Liberating Revolution: Background, Causes, Consequences

The Liberating Revolution in Argentina was a civic and military uprising that began on September 16, 1955 that ended the second presidential term of Juan Domingo Perón. On that date, a Catholic nationalist faction of the army together with the navy carried out a successful coup.

In three days they seized the country and forced Perón to flee to Paraguay in a gunboat. This revolution occurred within the framework of a series of social and political problems that Perón faced in his second term. The trigger for this conflictive situation was the deterioration of the Argentine economy.

Liberating Revolution of Argentina

Despite the support of the powerful General Confederation of Labor, other sectors began to express their discontent; many economic policies were rejected by the middle and upper class. These and other problems were the breeding ground for the coup, an action favored by the military experience acquired in previous coups.

Background

Previous coups

Starting with the economic crisis of 1929, coups led by the military were a constant in Argentina. From time to time, faced with the increase in social or political conflict, military groups applied violent solutions.

Thus, the coups d’état that occurred in 1930 and 1943 were precursors of the Liberating Revolution. The first deposed President Hipólito Yrigoyen, and the second ended the mandate of Ramón Castillo.

These were commanded by generals, obtained the support of civil society groups, and both responded to economic pressure.

Perón’s first term

Perón was elected for the first time for the period 1946-1951, with a 56% percentage of the popular vote. His political philosophy was justicialism (social justice) and the so-called Third position (a system between communism and capitalism).

In his first term, Juan Perón led the country to a process of industrialization and state intervention in the economy. The goal was to provide greater economic and social benefits for the working class.

Perón reformed the country, providing the necessary benefits to industrial workers in the form of wage increases and social benefits. He nationalized the railroads and other utilities and financed large-scale public works.

The funds for these expensive innovations came from the foreign exchange of Argentine exports during World War II , and from the profits of the state agency that set the prices of agricultural products.

This Argentine president dictated the political life of the country through his command of the armed forces. It also limited and even eliminated some of the constitutional freedoms.

In 1949 he arranged a convention to draft a new Constitution that allowed him to be re-elected.

Causes

Economic causes

In the early 1950s, Argentina’s economy suffered a setback from some failed trade deals. This led to an economic embargo by the United States that made the situation worse.

Consequently, exports fell sharply. At the same time, there was a devaluation of the Argentine peso of 70%; this caused a recession and high inflation.

Social causes

During the Peronist government many measures were taken to favor the lower income classes. Especially middle and upper class Argentines began to organize in opposition to the president.

As opposition increased, the Peronist regime became increasingly repressive. He began by censoring newspapers and opposition leaders, and even fired more than 1,500 university professors for protesting.

The feelings of rejection began to be directed towards industrial workers in rural areas as well. Strong differences and hatreds were generated between social classes.

As the social situation worsened, terrorist acts against civilian targets began to appear. One of these was committed on April 15, 1953 in the Plaza de Mayo (downtown Buenos Aires).  

Consequences

After the triumph of the Liberating Revolution, the Congress, the provincial governments and the elected municipal bodies were dissolved.

The armed forces purged suspected Peronists from the army, reversed social reforms, and persecuted union leaders. The revolutionary advisory council recommended the retirement of 114 officers of different ranks.

This purge continued until leaving only anti-Peronist officers in office. The Peronist resistance groups began to organize; several coup attempts were made, which were violently repressed.

Thus, the government began a bloody campaign against the Peronists, who were imprisoned, tortured and executed. All Peronist organizations were banned. In addition, the constitutional reform of 1949 was repealed. This reform had been adopted by a constituent assembly.

From that date on, a climate of political instability remained. Power changed hands many times, sometimes civilian hands and sometimes military hands. This situation continued until Perón’s return from exile in 1973.

Why was it called the Liberating Revolution?

Broadly speaking, Lonardi and Aramburu — the two military leaders who led the 1955 coup — sought to free Argentina from Peronist influence. Both believed that they were ridding the country of something harmful.

Consequently, they christened their movement the Liberating Revolution. In their quest to “liberate” the nation, they took a series of actions to fulfill their mission. First, Decree 4161, dated March 1956, prohibited the use of words associated with the Peronist regime.

In addition, they prohibited Peronist activities throughout the nation. Public references to the deposed president or his late wife, Eva Perón, were even penalized.

Similarly, songs, texts or images that supported Perón were not allowed. His political organization, the Peronist Party, had the same fate. This ban was in effect until his return in 1973.

“Deperonization” in education

Continuing with the mission of the Liberation Revolution to “deperonize Argentina”, education intervened.

Thus, the new educational authorities considered that the terminology used in the decrees related to Peronist education was not convenient for the State.

In his opinion, these decrees presented a wide use of expressions that distorted the concepts of democracy, individual freedom and the powers of the State. Therefore, they proceeded to repeal them.

The most salient feature of the Revolutionary Liberation approach was that it did not seek a constructive change in educational policy. Rather it was striving to purge the system of every trace of the deposed regime.

Under this movement, the motto of education was, as in politics, deperonization above all else. According to historians, this could be because they saw themselves only as a transitional government.

References

  1. McGann, TF (2016, April 17). Juan Perón. Taken from britannica.com.  
  2. The Argentina independent. (s / f). History. Taken from argentinaindependent.com.
  3. New World Encyclopedia. (2015, April 15). Juan Perón. Taken from newworldencyclopedia.org.
  4. Potash, RA (1980). The Army & Politics in Argentina 1945—1962, Perón to Frondizi. California: Stanford University Press
  5. Esti Rein, M. (2015). Politics and Education in Argentina, 1946-1962. New York: Routledge.

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