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Logo cgtra.png
General Confederation of Labour of the Argentine Republic
Confederación General del Trabajo de la República Argentina
Founded September 27, 1930
Country Argentina
Affiliation ITUC
Key people Hugo Moyano, secretary general
Office location Buenos Aires, Argentina

The General Confederation of Labour of the Argentine Republic (Confederación General del Trabajo de la República Argentina, CGT) is a national trade union centre of Argentina founded on September 27, 1930 as the result of the merge of the USA (Unión Sindical Argentina) and the COA (Confederación Obrera Argentina) trade union centres. It is one of the largest Trade Unions in all the world.


The CGT during the Infamous Decade

The CGT was founded on 27 September 1930, the result of an agreement between Socialists and Revolutionary Syndicalists, to which the Communists later joined themselves, leading to the merge between the Unión Sindical Argentina (USA), which had succeeded to the FORA IX (Argentine Regional Workers' Federation of the IXth Congress), and the Confederación Obrera Argentina (COA).

Retail Workers' Union leader Ángel Borlenghi, 1945; by then, he was Juan Perón's closest ally in the labour movement.

During the Infamous Decade of the 1930s and subsequent industrial development, the CGT began to form itself as a strong union, competing with the historical anarchist FORA V (Argentine Regional Workers' Federation of the Vth Congress). The CGT was then mainly present in the railroad industry (in particular in the Unión Ferroviaria and the Fraternidad). It was headed by José Domenech (Unión Ferroviaria), Ángel Borlenghi (Confederación General de Empleados de Comercio) and Francisco Pérez Leirós (Unión de Obreros Municipales). CGT became the Argentine affiliate of the International Federation of Trade Unions (an organization that both USA and COA had been members of for shorter periods).[1]

The CGT split in 1935 over a conflict between Socialists and Revolutionary Syndicalists, leading to the creation of the CGT-Independencia (Socialists & Communists) and the CGT-Catamarca (Revolutionary Syndicalists). The latter re-founded, in 1937, the Unión Sindical Argentina. However, in 1942 the CGT again splitted, into the CGT n°1, headed by the Socialist railroader José Domenech and opposed to Communism, and the CGT n°2, also headed by a Socialist, Francisco Pérez Leirós, which gathered Communist unions (construction, meat, graphism) and some important Socialist unions (such as the Confederación General de Empleados de Comercio (Borlenghi) and the Unión de Obreros Municipales (Pérez Leirós)).

The CGT following the "Revolution of '43"

After the coup d'etat of 1943, its leaders embraced the pro-working class policies of the Labour Minister, Col. Juan Domingo Perón. Again the CGT was unified, due to the incorporation of many unionists who were members of the CGT n°2, dissolved in 1943 by the military government.

When Perón was separated from the government and confined in the Martín García island, the CGT called for a major popular demonstration in Plaza de Mayo, on 17 October 1945, succeeding in releasing Perón from prison and in the call for elections. Founding on the same day the Labour Party (Partido Laborista), the CGT was one of the main support of Perón during the February 1946 elections. In 1947, the Labour Party merged into the Peronist Party. Afterwards, the CGT became one of the strongest arms of the Peronist Movement, and the only trade union centre recognised by Perón's government. Two CGT delegates, the Socialist Ángel Borlenghi and Juan Atilio Bramuglia were respectively nominated Minister of Interior and Minister of Foreign Affairs.

From the 1950s to the 1980s democratic transition

After the Revolución Libertadora, a military coup which ousted Perón, who went into exile, and outlawed Peronism, the CGT was banned from politics. In response, the CGT began a destabilisation campaign to end Perón's proscription and get him back to the country. During the 1960s, the leaders of the CGT attempted to create a "Peronism without Perón" (Augusto Vandor), that is, a form of Peronism that retained the ideals set forth by Juan Perón but not founded on the personality cult that had existed around him in the 1940s and 1950s. They celebrated president Arturo Umberto Illia's overthrow in 1966, but failed to reach an agreement with dictator Juan Carlos Onganía.


The 1968 split between the CGT-Azopardo and the CGT de los Argentinos

Cordoba Light and Power Union leader Agustín Tosco
CGT leader José Ignacio Rucci
CGT leader Saúl Ubaldini

In 1968, the CGT divided itself into the CGT-Azopardo, which gathered proponents of collaboration with the military junta (also named "participationists", they included the general secretary of the CGT Augusto Vandor, as well as José Alonso and the future general secretary of the CGT-Azopardo José Ignacio Rucci), and the CGTA (CGT de los Argentinos), a more radical union headed by the graphist Raimundo Ongaro. The CGTA, which also included the Cordobese leader Agustín Tosco, notably participated to the Cordobazo uprising in 1969, during which it called for a general strike. The military junta then jailed most of its members, who were also close to the Grupo Cine Liberación film movement and the Movimiento de Sacerdotes para el Tercer Mundo, a group of priests close to the Liberation Theology.

Following the failure of a 120 days strike at the Fabril Financiera, and the reconciliation between Augusto Vandor, leader of the "participationists", with Juan Perón, the CGTA witnessed many of its unions joining the 62 Organisations, the Peronist political front of the CGT. Perón himself, and his delegate Jorge Paladino, followed a cautious line of opposition to the military junta, criticizing with moderation the neoliberal policies of the junta but waiting for discontent inside the government.

Despite this, in 1969, the CGTA still boasted 286,184 members [2], while the Nueva Corriente de Opinión (or Participationism), headed by José Alonso and Rogelio Coria boasted 596,863 members and the CGT Azopardo, headed by Vandor, boasted 770,085 members and the majority in the Confederal Congress [2].

Assassination of the general secretary José Ignacio Rucci

The next years were blemished by often bloody internal disputes and the fight against the leftist Montoneros. In 1973, a commando killed José Ignacio Rucci, Secretary-General of the CGT and Perón's friend. Montoneros, who neither claimed responsibility nor denied it, were accused of Rucci's death.

Dirty War

In 1975 the CGT affiliated itself with the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU) opposed to Communism. Following the 1976 coup d'état, 10,000 factory delegates, on a total of 100,000, were arrested [3]. During the Dirty War of the second half of the 1970s, many of the CGT's leaders and activists disappeared. At first temporarily suspended, the CGT was then dissolved by the junta. Despite having been outlawed, the trade unions reorganized themselves into two factions, one supporting frontal opposition to the dictatorship, and called first "the 25" then the CGT-Brasil, led by Saúl Ubaldini, and the other supporting negotiation with the military, named at first CNT and then CGT-Azopardo (led by Jorge Triaca). Both the CGT-Brasil and the CGT-Azopardo were named after the streets on which the headquarters were located. The CGT-Azopardo negotiated with the military dictatorship the control of the medical-care health-insurance organisations (obras sociales).

On 27 April, 1979, "the 25" proclaimed the first of a serie of general strikes against the dictatorship. In November 1980, despite their being proscribed, they re-formed the CGT, thereafter known as CGT-Brasil. On 7 November, 1980, the latter called forth the first open demonstration against the junta. On 30 March, 1982, tens of thousands responded to its call to demonstrate in favour of democracy on Plaza de Mayo, in Buenos Aires, and in other cities through-out the country. Thousands were subsequently detained, and two days later, greatly weakened, the military junta began the Falkland War, in an attempt to bolster nationalism feelings and unite the country behind its rule.

The CGT since the return to democracy

Rank-and-file from the CGT's largest section, the Steel and Metal Workers' Union, demonstrates in Buenos Aires, 2006.

After the Falklands War, Raúl Alfonsín denounced the association between Labour and the junta, criticizing a "military-labour pact". After his election as president of Argentina in 1983, he failed on passing through the Senate a new law regulating trade unions and guaranteeing freedom of association. In his negotiations with the CGT, Alfonsín conceded the position of Minister of Labour to CGT man Hugo Barrionuevo.

Under Saúl Ubaldini's guidance, the CGT launched 13 general strikes during Alfonsín's government. In 1989, with an hyperinflation corroding the economy, the CGT introduced a 26-point programme to support Carlos Menem's bid to the Presidency, including measures such as declaring a unilateral external debt default. After winning the elections, Menem didn't quite follow all the progressive points on the campaign platform, leaving the Ministry of Economy to the Bunge y Born company. This turn led to a rupture within the CGT in late 1989, though following a 1991 conference in which concern over new Economy Minister Domingo Cavallo's free-market policies ruled the agenda, the CGT was reunited under an agreement to keep the union in a stance of conditional support for the measures, which had already been reigniting economic growth. The intransigent Ubaldini was replaced by Light and Power Workers' leader Oscar Lescano.

CGT leader Hugo Moyano

The move caused some dissent, however, and led to the establishment of the Central de Trabajadores Argentinos (CTA), led by Víctor de Gennaro, and to the development of a dissident faction led by Truckers' Union leader Hugo Moyano, the MTA. Menem's ample victories in the 1991 mid-term elections gave momentum to his agenda of labour reforms, many of which included restricting overtime pay and easing indemnifications for layoffs, for instance. Under pressure from the rank-and-file, Lescano called for a general strike late in 1992 (the first during the Menem tenure). Increasingly marginalized within the Justicialist Party, however, he resigned the following May in favour of Steelworkers' leader Naldo Brunelli. The CGT endorsed Menem's 1995 re-election campaign; but in mid-1996, following a sharp recession, the CGT, CTA and MTA reacted jointly with two general strikes against the neoliberal policies of the government, whose emphasis on free trade and sharp productivity gains they believed had led to the highest unemployment rates since the great depression. Aside from these shows of force, the CGT, led by Construction Workers' leader Gerardo Martínez, remained conciliatory with the anti-labour Menem for the sake of the Justicialist Party, whose defeats in the 1997 mid-term elections bode poorly for their chances in 1999 (elections they went on to lose).

Moyano's rapproachment with the CGT was again strained in the year 2000, when President Fernando de la Rúa's plans to make Argentina's labour laws more flexible distanced him from the CGT leadership led by Rodolfo Dáer, whose conciliatory stance led to a "Rebel" CGT led by Julio Piumato. The collapse of de la Rúa's government in late 2001 made way for the parliamentary selection of former Buenos Aires Province Governor Eduardo Duhalde, whose alliance to MTA leader Hugo Moyano helped lead to the gathering of much of what remained of the CGT under his leadership. The reunited CGT elected Moyano Secretary General in 2004. Benefiting from a close alliance with the administrations of Néstor and Cristina Kirchner, Moyano has leveraged his capacity as head of the Council on Salaries (an officially-sanctioned advisory board) to secure a stronger collective bargaining position and frequent increases in the minimum wage.

In recent years, and in spite its strength as the only labour representative in many forums, the CGT has faced growing opposition from other trade unions, such as the CTA, or the left-leaning grassroots organisations of unemployed people known as Piqueteros (Picketing Men), groups first in evidence during the Menem years which have since become tenuously allied with the Kirchner administrations.


  1. ^ Goethem, Geert van. The Amsterdam International: The World of the International Federation of Trade Unions (IFTU), 1913–1945. Aldershot: Ashgate, 2006. p. 296.
  2. ^ a b Oscar R. Anzorena, Tiempo de violencia y utopía (1966-1976), Editorial Contrapunto, 1987, p.51 (Spanish)
  3. ^ Hugo Moreno, Le désastre argentin. Péronisme, politique et violence sociale (1930-2001), editions Syllepse, 2005, p.144 (French)

See also

External links


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