Ataturk and Perón, workers and imperialism

Nestor Gorojovsky nestorgoro at fibertel.com.ar
Tue Jan 28 07:01:12 MST 2003


Lou Pr. wrote:

"When I pointed this out to one of my better-informed hosts, she 
explained to me that there is a key difference between Argentina and 
Turkey. While displaying superficial similarities as "modernizers", 
Peron and Ataturk differed on one key question. Peron consciously 
built up the trade union movement; Ataturk did everything he could to 
suppress it."

A very deep insight, in fact, although it gives Perón more merit than 
he deserves. 

Union organizing was previous to Perón, it was a fact he simply 
adjusted to after he realized that the working class was the only 
safe foundation for the national-revolutionary movement that had been 
forming after the June 1943 coup. Thus, he encouraged unions in a way 
seldom imagined within the framework of an essentially national-
bourgeois project, but at the same time he made his greatest 
contribution to keeping workers solidly tied to the day-to-day 
struggle for the cent. Very high levels of ideological constraint 
against the working class were at the same time one of the mainstays 
of the administration, and one of the main reasons for its fall in 
1955.

The story of the great 1948 strike in the sugarcane industry in 
Tucumán is exemplary. There was an important union tradition among 
sugarcane workers, with a quite independent leadership of Socialist 
and Trotskyist origin (in fact, it was the Tucumán sugarcane workers 
who started the famous 17 October 1945, by going to strike already on 
October 16th!). Perón crushed the strike, only to _afterwards_ 
benefit the workers with more than what they had been fighting for. 
What was not acceptable was the independent, strongly left leaning, 
leadership. 

Not everything was rosy with The General, not at all. 

As someone observed once, Peronist union buildings were 
extraordinarily well set, large and mighty. But they lacked 
libraries! And one cannot forget that -on the specious ground that 
the Socialists had supported the counter-revolution- the ultra-
oligarchic Jockey Club and the headquarters of the Socialist Party 
(its excellent library included) were burnt to ashes _together_ 
during the reactions against the june 1955 attempt at a counter-
revolutionary coup.

In fact, the deepest difference between Perón and Ataturk lies in 
that the latter tried to get rid of the old semi-feudal structures of 
a backward _but not colonial_ Ottoman Empire (much in the way Bismark 
did with Austria in Sadowa), while Perón tried to establish a self-
centered capitalism in what up to that moment had been an economic 
_colony_, a piece of Britain's "informal empire" in South America.

Thus, the weight of the working class as compared to that of the 
middle class and peasantry was quite smaller in  Ataturk's movement 
than in Perón's:  here, the middle class was mostly anti-Peronist 
even though from a "tradeunionist" point of view it was one of the 
most benefitted classes after 1945. 

We can also realize the difference by watching at the relative 
positions of Perón and Ataturk on the issue of "nationalities". While 
Perón's nationalism (Associated Press nonwithstanding) was 
integrationist in spite of the ideologues of the regime, Chauvinist 
attacks on the Greek in Smirna and the Armenians in Eastern Turkey 
were somehow unavoidable concessions -if so one can call them- to the 
Turkish middle classes. The tragic history of the Turkish Armenians 
can hardly be forgotten.

But at the same time it must be clear that both Smirna Greeks and 
Armenians were wavering Turkish citizens, particularly because in the 
old Ottoman Empire they were specialized in foreign trade and thus 
they were prone to establish agreements with their French and British 
counterparts against the interests of their fellow citizens.  Many 
Greeks and Armenians in the former Ottoman Empire met, after 1918, a 
historic Catch 22: their situation made them too eager to support the 
attempts of the British and French imperialists to carve out 
influence zones in the former Ottoman Empire, something much resented 
by the Turkish peasantry and middle classes not only as competitors 
but as a possible beachhead of a 
colonization of their own country by the Western powers after 1918.

None of this happened in Argentina, simply because Argentina was 
already an economic colony.

Néstor Miguel Gorojovsky
nestorgoro at fibertel.com.ar

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ 
"Sí, una sola debe ser la patria de los sudamericanos".
Simón Bolívar al gobierno secesionista y disgregador de 
Buenos Aires, 1822
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