Left Wing Terrorism in Argentina

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From 1880-1900 the anarchist and bolshevik movements in Argentina existed relatively undisturbed in the main cities. In 1875, following the backlash of the international market crisis, a large number of newly arrived migrants in Buenos Aires were left without work. As a result, the "First International" (founded circa 1871) was able to rally and recruit new members and financial support.

From 1885-1889, Errico Malatesta, an Italian anarcho-communist, helped promote and popularize the anarchist ideology. Mamatesta’s Questione Sociale would have immense influence over Italian migrants in Argentina.

The spread of anarchism

In 1901, the Federacion Obrera Argentina (FOA of the Argentine Workers’ Federation), was created. Members were anarchists, communists and socialists. Within a year the FOA had split up, but around 8,000 of the previous 10,000 members stayed with the federation and were able to establish anarchist leaders in the various trade unions.

Following the rapid growth of trade-unionism the Federacion Obrera Regional Argentina (FORA) was created and largely inspired by Italian Anarchist Pietro Gorri, who waged a long campaign of general strikes against the Argentinian government. The unions associated with FORA were considered one of the principle means of spreading the anarchist ideal amongst the workers.

First general strikes

In May 1904, a clash between workers and police left two dead and fifteen injured. In 1907, the feminist-anarchist league was established in Buenos Aires. Toward the end of the decade there arose a situation in which the brutality of the police authorities and the militancy of the workers incited each other to greater heights, until, on May Day, 1909, a giant gathering marched through the Argentinian capital and was broken up by the police, who inflicted some 12 killed and a hundred wounded.[1] It was reported at the time that anarchists had provoked the violence.[2]Argentinian President José Figueroa Alcorta narrowly himself escaped death when an anarchist bomb was thrown at him while he was driving in Buenos Aires on February 28, 1908.[3]The government officials were again thrown into panic when a 19-year-old anarchist, Jewish-Ukrainian migrant Simón Radowitzky, killed with a hand-held bomb the city's police chief, Ramón Falcón and his aide Alberto Lartigau, who were driving through Callao street in Buenos Aires on November 15, 1909. On October 16, 1909, bombs exploded at the Spanish consulate in the city of Rosario, injuring an anarchist and damaging the building.[4] In late 1909, as a result of Falcón's assassination the self-styled "Patriotic students" known as Juventud Autonomista was formed. On May 25, 1910, in an effort to disrupt the Argentine centennial celebrations in Buenos Aires, an anarchist gave a bomb to an unsuspecting boy to carry into a cathedral, the bomb however exploded prematurely and the boy was killed and another lost both arms.[5] On June 28, 1910, another bomb exploded in the Teatro Colón in downtown Buenos Aires and 20 theatre-goers were injured and the Senate and Chamber of Deputies passed a bill calling for capital punishment for those anarchists responsible for causing death.[6] On July 9, 1916, an attempt to assassinate Argentine President Victorino de la Plaza was made by a gun-wielding self-confessed anarchist. The attack was executed while the president was reviewing a troop march past during celebrations of the one-hundred anniversary of Argentinian independence.[7]On February 9, 1918, violent strikes took place across Argentina and regular troops were rushed to the affected areas after anarchists wrecked trains, destroyed tracks and burned carriages laden with wheat for export.[8]

Tragic Week

"La Semana Tragica", or the tragic week, begins on January 7, 1919, when police launch a crack down on militant workers, who had been striking for several days, at the Vasrna Metallurigical plant, killing some. In retaliation, a general strike, backed by anarchists and syndicalists, was called for January 10 and 11.

Placing the city under martial law, President Yrigoyen appointed Colonel Luis Dellepiane as the commander of riot control forces, after which disturbances subsided. The 5th and 12th Cavalry Regiments arrived on 12 January, and 300 marines and a mountain artillery regiment also entered Buenos Aires.[9]On the morning of 13 January 1919, a group of anarchists attempted to seize arms and ammunition from a local police station but were forced to retreat after coming under fire from a marine detachment from the Argentine Navy Cruiser San Martin.[10]A young army lieutenant in charge of a platoon that machine-gunned hundreds of attacking militants workers was Juan Doming Peron, the future president of Argentina.[11] The leftist Vanguardia newspaper claimed that over 700 deaths were recorded on Tragic Week, as well as 2,000 injured. Professor Patricia Marchak estimates the total number of workers killed in the uprising and immediate aftermath at more than 100. The conservative La Nación newspaper reported the number of workers killed in the uprising at around 100 and 400 injured. The police forces suffered 3 killed and 78 wounded.

1920s violence

On December 24, 1927, anarchists planted bombs at two U.S. bank branches in Buenos Aires resulting in the multiple injuries of twenty bank staff and customers.[12] The Italian Consulate in Buenos Aires was bombed on 23 May 1928 and seven were killed and nearly 50 wounded in the anarchist bombing.[13] On 24 December 1929, 44-year-old Italian-born anarchist Gualterio Marinelli was killed in his attempt to assassinate Argentine president Hipólito Yrigoyen but he manages to wound two policemen.[14] On September 6, 1930, Yrigoyen was deposed in a military coup led by General José Félix Uriburu.

Military crackdown

Throughout the 1930’s the Left Wing Radicals were weakened by the success of the Military Junta led by General José Félix Uriburu. The Uriburu regime shut down Anarchist and Communist presses and made it difficult, if not impossible, for anarchists to spread their ideals.[15]Uriburu ordered the mass deportation of Spanish and Italian workers that had joined the anarchists and the changing political, economic and social conditions "led to the decline of this movement, particularly in its manifestation within the labor movement".[16]

Nevertheless, on January 20 1931, three anarchist bombs went off at three strategic places on the Buenos Aires railway network, killing three and wounding 17.[17]

Dirty War

During the 1970s, leftist guerrillas caused at least 5,000 casualties among the military and police forces, according to a recent article by Spanish journalist Carmen Muñoz from Periódico ABC in 2011.[18]


  1. BUENOS AIRES TRAGEDY. TWO POLICE OFFICIALS KILLED. Buenos Aires Tragedy. Evening Post, 16 November 1909, Page 7
  2. AN ANARCHISTS' RIOT, Bush Advocate, 3 May 1909
  3. NEW ANARCHIST PLOT. Two Arrests and Raid on Bomb Factory in Buenos Ayres, The Evening News, 11 July 1911.
  4. BOMBS EXPLODED IN SPANISH CONSULATE, Evening Post, 18 October 1909.
  5. BOMBS IN ARGENTINA. BOY BLOWN TO ATOMS, Evening Post, 3 June 1910
  6. FIND BOMB FACTORY. Argentine Capital Stirred by Uncovering Anarchists Lair. The Gazette Times, 10 July 1911
  7. EFFORT MADE TO KILL PRESIDENT OF ARGENTINE, The Gazette Times, 10 July, 1916.
  8. Anarchy Reigns in Argentina When General Rail Strike Brings Riots, The Telegraph-Herald, 10 February 1918
  9. . ACTS OF ANARCHY CONTINUE. The News and Courier, 13 January 1919
  10. The Tragic Week of January, 1919, in Buenos Aires: Background, Events, Aftermath, John Raymond Hébert, Page 159, Georgetown University, 1972.
  11. God's Assassins: State Terrorism in Argentina in the 1970s, Patricia Marchak, p.47, Mcgill Queens University, 2002
  12. "U.S. Banks Bombed in Buenos Aires. Branches Of National City And Boston Concern Are Wrecked", The Sun, 25 December 1927. 
  13. "7 Killed by Bomb in Buenos Aires", The Sun, 24 May 1928. 
  14. "Argentine President Escapes Assassin. Three Shots Fired at Car of Yrigoyen in Capital Assailant, Killed by Guards, Said to Be an Italian Anarchist", Daily Boston Globe, 25 December 1929. 
  15. Argentine Unions, the State & the Rise of Perón, 1930-1945, Joel Horowitz, p. 13, University of California, International & Area Studies, 1990
  16. Politics and the Labor Movement in Latin America, Víctor Alba, p. 44, Stanford University Press, 1968
  17. "Blasts Kill Three in Buenos Aires", New York Times, 21 January 1931. 
  18. "El 70% de las 18.331 víctimas eran civiles apolíticos, por eso no reclamaron sus derechos al Gobierno. No se conocían, eran sindicalistas, jueces, judíos, católicos, extranjeros... El 30% eran uniformados agredidos en situación de descanso, por lo que son civiles según el derecho internacional." "Las víctimas del terror montonero no cuentan en Argentina", Periódico ABC, Carmen Muñoz, 28/12/2011