2020 marks the 130th anniversary of the first celebration of the International Workers’ Day, on May 1, 1890. On that day, following the call of the international congress that had assembled in Paris the year before, some hundreds of workers met in downtown Buenos Aires to demand the 8-hour workday, ... (Show more)
2020 marks the 130th anniversary of the first celebration of the International Workers’ Day, on May 1, 1890. On that day, following the call of the international congress that had assembled in Paris the year before, some hundreds of workers met in downtown Buenos Aires to demand the 8-hour workday, to show their solidarity with their fellow workers of the whole world, and also to express the demands of the local working class. Although there are many important reasons to stress the importance of developments that had taken place in previous years and even decades, the date is still considered by many, and not without reason, as the starting point of the Argentine labor movement.
Indeed, Argentina has a very long history of labor activism and trade union activity. Since the last decades of the 19th century labor struggles held a prominent place in the local scene and, therefore, the labor movement played a key role in the country's political, social and economic history. Of course it underwent many different stages and phases, from the anarchist-oriented FORA of the early 1900s to the heavily bureaucratic unions of today—over all these years, many different political currents fought for the leadership of the movement, many organizational structures emerged and disappeared, many bloody dictatorships attempted, without success, to crush working class organizations.
This history has been addressed by a rich historiography, drawing upon different perspectives and approaches. The last 20 twenty years, in particular, experienced an important development in the field of labor historiography, that enriched our knowledge of the history of the country's working class. The goal of this paper is to survey recent historiographical contributions in order to provide a panoramic view of Argentina's trade union activities over more than a hundred years. It is intended as a synthesis for labor historians not so acquainted with the history of Argentine labor movement, and seeks to promote a dialogue with other colleagues from the Global South. (Show less)