Argentina in the Twentieth Century

By David Rock | Go to book overview

8
THE. SURVIVAL AND RESTORATION OF PERONISM

DAVID ROCK

Since 1943 Peronism has been Argentina's strongest political party. On numerous occasions it has demonstrated an unassailable popular support based principally on the urban working class and the trade unions. At the same time it has subsisted as a class alliance between working-class and non-working-class groups. It is among the best known of the populist movements outside the developed countries.

The success and continuing durability of this movement has most frequently been argued in personal terms, as reflecting the political skills of General Perón himself, and later the good fortune of his longevity. Certainly this is important, as quickly became apparent after his death in June, 1974; his presence and the characteristics of his leadership were a vital unifying force holding together the fissiparous and heterogeneous elements of the movement.

Yet at the same time political genius is a quality strongly conditioned by opportunity. Although it is important to keep Perón's personal role in mind, particularly when assessing the subtle qualities of Peronism, it would also be useful to examine the conditions and forces which prevented other parties and political leaders in Argentina from usurping his position after 1955. Between 1955 and 1973 Perón was in exile in different parts of Latin America or Spain. Given the length of his exile, and his obvious difficulties in maintaining communication with events in Argentina, his continuing prominence seems remarkable. Even stranger is that in two presidential elections held in 1973 the great bulk of popular support should go to a veteran politician not far short of eighty years old.

The picture becomes even more intriguing when one remembers the tremendous antipathies to Perón among a large number of key power groups in Argentina. In many cases the very groups and political figures which conspired his fall in 1955, and afterwards hysterically opposed his return from exile, were to be found eighteen

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