[first posted in 2007]
One could be excused for thinking that Latin American revolutionaries were all authoritarians in the 1960s and 1970s. Leading figures like Fidel Castro, Che Guevara, and Savlador Allende were deeply committed to a state-centered, top down approach to social change and groups like Uruguay’s Tupamaros or Brazil’s MR-8, which might have seemed more libertarian, were devoted Marxist-Leninists. It would appear that anarchists had no presence during the period.
The truth is that they were quite active and made important contributions to the battles being waged against the military dictatorships in Brazil, Chile, Argentina, and Uruguay. While their efforts are largely not reflected in the historical record, this omission says more about biases among historians, and the fear of disclosure that many survivors have inherited from the era, than anarchists’ real significance to the march of events during those terrifying decades.
This is why the recent publication of Verónica Diz and Fernando López Trujillo’s Resistencia Libertaria is such a good thing. Their (Spanish-language) book is the first comprehensive study of Resistencia Libertaria (RL) in any language and will hopefully help bring anarchists into the picture. RL was a clandestine Argentine anarchist organization founded shortly before the Argentine military seized power in 1976. It was active in the student, labor, and neighborhood movements of the time and also had a military wing with which it defended and financed its activities. The group had between 100 and 130 members at its peak as well as a much larger circle of supporters. The state crushed the organization in 1978 and 80 percent of its militants suffered the dictatorship’s concentration camps and torture chambers.
López and Diz qualify their work as a “first approximation” of RL’s history. Their book covers the origins of the group, some of its activities prior to the dictatorship, and the generalized crisis that erupted after the 1976 military coup. It also has five appendices which contain relevant historical documents as well as related articles.
The authors: Fernando López, a historian, is one of the few surviving RL members and author of Vidas en rojo y negro: Una historia del anarquismo en la década infame (Letra Libre, 2005). Verónica Diz is a journalist and professor of history whose work has focused on the relationship between anarchism and feminism.
English readers interested in learning more about Resistencia Libertaria should check out an interview that I conducted with López in 2002: “Resistencia Libertaria: Anarchist Opposition to the Last Argentine Dictatorship.” Spanish readers might wish to download the prologue and first chapter of López and Diz’s book from the publisher’s website. Those interested in contemporary Argentine anarchism may be interested in López’s “Some Notes on the Argentine Anarchist Movement in the Emergency“; for the movement’s early years, see the growing archive of Latin American anarchist material on this site.
Below is a short video documenting the creation of a mural in honor of disappeared members of Resistencia Libertaria. The mural was a project of Argentina’s Organización Socialista Libertaria and the muralists were known as the “Unidad Muralista Hermanos Tello,” a name evoking the memory of the three Tello brothers, who were leading members of RL and are all disappeared.