Montoneros ANTI imperialist film showing at Red and Black tues july 14 7pm FREE
MONTONEROS- Little is KNOWN be about this group before watching this amazing and BURIED documentary scored right from argentina. A very intense and SAD chapter in the armed struggle movement.
july 14 7pm RED and BLACK cafe 400 se 12th 503-231-3899
This is a safer space event which simply means that ALL are welcome!
I'm written this from memory and without any research, based entirely on
what I remember, so pardon me if this contains some date inaccuracies or
if I overlook - I'm sure - many important elements.
Montoneros, was one of three Peronist guerrilla organizations of the
70s. The other two were the Revolutionary Armed Forces (FAR) that
evolved from Marxist positions to Peronism and the FAP (Peronist Armed
Forces) that evolved from left wing Peronism to Marxism.
Montoneros, and FAP developed their own mass structures. All three of
them gained substantial weight in the working class. The Montoneros
developed was it was known as the Revolutionary Tendency (TR or the
Tendency). The Revolutionary Tendency of Peronism was formed by the
Peronist Youth, the High School Student Union (UES), the Movement of the
Shanty towns (MVP) and the Peronist Workers Youth (JTP). They also
built during the 70s over 70 trade union, rank and file movements in as
By 1973, Montoneros and its mass organizations counted on the support of
the majority of the College Student organizations. They had the majority
in 80% of all the elected student bodies of the country. Their
militants also controlled the National High School Student Federation
and the National Federation of College Students.
Militants of the RT and its different formations, particularly the
Peronist Workers Youth won the leadership (by 1974-75) of the workers
union formations, workers committees (called cuerpos de delegados or
Comisiones internas) of 30% of all steel plants, 40% of the bank
employees union structures, 20% of Construction workers union
formations, the majority of the union positions in the important food
industries, 15% in SMATA (auto workers); they gained control of the
regional CGT bodies (at the time the unified and only National
Confederation of Workers) in 10 provinces, including the industrial and
The Movimiento Villero Peronista (MVP), controlled by the Montoneros,
exercised political monopoly in about 50 shantytowns encircling the
capital, Buenos Aires and many more around cities like Rosario and Santa
The Montoneros-TR was also supported by many historical figures of the
"Peronist Resistance" as well as many intellectuals, artists and members
of the Peronist intelligentsia. Many workers-priests and Third World
catholic activists of the Church were either members or allies of the
At national mobilizations, they brought between 50,000-200,000 people
organized in their contingents. In the 1973 elections, their members
and/or allies - running in the Peronist lists - obtained a number of
national congress people (I believe about 35, but I'm uncertain of the
exact number), four governors of Provinces, hundreds of state/provincial
members of parliament, and about 2,000 local council members.
They had a variety of daily and weekly newspapers and magazines with a
broad readership estimated in about 500,000 readers.
In the elections of 1973, they supported Campora, the Presidential
candidate of the Frejuli (a front of the Peronist Party and a dozen
other minor political forces and the trade union organizations).
Campora was originally from the Populist Conservative Party, an small
split dating back to the 1940s from the Conservative Party that adopted
"a national, popular line of supporting Peronism."
Campora was very loyal to Peron, but got too dangerously close to the
Montoneros and the RT. The Montoneros called him "Uncle" (el Tio) and
they remained in good relations with him even after he was deposed by a
concerted coup stage-managed by Peron, the military and other political
forces of the ruling class. For them, Campora was too lenient with the
left in general (allowing freedom to organize and avoiding attacking
workers with the police, etc).
At its peak, Montoneros counted with about 7,000 armed guerrilla
Their strategy was to develop a combination of urban guerrilla at the
service of the return of Peronism to power mixed with a radical populist
idea of what Peronism was. They criticized the socialist left as
"gorillas" and anti-peronists and developed the characteristic of trying
to push Peronism and Peron to the left, to its populist roots and
pro-working class policies of the 40s.
When these policies clashed with the right wing course implemented by
Peron-Peron , a war ensued. The Massacre of Ezeiza was not the opening
shots of this world but the first significant massacre. According to
the unserious bourgeois media that covered the events, the massacre
claimed the lives of 25 Montoneros and 400 were wounded. This was the
figures quoted by a historian of the Montoneros in 1982. Eventually,
the figure was estimated closer to 300 dead and 900 wounded. Among
these were women and children as well, This massacre happened on 20
June, 1973 upon the return of Peron to the country.
The Montoneros and the RT mobilized about 250,000 people. A total of
about 1-Million mobilized to greet Peron. Montoneros had some defense
guards armed with small revolvers. They were attacked from buildings
with automatic weapons when they tried to position their forces close to
the stage where Peron was supposed to make his first speech in the
country. They never tried to take over the stage, they were about 200
yards from it when they were shot at. Mass pandemonium and chaos ensued.
Some of the people who died did so from being trampled by the panicking
Those shooting at the crowds were widely photographed. About 30 were
shooting from the stage itself. Approximately 100 more were shooting
with high-powered rifles from public buildings that they took over two
days before the demonstration. Ambulances and police cars deployed about
500 more right wing members of paramilitary groups after the shooting
subsided in order to capture and kill survivors. They counted all along
with the complicity of the Armed Forces (which withdrew its troops from
the vicinity) and the Federal and Buenos Aires Provincial police. Some
of the victims were lynched from trees. One of them was hanged from the
stage. The whole attack was carefully and militarily organized days in
advance. Some of the buildings from which the sharp shooters operated
were public buildings belonging to the Welfare Ministry, in the hands of
the right wing Peronists. The Montoneros were not expecting the attack
- they thought the right wing would be nuts to ruin Peron's arrival with
a shootout - and that explains why they were not well armed.
There is plenty of photographic evidence of the events. There is no way
anyone considering himself on the left of any kind can justify that
massacre. Was not the last. Peron authorized the purging of his
movement unrelentingly. He also attacked the left. The Ezeiza massacre
was the birthplace of the Triple A (the Anti-Communist Argentinean
Alliance) responsible under the Peron-Peron government of the killing of
hundreds of trade-union, student, left activists and intellectuals and
During the Peron-Peron government four governors were overthrown. One
of them, the Governor of the Province of Cordoba, Obregon Cano was
overthrown by a coup d'etat organized by Peron using the Provincial
police force. Congress members were forced to resign and some murdered.
Peron purged the party of left wing Peronists.
The whole approach of the Montoneros-RT after the massacre of Ezeiza and
the campaign against them that followed, was to characterize that Peron
was "surrounded" by "gorillas" and reactionaries and they launched the
line of breaking the circle to "liberate" him from that influence. They
did so by trying to out-mobilize the labor bureaucrats and by chanting
slogans at Peronist mass meetings, demanding from Peron to get rid of
the right wing forces around him. They accompanied this with selective
assassinations of right wing leaders every time some of their members
were killed by them. One of the most prominent killing of this time was
that of the Secretary General of the CGT, Jose Rucci.
In May Day 1974, the Montoneros-RT mobilized approximately 60,000 of a
total of 100,000 who went to hear Peron speak at the government house
(he was already President after getting rid of Campora). When Peron was
speaking was interrupted several times with demands for his government
to get rid of the right wing. Peron interrupted his speech and launched
a furious attack against the Peronist left, calling them "infiltrators",
"agents of foreign capital" and calling his partisans to excise
"exemplary punishment" against the left. A battle ensued between the
right wing and the Montoneros at the rally. But the superior numbers of
the left wing prevented a massacre from happening. The Montoneros/RT
left the Plaza de Mayo, leaving 2/3 of it empty.
After this event, Peron tried to split the Peronist Youth and created
the Peronist Youth (Loyalty) or JP (Lealtad) but the organization never
was very big. The right wing bureaucrats formed its Juventud Sindical
Peronista (Union Peronist Youth) that never amounted to much more that
the labor bureaucrats' goons (about 6,000 active members).
Peron died shortly afterwards. Isabel, his wife and Vice-President,
took office and launched an even more devastating war against the left
wing of the Peronist movement, the left in general and attacked
violently strikes and other demonstrations. So much so, that an
spontaneous general strike took place that forced her sinister Welfare
Minister Lopez Rega and Rodrigo (Minister of Economy) to flee the
country. So powerful was this general strike that even the labor
bureaucrats were forced to support it 6 hours after hundreds of
thousands of demonstrators occupied the streets of Buenos Aires and over
1-Million workers paralyzed the country. The CGT declared the strike in
a meeting in its central offices in Azopardo street, surrounded by
20,000 angry workers who would not let the bureaucrats leave until they
supported the actions.
The trigger of the spontaneous reaction was an overnight inflation of
300%, but also the brutal policies of the government. The most popular
chants of the mass movement at the time were directed against Isabel and
Lopez Rega - nicknamed "El Brujo".
The central leadership of Montoneros came from the upper middle class
and even some layers of the bourgeoisie. They were not Marxists and I
believe they were genuinely convinced that Peronism could be returned to
their populist roots. They also believed in multi-class alliances and
despised the rest of the socialist left. When rejected by Peron and
when they were systematically purged and, after the death of Peron, they
launched a general military offensive against the government and
re-initiated a full scale guerrilla warfare. Far from winning more
sympathies, this decision isolated them from much of their previous mass
work. Some of their military attacks were repudiated because they were
indiscriminated. Kidnappings for ransom soon created a wave of
repudiation. They tried to militarize the entire movement they built for
years and this led to the murdering by the state of many valuable union
and youth activists.
Isabel Peron was officially overthrown by the military on 1976. But, in
reality, the military were given free reign a year before that in a
palace coup that retained Isabel as the figure-head. With the excuse of
the guerrilla operations of the Montoneros and the leftist ERP-PRT
(Ejercito Revolucionario del Pueblo), the military launched all out
offensives that included the attack not only guerrilla groups, but trade
unionists, leftist in general, intellectuals ... By the time the
military government replaced Isabel, both Montoneros and the ERP were
almost completely defeated.
The military did not overthrow Isabel because the guerrilla operations,
but because the growing discontent of the working class with Isabel
Peron government and the ascent of the non-guerrilla revolutionary left
wing of it, headed by organizations like the PST which were involved in
the mobilizations and winning rapidly much influence in key working
class layers. For example, the Trotskyists and other left wing
activists and organizations won the union elections of 14 important
metal workers factories in Buenos Aires, including the bastion of
Peronism in the Capital (Centenera factory) and entire regionals of the
union, like Villa Constitucion and San Lorenzo. Oil workers, printers,
newspaper workers, bank employees were throwing out their Peronist
leaderships and electing left wing and militant trade unionists few
months before the coup.
FAR AND FAP
The FAR was also a guerrilla organization of a Marxist origin that
emerged at the same time than Montoneros at the end of the 60s, after a
working class semi-insurrection in the city of Cordoba in 1969, spread
throughout the country and eventually forced the military out of power
and the call of elections. Montoneros and FAR, as well as the FAP were
initially supported by Peron to channel the youth radicalization - and
avoid semi-insurrections to become the main dynamic of the political
process - and to use them as a military pressure against his own
opponents inside the movement (i.e.: Vandor, a metal worker bureaucratic
Peronist leader challenged the authority of Peron and tried to form some
kind of labor-based Peronist party and was assassinated by the
Montoneros.) Peron also used what he called the "special formations" as
a way to excise pressure on the weakened military to reach an agreement
with him for an orderly transition out of power. This was called by the
military the "Great National Agreement."
The FAR was rapidly overshadowed by Montoneros, evolved into Peronism
and finally fused with Montoneros.
The FAP (Peronist Armed Forces) traced its roots in the historical,
working class Peronist resistance to the military government that
replaced Peron in 1955. They had a guerrilla group, but their emphasis
were not the spectacular actions of other groups or kidnappings. They
saw themselves more as a self-defense armed group of the left wing of
the Peronist movement. They successfully built a base in the working
class in the 60s and managed to control briefly the CGT, but soon after
Ongaro, one of its working class leaders assumed the leadership of the
CGT, the right wing bureaucrats split the CGT, and he eventually lost
the control of most of the unions he led and was jailed.
The mass work of the FAP was done through a movement called Peronismo de
Base (Base Peronism.) They continued to have an influence among
transportation workers, printers, and in regional CGT bodies in a number
of provinces throughout the 70s.
Ongaro led his union, the Graphic Federation of Workers, in the first
strike against the government of Juan Peron in 1974. The government
repressed violently the strike of the 26,000 printers and workers that
included the workers in all the major newspapers.
Peron also legally disbanded the union and jailed its leadership.
Ongaro's family was murdered. Peronismo de Base won several national
deputies in the general election of 1973 as part of the Peronist lists,
including its leader and theoretician Ortega Pena.
He was murdered by the Triple-A, I believe in 1975, after he
participated in a public event of the PST to denounce the murdering of
three members of the PST by the Triple-A. Ortega Pena was in
discussions with Moreno and the PST and they both shared the stage to
speak at the same rally.
After the assassination of Ortega Pena, the jailing of Ongaro and the
imprisonment or murder of many of their leaders, many in the Peronismo
de Base continued their evolution towards Marxism and eventually many
joined left organizations, particularly the PST and its continuation the
MAS. The FAP/Peronismo de Base were open to united front actions with
the left and often collaborated with the defense of leftists under
attack. It was the most intellectually savvy and the most working class
layer of the Peronist left. They will publish very funny criticisms of
the Montoneros in their magazine, chiding them for their line of trying
to "break the circle" around Peron. Peronismo de Base was the first
important left Peronist group to call Peron a right winger and a
renegade. Ortega Pena, at the funeral of the PST murdered comrades,
personally denounced Peron for the crimes of the Triple-A.
Here, in a brief account, is what Left Peronism was in the 1970s. While
I had many differences with these militants and currents and I often
clashed with them politically, I also found many of them, particularly
in the ranks of the Peronismo de Base and the rank and file - not the
leadership - of the JTP (part of Montoneros) valuable working class and
young activists with whom I had the privilege to work with in strikes
and mobilizations of the working class.
The leadership of Montoneros became very isolated and crazy under the
reign of the military dictatorship. Many of their middle class cadre
ended up collaborating with the repression fingering their own comrades
and former comrades. They collapsed like a house of cards, victims of
their false ideology and their middle class, desperate tactics. Today,
almost no one is following them and his past main leader, Firmenich
ended up hated by most people because his political and methodological
By the same token, the Peronismo de Base is remembered with respect.
This was the real left wing of the Peronist movement in the 70s. One,
like me, could disagree with them and their politics. But nobody could
deny them the place they occupied in history. They may very well be
characterized as Peronist reformists, but nobody could deny them the
title of the left of Peronism.
Those interested in reading more about the Montoneros and the left
Peronists could do so in English in the excellent book by Richard
Gillespie "Soldiers of Peron - Argentina's Montoneros," Oxford
University Press, New York, 1982 (there is also an edition in Spanish by
Grijalbo, 1987.) Gillespie was able to write a comprehensive history of
the Montoneros better than many Argentineans could. He has no personal
investment on them. For him, it was just his doctoral theses. He also
had an advantage point, he was an outsider that lived in Buenos Aires in
the critical years of 1975-76 and could see developments without the
passion and feelings of those involved in the tragic events of that
contribute to this article
add comment to discussion