Following the years after Argentina’s independence from Spain, Argentina lacked a powerful national government. Argentina developed a centralized national government when it made Buenos Aires the capital in 1880. Although the centralization of political power helped Argentina to form a national identity, it also sidelined people who were far from the capital who ultimately became the electorate for Peron in the future. When analyzing Peron’s methods to obtain power and the extent to which he followed his declared ideology, uncertainty arises due to inconsistencies in Peron’s stated philosophy. Peron utilized personal history, political instability, and a common foreign enemy to gain power. However, Peron often deviated from his stated philosophy of Justicialismo in order to appeal to a larger audience.
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The great depression devastated Argentina economically and the failure of previous administrations to effectively respond to the economic crisis was a perfect stage for a strong leader like Peron to step in. Preceding the Great Depression, the stabilization of the federal government increased stability and prosperity at the end of the 19th century. Rapid industrialization in the mid-1930s continued to focus on Buenos Aires (Patroni, 155). The working class was greatly increased due to the industrialization and immigration from Europe and faced severe economic hardship (Patroni, 155). The increase in immigrants marginalized rural citizens even further which later encouraged them to vote for Peron who was initially from rural Argentina. In 1929, when the Great Depression struck, it crashed the world economy and effected Argentina equally. Yrigoyen, the president of Argentina at the time, was unable to address the issues of the economic recession which led to the overthrow of Yrigoyen in 1930 (Spektorowski, 89). Argentina was then ruled by an authoritarian coalition, named the Concordancia, and was in a period of economic instability but was overthrown in 1943 by a coup in which Peron participated in (Smith, 34). The economic instability and the marginalized people of Argentina set the stage for Peron to obtain power and become a leader.
The cultural and social life of the country prior to the rise of Peron’s regime was favorable for leadership and Peron’s characteristics. The political instability following Yrigoyen’s reign led to the longing for democracy once again and ultimately improved the public’s impression of Yrigoyen. Additionally, the concept of personalismo in Argentina, the practice of glorifying a single leader and being subordinate to the interests of the ideologies of that government (Blanksten, 112), added to the ambiance of the desire for a strong political leader. Another favorable characteristic of society was the divide between urban and rural people. After World War II, there was a decrease in immigration and an increase in migration from rural Argentina to the capital, Buenos Aires, which largely impacted the voting population (Kennedy, 134). The increase in rural population reflected Peron’s early background which made Peron a favorable leader for Argentina. When the armour plant strike occurred, Peron supported the workers and proposed a very generous settlement that was refused, so he used a government decree to win it for the workers (Smith, 44). By supporting the workers, he gained more support from the working class.
Peron’s strong ties with the working class aided him in winning a majority of the electorate. Following the coup which overthrew the former president, Castillo, Peron was appointed as director of the National Department of Labor and was in a position to legalize unions and support their expansion (Patroni, 158). This gave Peron the opportunity to build relationships with the officials and workers especially in the CGT. Peron’s upbringing in rural Argentina also directly connected to his targeted demographics which helped him gain support. Peron also targeted workers in his actions in order to protect them through coalitions and further used his work in the CGT prove that he was still one of them despite his rise in ranks (Patroni, 156). With the gained support of unions through his new policies, Peron was able to attract the middle-class workers and rural people of Argentina. Additionally, since his new policies had not changed existing social order, the upper-class agreed to Peron’s decisions and laws regarding worker’s rights. Furthermore, Peron married Eva Duarte, an actress with rural origins. Eva Duarte attracted members of the upper-class due to her background but also reaffirmed the support of the working-class due to her origins (Navarro, 229). The marriage to Eva Duarte increased support for Peron greatly as the demographics of support have expanded to include upper-class as well as reaffirming support from the working-class.
Although Peron’s candidacy received foreign competition, Peron used the criticism in his favor. Within Argentina, political parties, military leaders, and elites showed opposition. From other countries, the United States government had put up opposition to Peron’s rise to power. Spruille Braden, a US ambassador to Argentina, distrusted Peron and Farrell and strongly emphasized opposition to Peron and Peronism (Trask, 74). However, Peron used this antagonism to pose to Argentine people a common threat of him versus Braden and the United States. Perón’s government utilized this opposition by accusing opponents who were against his regime of being unpatriotic. The foreign policy of Argentina was also isolationist at the time. The Pan-American games were displays of Argentine Nationalism (Dichter and Johns, 12) which largely united the Argentine people. Additionally, after being elected, Peron developed the five-year plan of self-sufficiency which aimed to unify the nation for defense, industrialization, law and order, anti-communist stance and neutrality standpoint (Ciria, 22). The five-year plan reflects isolationist policies as Peron wanted Argentina to be self-sufficient. Argentinian nationalism helped Peron gain support by making the United States a common enemy and promoting nationalism in spite of foreign interference.
Peron’s actions often deviated from his political ideology because he wanted to appeal to a variety of demographics. Justicialismo, the official title of Peron’s ideology, was based in Greek, Christian and secular thought, and was a cross between liberalism, communism and capitalism (McLynn, 15). Peron intentionally kept his beliefs and plans vague in order to garner support from various types of people. However, Peron was not anti-semitic and had Jewish advisors (McLynn, 17). On the other hand, Peron was inspired by Fascist governments and had sympathy for their citizens following World War II. He imported nazi war criminals in effort to gain technological and scientific intelligence that was developed by Nazi Germany (Patroni, 160). Peron had appealed to both demographics by including both Jews and Nazis in his government. Additionally, Peron was very clearly anti-communist and it took his support from some labor parties away (Patroni, 157). Although his stated philosophy was communist, his actions did not reflect these beliefs due to his goals of gaining support to obtain and establish power.
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The social policies of Peron promoted female suffrage and integrated minorities into society. Due to the efforts of Peron’s wife, Eva Peron, female suffrage was largely improved and integrated into society. Peron’s decision to grant suffrage to women was heavily influenced by his wife as she was the leader of the female branch of the Peronist Party as well as the founder of the Eva Peron foundation which granted social services (Navarro, 239). This represented a radical step forward of female suffrage in Argentina as the rights of women and the working-class significantly improved with Eva Peron’s actions. There was an increase in female political participation with Peron’s regime due to efforts by Eva Peron and the granting of universal female suffrage in Argentina. Additionally, Peron showed sympathy to minorities, especially Jews. The Organizacion Israelita Argentina (OIA), was a Jewish Peronist body which was formed in 1947 by Peron’s Jewish undersecretary of the interior (Marder, 129). It was formed to change the image of Peronism towards Jewish people. The integration of Jews into Peron’s government garnered more support for his administration and increased the regime’s power. The 1948 Immigration Amnesty allowed thousands of Jews who entered Argentina illegally to legalize their status, benefitted Nazis, eastern European collaborators and Italian Fascists who immigrated too (Marder, 129). Peron’s social policies integrated minorities like Jews and Fascists into society and granted female suffrage.
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