I had an Argentine girlfriend once. She knew I was a leftwinger. She used to tease me about it a lot. It’s sort of “normal.” Normal in the sense that when you meet a White American, they tell you they are a conservative Republican. It’s a normal, everyday thing, you hear it all the time. On the other hand, in the US, when you tell people you are a Leftist, that is a pretty freaky thing to say. A lot of people’s eyes bug out of their heads.
In Latin America, it’s not necessarily bad to be a leftwinger. There have always been plenty of leftwingers. Sure, it’s often been a pretty dangerous ideology to hold, but it’s not uncommon at all for intellectuals, people with advanced degrees, writers, artists, etc. It often shocks people a bit because they think it is way too ballsy, and you are a bit of a dangerous character in that you might have alliances with some armed group, but it’s not considered unusual or strange. It’s sort of an everyday thing.
Argentina went through a terrible time from 1978-1983 when the state formed a dictatorship and killed 30,000 Argentines in a counterinsurgency campaign. Sure the Left was armed, and they had been carrying out armed actions for some time, but they were not as Commie as you might think.
Quite a few were Peronists fighting for a socialism, nationalism and Catholicism, which sounds pretty cool by me. Sort of like Argentine Chavistas.
What happened was that the state attacked the guerrillas and their support network. The support network were mostly idealistic young people who were apparently unarmed. Students, teachers, labor organizers, community workers, Catholic lay workers, radical priests, you get the picture.
Security would raid their hangouts, arrest them, and then take them off and murder them. These people were probably not innocent of any crimes, but most were unarmed.
It’s hard to argue that law enforcement should arrest people then take them out and shoot them. Nor should the army detain enemy suspects and then shoot them in the head. It’s illegal to kill POW’s. It’s pretty hard to justify that, but that’s Standard US Counterinsurgency Theory as taught at the School of the Americas in Fort Benning, Georgia. In Argentina, they call it The Dirty War.
Oh, and of course you can already guess how the US was involved. The US supported the Argentine junta to the hilt the whole time. You can thank Henry Kissinger for that. He was the main one responsible.
My girlfriend wasn’t a Leftist, but she was sympathetic to the Argentine guerrilla, and in particular she thought the government’s slaughter was outrageous and horrible. She came from a moneyed family that worked in real estate, and she formerly lived in an upscale part of Bogota called Belgrado before coming to the US. She started talking about The Dirty War, and then she became philosophical.
“The Latin American Left dreamed of a better world,” she said in Spanish. “And in Latin America, that is a dangerous thing.”
And with that we leave you with an elegy for the Latin American Left.