This article provides an assessment of labor unrest in Buenos Aires between 1888 and 1896, a relatively short period of time where substantial changes took place and the local labor movement was shaped. We address the formation of the working class with a perspective that moves away from unilateral sociological or economical perspectives, as well as those that understand it as a mere political study of unions and political parties. Instead, our goal is to link the country’s economic changes with both the cycles of class struggle and the development of the political currents of the left. We intend to contribute not only to recent labor history scholarship, but also to the education of current labor activists interested in learning about the lessons of past struggles.
The Socialist Party is one of Argentina’s oldest political formations and played a key role in the national political scene since its foundation in the late nineteenth century. Under the leadership of the physician Juan Bautista Justo, it developed a political stance that called the workers to organize themselves in an independent organization along clear class lines. At the same time, the activity of the party was definitely reformist and strongly oriented toward the “political struggle”—that is, the participation in elections in order to get parliamentary representation. Due to the fraudulent political regime of the time, the Socialist Party faced serious difficulties to develop this strategy. Not surprisingly, strong anarchist and revolutionary syndicalist currents developed inside the labor movement, and posed a serious challenge to the socialists’ influence among the working class. This article assesses both the organizational and political characteristics of the Argentine Socialist Party in the period before the First World War. The goal is to contribute to our knowledge of one of the first socialist political organizations established in Latin America, its political stances and its relationship with the local labor movement.
The last fifteen years witnessed a remarkable revitalization in the field of Second International historiography. This renewed literature put forward different approaches and perspectives, as the interest for the history of social democracy draws on academic as well as political considerations. Whereas an important trend of this revitalization came from studies that focused on social and cultural aspects, this review explores two recent volumes published by North American authors that propose a different, and explicitly political, approach towards the history of social democracy in the years of the Second International.
Argentine historiography in general, and the history of the Argentine Left in particular, does not receive the attention it deserves in the Anglo-Saxon academic world, due to linguistic and cultural barriers. In this article, we attempt to review for the English-reading public three recent contributions to the history of Marxism in Argentina (Horacio Tarcus’s Marx en la Argentina: Sus primeros lectores obreros, intelectuales y científicos, Hernán Camarero’s A la conquista de la clase obrera: Los comunistas y el mundo del trabajo en la Argentina, 1920-1935 and Osvaldo Coggiola’s Historia del trotskismo en Argentina y América Latina) covering the entire historical spectrum from the early history of Argentine socialism to the history of the PCA and, finally, to the history of local Trotskyism. We attempt to place these works in the context of Argentine historiography and of the political context in which those books were written.