Peronism

Jon Beasley-Murray jpb8 at acpub.duke.edu
Sat Feb 4 21:35:22 MST 1995


I think the various posts on this topic have been interesting and
useful.  At present I don't think I can disagree with too much of what
anyone says, but I think this discussion is only beginning to touch on
what is really important about Peronism, especially in so far as it
challenges socialists to re-think what they're doing and how.

Thus it is only at the end of his (to me, interesting and helpful) post
that Juan says:

>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.

However, the economic analysis that has gone before doesn't seem to make
clear how (and why) this contradiction between "social potencies" and
"conscious revolutionary action" works.  For aren't there basically two
problems about Peronism--how it gained power (less interesting to me,
but this is the question Carlos Waisman tries to deal with in his [very
un-Marxist, by the way] _Reversal of Development in Argentina_) and
secondly, why it drew such massive working class support, apparently
against that class's own interest, even long after Peron himself had left
the country.  This second question is the one Danny James (whom Andy
mentions) tries to deal with in his _Resistance and Integration_ which,
as the title indicates, tries to negotiate around the dualism "for" or
"against" Peronism which has damaged its theoretical analysis.

Louis writes the following (with which Juan agrees):

>Yes, in one sense he's a populist, but in another sense he could be
>called a Bonapartist with fascist tendencies who relied on a proletarian
>rather than the petty-bourgeois base of support typical of European fascism.
>Maybe what I'm trying to say is that categories cloak rather than reveal the
>essence of Juan Peron and the Peronista movement

I'd also agree that over-rigid theoretical models can impede analysis.
The problem at issue here, however, is that i. we have a label (populism)
which would seem to be so loose that it could almost anything and ii. we
have a movement (Peronism) which we are running the risk of considering
so specific that it would be hard to draw any more general conclusions
from it.  (Admittedly Juan's analysis is not subject to this
characterization per se, but here I'm agreeing with Andy that Juan has so
far failed to identify the specificity of Peronism).

Andy writes the following:

> We're already deep, deep into ideology here, and economic
> structures simply don't apply.

This seems too sweeping by far.  On the other hand, Juan's dismissal of
Peronist "myths" also misses part of the point, surely.  After all, why
did the working class *remain* Peronist (at least for the most part) for
the decades after Peron's departure if not to a large extent because of
the mobilization of mythic alliegances to what he appeared to have
represented?  James' book is mostly concerned with the Peronist union
movement after 1955.  In so far as the Peronist unions were engaged in
plenty of *real politik*, there were specific political (and economic, if
at a further remove) constraints to the forms of ideology (as also forms
of mobilization) that would work for them.  But there was a political
*space* open, and not even the union movement was a monolithic bloc (as
debates around Vandorism demonstrate).

Meanwhile, both Andy and Juan (all of us, in fact) are right about the
Argentine working class--while there was an industrial working class
before the 40s, during the 40s and early 50s massive expansion under
Peronism resulted in a working class almost completely in the Peronist
mould.  There had indeed been labour agitation earlier, though through
the 30s most of the working class would probably consider themselves
Radicals rather than anarchists.  Whatever, at a certain point in the 40s
the balance was pretty evenly weighted so there *need not* have been such
a complete Peronist identification.  October 17 remains something of a
mystery.  Later, on the other hand, continued alliegance to Peronism
throughout the 60s owes something to socialist mistakes, but cannot
completely be explained as such, not by a long way.

Germani's explanation for Peronist success is that the new working class
created in the 40s was qualitatively different, consisting of internal
migrants rather than the (by now relatively settled) European immigrants
of several decades earlier.  Thus the new working class had no real
labour tradition, and were prepared to hand over their alliegances to
Peron.  Why exactly they should do this remains unclear to me--a similar
situation in Italy during the 50s and 60s generated a movement to
*reject* the sort of corporatist unionism (here communist dominated, but
that's another story) represented by Peron.

Anyhow, here are more questions than answers.  I don't know that much
about this topic right now, though this situation should change in the
near future.  Welcome back to Juan and Peron, and to anyone else who can
help us out.  I know many inquiring minds who want to know more.

Take care

Jon

Jon Beasley-Murray
Literature Program
Duke University
jpb8 at acpub.duke.edu
http://jefferson.village.virginia.edu/~spoons

     ------------------



More information about the Marxism mailing list