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

Several people with banners in Spanish march towards the camera’s right

Massive protests, and then a general strike on January 24, created pressure to reject an anti-union bill and forestalled other laws against free speech and legislative debate. More pressure will be needed, however. Photo: Indymedia Argentina.

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.


Then the government tried to pass a “decree of necessity and urgency”—a legal tool that limits legislative debate in the parliament, where Milei does not have a majority—and a law project entitled ‘Bases and Starting Points for Argentinean Freedom.’

Both included provisions for a far-reaching labor reform that would promote informal employment, facilitate mass layoffs, extend probation periods, and make working hours less reliable.

The reform would seriously affect labor activism and unions. It would limit the right to strike and union activity in the workplace, promote individual bargaining rather than collective bargaining, and cut unions’ financial resources. It would limit meetings and demonstrations on public roads, and criminalize protests.

Among the bill’s other provisions were tax changes for the benefit of capitalists and corporations, the privatization of public companies (among them the oil company YPF, the national public bank, and public media), and the withdrawal of programs preventing gender violence and protecting victims. It would have added up to a complete redesign of Argentina’s economy and society.

Fortunately, the bill has just been retired by the government. After intense debates in Parliament, the government has not gained enough votes to pass it.


The popular response to this all-out assault was not long in coming—starting on December 20 with a demonstration called by leftist parties, human rights organizations, and social movements to commemorate the anniversary of the Argentinazo, the popular uprising that threw out the conservative government of Fernando de la Rúa in 2001. It was not canceled despite threats of repression by the Minister of Security.

This successful mobilization empowered people, so after Milei made the announcement of his decree on a nationwide broadcast, spontaneous cacerolazos—protest demonstrations featuring the banging of pots and pans—were heard all over the city of Buenos Aires and in some of the suburbs.



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After failing to negotiate a less drastic labor bill, the country’s main union federation, the CGT, called a mobilization to the highest court on December 27, where they filed an appeal for protection against the decree. Both factions of the other major union federation joined the call. So did many other groups, such as:

  • Football clubs against privatization
  • Cultural organizations
  • Popular economy and piquetero organizations, which are created by unemployed people who use social assistance from the government to build collective and community projects such as bakeries, brickyards, and canteens
  • Popular assemblies, which are spontaneous neighborhood organizations that arose in big cities during the 2001 crises, and were quickly reorganized after the victory of Milei

The filing of appeals for legal protection by different organizations affected by the decree has multiplied, with mixed results. But the application of those provisions referred to as the “Labor Reform’’ has been suspended.


All this paved the way for the call for the general strike by the CGT. Soon many organizations joined in a broad coalition to organize the strike—a response to the government’s offensive over people’s living conditions, and social, labor, feminist, and environmental rights.

It was different from other recent general strikes in Argentina. First, it was called only 45 days after a new government took office. Despite the adverse conditions suffered by the working class during and after the pandemic, the CGT has not called a general strike since 2019. The federation’s leadership, which tends to prefer dialogue with the government and employers, is thus showing a change of strategy—recognizing a strong offensive by capital and in the face of a government that is unwilling to negotiate.

Second, it’s new that the CGT worked in coordination with a broad array of organizations and groups. This is the first time that the main representatives of Madres de Plaza de Mayo—an organization created during the last dictatorship (1976-83) by the mothers of people disappeared by the ruling military junta—were on the main stage of a general strike, together with the general secretaries of the CGT. They raised the popular demands of Memory, Truth, and Justice, in the face of a government whose main figures have repeatedly supported the dictatorship. Las madres launched a call for “unity and courage to defend democracy and defy authoritarianism.” “Our children were workers,” they reminded us.

Feminist groups, human rights organizations, cultural workers, tenants unions, and political parties (from the left grouped in the Left Workers Front FIT-U to factions of traditional Peronist and Radical parties) joined the labor federations and the Popular Economy and piquetero movement.

All these sectors found in the government’s offensive a common interest in supporting the strike. “24E [January 24] already belongs to everyone,” declared the CGT in its networks and media publications.

Third, despite the repressive attempts of the government to intimidate and criminalize the protest, a significant number of self-organized people and new organizations such as the neighborhood assemblies participated—recalling the organizing experiences of the 2001 crisis.


Most people agree the strike and the mobilization went well—defying repressive threats and paving the way for ongoing demonstrations and protests against the government. After the strike, artistic performances, book exhibitions, popular assemblies, and other collective actions multiplied in Buenos Aires and other big cities. Working people are claiming their democratic right to public protest. And since the labor reform contained in the decree was declared unconstitutional by the labor courts, it will not be enforced.

The decree itself has not yet been rejected, however; only the labor reform chapter was declared unconstitutional. As for the bill, the government was forced to withdraw it on February 6; there is no doubt that popular unrest and street demonstrations influenced this decision. Leftist parties, public sector unions, and popular assemblies had organized demonstrations in front of Congress while the deputies discussed it, despite the government’s repression.

What happens next will depend on how much strength and coordination the working class and popular organizations can achieve. It will still take massive, multi-sectoral campaigns to confront the government’s plans. Some of the key questions are: To what extent are the CGT leaders willing to assume a coordinating role in social protest? How far will the self-organized sectors be able to maintain pressure on the unions to keep mobilizing? And will the current conditions open up a space for the growth of militant and left currents in the union movement and in the mobilized sectors?

Clara Marticorena works at the Center of Labor Studies and Research (CEIL) and at the University of Buenos Aires. Julia Soul works at CEIL, collaborates with the Action Network News Agency (AnRed), and is a member of the Labor Studies Workshop.