Itai Hagman, of Argentine Party Patria Grande: “There’s a scheme by the largest economic groups to create a conservative two-party system”. Interview by Carlos Aznárez. Part 2 of 2

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This is the second of a two-part interview with Itaí Hagman. Read the first part here.

Photo credit: Notas Periodismo Popular
Itaí Hagman speaking at the Photo credit: Notas Periodismo Popular

Source: Resumen Latinoamericano / The Dawn News / March 15, 2017

Itaí Hagman is the leader of Patria Grande (Great Motherland), which is part of an electoral coalition that seeks to replace the right-wing party that currently governs the City of Buenos Aires. He’s an economist and teacher whose involvement in political activism began in 2001 in a slum, and later, when he was in college, he joined a student organization called “La Mella”. And later, he formed Patria Grande. He’s a follower of the ideas of Bolivian Vice President Alvaro García Linera and of the Spanish  Podemos party. Hagman considers himself part of the new generation that “rejects the old political structures and chooses to build spaces for mass political participation”. 

Carlos Aznárez: This is a really convulsed year since it is an electoral and additionally there have been several massive mobilizations against the Mauricio Macri’s policies. Do you see a chance to put a halt this government, meaning, making him back down from his ferocious policies?

Itaí Hagman: Many of us have a contradictory feeling. On one hand, in a year and a half of government they have made tremendous advances in their project, but I think we also felt they hadn’t gone as far as they wanted.

In fact, we have just started to see the real project of Macrism, which involves deeper reforms, like the labour reform and changes that are deeper than a simple economical adjustment. To really carry out their policies they need to reach a level of political legitimacy they don’t have, especially because they won in a runoff election by only three percentage points.

I believe that the 2016 mobilizations played a very important role. The 9 or 10 massive mobilizations that occurred weren’t predictable, especially on the first year of a new government. And this year has already begun with even more mobilizations and strikes, and I believe that the atmosphere of struggle that keeps growing is essential.

Of course, we can’t stop the future implementation of more anti-grassroots policies, and they will continue until the end of their term. What we can do is diminishing or limit their impact. This is really important, but if we only do that and in the next elections we are unable to obtain a result that expresses the downfall of Macrism, then we’ll have a problem. Here lies the big question: what resistance is Macri going to find in the electoral arena? And I believe there’s a scheme by the largest economic groups to create a conservative two-party system, with some differences between them, but where neither of them questions Macri’s neoliberal project. There are plenty of candidates working their way to be chosen as the acceptable oppositor. The clearest example is Sergio Massa.  

C. A.: In this scenario, what role do former president Cristina Kirchner and Kirchnerism play?

I. H.: That’s a big question. Undoubtedly,, there has been a deliberate intention to marginalize Kirchnerism, not just from the media but also from the Justicialist Party. Apparently, they could not fully managed to do so, and many sectors that yesterday were anti-Kirchnerist and claimed that they “could not work with Cristina Kirchner anymore”, now seem to be recalculating in order to keep their political seats.

So, we are at a transition stage. Of course, a great part of the population still sees Cristina as the main leader of the opposition against the neoliberal project, and that gives her a role of great responsibility.

Either way, she’s not making many public appearances and I won’t tell her what to do, but the political system is in a fragile state and we’re discussing how to proceed in order to avoid a two-party system. The worst thing that could happen in Argentina is the consolidation of another neoliberal party as an alternative to Macrism. That has to be avoided at all costs, lest we repeat entering in a cycle of alternance between parties that have pretty similar political pillars.

C. A.: Imperialism is at a peak all throughout Latin America, and some progressivist governments have fallen. How likely do you think it is that these tendencies might recover? Is this a consequence of the inability of the so-called progressivism to do what it had to, thus allowing the empire to advance?

I. H.: I believe that what it is happening in the U.S. and with the worldwide neoliberal project is paradoxical. García Linera stated that maybe Trump’s triumph was the final strike to that neoliberal project—which doesn’t necessarily mean that what’s coming is better, but it surely confirms the economical crisis that the world has been suffering from for over 25 years. Prior to the election of Donald Trump, it seemed to be the end for progressivist movements in Latin America—Dilma had been impeached, Macri had won and Evo Morales had lost the referendum to be reelected—, but now I am wondering whether Trump’s triumph might have opened a door for us. Either way, if conditions ripen for a popular uprising, this time progressivist policies must go way deeper than the ones of the last decade. And I believe it’s very important to discuss where prior experiences went wrong.

C. A.: At a militant level, does your party believe that socialism is the only way to overcome capitalism? As a left-wing party, what do you think about socialism?

I. H.: In our case, our consolidation as a political force had much to do with the ideas that the Bolivarian Revolution proposed for Latin America and their take on “XXI-Century Socialism”. We took it as our main ideology. And we understood that capitalism was not the only possible system, as the leaders and spokesmen of the neoliberal hegemony made us believe. Also, we had the certainty that building a post-capitalist society had nothing to do with repeating the failed systems of the XX century.

Anyhow, our party’s horizon has always been and will be the same: to overcome the natural and intrinsic injustices that capitalism entails. We are not interested—and maybe that is why our day-to-day activities go under the radar for most people—in making socialist propaganda and logic as our main political activities. We believe that socialism, or any post-capitalist perspective for that matter, is not the result of propaganda but of the intensification of struggles.

In general, Latin America’s socialisms have appeared as a response of the people towards elite and imperialism. They were product of the dynamic of such process, and they were not created as socialist responses. We have to think something similar towards the future. It will depend on the capacity of the peoples to deepen the confrontation against the ruling classes and the imperialist powers.

C. A.: Do you see yourself as a deputy in a close future? Or do you look forward into taking a political office?

I. H.: I believe that it would be really important for the project that we are building to have an institutional representative, above all because it opens up possibilities of public reference. So, I wouldn’t do it because of a personal desire. It has more to do with the challenge and the impulse our party would get. And I believe we could achieve many goals from an institutional seat. I don’t believe that as a legislator I would be able to change the course of history, but we could bring into the Congress agenda a lot of issues that today are outside the institutional scenario.

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