal barbarism if they are accompanied by an intense and determined popular mobilisation, whose driving force will not be institutional arguments at all, but the excessive and abusive increases in the cost of living.

The trade union confederations have announced their intention to mobilise in the middle of next week at the Congress and the formalisation of a plan of action that could include a general strike, a measure that for now is reserved for demands on digital platforms.

The difficulty of this necessary resistance lies in the relative weakness of the opposition leaderships, whose stance will be vilified by the now ruling caste as a simple reaction by the outgoing caste to avoid losing their privileges.

It remains to be seen whether the most vulnerable and vulnerable sectors, more concerned today with immediate survival and whose resentment has not dissipated at all, will join the demands. It remains to be seen whether the students, who always play a leading role in the beginnings of any popular revolt, will anticipate the impact of the cuts and the foreseeable trend towards privatisation of public education. It remains to be seen whether retirees and pensioners, a sector whose social protection is threatened in the very short term due to the decline in their purchasing power, the high cost of medicines and prepaid coverage and, in the medium term, the predictable gutting of public health – to facilitate its conversion into a business – will begin to loudly demand the reversal of the bad government’s policies. These could be necessary signals for the formation of a critical mass that is essential to stop and finally prevent the auctioning off of Argentina, with its people inside.

However, such a social outburst would be no more than a criticism of the abuses of the system and not of its uses. In the context of the evident systemic crisis, an essential change, a revolution, can only take place when there is a profound change in beliefs and values, in the way of seeing the world, in the representation that a group of people have of reality.

Judging by current indicators, such transformations seem unlikely to be possible in the immediate future, despite the fact that the historical process shows sufficient factors of disorder to justify the imperative need for such changes. The problem lies in the fact that today, as in other historical periods, reactionary factions are setting themselves up as a false loudspeaker for these changes with simple and easily assimilated radical proclamations. Proclamations and characters that are further amplified by the traditional and digital channels of mass disinformation consumption, at the service of the elites.

This manipulation, which keeps the large groups in a daze, is in turn facilitated by the lack of exchange, the lack of comparison of opinions, and the growing dissolution of the links that make direct communication possible within the social base itself.

The horizon makes it clear that political regeneration can only take place in neighbourhoods, in places of residence and work, in social roots. Today’s revolutionaries are surely engaged in fostering the recomposition of human ties, a precondition for the emergence of new social utopias and the creation of areas of shelter from the social outdoors of loneliness and violence propagated by the usual barbarians.

Identification with a humanist social ethic and with conduct consistent with it can be the basis for orienting the collective dream towards the future. Because it is said that hope is the last thing to be lost. But it is also true that it is the first thing to be regained.