Special for The Citizen
The harvest months were always particularly conflictive in the workers’ fields during the consolidation period of the Argentine agro-export model at the end of the 19th century and the first part of the following century. Such was the case that, at the end of 1906, the dockworkers went on strike due to non-compliance with the summer schedule that was to be in force from October 1, a strike that ended in shootings and deaths. Almost simultaneously the railway workers throughout the province began strikes against the French company that had a monopoly on this key sector for the country.
In a country with an agro-export matrix such as Argentina, three productive sectors are fundamentally central: maritime, rail and transport. This is because they constitute the nexus between agricultural-livestock production and ports, that is, between production and its export. The paralysis of any of these three productive legs constitutes a serious economic damage, especially if they stop, precisely, all three simultaneously. In January 1907, in the heat of the aforementioned railway and maritime struggles, a cartwheel strike was added, which immediately led to the joining of the coachmen and within a few days of the tramways, formalizing the complete stop of transport.
However, unlike the struggles of their peers on the rail and in the port, that of the road union (the name by which all these transport sectors were known) began with an issue quite different from the one that used to mediate between workers and employers. . On this occasion, the strike was declared due to the municipal refusal to step back with the modifications implemented to the Public Traffic Regulations in the middle of the previous year, which entered into force as of October 1906.
The points claimed were several, however, one was particularly resisted, No. 41, which established that every driver should carry a good conduct book in which notes on fouls and violations would be made, while not having a bad record police. That notebook would, in turn, contain a fingerprint and a photograph.
Today it not only seems obvious to us, but even a right to have a DNI or a driving license that carries all that information. However, at that time it was perceived as an abuse of individual liberties, but above all as a form of criminalization through which they would be prosecuted, as was done by the police.
There were reasons for those who understood it: after all, that measure not only responded to the municipal interests of modernizing and domesticating the world of transport, which began to have electric trams precisely at that juncture, but also those of the Political Chief of the city , Néstor Fernández, who was a promoter of the modernization and expansion of the police in the city.
Fernández’s management was brief, but intense, highlighting among the measures adopted the creation of the Rosario Police Investigations Division, an entity that came to supplant the old Investigation Police Station, but fundamentally the adoption of police records and the progressive replacement of Bertillon’s anthropometric system by the modern fingerprint created by Juan Vucetich.
The fact of having offenses or negative police records was a danger for the preservation of the job or to get it, against which the workers rebelled. But this was also demanded by employers’ sectors of the world of transport, when warning Mayor Nicasio Vila in a letter that that labor sector was highly volatile, since there were no professional drivers, but mere occasional unemployed people who passed through that labor market in default of of something better, leaving it to go to the harvest where wages were higher, albeit seasonal. In this way, those changes in the regulations were a problem for several sectors.
On January 15, the strike began, which had the support of the Rosarina Local Workers Federation (FOLR), a hegemonically anarchist entity, but with the presence of unions that were not exclusively democratic. Under his leadership that strike by a transport branch quickly turned into a city-wide general strike. The situation was very delicate, there was a risk of losing exportable production, something that the Rosario Stock Exchange made clear when sending emissaries urgently to meet with Governor Pedro Echagüe to ask him to unravel the situation.
On the other hand, from the main national workers’ centrals, based in the Federal Capital, they declared their solidarity with the Rosario workers. Thus, the Argentine Regional Workers Federation (FORA) and the General Workers’ Union (UGT) entered into dialogue to take joint action when the FOLR gave the order. This data is not cosmetic if we take into account that both plants had never operated jointly since their ideological break at the beginning of the century, which allows us to assess how much was at stake in strategic terms in that Rosario strike.
For its part, an overwhelmed national government in the hands of Figueroa Alcorta viewed with concern the opposition manipulation of the events, while some media blanked out the ghost of another military uprising of the radicals, as Deolindo Muñoz, director and owner, let us see between the lines. from the local newspaper El Municipio.
On January 24, both workers’ centrals called for a general strike throughout the national territory for the 25th. That strike obtained an outstanding level of compliance, paralyzing activity in the main cities of the country. Far from seeking a practical solution, the national government militarized the city with regiments and battleships on the coasts, increasing the tension.
Simultaneously, the National Congress was debating the law to create the National Labor Department (DNT), alerting the Minister of the Interior on the 23rd in the upper house that its approval was urgent, given the events in Rosario.
In turn, the labor federations of Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay offered their support to declare national strikes in solidarity with the Argentine workers if necessary. The situation had escalated to such a level that the Governor finally requested the resignation of the Political Chief, but not that of the Mayor.
Finally, on January 26, a group of road workers met with the Mayor and the replacement Political Chief (the one from Santa Fe, sent to Rosario). The release of the prisoners during the strike was agreed, as well as a commitment from the Mayor that all the changes requested by the workers would be dealt with when the Deliberative Council reconvened next March. In addition to the suspicions of lifting the strike with promises, the agreement was followed and the strike came to an end, with Nicasio Vila complying with the agreement in March.
Although significant changes were made to the Public Traffic regulations, not everything was a victory. Deposed the Political Chief and promoter of the prontuarial measures, his ideas continued and the police record was permanently and systematically installed in the Investigative Police, which began a process of expansion and systematization of its use during that year. That workers’ victory in one of the biggest strikes of the decade was, however, a point of arrival rather than a starting point for a large part of Rosario’s militancy.
That year 1907, which had begun in a promising way for the workers’ struggle with this strike, would be the last of a cycle of struggles hitherto known. Police repression was on the rise, disrupting a good part of future strike attempts, arresting, arresting and deporting many workers.
Thus, the strike that announced a future of success ended up showing itself as a sword of Damocles for the most combative sectors, such as anarchism, who progressively saw their possibilities of struggle diminished before an increasingly sophisticated police and in the heat of ideological fractures at the same time. inside anarchism itself.
In this way, at the behest of the strongly repressed popular rebellions of the Centennial in Buenos Aires in 1910, the workers from Rosario could not join as expected from the so fierce Rosario, since it had been at least three years since the local repression had forced them to try other less impressive forms of fighting.