Counter-revolution without revolutionaries: Conspiracy in the Argentine Barracks, 1919-1930
After the outbreak of the Russian Revolution, the Argentine armed forces and police, establishment papers, and centrist and rightist politicians began to denounce the threat of revolutionary violence from the country’s ideologically diverse left. Most of the scholarly attention has focused on how these groups viewed the revolutionary potential of Argentina’s labor unions; strikes increasingly came to be seen as threats to national security. But at the time, there was also widespread concern that, as in the Russian Revolution, soldiers, sailors, and police officers were secretly organizing ‘soviets.’ Conspiracy theories about the insurrectionary potential of men ‘under the flag’ were commonplace, and served an important function in justifying more draconian military discipline, the organizing of secret officer clubs and paramilitary civilian organizations. While many believed that these conspiracies were real, and many contemporary historians have likewise taken the reports of their existence at face value, I have concluded that in almost all cases, they were fabrications. In some cases, the police or army created stories and false evidence; in other cases, anxiety about these ‘soviets’ led papers to conflate everyday incidences of insubordination into insurrections. These conspiracy theories emerged as consensus about the proper relationship between the armed forces and civilians was fading. That rupture was in part a product of suspicion on the part of the military hierarchy over President Yrigoyen’s policies towards the military and the misguided belief that he was the “Argentine Kerensky.”
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