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Susan Green

Dictatorship Employs Courts, Terror, Bribery

Behind Peron’s Victory in Argentina

Part II

(19 August 1946)

From Labor Action, Vol. 10 No. 33, 19 August 1946, p. 6.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

(Continued from last issue)

As pointed out by Freda Kirschwey in her report and by Ray Joseph in Argentine Diary as well as by other writers, the conditions of the working people in that country had improved during the war.

There were more jobs and higher wages, which many workers attributed to the Peron regime. However, this had not been enough to bring the masses into Peron’s camp because they feared the regimentation and dreaded the terroristic measures they saw all about them, i.e., the imprisonment of labor leaders, the disappearance of militant workers, the reports of inhuman torture in concentration camps, etc.

Peron had made further bids for mass support by establishing, at the end of 1943, the Secretariat of Labor and Welfare with himself at the head, consolidating under his control about ten government departments having to do with social welfare. He demagogically declared for “social justice.” He was responsible for wage increases for a few workers, gave unlimited use of gasoline to taxi drivers, announced improvements for migrant workers on the estancias, and promised all kinds of social benefits such as hospitals, maternity care, etc. However, these gestures were still not sufficient to win the masses. For they knew that Peron also had the uncontrolled power to withhold benefits from those who displeased him, the power of deportation, of levying taxes such as those paid by all working women, even if single, to take care of them if they should happen to become mothers. It was no secret that Peron was using the funds of the Secretariat of Labor and Welfare for his own political career.

However, in spite of the doubts and misgivings of the masses, when Peron returned after his opponents had demonstrated their weakness and he his dramatic flair for leadership, he was able to capitalize upon his previous “measures for the people,” and to reach new demagogic heights.

The Worker’s Shirt

Before Peron’s resignation, the colonels had functioned without a party. They had hoped to win adherents from existing parties and concentrated their efforts against the Radical Party, the largest in the country, with some success. For the election, however, a government was formed: the Argentina Labor Party. With Peron as candidate for president and the whole slate filled by colonels, a national flag from whose pole hung a sweaty workman’s shirt, was cynically chosen as the party emblem. Peron became the powerful leader returned to his people.

The Farrell government, as electioneering bait for Peron, issued decrees for wage increases of from 10 to 2 per cent together with year-end bonuses of a month’s pay. To further prove that he is “for the poor” and “against the rich,” an excess profits tax was levied for the first time in the history of the country. To the land-hungry peasants he also gave promises of dividing up the large estates. Touring the northern province of Juyuy, he assured the poor peasants that a decree was in preparation to divide the 800,000-acre estate belonging to a much-hated landowner. Because the landlords and capitalists and all employers opposed these measures, the poor were led to believe that Peron must mean well by the masses.

Church for Peron

Kirchwey wrote:

“Peron had all the advantages of a dictator bent upon making himself President. In addition he had the church. With few exceptions – the more remarkable because they were so few – the clergy supported Peron’s candidacy, some openly from the pulpit, most of them quietly among their parishioners. Many democrats with whom I talked believed the church was their most dangerous and determined adversary.”

The part that the church played in getting Peron elected cannot be overemphasized. Many priests had a strong Falangist and fascist bias, and when they realized there was a chance of the Democratic Union winning over Peron, they used their influence on their followers. It must be understood that the masses are still very much under the domination of the Catholic Church.

Cortesi reported on November 25, 1945, in the midst of the election campaign, that the priest of the Church of the Immaculate Conception told his congregation:

“If in the explanation given you feel there is a pronouncement favoring dictatorship, you must know you must shut your mouths because Jesus Christ himself was a great dictator.”

The Catholic weekly Accion published instructions to Catholics not to vote for candidates of the Democratic Union. The Argentina Episcopate addressed a pastoral letter to the clergy and the faithful reminding them of their duties in the approaching election.

Now let us look at the anti-Peron forces which had missed the bus and had given the masses no leadership when Peron was forced to resign.

After much negotiating, the anti- Peron opposition unified itself for the election. The Socialist and Communist parties and the Progressive Democrats agreed with the Radical Party to support the Radical Party candidates for President and Vice-President, Tamborini and Mosca. Thus the parties in the election coalition ran the gamut of the classes, i.e., die-hard reactionary, democratic, liberal and working class parties.

Opposition Lacked Program

While Peron was making his demagogic campaign among the masses on promises of social improvement and on his so-called record in this respect, the Democratic Union offered no concrete program. It ignored the crying need of the country and city masses for social and economic changes of a radical nature. Kirchwey describes the campaign carried on by the Democratic Union:

“The election was fought on a negative rather than a positive platform; it was fought to defeat dictatorship at home and a pro-Axis policy abroad; it was fought against Peron. The Blue Book only served to document charges already made over and over by the democrats. They campaigned to rid their country of the shame of Nazi domination of the army, Nazi control of major industries, Nazi control of foreign affairs. At the final huge Radical rally before the election the excited crowd chanted over and over, ‘Argentina, Si; Nazis, No’ and ‘Li-ber-tad, Li-ber-tad.’ The speakers enlarged on the same theme.”

This was no match for the “people’s measures” with which Peron was waging his campaign under the aegis of a Labor Party label, with the banner of a worker’s shirt, with his own “leader” charm and influence, with the persuasiveness of the police and the church and with the logical retort to his opponents that the war is over and that the Yankee imperialists should mind their own business.

But the Democratic Union, led and dominated by the capitalist Radical Party, could offer no program of radical change for the masses because that party stands for the social and economic status quo, minus the Peron dictatorship.

There is some doubt as to who benefited by the Blue Book issued by the United States Department of State. Plainly presented as an anti-Peron electioneering document, it gave Argentinians no information they did not already have and at the same time gave the Peronistas the advantage of being able to point to foreign interference in the election.

No Working Class Party

There was no mass working-class party to make the fight against Peron on the basis of a revolutionary program for the landless peasants and for the country and city workers. The Socialist and Communist Parties subordinated themselves to the capitalist parties. The former, though the third largest party in the country, was not willing to separate itself from the ruling class and lead the working class. As to the Communist Party, it was, as usual obeying orders from Moscow. So much so, that soon after the election, it supported a strike of packing house workers called as a warning to the world that it had better recognize Peron, or else, no meat! This turncoat move may be understood in terms of the plan of the Kremlin to recognize Peron.

To return to President Peron who will have an overwhelmingly Peronista Congress behind him. What measures will he take? In foreign policy, undoubtedly he is seeking a working arrangement with the United States. He has plans for the industrial and military development of his country. He covets American money, the only money to be had, and superior American products. As for internal policies, the nationalization of the Bank of Argentina by no means presages a program for nationalization of industry. What he did was to assure his control of the financial resources of the country to carry out his plans. During the war he was also responsible for nationalizing certain communication systems, but this also had a specific purpose.

As far as the working classes are concerned, the pre-election demagogy will, if precedents can be relied upon, reveal itself in full. Then the anti-Peron struggle is due to take on new form and vigor. The wording people and peasant masses will have to break away from the Radical Party and repudiate the misleadership of the Socialist and Communist Parties for collaborating with the rich landlords and capitalists organized in the Radical Party. It must build a party of its own – an independent revolutionary Socialist party.

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