By Pablo Esteban Davila
Mauricio Macri is determined to talk about ideas. Despite his Zen rule, now, in his opposition role, he has discovered that, after all, it’s not so bad to have your own speech, away for a moment from marketing advice. Probably the current remoteness of the former golden kid, Marcos Peña, has influenced this mood.
Not long ago he had rescued the figure of Carlos Menem, “our Nixon” as Martín Rodríguez said. According to Macri, the man from La Rioja “had solved the problems of the crack in Argentina” and that, “over time”, he will be increasingly “reclaimed” as the leader of a “modern Peronism”. Although many Argentines would subscribe to those statements, it was Gerardo Morales, the president of radicalism, who was responsible for crossing it harshly: “We reject the neoliberal policies implemented by Menemism in the 90s that today some voices of Argentine politics claim,” he snapped angrily .
Macri must have taken note at that time of what many assumed, that is, that within Together for Change there are quite different ideas about what to do with the country, especially in the economic sphere. But now it seems that the differences also exist on politics itself, which is a tangential way of referring to the symbolic world.
This is what can be deduced after noting the reactions, again from Morales and from radicalism more or less as a whole, after learning the words of the former president in Brazil. Within the framework of the International Freedom Conference in San Pablo, Macri urged to “fight against populism globally” affirming that it “originated in Latin America and perhaps in Argentina is where it started”, putting on an equal footing Hipólito Irigoyen, Juan Domingo Perón and Eva Duarte as followers of this ideology. “If your intention is to break JxC to seek an agreement with sectors of the extreme anti-democratic right, the best thing is to say it concretely,” the governor of Jujuy challenged him. The only thing missing was that he accused him of being a gorilla.
The trident evokes the nationalist historiography of the middle of the last century, which claimed the Rosas-Yrigoyen-Perón line (Néstor Kirchner and family were not yet included in the signing) as the authentic expression of national interests against oligarchic liberalism. For the followers of such a school it was trivial to wonder about the degree of popularity of those referents, given the natural identification between the Nation and the people they postulated.
But just because someone, especially a president, is popular doesn’t necessarily mean that he or she is a populist. To formulate a synonym between both terms is to pretend to forcefully fit pieces into a complex puzzle. In this sense, to postulate Irigoyen as a populist is to ignore history.
It is known that Macri does not have a special training in the matter and that he is not interested in having it. To be indulgent, tell yourself that she is not alone in this deficit. Unlike what happened in the years after the democratic recovery, the new leadership, whether it is on the right or the left of the spectrum, does not care too much to cultivate the gifts of oratory or those of historical knowledge, ancient stones bases of political praxis. Instead, a Twitter-style knowledge is watered down, where the most sophisticated elaborations must be able to be expressed in 140 characters. This may be fun (for journalism it’s Parnassus) but it’s by no means a ticket to some kind of platonic academy.
Yrigoyen was a peculiar character. Nephew of Leandro N. Alem, his influences came from the old River Plate aristocracy, fallen into disgrace after the new rich that emerged after the Generation of ’80. His uncle’s family had been strongly Rosasista and, in fact, Alem’s father had been shot after the defeat of the Restorer of Laws. His main thinker was Karl Christian Friedrich Krause, a German philosopher whose thought did not transcend much beyond his time.
The radical was nicknamed “el peludo” (strange, gorillas are also) and, contrary to the physiognomy suggested by Macri, he did not like contact with the people who, however, genuinely adored him. It was precisely that devotion to such an enigmatic character that earned him the mistrust of the traditional elites, who constantly disqualified him. Even a sector of radicalism, called “anti-personalist” ostensibly distanced itself from the caudillo, a schism that later had unexpected consequences.
In addition, it is also fair to say that the Yrigoyen government (we are talking about the first, given that the second was illegally cut off by General Uriburu’s coup) reacted in a traditional way against social and union movements that threatened the established political order. . In January 1919, the police repressed a strike that originated in the Vasena metallurgical workshops with a balance of 700 dead, events that later became known as the “tragic week”, while, between the end of 1921 and the beginning of 1922, the Lieutenant Colonel Héctor Varela executed nearly three thousand participants in a widespread revolt of rural peons popularized as the Patagonia Rebelde. Varela always defended himself with the fact that he had complied with presidential orders, and nobody contradicted him.
Nor was Yrigoyen squeamish about disciplining opponents. Despite calling himself a defender of the National Constitution, he intervened in the provinces that were unaffected by him only because they were governed by conservatives and under the pretext of having been victims of fraudulent electoral practices denounced, of course, by his own co-religionists.
Therefore, to brand Yrigoyen as a populist is to be untrue, just as it is to equate liberalism with anti-countryism or similar nonsense. Macri, in this field, proves to be average. However, if what he wanted to emphasize is that the hairy man, like Perón or Evita, was an anti-liberal, that is something else, because he really was. Not all radicalism agreed with this – Marcelo T. de Alvear blatantly demonstrated it throughout his life – but Yrigoyen had a much more powerful, almost religious, predicament within the party, which shaped it strongly even after the death of the.
Such a thing refers to something much deeper: if Macri puts those in the same bag with the excuse of his populism, he should actually say, and it would be much more accurate, that he does so because of the anti-liberal lineage of those invoked and not for anything else. . In other words, he should be more explicit with what he himself thinks and imagines, without resorting to negative definitions. This would make him intellectually more honest.
By way of collateral damage, it would also make him more dangerous to his partners. Contemporary radicalism owes a much deeper debate than its collective tantrums against Cristina or Alberto Fernández. Does the party think like Facundo Manes or Alfredo Cornejo, more centrist and modern, or like Gerardo Morales, who does not dislike the manners of Peronism and ardently disqualifies neoliberalism?
It is not merely an academic question. If Together, Together for Change or Let’s Change, whatever the name of the coalition, intends to return to power, it must show that it has the dough to do the things that need to be done. And these, unfortunately for the timorous, have the face of heresy, of the 1990s incorrectness so often reviled except for Javier Milei, the little figure on the rise to the bewilderment of many.