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(en) France, Alternative Libertair #222 - 110 years ago: The emergence of the Argentine working class (fr) [machine translation]

Date Wed, 12 Dec 2012 11:06:41 +0200

When capitalism developed there in the late nineteenth century, Argentina is still far from having a social structure similar to Western European countries. The formation of a working class to rapidly develop its own organizations will nevertheless disrupt the progress of local oligarchies towards building a nation fully oriented capitalism. The general strike of 1902 is an example.
Argentina is a country with capitalist development itself was late. If the break with the colonial order was very early (declared independence July 9, 1816), the passage of formal independence to the construction of a coherent national space has, meanwhile, been a complex process that s' over several decades.

The reasons for this inability to build an independent nation are numerous and related to the characteristics of the social structure even Argentina. The country was not an economic coherent and articulate, but consisted of different economic regions whose common was their dependence vis-à-vis the Spanish metropolis. In the beginnings of the colonial system, the interaction created between the countries of South America and Spain is extremely strong. But the regional oligarchies reinforcing choosing their trading partners do not see the value of a common market structure and disrupting the model and exporter of raw materials, mainly precious metals.

In the nineteenth century, the development of productive forces in titanic Europe driven by the industrial revolution increased the interest of cities to remove non-industrialized countries raw materials that Europe is unable to provide in the volumes necessary to meet the ever increasing demand of production.

The construction of a space Argentine political
Different post-independence political avatars that grow in Argentina are related, in fact, the lack of a consistent internal market.

Different regional oligarchies fought with weapons in their hands to decide which impose its national project to another. This conflict is resolved in favor of the bourgeoisie landowners coast, especially in the province of Buenos Aires, which will impose a development model based on the creation of conditions for the exploitation of agriculture and the breeding.

It will also put in place a legal and political instrument to stimulate the accumulation of capital and the arrival of outside capital. One of the steps for this was the creation of a labor market governed by the social relation of wage labor. This process takes several forms: on the one hand, it is to discipline the labor force Creole by, for example, wearing a workbook to the campaign on the other hand, to move the border area with non-capitalist weapons conducting military campaigns against successive indigenous peoples. It is finally importing European populations to use an already skilled workforce and develop rapidly and capital.

But the power of the bourgeoisie of the coastline begins to be played by two political actors from different classes, but, in general, require the Argentine State to adopt a relative autonomy vis-à-vis the dominant class. These two players are the Radical Civic Union (UCR) and the labor movement.

The first represents the interests of the middle classes of the national bourgeoisie, and the struggle for the opening of the State to its class interests, occupying positions of political representation, and integrating the emerging bureaucratic apparatus of the state.

UCR strategy is to put pressure on the regime, first through coup attempts (1890-1905), then denouncing electoral fraud and making constant lobbying to reform electoral laws. The CRU has not sought to create links with the labor movement did not participate either in his struggles; it addressed the workers as citizens.

The labor movement meanwhile, struggled in its early years, against capitalist exploitation and wild in this fight he saw an opportunity to fight for a better world, without exploiters or exploited. He placed the battle on the crucial issue of the bourgeoisie: the production. He never claimed to change the system from an audacious coup against the state and its repressive forces. He did not attempt to solve its problems through parliamentary means and legislation, but he fought against the savage exploitation in the production area.

In Argentina, agriculture, communication and transportation had a similar level of development in Western countries, which was not the case in the rest of the social structure.

Thus only the branches related to agriculture and marketing are strategic in the formation of a social structure. Except the sphere of production in the countryside, where there is a multiplicity of patterns, these branches are those that occupy the quotas of the most important subject to a small number of employers. Another aspect is that Argentina has few seaports, the most important being that of Buenos Aires, Rosario and then those of Bahia Blanca. Transport thus became the Achilles heel of capitalism Argentina, and thus central positions for the organized proletariat. Any of these ports support a strike very well attended, could stop the flow of supplies to western countries by disrupting the process of valorisation of capital. The possibility that the majority of workers' organizations, companies called resistance fissent a strike at the same time was a nightmare for the capitalists.

This fear becomes reality for the first time in November 1902.

The beginnings of a labor organization
Working conditions in Argentina are so appalling. Working days from sunrise to sunset, fourteen or sixteen hours a day, are commonplace. Living conditions that require miserable wages are unworthy of so-called capitalist development which the Argentine bourgeoisie and its various newspapers boast.

While the proletariat crowded into the old houses of the old colonial oligarchy, entire families occupying rooms without ventilation or running water, the bourgeoisie who built palaces become public buildings for the purposes of government or private homes.

Society is so brutal in which the rich live with ease, few workers luckiest can achieve relatively decent standard of living, and the vast majority of workers lives a miserable, squalid and brief. Some improvements that can get exploited, they should do that themselves. Thanks to the experience of many European activist between them, mutual aid societies, ethnic or corporate, are created, as well as companies of resistance. In the decade of 1890, attempts to establish a trade union fail because of political disputes between the two ideological tendencies at work within the proletariat at that time: anarchism and socialism. The first attempts socialist unions are influenced by the German Social Democracy or Guesdism French, ie, the construction of workers' organizations under the umbrella policy of the Socialist Party. This strategy is unacceptable for both anarchists for many companies without political coloration resistance and that is why these organizations have never prospered. It is only by working 1901que Argentine Federation is constituted through negotiations between anarchists and socialists. And while they leave the plant the following year to form a Committee corporatist propaganda, both groups reach sufficient growth to lead separate lives.

The great proletarian strike
In September 1902, the company strength working port of the Federal Capital believes it is time to impose on employers a list of demands prioritized by its members, particularly regarding the maximum weight of goods.

The loading is a seasonal activity, which occupies only four months of the year during the loading of the harvest. To begin their movement, workers choose this date therefore the need for labor is stronger, thus in a difficult position that employers keep commitments in terms of time. Faced with the threat patterns port form a common front to oppose the mobilization of workers. The refusal of employers entails acceptance movement dockers other ports within the country: Zárate, Baradero, San Nicolas, Rosario, Campana and Villa Constitucion. Facing the discipline and organization shown by the workers, the front gives employers by offering a wage increase daily and asking for a delay to allow them to adapt the packaging to the weight of goods demanded by the workers. Meanwhile, workers should continue to load existing packages before. Union leadership, socialist supports at the meeting acceptance of this proposal, however, unanimously rejected by the strikers. The strike continues so until the 8th November, this time is reduced to only four days.

But the Agreement is terminated as a result of enforcement actions occurred in two localities of the province of Buenos Aires, Campana and Zárate, where workers continue strike for their own demands to which the authorities respond by closing the local union in suspending the meeting and mobilizing soldiers to monitor refrigerated warehouses River Plate and protect strikebreakers. This entails escalating repression solidarity dockers other cities resume strike Monday, November 17.

Given the magnitude of the strike and the huge mess created throughout the productive apparatus of the country, the government, which then observe the movement carefully, concludes that it is the result of outside agitators and the most effective fight is to attack these agitators. Argentine political leaders refuse to believe that European problems achieve their latitudes. They are following the analysis of the Chief of Police of the Federal Capital in 1895 considered that "no [strike] the participation of the national labor element made itself felt. The strikers are in their entirety foreign workers, imbued with the spirit Communist imported from Europe. " The State decides to deal with the agitation by the immediate application of the law of residence, giving the executive the opportunity to emigrate "any alien whose conduct endangers national security or disturb public order ". Then the government requires police to extradite a list of political and union leaders. These extraditions implement expeditiously and without any humanitarian gently.

The application of this law is not sufficient to achieve the movement, and rumors of a general strike became reality when the FOA, once legalized, launches the watchword. Given the impossibility of breaking the strike, a few days later, on November 24, the government will retry the challenge of repression in declaring a state of siege, bringing the army into the city, arresting hundreds of workers and closing the local union. Without clashes such as those that take place during the Red Week of 1909 for the Suppression of the centenary in 1910 or during the Tragic Week of 1919, the general strike in 1902 was defeated a few days later, on 26 November 1902.

Movement rich teaching
If the general strike of 1902 was a crushing defeat for the proletariat Argentine, his teachings were multiple. On the one hand, it became clear that the Argentine government could not be neutral in the conflict between capital and labor, as claimed by the law. On the other hand, it showed that workers organizing themselves they had the power to compel employers to discuss the conditions of their use, and the social system of combat.

On the other hand, it has also enabled more informed fractions of the dominant class to understand that the "labor problem" was not the fact that a minority of outside agitators, but it was an inexorable reality the capitalist system. And from this period, will succeed initiatives that lead to piecemeal reforms of the system for the sole purpose of taming the working class. Among these initiatives, the draft Labour Code in 1904 was a clumsy first attempt, followed by the creation of the National Department of Labour in 1907 and the enactment of laws protecting working women and children and the Sabbath. Add to this the political opening through the electoral law promoted by President Sáenz Peña in 1912, a law that allows the UCR access to senior levels of government and increased electoral representation of a portion of Argentine proletariat has chosen reformism within the Socialist Party. Anarchists, in their majority, maintain a firm opposition to reform "social" promoted by the state, which affected his hearing consistently in the proletariat who did not look favorably total rejection of these reforms improved and yet his daily lives.

Martín Manuli (Centre for libertarians red and black, Argentina)
Translation and formatting

Guillermo (AL Angers) and
CM (AL Girlfriend 49)
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