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Argentina: The peasant perspective, 90 days of the Milei Government

By MNCI Somos Tierra - La Via Campesina, March 27, 2024

Since December 10th the economic deregulation policies have hit the popular areas in Argentina. 27 million people (57.4%) are under the poverty limit, while 15% is poor. The minimum wage (USD$ 200) has been reduced 14.8% in January 2024. The crisis has been worsened by the high value of the food, which in January has risen 26%. In Argentina, 20.6% suffer from food insecurity and the consumers have paid 5.2 times more than the price paid to the producers. In addition, in a little more than two months the price of a liter of Premium gasoline has risen from $349 to $918 per liter, 163%.

The method of advancement of this anarco-capitalist far right expression tries to provoke chaos to put forward their financial agenda. Milei rules to the service of the corporations and install the debate that has put forward the boundaries of the democratic consensus and the rights conquered due to the struggle of the trade unions and social movements.

The Milei government is based on the idea that the State must disappear, reducing it to its minimum and leaving everything on part of the market. To achieve this, he supports the criminalization of the protest and the popular organization, the blind negationist of the State terrorism of the last military dictatorship, a hatred and misogynistic discourse and the economic deregulation policies.

In this sense, one of the first measures was the imposition of an Emergency Decree (DNU, in Spanish) 70/2023, published December 20th 2023, that we, the Movimiento Nacional Campesino Indigena Somos Tierra (MNCI ST) reject because of its authoritarian and anti-republican perspective, representing a great attack to the democratic institutions.

This DNU is unconstitutional and void. Because of the number of legislations that abolish, just like the changes, it must be Congress of the Nation where fundamental consensuses are discussed and achieved to represent the majority of the population. In addition, each of the points of the decree benefits a reduced group of business people that always do their business at the expense of the misery of the Argentinian people.

Argentinian Working People Fight Milei’s Far-Right Government with a General Strike

By Clara Marticorena and Julia Soul - Labor Notes, February 26, 2024

More than 1.5 million people took part in a general strike in Argentina on January 24 against a new president and his aggressive anti-union “reforms.”

Self-described “liberal-libertarian” Javier Milei, who won the November 22 presidential elections, is an economist who became popular as a panelist on a TV show. He advocated for ending the “privileges” of the “casta”—defined as corrupt politicians and social and union leaders taking advantage of “good people.”

With a new party, Freedom Advances (La Libertad Avanza), Milei won the votes of a range of people, from working-class people disappointed and angry with the incumbent Peronist government to the middle and ruling classes opposed to state intervention in the economy and income distribution.

His government’s new austerity program has already dealt a heavy blow to the pockets of working people. Days after he took office, Milei froze public workers’ wages, social assistance programs, and pensions, imposed a 118 percent devaluation of the Argentine peso, and increased tariffs for energy, public transport, and public services.

Real wages have plummeted nearly 15 percent. The government has also cut off food supplies to a lot of community organizations running “comedores comunitarios”: places where the unemployed and poor families can get some meals.

It seems that, for La Libertad Avanza, “the casta” is the working class and the poorest people, and its “privileges” are in fact labor and social rights.

Argentinian Unionists Explains What the Hell is Going On With Milei

‘Capitalism is anti-us’: ex-GKN workers champion ecological transition

By staff - People and Nature, February 6, 2024

On 9 July 2021, Melrose Industries announced the closure of its GKN Driveline (formerly FIAT) factory at Campi di Bisenzio, near Florence in Italy, which produced axles for cars. More than 400 workers were laid off. While in many such cases the workers and unions settle for negotiating enhanced redundancy benefits, the GKN Factory Collective took over the plant and kickstarted a long struggle against its closure.

But what makes the ex-GKN Florence dispute really unique is the strategy adopted by the workers, who sealed an alliance with the climate justice movement by drafting a conversion plan for sustainable, public transport and demanding its adoption.

This strategy engendered a cycle of broad mobilisations – repeatedly bringing tens of thousands to the streets – so that the dispute still continues, and the permanent sit-in at the factory remains until today.

The workers were meant to be finally dismissed on 1 January 2024. The GKN Factory Collective had thus turned New Year’s Eve into a final call to action to defend their conversion plan. Such pressure from below probably played a role in a decision by the labour court, announced on 27 December 2023, to overturn the layoffs for the second time.

The workers’ current plan is to set up a cooperative for the production of cargo bikes and solar panels, as part of a broader vision for a worker-led ecological transition. This needs material solidarity, now. A popular shareholding campaign has been started, to launch this co-operative: so far more than 600,000 euros have been collected, towards a target of one million euros.

All information on how to contribute, individually or as an organisation, can be found at the website Insorgiamo.org.

This interview with some GKN workers, by Luca Manes, was published in December on Comune-Info in Italy, and was translated into English by Lorenzo Feltrin.

Labor Unions, Environmentalists, and Indigenous People Unite to Defeat Mining Interests in Argentina

By Marisela Trevin - Left Voice, December 27, 2021

A zoning law would have opened up the southern Argentinian province of Chubut to large-scale mining by multinational corporations. But the law was defeated in just five days by an alliance of environmentalists, workers, youth, and indigenous people. Their fight points the way forward for other movements around the world.

The people of the southern Argentinian province of Chubut are celebrating more than just the holidays this December. After a fierce struggle against a recently enacted zoning law that would have opened the province up to large-scale silver, copper, and lead mining by multinational corporations like Canadian Pan American Silver, the governor was ultimately forced to backtrack. The law in question, which was approved on December 15, was repealed last Tuesday, just five days later.

From the night of the approval until the afternoon of December 21, the movement against the law spread rapidly throughout the province. In a context of growing austerity, unemployment, and poverty, thousands took to the streets to make their voices heard. Dozens of protesters were injured and arrested in the brutal repression, and 16 government buildings were set on fire or otherwise destroyed, including the provincial house of government. Protesters were not only demanding the repeal of the law but also Governor Mariano Arcioni’s resignation.

The governor, whose party, Chubut Somos Todos, is politically aligned with the national government, had won the elections in 2017 campaigning against multinational mining in Chubut. Since he took office, however, he has seized every opportunity to relax mining regulations against the people’s will, with the support of the national government, local business associations, and union bureaucracies.

The so-called Law on Sustainable Metal Mining and Industrial Development for the Province of Chubut had been unexpectedly approved in an expedited procedure the day before a mass protest was to be held against the bill. Among the 14 legislators who voted for it were several who, like the governor himself, had been voted in after opposing multinational mining. This group also included legislator Sebastián López, who was expelled from his party last year for having been caught on camera requesting a large sum of money to vote in favor of large-scale mining in Chubut. One of the main proponents of the bill was Carlos Eliceche, the president of the Committee for Economic Development, Environment and Natural Resources and a legislator for Frente de Todos, the national ruling party, who emphasized that the initiative was put forward “at the request of President Alberto Fernández, to develop mining and attract investments.”

Union Struggles Against Climate Change

Recharge Responsibly: The Environmental and Social Footprint of Mining Cobalt, Lithium, and Nickel for Electric Vehicle Batteries

By Benjamin Hitchcock Auciello, et. al. - Earthworks, March 31, 2021

It is critical that the clean energy economy not repeat the mistakes of the dirty fossil fuel economy that it is seeking to replace. The pivot from internal combustion engines towards electric vehicles provides an unprecedented opportunity to develop a shared commitment to responsible mineral sourcing. We can accelerate the renewable energy transition and drive improvements in the social and environmental performance of the mining industry by reducing overall demand for new minerals, increasing mineral recycling and reuse, and ensuring that mining only takes place if it meets high environmental, human rights and social standards.

This report is designed to inform downstream battery metal users of key environmental, social, and governance issues associated with the extraction and processing of the three battery metals of principal concern for the development of electric vehicles and low-carbon energy infrastructure—lithium, cobalt and nickel—and to offer guidance on responsible minerals sourcing practices. This report reflects and summarizes some of the key concerns of communities impacted by current and proposed mineral extraction in hotspots around the world: Argentina, Chile and the United States for lithium, Papua New Guinea, Indonesia and Russia for nickel, and the Democratic Republic of Congo for cobalt.

Read the text (PDF).

A Material Transition: Exploring supply and demand solutions for renewable energy minerals

By Andy Whitmore - War on Want, March 2021

There is an urgent need to deal with the potential widespread destruction and human rights abuses that could be unleashed by the extraction of transition minerals: the materials needed at high volumes for the production of renewable energy technologies. Although it is crucial to tackle the climate crisis, and rapidly transition away from fossil fuels, this transition cannot be achieved by expanding our reliance on other materials. The voices arguing for ‘digging our way out of the climate crisis’, particularly those that make up the global mining industry, are powerful but self-serving and must be rejected. We need carefully planned, lowcarbon and non-resource-intensive solutions for people and planet.

Academics, communities and organisations have labelled this new mining frontier, ‘green extractivism’: the idea that human rights and ecosystems can be sacrificed to mining in the name of “solving” climate change, while at the same time mining companies profit from an unjust, arbitrary and volatile transition. There are multiple environmental, social, governance and human rights concerns associated with this expansion, and threats to communities on the frontlines of conflicts arising from mining for transition minerals are set to increase in the future. However, these threats are happening now. From the deserts of Argentina to the forests of West Papua, impacted communities are resisting the rise of ‘green extractivism’ everywhere it is occurring. They embody the many ways we need to transform our energy-intense societies to ones based on democratic and fair access to the essential elements for a dignified life. We must act in solidarity with impacted communities across the globe.

This report includes in-depth studies written by frontline organisations in Indonesia and Philippines directly resisting nickel mining in both countries respectively. These exclusive case studies highlight the threats, potential impacts and worrying trends associated with nickel mining and illustrate, in detail, the landscape for mining expansion in the region.

Read the text (PDF).

Leveraging Strategic Position, Argentine Vegetable Oil Workers Win Big Raises with Coordinated Strike

By Julia Soul and Ernesto Torres - Labor Notes, February 16, 2021

Argentina’s vegetable oil workers ended 2020 on a high note, with a triumphant 21-day national strike for higher wages. They were pushing to make the minimum wage a living wage, as the constitution mandates.

Lithium, Batteries and Climate Change: The transition to green energy does not have to be powered by destructive and poisonous mineral extraction

By Jonathan Neale - Climate and Capitalism, February 11, 2021

I have spent the last year working on a book called Fight the Fire: Green New Deals and Global Climate Jobs. Most of it is about both the politics and the engineering of any possible transition that can avert catastrophic climate breakdown. One thing I had to think about long and hard was lithium and car batteries.

I often hear people say that we can’t cover the world with electric vehicles, because there simply is not enough lithium for batteries. In any case, they add, lithium production is toxic, and the only supplies are in the Global South. Moreover, so the story goes, there are not enough rare earth metals for wind turbines and all the other hardware we will need for renewable energy.

People often smile after they say those things, which is hard for me to understand, because it means eight billion people will go to hell.

So I went and found out about lithium batteries and the uses of rare earth. What I found out is that the transition will be possible, but neither the politics nor the engineering is simple. This article explains why. I start by describing the situation simply, and then add in some of the complexity.

Lithium is a metal used in almost all electric vehicle batteries today. About half of global production of lithium currently goes to electric vehicles. And in future we will need to increase the production of electric vehicles from hundreds or thousands to hundreds of millions. That will require vast amounts of lithium.

There are three ways to mine lithium. It can be extracted from rock. It can be extracted from the brine that is left over when sea water passes through a desalination plant. Or it can be extracted from those brine deposits which are particularly rich in lithium. These brine deposits are the common way of mining lithium currently, because it is by far the cheapest. Most of the known deposits of lithium rich brine are in the arid highlands where Bolivia, Chile and Argentina come together.

Lithium mining is well established in Chile and Argentina. In both countries the local indigenous people have organized against the mining, but so far been unable to stop it. The mining is toxic, because large amounts of acid are used in the processing. But the mining also uses large amounts of water in places that already has little enough moisture. The result is that ancestral homelands become unlivable.

Bolivia may have even richer deposits of lithium than Argentina and Chile, but mining has not begun there. The Bolivian government had been led by the indigenous socialist Evo Morales from 2006 to 2019. Morales had been propelled to power by a mass movement committed to taking back control of Bolivia’s water, gas and oil resources from multinational corporations. Morales was unable to nationalize the corporations, but he did insist on the government getting a much larger share of the oil and gas revenue.[1]

His government planned to go even further with lithium. Morales wanted to mine the lithium in Bolivia, but he wanted to build factories alongside the mines to make batteries. In a world increasingly hungry for batteries, that could have turned Bolivia into an industrial nation, not just a place to exploit resources.

The Morales government, however, was unable to raise the necessary investment funds. Global capital, Tesla, the big banks and the World Bank had no intention of supporting such a project. And if they had, they would not have done so in conjunction with a socialist like Morales. Then, in 2019, a coup led by Bolivian capitalists, and supported by the United States, removed Morales. Widespread popular unrest forced a new election in October. Morales’ party, the Movement for Socialism won, though Morales himself was out of the running. It is unclear what will happen to the lithium.

That’s one level of complexity. The local indigenous people did not want the lithium mined. The socialist government did not want extractavism, but they did want industrial development.

Those are not the only choices.

For one thing, there are other, more expensive ways of mining lithium. It can be mined from hard rock in China or the United States. More important, batteries do not have to be made out of lithium. Cars had used batteries for almost a century before Sony developed a commercial lithium-ion battery in 1991. Engineers in many universities are experimenting with a range of other materials for building batteries. But even without looking to the future, it would be possible to build batteries in the ways they used to be built. Indeed, in January 2020, the US Geological Service listed the metals that could be substituted for lithium in battery anodes as calcium, magnesium, mercury and zinc.[2]

The reason all manufacturers currently use lithium is that it provides a lighter battery that lasts longer. That gives the car greater range without recharging, and it make possible a much lighter car. In other words, lithium batteries are cheaper.

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