The “semana tràgica” of Buenos Aires, 7-14 January 1919

From 7 to 14 January 1919, in Buenos Aires, Argentina, a devastating revolt took place, knownas Semana Tràgica, severely repressed, during which there was also a pogrom against Russian Jewish immigrants, accused of being Bolshevik agents.

It all began with a strike at the Vesena metallurgical factory in Buenos Aires, a British-owned plant, where they were very particularly active, within the Federacion Obrera Regional Argentina (FORA), which had been established on the impulse of the Italian anarchist Pietro Gori, some anrchist cells, who mobiled the workers with a series of requests to improve their economic and working conditions.

The agitation, immediately accompanied by armed actions against the police, coincided with the general strike proclaimed by the sailors of the port of Buenos Aires, also advancing requests for wage and managerial improvements. The paralysis of the maritime activities, combined with unrest among the railway workers, blocked in a few hours food supplies to the capital, while news were spreading, maybe artedly, on the Constitution of an Argentine Soviet, on the model of the Bolshevik ones.

Argentinian president Yrigoyen, to face the protracting armed clashes and unrest, gave orders to intervene militarily with units of cavalry, marines and even mountain artillery. The order was quickly re-established, at a high price of human lives, with estimates appraise from 100 to 400 fallen, 2,000 to 5,000 injured, and about 50,000 people arrested.

The episode, apparently so far from the theatre of the Great War, confirms the global social impact of the conflict and shows how 1919 opened up to the banner of dangers and revolutionary possibilities, of which the October Revolution (1917) had given example, ingenerating the sense of the impending red danger.

A threat to the middle classes that did not occur only in the countries directly involved in the war: if in fact, for example, Bulgaria, allied of Central Empires, had to abandon the fight in September 1918, precisely because of the social unrest that had broken his war capabilities, what would have happened in Germany and Austria as well, it is often forgotten that Switzerland itself, albeit neutral, a few weeks before the Argentinean events, in December 1918, had been the scene of very serious agitations that mobilized against the government more than 250,000 people, making even fear the outbreak of a civil war.

Almost in the same hours of the events of Buenos Aires, after all, between 5 and 15 January 1919, the Spartacist uprising of Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht breaks out in Berlin: it will be severely repressed, with the help of the Freikorps who had fought against the Bolsheviks in the East: the two exponents of the extreme German left will be slaughtered along with numerous insurgents.

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