Juan Domingo Pern Argentine Master of Labor and Le Essay

This essay has a total of 4320 words and 17 pages.


Juan Domingo Pern Argentine Master of Labor and Leader of the Masses





Juan Domingo Perón, born in 1895 in Lobos, Argentina, was the President of Argentina on
two occasions separated by eighteen years. He first came to power by the election of
February 28,1946. He ruled for almost ten years until he was pressured to resign by the
Argentine military and in September of 1955 he left the country. He spent almost the next
twenty years in exile but never lost touch with the Argentine people and especially the
Argentine labor movement. In 1973, after eighteen years of exile, Perón returned to
Argentina and was elected president again with his third wife Isabel as vice-president.
His power as a ruler came out of the special connection that he made with the working
classes and unions before and during his first term. Perón was a military man by trade,
attending the National Military Academy at age fifteen. He became a captain by 1924 and a
professor of military history by 1930. He was promoted to lieutenant colonel in 1936 and
was named minister of war during the unrest and bloodless coup of 1944. Perón got his
first experience with labor as the head of the National Labor Department. That position
evolved into the head of the Secretariat of Labor and Social Welfare just over a month
later in December of 1944. Right away Perón required that all employers give employees a
one month's pay bonus every year. This was the beginning of a series of policies that
would make Perón the labor union's president. His ability to come back to power after
being out of the country for so long was the product of his close relationship with the
labor forces and working class. There are however a few special factors that must be
considered when making this claim; namely the background of the labor movement and the way
in which labor continued to follow Peronist ideas even after Juan was gone from office.
These labor forces developed such tremendous loyalty to Juan Perón as a result of his
special brand of politics which provided that the economic solvency of the working class
was the biggest priority of the government.

Organized labor in Argentina before the golpe of 1943 was in a state of constant change
and motion. Beginning with the golpe de estado that overthrew president Hipolito Yrigoyen
in September of 1930, the political climate of Argentina was a turmoiltuous backdrop for
the labor movement. The formation of the Conferatción General del Trabajo [CGT] took
place in the same year. The CGT was a conglomerate of the largest labor unions in the
country, like railroad workers unions, construction workers unions and textile workers
unions. This marked the beginning of a new type of unionization. The unions that formed
between 1930 and 1943 were not only larger and more directed at labor than trades, but
they were willing to cooperate with the government. They were "bread-and-butter" unions,
now less interested in being in opposition to the state because they had gotten into
industries that required more cooperation with the government like railroads for example.
(Barager, 1968) The unions started to establish some general trends in their practices in
terms of labor management relations. The basic foundations for these relations were
collective bargaining and trade-union social insurance, which Perón later adapted for his
own use.

The social climate in Argentina was also receptive to unionization in the decades prior to
Perón's first time in office. Immigration had all but come to a halt by 1930 which meant
that the greater percentage of laborers were second generation Argentines and were more
nationalist in leanings. This was another factor that led to the cooperationist nature of
the new unions. Unions in general were getting larger with the migration of large sectors
of the Argentine population from the countryside to the urban areas as a result of a
failing agrarian economy in the thirties. The global economic depression that took place
in the thirties had the greatest effect on the farmers which when coupled with
accelerating industrialization provided all of the necessary conditions for urbanization
in Argentina. Urbanization and it's effect on the size and face of the work force also
aided in the move toward unionization in the thirties.

By 1942 the CGT, by then the largest union in Argentina, had split into two major
factions. The first was in favor of the re-election of General Jose Domenech to the
position of Union Secretary General. This faction had more socialist leanings and
consisted mainly of the railroad workers unions. This first group became known as CGT1.
The group that would be known as CGT2 consisted mainly of construction workers, metal
workers and textile workers unions, which were communist led unions. This second faction
wanted the election of Francisco Perez Leirós who happened to be a socialist. This void
revolved around the issue of the level of involvement in politics that the union should
have. The majority of the CGT; namely the CGT2, were of the "bread-and-butter" mindset
that their union should serve the economic concerns of its members only. The CGT1, whose
ideological leanings were more socialistic were more interested in the political aspect of
labor relations and did not believe that adequate representation of the workers was
possible without becoming involved in national politics. When Perón became the head of
The National Department of Labor in 1944 he theoretically reconciled the two positions by
bringing politics to the Unions as the CGT1 wanted, but only in a way as to aid directly
in the economic situation of the workers, hence satisfying the communist union leaders of
the CGT2. Although in theory his policy had been able to meld the two positions, as both
the communists and the socialists needs were met, the middle level leaders of the unions
could not be brought to agreement or compromise in their opinions. This dissent among the
middle level leaders would never really go away for Perón.

On June 4, 1943 the military in Argentina, which had been serving as the ultimate law of
the land since the golpe de estado of 1930, took control of the government. The reasons
behind this golpe were mostly related to the circumstances of World War II. In Argentina
prior to WWII the general sentiment was that of sympathy for the Axis powers. Perón
himself had been an observer in the Italian army in 1939. When it came time for Argentina
to take sides in the war, however, there was a general fear of becoming allied with either
side given the already shaky domestic political situation. The election scheduled for the
end of 1943 showed promise that a president would be elected with some allied sympathies,
Patron Costas. Costas was a pro-British landowner who many assumed would draw Argentina
into the war on the side of the allies. The military intervened and took over the
government to avoid this pro-ailed president coming to power. The military insurgence was
led by General Pedro Pablo Ramirez, and Perón was among the higher ranking military
leaders involved. Perón was rewarded with the positions of undersecretary of war, head of
the National Labor Department and later vice-president of the country. The first actions
of the military regime were to suspend the constitution and the congress and to disband
the CGT2. The communist sympathies of the CGT2 were the primary reason for it's
suppression. The military government had come to save Argentina from jumping into the war
on the allied side and temporarily achieved that goal.

The original goal of the golpe had been ignored by the end of March 1945 when Argentina
declared war on Germany and Japan. This was a political maneuver to be sure, as the war
was practically over by this time, but the declaration was still a departure from the
original plans of the golpe. By September of 1943 there were widespread demonstrations
against the military government in Argentina. The military group was in need of some
support from pockets of civilians. Perón had made the secretariat of labor so involved in
collective bargaining agreements that the workers looked fondly on his power. He was
often credited with improvements in the workplace more so than the employers who agreed to
them. Through several successful interventions in bargaining Perón made the labor
movement into a powerful political machine for himself, while at the time it served as the
civilian support that the military government needed. Despite his role in making the
military government more palatable for the masses, there was still dissent within the
regime and on October 9, 1945 he was forced to resign from his positions by President
Farrell. He left the offices and was arrested by the state. By October 13 his friends
and supporters were organizing a labor protest. On October 16 workers from all over the
country began organizing in the Plaza de Mayo in Buenos Aries. They had come from all
over the city and around the country as well, as Perón had reached out to agrarian workers
as well as urbanized factory workers. By the end of the day Perón was released from his
arrest on the Isla de Martin Garcia and the next day he appeared on the balcony of the
Casa Rosada in Buenos Aries before thousands of cheering workers.

After his release he declined the invitation to return to his political positions so that
he could run for president instead. He was responsible for the formation of three
political parties, although only one directly. The Partido Laborista was the party under
which he ran for office and it was made up primarily of trade union officials from around
the republic. Two other parties that spontaneously formed threw in their lot with Perón.
The Renovated Radical Party was made up of a group of radical party leaders who left the
mainstream liberal party. The Independent ticket as they called themselves were made up
of random elements of the socio-political spectrum. The election was held on February
24, 1946. With the support of these three parties Perón won the election in a fairly
convincing manner, with 52 percent of the vote and his nearest opponent received only 42
percent. It was the first truly honest election in Argentina since 1928.

The legacy of this rise to power for Perón was in the support that he gained in the
working classes. The majority of common workers in Argentina in 1946 felt a stronger tie
with Perón than with their union leaders because Perón had been so intimately involved in
their struggles. In his presidency he continued to address the needs of the masses
because he was very politically aware of the need to do so. He believed that one must
adapt the country to the world's evolution by bringing justice to the people. (Hodges,
1988) This focus on the people was a priority throughout Perón's regime. Perón's motto
for his system which he called "justicialism" was "Political sovereignty, economic
independence, social justice." (Whitaker, 1956) This motto conveys a sense of the perfect
balance of the three elements included, but not accidentally, the element of freedom is
missing from this characterization. Accusations that Perón had some elements of fascism
in his politics come from the fact that many freedoms in Argentina were suppressed by his
regime. He was, after all, a military man before he was a labor leader and his rule was a
delicate balance of labor sympathy and military control. He did suppress the voices of
parties who opposed him beginning with any and all labor parties. Juan and Evita Perón
eliminated union leaders who were anti-Peronist in their loyalties and replaced them with
officials of Perón's choice. (Barager, 1968) His regime was not without incident, which
certainly comes as no surprise. He authored a new constitution that was accepted by
congress in 1949 which allowed him to run for another term as president. It was during
his second campaign that he established the Peronist Party. He won a second term easily,
but the end of his perfect control was near. He never truly reconciled with certain
factions of the military and in September of 1951 there was a brief revolt against his
regime led by officers of the army who had been jaded by Perón's rule. The revolt was
brief and was put down without major bloodshed. This incident served only to strengthen
Perón's position, as he had good reason to remove officers who had shown dissent. Many of
these officers were imprisoned, leaving the army with less anti-Peronist sentiment than
prior to the revolt. Although the majority of the army was strictly Peronist after the
September 28th unsuccessful uprising, there were other forces of dissent still alive in
the social picture.

At the beginning of his rule Perón had been seeking the support of the Church and had seen
considerable success in that regard. (Whitaker, 1968) But after the first few years of
his regime there developed a fair amount of tension between the Church and Perón. By 1954
Church officials were outraged by measures taken by Perón to legalize divorce and
prostitution as well as the elimination of religion from education. As the Church was
more moved by Perón's policies it began to develop some political machinery of it's own
which was quickly dismantled by Perón's police. (Whitaker, 1968) After a series of
political scuffles and a small riot in Buenos Aries, Perón was excommunicated on June 16th
1955. This may have been one of the final nails in the coffin of his second term in his
first regime.

Perón steadily lost his hold on the government from the time of his excommunication. The
same day, June 16th elements of the navy and the air force began attacking property of
Peronist loyalists. The army was able to withstand this attack, but it would not be the
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