100 years since the birth of Nahuel Moreno

By Federico Novo Fotti

Hugo Miguel Bressano Capacete, better known as Nahuel Moreno, was born on 24 April 1924 in Alberdi, a town in the province of Buenos Aires. In 1942, a maritime worker surnamed Faraldo won him over to Trotskyism.

Trotskyism was born in the 1920s. Leon Trotsky, the greatest leader of the Russian Revolution alongside Vladimir Lenin, fought against the policy of class conciliation. He also fought for workers’ governments and world socialism. The social democratic leadership (the socialist parties) had abandoned that fight. “Socialism in one country” policy was established after Lenin’s death in 1924, with the dominance of the Soviet state, communist parties, and the Third International. Trotsky wrote the “Transitional Programme” and founded the Fourth International before his assassination in 1940.

Working-class Trotskyism in Argentina

In Argentina, in the early 1940s, Trotskyism was limited to a few scattered groups, which mostly did little militancy and held long discussion meetings in the bars of Buenos Aires, like the Café Tortoni. The young Moreno joined the group led by Liborio Justo, whose pseudonym was Quebracho. But Moreno soon left the group.

In 1944, Moreno and a group of young people founded the Marxist Workers’ Group (GOM). Its precursor document, “The Party”, based on Lenin’s teachings, raised the importance of building a revolutionary party, beginning by linking up with “the workers’ movement, approaching and penetrating the organisations where it is found, to intervene in all the class conflicts”. The GOM had its baptism of fire in January 1945 when the strike at the Anglo-Ciabasa meat packing plant in Avellaneda, Buenos Aires province, broke out. The Trotskyist leader of the lumber union, Mateo Fossa, advised them to put themselves at the service of the strike, without pretending to “lower the line”. These young people earned respect for their strike commitment, settled in Villa Pobladora, published “Frente Proletario,” and began leading trade unions in the area. The group was forged in polemic with Peronism, which proposed class conciliation and support for the bourgeois government as the basic solution for the workers and the people.

From Pobladora’s experience, Moreno drew the fundamental conclusion of the need to build revolutionary parties linked to the working class and its struggles. Moreno disagreed with European Trotskyism after participating in the second Congress of the Fourth International in Paris in 1948. He wanted the Fourth and its national sections to move beyond being propaganda groups and establish stronger connections with the working class and its struggles.

Moreno adopted an international perspective to analyse Peronism as a partial response to US colonisation. In 1955, the Moreno-led POR opposed the “Gorilla Coup”. Moreno launched the Movement of Workers’ Groupings to coordinate strikes and factory occupations against the dictatorship. It did so in the face of the defection of Juan Domingo Perón himself and the trade union bureaucracy, and the scandalous support of the PS and the CP for the dictatorship. Palabra Obrera joined the inter-union, later renamed “62 Organizaciones Peronistas (62 Peronists Organisations)”, polemicizing and disputing with the Peronist trade union bureaucracy. In 1959, when the resistance was definitively defeated, a group of leaders capitulated to the bureaucracy and broke with Palabra Obrera. Moreno polemicized with them and his idea that the bureaucracy was confused fighters, on the contrary, showed that the bureaucracies are agents of the bosses to betray the workers’ struggles.

Morenoism’s struggles persist against those who capitulate to the majority or take shortcuts. From the mid-1960s, even under the difficult conditions imposed by Juan Carlos Ongania’s dictatorship, Moreno encouraged “combing” (touring) the factories and workers’ neighbourhoods in search of activists to rebuild the party. In 1968, the events known as “French May” took place in France, which showed the rise of the student movement together with the workers’ strikes. Moreno then directed a sector of the party to intervene in the universities. The “Cordobazo” and the workers’ and students’ insurrections in different cities of the country in 1969 mortally wounded the dictatorship and ratified Moreno’s wisdom. In 1972, the Socialist Workers Party (PST) was founded, which intervened in the struggles and elections in open polemic with the guerrillas and those who claimed that the return of Peron would solve the social and economic problems of the country. The PST was right. The crisis continued, the workers’ struggles continued and in June 1975, the first general strike against a Peronist government took place. In the meantime, fascist gangs acted protected by the government, killing sixteen PST militants. After the coup d’état, the PST continued to function under terrible clandestine conditions, guided by Moreno from his exile in Colombia. After the dictatorship fell, and Moreno back, the PST’s heroic survival led to MAS becoming Argentina’s largest left-wing force and the world’s largest Trotskyist party.

The current situation of Morenoism

Nahuel Moreno died on 25 January 1987, leaving behind an extensive theoretical and political elaboration, embodied in several books and pamphlets that are still surprisingly relevant today. However, one of his most important legacies is his perseverance in building revolutionary and internationalist parties linked to the workers’ movement in the fight for workers’ governments and socialism. From Socialist Left and the International Workers’ Unity-Fourth International (IWU-FI), we assume the commitment to give continuity to that task. The workers, youth, women, and the popular sectors do not cease to struggle in the face of growing poverty, environmental destruction, and all the hardships caused by decadent capitalism. If more progress is not being made, and sometimes even setbacks, it is because of the lack of such revolutionary leadership. This is the challenge that we, the Morenoists, continue to commit ourselves to carry out together with those who struggle.