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Juan Domingo Perón Sosa

Juan Peron changed Argentine politics forever. Catering to the fundamental bread and butter issues that appealed to the masses, Peron gained the loyalty of the working class, especially rank-and-file workers. In the period 1936-1943, over 90 percent of union membership came about because of communist-led organizing efforts. However, most workers abandoned communist-led labor movements to follow Peron. The greatest legacy of Peron to the working class was the creation of a unified and powerful labor movement. Peron's actions in government gave the workers' movement legality. The military expelled Peron from office in September 1955 and solidified a long-term hostility between the military and Peron and his followers.

Juan Domingo Perón Sosa was born in 1895 to a rural middle-class family from Lobos, in Buenos Aires Province. He was educated at the Military College and began his military career as an army lieutenant in 1915. In the 1930s Perón's career began a new phase: in 1930 he became a military history instructor at the Superior War College; in 1936 he was assigned to Chile as military attaché; and in 1939 he was assigned to Italy as a military observer. During his stay in Europe, Perón came to admire the new corporate states in Italy and Spain. Peron's military career gave him (and many others, for that matter) the opportunity to acquire professional training and also to mingle with the upper strata of Argentine society.

Back in Argentina he helped organize the 1953 military coup against the Conservative government of Castillo. The secret Nationalist military organization, the Unification Task Force (Grupo Obra de Unificacion— GOU), was a group of young colonels that included Juan Domingo Perón. The conspirators were strongly influenced by Italian and German nationalist military organizations, and they perceived the army in a redeeming role. Under this view, they were committed to rule Argentina and achieve national industrial development and social reforms, which they viewed as necessary for national unification and the creation of a strong professional army.

Throughout this initial period of military consolidation, Perón developed his power base as a major leader of the young officers within the GOU. In October 1943 Peron became the head of the newly created Secretariat of Labor and Social Welfare, which acquired ministerial status the following month. From this vantage point, Peron was able to take over the labor organizations under the General Confederation of Labor (Confederacion General de Trabajo—CGT) and to direct and subject it to his personal control. He maintained a commanding position over both the corporate military and the new laboring classes and became the dominant personality in Argentine political life until his death more than three decades later. The increasing failures of the fascists in Europe prompted him to confine his corporatist ideas to the Secretariat of Labor and Social Welfare.

Perón's ability to manipulate his following produced an alliance between young officers and new labor leaders who were outside the mainstream of political parties and labor organizations. This coalition was encouraged by the emergence of a new generation of Extreme Nationalists and the increasing unrest and expectations of the new industrial labor force, which was swelled by migrations from the countryside and consequent unemployment at a time of rapid industrialization, capital accumulation, and scant redistribution of the nation's growing wealth.

Perón integrated nonunion and union workers into a national welfare system that provided pensions and health benefits for all. Between 1943 and 1946 he enacted a series of labor decrees that represented his redistribution program, sanctions against persons or enterprises obstructing the actions of the newly created Ministry of Labor and Social Welfare and the labor courts; regulations against unfair job dismissal and for rent control; measures regulating the work of minors and domestic servants; and provisions for paid vacations and a New Year's bonus.

However, Peron's growing popularity among the labor force antagonized the military, who soon came to distrust him. On October 9, 1945, he was removed from the position he had held for more than a year as vice president of Argentina and was arrested by the military. Demonstrations for Peron's release began six days later, and on October 17 a mass rally of descamisados (the shirtless ones—the poor who were the base of Perón's supporters) was organized by his mistress, Eva Duarte, and the labor leaders who packed the Plaza de Mayo in front of the presidential palace. Once freed, Perón began to organize for the presidential elections of 1946 as a constitutional candidate backed by his newly formed Labor Party and by a Radical splinter group, the UCR Renovating Junta. The two parties merged in June 1946 after Peron's election to become the Unified Party of the National Revolution, which was renamed the Peronist Party in January 1947.

Peron's first presidency carried with it much of the militaristic traditions of the previous decade and a half, but also infused Argentine political culture with a welfare state mentality and dramatically altered the Argentine social structure with the imposition of a fascist, corporatist economic system. From Evita Peron, Argentines learned that the best government is the one that gives gifts to the people.

Act 13.896 29/05/50 "Promoting the General of Brigade Juan Domingo Perón to General of Division grade" was automatically promulgated. In that time in Argentine Army had three levels in the general grade. The assigned one to Peron by the Federal Legislative Branch was the intermediate one. Peron had retired herself from Army with the rank of colonel on October 17, 1945. There is no indication of the Act that promoted him to the general lower degree. Consequently the general degree was not reached during Peron's military career, but by a National Congress decision. This Act was automatically promulgated, in that it was considered unethical that Peron as President signed his own promotion.

A military coup overthrough Juan Peron and restored the traditional Argentine oligarchy to power in 1955. During the subsequent 18 years of exile, Peron used the Montonero insurgents as a primary means of breaking the resultant political impasse. He also used them as a political bridge to a worker-based mass movement and as a bridge to rebellious youth movements.

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Page last modified: 17-01-2015 19:49:01 ZULU