Last Sunday, August 7, was the Day of Saint Cajetan (San Cayetano), patron of the unemployed. In Argentina, a Catholic country, this day is a national festivity of great importance where workers give thanks for their jobs and unemployed people pray for one. This year, social organizations convened a massive march to demand a better life for the people.
Last Sunday, around 100,000 people marched for 18.2 kilometers from the Church of Saint Cajetan to the historical Plaza de Mayo. The mass of people chanted demanding Land, Roof and Work for everyone. Precisely the things that are lacking due to Mauricio Macri’s neoliberal policies. The conveners of this impressive mass actions were the Confederation of Popular Economy Workers (CTEP), Barrios de Pie [Neighborhoods Rising] and the Corriente Clasista y Combativa [Combative and Classist Coordination]. They did so against all odds, completely ignored by corporate media, but with the courage and the determination to be up to the challenge and do what needs to be done for a people that is beginning to get sick and tired of those who govern them and also of some of their own representatives, who are easily convinced to stop fighting and begin filling their personal bank accounts.
They walked with their feet heavy with the weight of many years of protests, hunger and unemployment. Men and women, workers with or without jobs, peasants, university and high school students, housewives. There was also quite a number of priests and missionaries that follow Pope Francis, who carried pictures of the Pope and of Priests of the Third World like Carlos Mugica and Monseñor Angelelli, who were murdered in the 70s due to their revolutionary defense of the rights of the poor. There were also many social and popular organizations that didn’t fall for the usual pettiness of sabotaging a protest on the account of who convenes it. Something noteworthy was the amount of militants that represented the Evita Movement and the Confluence that groups together the Dignity Popular Movement and other organizations; as well as the large columns of the Classist and Combative Current (CCC) and Neighborhoods Rising. Many immigrant workers were present there, mainly from Bolivia —and they even danced a traditional Bolivian Tinku wearing their festive garments. As usual in the most recent mass activities, there were many self-convened people and leaders of the General Confederation of Workers (CGT), from the two branches of the Argentine Workers’ Central (CTA) and from the combative union currents.
Something surprising happened when the march reached Plaza de Mayo: they suddenly realized that the square was already almost full with more protesters and therefore the march occupied the three surrounding avenues.
A stage was set up, as usual, in front of the Government House. Some of the most prominent fighters of the 90s, when the people resisted the neoliberal project of Presidents Carlos Menem and Fernando de la Rúa. Among the speakers were Nobel Peace Prize Adolfo Pérez Esquivel, state union leader Víctor de Gennaro and a representative of the struggle of the oil workers of the province of Salta, led by “Pepino” Fernández. But the stellar moment of the homages was when a special woman stepped on the stage. She represents a lifelong struggle for Human Rights and defense of the dispossessed: the Mother of Plaza de Mayo Nora Cortiñas. As she was welcomed with a round of applause, she saluted the crowd with her fist held up high, and dedicated that moment to the 30,000 disappeared, “who are here today, with all of us”.
The struggle carried out at the present juncture comes from a long history of struggles, that has historical landmarks such as the great marches and strikes against the military dictatorship and the workers’ struggle of the 90s. That is why some names were met with ovations by the public —the names of anti-bureaucratic and revolutionary union leaders of the 70s: Raimundo Ongaro, Agustín Tosco, René Salamanca and Atilio López. There was also a special mention to Saúl Ubaldini and the force he gave to the CGT, to the Movement of Argentine Workers (MTA) and the historical manifestos of the Argentine CGT: La Falda and Huerta Grande.
Finally, the representatives of the 3 organizations that convened the act spoke. Daniel Meléndez, from Neighborhoods Rising, described the critical situation in the poorest neighborhoods, where hunger is striking again. Amancay Ardura, from the CCC, who wrote the history of the 90s struggle and compared the government that was in power at that time with Macri’s, because both handed sovereignty over to transnational companies.
Lastly, Esteban “Gringo” Castro, Secretary General of the CTEP, praised the “unity achieved by workers’ organizations and the people’s combative religious movement, which became a key actor in this huge mobilization of the dispossessed, of those whose rights are violated by neoliberalism and imperialism.
He also announced that the CTEP will take to the streets three more times this month: next Tuesday to support the march convened by the combative left-wing union movement, next Thursday to support the national movement and mobilization of the ATE state workers, and in the Federal March that is to be held later this month. “Nobody surrenders! The struggle must go on”, he encouraged, and the crowd cheered him with a mix of joy for being so many and anger for all the evils that the current government has brought upon them in only eight months.