Argentina in the Twentieth Century

By David Rock | Go to book overview

3
Radical Populism and the Conservative Elite, 1912-1930

DAVID ROCK

The period between 1890 and 1930 in Argentina is significant for a number of reasons. It coincided with the first expressions of popular nationalism and anti-imperialism. The university problem became a serious political issue, and for the first time there were attempts to bring the urban working class into formal political participation. It also marked the rise to a position of national dominance of one of Argentina's leading political parties, the Unión Cívica Radical, or Radicalism. However, one of the central issues of the period revolved round the failure of liberal representative government and its abandonment following the military coup d'etat in 1930. The problem is to what extent was a political system based on popular elections incompatible with the type of society which had emerged in Argentina early in the twentieth century.

To deal with this issue I have chosen to make a general reappraisal of the relationship between the Radical Party and the 'conservative elite', which supported the revolution of 1930. By this term 'conservative elite' I mean the major landowners of the Argentine littoral region, dependent economically on their position as exporters of cereals and beef to the European market, principally to Great Britain. Before 1916 the conservative elite also controlled the State and during this period it was commonly known as the 'Oligarchy'. At the same time the conservative elite also embraced a number of subsidiary pressure groups, the chief of which were the British business groups which controlled the transportation system and much of the organisation of Argentina's overseas trade, and the army. My intention is not to examine the coup of 1930 itself, but to point to some of the main factors which led to conflict and political polarisation. I shall also point to some of the inadequacies of the 1912 representative system in terms of the elite. I have left out most of the details -- the structure of power within the elite, and a precise

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