This book is both a history of the Argentine labor movement between 1930 and 1945 and an analysis of the relationship between that period of labor history and the origins of Peronism. With regard to the former, the book is very well done; with regard to the latter, it leaves a great deal to be desired.
The first third of the book, although well argued, is essentially prolog. The first two chapters describe the economic, social, and political conditions of the 1930–43 period; the third summarizes the evolution of Argentine labor before the formation of the General Confederation of Labor in 1930.
The bulk of the book, and certainly its best part, deals with the “tortuous evolution” (p. xvi) of the labor movement in the thirteen years before 1943. Here, Tamarin concentrates on both the ideological and personal struggles within the powerful Unión Ferroviaria, and between that dominant union and its much weaker allies in the CGT. (It is interesting to note that these conflicts within the Argentine labor movement a half century ago are quite reminiscent of those that have afflicted it in recent years.) Especially well done is the discussion of the problem of the newly formed Communist unions in adapting to the rapidly changing foreign policy positions adopted by the Soviet Union. This part of the book is both well documented and well written.
The penultimate chapter of the book, in which Tamarin discusses the relationship between organized labor and the military regime of 1943–45, concentrating on labor’s response to the words and actions of Juan Domingo Perón, is somewhat disappointing. It offers little new information, and appears even to disregard what already is known. (Joseph Page’s biography of Perón is a better source for this period.) Most disappointing is the very brief treatment of the October 1945 crisis. Fewer than seven pages are devoted to the extraordinarily important days of October 9–18, and these pages are devoted to a retelling of well-known events. The book’s seven-page concluding chapter tries, almost halfheartedly, to tie together its two themes. It is unconvincing.
Those interested in the evolution of the Argentine labor movement during the “infamous decade” will find a wealth of information in this book. Those interested in “the origins of Peronism” should look elsewhere.