Andrés Nin

The Class Struggle

The Latest General Strike in Argentina

(4 October 1923)

From International Press Correspondence, Vol. 3 No. 64 [41], 4 October 1923, p.(mnsp;718.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

in January of this year a German anarchist named Kurt Wilkens threw a bomb, in Buenos Aires, at Colonel Varel, the leader of the punitive expeditionary forces which shot down more than 1,000 workers in November 1921 in Patagonia, a province in the south of the Argentine Republic. This bomb killed Colonel Varel on the spot. Wilkens was arrested immediately.

The reactionary press, and particularly the Argentine “League of Patriots”, a Fascist organization, raised a frightful outcry over this assassination, and demanded the execution of extraordinary measures of suppression against the working class. But Wilkens had the entire sympathy of all the working people in the country. As it was not possible for reaction to get rid of the young German worker by legal methods – capital punishment having been abolished in Argentina – it resorted to a quicker process: In July of this year a relation of Colonel Varel shot the workman Wilkens whilst he was sleeping quietly in his cell. The cowardly murderer, called Perez Mil, who had participated as a soldier in the massacres of the year 1921 in Patagonia, had, through a series of secret favors, contrived to obtain a situation as warder in the prison.

When the Argentine working class heard the news of Wilken’s murder, it was filled with burning indignation. The “Argentine Trade Union Federation”, which comprises the overwhelming majority of the organized workers of the country, arranged a general protest strike at once. The central of the anarcho-syndicalist “Regional Labor Federation”, as well as the whole ul the other independent trade unions, joined this movement unanimously. The strike was commenced on June 17, and continued until June 19. It was an imposing demonstration of the power of the Argentine proletariat, and of its determination to oppose the crimes of the reaction by every available means.

On June 19, the executive committee of the Argentine Trade Union Federation ordered the general strike to be called off, whilst the anarchists of the Regional Labor Federation decided to continue the strike at all costs, and convened a mass meeting for the same evening. This meeting was prohibited by the authorities, but this pronibition could not prevent a great multitude from assembling at the meeting place. Here there were collisions with the police, and a number of shots were fired on both sides. The balance yielded by the day was two dead and a large number of wounded.

To all appearances the decision to continue the strike, and to call the meeting, was the work of agents provocateurs in the service of the capitalists and the police. The intention was to raise a fresh wave of bourgeois reaction, and Io take the opportunity of completely shattering the organization of the workers. The continuation of the strike in the face of the contrary decision of the Argentine Trade Union Federation meant nothing more nor less than the condemnation of the movement to certain failure, the more so when it is remembered that the anarcho-syndicalist central unites only a few organizations of little influence and power.

The strike demonstrated at the same time that, despite the present disorganization of the Argentine proletariat, the workers are perfectly able and willing to take up and carry through the fight under definite concrete slogans, and that the anarchists, who once played a most important role in the Argentine Labor movement, are losing prestige and influence among the masses every day.

The Communist Party of Argentina has utilized this movement for the purpose of extending and strengthening its campaign for the united front and for the consolidation of the workers’ ranks, and has done this in spite of the tactical errors and mistakes made by the leaders of the Argentine Trade Union Federation, which is at the present time the only important labor organization in the Argentine Republic.

Last updated on 4 May 2023