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Susan Green

Where Does Argentine Labor Stand?

(19 November 1945)

From Labor Action, Vol. IX No. 47, 19 November 1945, p. 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

The political situation in Argentina is by no means settled. The present lull following the stormy days of October augurs more trouble to come.

Even though Péron, after his phony arrest and hasty return to Buenos Aires, is not a member of the reconstituted government, he is undoubtedly the strong man behind every move. He is determined to become president of Argentina by “popular choice” in a so-called free election, which is supposed to take place some time in 1946.

Since all but a meagre ten percent of the Argentinians are opposed to Péron and his military-fascist government, he is making use of his military forces, his secret police, his stooges and goons, to “predispose” the population to cast its “free” vote in his favor when the elections are held. However, spokesmen for the Argentine people say that they are in no mood to tolerate an electoral fraud based on strong-arm and secret-police terror.

Against this background, we have recently been told in this country that the Argentine workers are supporters of Péron. When in August Péron bombastically declared: “I do not fear civil war because I am prepared for It ... I have at my disposal 300,000 soldiers and 4,000,000 workers armed with clubs,” all politically sane people raised an unbelieving eyebrow regarding those 4,000,000 workers. Now, however, we are asked by some of our legislators and columnists to believe that Péron has labor’s support and is – after all. is said and done – “the people’s choice.”

What Is the Truth

The first thing to do is to nail the lie that the military-fascist dictator Péron and his governing clique have Argentine labor’s support. There is a mass of evidence available from Latin American experts.

Harry B. Murkland, specialist on Latin American affairs, wrote in Current History, October 1945, that while Péron at first created some confusion in the ranks of labor by his terroristic methods after his false promises, his arrest of militant leaders, his appointment of his own stooges as leaders, the confusion was short-lived. “To the eternal credit of Argentine labor, he [Péronl was able neither to bribe nor frighten enough of it into his camp to give him the authentic character of ‘people’s choice’.”

This comes from the columns of the conservative Current History magazine. From the Latin American Affairs Committee of the CIO comes a strong statement denying that Péron has Argentine labor behind him, and blasting Senator Robert LaFollette for publicly spreading this falsehood. The CIO committee points out that “the few unions that Péron could really claim for himself were dominated by appointed henchmen and goons acting in connivance with the regime’s secret police.” About the so-called pro-Péron “labor” demonstrations, the CIO committee declares “they are usually staged in strategic areas of Buenos Aires by imported hoodlums, and sympathetic police concentration provides theatrical effects that cause them to be noticed by the population.”

Supporting the contentions of the CIO committee is the statement of Dr. Alejandro M. Berraondo, a Buenos Aires lawyer, general counsel for the major Argentine motor transport lines, in this country to get help for the anti-Péron forces. He limits Péron’s labor support to five or at most ten percent. He says that the major source of Péron’s small following is in his stooge-controlled National Federation of Argentine workers, with a membership of 125,000 – and many of whom are anti-Péron. The fact is that the great mass of workers are trying to maintain independent unions opposed to the state of military siege imposed by Péron, and are fighting for free unions and for full democratic rights.

What Labor Wants

As to the so-called pro-Péron labor demonstrations, Ray Josephs, in Latin America for five years as correspondent and author of Argentine Diary, says that aside from the army and military police, Péron’s supporters “come from the worst thugs in Avellaneda, an industrial suburb of Buenos Aires.” Mr. Josephs describes how on October 17, Péron began bringing in truckloads of these hoodlums, giving them weapons, money, free entrance to brothels, use of public buildings and theater as quarters. This criminal riff-raff staged the demonstration for Péron, forcing passers-by to shout for Péron. This element also attacked the Jewish district in the capital.

There is no need to labor the point further. Those 4,000,000 workers “armed with clubs” are not using them to keep their arch-enemy in power.

The question now to be answered is this: Why the sudden desire on the part of certain opinion-forming elements in this country, to make Péron appear to have labor and popular support?

Who Will Dominate S.A.

Is the State Department preparing the ground for initiating a more friendly attitude toward the Péron regime?

Arnaldo Cortesi, New York Times correspondent in Buenos Aires who has sent his paper very informative reports, wrote that “Robert LaFollette’s statement that Péron has support of the working class was taken to mean a more lenient attitude towards Péron.” Logical enough.

The withdrawal of Ambassador Spruille Braden – ostensibly to kick him upstairs to become Assistant Secretary of State – pan also be interpreted as a reign of leniency. Certainly Braden was doing all right in Argentina as far as getting the support of the “democratic” forces is concerned. His outspoken support of the latter won him and the United States great friendship in all anti-Péron circles. At anti-Péron demonstrations cries of “Viva Braden!” “Viva los Etados Unidos!” mingled with “Death to Péron!” But suddenly Braden was needed more in Washington than in Buenos Aires.

Is some deal being arranged behind the scenes?

The conflicting imperialist interests in Argentina are complicated. The United States is bent on displacing Great Britain from its first place in Argentine investment and trade. Argentina itself and the United States are competitors in the export of cattle and grain, and besides Argentina’s ruling class wants to challenge U.S. domination of South America. However, the Nazi defeat has made Péron more than willing to fry other fish; he got all he wanted from that source. Are our “democratic” imperialists afraid of the forces of true democracy in Argentina, as they are all over the world, and willing to talk business with the forces of “law and order?” Developments in the near future will give us more light on what is taking place.

It is a lie that Péron has the support of the people of Argentina. It is a lie that he has labor’s support. The Argentine masses want to get rid of the Péron regime. They want an end to the military siege under which they are living. The. workers want their full democratic rights.

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Last updated: 27 January 2018