In studying resistance to General Videla’s regime, historians emphasize thesignificance of the nation’s mass protests, which began to occur only after 1981. Bythat time, illegally-resurrected unions led by an old guard of Peronist activists hadonce again became potent mobilizing forces.
From 1981-1983, these nationally-organized unions channeled citizens’ general anger over Argentina’s economy,repressive government and the Falklands War flop into marches hundreds-of-thousands strong through the streets of Buenos Aires. It was these mass protestswhich eventually ousted the regime.However, while mass protest to the regime beginning in the early 80s, thegovernment was unable to completely shut down all space for social dissent evenduring the initial years of rule.
During this time, significant resistance movementsformed and spread precisely because the military blocked traditional channels of protest. The government did not recognize the resistance groups which grewfrom 1976-1980 as potential threats, since non-traditional activists not alignedwith any of the established channels of dissent such as political parties ornational unions formed them.
These early anti-authoritarian groups can be dividedinto three categories: small unions, which remained relatively free from governmentintervention and mobilized workers on local levels against specific factory ownersand local factory rules; the mothers of the Plaza de Mayo, who staged the most prolonged and perhaps most effective protest of the era, and underground publications, which spread anti-authoritarian ideology.
All three of these groups seta tone of dissent in society which helped facilitate later, larger protests – exactly
In a 1985 interview, the imprisoned military governor Ricardo Obregon Cano distinguished four forms of resistance to his old regime, in order of importance: the resistance of organized labor,guerrillas, relatives of the disappeared and, finally, the opposition political parties allowed by thegovernment. Interview by Hodges, March 1985, pg. 203