Dinerstein, AC (2013) ‘From Corporatist to Autonomous: Unemployed Workers Organisations and the remaking of labour subjectivity in Argentina’ In Howell, J (2013) Non Governmental Public Action and Social Justice, Vol. 2, Palgrave Macmillan 3

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This chapter is about the transformation of the subjectivity of labour during the second half of the 1990s in Argentina, and in particular, the role of unemployed workers in the politicisation of labour issues and the emergence of new forms of non- governmental public action. The subjectivity of labour refers to the historical forms of identity, organisation, mobilisation and political contestation through with labour subjects articulate collective action within a particular context. The chapter focuses on the contentious political dynamics around neo-liberal reforms between what is called here ‘labour subjects’ and the state. These dynamics include the relationship between the labour movement and new labour subjects in search of adequate forms of resistance to new forms of subordination that emerged out of the process of transformation.

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  Dinerstein, AC (2013) ‘From Corporatist to Autonomous: Unemployed Workers Organisations and the remaking of labour subjectivity in Argentina’ In Howell, J (2013)  Non Governmental Public Action and Social Justice , Vol. 2, Palgrave Macmillan 36-59 From Corporatist to Autonomous: Unemployed Workers Organisations and the remaking of labour subjectivity in Argentina  Ana Cecilia Dinerstein   Introduction This chapter is about the transformation of the subjectivity of labour during the second half of the 1990s in Argentina, and in particular, the role of unemployed workers in the politicisation of labour issues and the emergence of new forms of non-governmental public action. The subjectivity of labour refers to the historical forms of identity, organisation, mobilisation and political contestation through with labour subjects articulate collective action within a particular context. The chapter focuses on the contentious political dynamics around neo-liberal reforms between what is called here ‘labour subjects’ and the state. These dynamics include the relationship between the labour movement and new labour subjects in search of adequate forms of resistance to new forms of subordination that emerged out of the process of transformation. During the past decade a significant amount of research has documented the worldwide transformation of labour produced by neo-liberal globalisation. The growth of the service sector, the increase in casual and flexible labour on the one hand, and unemployment, the growth of female participation in the labour market and the crisis of trade unions on the other hand, have been seen as the most important aspects of neo-liberal transformation (Munck, 2000, also Rifkin, 1995; Aronowitz and DiFazio, 1995). The effects of these transformations on trade union strategies have also been addressed. Notions such as ‘new internationalism’ (Munck, 2000; Munck and Waterman, 1999; Costa, 2006; Lambert and Webster, 2006; Hyman, 2005) and ‘social movement unionism’ (Moody, 1997), together with analysis of new patterns of labour resistance (Waddington, 1999) and organisation (Pollert, 1996; Taylor and Mathers, 2002; Mathers, 1999) have been mobilised to account for the innovation of   2 working class organisations after the ‘neo-liberal dismantling of the world of work’ (Boltanski and Chiapello, 2006). Studies of labour in Latin America have also taken trade union crisis as the focus of their analysis. For example, Zapata (2004) argues that such crisis can be explained by considering how structural reforms have affected the two main sources of union power (i.e. control over the labour process and over the labour market, and access to political power and the state) within a context marked by both the transition from the import substitution model of industrialisation to the trans-nationalisation of the domestic market, and from authoritarian political regimes to new democracies. While changes in trade unions, have been the main focus for those concerned with the  paralysing effects of neo-liberal globalisation on labour collective action, less attention has been given to the processes through which new labour subjects emerge and influence labour resistance. This is important in those cases where the mobilisation of new labour subjects has overwhelmed trade union actions (de la Garza Toledo, 2005) and become paramount to the politics of the country. The theoretical premise in this study of the transformation of labour subjectivity in Argentina is that capital cannot exorcise labour since ‘labour is the  presupposition of social existence as a whole, a presupposition from which capital cannot autonomise itself’ (Bonefeld, 1996: 181). Thus, the forms of identity, organisation, mobilisation and politics through which the subjects of labour articulate collective action within a particular context (which I call the subjectivity of labour), change permanently as an intrinsic aspect of the production of the social relation of capital, process which subordinates, transforms and utilises human productive activities for the purpose of profit making. This does not mean that the latter ‘determines’ the former, but rather that the former is permanently being (re)constituted through the different forms of subordination of labour that emerge out of changes in the process of capital accumulation , such as unemployment. In short, the forms of identity, organisation and so through which labour subjects engage in collective action are temporary and historical. A focus on the temporality and historical specificity of the subjectivity of labour helps us to both move away from disempowering interpretations of the ‘crisis’ of trade unions and the ‘defeat’ of labour and to craft a better picture of the processes underpinning the transformation of the subjectivity of labour.   3 By exploring this case, I show that neo-liberal policies did not obliterate the  power of labour resistance by emasculating the trade unions, but rather that they triggered, instead, a process of re-defining the nature and institutional boundaries of trade unions in particular, and of the subjectivity of labour in general. Whilst the traditional union bureaucracy remained financially powerful as it simultaneously  became increasingly detached from the rank-and-file, the mobilisation of the latter within the workplace combined with grassroots mobilisation outside the workplace to nourisha trade union renewal and the emergence of new labour     subjects , such as unemployed workers. As a result these new labour subjects, either jointly with or separately from the trade unions, politicised society in new ways, constructing an anti-neo-liberal discourse and introducing new values and practices to reinvent the world of work. Autonomous forms of organisation and collective action gradually emerged and overwhelmed the corporatist tendencies of the labour movement. They redefined the nature of union power in that they participated in the mobilisation of wider sectors of civil society. They were able to articulate the demands of different labour subjects on the one hand, and also enabled new labour subjects to develop alternative ways of conceptualising ‘unemployment’ and ‘work’, and translate these into innovative  practices that challenged mainstream conceptions of social justice. Paradoxically, they militated against the bureaucratisation and collapse of unions, thus democratising rather than disempowering the Argentinean labour movement. The chapter begins with a critical review of neo-liberalism, labour and subjectivity in Latin America. It provides a general overview of neo-liberal structural adjustment in Argentina and the rise of resistance to it. The next two sections explore three developments that have reshaped the labour movement, including the birth of the movement of the unemployed, and their role during the protests against the IMF (1999-2002) leading to the crisis of 2001. The final section discusses the contribution of unemployed workers’ organisations to reshaping the subjectivity of labour. I. Labour on the road to (in)stability During the second half of the 1970s, the supply of international loans in Latin American countries created an enormous external debt, which reached a critical point   4 in 1982. In the Southern cone countries (Argentina, Brazil, Chile), military regimes had created the conditions for financial speculation that was supported by state subsidies to business, which became a means of making quick and substantial profit. The eventual crisis of the external debt fostered the subsequent democratisation  processes with the new governments being squeezed between civil society’s demands for a solution to poverty and human rights violations, and international creditors’  pressures for economic stability to service the external debt. Inspired by the Washington Consensus (WC), stabilisation policies in the region were seen as a  precondition for economic growth. The WC diagnosis claimed that ‘the roots of Latin American instability and lack of growth lie in the import-substitution strategy of industrialisation (ISI) adopted in the post-war period’ (Fanelli et al,  1994, p. 102). According to this discourse, the ISI had led to both the ‘hypertrophy’ of state apparatuses and functions and to ‘economic populism’, i.e. the infirmity of the governments which tolerated pressures for wage increases in the public and private sectors, leading to deficit and inflation’ (Boron, 1993, pp. 62-63). During the transition to democracy (1982-1999), the General Confederation of Labour ( Confederación General del Trabajo , CGT) strongly rejected the WC diagnosis, which blamed unions for being the prime cause of instability. The Confederation organised 13 general strikes to demand both wage increases and a moratorium on paying the external debt created during the dictatorship of the three consecutive Military Juntas led by General Jorge Rafael Videla (1976-1982), without which no social justice could be achieved. In 1989, a run against the dollar by those financial institutions involved in the earlier ‘creation’ of the external debt, produced what is called a ‘market cup’ (as opposed to a ‘cup d’etat’), which brought about unmanageable hyper-inflation in a  political context where pressure from trade unions, human rights activists, the military and business was mounting. President Alfonsín was forced to hand in his resignation  before completing his term of office. The recently elected candidate from the  Justicialista  (Peronist) party, Carlos Menem, was prepared to take power. In April 1991, a stabilisation programme based on the devaluation of the national currency and the pegging of the Argentine peso to the US dollar at a rate of one to one reduced inflation and set the country on the course to ‘stability’. The taming of hyper-inflation  by Minister Cavallo’s Convertibility Plan was considered to be an economic miracle, given the chronic economic and political instability of the country. Unlawful methods
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