Workers' Control in Latin America, 1930-1979

By Jonathan C. Brown | Go to book overview

generation of militants with little or no formal experience" had organized a semiclandestine resistance movement on the shop floor and within the working-class community. That mobilization eventually resulted in renewed strike activity and the widespread employment of graffiti, pamphleteering, and sabotage as a means of expressing the Peronist culture of resistance. 80 These were the genuine "orphans" of Perón. The new generation of labor militants struggled in defiance of a repressive state to defend the rights demanded and won by the working class from the "paternalistic government" of Juan Perón.

The Peronist resistance broadened during the 1960s to include disaffected middle-class students and the urban guerrilla group called the Montoneros. Popular protests eventually led the military to capitulate. In 1973, Juan Perón returned from exile to reassume the presidency. But by then, Perón was an elderly figurehead. His command over the factious family of Peronists was weaker than ever. Following his death in office, his widow, Marfa Estela Martínez de Perón (Isabel), assumed the presidency. She could neither control inflation, nor reverse the industrial paralysis, nor defuse the violent conflicts between the Left and Right within her own Peronist Party. The military coup Of 1976 ushered in the Dirty War, in which the armed forces attempted once and for all, with state terror, to "cleanse" Argentina of "dissidents," Peronist or otherwise. Many labor leaders were singled out for arbitrary arrests, torture, and summary execution. Then the military government discredited itself with economic mismanagement, human rights' abuses, and a disastrous war with Great Britain over the Malvinas (Falkland) Islands. Labor agitation in 1982 helped return a civilian regime to power. Six years later, the rank and file still identified with the party of Perón, helping to elect another Peronist, Carlos Saúl Menem, as president. These same workers, however, soon discovered that Menem's brand of peronismo places greater emphasis on labor productivity than on social justice. They are standing by for the IMF-style economic austerity policies to bring about the structural conditions conducive to a renewal of the struggle for workers' control.


Notes

The author would like to thank Joel Horowitz for his helpful comments.

1.
During the two-year period 1935-37, Argentine industrial growth nearly equaled that of the previous two decades. The industrial workforce expanded from roughly 430,000 ( 1935) to more than 1 million ( 1946) in a nation of 16 million persons. The

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