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17 October 1945: birth of contemporary Argentina

A date that marks the history of Argentines and defines their faces, struggles and passions with many pages still blank.


It all started with a government measure. When the Interior Minister, radical  Hortensio Quijano ,  future vice president of Perón , lifted the State of Siege ordered by President Castillo on July 8, 1945, the pot began to boil. Coinciding with Japan's surrender in World War II, the political parties came out with the end plugs to celebrate the defeat of the Axis, which had sympathies among the military coup in power, and demanded the return of law and elections. Opposite, the nationalist alliance was dealing with the wanton and the wounded. That warm winter  Colonel Perón  observed regular workers' demonstrations in front of the office of the  Ministry of Labor and Welfare  , once installed in the symbol of the Buenos Aires aristocracy and corruption, the Council of Deliberate. And not only did the allied trade unions, Trade and Meat first, but the  majority of workers were beginning to be recognized by a society that had failed them. Just compare the exponential growth in the profitability of the business community, state beneficiaries of import substitution policies, and salaries that were around 100 pesos, without mobility since 1930, when a dress cost 55. Not to mention the exorbitant incomes of the landowners following the  roca-runciman agreement (1933)  and who opposed the novel Pawn Statute, which was a tenuous labor codification and led, in reality, to meager wages. “Speak quiet, what is the problem?, talk to you Tedesco,” they told the  founder of the Textile Workers' Association, Mariano Tedesco,  “Are you Tedesco? Son of Italians, right? “, replied  Colonel Perón , who was in person serving the workers, and  de facto vice president of the Nation , such as his style, and as  Eva Perón would do later, “Yes, colonel, it seemed to me, what happens Tedesco?/Very simple, Colonel: a lot of work and little guitar/That's clear, where?/We work at night in... we get paid 3 pesos with 30 each night/ What a barbarity! We'll fix it right away. I'll call the factory owners to make a party agreement with you. How much do you want to earn?/We threw at 3 pesos with 33 cents but the fair would be 3.50 a night/Everything will be fine. It can't be that the workers are still exploited/Thank you, Coronel/Tedesco, you stay. The others can leave and have confidence,”  Perón  closed with a new agreement with the bases at the door. But also with workers who were no puppets of a military Machiavellian or delusional in their claims... they asked for a 20 cent increase. They had learned by blows to moderate the claims, the harsh lessons of  Tragic Week (1919) and the massive arrests and torture of the police in hand after the fall of  Yrigoyen . Even the most combative as the operators of the refrigerators in the South of  Cipriano Reyes , one of the broad backs of the nascent Peronism, then persecuted, tortured and imprisoned by the same Peronists. In the clear words of  Enrique “Mordisquito” Santos Discépolo,  the immortal author of “Cambalache”, “Well, look, I say it at once. I, I didn't invent it to  Perón... or Eva Perón ... or her doctrine. They were born from a reaction to your bad governments. He brought us, in his defense, to a village whom you and yours had buried in a long road of misery. They were born from you, for you and for you,” said the poet of Buenos Aires in something that, by saving the distances, is the same old story: there were thousands of bands like  The Beatles  in Liverpool, even better, but they with their talent were playing at the appointed time of history.

 All roads lead to Perón 

Nothing expected October 17. At least in the top national leaders. While radical leader  Amadeo Sabattini  discarded  Perón  's proposals for a popular and cross-sectional solution for a democratic way out, “I don't know whatis more to offer the tanito de Villa Maria”, the colonel said resigned, the “March of the Constitution and Freedom” gathered a hundred thousand people on September 19, 1945. Neither did the tramway strike hit the massiveness that sang “With tram or without tram, today they were on the track” or “A - president of facto- Farrel and Perón , today we made him the cajón” under the figures of San Martín, Sarmiento and, a gigantic,  Roque Sáenz Peña , the driver of the compulsory but undemocratic vote because he excluded women and immigrants. Other interesting things, besides seeing communists, socialists, businessmen and landowners on the arm, was the presence of  Ambassador Braden , “the voice of freedom is heard in this land, and I don't think anyone will be able to drown it,” the words of an American official said under  Saenz Peña , one of the Argentinean politicians who most opposed the US presence on the continent. A frustrated blow by Rawson to his own coup comrades in '43 and the seizure of the universities, the focus of the “civil resistance” that would be brutally repressed in a sad anticipation of  The Night of the Long Canes (1966) , made it seem at the end of the month that the military had the minutes and that the “ Nazi” of Perón  would be eclipsed once and for all, someone else who was made guilty of everything, from the newly implanted State of Siege - something that Perón himself advised against according to Felix Luna - to the murder of student Salmún Feijóo.

And the “thinking sectors” achieved the first goal with the  resignation of Perón  from all his positions on the day of his 50th birthday, at that time justified by the designation “inconsultation” of a close to   Evitate   at the communications office, Oscar Nicolini. On October 8, 1945 he resigned, claiming to his comrades “I avoid a bloodshed”, with forces from Campo de Mayo about to march over the unsuspecting city, a few words he would repeat in his overthrow ten years later. In the streets of the country there were demonstrations for and against Perón, and on  October 9 the Peronist country was born . On the other hand, students sang the anthem in front of the president's house of the university federation. And they were again repressed.

Several historians, of the most varied tendencies, agree that a tragicomedy occurred in that week. Chiefs and military officers imagined a rocky succession with the Supreme Court or an explosive alliance with  Sabattini 's intransigent radicals. Old figures decidedly antiworkers and rancid conservative returned to the Casa Rosada. The procurator of the Court, the circumspect Juan Álvarez, is entrusted with the formation of a ministry that will cool down the pressure of the middle and upper classes.  Eva and   Perón make retirement plans in Chubut.  Nobody knew “what to do,” would say  Nini “Catita” Marshall  . The village, yes. Because they barely understood that the majority of the 20,000 decrees that between 1944-1945 had come out of the signature of  Perón, Argentina's entry into civil and labor rights of the twentieth century,  were going to be overthrown one by one, organized in the networks that had been building trade unionists, before socialists and anarchists. They are those who listen to the defenestado colonel, whom they let talk on the radio (sic), “I leave signed the -new- implementation of the minimum living wage, basic and mobile... remember that the emancipation of the working class is in the worker himself. We are in a battle that we will win, because the world is going in that direction... We will win in a year or ten, but we will win... I will not say goodbye, I tell you forever -another curiosity,  Perón in exile in Madrid had a charcoal portrait of Che Guevara- “  Farrell and his de facto minister Avalos,  amid a coup within the same coup and an impossible call for elections, arrest Perón  in El Tigre, and transfer him to Martín García Island, imprisoned in the same place as popular President Hipólito Yrigoyen . And they make him a martyr.

Workers leaders waited  on Saturday 13 for General Mercante, right-hand Perón,  with his columns prearranged in every corner of Greater Buenos Aires. Critique titled “Colonel Perón is no longer a danger to the country.” Below was an unsuspected trail for journalists, intellectuals, aristocracy, politicians and military personnel, ranging from the cane fields of Tucumán to the factories of Cordoba. There  Sabattini, the Furry Boy,  said to a worried and perplexed  Arturo Frondizi  , “I have pulled  Peron  out of a wing... let there be a conservative government: the road to Cordoba will be small for people's cars to come see me!“What began to get narrow were the streets with workers, not by car, but by trams and trucks crossing General Paz and Riachuelo, encouraged by the strike reluctantly declared by the  General Labour Confederation on October 18.

The meat workers of Rosario tell the lukewarm leaders that the mobilization will take place with them, or without them, for the “emotional state of the streets” Ramón Tejada, a humble railway man, when the  CGT was still meeting in the Tranviaria Automotor Union of Moreno Street , said “no matter how much we turn the issue, if we declare the general strike, this will be for the freedom of  Colonel Perón , because by calling for his return to government we are defending our conquests.” Better political analysis, impossible. Those who had no doubts, the little black heads, the shirted ones, began to stick their legs and hearts into the national dish at that dawn  of October 17, 1945.  

 And the Argentinian people came to the Plaza 

Perhaps the only precedent was the defense of  Saavedra  in Plaza de la Victoria -current Plaza de Mayo- by the gauchos and mulattos in 1811. Or the spontaneous marches of blacks in celebration of  Roses'  diplomatic victories against English and French.  Farrell  orders him to be transferred to Buenos Aires because it was “an illusion, a hope” for the thousands who began to fill the square, once bastion of what was called “oligarchy”. Perón  is waiting, silent, in the Military Hospital. On Posadas Street, Eva Perón  , who a couple of days ago knew nothing about her husband, walks through the walls.  Arturo Jauretche , the thinker who was a critical companion of Peronism, recalled the reality in Gerli, “What do we do tomorrow, doctor?,” asked a nervous co-ligionary of  FORJA  - a nationalist trend of radicalism -, “Tomorrow, what happens tomorrow?” answered with surprise the author  “Manual de zonceras argentinas” (1968) , “And... people are coming to Buenos Aires... not for anyone... are all with  Perón /And who organizes that... what do I know... anyone... what?eacute; do we?Look, if so, when people come out, grab the flag of the committee and get in front!”, he concluded by saying that the leader who gathered thirty votes in Avellaneda crossed Puyerredón Bridge at dawn with a thousand workers, and with the smile of Dr. Yrigoyen.

The city returned to its Creole soul, black, in a carnavelesque spirit that the porteños, while closing shutters, would describe as a murga. Women, children and men danced and sang under a single name: “ Perón is not communist/Perón is the son of the village/and the village is with Perón,” Leopoldo Marechal said. Few knew that  Perón  himself recognized that sometimes “I speak to them a little in communist,” an idolism in his antipodes, because he thought it was the only speech the worker understood. It didn't matter. Because  Perón  had added to the rhetoric concrete facts that were visualized on paid holidays, a few days at first, and tailor-made clothing for first communion, paid in installments, and not of a grandfather.

 Perón  repeated every while his collaborators, to his Eve  on the phone ,  “there are many” and delayed the decision to leave for Casa Rosada in the face of the panic of the military and politicians, who began to understand what it was about. Radical  Scalabrini Ortiz  would score, “brothers in the same scream, and in the same faith, were the field pawn of Cañuelas and the precision turner, the smelter, the car mechanic, the weaver, the spinning and trade employee. It was the subsoil of the rebellious homeland... what I had dreamed and intuited for many years was there present, corporeal, tense... it was the men who are alone and waiting, and who began their task reinvention”, paraphrasing his  fundamental title of the argentine literature .

Half a million people received  Colonel Perón  at 23:10, about to enter history, not only Argentina, but the world. A sea of people of flesh and blood, many who wore new clothes because they went to an unknown “Center”, looked ecstatic at their beloved leader in freedom but knew that that triumph was also theirs.“Workers!” was the first time that   Perón  used that word in a speech, and it was mostly a one-to-one talk. Because he was knitting the phrases with the cries and cheers that valued his action in the labor secretariat as “the first Argentine worker” The leader announced that that day was the “revival of the conscience of the workers” and that they were “more brothers than ever” with a tango turn towards the end that “embraced them as I would embrace my mother. Because you have had the same pains and thoughts of my poor old woman... and remember that there are women workers who are to be protected here, and in life, by the workers themselves.” And fulfilling the promise of an orderly deconcentration,  Perón  emphasized that they return peace.“I want to ask you to stay fifteen more minutes to carry on my retina the great spectacle of the town” They returned tired but happy to the suburbs of Buenos Aires, and the Conurbano, without dismands. Sometimes they found themselves with lagging columns that wanted to reach the square before midnight, others with bullets from young patrician families, as recorded in police offices.  Perón  was leaving for San Nicolas to rest with Eve  . Do you remember the procurator of the Nation? He entered the middle of  Perón  's speech to Casa Rosada carrying the list of potential ministers entrusted to him. And once again, the rift that separates many Argentine leaders from reality was demonstrated. And his people.

 Sources:  Luna, F. 45  . Buenos Aires: Jorge Álvarez Editores. 1968; James, D.  Resistance and integration. Peronism and the Argentine working class . Buenos Aires: 21st Century. 2010; Reyes, C.  I did October 17 . Buenos Aires: Centro Editoría Latina, 1984; Chávez, F.  Perón and Peronism in Contemporary History.  Buenos Aires: East, 1975

Publication Date: 17/10/2020

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How Peronist are you?
De qué peronismo hablamos What Peronism are we talking about when we talk about Peronism?



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