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General Labor Confederation (CGT)

General Labor Confederation (CGT)

In 1930 union leaders, frustrated by bitter divisions between rival workers' organizations and concerned about labor's tenuous relationship with the state, joined forces and created the Confederación General de Trabajo (CGT). A fusion of the Socialist-controlled Confederación Obrera Argentina, the syndicalist-dominated Unión Sindical Argentina, and several autonomous unions, the CGT would experience major problems in compatibility and commonness of purpose throughout its history. Syndicalist-oriented unions demanded the pursuit of an apolitical course; Socialists wanted a working relationship with sympathetic political groups.

Communist-affiliated unions in the manufacturing and construction trades joined the CGT in 1936, thereby exacerbating the CGT's problems. In 1943 internal bickering resulted in a rupture of the organization into two factions. A new military government, which included among its leadership Juan Domingo Perón, took advantage of the weakened condition of a divided CGT. The Socialist and Communist factions were abolished, and the others, lacking powerful and independent leadership, fell under the control of Perón. CGT delight with Perón's pro-labor policies was offset by the concern of some unions with the growth of Perón's political power and the erosion of CGT independence.

In 1947 Perón, now president of Argentina, completed the consolidation of his power base in the CGT, which now became an appendage of the state with no independence. The CGT had grown powerful, from a membership of 500,000 in 1947 to 2.5 million in 1955.

After Argentina's takeover by the military regime in 1976, the CGT was prohibited and split into factions; nevertheless the organization returned to its adversarial role with the government in 1980. With the fall of the military regime in 1983, the labor movement became increasingly militant throughout the decade as a response to the economic policies and hardships under the new democratically elected president, Raúl Alfonsín. The unions organized not only numerous nationwide protests—including thirteen general strikes—between 1984 and 1987 but also offered their own suggestions to the government for dealing with the economic crisis.

The government's return to Peronism under Carlos Menem in mid-1989 was fully supported by the labor movement. Taking office under dire economic circumstances, Menem prescribed a set of neoliberal reforms that were very distinct from traditional Peronista policies. With an emphasis on decreased state intervention in the national economy, the new agenda split the CGT leaders. The CGT was relatively inactive during the early 1990s; the first general strike against Menem's neoliberal policies did not occur until 1996. The destructive splintering of the 1990s continues to inhibit labor's ability to speak with one voice.

See alsoLabor Movements .

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Alexander, Robert J. A History of Organized Labor in Argentina. Westport, CT: Praeger, 2003. See pp. 175-212.

Baily, Samuel L. Labor, Nationalism, and Politics in Argentina. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1967. See pp. 99, 151-192.

Matsushita, Hiroshi. Movimiento obrero argentino, 1930–1945. Buenos Aires: Ediciones Siglo Veinte, 1983. See pp. 77-311.

Rock, David. Argentina, 1516–1982: From Spanish Colonization to the Falklands War. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1985.

Spalding, Hobart A., Jr. Organized Labor in Latin America: Historical Case Studies of Workers in Dependent Societies. New York: Harper & Row, 1977. See pp. 151-206.

                                       Paul Goodwin

                                            Karin Fenn

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