The Crisis of Argentine Capitalism

By Paul H. Lewis | Go to book overview
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CHAPTER EIGHT

Toward the Corporate State

Businessmen and landowners watched Perón's rise with growing concern. In his campaign to win the workers he frequently abused the nation's capitalists, and they resented him for it. Few could match his eloquence when he chose to play the populist demagogue by hinting at sinister cabals involving certain powerful forces. And he delighted in exposing those forces:

In the Stock Exchange they are some five hundred people who live by trafficking in what others produce. In the Unión Industrial they are some twelve gentlemen who never were real industrialists. And among the ranchers there are other gentlemen, as we all know, who have conspired to impose a dictatorship on this country ever since cattlemen first began meeting together. . . .

This is the notorious behavior, you see, of these gentlemen who have always sold out our country. These are the great capitalists who make it their business to sell us out: the lawyers who work for foreign companies so as to strip us and sell off everything: the handful of men working with certain ambassadors to fight people like me because we defend our country. They include the hired press, which publishes such profound articles, written and paid for by foreign embassies. . . . It is an honor to be opposed by such bandits and traitors.1

For Perón, such rhetoric was simply part of the game of politics. He did not expect it to be taken seriously by the capitalists. Consequently, he was surprised and chagrined when they hardened their attitude toward him. How could they accuse him of stirring up class conflict? Had he not wrested control of the labor movement from the communists and socialists? And weren't there fewer strikes than before? Statistics show that from 1940 through 1942 there were 220 strikes, costing a loss of 1.1 million working days; by comparison, from 1943 through 1945 there were only 159 strikes and only 637,637 working days lost. Surely the capitalists were

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