The Jedi strikes again (disregard prior posting)

Nestor Miguel Gorojovsky nestor at SPAMsisurb.filo.uba.ar
Mon Aug 16 19:12:44 MDT 1999



List,

I made a mistake and sent an old draft of the first part of
the fourth installment of my history of Argentinian Left.

Please disregard it.

Here goes the good stuff:

A Belated history of Argentine Left, part 4, first
installment

Yes, the Jedi came back!  When everyone supposed it had
melted away in the eons of a fathomless time-space warp,
the Jedi came back!  And here is the next part of the long story.

1.  State and bourgeosie in the Spanish world

One of the most striking features in Spanish history is the
weakness or helplesness of the Spanish bourgeoisie, which
generated a fateful blockage in the social and economic evolution of the country
that first arrived at American shores from Europe. The
consequences of this arrest in bourgeois development still resound in our countries.
How?  Let us see.

Many think that what we know term the West began to exist
only after the enormous riches of America allowed the merchant classes of the "Old"
Continent's Westernmost tip to outcompete their Eastern c
ounterparts.  [Our Jim Blaut has written very interesting
things on this, a whole book to be clear. And his case is really among the easiest to
defend, only that one needs to be a revolutionary to ra
ise it.]  Now, it was Spain (and to a lesser degree,
Portugal) who opened the gates for the inflow of riches.  Wouldn't it have been
reasonable that these countries would outcompete their own Europea
n counterparts first and foremost?  This is not, obviously,
what happened.  How, then, were not Spain and Portugal but England, Holland, and
France, the countries that most benefitted from the endles
s stream of gold and silver, first, and of tropical
products soon afterwards, that were ruthlessly extracted from America?

The many reasons may be reasonably -though somewhat
harshly- condensed in one: while in Northern and Western Europe these riches were
captured by the nascent bourgeoisies, in the Iberian Peninsula th
ey were used by the old nobility to crush the local
bourgoisies (much to the happiness of the bourgeoisies abroad, who always feared the
event of a bourgeois Spain, owner of the planet's most immense
 colonial possessions). The gold and silver of America were
used by the Spanish Habsburgs (the "Austrias") to fight against Reformation and the
French kings (bourgeoisie abroad) and against the Herma
ndades and Comuneros (bourgeoisie at home) for the best
part of almost two centuries.  The loans contracted by the Spanish Crown -in the very
usual way the Kings (Popes included) of the Middle Ages c
ontracted loans with the Jews and other usurers- were the
first avenue along which these riches jumped away from Spain.  The destruction of
local industries and the protection that the first Austria
(Charles the Fifth of Germany and First of Spain) gave to
the Flemish merchants and mill owners were another.  Finally, the Spanish aristocracy
found in the gold and silver from America a wonderful t
ool to buttress their improductive behavior and their
prejudices against "vile" labour.

These three causes, in essence, bled Spain dry and turned
Portugal into a pawn in the hands of Great Britain.  After the Treaty of Ryswick
(early 1670s), Spain (the Kingdom where "the Sun never set"
of the 1500s) became a second rank country [and the Treaty
of Methuen (early 1700s, Methuen is no placename, it is the name of the _merchant_ who
had it signed on behalf of Britain) turned Portugal i
nto almost a colony of England].  But history gave the
Spanish bourgeoisie a last opportunity with the Spanish Borbons.  This dinasty, which
began with the 18th. Century (that is in 1701) attempted t
o transform the social structure of the country --from
above, following a cold policy that was summed up as "everything for the people, but
WITHOUT the people"-- and to generate a bourgeoisie by mean
s of State power. The results, though scant, were
meaningful.  Essentially, the modern Spanish bourgeoisie is not the child of the old
bourgeoisie of the late 1400s (this one was destroyed by the suc
cessive expulsions of the Jews and the Moriscos, and by the
general reactionary thrust of the policy of the Austrias) but of the Spanish state of
the Eighteenth Century.  But due to many reasons (the
 French Revolution among them) the reform lost momentum and
was finally crushed by the events when in 1808 Napoleon invaded Spain.

While the Spanish people rose in arms against the invader,
the older classes supported the struggle _against the bourgeoisies or the bourgeois
reformers, either French or Spanish_, and finally whiske
d the victory away from the hands of the people and turned
it into a victory of the old nobility, the landed Spanish oligarchs and the high
clergy.  In America, as I had already told you, the revolut
ionaries were forced to break with the Spanish revolution
(doomed) and attempt a path of their own. The story of their defeat is, in fact, the
story of our most essential current tasks.

And the first of them is the restoration of some kind of
State in Latin America.  Funny, is it not, that socialists must struggle to _restore_
a State?  But this is the way history has developed.  No
w, this task of restoring a State is not something that
nobody had attempted after the defeat of the 1820s and 1830s.  The attempt was very
succesful, in particular, in Argentina and Uruguay, the two
 River Plate countries.  So succesful it was that it took
more than a century to the imperialists and the local oligarchies to destroy that
State, and at least twice in that long century (if not thre
e times), due to the inmanent logics of a formal national
state existing within an objectivelly semicolonial country, these classes faced a true
danger of popular (that is, workers-led) takeover.

While in Uruguay the man of the moment was Colonel Latorre
(I hope I can extend on Uruguay some day, it is a very interesting complement to my
story), in Argentina the builder of this Argentinian sta
te, and in many senses of the Argentinian "peculiarity"
that the Proceso of 1976 was bent on elliminating, was General Julio Argentino Roca.
We shall have to dwell a little on this man and his Gener
ation (the very vilified "Generation of the 80s", probably
the most brilliant Argentinian political generation, and certainly one of the most
progressive ones), because the roots of the Argentinian L
eft's misunderstanding of the country lie very deeply
entangled with the original misunderstanding of the politics of the country to which
the European immigrants were arriving.  This country was the
 country that Roca and his people were building, and Mitre
and his own crew tried (on behalf of Britain, and to an important extent succesfully)
to deform and abort.

2.  Closing the age of the civil wars: Roca in Buenos
Aires.

By 1875, immigration to Argentina was already a steady
inflow of Europeans, mainly Spanish and Italian, but to a lesser though sizable degree
French and Irish also.  The immigrants settled mostly in
Buenos Aires and Rosario at first, and at the end of the
70s the accumulated migratory balance had surpassed the 270,000 mark, that is 15% of
the total population enumerated by the 1869 Census. The d
ay-to-day impact was much heavier, since the balance
implied some 450,000 inbound migrants (25% of the Census) and 180,000 outbound.  While
they arrived, strove to find a place under the Sun (almost
to the letter) and eventually thrived, the Argentinians
were struggling in a political scenario that included armed upheavals, the actual
annexation of Patagonia (_de facto_ a no man's land up to 187
9), and a final blow to the interests of Buenos Aires and
Mitre when Julio A. Roca became President in 1880.  This blow was the federalization
of the city of Buenos Aires, and cost many thousands of
lives.  With it, the age of the civil war ended in
Argentina, and a new age set in.

Who were these people who were taking power at the same
time the immigrants began to get in touch with their new world?  Two mainstream
interpretations miss the kernel of the issue, which is by no me
ans a matter of chance.  Both consider Roca and his group
of supporters the core of Argentinian "oligarchy".  The first one makes of Roca the
founder and chief of the Conservative party, and glorifie
s him for that. The second one makes of Roca the founder
and chief of the Cosnervative party, and considers him the incarnation of the Devil on
earth.

I, for one, think quite differently.  Because -as a
minimum- there were many Rocas along the period of thirty years that one can safely
define as the age of Roca, a period that witnessed so many revo
lutionary transformations in Argentina that not even the
most Parmenidean of the Aristotelics would fail to recognize that here, at least,
something had changed a bit.  And, moreover, Roca and the Ro
quists built a great deal of thier power on the remains of
the Federal party of the Inland country, clearly against the Argentinian oligarchy
that has always been a Buenos Aires -  centered "rosca".
 Roca himself seems to have silently backed the Socialist
party of Alfredo Palacios in the 1904 elections.  Among the Roquist intellectuals
outstanded some of the most advanced men of the age (the fo
under of the Argentine Socialist Party, Hermann Aue
Lallemant, had a very important political and administrative carreer in the Roquist
administrations of Cuyo).  The Roquists lay the foundations of
the protective tariffs that allowed Argentina to have an
industry of its own while most Latin American countries were crushed to oblivion.
They confronted the British railroads and built State-owned
 lines that only afterwards were given (against Roca's
personal advice) to British ownership.  They built the great educational network that
Argentina boasted as almost unique for decades.  And they
were supported for decades by the most humble of the
Argentinians, the Creole poor people who were being sunken to the lowest ranks of
society to accomodate the newcomers, the immigrants who were to
become the middle class.

There is more, and when we begin to analyze the mistakes of
Argentinian Leftists of the time (ironically, Lallemant included) we shall deal with
them. But these facts may prepare the terrain.  I will
 show you with different eyes the country that the
immigrants saw half-blindfolded, the politicians the immigrants despised, and the
great generation that built what was called Argentina until the 19
76 counter-revolution set the stage for Alfonsin, first,
and essentially Menem later to destroy anything these great men had done. In a certain
sense, Peronism is a consequence of this Roquism that t
he Left misunderstood, something the Peronists themselves
fail to acknowledge. But this will be the subject matter of another posting.

Nestor.









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