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Juan Peron and Peronism in Argentina

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  • 1:10 Peron's Rise to Power
  • 3:01 Eva Peron
  • 3:59 What Was Peronism?
  • 6:32 Peron's Removal from Power
  • 7:37 Peron's Return
  • 8:45 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Stephen Benz

Stephen has taught history, journalism, sociology, and political science courses at multiple levels, including the middle school, high school and college levels.

In this video, we learn about Juan Peron, the President of Argentina from 1946-1955 and from 1973-1974. We learn about his rise to and fall from power and about his vague political ideology, which he called Justicialism.

The Popular Dictator

Think of the stereotypical dictator. He censors the press, violates civil rights, and removes opponents from important government positions. Doesn't sound like he would be too popular, does it? Well, imagine that the very same dictator is immensely popular among large sections of the population. It sounds almost too good to be true.

This seemingly impossible contradiction of a popular dictator came to fruition in the form of Juan Domingo Peron. In fact, Juan Peron was so popular that he served as president of Argentina for 10 years, was removed in a military coup, and then called back 18 years later to be president again. During his tenure as president, Peron was extremely popular among workers, despite his dictatorial style of governing.

In this video, we will look at:

  • Peron's rise to power
  • The role of Peron's second wife, Eva Peron, in his rise to power
  • The tenets of Peronism
  • Peron's removal from power
  • Peron's return to Argentina 20 years later

Peron's Rise to Power

Born in 1895, Juan Peron came from a modest but not poor family. He made a name for himself by rising up the ranks in the Argentine military. When domestic problems arose in Argentina in 1943, Juan Peron was part of an opportunistic group of military officers that overthrew the Argentine civilian government. Together, these officers, led by Pedro Ramirez, joined together to create a military-controlled government.

At first, Peron seemed to have a minor role in this government as he was named to be Secretary of Labor and Social Welfare. Peron, though, used this position to his advantage and built strong relationships with labor groups. For example, he helped settle labor disputes and introduce new benefits for workers. Peron's interaction with labor groups magnified his power, eventually allowing him to take charge of the Department of War and the vice presidency.

In 1945 he married Eva Duarte, a successful radio actress, magnifying even more his celebrity status in society, but the old adage is that too much fame is not always a good thing. Other members of the military grew jealous of Peron's new found popularity. As a result, in October of 1945, Peron was forced to resign and was arrested by the military.

The arrest of Peron was intended to limit his power, but it actually had the reverse effect. The workers union that Peron had developed such strong relationships with immediately took to the streets in massive protest demonstrations. Peron's wife, affectionately called 'Evita' by the Argentine public, added fuel to these protests with her own calls on the radio for civil disobedience. As a result of the protests, Peron was released from prison. The next year, in 1946, Peron was elected president of Argentina.

Eva Peron

A prominent part of Juan Peron's rise to power was his second wife, Eva Peron. Eva Duarte was born in a poor suburb of Buenos Aires. Eva Peron became an actress in Buenos Aires where she began to gain fame in Argentina. Her romantic relationship with Juan Peron became a source of national gossip, and her marriage to Peron helped boost Peron's chances of being president.

During Peron's presidency, Eva Peron played a prominent role in politics that few women had previously enjoyed in Argentine history. She facilitated communication between Peron and labor unions and established a women's branch of Peron's political party. In 1951, Eva Peron even tried to become Peron's vice president, but male chauvinism inside the Argentine military prevented that from happening. In 1952, she died of cancer, causing Juan Peron to not only lose his wife but a major political asset.

What Was Peronism?

So what was Peronism, and what did Juan Peron believe in? The truth is we are not too sure because Peron never articulated his beliefs in a clear coherent way. As Peron stated, 'Peronism is not learned, nor just talked about: One feels it, or else disagrees. Peronism is a question of the heart rather than of the head…' Despite the vagueness of Peron's position, we will attempt here to outline some basic tenets.

Peronism is like a 'works' pizza that has all the toppings a pizza restaurant offers. I say this because Peronism wasn't so much a clear ideology, as an ideology that borrowed from all other ideologies. For example, Peronism drew inspiration from fascists (like Mussolini and Hitler), socialists, social democratism, and even the writing of former U.S. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

At the time of his rise, the dominant ideological debate worldwide was between communism and capitalism, but Peron, like Hitler and Mussolini, envisioned a third way of governing besides capitalism and communism. Peron called this political ideology, Justicialismo, or Justicialism.

Justicialism can be described as a populist dictatorship. It was a dictatorship in that anyone who disagreed with Peron was declared to be unpatriotic or a traitor. For example, Peron once fired 1,500 university professors who opposed him, including a Nobel laureate physiologist and writer Jorge Luis Borges, perhaps Argentina's premier writer. For this reason, opponents of Peron have labeled him as a fascist who maintained an iron grip on power.

But Peron's policies were populist in their appeal to the lower classes, particularly to workers. For example, Peron:

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