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The Cynosure

  Michael Bakunin
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  Anarchist History
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From 1880-1930 the anarchist movement existed relatively undisturbed in Argentina. It was a mostly workers’ movement, based on the urban and industrial proletariat.

1871: The first organized activity affiliated with the First International did not occur in the country until the arrival of several exiles from the repression that followed the fall of the Paris Commune in 1871. *

1875: Backlash of the international capitalist crisis created a large number of immigrants in Buenos Aires without work. The First International was then able to rally and recruit new members and support.^

1885-1889: Errico Malatesta, Italian anarcho-communist, lives in Argentina and helps expose and popularize the anarchist ideology. Mamatesta’s Questione Sociale had immense influence over Italian workers.

1897: Anarchist newspaper La Protesta is founded.

1901: Federacion Obrera Argentina (FOA), or the Argentine Workers’ Federation, was created. Members were varying anarchists and socialists. The organization’s principles were influenced largely by Pellicer Paraire’s series of articles on Labor Organization in La Protesta Humana. Paraire suggested a dual organizational structure for labor federation. This called for two branches, one to focus on and represent issues of the economy and trade, and the other was to be a revolutionary and anarchist branch, serving as the philosophical foundation for the Federation. Within a year the FOA had split up, but between about 8,000 of the previous 10,000 members stayed with the federation and were able to establish an anarchist hegemony in unions. Following the rapid growth of trade-unionism the Federacion Obrera Regional Argentina (FORA) was created and largely inspired by Italian Anarchist Pietro Gorri. The unions associated with FORA were considered one of the principle means of spreading the anarchist ideal amongst the proletariat.*

1902: First general strike, state responds with force. This was the first time that workers in Argentina had demonstrated their growing social and political influence on the national scale. As a result of the deteriorating labor relations between the state and the unions the state imposed a “ley de residencia”, or law or residency, which was used to expel hundreds of anarchists and foreign born workers from Argentina.

1907: the Departamento Nacional de Trabajo (National Labor Department) was established with the purpose of enforcing reformed labor laws (including legislation designating Sunday as a day of rest and regulating the condition and hours as pertains to women and child workers), to collect statistics on working conditions and serve as a mediator for all labor disputes.

May 1, 1909: Commonly known as “May Day”. Argentine police open fire on a FORA (previously FOA) demonstration, killing several activists.

November 13, 1909: Simon Radowizki a young anarchist Jew, throws a bomb at the car of the Chief of Police, Colonel Ramon Ralcon, the man blamed for the demonstration bloodshed, killing him and his secretary.

1910: FORA attempts, but ultimately fails to mobilize enough support, to lead demonstrations and opposition policy against the laws of residency.

1919: “La Semana Tragica”, or the tragic week, begins on January 7 when police launch an attack on 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. As a result, Socialist press in the area recorded 700 dead, over 55,000 imprisoned and 4,000 injured. The Argentine government and media publicly cited the strikes as the work of ‘foreign agitators’. Following these events the decline of anarchism in Argentina became more prominent.

This year membership of FORA reaches 20,000.

1920: Argentine army intervenes in an uprising of agricultural laborers, led by anarchists, in Patagonia. The uprising was repressed and about 1,500 were killed at the hands of firing squads.

Throughout the 1920’s the anarchist movement was weakened by the success of the Bolsheviks. The movement was in a constant state of ebb until FORA merges with the socialist Union General de Trabajadores to form the Confederacion General de Trabajadores in 1929. During the rule of President Peron the movement moved underground. In 1955 the Argentine Anarcho-Communist Federation (founded 1935) became the Argentine Liberation Front (FLA). Today FORA exists solely as a propaganda group.

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