What happened to Peronism?

After disappointing voters with infighting and short-sightedness, the political movement needs the influx of new generations

Paula Arraigada is a Peronist and feminist activist

How did we get to this point? When did Peronism stop being the flagship of popular causes and turn into a conservative version of itself? Why did people knowingly vote for candidates who went against their rights?

Democracy has grown and strengthened since December 10, 1983. However, Alfonsín’s famous phrase about how “Democracy feeds, cures, and teaches” sounds poetic but insufficient today. Forty years later, Peronism is facing a new, devastating defeat that forces us to rethink the present in order to guarantee an existing future.

The Argentina that lies ahead is even worse than the one that existed prior to 1943. Everything we viewed as acquired rights is now being questioned. Some of those rights will probably be vanquished. They are dreaming about slashing Article 14 bis from the National Constitution. They are coming for the people’s social conquests.

The right to a job, a home, and a fair deal have been hindered throughout these past forty years of democracy. Even during the splendor of Kirchnerism (when people knew what it was like to be happy), we weren’t able to end structural poverty and carry on the long-awaited social revolution in our country. But the current scenario is atrocious. We face the possibility of a labor reform (which would take workers back to the same working conditions as in the early 20th century) and the repeal of the Home Rent Bill (with no plans for any mortgage loans or public housing). And let’s not even mention the right to decide on our bodies and the freedom to choose whom and what we want to be.

I wouldn’t want to go down the easy path of blaming voters for getting us into this scenario. On the contrary, I would like to propose a reflection on the present and the reasons that led us to this representation crisis, where anti-values rule and democracy voted against a freedom that advances against itself. And maybe, with this humble opinion, contribute to us actually returning better in the next four years when we get back to the government.

The path that led us to the last electoral defeat has different explanations, many consequences, pettiness, and selfishness, but mostly a total loss of the horizon that has always set the course for Peronist governments, where there was one single mandate: the people’s.

For years, we have been witnessing an array of mistakes and frustrations that made politics look like a vaudeville show, which entertained no one and outraged everyone. The indifference and low empathy with demands (crime and inflation, among them), the romanticization of poverty, and the manipulation of activists as the driver of social organizations (if Evita were alive, she would kick them out of History, as Jesus did with the merchants in the temple) destroyed the government’s credibility. The government should have been creating proper jobs with labor rights.

There was also the picture of the first lady’s birthday celebration in the midst of lockdown — public infighting that wore down the public, who was perplexed by the immaturity of those leading the administration.

In the last decades, progressives have accumulated power seats meant to only benefit the people. They have neglected the public servant’s call and established a new form of nobility: government officials. We have witnessed it all in silence, swallowing our rage and holding back the bitterness of seeing community activists endure injustice. Ministries that had no connection with the territories, ministers and legislators who didn’t see past their own turf, and officials whose only expertise in public administration was the fact that they’d read Foucault.

But Argentina needed something different. Less academics and more people, less bureaucracy, and more action. Less royalty and more commoners. All this disappointed people and broke that contract of hope that was signed on the morning of May 18, 2019. Four years later, we lost the election to a quisling who is a fan of Al Capone and loves Margaret Thatcher.

Today, we need different ways of doing politics. A meme or a Tik Tok video can reach more citizens than a bunch of corner stands. That doesn’t mean abandoning the territory, but adding new perspectives for new times. Engaging in activism in two different spheres: the territory and the world online. That’s why it’s so important to have new generations with younger ideas with a revolutionary mystique and no other expectation than the country’s welfare.

But be aware that you can be young at 70; it’s the ideas that should be renovated away from the white, well-fed progressives from expensive schools and their romantic notions, which are so alien to common sense and popular aspirations. This is why the Justicialist doctrine will be essential and necessary to organize.

The people must be heard. We need to get back to the roots of Peronism, to be truly national and popular. To recover the love for our country, its symbols and traditions, and its national heritage. But, mostly, the pride of being Argentines.


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