If the right-wing advances, freedom retreats


What do you see?
What do you see when you see me?
When the lie is the truth


On August 13, primary elections will take place in Argentina, in which the final candidates of the different forces in contention for the October general elections will be decided.

The PASO (acronym for open, simultaneous and compulsory primaries), as well as taking the political pulse of the situation, will exclude those parties or fronts that do not achieve a threshold of 1.5% of the valid votes cast in the district. In practice, this method constitutes an early ban on diversity, prematurely favouring polarisation and the vote for established forces or those with the economic capacity to establish themselves in public opinion.

The pre-electoral atmosphere is characterised, as in many other parts of the world, by the gulf between the propaganda and promises of the different candidates and the harshness of the daily difficulties faced by the population, which, whether due to a growing degree of political maturity resulting from experience or a strong intuition, doubts that the current contest at the ballot box will effectively improve their lives.

It is clear that the model and practice of the current democracy, controlled by economic, media and geopolitical power, allied in the objective and subjective subjugation of the people to the dictatorship of capital, has failed the people in their just aspirations for equity and human development.

The majority of Argentine citizens are overwhelmed by the effective deterioration of their living conditions and, despite being a people with great creative talents, today they cannot find a way to “dribble out”[1] of a suffocating present and find images of the future that offer alternatives.

Anger at the high cost of living and the discomfort of finding themselves once again in situations of hardship and maximum effort to survive, are a propitious framework for a vote of no confidence in the current political leadership. As this is a primary election, i.e., not yet binding in terms of the distribution of posts, it is likely that the majority will not show their support for the current government, except in its most sympathetic core.

Added to all this is the de facto proscription of the country’s main political leader, former president Cristina Fernández, who was not only the victim of the anti-populist hegemonic media’s savagery but also of the persecution of the judicial party, objectively allied with the opposition right, and even of a failed attempt on her life.

But the expression of the critical vote will not be unanimous. The opposition political alliance, despite using the word “change” in its name, is the reflection of a disastrous past, in which the repeated failures of the administrations of the devalued radical social democracy and the crudest neoliberalism, embodied in the successors (or front men) of Macrismo, are mixed.

Likewise, retrograde ultra-right elements emerge for the occasion, feigning false appearances of “outsiders” of the system, when what they proclaim is the extreme deepening of its rules. Worse still is the disguised lie that they personify by hoisting meanings such as “freedom” or the “libertarian” ideology, when what they represent is the most blatant exploitation, the curtailment of acquired rights and total submission to corporate power.

This being the case, it is possible to anticipate, beyond any survey and the nowadays more flexible rigour of compulsory attendance at the polls, a high degree of citizens’ distancing from the ballot box, which added to the null vote and the blank vote (little used in Argentina due to its apparent inexpressiveness) could approach or even surpass the flow of all the other options.

The thieves of freedom

The self-styled “libertarians” are the vernacular representatives of the ideology of the extreme Republican right in the United States, the sector linked to the once famous “Tea Party”, and are usually perched on fiery speeches that associate the state with corruption and bureaucratic inefficiency.

This “tea party” alludes with its name to the symbolically triggering episode in the founding history of the United States that took place on 16 December 1773, when colonists threw a cargo of tea into the water in Boston harbour in protest against a tax provision of the British Crown that favoured the East India Company, to the detriment of local smuggling and economic autonomy.

But this “libertarian” movement is not just a gathering of nostalgic activists. In 1984, billionaires and eminent anti-globalists David and Charles Koch, owners of the Koch Industries conglomerate, founded “Citizens for a Healthy Economy”, a group that advocated the widening of corporate privilege through tax cuts. As early as 2002, CSE (Citizens for a Sound Economy) designed a website with the domain name “”. The group soon split into FreedomWork and Americans for Prosperity, the latter led by David Koch himself, a major donor to Trump’s campaign until his death in 2019.

In this way, the colonial tax “affront” is two hundred years later perfectly intertwined with the aversion to central power, linking freedom to a spirit against any state interference that distorts the sacrosanct individual appropriation.

This is the crusade embodied in Argentina by the intentionally blunt and angry Javier Milei, a politician whose aggressive manner attempts to represent the anger of many Argentines towards the “political caste”, as he calls it, of which he is already a part. His recent popularity is due not so much to the country’s situation, to his acting merits or to the existing distance of the people’s representatives from those they represent, but to the profuse dissemination of his person and discourse by the concentrated media, emphasising a visceral anti-Peronism that has the present state, popular organisations and the rights acquired by the majorities as its main target of attack.

This struggle in turn refers to the dispute between the economists John Maynard Keynes and Friedrich Von Hayek in the 1930s, after the “Great Depression”. Keynes defended a decisive state intervention to reactivate the economy destroyed by the speculative explosion of 1929, while for Hayek, any state interference in the markets interrupts and discourages the free economic operation of individuals, affecting economic dynamism. While Keynesianism dominated the capitalist scene until the 1980s, neoliberalism took the lead in the following two decades, based on the ideas of Hayek and Milton Friedman, the latter tragically remembered in Latin America for having trained in Chicago the economists who devised the economic plan of the dictator Pinochet in Chile, which served as a savage model to be applied by other neoliberal governments in the region.

The motley groups and characters that militate in the right-wing international are trying to emulate the new candidate Donald Trump or Bolsonarism, adding to the proclaimed economic liberalism – currently intimately related to tax evasion and avoidance and anti-productive speculation – the contradictory idea of installing, through the State itself, “order” (i.e., repression) in a supposedly distorted and chaotic society.

These political managers of corporate plunder not only collaborate with the suppression of rights and the further plundering of the people, but also semantically steal the concept of freedom, so dear to the anarchist workers’ organisations terribly repressed by the conservatives at the dawn of the 20th century and to the existentialist and humanist currents that renewed the search for meaning and social transformation after the hecatomb of the subsequent wars.

The state of the state

Latin America’s economic matrix, despite the efforts of industrialisation, which today have become technological and digital innovation, continues to be profoundly primary. As a result of a tragic colonial legacy, attempts continue to be made to balance the asymmetries in technological development, chronic indebtedness and the disadvantage of depending on a foreign currency such as the dollar as a standard of trade, with the export of raw materials, fundamentally foodstuffs and minerals.

The economic impact of these sectors, which do not require extensive labour, together with the concentration of economic power in rentier speculation, means that Latin American peoples are torn between precariousness, unemployment and absolute poverty. In many places, this makes the state the only possible refuge from misery, whether as a source of work or as a distributor of subsistence resources.

On the other hand, the popular political struggle for rights has progressively achieved advances that are legitimised in constitutions and laws that, in a way, attenuate the omnipotent power of capital.

For both reasons, the elimination of the state – or subsidiarity, as it is euphemistically called in the neoliberal model – is tantamount in the current conditions of ultra-capitalism to a crime against humanity, which kills more slowly than violent dictatorships, but kills finally.

However, it is also essential to note the decline of this centralist institution. Far from being the guarantor of rights and opportunities for the population, the state has in many places become a clientelist machine, making its protection conditional on the political support that the population gives to the ruling faction.

At the same time, the current form of the state encourages popular dependence on a paternalism that is at odds with the idea of people’s direct participation in decision-making. Representative democracy today is neither democratic in practice – because of the lack of internal democracy in the parties and the interference of money in their public projection – nor representative, because of the distance and the influences that mediate between the concerns of the representatives and the interests of the people.

As the famous Russian anarchist Bakunin put it in his book “God and the State” (1871), when he pointed out that “the creation of political estates, where differences in life are created with respect to the rest of the people, establishes that the individuals who benefit from these differences seek to perpetuate their privileged position and their power. Thus, this will happen even in states with the most democratic leaders, because this differentiation caused by the accumulation of power will transform them personally”[2].

Is another state possible?

The state, seen by the original libertarians, the anarchists, was defined as an organisation at the service of the bourgeoisie and therefore contrary to the interests of the working class, but above all, an oppressive entity of individual freedom and human creativity.

However, this freedom was not constrained and built not on individualism, as today’s false libertarians advocate, but on the extension of collective freedom.

This was emphasised by Mikhail Bakunin in the aforementioned work: “I am only truly free when all human beings around me, men and women, are equally free. The freedom of others, far from being a limit or negation of my freedom, is on the contrary its necessary condition and its confirmation”.

From existentialism, Sartre argued that human beings are “condemned” to be free. It is human consciousness which, through its conscious operation, constructs history and gives meaning to the world, denying any pre-existing determination. And like the libertarian Bakunin, he will affirm: “We want freedom for freedom’s sake and through every particular circumstance. And in wanting freedom we discover that it depends entirely on the freedom of others. And in wanting freedom we discover that it depends entirely on the freedom of others, and that the freedom of others depends on our own.”[3] As for the present state, while the state of the present state, it is a state in which the freedom of others depends on the freedom of others.

As for the present state, if it arose in parallel with the revolutionary determination to leave behind the absolutism and arbitrariness of the monarchical and colonial regimes sanctified by ecclesiastical power, the liberal state, almost since its establishment in these lands, has been used in practice by the royal power, constituting the reins of transmission of its interests.

In the same way, by exercising violence as a way of underpinning a supposed social consensus, the state leaves behind its more friendly facet to become an oppressor, especially if its management is temporarily in the hands of repressive circles.

For this reason, in his work “Letters to my friends”, the visionary founder of Universalist Humanism, Mario Rodríguez Cobos, better known by his literary pseudonym Silo, justifies the need to move towards a profound transformation based on self-management: “Social organisation requires an advanced type of coordination that is safe from any concentration of power, be it private or state. When it is claimed that the privatisation of all economic areas makes society safe from state power, it is concealed that the real problem lies in the monopoly or oligopoly that transfers power from state hands to the hands of a Para-state managed not by a bureaucratic minority but by the particular minority that increases the process of concentration”.

And in a spirit akin to anarchist predecessors, with a profound love for human freedom, he will say in “Humanising the Earth”: “The point is that the progressive decentralisation and diminution of state power should be matched by the growth of the power of the social whole. That which is self-managed and supervised in solidarity by the people, without the paternalism of a faction, will be the only guarantee that the present grotesque state will not be replaced by the unchecked power of the same interests which gave rise to it and which are struggling today to impose their independence”.

On the political level, this resonates strongly in the approach of the Bolivarian Hugo Chávez with his “Commune or Nothing”, in the Zapatista practices of the Caracoles de Buen Gobierno, in the indigenous self-management of Buen Vivir, in the Democratic Confederalism of Rojava in Kurdistan, in the Assemblies of 15M or in the libertarian municipalism promoted by Murray Bookchin, a central figure of the Green Movement and anti-globalisation in the United States of America.

How to achieve this progressive decentralisation of power towards the social base, preventing minorities from taking control of the social whole and condemning the majorities to alienation and lack of freedom, is one of the main challenges of our time.

One of the main obstacles to achieving this goal, beyond the resistance of the established power, is not being able to imagine it.

[1] A football expression that means getting around an opponent’s defence by means of a virtuoso manoeuvre with the ball.

[2] Quoted in Wikipedia’s summary of Bakunin’s work.

[3] Sartre, Jean-Paul. Existentialism is a humanism. Editorial UNAM. 2006

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