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Newsletter (in English)


Buenos Aires ++ Violent clashes between strike activists and the trade union bureaucracy ++ 23-year-old activist murdered by thugs hired by the trade union bureaucracy ++

The conflict over the reincorporation of fired and subcontracted workers on the Roca train line in southern Buenos Aires, which has been going on for more than eight months, gained a shocking new quality yesterday. During a protest in the neighborhoods of Avellaneda and Barracas, in which precarious train workers participated alongside militants of different left-wing groups, violent clashes erupted between the protesters and a group of thugs hired by the Unión Ferroviaria (Railroad Union, UF) to prevent the protests. While only rocks were used at the beginning, later at least two of the provocateurs hired by the UF bureaucracy under José Pedraza pulled out guns and shot at the protesters. The 23-year-old student Mariano Ferreyra, militant of the Partido Obrero (PO, “Workers’ Party”), was shot dead and three more protesters were gravely injured; a 56-year-old militant (also PO) is still in mortal danger.

Around noon, a delegation of precarious, subcontracted workers, along with left-wing organizations such as PO and the PTS (Partido de los Trabajadores Socialistas, “Socialist Workers’ Party”) demonstrated towards the railroad station Avellaneda in order to block the railroad tracks and demand the immediate and full reincorporation of all fired or subcontracted workers on the train line. However, they were greeted by a gang of about 120 provocateurs wearing uniforms of the company (amongst them Antonio Luna and Pablo Diaz, trade union bureaucrats of the UF) and a police cordon. Because of the obvious danger – in the past, the thugs had attacked the protesters with rocks and sticks – the protesters decided not to block the train line there and instead march along the tracks to find a better-suited place for a blockade. Nevertheless, the police and the union bureaucracy’s thugs accompanied the demonstration.

On several occasions, the provocateurs threw rocks at the protesters – and they were supported by the police who fired at the demonstration with rubber bullets – so there was no opportunity to block the tracks anywhere. Subsequently, the demonstrators decided in an assembly to abort the protest and call for a new assembly the next day. Before the assembly ended, the trade union thugs attacked again with rocks, but the self defense commission of the demonstration was able to fight them off. The police protected the provocateurs the whole time. When the demonstrators started to withdraw, the police suddenly opened their cordon and let the thugs pass another time. They used the opportunity and at least two of them pulled guns and aimed at the protesters, killing Mariano Ferreyra and wounding several others seriously. When the assassins fled, the police didn’t do anything to stop them.

Since the beginning of the protests eight months ago, the trade union bureaucracy of José Pedraza’s UF positioned itself against the demands of the fired and subcontracted workers and did everything to block the protests. One reason for this is the fact that Argentina’s trade union bureaucracy is scared of the ever-growing rank-and-file movement that has developed over the last couple of years, principally in Buenos Aires with examples such as the workers of Kraft-Terrabusi or the subway, which questions the position and the privileges of the bureaucrats. On the other hand, the bureaucracy is connected inseparably with the companies, especially in the railroad business, where Pedraza’s son even owns one of the subcontractors against which the activists were demonstrating. In order to de-legitimize the protests, they launched a media campaign under the motto “We as train workers don’t block tracks”, criticized the “instrumentalization by left-wing groups” and repeatedly organized physical attacks against the protests of the subcontracted workers.

Even after what happened yesterday, the UF maintained its position that the train workers had been impeded from working by left-wing groups and defended the attacks on the demonstrators. Pedraza confirmed that some of the thugs belonged to the trade union, but denied any responsibility for the shots. The cynicism behind this shows the extent to which the trade union bureaucracy is willing to defend the privileges they have acquired from their links to the company, while at the same time ignoring a big part of the train workers and their demands. Apparently, they are even willing to accept deaths – even though the level of class struggle in Argentina isn’t so high that it would seriously threaten the bureaucracy’s privileges. This shows the degree of degeneration of the trade union bureaucracy and proves that every struggle for workers’ demands has to be fought against this privileged caste as well.

In the meantime, president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner condemned the attacks and promised to find and punish the people who are responsible for the murder of Mariano. However, she left two things unmentioned: firstly the connection that the government has with the trade union bureaucracy in general and with José Pedraza in particular (last year, she presented Pedraza at a conference with the words: “Let’s show everyone the model of union organization that believes that the most important thing is not destruction but winning improvements for the workers” [sic!]); and secondly, the role of the police in this incident (why did they suddenly let the attackers pass – was there an arrangement of any kind?). But even now it is clear that the Kirchner administration will be under a lot of pressure because of the murder, weakening the position of the government massively.

One of the leaders of the protests, the fired train worker Pablo Villalba, said: “We can’t let this crime go unpunished. We have to mobilize until the material and ideological culprits are put in prison. We call on all organizations to accompany us in this struggle, which demands our reincorporation and permanent contracts for all subcontracted workers, and to fight off the railroad thugs. We know this is no easy task, since the trade union bureaucracy has the support of the government and the company, and as we saw today, the police as well.” (La Verdad Obrera Nr. 397

Yesterday afternoon, the first protests against the murder of Mariano took place: the subway workers of Buenos Aires went on strike for one hour in the entire city, and left-wing activists blockaded the intersection of Callao and Corrientes for several hours before marching to the train station Constitución, where the Roca line begins. Today, workers of the food factory Kraft-Terrabusi, who carried out a long and difficult struggle last year, blockaded the Panamerican highway that connects Alaska and Tierra del Fuego for three hours in solidarity with the protests. Additionally, the trade union federation CTA (Central de los Trabajadores de la Argentina, “Workers’ Central of Argentina”) called for a national strike day, which was supported principally by teachers and workers at companies who are or have been recently involved in struggles such as at Paraná Metal (the Unión Ferroviaria is part of the other big federation, the CGT (Confederación General del Trabajo, “General Confederation of Labor”)). Moreover, countless organizations called for a big demonstration from Callao/Corrientes to the central Plaza de Mayo, in which up to 60,000 people participated, according to the media.

In the coming days and weeks, the protest has to go on until the culprits are held to account. ¡A Mariano Ferreyra vengaremos / con la lucha popular / todos juntos en la calle / por la huelga general! (“We will avenge Mariano Ferreyra / with people’s struggle / everyone together on the streets / for the general strike!”)

by Stefan Schneider, Revolutionary Internationalist Organization (RIO), Buenos Aires, October 21, 2010

Follow the protests against the murder of Mariano Ferreyra at and (Spanish)!

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