J. Posadas

The Argentine Elections
and the Tasks of the Proletariat [1]

(March 1958)

From Fourth International (Amsterdam), No. 2, Spring 1958, pp. 17–21.
Marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

The election results show that the political crisis of the bourgeoisie is both deep and continuing: only the Trotskyist Partido Obrero and Frondizi advanced, while for the other parties, workers’ or bourgeois, the election was a catastrophe. They also show considerable growth in the political maturity of the working class.

The whole press, reflecting the ideological, social, and political interests of the bourgeoisie, attempts to conceal this second lesson. They analyze the election only as a polarization around the two main candidates, with the working class supporting Frondizi against Balbin, in an attempt to prevent the proletariat from drawing its own class conclusions from the experience so as to guide it in its future tasks.

For the real struggle was not the immediate one between two tendencies representing the national industrial bourgeoisie and the oligarchy, but that of both tendencies against the proletariat. Previously, to prevent it from presenting itself independently with its own class programme; since, to prevent it from seeing itself confidently for the force that it really is.

What do the elections really show about the degree of political maturity and class combativity of the masses?

Before the Elections

Prior to the elections, the working class and the petty-bourgeoisie had launched powerful strikes and other mass mobilizations. Frondizi (backed by the sell-out Peronist leaderships) launched a furious campaign to persuade the masses to stop their struggles, to wait for everything to be settled after the elections. As “persuasion,” it forbade strikes for 40 days, under threat of up to 25 years’ imprisonment. Neither fooled nor intimidated, the working class refused to postpone its movements: the construction workers, railwaymen, oil workers, textile workers, and bank and insurance-company employees, kept right on fighting. On the programmatic level, three months before the elections there was held in Cordoba the Congress of the Regional Sections of the CGT and of the 62 organizations, which adopted a trade-union, social, economic, and political programme for the struggle for national and social liberation – a remarkably advanced document to emerge from a national trade-union congress. [Vide text at end of this article.]

On the electoral plane, Peron passed the word, and his lieutenants in the country ordered the workers to vote for Frondizi. After a severe internal crisis, the Communist Party also came out for support to Frondizi. Peronists, Stalinists, various petty-bourgeois tendencies, brought unremitting pressure on the working class, presenting support for Frondizi not only as a lesser evil but as the only way out: the opposite would be dictatorship, catastrophe. Wherever the masses turned toward traditional leaderships, they heard nothing but the deafening beating of drums for Frondizi. If the Argentine masses had been as politically immature as in past decades, the calculations of the Peronists and Stalinists would have been fulfilled 100%. What actually happened was significantly different.

Election Results and the Growing Maturity of the Proletariat

Under capitalism, elections permit a periodic measuring of the condition, the will, the combativity, and the political maturity of the proletariat and the petty-bourgeoisie. This is usually shown in votes for candidates, with the percentage variations in votes for workers’ parties having an extreme symptomatic significance. But in certain circumstances, the masses express themselves politically, not by direct voting, but by write-in campaigns, ostentatiously blank ballots, or abstentionism. These apparently negative expressions of opinion can, under certain circumstances, be on the contrary very positive indeed, and such was the case in our recent election.

Peron’s orders to vote for Frondizi were rejected by a large part of the Peronist masses. Thirty-six percent stuck to the previous policy of blank ballots. There were more than a million abstentions. These sectors demonstrated strikingly and unmistakably their rejection of support for a bourgeois candidate and their no-confidence in such elections as a way out. They demonstrated that, if they are to vote, they want a independent political party of the working class to vote for. And thereby they demonstrated to what a degree, in the two and a half years since Peron fled, they have begun to see through the manoeuvres and mysticisms of Peronism and to gain new political maturity.

Some went even further along the path to maturity, as is evinced by the remarkable results in the Province of Buenos Aires, the only province where it was possible to fulfill the legal conditions for presenting an election slate of the Partido Obrero Revolucionario – Trotskista.

As a condition for its being legally recognized, the Partido Obrero Revolucionario – Trotskista was forced by the bourgeois state to call itself just the Partido Obrero and to eliminate a few clauses from its Declaration of Principles and its programme. The party formally complied, without – needless to say – renouncing any of its principles, programme, or goals.

It was the first time the party had presented itself at elections, and it lacked the financial means and numerical strength to carry the campaign to the entire province. It obtained the right to participate only 40 days before the elections. Nevertheless, it got 15,424 votes. Where it was represented, it got more votes than the Union Federal, the Partido de los Trabajadores, the Partido Laborista, and many other bourgeois or so-called workers’ parties operating on a national scale and with tradition and seniority And though its campaign was limited to only three districts, it got a quarter as many votes as the Communist Party did in the entire Province of Buenos Aires. The Communist Party, with 69,590 votes, lost 12,800 in comparison with 1957. The Partido Laborista dropped from 51,900 to 8,500; the Partido de los Trabajadores from 49,017 to 13,663. In various circumscriptions the Partido Obrero obtained more votes than the Communist Party. Most bourgeois parties were also hard hit. In sum, the only two parties that advanced electorally were the two that expressed the tendencies in the real struggle, that between the proletariat and the national bourgeoisie: the Partido Obrero and the UCRI.

Significantly, the Partido Obrero got 75% of its votes in the workers’ districts of, and the proletarian belt around, Greater Buenos Aires. For Trotskyism is known to ever broader sectors of the proletariat. For years now Trotskyists have tirelessly engaged in consistent trade-union and political work. Party militants have participated in the most important mobilizations of the working class, occupied leading posts in big strikes, and are thus known and respected in the labor movement. Dozens of its militants have been expelled from the factories because of their fighting activity as labor leaders. Voz Proletaria [the party’s fortnightly newspaper] is known to the whole labor movement.

Thus the votes for the Partido Obrero were not the result of either accident or misunderstanding. A high proportion of them represented conscious support of the full Trotskyist programme. The rest expressed in the most specific way the desire for an independent workers’ party.

We are now in a position to see what, behind Frondizi’s victory over Balbin, was the real meaning of the elections: that as a result of its experience in the two and a half years since Peron fled, the Argentine proletariat has advanced very seriously indeed in its political maturity.

First, that there is a vanguard sector that will support a revolutionary Marxist programme, as exemplified by the 15,424 votes for the Partido Obrero in only three districts in one province.

Second, as shown by the immense number of blank ballots and abstentions, that the masses, a) in a negative way, refuse to support a bourgeois candidate even with Peronist and Stalinist backing and feel no confidence at all in elections like this last one, and b) in a positive way, want their own independent working-class party.

Combined with the adoption of the Cordoba Programme, and the refusal of the proletariat to abandon its strike actions and other class manifestations despite government threats and Peronist persuasion, these are highly encouraging results.

The Crisis in Peronism

The elections clearly confirmed the crisis of Peronism. Its strong point was the unity of the class that it controlled. In these elections that unity was broken, and Peronism lost and will continue to lose control and leadership of the masses.

Since 1945 the proletariat has maintained a profound sense of unity, fraternity, and class solidarity. After Peron’s flight, while Peronist labor leaders were stumbling around or deserting outright, it retained its cohesion, vigorous fighting spirit, and trade-union and political unity. And in this process of increasing unity, it assimilated the experience of the colonial peoples of Algeria, China, Korea, Bolivia, Egypt, etc., which developed its international consciousness.

The Peronist leadership had some grounds for believing that it could count on unconditional support by this united working class. But its policy handcuffed the workers, headed off a generalized class movement to overthrow the reactionary military government. It averted all attempts at general mobilization of the masses, limited them to narrow demands accompanied by terrorist and putschist adventures. Even with the prospect of the general strike thus eliminated, the workers still plainly wanted somehow or other to fight actively, to demonstrate against the government. Peronist election policy was also an attempt to provide a discharge for this pent-up pressure through an electoral outlet.

Instead, it split the working class along the lines of comparative political maturity. With the division brought about by support of Frondizi by one sector, this break in unity will make itself felt in activity; but it can be rapidly repaired through renewed class mobilizations – and in the right direction. Those sectors which cast blank ballots or abstained from voting can once more pull along the rest of the class with them and reunify it in action, despite the waning influence of the Peronist leadership. But the most important obstacle along this path is the lack of an independent class leadership and political organization. It is necessary to prevent the crisis in

Peronism from being used by the bourgeois and labor-bureaucratic leaderships to paralyze the process of growing political maturity and organization of the working class. To give the crisis of Peronism a progressive course, it is necessary to organize the labor party based on the trade unions.

There has ripened within Peronism a petty-bourgeois “Jacobin” tendency that is trying to take advantage of the crisis, but only to drag the Peronist party back to a petty-bourgeois programme of mere national liberation. This tendency has found an echo and a certain acceptance among leaders and middle-ranking cadres of the Peronist trade-union movement, Yet these Jacobin tendencies also express in a deformed way a reflection of the ranks’ tendency to detach themselves from a programme of unconditionally serving the industrial bourgeoisie.

Peronist support for Frondizi was not a last-minute decision. It was decided in principle a year ago. After the failure of the June 1956 coup d’état, the Peronist leadership realized that it had no chance of regaining power by military means. And it would never have recourse to a real revolutionary mobilization of the masses. So it decided on support of another figure who serves the same master: the national industrial bourgeoisie. But it found great resistance in both the ranks and the middle cadres. Typically symptomatic was the fact that it was only one day before the elections that the Peronist Tactical Command was able to publish an announcement signed by well-known unionists with authority in the working class, saying that Peronists must vote for Frondizi. If there had not been deep divergences, it would have appeared 12 days earlier, i.e., on the date of the first Peronist communiqué announcing the policy of voting for Frondizi. Such petty-bourgeois leaders as Leloir are trying falsely to present these divergences as reflecting political differences within the bourgeois camp. But the real reason for the resistance and even rejection by sectors of working-class and even petty-bourgeois Peronist leaders of the vote-for-Frondizi policy was that they sensed the discontent of the working-class base and its refusal to vote for a bourgeois candidate (immediately to be exemplified by the massive casting of blank ballots and abstentionism), in short, a class attitude. This class significance will make itself deeply felt in the next period of mass struggles, within Peronism and in the trade-union movement.

The Crisis in the Communist Party

On electoral policy, there was no unanimity in the CP leadership. They weighed each candidate’s possibilities, the advantages and concessions each might provide. Discussion was lengthy. Even support for Balbin was considered. Finally they chose Frondizi, with the calculation that the visibly combative proletariat, not being give voting guidance by the Peronist leadership, would vote for Frondizi

for President and themselves for deputies, senators, etc. As usual, they calculated on the basis of their subjective desires, not in accordance with objective reality and the masses’ mood. In calculations made for the CP rank and file, the leadership made it clear that it was expecting a 30% increase in votes.

At first the CP rank and file rejected the policy. It finally had to give way and follow the line, but it remained dissatisfied, uneasy, and worried. The militants in everyday work saw that the workers were not inclined to support their party. They have been asking their leadership why the party is not growing. (Now they will have to ask, Why is it growing smaller?) But the leadership persisted. It was bargaining for its support of Frondizi against post-election promises and possible commercial agreements with the USSR. The rank and file sensed, especially after adoption of the Cordoba Programme, that the Argentine workers were ideologically and politically in an ascendant stage, growing politically mature, and seeking an independent class road, including a party of their own, and were not attracted by the Communist Party’s class-collaborationist line. But the leadership had the pretension of keeping that working class subject to the limits of its agreements with the bourgeoisie and of using it simply for its own diplomatic and commercial aims.

The answer to its policy was condign. We have already pointed out how in Buenos Aires Province it lost 26% of its previous votes, while the Partido Obrero was receiving 24% of its total. In Tucuman Province, the CP dropped from 6,754 to 1,779 votes; in Santa Fé Province, from 24,800 to 17,100; in Santiago del Estero Province, from 5,549 to 1,700; in Salta Province, from 2,045 to 26. The leadership blamed the defeat on “circumstantial” factors, mistakes in the form of voting, sabotage, or lack of maturity of the Peronist workers. This is nonsense: the defeat was the result of the fact that the CP leadership thought it could put over a conciliatory sell-out collaborationist policy that operates against the objective revolutionary needs of the working class and the exploited masses, just at the moment when they were sensing that their way out lies, not through class-collaboration, but through their own labor party based on the trade unions, through a fight to achieve the Cordoba Programme and to have the 62 function as the CGT, etc. The CP militant, feeling the opposing pressures inside the trade unions, which form the present arena in which the working class is gaining its maturity, has been thrown by the election defeat into doubts, hesitations, and resistances to his leadership, and is demanding critical discussion of the election results.

The Prospects for Frondizism

Frondizi, operating in the name of the industrial bourgeoisie, proposes to solve governmental instability, which opens the door to social instability. But he faces a discouraging task. The stock markets are paralyzed, and many stocks have dropped to half their previous values. Trade exchanges are piling up enormous deficits. A process of unemployment is beginning, and some factories are closing down entirely. The crisis of the Argentine bourgeoisie continues.

The majority of the army wishes to turn over the power, because it feels that decomposition and loss of discipline and caste authority are reaching it, hence coups d’état, through not excluded, are unlikely. But even without coups d’état, Frondizi will be under permanent threat of intervention by the army. He is also under constant pressure from imperialism. But on the other hand, he depends on the support of the anti-oligarchic petty-bourgeoisie and proletarians, who demand that he fulfill his election promises. The capitalist and imperialist forces are lying in wait to exploit all his difficulties in these sectors. This, combined with the proletariat’s struggles for its Cordoba Programme, will create new instability and crises.

Frondizi needs to combine with sectors of Peronism to create a new movement to back him up in his programme on behalf of the industrial big bourgeoisie, especially his own bureaucratic trade-union apparatus. Here he will find invaluable the services of the Peronist bureaucracy. It is ready to serve him. But the working class, no.

The Prospects and Tasks of the Working Class

Yet Frondizi must take into account a working class that is increasingly hard to handle. Before, during, and after the elections, the masses were involved in some of the greatest strikes of their trade-union history. The bank clerks and insurance-company employees, the building workers, port workers, and oil workers have been fighting vigorously. The determined attitude of the workers of the giant Anglo meat-packing plants, who forcibly threw out the officials sent to intervene in their union; the tendency of the workers to reject the shutting-down of factories and to occupy them; the magnificent fighting spirit of the railway workers – these demonstrate the working class’s present very high combativity.

Frondizi needs a bridge to the working class, and part of the leadership of the labor movement – Peronists, Communists, and the “free unionists” – are preparing to serve as such. By cooperating in the construction of a new labor bureaucracy, they can possibly succeed in a unification, in order to hold back the working class’s independent class struggles. There is here a real danger of attempts to solve the crisis of the bourgeoisie on the backs of the workers.

A leadership that is responsible, honorable, and loyal to the working class, on the contrary, must determine its principles and attitudes in accordance with the class’s own interests, not worrying about the difficulties of the bourgeoisie but profiting by them. The present leadership of the labor movement has shown itself conciliationist and ready to serve, not the working class, but the national bourgeoisie. The conclusion is inescapable that the labor movement needs a new and class-loyal leadership.

And on what programme? That programme exists, one democratically accepted in a historic congress, which marks a new stage in the increased ideological and political maturity of the working class. The Cordoba Programme corresponds to the needs of the exploited population and the country’s economico-social development. It is a guide in the fight against industrialized exploitation, for the country’s economic development, for increased trade exchanges, for workers’ control, and for the struggle against imperialism. It is a programme that a new and loyal leadership must on every occasion put forward in contrast to the pretentions of the national bourgeoisie. And with what organization? By their divers interventions in the elections, the Argentine masses have shown that they are looking, not for one more bourgeois party, but for their own independent class party. Their mandate is clear. The basis for organization exists: the trade unions. Now is the time to organize a labor party based on the unions. Once the unions and the central and regional organization have formed it, they must call on all the exploited sectors of the population to join, either individually or as organizations, call on all housewives, farmers, students, white-collar workers, etc.

And with what political goal? The duty of the responsible leaders, cadres, and militants of the working class is not to hasten to help Frondizi save the bourgeoisie, to get it out of its contradictions and difficulties, but to advance the working class toward its own power. Its immediate goal must be that of a Workers’ and Peasants’ Government. In the meantime, the 62 organizations must function as the CGT, while the struggle goes on for the reconquest of the patrimony of the Central Obrera. On the road to a Workers’ and Peasants’ Government, the masses can now be mobilized by the Cordoba Programme, against unemployment, against the high cost of living, against the dismantling of industries, and for diplomatic relations and trade agreements with all the workers’ states, and for the expulsion and appropriation of imperialism.

With the recent demonstration of the increased political maturity of the proletariat, and its continued high level of combativity, its militants and leading cadres must not wait to be called for organization. They must themselves take the initiative and dynamically organize committees in the factories, carry the matter forcefully to the districts and unions. In this very struggle the new leadership of the labor movement will be selected.

4 March 1958



The magnificent expression of the maturity reached by the Argentine workers in their concept of the struggle and its forms, meaning that the Argentine workers from now on, after the experience of the struggle lived through in these last years, have demonstrated that not only is their concern not limited to increases in wages and to strengthening their trade unions as a means of struggle, but that they are also constantly concerned – with all the implications that this involves on the economic, social, and political planes – with the general situation of the country and that of the wage-earners defending for progressive purposes the national industry and power resources of the country; and


That the thought of the working class is unanimous around economic, political, and social concretizations synthesizing the eagerness to become a Nation that can become an independent economy through a social policy which by guaranteeing justice establishes in definitive form our sovereignty as a Nation;

For these reasons the Plenary National Meeting of Regional Delegations


To raise before the Coordinating Bureau of the “62” organizations, as the expression of the desires of this Plenary Meeting, the following programme:


In the economic aspect:

Attainment of economic independence in integral form. For this it becomes indispensable to support:

a) Foreign trade.

  1. State control of foreign trade on the basis of the formation of a state monopoly.
  2. Liquidation of foreign import and export monopolies.
  3. Control of producers in trade operations with a view to defense of the national income. Planification of the process with a view to the needs of the country, in function of its historic development, taking into account the interest of the laboring class.
  4. Broadening and diversification of international markets.
  5. Denunciation of all pacts injurious to our economic independence.
  6. Planification of trading taking into account our internal development.
  7. Economic integration with our brother peoples of Latin America, on the bases of achieved experiences.

b) In the internal field:

  1. A policy of high internal consumption; greater production for the country in a national sense.
  2. Development of light industry adequate to the country’s needs.
  3. Augmentation of an economic policy tending to attain the consolidation of heavy industry, basis for any future development.
  4. A national power policy: for this there becomes necessary the nationalization of the natural sources of power and their exploitation in function of the country’s needs for development.
  5. Nationalization of foreign meat-packing-houses, in order to render possible effectiveness of control over foreign trade, taking out of the hands of foreign monopolies these basic means of our economy.
  6. Fundamental solutions in a national sense of regional economic problems on the basis of integrating these economies into the country’s real needs, overcoming the present division into “rich provinces” and “poor provinces.”
  7. Centralized control of credit by the state, rendering it adequate to a plan of integral development of the economy with a view to the interests of the workers.
  8. An agrarian programme, synthesized in: mechanization of agriculture, “national tendency of industry,” expropriation of latifundia, and extension of agrarian cooperativism, in an effort so that the land may be for those who work it.


In the social aspect:

1) Workers’ control of the production and distribution of national wealth by means of the effective participation of the workers:

  1. in the preparation and execution of the general economic plan, through the trade-union organizations;
  2. participation in the direction of private and public enterprises, guaranteeing, in each case, the social function of wealth.
  3. popular control of prices.

2) Minimum living wage and a sliding scale.

3) Integral Social Security:

  1. unification of benefits and their extension to all sectors of labor.

4) Reforms in labor legislation tending to make it adequate to the historic moment and in accordance with the general plan of popular transformation of the Argentine reality.

5) Creation of the state organism which, with workers’ control renders possible the genuine applicability of social conquests and legislation.

6) Absolute job stability for workers.

7) Trade-union rights.

In the political aspect:

1) Preparation of the great political-economic-social plan of Argentine reality, which recognizes the presence of the labor movement as a fundamental national force, through its pre-eminent participation in its construction and direction.

2) Strengthening of the popular national state, tending to bring about the destruction of anti-national oligarchic sectors and their foreign allies, and taking into account that the working class is the only Argentine force that represents in its interests the desires of the country itself, to which are added its unity in struggle and its strength.

3) Direction of action toward an integral (politico-economic) understanding with the Latin American sister nations.

4) Political action to replace the artificial internal divisions based on liberal and false federalism.

5) Freedom to elect and be elected without disqualifications, and the definitive strengthening of popular will.

6) Solidarity of the working class with the national liberation struggles of oppressed peoples.

7) An independent international policy.


1. Condensed from a much longer detailed study, which may be consulted in the current issue of Quatrième Internationale.

Last updated on: 26 March 2016