populism

Juan Inigo jinigo at inscri.org.ar
Fri Feb 3 18:02:58 MST 1995


For the last month I've resisted the temptation to enter some discussions
that were running through the list. I'm working against the clock reshaping
some old drafts (and worst of all, translating everything to english) to
make a presentation (From simple commodities to capital-commodities: the
transformation of values into prices of production) at the March conference
of the International Working Group in Value Theory. But this Peronist issue
probably reaches closer to me than to anyone else in the list, so I just
can't let it go by. As you can see, contrary to Louis' message, this is
plenty of spleen.

Louis Proyect writes

> Maybe what
>I'm trying to say is that categories cloak rather than reveal the essence of
>Juan Peron and the Peronista movement

Indeed. Even the most concrete forms are turned into pure abstractions as
soon as they are isolated from their own necessity, that is, from their
determinations. So, as Peronism is "the" main political concrete form that
the argentine national process of capital accumulation takes on realizing
its specific necessity since the '40s, we need to face it by following this
necessity in its development:

1. The specificity of this national process of capital accumulation arises
from the genesis and appropriation of a particularly large amount of
agricultural ground-rent, compared with the amount of industrial capital
that can be placed into action as normal (average) individual capital in
the national ambit.

2. Since the beginning of the 20th century and up to the '30s, a part of
this rent was used to pay the external public debt, while industrial
capital expanded its accumulation basically in agriculture and the
processing of agriculture products in an individual scale according to
world-market.

3. Starting from the '10s, but mainly in the '40s and '50s, this rent was
used to generate a mass of small industrial capitals able only to produce
for the domestic market. At the same time, the most concentrated private
capitals (mainly English) related to the previous phase appropriated a part
of the rent and left the country as they were turned into state property at
prime prices.

4. From the '60s on, these processes followed:
        a. Normal industrial capitals that operated as such in the
world-market, fragmented themselves as small capitals to produce for the
domestic market on the basis of the same rent of land, that compensated the
fall in the surplus-value that these capitals extract from their direct
wage-laborers due to their domestic restricted scale.
        b. A process of concentration and centralization of industrial
capital took place, always restricted to domestic production
        c. For a time, the national scale of production went on growing

5. In the early '70s (73-74) a violent increase in the ground-rent produced
the appearance that the national process of accumulation had no specific
limit to its growth

6. As soon as the rent dropped, the national process of accumulation
started to clearly show it was going to mean the consolidated pauperization
of an increasing part of the wage-laborers and of the overproduced
petit-bourgeoisie. Hence, the ferocity of the military dictatorship that
opened this process.

7. The concentration and centralization of capital went on through private
external indebtedness, afterwards turned into public debt.

8. The ground-rent started to grow again in the '90s as the main cycle of
capital accumulation advanced, but there are now two partners to share it:
nationally fragmented industrial capital and external creditors (of course,
the land owners have always appropriated a part, sometimes almost all,
sometimes a smaller part, of the rent).

9. In the '90' these two partners advanced in their appropriation of
ground-rent by purchasing at bargain prices the industries nationalized in
the '40s.

10. As the expansion of the national process of industrial capital
accumulation has specific limitation in the amount of the ground-rent it
can appropriate, and given that it has to share this ground-rent with the
external creditors (who have titles to claim for an important part of, if
not for more than, its total amount), even at the top of a short cyclical
boom as we are today (rather, yesterday), progressive consolidated misery
is a face, specially a kid's face, that is here to stay. Mexico less
peasantry is almost here.

The core of phase 3., phases 5. and 8/9. took political concrete form
through peronists governments (Peron himself in the first to phases).

Some comments about Jon Beasley-Murray and Louis N Proyect posts:

>Peron practically created
>the working class

>The unions of Argentina emerged with Peron's help.

These are two of Peronists dearest myths. The argentine industrial working
class (let aside its even earliest development) emerged as a concrete form
of (2.). The Socialist Party (1894) and anarchist groups at first plus
Syndicalism and the Communist Party latter, were the political specific
expressions of this working-class. The brutal repression on the Centenary
(1910), what is still remembered as the "Semana tragica" (tragic week)
(1909-10), the strikes in the meat-industry in the 30's, the electoral
majority of the PS in Buenos Aires (where the industry was mainly located
at that time) during parts of the 20's and 30's, the more than one million
affiliates to the General Confederation of Workers over a total
non-agricultural working population of three million during the 30's, are
just some of the most visible manifestations of the existence of the
industrial working-class and its unions during (2.). The rise of (3.)
produced a violent expansion in this working-class and this transition from
(2.) to (3.) took political shape in the complete "peronization" of the
working-class, with the unions as its immediate political organization,
that is still effective. Argentine unions were at that time and currently
are orthodoxy peronists, what here means right-wing (and of course this is
just another meaningless category when abstracted from its content),
organizations whose leitmotiv is "Ni Yankees ni Marxistas, Peronistas."

>the
>Peronist coalition certainly included leftists and revolutionaries,

This of course depends on what one calls leftists and revolutionaries,
which are just two other categories that cloak rather than reveal the
essence. In this case, the essence remains in the role those "leftists and
revolutionaries" played in the reproduction of the specificity of the
Argentine capital accumulation process. And this specificity in itself -
beyond its opposite appearance - negates the development of society's
material productive forces, as the ground-rent is used to allow the
fragmentation of capital. "Montoneros," which was the "political formation
and guerrilla groups who dominated the Argentinean left," of course talking
about (5.),, was founded and mainly commanded by the former members of an
ultra-nationalist right-wing ultra-catholic group, "Tacuara." Their
leitmotiv "una Patria socialista" (a socialist fatherland) show how
"Montoneros" was a necessary political form that (5.) and (6.) took mainly
among the petite-bourgeoisie and some upper-sectors of the wage-laborers.
Many of its surviving members (the middle and lower cadres were brutally
decimated) are officers in the present-day peronist government, that
personifies phases (8./9.). These phases in the process of capital
accumulation take political form in a peronist government, as they are
necessarily personified through the complete complacency of the unions.


>Peron was the
>representative of a wing of the bourgeoisie that was at war with another
>wing of the bourgeoisie that was comprador and pro-imperialist.

He was the main personification of the transition from (2.) to (3.)

>Peron is also interesting because of his economic nationalism. Peron is one
>of the few examples in Latin American history of a government leader who
>was able to put up a stiff resistance to Wall Street and British imperialism.
>This is one of the reasons he was hated so much by American opinion
>makers who branded him as fascist.

This was the necessary political form that the transition from (2.) to (3.)
and specifically the second process pointed out in (3.) took.

>There were progressive aspects to Peronism. That is what made Isabel
>Peron's election campaign in the 1970's so disorienting to the left in
>Argentina. The left tied their fate to her's and when she was defeated, the
>ensuing demoralization made it a lot easier for the coup to prevail.

Isabel Peron was imposed as Peron's vice-president to blockade any attempt
from the "left" (if you are going to call Montoneros that) to intervene in
Peron's government and succession. Certainly, this was disorienting only
for those who were day-dreaming with the patria socialista. But they had
time to elaborate their demoralization: Montoneros were expelled from Plaza
de Mayo (the square facing the government house that is full of symbolism
for peronists) by Peron himself almost two years before the coup. The only
"leftists" group that supported her was the minuscule Maoist PCR. 30.000
missing people say that what happened in Argentina in those days went far
beyond demoralization. It is again about the necessary concrete political
form of the inflection point through which capital accumulation went from
phase (2.) to its present form.

Argentine society is certainly a lesson about how some regressive social
potencies reach their most developed concrete forms as the apparently fully
conscious revolutionary action of those who personify them.


Juan Inigo
jinigo at inscri.org.ar

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