Michael Goebel

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Michael Goebel

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  • Bulletin of Latin American Research, Vol. 26, No. 3, pp. 356377, 2007

    2007 The AuthorJournal compilation 2007 Society for Latin American Studies. Published by Blackwell Publishing,

    356 9600 Garsington Road, Oxford OX4 2DQ, UK and 350 Main Street, Malden, MA 02148, USA.

    A Movement from Right to Left in Argentine Nationalism? The Alianza Libertadora Nacionalista and Tacuara as Stages of Militancy MICHAEL GOEBEL University College London, UK

    This article contributes to debates about fascist infl uences among Argenti-na s guerrilla groups of the 1970s. From the overall perspective of developments in Argentine nationalism, it traces back the history of the far-right Alianza Libertadora Nacionalista and Tacuara and as-sesses their signifi cance as the nuclei from which later guerrillas came. Based on police reports and periodical publications from the period in question (c.1937 c.1973), it makes some generalisations about the collective biographies of militants. While not contradicting the widely held view that originally fascist groupings played a role in the emer-gence of Argentine guerrillas, the article introduces some nuances into this argument. Particular emphasis is given to the role of Peronism and the Cuban Revolution as facilitators of changes in Argentine nationalism.

    Keywords : Argentina , nationalism , Peronism , guerrillas , fascism .

    Introduction 1

    In contrast to many Latin American countries where the Left successfully appropri-ated the banner of the nation, Argentine nationalism has usually been interpreted as belonging to the political Right. As with so many other issues, in this respect, too, Argentina appears more European than Latin American. Since US imperialism was less tangible in Argentina than elsewhere in the region and because Argentine intellectuals closely observed Old World developments, so the argument goes, the dominant form

    1 I would like to thank the two anonymous reviewers for their helpful suggestions and Mora Gonzlez Canosa for her help in accessing the material of the ACPM. Names in these police reports are deleted, which reduces their value for research, but except for long lists, the names can usually be inferred from secondary sources, especially periodicals of the time.

  • 2007 The Author. Journal compilation 2007 Society for Latin American StudiesBulletin of Latin American Research Vol. 26, No. 3 357

    Argentine Nationalism

    of nationalism was infl uenced by southern European and French variants of authori-tarianism that were in vogue in the interwar period, rather than projecting itself as a popular struggle for national liberation from the overwhelming hegemony of foreign powers. If the Cambridge History of Latin America is a seismograph of standard scholarship on the region, David Rock s view (1991: 35) that in Argentina even anti-imperialism, the classical touchstone between nationalism and the Left, developed around a set of conspiracy theories that resembled the tactics and beliefs of the Right rather than the Left, can be seen as paradigmatic. As Tulio Halperin Donghi (1999: 167) has noted, the Right [ ] won the anti-imperialist high ground by default . Sandra McGee Deutsch (1999: 315) has argued that the Argentine extreme Right was more successful than its Brazilian and Chilean counterparts in shaping its country s political culture.

    However, there was also a more left-leaning form of nationalism in Argentina. For the interwar period, this has usually been associated with FORJA, a populist group that broke away from the Radical Party in 1935 ( Buchrucker, 1987: 258 276 ). It is debatable how important or representative this group was for Argentine nationalism as a whole in the 1930s, but if FORJA is not enough to persuade sceptics of the existence of left-wing nationalism in Argentina, even a superfi cial look at the climate of ideas in the 1960s should instantly win them over. In contrast to the interwar period, after the Cuban Revolution, Argentina s New Left became hegemonic in public debate ( Hilb and Lutzky, 1984 ). The ideas of this New Left may have been so eclectic as to make it necessary to speak of it in the plural, but nationalism, anti-imperialism and Third World solidarity were elements common to all its countless ramifi cations. The Argentine guerrilla groups of the early 1970s, both the Peronist ones such as the Montoneros and the Trotskyist Ejrcito Revolucionario del Pueblo (ERP), embraced tercermundismo , nationalism and Marxism, as did virtually all forms of left-wing nationalism in Latin America. Most of the by then elderly authoritarian nationalists of the interwar period, and in particular the traditionalists, strongly disapproved of the young self-declared revolutionaries ( Ibarguren, 1971: 48 49 ). Conversely, Marxist nationalist intellectuals like Juan Jos Hernndez Arregui (1960) and Rodolfo Puiggrs (1968: 47 66) , whose writings formed the reading matter of the nascent left-wing nationalist groups, devoted a great deal of effort to differentiating themselves from the more elitist and often hispanista , Catholic and anti-Semitic nationalism of the 1930s. In order to distinguish between such different forms of na-tionalism, English-language studies (e.g. McGee Deutsch and Dolkart, 1993; McGee Deutsch, 1999 ) have employed the Spanish term nacionalismo to denote the authori-tarian right-wing strand that gained momentum between 1930 and 1943 as one particular, but not the only, kind of Argentine nationalism.

    However, it has also been argued that Argentina s left-wing nationalism of the 1960s and 1970s was underpinned by ideas taken from nacionalismo . Alan Angell s remark in the Cambridge History of Latin America that the Montoneros drew on right-wing nationalist ideas that had inspired the neo-fascist movements of the previous decades (1994: 204) can again be taken as representative. Similarly, Rock has maintained that the Nationalists [i.e. right-wing nacionalistas ] had a major infl uence on the Argentine revolutionary Left [ which] inherited the cult of authoritarian

  • 2007 The Author. Journal compilation 2007 Society for Latin American Studies 358 Bulletin of Latin American Research Vol. 26, No. 3

    Michael Goebel

    leadership from the Nationalists and copied their attempt to create a radical counter-culture (1993: xiv xv). Yet apart from the oft-noted fact that the Montoneros drew on earlier right-wing motifs, the actual transition from the predominant forms of nationalism in the 1930s to the left-leaning guerrillas has rarely been studied. It has remained unclear how signifi cant such links were for the emergence of the nationalist urban guerrillas of the 1960s and 1970s, numerically or ideologically. The apparent ease with which the metamorphosis of Argentine nationalism from Right to Left unfolded has thus remained rather surprising , as Rock (1993 : xiv) has observed.

    This article seeks to contribute to our understanding of these changes in Argentine nationalism by exploring the trajectories of the members of the only two nacionalista groups that were of signifi cance as nuclei from which later guerrillas sprang: the Alianza Libertadora Nacionalista and Tacuara. The reconstruction of their history has been made easier through recent scholarly studies of left-wing guerrillas since 1959 ( Rot, 2000; Salas, 2003; Pozzi, 2004; Lanusse, 2005 ) and journalistic books or accounts by former militants about the relationships between nacionalista groups and the guerrillas ( Gurucharri, 2001; Bardini, 2002; Prez, 2002; Gutman, 2003; Beraza, 2005 ). Taken together, these works have solidifi ed the base for assessing the weight of nacionalismo in Argentina s left-wing nationalism after the Cuban Revolution. These sources are complemented by reports of the police intelligence unit of Buenos Aires province on nacionalista groups in the 1960s and 1970s (ACPM) and by periodical publications of the time. The article fi rst delineates the development of the Alianza since the late 1930s, followed by a survey of the history of Tacuara. The third section traces back the input of the Alianza and Tacuara into the various Argentine guerrillas. I will stress a number of commonalities in the development of these groups, such as the impact of international events and the centrality of populism. To describe the way in which populist discourse acted as a medium of communication between right- and left-wing nationalism, I will draw on the work of Ernesto Laclau (1977 : 143 198: 2005) and Silvia Sigal and Eliseo Vern (2003).

    The Alianza Libertadora Nacionalista

    The history of the Alianza Libertadora Nacionalista (ALN) ranged from far-Right radicalism to an identifi cation with populism. In this, the group refl ected broader developments in nacionalismo . From the mid-1930s onwards, after the disintegration of Jos Flix Uriburu s military regime, some nacionalistas wanted to extend popular participation and sought to leave behind elitism. Instead of attacking communism, they began to single out British imperialism, the cosmopolitan intelligentsia and the liberal oligarchy as the main targets of their vitriolic broadsides (e.g. Irazusta and Irazusta, 1982 ), thus establishing the ground for a limited degree of overlap with FORJA s ideas. This change was typically expressed in historical revisionism, a current of writing that glorifi ed nineteenth-century caudillos , especially Juan Manuel de Rosas, as the true embodiment of Argentina s grandeur. Rosas, according to revisionists, had heroically fought against conspiracies between foreign intruders and effeminate liberals such as Domingo Faustino Sarmiento ( Quattrocchi-Woisson, 1992 ).

  • 2007 The Auth