[Artículo publicado originalmente en Revista Seúl]
The day that Máximo Kirchner announced that he was no longer head of the Frente de Todos bloc in the Chamber of Deputies, I put C5N, like any good person, to understand how the ruling party chewed up the novelty. The indignation of the panelists made their best version shine and allowed them, for a moment, to abandon the omnipresent “ah, but Macri” to treat themselves to a moment of self-criticism. I think it was Úrsula Vargues, angry with Alberto’s ruling party, who said with complete certainty: “The narrative of this government is being written by the opposition.” Is this true? Are we building his story for him?
Last Thursday marked 76 years since Juan Domingo Perón won the elections that made him president for the first time. From that moment The history of our country can only be understood if we look carefully at the role that Peronism has played in each stage, regardless of whether he was ruling, in opposition, together, divided, proscribed, with Perón alive or after his death. In any case, no period of Argentine history after 1945 can be understood without introducing Peronism into the plot.
Why did other Latin American political movements, contemporary to Peronism and similar in their political commitment, disappear from the life of their nations while Peronism always maintains its centrality? The most obvious answer is because of the Liberating Revolution, which by prohibiting them, eternalized them. But the reason that best explains its persistence and protagonism has to do with the fact that, since its inception, Peronism wrote its history and the history of Argentina.
He took the pen and narrated the past, what was happening at that moment and also the imaginary future. He constructed a narrative in which the country had achieved a fundamental milestone at the beginning of the 19th century with the revolution and independence, but the process had remained unfinished, since we continued to be dependent on the imperialist countries. With the arrival of Perón, economic independence was achieved and there it was finally possible to speak of political sovereignty and work to achieve social justice. Although some specific events or previous political figures were recovered, the truth is that after Perón a new Argentina began to be built, which definitively broke the colonial ties and cut all the chains that still persisted around the wrists and ankles of Argentina. the Argentines.
This enormous symbolic construction was possible thanks to a very well organized apparatus with a lot of budget and power. that managed to build an identity history.
This enormous symbolic construction was possible thanks to a very well organized apparatus with a large budget and power that managed to build an identity history. A story was built and work was done on its disclosure so that many Argentines could see themselves reflected in that story. Of course, for this story to be successful, elements previously rooted in the imaginary of Argentines were taken and seasoned with the specificity of Peronism.
Almost like a carbon copy of what the French revolutionaries of 1789 did, Peronism marked a complete break with the previous era. “The old regime” here took the name of “the infamous decade” but the operation was identical: at that previous moment there was nothing to recover, a new reality had to be built that would annul each of its foundations and postulates. There is no doubt that in material terms the French Revolution meant a fundamental break for modern democracy, so the comparison does not go that far, but where it is consistent is in the understanding that discursively both represented the new and the good compared to the old and the bad.
The narrative that was built was simple and dichotomous and that was precisely what ensured its success. It is an absolutely transparent story that builds a perfect system of total explanation. In principle, the world is divided into two, there are no nuances or social complexity. On one side is all that is good —the forces of progress, distribution and social justice— and on the other side is everything that is wrong —those who pursue selfish ends, the good only for a few, the defense of the interests of the empire above national sovereignty—. This way of seeing the world is created —schmitteanly understood as the friend/enemy logic— and each event is understood from the fact that it is arranged in one of the two columns.
The “ah, but Macri” of that time was “the infamous decade” and the mechanism was based on denying everything good that happened before and forgetting everything bad that happened under Peronism.
One of the false imaginaries that Peronism installed with the greatest success is that the Peronist days were the happiest days. The “ah, but Macri” of that time was “the infamous decade” and the mechanism was based on denying everything good that happened before and forgetting everything bad that happened under Peronism. Beyond the story, the data shows in 1946 an Argentina that had a GDP that made it the eighth richest country in the world. Her GDP was the highest in Latin America: double that of Mexico and four times that of Brazil. Argentina was not only not indebted but other countries were the ones that had contracted debts with us. What happened in a short time? An unsustainable expansion of public spending generated inflation that became a problem. In a few years, Perón’s government increased both inflation and the deficit, worsened GDP per capita and also the trade balance. It wasn’t magic: Perón received a lot and spent it all and spent even more, so he began to issue and generate inflation, making Argentina and Argentines poorer.
TO THE ENEMY, NOT A PAST
Why, then, is the first Peronism installed in the collective memory as a time of well-being and growth? Because this was the first part of the story and a part that was taken care of so that it was recorded in the head of each Argentine. Much of this had to do with an abuse of reserves that generated temporary well-being but weakened the strength of the Argentine economy. From then on it became clear that spending more than one had could bring electoral benefits, because the negative consequences —since they were structural— took longer to show up.
Much of “the Peronist years as the happiest” was built on lies, such as denying the achievements in labor matters prior to the Perón government. The Peronism does not resist the check and the Peronist truths fall before the historical investigation. We can quickly list seven laws that help us debunk the myth that until Peronism no one had taken care of the welfare of the workers: Sunday Rest (1905), Regulatory Law of the Work of Women and Children (1907), Law of Occupational Risks (1915), Law of Duration of the Working Day (1929), Law of Retirements (1924), Paid Vacations, Compensation for Dismissal without Cause, Maternity Protection and Paid Sick Leave (1933) and maternity leave from 30 days before and up to 45 after delivery (1934).
The other part of the successful construction of that lasting narrative had to do with find an enemy: imperialism (Braden), the oligarchy, the antipatria. With different names, this enemy was to blame for all evil, compared to Perón —and Eva— to whom we owe everything good. Not only that, but through its communication apparatus, Peronism was in charge of generating a system of symbols and beliefs that united the party with Argentina and its opponents with foreign power.
Kirchnerism knew how to build itself identical to Peronism: with an enormous distance between the facts and their enunciation and with a lot of money at the service of imposing a certain vision of history and events as extended common sense. Both periods also shared similar economic results, caused by an unsustainable distributive policy that triggered inflation and deficits and impoverished us. However, in the imagination of many, Cristina —and Néstor— arrived to save Argentina from all its ills, to rebuild that country on fire. Just as Perón denied the concrete advances that the workers obtained in the 1930s, Kirchnerism tried to erase human rights policies from our history most important we had. The method was identical: nothing good before them, all bad from those who think differently and all good what they did (all in all, if it went wrong, others were blamed). This is an important part: the Peronist narrative has a bad memory: it doesn’t remember its economic crises, it doesn’t remember its participation in political violence, it doesn’t remember its support for military coups.
But possibly the C5N commenters are right: Kirchnerism is no longer narrating itself. That is why the two years of Alberto’s government are summed up in a terrible management of the pandemic, in more than 126 thousand deaths, in the VIP vaccination, in Olivosgate, on military closed schools and deny 500 thousand children a better future, in officials who are in Holbox while celebrating the Pre-Trip, in the country that has become Russia’s gateway to the region, and in an Argentina that is literally on fire in the face of a government that does nothing.
A NARRATIVE OF ITS OWN
It is very difficult for any party, for any Republican force that believes in data and evidence, to respond rationally to a false story whose sole objective is to appeal to the construction of a binary identity. But we did it, Peronism lost what made it more powerful: its story. Now we have the last challenge, the biggest, which is build our own narrative. We already verified that there are two ways that do not work: it is not neither the other face of Kirchnerism nor is it built from above, as an overcoming stage. We know better and better the values that represent us: we know that they are work, effort, merit, commitment to the democratic and capitalist model of the West and that our flag is the defense of education. We have Sarmiento, Alberdi, Roca and the Constitution of 1853 to build our 19th century and we can show the 20th century as the success of an integrated society based on immigrants who found in our country a place where progress assured their children a better life than the one they had. The narrative that nourishes us with identity is there, it is that of the middle class that was formed with the idea of ”my son the doctor” and now he lives the reality of “my father the doctor; I am watching”. There is no need to invent practices either, it is only about recovering the successful ones: education, work and a policy that gives confidence and ensures stable conditions.
It matters what we do and also what we say, the works that improve the lives of citizens and also the ideas that we contribute to society matter. We definitely have to learn that from Peronism: ideas generate closeness and help build identity. The Peronists carry their political membership in a very similar way to a soccer club, they bank it in good times and bad, sure that even if you win or lose it is yours. We have a challenge because we play on a more difficult, more demanding pitch. And because it is easier for us to become obsessed with mistakes than with successes. But that is also what will make us build a better country, with a narrative of the past, present and future that we like, that convinces us and that is what we want for ourselves and our children.