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The History of Argentine Trotskyism

Part I


From Revolutionary History, Vol.2, No.2, Summer 1989. Used by permission.

This account, originating in the author’s MA thesis at the University of Paris, and which appeared in a duplicated form in Spanish in the first issue of the journal of the Centro de Estudios Historicos y Sociales sobre America Latina, was first published in Paris in September 1980. It was then republished in two parts in a printed form in Internacionalismo, No.3 (August 1981) and in No.4 (January-April 1982).

The author is a leading member of Politica Obrera, now the Partido Obrera, an Argentine Trotskyist grouping. (At the time of writing, June 1989, the leadership of the Partido Obrera has been arrested by the Argentine government and charged with organising food riots in the shanty towns.) The Partido Obrera is a large Trotskyist organisation by European standards, second only in size in its own country to the Movimento al Socialismo (MAS), once led by the late Nahuel Moreno. Politica Obrera took responsibility for publishing Internacionalismo in exile as the journal of the Fourth Internationalist Tendency. After the fall of the military dictatorship of Videla, Viola and Galtieri, the author added another part and published it in Argentina in two volumes under the title Historia del trotskismo Argentino (1929-60) in 1985, and El trotskismo en la Argentina (1960-1985) in 1986, both by the Centro del America Latina, Buenos Aires.

By their own account Politica Obrera developed from ‘workerism’ towards Trotskyism and were never involved in the urban guerilla adventures of some others during the period of the dictatorship. Having rejected proposals for fusion with the Morenoist group. Politica Obrera moved into alliance with the Revolutionary Workers Party of Bolivia led by Guillermo Lora, and along with it founded the OCRFI in 1972. An international organisation whose main section was the OCI led by Pierre Lambert in France. The two organisations were excluded from this movement in 1979, forming the Fourth Internationalist Tendency later in that year along with other, mainly Latin American groups.

The central figure of this essay, Liborio Justo (Quebracho), collected together his criticisms of the other Trotskyists in Estrategia Revolucionaria: Lucha por la Unidad y por la Liberacion Nacional y Social de la America Latina, Buenos Aires 1956 and extended his attacks to Trotsky himself in Leon Trotsky y Wall Street: Como el Lider de la Cuarto Internacional se puso al Servicio del Imperialismo Yanqui en Mexico, Buenos Aires 1959, which was republished by Peruvian Maoists 1975. Short extracts from it, translated into English. were published in The Communist Bulletin, no 2. February 1988, pp 37-60 and a more recent article published by him in January 1989, Argentina: From British “Domain” to USA’s Backyard, is printed in the Communist Bulletin, no.4, February 1989 pp.87-96. The former two works by Quebracho are given an extended review by John Sullivan in the present issue. The history of Argentine Trotskyism is otherwise dealt with by R.J. Alexander in Trotskyism, Peronismo and the National Revolution in Argentina, which forms the third chapter of his book Trotskyism in Latin America, Hoover Institution Press, Stanford (California) 1973.

As is our custom, all notes that simply give source references to Spanish material have been deleted on the grounds that readers for whom they would be accessible would also be able to deal with the original Spanish texts cited, though we have made an exception for citations from the two works by Quebracho mentioned above. We have included the original notes when these quoted actual texts and amplified certain points or cited English language sources, Unless otherwise stated, the notes are those of Coggiola, but we have added a series of notes to explain matters to readers who are unfamiliar with the complex and distinctive politics of Argentina.

Finally, we apologise in advance both to the author, the translator. Mike Jones, and to our readers for any shortcomings that have occurred in this edited text. They are entirely our responsibility.



The Argentine Trotskyist movement was born in the 1930s, and by the 1950s it had won some influence in the workers’ and student movements, which had grown further by the 1960s and ’70s. Nevertheless, the first 15 years of its history marked it in an extraordinary way and illuminates many of its later vicissitudes.

Its origin, as in other Latin American (and European) countries came from a split in the Communist Party (PCA), although an extremely small one. In any event, at that time, at the end of the ‘twenties, the PCA was far from enjoying a great industrial or political influence in the workers’ movement. To begin with, the Anarchist and Anarcho-Syndicalist currents continued to possess hegemony over a working class which was, under the influence of European immigrants, still marked by the ‘anti-political’ traditions of their homelands. We may note, even as a distorted measure of the political influence of the PCA, that in the 1928 elections, even if one takes into account that there was some electoral fraud and that a large percentage of the workers were foreign born and therefore disenfranchised, it obtained only 7600 votes against 66 000 for the Socialist Party (SP). Added to that was the crushing presence of the Radical Party, which won overwhelmingly in those elections with 838 000 votes. Though in its origins, as the Internationalist Socialist Party, the PCA had threatened to be an important competitor to the SP, it now saw itself further weakened by a haemorrhage of splits during the 1920s.

From the start the Trotskyists were a minority in a period of general political reaction: few in number, they were also persecuted by the Fascistic government of Uriburu. [1] The possibilities of developing an important faction within the PCA, as happened in Chile and Brazil, disappeared. Paradoxically, the first upsurge and the reemergence of the workers’ movement in 1933-36 strengthened the PCA most of all which, from then on, would have a decisive influence on the destiny of the organised proletariat. From that moment the initial nucleus of the Opposition disappeared, literally without trace. Aid came in the form of much younger and inexperienced militants, although these did include an ex-Anarchist trade unionist expelled by the PCA. The weakness of the Trotskyists did not stop the PCA from enthusiastically joining the campaign against ‘Hitler-Trotskyism’ launched by the Communist International and the CPSU, a witch-hunt made worse by the already reactionary nature of the period, symbolised by the Fascist Minister of the Interior, Sanchez Sorondo. (He had proposed that the workers continue wearing their working clothes in their homes and on the streets to ‘distinguish them’). [2]


Numerically weak, young, without experience and marginal to a workers’ movement whose own organisation was getting weaker, the Trotskyists of the time provided an ideal arena for cliques and personal disputes. But they made a remarkable effort to overcome their original handicap by trying to clarify their programme of intervention. As will be seen, the polemic over the issue of national liberation that developed in their ranks constitutes a real novelty in the left wing movement of the period.

World-wide the 1930s were characterised by preparations for a second imperialist conflagration, above all after the rise to power of Nazism in Germany, which turned out to be the worst defeat of the workers’ movement in the twentieth century. This world political issue tended to become the dominant one in every country. The revolutionary internationalists, with Leon Trotsky at their head, centred all their efforts on equipping the workers’ vanguard with a programme and an organisation with which to intervene in the approaching catastrophe. The elaboration of the Transitional Programme and the proclamation of the Fourth International meant that the preservation of the Bolshevik tradition was maintained, in spite of the preparation for a new world war by the imperialist bourgeoisie and despite the Stalinist bureaucracy, which sought a status quo with world imperialism. A fundamental part of the revolutionary programme in the new situation was the attitude to be adopted towards the colonial and semi-colonial peoples in the face of the imperialist war; ‘The rumbling of cannon in Europe heralds the approaching hour of their liberation’, [3] stated the Manifesto of the Fourth International, one of Trotsky’s last writings in the face of war.

It was this question which was debated – unconsciously for 99 per cent of them – among the Argentine Trotskyists during the 1930s, when the war started to dominate the political situation in Argentina as well. However, in this polemic it appears that the film of the ideological struggle of Russian Socialism before the October Revolution was run backwards.

In Tsarist Russia, Bolsheviks and Mensheviks were in agreement on the character of the immediate tasks of the revolution, which corresponded to a bourgeois revolution. The divergence came when discussing which class would have to lead it: ‘the liberal bourgeoisie’ answered the Mensheviks, ‘the workers and peasants, who would instal a democratic dictatorship’, replied the Bolsheviks. Trotsky intervened and rejected the Menshevik position, which placed the working class behind the bourgeoisie, for the latter had fully demonstrated its incapacity to accomplish its own democratic revolution; and he corrected the Bolshevik position, pointing out that the democratic rebellion of the peasants would have to carry to power the only revolutionary class of the towns the proletariat. Once in power it would not be able to limit itself to carrying out democratic measures, but would immediately be forced to attack bourgeois private property, thus commencing the Socialist revolution. The famous formulation of the ‘Permanent Revolution’, a revolution which does not stop at democratic limits, was a powerful anticipation of the dynamic of the Russian Revolution and has, since then, been incorporated into the theoretical arsenal of Marxism. Its universal programmatic scope analyses the class mechanics of all revolutions, and poses at their start the resolution of all the democratic tasks left uncompleted by the bourgeoisie.

Among the Argentine Trotskyists formal agreement existed on the ‘permanent’ character of their future revolution, that is that it would mean the taking of power by the proletariat – indeed without such agreement they would not have been Trotskyists. But this apparent unity did not solve the real question. This was a discussion about which the Russian Marxists had no disagreements: what was the character of the immediate tasks of the Revolution? Are there unsolved democratic tasks in Argentina? ‘No! The tasks are purely Socialist’, replied a sector who almost identified Argentina with the imperialist metropolis. ‘Yes! The tasks are agrarian, democratic and anti-imperialist’, the other sector unceasingly replied but without taking matters much further. As we shall see, this includes a whole series of hybrid and ambiguous positions which sought, by eclectic methods, to avoid a clear answer to this question.

This great political inversion was the more lamentable as, until 1945, nearly all the energy of the Trotskyists dissipated itself in this debate. In reality the political backwardness of the Trotskyists reflected a more general situation, for while the Russian Marxists constituted recognised currents and leaders of the workers’ movement, the Argentine Trotskyists reflected the scant political differentiation within the proletariat. The currents that enjoyed a certain influence were either on their way to disappearance, such as Anarchism, or constituted fully formed counter-revolutionary variants, such as Social Democracy or Stalinism. The disastrous politics of these currents and the political confusion of the Trotskyists was a decisive factor in determining that the latter’s lack of influence would continue during the rise of Peronism, and that this meant that the workers’ movement was politically led by the bourgeoisie for three decades. It goes without saying that this had a fundamental polemical influence on the subsequent political evolution of Argentine Trotskyism.

Both the influence of the political backwardness of the workers’ movement and the weight of the counterrevolutionary sectors within the ‘left’ can be seen on the Trotskyists in many ways. There would be those who opposed the ‘national liberation’ slogan because the Stalinists used it as part of the turn towards Popular Frontism, and thus made it into a previous and distinct stage from the proletarian revolution, in other words a permanent capitulation to the bourgeoisie. The political confusion of certain Trotskyists showed itself in a rejection of the form, or the slogan, of this policy, instead of rejecting its reactionary content.

The question of the slogans to pose in Argentina in face of the imperialist war was closely connected with this debate. It should be noted that the Argentine workers’ movement did not lack revolutionary traditions on this issue. The opposition to the leadership of the SP, who posed Argentine participation in the First World War, was the origin of the split which gave birth to the PCA. In these pages we will see the difficulties which Trotskyism had in saving, and then superseding, the traditions of the Argentine International Socialists. These had been abandoned by the PCA, which first put forward a pro-Nazi policy of neutrality while the Hitler-Stalin Pact lasted, but later transformed itself into an agent of Allied belligerence.


The Trotskyist movement – the Left Opposition, the Fourth International – is above all an international movement. The programmatic debates of Argentine Trotskyism concern the role of the whole International: the FI leadership had a decisive role in the discussion and on the evolution of the Argentine groups.

In Argentina on 4 June 1943 [4], the Trotskyists reached a political turning point, though in a different way from the bureaucratised PCA and the paralysed SP, and this event foreshadowed the other great turning point of October 1945 – the birth of Peronism. By letting the actors speak we shall see how, even if we are aware that we have overdone the use of; quotations, for we know that studies of Latin American Trotskyism are almost non-existent and therefore it is necessary to take nothing for granted.

The following comment by Guillermo Lora is wholly correct for Argentina:

One of the weaknesses of Latin American Trotskyism consists in its having lost its own traditions. It does not know its own history, which frequently obliges it to repeat its own errors.

The Origins of Trotskyism in Argentina

Only in a limited sense can one speak of a history of the Argentine Trotskyist movement, since the political current represented by Trotskyism is international by its very nature and must be judged in that way as regards its programme, its analysis and its activity. But this is not an abstract internationalism opposed to national peculiarities which determine the form of a national movement. Rather, as Trotsky himself puts it:

The most important and the most difficult thing in politics, in my opinion, is to define on the one hand the general laws which determine the life-and-death struggle of all countries of the modern world; on the other hand to discover the special combination of these laws for each single country. [5]

The history of the first years of Argentine Trotskyism, and in some ways its whole history, was marked by a struggle to establish that relationship mentioned by Trotsky and to translate it into a precise policy. Our history then, is about the struggle for ideas – all the more so because, in the period concerned, the groups and people involved were very far from exercising an important influence on the mass movement. Clarity in the formulation of ideas must constitute a precondition for implanting a revolutionary vanguard among the masses, particularly if it starts as a tiny minority as did the Fourth International. And this is even more so if the implantation is to be preserved. The history of the struggle for ideas – the programme – is perhaps not important for those who are only interested in political movements insofar as they have been ‘consecrated’ by historical success. On the contrary, it is from this other viewpoint that the first years of the Argentine Trotskyist movement present much interest, demonstrated by the influence which it had on other organisations of the Fourth International in Latin America.

The First South American Group of the Left Opposition

It was thus that the organ of the North American Left Opposition entitled the first oppositionist group established in Argentina. [6] This group was composed of three workers, all foreigners, Roberto Guinney and M. Guinney, who were English, and Camilo Lopez, who was probably Spanish. They had had a considerable experience of revolutionary groups and of the broad workers’ movement. [7] The group did not come from the official CP, but from the last split in the PCA before its total bureaucratisation, and this breakaway, led by Jose Penelon, was known as The Communist Party of the Argentine Region, later The Communist Party of the Argentine Republic and finally Concentracion Obrera. It seems to have been the lack of clarity of Penelon in the face of the rise of the Left Opposition and his attempt to preserve the purely ‘national’ character of the split that motivated the Guinneys and Lopez, who had been defenders of Trotsky’s positions since 1928, to leave in order to found the Opposition Communist Committee. They had had key posts in the PCRA, and Roberto Guinney had been the Editor of Adelante, the PCRA’s weekly paper.

Since 1927 Roberto Guinney had corresponded with James P. Cannon, delegate of the Yankee CP to the Congress of the CI, from where Cannon succeeded in secretly getting Trotsky’s Critique of the Draft Programme when LDT was exiled in Alma Ata. [8]

This, then, was the first South American group to make its public appearance, but it was not much more than that. It is enough to compare its meagre membership with the Chilean Communist Left – a split by the majority of the Chilean Communist Party led by Manuel Hidalgo – or with the split from the Brazilian Communist youth, which during the ‘thirties had equal forces with the official CP, to understand that the title of ‘first’ has a relative value. The Argentine CP itself was marked by its comparative weakness as compared with the CPs in neighbouring states, which did not hinder it, and perhaps later helped it, to become the centre of the Stalinist apparatus in Latin America. In 1929 the South American conference of the CPs used Buenos Aires as its HQ, and the Ghioldis and Codovillas [9] would be the main agents of the ‘Bolshevisation’, or rather Stalinisation, of the South American parties. As a symptom of its weakness the PCA suffered four splits during the 1920s, and in at least three of them we find names later connected with Argentine Trotskyism. Faced with a leadership which was intent on prematurely consolidating its own position, Mateo Fossa, Hector Raurich and Angelica Mendoza took part in the ‘left’ fraction of the Sparkists, named after their paper La Chispa (The Spark), which gave birth in 1925 to the short-lived Communist Workers’ Party. This later split of the ‘frontists’ – as those who proposed a United Front with, or dissolution into the SP were called – had Luis Koiffman as leader together with Alberto Palcos and Silvano Santander. Koiffman had been the founder and leader of the International Socialists and then of the PCA, subsequently becoming a Trotskyist in the 1930s. [10] Finally, the ‘Penelonist’ split, which was when ‘the cycle of internal differences ended’, according to the official history of the PCA, counted in its ranks the first left oppositionists, who nevertheless would not succeed in regrouping all those mentioned above.

A difficult birth, then, became even more traumatic as a result of the political conditions which soon dominated the country. Throughout the 1930s only some of those opposed to the official line of the PCA and the CI would join the Trotskyist movement in ones and twos. The Trotskyist movement would find itself almost permanently divided in any case.

But we are anticipating. In March 1930 the small initial nucleus published the first issue of the paper La Verdad, of which only two issues appeared. Here the famous Testament of Lenin figures. Soon ‘a little group, mainly of the Israelite tongue became known to us ... after this group had put out a paper in Yiddish called Communist Tribune, it dissolved itself. Then there occurred the Uriburist dictatorship. Some of our few members were imprisoned, while our social and financial situation got worse by the day.’

In spite of that and with very reduced activity, the group succeeded in maintaining itself during the reactionary Uriburist period and there were eight members who, in 1932, rebaptised themselves the Argentine Communist Left (ICA) and at the same time opened a small office. Like the rest of the International Left Opposition they called for the reform of the CP and the CI. They in turn were denounced as ‘police agents’ in the columns of the latter’s organ La Internacional, while the party voted unanimously for resolutions condemning ‘Trotskyism’. The ICA published a Boletin de Oposicion, where the positions of the opposition were clearly expounded, such as a critique of Socialism in one country, and condemnations of the Angle-Russian Committee, the bloc of four classes in China and the theory of Social-Fascism, together with the demand for democratic-centralism against Stalinist bureaucratism, and so on. It was also able to develop some criticism of local Communist activity, including both the splitting of the trade unions through a Class Unity Committee, which was outside the existing unions and trade union centres, the two such being the CGT and PORA, and ignoring the agrarian question, shown by the lack of theses and programme on that question. The critique of the PCA went no further, thus accepting the reactionary and sectarian position it had taken up towards the military coup against the government of Irigoyen – characterised by them as ‘Radical-Fascist’ and ‘more dangerous than Uriburu because of the ramifications – of the UCR – in the mass movement.’ [11]

So the group entered the period known as the ‘infamous decade’ [12], with a meagre political and organisational baggage. Prior to the gaining of a significant number of members for the movement, which was led by Trotsky at an international level, these were ideal conditions for the flowering of quarrelling persons and cliques, just at a time when it was faced with the task of the construction of a new International after Stalin’s ‘4 August’ [13], which the coming to power of Hitler signified.

Two Groups for a New Party

During 1932 two young Argentinians returned from Spain after completing their studies there; Hector Raurich, who has already been mentioned, and an ex-member of the SP, Antonio Gallo. Won over to the opposition, they wrote to the ICA announcing their arrival. Nevertheless, upon arriving in the Argentine they put themselves in contact with some isolated individual dissidents of the PCA, and with a group of intellectuals, among them Elias Castelnuovo, they proposed to put out a magazine. The project got modified in the course of carrying it out and the magazine eventually produced, entitled Actualididad, ended up as the official voice of the PCA. It was after the failure of their participation in this project that the already constituted ‘Gallo-Raurich group’ got in touch with the ICA through the deported militant J. Ramos Lopez:

In view of the meagre forces to which we of the ICA amounted, we attempted to find out about the thoughts and ideas of these two comrades who had come from Spain and who did not seem to be “converted” by the offers of the official party. For them we had committed the grave sin of having surfaced and gone public with just a little group of workers and small forces and – according to them – insufficient preparation. To cleanse ourselves of this sin they proposed to baptise us in the Jordan before entering the synagogue, this being acceptance of a great theoretical magazine that they sought to publish. After that we would be able to found the “real” opposition in Argentina. To this we answered that we had organised the Left Communist Opposition for four years now. Convinced of the pedantry and opportunism of most of the Gallo-Raurich group, we could not accept such stupid conditions, and we had to separate.

The ICA thus explained the first split in the Argentine Trotskyist movement. The precocious Gallo (he was then but 20 years old) published at the beginning of 1933 a small pamphlet entitled On the September Movement – A Marxist Interpretation. His group organised itself the same year and started from August to publish the paper Nueva Etapa, the organ of the Communist League. Raurich had already withdrawn as an active member and was now apparently just playing the role of ‘ideological inspirer’.

On the other hand the ICA succeeded in fusing with a group expelled from the PCA, led by the well-known militant Pedro Milesi, who at the time was using the pseudonyms Pedro Maciel or Eduardo Islas. Milesi was then General Secretary of the Municipal Workers’ Union, and his expulsion from the PCA, together with a dozen militants who followed him, was for the crime of Trotskyism – a charge he at first denied.

So at the beginning of 1933 the Milesi grouping had fused with the ICA and was in a numerical majority. This is important, because in the first general meeting of the group Milesi was elected General Secretary and then placed his followers, who were the majority, in the leading organs. The old members of the ICA violently protested. They maintained that the Maciel group had not published the reasons for its conversion to the Opposition in La Verdad, and that it had taken advantage of its numerical superiority to approve ICA participation in an Anti-War Congress organised by the Stalinists in Uruguay – for which Milesi himself was a delegate. But the ‘old’ ICA found itself further weakened. On 24 February 1933, at the age of 64, its leader, Roberto Guinney, died, the victim of an epidemic. Two other members withdrew to the interior of the country to save their lives and Camilo Lopez, elected to the CC of the ‘new’ ICA, fell gravely ill. According to them, the protests of the few who remained resulted in the expulsion of M. Guinney and ‘Juana’ and the suspension of the treasurer, Ostrovosky. They were burnt out and in a last document in December 1933 they bitterly told of their failure and then dropped out of politics. At the same time the ICA under the Milesi leadership took the new name International Communist League (Bolshevik-Leninist), Argentine Section in conformity with the decisions of the International Plenum of the Left Opposition, and started to publish a paper Tribuna Leninista.

Two groups then, each with less than a dozen members, bitterly disputed the right to the title of the new ‘World Party of the Socialist Revolution’ which had not yet been built.

Tribuna Leninista, which appeared fairly regularly in 1933 and ‘34, seems to have been more active in the unions than its predecessor, and maintained that 90 per cent of its members were workers. In its first issue it recognised that ‘in our country the level of political training of the oppositional Communists is not very great’. Its essential preoccupation was the creation of a programme of action for the trade union movement, within which the influence of the publications of the international opposition was noted, and above all, the struggle in Spain which was then experiencing the start of the situation which, Tribuna Leninista predicted, would lead to civil war. ‘The Workers’ Alliance against Fascism is an unavoidable necessity, and the creation of workers’ militias is a question of life and death for all workers’ organisations.’ On another occasion, when the CGT published a manifesto supporting the government of General Justo, Tribuna Leninista called upon trade unionists to stop paying their dues while the leadership still remained. The only indication as to whether this effort of theoretical and political elaboration was empirical, or merely copying the slogans created for other countries and other situations, came from Milesi’s hands, who in a picturesque column entitled ‘De punta y hacha’, commented on the news in the national and international press.

On the other hand, Nueva Etapa, whose group was mainly composed of students or ‘intellectuals’, sought to present its ideas in the form of in-depth articles or theses. Its axis was the slogan of a ‘Common Front of the Workers and the Proletarian Parties and Organisations against Fascism’. But at the same time it analysed the reasons for the failure of the Fascist attempt of Uriburu, because he had been replaced by General Justo’s government, which ruled with the pseudo-democratic methods of ‘patriotic fraud’ [14]:

A characteristic feature of Argentine society is its backwardness in all fields. Least of all is Fascism excluded from this universal law ... in this semi-colonial country, retarded, without industries, there is no historical cultural or social tradition. There is nothing but the liberal tradition of the May revolution, or the so-called generation of ’90, which is inconvenient for the Fascist aims. All of this does not mean that the present political conflict in the country is not between the proletarian revolution and the bourgeoisie in any immediate way. The threat from the proletariat has not got a sharp character. The main contradiction in this country is between bourgeois democracy and Fascism. Those who do not see this do not see anything, and if they want to see something else, it must be categorically rejected ... The weight of the Justo government itself is little else than nil. It is maintained by the pull of opposed political forces ... this equilibrium between Fascists and radicals cannot last. It is the prelude to a real dictatorship or the transition period of a civil war and Fascist dictatorship.

But they went on:

Fascism is not a mass movement. Radicalism here can count on the immense majority of the population, and the immediate future depends on which of the two offers the best perspective of stability in the eyes of imperialism and the agricultural bourgeoisie. A democratic result or perspective is not out of the question, but is very unlikely. [15]

The article quoted above is by one of the most capable militants of the period, the Rosario student David A .Siburu, who was a PCA student leader and who later broke with the PCA and then, with some of its student members, went over to Trotskyism (Nueva Etapa was edited in Rosario). In this analysis of the political contradictions in Argentina he copies those prevalent at the time in the European imperialist metropolis, such as the stark choice between bourgeois democracy or Fascism. He did not take into account that the metropoles that held Argentina in their orbit, the USA and England, belonged to so-called ‘democratic imperialism’. In general, the characterisation of Argentina as a semi-colony explained the Argentine bourgeoisie as a mere appendage of imperialism, which had no real role of its own. ‘It (imperialism) does not concede to the Argentine state even minimal control over its affairs. In general, a government here that is not the instrument of finance capital is impossible.’ Thus Argentine politics would simply be a repetition ex post facto, of those existing in the imperialist countries.

The mistake made is to see Fascism as the result of opposition to bourgeois democracy and not fear of proletarian revolution. If the working class is no threat, Fascism is no alternative to bourgeois democratic methods. The absence of programme is noticeable here, and the article is guilty of impressionism as it believed that the skirmishes between tiny gangs of oligarchic nationalists and radicals were a clash between the political superstructures of Fascism and democracy. In fact they were an aspect of the police state that accompanied the restoration of the cattle barons concentrated in the winter palace of ‘Chilled Beef’.

Both groups placed themselves totally on the principles of the international movement for the Fourth International. A large polemical space was given to mutual personal invective. Nueva Etapa accused the leaders of Tribuna Leninista of ‘thinking undialectically’. Milesi replied, calling ‘Citizen Ontiveros’ (A. Gallo) and his followers ‘intellectualoids’. The interpretation of democratic centralism was also the subject of some dispute. Some discussion took place, though of a secondary nature, on the role of the Radicals in Argentine politics, but unfortunately we do not have this material available. At the end of 1934 E. Islas (Milesi), ’General Secretary of the LCI-BL’, signed an Open Letter proposing unity:

It has been argued on the other hand that unity is not possible or desirable without agreement on national issues. In the first place such issues do not exist in isolation from international ones, and in the second place, even if such secondary questions do exist, their resolution will not occur as a result of philosophical or doctrinaire speculations, but must be the result of collective effort and the result of everyday struggle.

The LCI-BL managed to collect 17 members and to publish a trade union paper, Resurgir Bolchevique, and a youth paper, Luchas Juveniles. The LCI (NE) was rather more numerous, having established groups in La Plata, Cordoba and Rosario, where it had recruited Siburu (see above). Unity was achieved after the LCI-BL had expelled Milesi in an episode that remains obscure. Later, and as a leader elsewhere, Milesi continued his links with Trotskyism.

An Ephemeral Unity

The two groups fused at the beginning of 1935. Nueva Etapa and Tribune Leninista disappeared, to be replaced by Cuarta International. It was probably the only occasion when a single Trotskyist group existed in Argentina.

During this period the real organisational and political weaknesses of the Trotskyists were shown by their division into factions, including both those of a personal nature and others from regional and geographical dispersion. As a rule all groups and persons considered themselves part of the same movement and they called it such, even though its boundaries were often unclear. Since its foundation the movement had always had that characteristic. The statement of J.A. Ramos about ‘the prolonged anti-Trotskyist campaign carried out by the leaders of the PCA for more than thirty years, all the more worthy and useful inasmuch as for many years the Trotskyist groups or tendencies did not exist in this country,’ does not seem to have been shared by the CPA itself, as Ramos himself indicates. An internal bulletin of 1935 stated that:

Trotskyism is an Infiltration of regards the links with Trotskyist elements, those such as Miles, Pine, Spector and Pereyra seek to establish the largest possible number of bonds and contacts with the comrades of the party. Why? In order to use our most inexperienced comrades as sources so as to inform themselves of the internal affairs of the Party and to try to get their counter-revolutionary poison into it via those channels. To maintain links with these people so avowedly counterrevolutionary and enemies of the Party is to lend oneself to their manoeuvres, and it is inconceivable that comrades would consciously do so.

Without keeping an organisational existence, the Trotskyists would not have been able to offer a refuge to the various small splits from the PCA in the 1930s and ’40s. Ramos, who consciously attempted to cover-up his Trotskyist past, deliberately falsified reality, such as where he contemptuously stated that during the 1930s, ‘its [Trotskyism’s] adherents did not exceed more than 20 or 30 people in the whole republic and its means of propaganda barely consisted of an irregularly produced journal which replaced equally irregular papers of a modest type, with long gaps between issues.’ This contradicts previously stated facts in the same book.

The unification into the LCI meant a momentary increase in the activity of the Trotskyists, as it not only united the members of the two groups, but included others who had been outside both. In addition to Cuarta International, whose first issue appeared in Cordoba in April 1935, the militant Aquiles Garmendia, who was to die a few years later, and the Bolivian Tristan Maroff [16], who had participated in the founding of the Bolivian POR in that city, started to publish America Libre, a journal of which five issues appeared between June and December of that year. At the beginning of 1936 Luis Koiffman was the editor of the Trotskyist-influenced journal called Vision, and at the end of that year the same comrade tried unsuccessfully to create a ‘broad’ grouping aimed at intellectuals called Agrupacion de Propaganda Marxista. Finally Antonio Gallo, the leader of the group, published a pamphlet in 1935 entitled Whither Argentina?, and subtitled People’s Front or the Struggle for Socialism, a polemic aimed at the left wing of the SP, which latter would soon split and form the Partido Socialista Obrero.

It is interesting to observe in the pamphlet how, though in a muddled way, the central ideas, which were to distinguish the majority current inside Argentine Trotskyism until 1943, and whose influence was to extend itself much further, took shape:

Marianetti [leader of the Socialist left, later of the PSO and the PCA] admits that the only way to free the country from the domination of monopoly capital is through the revolutionary struggle of the proletariat. Then what does the struggle for national liberation mean? Maybe the proletariat as such does not represent the historic interests of the nation, in the sense that it tends to liberate all social classes by its actions and to supersede them by its disappearance? But precisely for that reason it must not confuse itself with “national” interests, which are those of the bourgeoisie, which is the ruling class, and which, on the interior and exterior level sharply contradict each other. So such a slogan is plainly false...confirming our view that only the Socialist revolution can be the stage which corresponds to the needs of the colonial and semicolonial countries – if one may speak in those unpleasant card-index terms that prevent workers from understanding what it is all about.

Politically the alternative continued to be ‘Democracy or Fascism’:

To carry out now a policy against Radicalism would be as erroneous as to ally oneself with it ... In the present defensive circumstances in which the working class finds itself, to make them (the Progressive Democratic Party)[17] an immediate enemy would be an error. A tacit alliance must be maintained to support them inasmuch as it is vital that we should push them forward against outright reaction in these difficult conditions.

Thus opposed to the call for an alliance with the bourgeoisie and the theory of revolution by stages which was put forward by the partisans of the Popular Front, the LCI proposed, not class independence in the struggle for national liberation, but the suppression pure and simple of national liberation from the programme of the proletariat. In the event, and faced with the problem of democracy, this led to abstentionism and left the initiative to the parties of the democratic bourgeoisie as far as this was concerned. They sought to radicalise these parties just at the moment when these parties demonstrated their total incapacity to confront such problems because of their growing integration into the political system of the ‘infamous decade’.

In a programmatic article entitled What do the partisans of the Fourth International want? in Cuarta International No.3 (May 1936), other consequences are drawn from this theory. There it calls for:

... recognition of, and therefore the permanent character of, the proletarian revolution and a rejection of the theory of “Socialism in One Country”, as well as the policy which accompanies it – that of national liberation; against social patriotism and national defence. For revolutionary defeatism in the face of war and its preparations.

Here the comparison of Argentina with an imperialist metropolis is complete. A ‘National Communism’, camouflaged by the slogan ‘national liberation’ and condemned by Bolshevism, had existed in Germany during the Revolution of 1923, but in that case it concerned an imperialist country. To declare oneself in principle against the ‘national defence’ of Argentina, which was nevertheless recognised as a semicolony, placed the Trotskyists in a position of pro-imperialist neutrality in the event of political or military conflict between Argentina and imperialism. Since that was precisely the case in the subsequent political period, the Trotskyists’ political perspectives were shown to be false from the start.

At the start of 1936 the LCI changed its name to Partido Obrero. It operated for six months with that name. It is not clear whether this change was simply a different label, or indicated a real increase in activity. In whatever case, the swift abandonment of the name seems to indicate the huge difficulties of integrating a growing number of members into a solid Marxist organisation capable of standing firm in the face of inevitable difficulties. Subsequent events confirm this analysis. In June the Partido Obrero turned itself back into the LCI. Its activity started to experience systematic decline, with signs of disintegration. Liacho, at that time a journalist on La Razon, had differences and had left the LCI and had then accused Gallo of plagiarising the above mentioned pamphlet. According to Liborio Justo, Liacho was among the ‘disciples’ of Raurich. At the end of 1936 Liacho joined the SP to work in its left wing, which soon after became the PSO. Thus began ‘entrism’. All research into this period has to take into account this entrist experience, about which there is no lack of material. The LCI had no success in building a ‘workers’ party’, and it had found itself both isolated from the workers’ movement and marginalised during the important strikes of 1933-36. Mateo Fosso, who led the Woodworkers’ strike in 1934, had had an important role in the construction workers’ strike in 1936 and had been Chairman of a CGT congress in 1936, was not yet a Trotskyist militant, though he had some sympathy with their positions. The LCI’s isolation was reinforced by isolation from the international movement, with which there were only feeble links. ‘Entrism’ was undoubtedly inspired by the ‘French Turn’ that led successively to the French and US Trotskyists entering their socialist parties with the aim of intervening in the evolution of the left wing and increasing recruitment. It must be noted that the Spanish majority refused to carry out this policy. In the cases mentioned it was the object of specific resolutions of the ICL – the international organisation of Trotsky’s followers – and this led to serious polemics and even splits with some of those who opposed entrism, such as the Oehler faction in America. This was not the case in Argentina.

The discussion on entrism and its advantages split the ranks of the Argentine LCI. A Gallo led the opposition, but while carrying out the policy it resulted in the break-up of the group. After Liacho’s entry and the formation of the PSO, the student sections of the LCI in La Plata, led by ‘Jorge Lagos’ or Reinaldo Frigerio, and that in Cordoba, headed by ‘Costa’, the party name of Esteban Rey, joined it. The anti-entrists of the LCI began to disintegrate, and their last bulletin appeared in December 1937. Finally, they too tried to enter the PSO, though Gallo himself was unsuccessful.


There is little written on the PSO. The most common version presents it merely as an appendage of Stalinism. Indeed, it did demand a People’s Front with the Socialists and Communists, while some of its leaders such as Benito Marianetti and Ernesto Giudici ended up later in the PCA. But at the end of the 1930s many of its members rejoined the SP, and some, like Joaquin Coca, moved towards nationalism with the call for an ‘anti-Concordancia’ [18] front between Radicals and Socialists. Coca was active in the Labour Party, which supported the candidacy of Peron. The preachings of the Trotskyists achieved a certain effect. It seems over-hasty to describe the PSO as a crystallised Stalinist faction.

The Trotskyists organised themselves in a faction, or factions, within the PSO. The one led by Liacho published a duplicated paper Frento Proletario – Boletin del Marxismo Revolucionario of which five issues appeared between August and December 1937. At the beginning of 1938 they held a national conference in Cordoba with members from that city and from Buenos Aires and La Plata. In August that year, a little before the end of entrism, they published a journal called Marxismo, Organo de la fracion Marxista Revolucionaria del Partido Socialista Obrero.

Subsequently the entrists ended up controlling the PSO centre in Liniers, a town in Buenos Aires Province, and they published three issues of Izquierda: Organo de afiliados para afiliados, from February to August 1938. To some extent membership of the PSO enabled the Trotskyists to end their isolation. They were able to put themselves in greater contact with the working class movement. At this point Mateo Fossa became a member. Fossa himself and some others succeeded in being selected as SP candidates for the legislative elections, and among these was Homero Cristalli, later better known as Juan Posadas, who had helped to organise the Shoemakers’ Union in Cordoba, and who took advantage of his fame as a footballer in the La Plata Students’ team to push his candidacy. The Trotskyist policy towards the PCA was to denounce the Popular Front line, which was a strategic alliance with sections of the bourgeoisie. Through the pen of Orestes Ghioldi the PCA wrote:

Among the sworn enemies of the democratic alliance are the Trotskyists. Their importance does not originate in their insignificant number. Their importance lies in their sabotage activity, as they supply counter-arguments to the People’s Front. They try to speak at meetings and they join other workers’ parties to further their strongly anti-Communist activity. Hidden behind their slogan of the proletarian revolution they try, in the present situation and conditions, to isolate the PCA, to split the working class movement, and to sabotage any attempt at unity...One must struggle with the greatest intensity against the ideological influence of Trotskyism.

Let us look at the programmatic fundamentals of the Trotskyists’ critique of the People’s Front. The faction led by Liacho stated in the first issue of Frente Proletaria in an article called Our Proposals that:

The demand for a Socialist, (that is to say democratic-Socialist) and permanent character of the proletarian revolution in this country, the demand for proletarian internationalism and the anti-imperialist struggle are, in the end, a struggle against the national bourgeoisie.

The theoretical confusion is total. A revolution is proclaimed that would be democratic and Socialist at the same time, or maybe it would possess two class characters, united and opposed at the same time. In reality it concerns an attempt to overcome the problem of the character of the tasks of the revolution by an eclectic formula. Furthermore, the words lose their meaning, for if the anti-imperialist struggle is only against the national bourgeoisie, it is not clear why it should deserve the name.

A little later in Frente Proletaria No.4 it says:

The Russian revolution demonstrates that those who assert the possibility of solving the democratic problems – such as national liberation and the peasant and petty bourgeois questions – within the bourgeois regime, are traitors to the proletariat. They are dangerous confusionists who sever the struggle for national liberation and democratic liberties from Socialist revolution.

In the only issue of Marxismo it is stated that:

In the struggle against imperialism the party should support the following slogan: ‘In the Argentine Republic, in agreement with objective economic and political conditions, there is no struggle against imperialism which is distinct from the struggle against the whole national bourgeoisie. National liberation will be achieved by the proletariat alone struggling and taking power, as the leader of the other oppressed sectors. The danger of imperialist intervention will end when capitalism is overthrown by the international proletarian revolution’.

Here the concession to the national liberation position is merely verbal. The formula of the permanent revolution is posed in reverse. In its original formulation, the permanent revolution explains the dynamic that allows the proletariat, supporting itself on the features of the democratic revolution such as national liberation and agrarian reform, to gain political power and to start the Socialist revolution. This cannot halt within the national framework and will transform itself into an international revolution. The Trotskyists went down the opposite path: they started from the conclusion (the taking of power) in order to explain the point of departure (the tasks and class dynamics of the revolution). The formula was necessarily false. Once again the struggle against imperialism and the struggle against the national bourgeoisie were put on the same level. They did not establish the links between the struggle against imperialism and against the bourgeoisie, because the national struggle can only be consistent by means of the class struggle. The antagonism between the national bourgeoisie is strengthened and not weakened in the struggle against imperialism. They become identical. The disastrous role of this schema consists in hiding the political tasks of the revolutionaries, which are to free the masses from the political influence of the bourgeoisie and its parties by demonstrating the latter’s incapacity to struggle against imperialism, thus impelling the masses to mobilise. Instead of that, Socialism and Stalinism developed policies which tied the working class to the bourgeoisie for an indefinite period. We do not know what happened to Liacho. A little later entrism ended with the expulsion of the Trotskyists from the PSO, and he left politics.

The other entrist sector fell to an even greater extent into the same error. A Gallo wrote in Izquierda No.1 that:

... basing ourselves on them and on a realistic analysis of the capitalist evolution of the nation, which is even accepted by Justo and del Valle Iberlucca, and which some upstarts now deny, we will totally support the following statement that, in consequence, the revolution in our country will have a Socialist character.

We might add as an aside that Gallo achieved a certain notoriety at that time, thanks to a radio programme which discussed the history of the tango in the context of a competition, organised by the magazine El Suplemento, entitled Which is the best Tango?

The End of Entrism: Once Again the Problem of Unity

Even if all appeared dead calm the Argentine political situation evolved in accordance with that of the world as the Second World War approached. For the presidential elections of 1937 Radicalism abandoned revolutionary abstention as a slogan and pushed the candidacy of Alvear, a representative of the conciliatory sector of the UCR. [19] He was defeated – in the normally fraudulent way – by the candidate of the Concordance, who was neither a military man nor a conservative, but the anti-personalist radical Ortiz, who had good links with the UCR. Like the PCA, the PSO supported Alvear’s candidacy. The Trotskyists in the PSO, and a few outside it too, supported the candidature of the SP instead, refusing to back the candidate of a bourgeois party. The idea of organising a ‘Socialist Left’ in the party began to disappear. Many members of the PSO went back into the SP, and others later joined the PCA, though the latter had undoubtedly been the moving force behind support for Alvear. The PSO would continue a more and more inactive existence until the middle 1940s when political changes would wipe it from the political map.

The expulsions of the Trotskyists started in 1938. Mateo Fossa, who had been in Mexico representing various trade unions at a congress of Latin American trade unionists organised by Stalinists and their allies, was informed of his expulsion on his return. In Mexico Fossa had three interviews with Trotsky, the text of which quickly appeared in a pamphlet, and Trotsky had personally asked him to join the Fourth International. This account, as well as the oral testimony of Fossa, had considerable repercussions, not only amongst those who thought of themselves as belonging to the ‘movement’ but also among sections of workers on its periphery. One can see the importance of the personal authority of Trotsky, even if it was exercised in an indirect and merely advisory manner. Anyway, with their expulsion from the PSO the Trotskyists began a new period of confusion.

Meanwhile the movement had recruited a new member on whose characteristics it is worth spending some time. Liborio Justo was the son of General Augustin P. Justo, President of the Argentine Republic from 1932 to 1937. His notoriety was not only because of that. As a student he had played a leading role in the movement for University Reform [20] and had been an active member of the cultural groups which influenced it, such as New Generation and New Sensibility. A book on Patagonia, which was republished several times, had made him a literary figure. A restless traveller, he had journeyed through Europe, the USA and much of Latin America, when in 1933: ‘talking with Jose Gabriel, who knew and had discovered my circumstances as a Communist and a Trotskyist, I said to him “If the Stalinists admit me, I am thinking of entering their ranks and carrying out a trajectory which I have sketched out, before appearing publicly as a Trotskyist”.’


So in 1934 he travelled to the USA and put himself in touch with Trotskyists in that country and also with the recently expelled ultra-left faction of Oehler. In 1935 he joined the CP or, as is rather more probable, simply turned himself into a ‘fellow traveller’ as Alexander seems to believe. For a short while in 1936 a spectacular deed, of which he was rather fond, made him a folk hero: at a reception for Roosevelt he got himself thrown out of the Chamber of Deputies after shouting ‘Down with North American imperialism!’ in front of the Yankee President. At an investigation on the means of defending culture against the advance of Fascism in the same year, he dryly recommended ‘the use of a machine-gun’. There was a wave of criticism of him, which included some from the Stalinists. Justo took advantage of this to break with them, publishing an Open Letter to the Communist Comrades – Breaking with the Third International, in which he criticised the national and international policies of Stalinism, the Moscow trials against the old Bolsheviks and proclaimed his solidarity with Trotsky and the necessity of a new International. Although his break with them was of an individual nature it did not prevent it from having certain repercussions. The Open Letter was published by the well-known journal Claridad and even reproduced by the Chilean Trotskyists for propagandist reasons. Immediately he became active on the question of the Civil War in Spain, which at that time preoccupied the whole country, especially the intellectual middle classes. He published a paper, Espana Obrera, in which, as well as news, the politics of the People’s Front were criticised, the repression against the POUM of Nin and Maurin denounced and the positions of the Fourth International defended. Liborio Justo was not afraid to confront both his class and his previous friends, but probably his personality corresponded more than anyone else in Argentina at that time with that type of member of the Fourth International described by Trotsky:

There are courageous elements who do not like to swim with the current – it is their character. Then there are intelligent elements of bad character, who were never disciplined, who always looked for a more radical or more independent tendency, but all of them are more or less outsiders from the general current of the workers’ movement. Their value inevitably has its negative side. He who swims against the current is not connected with the masses. [21]

His personality, his background, his political sophistication, even the financial resources of which he disposed and his personal social position, led him to play from the start a leading rale in the Argentine Trotskyist movement. On 7 November 1937, after the receipt of a letter from Diego Rivera (the famous painter, friend of Trotsky and Fourth International member) concerning the American Pre-Conference of the Fourth International, Justo arranged a meeting at his own house to which representatives of all the ‘tendencies’ took part. Justo, known as Bernal, put forward the necessity of united action, including first publishing a journal, ‘which fell through’, he says, ‘because of the attitude of the comrades who had entered the PSO with the group led by Liacho, who spoke for the group, which was unacceptable to us as we believed we were but individuals’, a phrase which shows his caudilloismo. [22]

‘We’, that is Justo and ‘anti-entrists’. were initially led by Justo, Gallo, ‘JP’ and Milesi, but soon the latter withdrew. The entrists had made the mistake of not publishing an independent Fourth International organ. In July 1936 the only issue of Nuevo Curso appeared, essentially reproducing articles from the international Trotskyist press. A little later Milesi, ‘JP’ and a group of followers started to publish Inicial, which continued to appear until 1941, and which did an important job of regroupment.

Eventually Justo and Gallo also would part for ‘personal reasons’. At this time of disintegration, the group inside the PSO was about to be expelled, and furthermore found itself disoriented by the desertion of its leader Carlos Liacho, who abandoned activity. Justo decided to start a crusade against the evils of Argentine Trotskyism, publishing a printed pamphlet, How to get out of the Swamp. It was not without personal invective: ‘Juana Palma is, according to Gallo, the Argentine Rosa Luxemburg. We agree. She has a certain physical likeness ... Mr de Peniale, a great revolutionary physically ... Milesi will be up to his tricks making himself leader of the Radical party ... Gallo’s strong point is his studies of the Tango’, etc, as well as political critiques, critiques of opinions expressed in cafe conversations, critiques of philosophical conceptions and even the artistic tastes of the ‘leaders’. Last of all he dealt with the problem stated in the title. Immediately afterwards those attacked tended to group themselves outside the movement and against Justo, even Narvaja, the only one about whom he was at all complimentary,’a capable and intelligent comrade from the littoral’. But much of his criticism was aimed at the obvious voices of his country’s Trotskyists. In his interview with Trotsky Fossa had complained that a good part of the BolshevikLeninists of Argentina were ‘coffee-bar wankers’. Justo genuinely wished to struggle, which gained him the support of certain sectors such as the La Plata students group of Jorge Lagos, a group of Anarchist students headed by Jorge Abelardo Ramos or ‘Sevignac’, and ‘Irlan’ or Mateo Fossa, with whom he began, in April 1939, to publish La Internacional, later La Nueva Internacional, which was the basis on which the GOR (Revolutionary Workers Group) was built.

In spite of having only 15 members, the GOR was very active, with a print run of 5000, and this even went up to 10,000 on the occasion of the assassination of Trotsky.

The organisation did not hide its impatient desire to build an important political group without going through the state of patient work, and the majority of its papers were given away at factory gates and in city squares.

Orza – a Yugoslav transport worker – who was in the GOR, remembered that:

Quebracho [Justo’s new pseudonym] displayed an extraordinary activity in the movement, which he was able to do because of his wealth, his drive in running an organisation and his ideological abilities. In addition he was much safer doing illegal work than anybody else.

But he could not prevent Lagos, ‘Frigerio’, leaving the GOR at the end of 1939 in order to form his own group, over a disagreement with the slogan of ‘national liberation’, an aspect of which will be developed further in this article. Then Ramos, in a much more obscure dispute, in which he tried to expel Justo, quit together with his followers, six students according to the above quoted worker, and formed the Bolshevik-Leninists. To this we must add Gallo, who had restarted the publication of Nueva Etapa, and who had refounded the LCI. The Inicial group made some attempt at unity at the end of 1939 which failed, but they did attract some isolated individuals. A little later they came across a group of ‘independents’, probably a new split from the PCA [23], and attempted to form a Unity Commission, which though it did not succeed in uniting all the groups, did bring them closer together. These were Inicial, Nueva Etapa and the La Plata group, ‘Rosario’, and even that of ‘Cordoba’ which last was led by Posadas and which soon split again. It is to this process that Orza refers when, at that time, he split from the GOR, saying:

Upon its creation the Inicial immediately started to define themselves on two positions, one which was the anti-Stalinist struggle but this ended by expressing itself as an anti-Marxist current...This ideological difference made us form another group, the Liga Obrera Socialista, composed of Ontiveros, Miguel, Mercha, Marga, Angelica, Fernandez, and a group of tram workers from the Liniers railway workshops and from Rosario – Narvaja.’[24]

In actual fact, this was ‘the only Trotskyist group which had some working class base. The role of the theoretical brains of the outfit was carried out by Ontiveros, Narvaja and Lagos...’ This was in March 1940, and in July Ramos and his group joined the LOS. Apparently, the vast majority of Argentine supporters of the Fourth International had now united, but splitting was a disease of the time. Shortly afterwards Lagos and Posadas ‘were exposed’ and returned to ‘regional independence’. The national conference of the LOS, planned for the end of 1940, did not take place. The LOS, which had written to the Executive Committee of the Fourth International – the latter had now moved to New York from Paris because of the war – asking for recognition as the section, had to lower its sights.

Meanwhile the GOR, in which Mateo Fossa had remained, redoubled its effort, thanks to the activity of Quebracho. It continued to publish its press and it grew, gaining some groups of workers in Resistancia and Mendoza. In May 1941 it felt that its growth was sufficient to rename itself the Liga Obrera Revolucionara, or LOR.



(By the author except where othewrise stated)

1. The Socialist Party right wing was pro-war and the Communist Party’s origin was in its anti-war faction, thus rather similar to most European CPs. General Jose Uriburu was an extreme conservative closely connected with the Catholic hierarchy. The economic slump of 1930 had triggered off much dissatisfaction with Irigoyen. After his coup against the confused and corrupt regime of the Radical Party President Irigoyen, he first proposed to abolish universal suffrage and secret ballots, which had been introduced in 1912. In fact he got the same result by simply corrupting the process and by preventing anyone standing who was not acceptable to him. (Editor’s note)

2. The idea that every ‘order’ of society should be distinguished by its clothes is a mediaeval one. Such a proposal gives some clue to the incredibly extreme Catholic reactionary views of Sanchez Sorondo. (Editor’s note)

3. L.D. Trotsky, Manifesto of the Fourth International on the Imperialist War and the Proletarian World Revolution (May 194O), Writings of Leon Trotsky. 1939-40, New York 1973, p.202.

4. The military coup of 4 June 1943 was against the unpopular Presidency of Castillo. The previous President, Ortiz, was elected, not appointed, but had died, and Vice President Castillo, an agent of the reactionary landed oligarchy, automatically succeeded him. (The Argentine constitution closely resembles that of the United States.) By this time the army included many officers of lower middle class origin, among them a certain Colonel Peron. (Editor’s note)

5. L.D. Trotsky, Fight Imperialism to Fight Fascism (21 September 1938), Writings of Leon Trotsky, 1938-39, New York 1974, p.26.

6. Militant, 21 December 1930.

7. Roberto Guinney was born in England and educated in St Petersburg, Russia, in the epoch of Alexander II. Returning to England, he got to know Tom Mann, a leading figure of the ‘New Unionism’. He emigrated to Argentina where he joined the CP in 1923. He was secretary of his sector of the Russian/Ukrainian language section. He was a leader of Penelon’s PCRA. (All from the Militant, 21 December 1930)

8. The first copy of the Critique of the Draft Programme was smuggled out of Russia in a teddy bear belonging to George Weston’s son. At Marxism ‘88, an educational week organised by the SWP of Britain in London, the editors witnessed the meeting, after a gap of many years, between the late Harry Wicks (who was in Moscow with Weston) and George Weston’s daughter, the younger sister of the teddy bear’s owner. See Al Richardson and Sam Bornstein, Against the Stream, Socialist Platform, London 1986, p.64. (Editor’s note)

9. Victor Codovilla, born in 1894 in Italy, emigrated to Argentina and was elected to the CP Central Committee in 1921 where he remained for 35 years. In 1928 he represented Argentina on the International Control Commission of the Comintern, and he worked in Spain for Stalin during the Civil War. His pseudonym was Medina, and he was always a reliable man of Stalin’s. Orestes Ghioldi was also for many years on the PCA Central Committee continuing into the 1960s. (Editor’s note)

10. Robert Alexander, Communism in Latin America, Rutgers University Press, New Jersey, 1957, p.160.

11. The UCR, or Union Civica Radical, was a mass bourgeois and democratic party with great popnlar support at that time. It was originally led by Irigoyen, but its social programme was non-existent and its behaviour in power was corrupt. Since Irigoyen won a clean election with universal manhood suffrage, to have seen no difference between him and the leader of an officer’s coup was clearly ultra-left, as the author states. (Editor’s note)

12. Nationalist writers dubbed this the ‘infamous decade’ after the 1930 coup which overthrew Irigoyen, the democratically elected President. The military kept power through rigged elections, promoted policies which were favoured by the cattle barons, and were subservient to British interests. The term ‘infamous’ was applied by the nationalists, not so much to the nastier political aspects of the dictatorship, particularly in its early phase, but to its subservience to foreign interests. (Editor’s note)

13. Stalin’s 4 August refers to the Social Democratic Second International’s betrayal at the outbreak of the First World War. Thus Hitler’s seizure of power is seen as the Comintern’s equivalent. (Editor’s note)

14. Justo’s government was less brutal than the one that had preceded it but was even more in the pocket of the ranchers and thus, in the eyes of nationalists, far more ‘infamous’. (Editor’s note)

15. In NE, No.6, David A. Siburu, its main editor with Gallo (most of the NE groups were situated in Rosario) stated: ‘at this moment in time they scream without rhyme or reason against Radicalism in order to help Fascism and reaction, whose importance they exaggerate when it is defeated.’

16. Tristan Maroff, the pseudonym of Gustavo Navarro, a member of the Bolivian diplomatic corps who, after publishing revolutionary propaganda under that name, resigned his job in 1926 and returned to Bolivia. There he was the main organiser of the Bolivian Socialist Party, but in 1928 he was exiled to Argentina, where he organised the Grupo Tupac Amaru and published his best-known work, La Tragedia del Altiplano. In 1934 his group fused with some others to become the POR. Maroff was thus the oldest and best known of the POR’s leaders. He returned to Bolivia in 1938 where he became a friend of the President, Colonel Busch, and where he dominated his country’s principal trade union federation. He was expelled from the POR in 1938. He was elected to the Bolivian Congress in that year, and again in 1947. His group disappeared in 1947 after he had accepted employment as the private secretary of President Herzog, who was regarded as the open representative of the traditional oligarchy. See Alexander, pp.111-115. (Editor’s note)

17. The Radical Party, although split between disciples of Irigoyen (who died in 1933) and the more conciliatory elements, remained the largest group opposed to the regime. (Editor’s note)

18. Alexander, Communism in Latin America, p.165. The Concordancia was a conservative coalition which governed through ‘patriotic fraud’. (Author’s note).’Concordancia’ simply means coalition. (Editor’s note)

19. Roberto Ortiz was a well-to-do lawyer who was an agent of British interests and the landowner oligarchy. He was ‘elected’ President in 1937 in the normally fraudulent way with Vice President Ramon Castillo, a vicious reactionary. However, when in power the President unexpectedly insisted that the provincial governors abs tain from interference in the electoral pro cess, and thus he gained much personal popular support. He resigned through ill health in 1940 and Castillo reversed his policy. (Editor’s note)

20. The University Reform Movement, always with capital letters, was a movement to change higher education and, broadly speaking, this was supported by the Radical government of Irigoyen. As a result the students were, with the professors, given some joint responsibility for university administration. Although this was progressive, it is true that university students in the ‘twenties were overwhelmingly of upper and middle class origins. (Editor’s note)

21. L.D. Trotsty, Fighting Against the Stream (April 1939), Writings of Leon Trotsky, 1938-39, New York 1974, p.254.

22. By ‘caudillismo’ is meant authoritarianism and individualism – there is no idea of the collective or democracy. (Translator’s note)

23. Robert Alexander, Trotsksyism in Latin America, Hoover University Press, Stanford (California) 1973, p.53.

24. Miguel is Oscar Posse, Mecha is Mecha Bacall, Marga is Margarita Gallo, sister of Antonio, Angelica is probably Angelica Mendez, a union leader of Mendoza teachers, an ex-CPer who, having broken with the Sparkists became linked to Raurich and thus Trotskyism. She was later a University teacher in the Philosophy and Arts Faculty at Buenos Aires who had the party name ‘La Negra’.

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Last updated on 16.8.2003