Focusing on the period from Juan Domingo Perón’s overthrow in 1955 to his return to power in 1973, this work is an effort to demystify the 18 years of Peronist resistance by uncovering its pedestrian reality in working-class experience. Specifically, the author explores the ambiguous legacy of Peronism as a movement of social protest and as a form of state power, as a political culture of opposition and resistance to the status quo, and as a system for integrating the working class within the strategic needs of international capitalism.

Peronist doctrine lent itself to both projects and so did the union hierarchy. Although doctrinally integrationist because Perón supported a social pact between labor and capital, union leaders also became the mobilizers of resistance. Arguing that the labor bureaucracy and rank and file were not polar opposites, the author lays to rest the metaphysical abstractions of an essentially intransigent rank and file vis-à-vis an essentially transigent union bureaucracy. This leads to the conclusion that a paradoxical and ambivalent working-class experience found expression in a paradoxical and ambivalent relationship to the union bosses.

This clearly written and extensively researched book is valuable not for its banal conclusion but for the first-hand materials it presents, based on interviews with trade unionists and on generally unavailable union documents. These are crucial to the author’s explanation of the Peronist resistance as motivated less by ideological factors than by deteriorating working conditions in the factories. Especially valuable is the description of the organization of the resistance at the shop-floor level, the shifting relations and increasing tensions between the Peronist guerrillas and the shop stewards’ movement, the discrepancy between the formal ideology and practical consciousness of the trade union rank and file, and the demoralization and isolation bred by working-class defeats.