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Susan Green

Peron’s New Bid for Labor Support

(7 January 1946)

From Labor Action, Vol. X No. 1, 7 January 1946, p. 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

There is unfolding in Argentina a political drama which no worker can afford to miss. In that lush country which breeds cattle and dictators, the military dictatorship which has been in power since the 1943 coup d’etat, now seeks to gain popular support in elections scheduled to be held in February, 1946. To get popular support means above all to get the support of the working masses. So we see in Argentina one of the most vicious dictatorships on earth, headed by the clever and power-crazy Peron trying to pass itself off as “the friend of the workers.”

It is no exaggeration to call the Peron regime one of the most vicious on earth. Many of its acts were exact replicas of the Nazis’. It ruled by terror and brute force. Concentration camps and prisons were populated by democrats, labor leaders, socialists and “reds.” It suppressed all political parties, freedom of speech and the press. It created a ruthless police equipped – against the people – like a modern army. “Colonels” were appointed absolute rulers in the provinces. The dictatorship put its greedy hands on the budget to increase its military might and its power as the ruling caste.

By the fall of 1945 it had succeeded in turning practically the whole population against it. Workers, students, the middle class, also the commercial and industrial rich and even the most conservative of all Argentine classes, the great landowners, were in large majority against the Peron government for one reason or another. The ruthless terror of Peron’s police could not suppress the strikes of workers and students and the anti-Peron demonstrations that spontaneously sprang from the aroused people. Peron’s support amounted at most to ten per cent of the entire population. His demonstrations were staged mainly by paid hoodlums, brought into Buenos Aires from outlying places.

By October, 1945, the pressure from the population was so great that even the military minds in the dictatorship conceived the possibility of being overthrown. There were powerful elements within the military clique who thought it best to sacrifice Peron on the altar of mass discontent, in an effort to regain some prestige with the population. Therefore, Peron moved to a battleship.

But the democratic forces were not prepared to take advantage of this break in the military armor. They had neither coordinated program, nor leadership, nor plan for seizure of power – instead they weakly requested the Supreme Court to take over the government until elections could be held. Neither did the anti-Peron dissenters in the military prove strong enough to take over the government. The Peron gang continued in power and Peron returned to the capital to resume his place as the master mind behind the colonels.

Peron Turns “Friend of Labor”

He came with new ideas. Dictatorship was no longer in vogue. Not only did the Argentine people proclaim that, but had not the forces of “democracy” won in the war? Peron is going to be in style. He will run for president, get himself elected, and, with that formality out of the way, his military clique can rule with “the sanction of the people.” Besides, as “the choice of the people,” he may get loans from the great democracy of North America and possibly even modern military equipment from the same place.

Taking a leaf out of Hitlerism, which tried to get worker support for the Nazi Party by calling it “National Socialist,” Peron organized the Argentine Labor Party. He put additional bait on the hook by choosing as the symbol of his party a worker’s shirt hung from the pole of the flag of Argentina – the reporters said “a sweaty worker’s shirt”.

But apparently the fish didn’t bite too eagerly. On December 14, Peron staged his first public appearance in two months. He addressed a mass meeting in Buenos Aires as head of the new party. The reporters described the meeting as a masterpiece of staging similar to those of Hitler in his heyday. This was no spontaneous crowd. It was brought in from “far and wide.” The same gang from Avellaneda, outside of Buenos Aires, came to the capital in Peron’s trucks. Peron’s lieutenants had planned for a general cessation of work in Buenos Aires. But the independent labor unions foiled that plan. A very small percentage of workers took the opportunity to stay away from work, only in the afternoon.

Whereupon Peron put more appetizing bait on the hook. The government, widely known to be Peron’s clique, issued a decree on December 20 ordering a general increase in wages for almost all employees. For those in minimum income brackets the increase could amount to twenty-five per cent. And a nice juicy Christmas bonus equal to a month’s pay was to be given to every employee before December 31.

Who can deny that this was a devilishly clever electioneering move on behalf of Peron, presidential candidate of the fake Argentina Labor Party? Immediately the employers raised a howl. They called conferences to decide on action. Many agreed to disregard the decree and not to pay the wage increases nor the bonus. Others decided to pay the amounts into the courts for safekeeping until the constitutionality of the decree is decided. Of course, legal action is being taken to prove the decree unconstitutional. By their opposition to the wage increases and bonus the employers are doing Peron a good turn. Don’t you see him as the champion of the workers against the bosses? On the other hand, in cases where the employers should happen to pay the increases ordered by the decree, Peron will get credit for that.

What will become of the decree after election? It has a loophole about increases and decreases in wages according to fluctuations in the cost of living and the prosperity of each industry. Besides, decrees from above can always be countermanded the same way or be declared unconstitutional.

Anti-Peron Forces Rally

>But Peron no longer has it all his own way. At long last a Democratic Union of anti-Peron forces has been formed to defeat him and his military clique in the election. The Socialist Party, the Progressive Democrats and the Communist Party have joined with the Radical Party to support the ticket of the last-named party, the largest in Argentina, against Peron. Reporters believe that this united front against Peron will have tough going, in spite of the tremendous popular support it has in Buenos Aires. There are also the provinces, on which the military dictatorship has a stranglehold. There are the pressure and intimidation the government exerts through its Department of Labor and Welfare. Its control over press and radio is an important factor, and above ail the superior brute force embodied in the armed police and the army itself.

However, even should the anti-Peron united front win the February elections so that the processes of democratic government can be re-established, the struggle of the industrial workers, farm laborers and peasants will only begin. For the freedom of the toiling masses will come only when they wrest their rich land from the grasp of the great landowners,, the foreign investors, the exploiting industrial, commercial and banking interests.

In the meantime, all workers can learn a lesson from the trickery of Dictator Peron, turned “labor’s friend” in the same way that the fisherman baiting his hook is the friend of the fish he wants to catch.

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