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The Enrooted Terror in Argentine Academia. Its remote origins and fatal

by Eduardo R. Saguier
CONICET Researcher

What are the wise historical (cultural, political, sociological and
psychological) reasons of the deep fear that has taken roots in the public
opinion of Argentine scholars? What is the reason of self-censorship,
consent or resistance to issue critical opinions on matters related to the
democratization of science, arts and culture? Why have many well-known
scholars refrained from speaking about the authoritarian and seditious
dominance prevailing in Argentine cultural structures? Why
hasn’t the research institutes of National Universities (e.g.: Gino Germani
Institute) addressed this issue, and why in those research projects (e.g.:
Naishtat and Toer, 2005), on the contrary, the questions in the surveys
they conducted dealt just on relatively irrelevant issues (formal

It is difficult to answer these questions and provide an approximate
diagnosis and assess the origin of this traumatic experience given there is
not much evidence and there are few witnesses and little research to resort
to (most case files are not available for research because they are
classified as confidential documents). Even at international level, studies
in this respect –apart from traditional studies such as Gouldner's (1980),
Collins's (1979) and Ringer (1969)—are exclusively focused on the
professional class (Martin, 1991; and Schmidt, 2000). Nevertheless, despite
this scantiness, our obligation is to try to speculate on an answer to
the apathy and indifference of Argentine science and culture, as well as
the negligent omission of their agents, in order to throw some light upon
the crisis we are going through.

Historically, political science has proven that fear in their different
versions is a typical element of fascist and authoritarian regimes, where
the first victims are independent scholars, and that in democratic regimes,
instead, such fear fades away as democratic liberties get consolidated.
However, the current situation in Argentine cultural context enables to see
an adverse reality, for even though democratic institutions have been
restored, the neo-liberal model has been partially defeated, and the Pardon
Laws (Obediencia Debida and Punto Final) were removed, there is a
persistent fear to the political power among scholars, artists, scientists
of both hard and soft sciences, either young or old, at an increasingly
higher level and intensity.

An explanation of these painful situations that still survive would be
that, in the face of the incomplete attempt to restore democracy, the
partial defeat of neo-liberalism and the slow mechanism of the restored
judicial process, by failing to completely eradicate such triple legacy
–-which has been materialized in the permanence of collaborationists of
that time and in antidemocratic practices, laws, regulations, rules and
jurisprudence that are still in force-- participation and mutual trust of
the intellectual community has apparently not been able to be reinforced.

But an explanation, of an even deeper substance, are those that have been
given recently by philosophers Claudia Hilb, Héctor Schmucler, Ricardo
Panzetta, Tomas Abraham and Leon Rozitchner. These explanations were based
on the interview published to the ex guerrilla militant Hector Jouve (where
he describes the executions done by themselves of a couple of guerrilla men
apparently “broken�? and the brief presence in the guerrilla camp of
philosopher Pancho Aricó), and to the heart-breaking confession and the
dense and wise replies done to scholars Jinkis, Ritvo and Grüner by Oscar
del Barco. Hilb centers her explanation in the notions of revolution and
equality. Panzetta refers to Jouve´s report, Schmucler to the executions of
Rottblat and Groswald, Abraham to Barco´s repentance, and Rozitchner to the
delay of more than twenty years in producing the repentance. As it has been
said by Rozitchner, by having failed “…to give names and faces and life to
the phantoms we raised in others, we failed to show those [phantoms] spread
by the past terror into the political present, even though they still
remain dormant inside us�? (Rozitchner, 2006).

That´s precisely why, in order to clarify the past, Del Barco urges in his
letter the laureate poet Juan Gelman to speak out. The same petition could
also be extended by Del Barco to the remaining editorial members of the
journal Pasado y Presente, mainly those corresponding to the new series of
april-june 1973 (Feldman, Nun, Portantiero, Torre, Tula, etc.), as well as
the authors of its main, anonymous and irresponsible article which
idealizes the peronist movement under the title “La ´Larga Marcha´ al
Socialismo en la Argentina�? (1). This need of transparency obeys to
the fact that a decade after the last revolutionary adventure (1973-74),
that ended in a genocide, and after their return from exile, some of those
actors appeared now belonging to another political identity radically
opposed (UCR), and with public responsibilities; as was the case of the
intellectual cell built by business man Meyer Goodbar known as the
Esmeralda Group (2). The suspicion of political adventurism and
opportunism, disguised as a permanent search for a political casting
anchor, combined with clandestine financial links, enrooted in the
Argentine academia, as has been suggested very elliptically by Castañeda
(1993), Burgos (2004) and Kohan (2004), could not then be the surprise for
nobody (3).

Incomplete democracy would be then that which carefully maintains
formalities and protocol, but where transparency and the self-criticism,
debate, merit, competition and exogamy elements of democratic practices are
dangerously absent, due to the lack of political and academic determination
to revise the past, produce the necessary self-criticsm and to freshen up
present cultural institutions, which not by chance are preserved under
tight, fragmented and contaminated conditions. The harmful example this
gives spreads horizontally to the liberal professional levels, and to the
lower levels of educational institutions, to the point that the present
political power boycotts the creation of Communitarian Telecentres (4);
and, on the contrary, pretends to embark our country in the mercantile and
anti-pedagogical Project of Nicholas Negroponte (5). For this reason,
merely amending the Higher Education Law, would not be enough, because what
is demanding is to generate in-depth democratization of every cultural
institution, including those related to mass media.

That is, a community where scholars are not physically pursued because of
their opinions and where there is no censorship, prison or gallows for the
"sin" of confessing or dissenting, but where the fear of "dislocation" or
“displacement�? from those in power –jeopardizing the job or wasting
financial privileges such as incentives, grants, benefits and subsidies—is
culturally rooted and psychologically embedded. In other words, a community
governed by a symbolic, implicit and latent illegitimate violence,
expressly aimed to domesticate and control the mind, moral sense and
vocations, thus subordinating scholars to the status of bootlickers of the
authorities, imposing silence on two ends: frightening the youth with
blocking their plans for academic promotion and the old guard of
intellectuals who insist in their independence with deliberately subverting
their right to decent retirement pay. These entrenched and embedded aspects
are likely to refrain them from exercising their will to confess or
dissent, propose changes, or report abnormalities or corruption practices
or express any solidarity to those who are discriminated, condemned and/or
morally harassed considering their independent judgment. Even if pressed by
the pain of the vacuum, defenselessness and loss of their self-esteem, the
latter are likely to be in a pathetic situation where they "would never
expect to be given a hand, some help or a favor".

This heartless and bleak panorama, which shows no mercy to those who the
system stigmatizes as scapegoats and which, on the contrary, rewards and
promotes flatterers, henchpersons and victimizers, intimidates the
intellectual community, expels it into desertion, exclusion and
expatriation, increasing the gap with central countries, or encourages it
to find shelter in pathologies or behavior patterns that violate academic
codes. These patterns are governed by intrigue, gossip, secrecy, extortion,
blackmail, revenge, treason and the pursuit of security and protection in
cliques, factions and cronies, where eventual booties may be shared,
providing shelter as if they were casemates or bunkers against
indifference, discrimination, deprivation, and retaliation. The
intellectual urge is likely to be entirely focused on "becoming a friend of
the authorities", on reinforcing and consolidating chieftain-type
identities, and on engaging in unhealthy relations such as pulling strings
and knowing the right people and coalescing into sects or lodges, to enable
successful contests for the various instances of academic, scientific and
cultural power (university senate elections, membership in committees and
publishing commissions, membership in juries and arbitration committees,
organization of congresses and conferences, etc.)

All hope for immunity, recognition, co-option and academic promotion is
pinned on such conspiratorial muteness and on those servile, reverential,
opportunistic and self-seeking power relations, and not on individual
intellectual merit, or epistemological or methodological breakings
resulting from research, presentations and exhibitions, or the
technological innovation implemented to show whatever they produce. This
perverse search for an illegitimate niche is also likely to lead them to
engage in various fictitious and cynical mechanisms (conceit, imitation,
simulation, adulteration, plagiarism, etc.) and a constant tendency to shy
away from controversy or frank debate, where originality, creativity and
the break with established elements would be persistently absent.


(1) The idealization of Peronism done by Pasado y Presente in 1973 was
studied in a dozen of pages (Burgos, 2004, 208-217). But in that criticism
Burgos did not study the following paragraph:

“Estos son, a nuestro entender, los rasgos que definen la originalidad del
movimiento peronista. De un movimiento que, con el triunfo electoral del 11
de marzo [1973] dio los primeros pasos hacia una nueva etapa de su

Ese día, el peronismo actuó como síntesis política del conjunto de clases
que se opusieron, desde 1966, al proyecto monopolista, cuantificó en las
urnas todo el odio acumulado por el pueblo frente al imperialismo y sus
aliados internos. El pronunciamiento masivo que significó el voto, puso
también al descubierto el error de quienes, desde una izquierda que salía
de la crisis del reformismo y que había logrado una primera inserción en el
movimiento de masas, propugnaron el voto en blanco, alentando una vana
ilusión de pureza programática�?. (I owe this number of Pasado y
Presente to the generosity of Martín Sivak, son of my friend Jorge Sivak)

(2) Juan Carlos Portantiero , Juan Carlos Torre, Emilio De Ipola, Hugo
Pablo Giussani, Pedro Parturesni y Sergio Bufano (Rodríguez, 2005).

(3) see Burgos, 2004, 91 y 107.

(4): Delgadillo, Gómez, and Stoll, 2000;

(5) In the Project itself are involved Alejandro Piscitelli and Adrían
Paenza, as well as an Institute of the Facultad de Ciencias Exactas of
Buenos Aires run by Dr. Hugo Scolnik. For a reply to Negroponte´s Project,
see Villanueva Mansilla, 2006.


Abraham, Tomás (2006): Los filósofos argentinos, la Verdad y el Terrorismo

Anonymous (1973): “La ´Larga Marcha´ al Socialismo en la Argentina�?,
Pasado y Presente, año IV, n.1, nueva serie, abril-junio 1973, 3-29;

Barco, Oscar del (2006): Comentarios a los artículos de Jorge Jinkis, Juan
y Eduardo Grüner, aparecidos en la revista Conjetural. Revista
Psicoanalítica, may 2005, n.42, pp.13-46;

Burgos, Raúl (2004): Los gramscianos argentinos. Cultura y política en la
experiencia de Pasado y Presente [Buenos Aires, Siglo XXI, noviembre
de 2004].

Castañeda, Jorge (1993): La Utopía desarmada. El futuro de la izquierda en
América Latina (Buenos Aires: Ariel);

Delgadillo, Karin; Ricardo Gómez; y Klaus Stoll (2000): Telecentros...
¿Para qué?: Lecciones sobre Telecentros Comunitarios en América Latina y el
Caribe. Lecciones aprendidas de las experiencias de telecentros
comunitarios. Preparado para el programa PAN Américas del IDRC y la
Fundación ChasquiNet. 2000.

Collins, Randall (1979). The Credential Society: An Historical Sociology of
Education and Stratification. New York: Academic Press.

Gouldner, Alvin W. (1980): El futuro de los intelectuales y el ascenso de
la nueva clase. Madrid: Alianza;

Hilb, Claudia (2005): Moldeando la arcilla humana; reflexiones sobre la
igualdad y la revolución, Nueva Sociedad,

Kohan, Néstor (2004): José Aricó, «Pasado y Presente» y los gramscianos

Martin, Brian (1991): Knowledge and Power in Academia, Neucleus (Armidale
Students' Association), Vol. 44, No. 4, 15 August 1991, p. 10 (abridged);
Farrago (University of Melbourne), Vol. 70, No. 8, pp. 32-33; Rabelais (La
Trobe University Student's Representative Council), Vol. 25, No. 7, August
1991, pp. 12-13, 33. en:

Naishtat, Francisco y Mario Toer, ed. (2005): Democracia y Representación
en la Universidad. El caso de la Universidad de Buenos Aires desde la
visión de sus protagonistas (Buenos Aires: Editorial Biblos);

Panzetta, Ricardo (2006): A propósito del testimonio de Héctor Jouve,

Ringer, Fritz K. (1969): The Decline of the German Mandarins: The German
Academic Community, 1890–1933 (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1969);

Rozitchner, León (2006): Primero hay que saber vivir. Del Vivirás materno
al No matarás patriarcal, forthcoming in El Ojo Mocho;

Schmidt, Jeff (2000). Disciplined Minds: A Critical Look at Salaried
Professionals and the Soul-Battering System that Shapes their Lives.
Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield.

Schmucler, Héctor (2006): Carta de Héctor Schmucler

Villanueva Mansilla, Eduardo (2006): A sub-hundred dollar folly

Eduardo R. Saguier

Posts: 9 | Posted: 5:57 PM on July 18, 2006 | IP
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