On September 4 the “La Plata Massacre” completed 40 years. Eight militants from the Argentine PST were killed: Roberto Loscertales (Laucha), Adriana Zaldúa, Hugo Frigerio, Lidia Agostini, Ana Maria Guzner, Lorenzo Carlos Povedano, Patricia Claverie and Oscarcito Lucatti. The first five were executed on the night of September 4 when they were going to provide support to workers of the Petrochemical Sudamericana (nowadays Mafisa) who were occupying the plant. The other three comrades were kidnapped in the afternoon of the following day when they were preparing to denounce the killings.

The Triple A (Argentine Anti-Communist Alliance) was responsible for such murders. But it is not possible to understand in depth the causes of either the murders or the reasons why they remain unpunished if we do not analyze the political reality of those years.

The political and social context

In the late 60s and early 70s, the workers and popular struggles were putting the military dictatorship [1] at stake and the ultimate expression of these struggles was the Cordobazo” [2].

In an article in the Journal of America [3] of March 1976, we said: “The working class has imposed, with its struggle, the defeat of the hated military dictatorship and made the new government the symbol of all the achieved conquests and the possibility to enlarge them. A diametrically opposite purpose for which the bourgeoisie summoned Peron and he accepted: to do away with the workers’ struggle and save the Argentine capitalism (…). The combination of the worldwide capitalist crisis [4] with the failure of the ‘social pact’ [5] drove Argentina to a deepening crisis. To avoid such deterioration in the decisive aspect of its economic policy, the bourgeoisie had to quickly use its “emergency” plan [6] by placing Peron in the position of President of the country and using all his prestige and authority to halt the workers’ upsurge.”  

Perón achieved a certain “social truce”, although he had not been able to either completely prevent the working class answer to his austerity plan (there were more than 30 conflicts in 1974) or taming the guerrilla organizations that continued their private war against the Armed Forces.

In 1973, during the interim government of Lastiri [7], López Rega, Minister of Social Welfare and Personal Assistant to Perón, founded the Argentine Anti-Communist Alliance (Triple A) [8]. Many historians argue whether or not Peron was involved in the founding of this organization. There is no compelling evidence either for or against such an assumption, but it does not seem reasonable that Perón may have ignored his right-hand man’s activity.

The call to face the “industrial guerrilla”

Perón’s death (July 1st, 1974) speeded up the social conflict. López Rega, the strong man of Isabel Perón’s government, attempts a semi-fascist solution, breaking the large bourgeois agreement which was in force at that time.

This attempt was defeated by a general strike and by huge demonstrations in June-July 1975 that faced the brutal austerity plan known as “Rodrigo Plan”.

The workers’ struggle had the support of the bourgeoisie and the trade union bureaucracy, who saw their interests threatened by López Rega’s coup attempt.

But when Lopez Rega, defeated, flees the country, the workers’ movement becomes the main enemy for the bourgeoisie and the trade union bureaucracies. The workers’ struggles, increasingly intense, become the greatest danger to be faced. Then, it appears the famous call of Ricardo Balbin, the leader of the Radical Party, in order to defeat the “industrial guerrilla”.

This positioning of the whole bourgeoisie against the “industrial subversion” is evident in the document issued by the U.S. Embassy in Buenos Aires, on December 2nd, 1975:

“Terrorism is a real fact and a way of life in Argentina. Guerrilla activities in the rural areas of Tucuman and in the urban areas of Cordoba and Buenos Aires have been the object of comments worldwide and of endless analysis. Yet, another form of guerrilla warfare, probably even more insidious, and to which it was given –up to now – very little attention, is in full operation in Argentina. It is the war that the industrial guerrilla has been waging, which occurs in the manufacturing plants, at the trade unions (…)”.

This is what explains why, when our comrades were assassinated, La Plata was a liberated zone. We waited for hours at the Government House and the Governor never showed up, and the Chief of Police or Balbin, the leading figure of the bourgeois opposition, not even were in La Plata.

That is the main cause of the deaths and the explanation of why there was no headway in the investigation of the facts or punishment of those responsible in these 40 years. Despite the workers’ struggle that overthrew the military dictatorship, despite the constant battle of the families, despite the “Argentinazo” of 2001 and despite the claims of the “Government for human rights”, the crimes remain unpunished. So we need to keep on fighting. And as we said in their farewell, we will continue avenging the death of our comrades by supporting the workers fight and building the party for which they gave their own lives.

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Notes:

[1] – In 1966 it took place the military coup which imposed the dictatorship of Onganía, succeeded by Levingston and Lanusse.

[2] – Cordobazo: An uprising that happened in Cordoba Province and was responsible for the dictatorship’s fall.

[3] – International magazine of the Bolshevik Fraction in the USec, predecessor of the IWL-IV

[4] – The global crisis which broke out in 1971 and reached its height in 1974-75.

[5] – When Cámpora took over, a “social pact” was signed between the Government, the trade union bureaucracy and the employers’ unions, whose main point was the wage freezing.

[6] – There was an agreement with Peronism, that Peron could return from exile but not run for president. Six months after the election held on March 13, 1973, the elected Peronist president, Héctor Cámpora, renounced and new elections were summoned to September 23, with Peron’s victory (60% of the votes).

[7] – Raúl Lastiri, López Rega’s son in law and Speaker of the House of Representatives was the interim president between Cámpora’s resignation and Perón’s inauguration.

[8] – Triple A – The Argentine Anticommunist Alliance, usually known as Triple A or AAA was a far-right death squad founded in Argentina in 1973 and particularly active under Isabel Perón’s rule (1974–1976). Initially associated with the Peronist right, the organisation opposed the Peronist left and other leftist organizations. The AAA acted against a wide range of government opponents, not just communists. In: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Argentine_Anticommunist_Alliance.