[Marxism] Juan Perón

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Tue Jan 3 13:57:19 MST 2006


Juan Perón

Coming to terms with Juan Perón is necessary for two reasons. Firstly, 
Perónism remains an important element of Argentine politics today, 
especially in the labor movement. Secondly, in many ways Hugo Chavez is a 
Perón-like figure. For Marxists, such figures present a significant 
challenge. If we are for socialism, what is our attitude toward figures 
struggling against imperialism but who are not socialists? For some 
socialists, however, Perón was not in a progressive struggle with 
imperialism. He is seen as some kind of Bonapartist caudillo at best, or 
fascist at worst.

Before attempting to address the question of what Perón stood for, it is 
necessary to review the economic problems that faced Argentina prior to his 
ascendancy. By the early 20th century, Argentina had already become 
dominated by a coalition of the local ruling classes based on the ranching, 
grain growing in the pampas; and the import-export and financial sectors in 
Buenos Aires, which supported the agrarian economy. The city's proximity to 
the pampas made it the political and commercial hub of the country, just as 
New York City was for the USA. These local fractions of the bourgeoisie had 
developed a very close relationship to Great Britain that relied on 
Argentina for its agricultural exports. The emergence of refrigerated ships 
ensured that meat could arrive in British seaports without any loss. Prior 
to this technical innovation, you had to ship livestock that naturally lost 
weight during the arduous trans-oceanic voyage.

While this arrangement made Argentina relatively prosperous and allowed an 
upsurge of immigration, the economy was ultimately dependent on Great 
Britain. It also stunted local industrial growth since the relationship 
with Great Britain implied favoritism toward imported British manufactured 
goods. Local industry remained somewhat primitive and wage labor tended to 
be of an unskilled and part-time nature.

full: http://www.columbia.edu/~lnp3/mydocs/state_and_revolution/argentina3.htm

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The Legacy of Juan Peron

The government of Juan Perón was one of the most progressive in Latin 
American history in the 20th century. Here is a list of its accomplishments:

1. Taking advantage of government leniency if not outright support, trade 
unions were formed in every industry. 2. Social security was made 
universal. 3. Education was made free to all who qualified. 4. Vast 
low-income housing projects were created. 5. Paid vacations became 
standard. 6. A working student was given one paid week before every major 
examination. 7. All workers (including white-collar employees like bank 
tellers, etc.) were guaranteed free medical care and half of their 
vacation-trip expenses. 8. A mother-to-be received 3 paid months off prior 
to and after giving birth. 9. Workers recreation centers were constructed 
all over Argentina, including a vast resort in the lower Sierras that 
included 8 hotels, scores of cabins, movies, swimming pools and riding 
stables. This resort was available to workers for 15 days a year, at the 
cost of 15 cents per day, all services included.

In order to strengthen Argentina's economy, Perón created the Argentina 
Institute for Promotion of Exchange (AIPE), a monopoly that handled all 
commodity exports. Cattle, wheat, etc. were sold at a high price overseas. 
While not socialism, this measure was consistent with the traditional 
Marxist demand for a monopoly on foreign trade. Perón also bought out the 
local IT&T operation and the railroad and trolley system from Great 
Britain. He paid off Argentina's foreign debt and launched a 5-year plan in 
1946 that covered everything from the woman's right to vote to shipbuilding.

By 1954 Perón had initiated more than 45 major hydroelectric projects 
designed to produce 2 billion kilowatt-hours of energy, 20 times the amount 
that was available in 1936. While in hindsight we can say that these 
projects had ecological drawbacks, they still represented an audacious step 
in the direction of making every citizen's life more fulfilling. By 1947, 
Argentina had launched its own iron and steel industry. It was also moving 
forward in coal extraction and other raw materials using the most advanced 
technology available at the time. It began to make farm machinery, planes 
and cars in modest numbers. Ship-building had expanded by 500 percent under 
Perón's regime.

full: http://www.columbia.edu/~lnp3/mydocs/state_and_revolution/Juan_Peron.htm

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