Argentina in the Twentieth Century

By David Rock | Go to book overview

7
The Popular Origins of Peronism

WALTER LITTLE


Introduction

Although the popular support which the Peronist regime enjoyed was largely working-class in character, its leaders showed little more than rhetorical enthusiasm for the pursuit of strictly working-class interests. On the contrary, they repeatedly subordinated them to what they believed to be the interests of the nation as a whole. There is nothing very surprising about this. It is a reflection of the fact that they were drawn for the most part from amongst middle-class stratae, never became declassé, and remained dependent throughout their exercise of power upon the tacit acquiescence of important business and military interests. Their subjective preference for polyclasist outcomes was thus reinforced by the objective weakness of their position within the Argentine political system.

However, it is more difficult to account for the ease with which they were able to impose their views upon the Peronist Movement as a whole and yet retain the support of the rank and file. In particular, since the latter were always of solidly working-class status their support for so polyclasist a leadership seems paradoxical.1 This apparent contradiction between the potentially radical social structure of Peronism and its actual reformist behaviour is commonly resolved by denying both that its leaders enjoyed the support of the entire working class and that the working class as a whole constituted a class in the proper meaning of the term. These denials have

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1
This view is at odds with that of P. H. Smith, "'The Social Base of Peronism'", Hispanic American Historical Review, vol. 52, no. 1, February 1972, pp. 55-73. For a discussion of popular support for Peronism see W. Little, "'Electoral Aspects of Peronism'", forthcoming, Journal of Interamerican Studies, August 1973.

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