Guerrillas and Generals: The "Dirty War" in Argentina

Greenwood Publishing Group
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In this comprehensive, balanced examination of Argentina's Dirty War, Lewis analyzes the causes, describes the ideologies that motivated both sides, and explores the consequences of all-or-nothing politics. The military and guerrillas may seem marginal today, but Lewis questions whether the Dirty War is really over.

Lewis traces the Dirty War's origins back to military interventions in the 1930s and 1940s, and the rise of General Juan Peron's populist regime, which resulted in the polarization of Argentine society. Peron's overthrow by the military in 1955 only heightened social conflict by producing a resistance movement out of which several guerrilla organizations would soon emerge. The ideologies, terrorist tactics, and internal dynamics of those underground groups are examined in detail, as well as their links to other movements in Argentina and abroad. The guerrillas reached the height of their influence when the military withdrew from power in 1973 and turned over the government to Peron's puppet president, Hector Campora. They quickly found themselves in opposition again after Peron returned from exile, and as Peronism dissolved into factions after Peron's death, the military prepared to take power again, inspired by a new National Security Doctrine. The origins of this ideology in U.S. Cold War doctrine and in French revolutionary war doctrine are fully explored because the Argentine military's Dirty War strategy and tactics grew directly out of these ideas. The arrests, the treatment of prisoners, and the mindset of the interrogators are treated in detail. Special attention is given to the anti-guerrilla war in Tucuman's jungles, the strange history of David Graiver (the guerrillas' banker) and the Timerman case. In the concluding section of the book, Lewis describes the intrigues that undermined the military regime, its retreat from power, and the human rights trials that were held under the new democratic government. Those trials eventually were stopped by military revolts. Presidential pardons followed and have left Argentina divided once more. This is an important survey for scholars and students of Latin American politics, contemporary history, and civil-military relations.

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About the author

PAUL H. LEWIS is Professor of Political Science at Tulane University. An authority on Latin American political history, Professor Lewis has published six earlier books, including Paraguay Under Stroessner, The Crisis of Argentine Capitalism, and Political Parties and Generations in Paraguay's Liberal Era.

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Additional Information

Publisher
Greenwood Publishing Group
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Published on
Dec 31, 2002
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Pages
263
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ISBN
9780275973605
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Language
English
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Genres
History / Latin America / General
History / Latin America / South America
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Eligible for Family Library

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This volume departs both from approaches to revolution in Latin America that emphasize interests and those that emphasize socioeconomic and political injustice. Rather, it deals with real life, flesh and bone, revolutionary cadres: their thoughts, backgrounds, mentalities, and behavior. Going beyond cliches about Soviet encroachment in Latin America and "injustice breeds revolution," the contributors address the issue of the relationship between leaders and followers in a revolutionary context, seeing revolutionary leaders as the key to articulating and defining the agenda of the "revolution."

In contrast to most theorizing, revolutionary leaders almost invariably come from the privileged, even aristocratic classes. The findings raise the issue of how well these leaders actually represent the peoples for which they claim to speak. They also prompt questions about the democratic nature of guerrilla organizations. If the leaders are so far removed, by social background and education, personal experience and ideological articulation, from their followers, how realistic is it to see the Left as a purveyor of progress? Perhaps it is more correct, say the contributors, to see their claims as manipulative tactics directed to resolving a struggle for power among competing elites.

The selection of topics ranges from the historical development of revolutionary struggles since Che Guevara (Halperin and Ratliff) to the more specific application and motivation behind them (Ybarra-Rojas and Tismaneanu). Chapters deal with the attempt to define a typology of revolutionary leaders (Radu) and their Western supporters (Hollander). Some authors (Payne, Horowitz) combine .these approaches.

Many issues examined in this volume are new, including an analysis of the gap between the internationalist outlook of the leaders and the parochial views of their followers. The violent organizations of the Left in Latin America are shown to be largely the functional result of upper- and middle-class leaders who combine an appeal to the lumpenproletariat at home with support of alienated Westerners to pursue their own elitist agenda.

At the end of World War II, Argentina was the most industrialized nation in Latin America, with a highly urbanized, literate, and pluralistic society. But over the past four decades, the country has suffered political and economic crises of increasing intensity that have stalled industrial growth, sharpened class conflict, and led to long periods of military rule. In this book, Paul Lewis attempts to explain how that happened.

Lewis begins by describing the early development of Argentine industry, from just before the turn of the century to the eve of Juan Peron's rise to power after World War II. He discusses the emergence of the new industrialists and urban workers and delineates the relationships between those classes and the traditional agrarian elites who controlled the state.

Under Peron, the country shifted from an essentially liberal strategy of development to a more corporatist approach. Whereas most writers view Peron as a pragmatist, if not opportunist, Lewis treats him as an ideologue whose views remained consistent throughout his career, and he holds Peron, along with his military colleagues, chiefly responsible for ending the evolution of Argentina's economy toward dynamic capitalism.

Lewis describes the political stalemate between Peronists and anti-Peronists from 1955 to 1987 and shows how the failure of post-Peron governments to incorporate the trade union movement into the political and economic mainstream resulted in political polarization, economic stagnation, and a growing level of violence. He then recounts Peron's triumphal return to power and the subsequent inability of his government to restore order and economic vigor through a return to corporatist measures. Finally, Lewis examines the equally disappointing failures of the succeeding military regime under General Videla and the restoration of democracy under President Raul Alfonsin to revive the free market.

By focusing on the organization, development, and political activities of pressure groups rather than on parties or governmental institutions, Lewis gets to the root causes of Argentina's instability and decline--what he calls "the politics of political stagnation." At the same time, he provides important information about Argentina's entrepreneurial classes and their relation to labor, government, the military, and foreign capital. The book is unique in the wealth of its detail and the depth of its analysis.

Argentines ask how their ultracivilized country, reputedly the most European in Latin America, could have relapsed into near-barbarism in the 1970s. This enlightening study seeks to answer that question by reviewing the underlying political events and intellectual foundations of the "dirty war" (1975–1978) and overlapping Military Process (1976–1982). It examines the ideologies and actions of the main protagonists—the armed forces, guerrillas, and organized labor—over time and traces them to their roots.

In the most comprehensive treatment of the subject to date, Hodges examines primary materials never seen by other researchers, including clandestinely published guerrilla documents, and interviews important actors in Argentina's political drama. His wide-ranging scholarship traces the origins of the national security and national salvation doctrines to the Spanish Inquisition, sixteenth-century witch hunts, and nineteenth-century reactions to the modernizing ideologies of liberalism, democracy, socialism, and communism.

Hodges posits that the "dirty war," Military Process, and revolutionary war to which they responded represented the culmination of social tensions that arose in 1930 with the launching of the Military Era by Argentina's first successful twentieth-century coup. He offers the disquieting hypothesis that as long as the "Argentine Question" remains unsettled the military may intervene again, the resistance movement will remain strong, and violence may continue even under a democratic government.

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