It was 47 years since the bloodthirsty coup d’état in Argentina, which left more than 30,000 people missing and which few intellectuals confronted.

Let’s make things clear, said Osvaldo Bayer: Neither Hitler was an occupational accident, nor the dictatorships of the armed forces in Argentina happened by chance, but were the result of a society that was unsupportive, superficial, selfish, unethical and exalted, where economic power imposed in blood and fire the economic plan designed in the United States, which also gave space to its appetite for wealth and control.

It has been 47 years since the bloody coup d’état in Argentina, which left more than 30,000 people disappeared and which few intellectuals confronted. The statistics on intellectuals murdered, kidnapped, imprisoned or expelled from the country by the Argentine military junta since March 1976 do nothing to explain the systematic destruction of a culture, because – as often happens, as in this case – they conceal more than they reveal.

To explain that in the space of 18 months hundreds of physicists, chemists and mathematicians, journalists and essayists, storytellers and poets, were torn from their beds in the middle of the night, dragged from the foyer of the cinemas to police (or military) cars before the stupor and silence of the crowds, or abandoned in wastelands and dead-end passages with 40 bullets in their bodies, is to explain too little.

Thousands of workers’ bosses, strikers, students and nameless outcasts suffered the same fate during the same period. There are infinite forms of torment that do not appear in the statistics either, and testimonies of horror that will have been lost forever in the gagging of the oppressed.

Blacklists that included Julio Cortázar, María Elena Walsh, Héctor Alterio, Federico Luppi and Mercedes Sosa, plans to perpetuate themselves in power, orders to change the hands of Argentina’s only newsprint factory, instructions to answer questions from international bodies about the disappeared, are contained in some 1,500 secret files found by Air Force personnel in 2013.

The waters were divided once and for all in Argentina: on one side were the writers who, like Jorge Luis Borges or Víctor Massuh (a specialist in the philosophy of religion whom the military junta entrusted with the ambassadorship to Unesco), argued that the massacre was a crusade of gentlemen and the national annihilation of culture a necessary work of public health.

Alongside them stood the chorus of those who nodded in silence or walled themselves in with the conviction that towers of uncontaminated literature are still possible in these lands of disaster: Manuel Mujica Láinez, Eduardo Mallea, Victoria Ocampo, Sara Gallardo, Silvina Bullrich. On the other side, the impure ones spilled out, those who believe that in literature or in life only a part of the self is not compromised: Julio Cortázar, David Viñas, Daniel Moyano, Antonio Di Benedetto, Haroldo Conti.

Cortázar was the Argentine who put himself on a par with an intellectual like Thomas Mann, who had moved the world with his denunciations of the crimes of Nazism, with his vibrant speeches in the series “Oíd, alemanes” (Hear, Germans).

In 1979, when Cortázar made that statement about the dictatorship’s murders, public opinion abroad had been shaken by the OAS Human Rights Commission’s report on the truth of Argentina’s cruel repression. An official, incontrovertible document, drawn up by representatives of the American countries, totally dismissed the theory of the two devils. The dictatorship responded “Argentines are rights and human beings”. The walls responded “Argentines are human waste”.

It would suffice to read Mujica Láinez’s statements in the Spanish newspaper La Vanguardia on 10 October 1979, in which he rejected Cortázar’s assertions that the Videla government was committing cultural genocide in Argentina, with the murder of writers, the burning of books, and the prohibitive lists of men and women of culture.

As an example, that this did not happen in Argentina, Mujica Láinez pointed out: “In Argentina we are very calm there. We are all there, Jorge Luis Borges, Ernesto Sábato, Silvina Ocampo, Adolfo Bioy Casares, all the greats. -And he added humorously, “It wouldn’t have cost us anything to go to Paris, like the repressed in other countries, nobody stops us, they give us a passport as soon as we ask for it”. On 11 October 1979, the Colombian writer Gabriel García Márquez wrote an open letter to Mujica Láinez in the Madrid daily El País.

Gabo said: “If we interpret your words correctly, we must understand that only you, the great writers, are very calm in Argentina. However, there are two, whom I consider very great, who are not as calm as you are: I am referring to Rodolfo Walsh and Haroldo Conti, who were kidnapped several years ago by patrols of the official repression and have never been heard from again. You and all the great writers you mention would be even greater if you would sacrifice a little of your tranquillity and your greatness and request the Argentine government for a pair of those easy passports for Rodolfo Walsh and Haroldo Conti”.

None of the “great writers” was able to denounce abroad the issue of the disappeared, or of cultural repression. Silvina Bullrich also attacked Cortázar, writing that “neither Borges, nor Mallea, nor Sábato left”. Likewise, Ernesto Sábato wrote in Clarín on 5 July 1980: “In Argentina, the vast majority of its writers, painters, musicians, scientists and thinkers are in the country, and they work. Those who are outside the country, thinking that nothing is happening here and that it is a tremendous cemetery, are committing a great injustice”.

On Friday 25 March 1977, when the Argentine military junta had been in power for a year, Rodolfo Walsh distributed an Open Letter at the door of Government House, at the headquarters of the US embassy, in the offices of the Ecclesiastical Curia and to international news agencies, which has since become a classic in Latin American political literature, and one of the most incontrovertible documents denouncing the horrors of the regime.

It is with this in mind that we arrive in Argentina on 24 March, the National Day of Remembrance for Truth and Justice, and a bank holiday, non-working and irrevocable since it was enacted by law by President Néstor Kirchner.

On 24 March, when the country is still creaking under the asphyxiation of the International Monetary Fund and its accomplices in the agricultural and business oligarchy, those who raise food prices every day, those who keep the accumulated capital, those who reduce wages as never before, those who take refuge in the lawfare of a rotten justice system – since before and after the dictatorship – tailored to the powerful. Those who hate everything that sounds like progressivism but use it when they see it as fearful and concessive …

Today there is a tendency to focus on the recovery of democratic freedoms. But democratic freedoms, if they are not accompanied by a minimum of social justice, are very limited. Undoubtedly, they are valuable, important, and worth fighting for as much as necessary, but they need to be completed with another cycle, that of the justice that is lacking in the country, of which obviously very little is said, and much less is seen.

Those economic groups organised the 1976 coup with the intention of destroying the productive apparatus developed from the Peronist decade of 1945 to 1955, which transformed the “granary”, which yesterday (and still today) the powers and local agro-exporters desire, into a nation with export substitution, industrial added value and labour and social rights.

Those coup groups are the corporations that own the current country, which after the impulse received during the neoliberal and surrenderist government of Mauricio Macri, impoverish, starve, indebt the people, manage the market and produce an inflation that has already turned milk and bread, gas, water and electricity into “luxuries”.

That is why it is necessary to appreciate how it was that the Argentine state came to request forgiveness for all the crimes committed during the dictatorship, and then wrote the state policy – Memory, Truth and Justice – and annulled the laws of impunity and pardons, and the pictures of genocide were taken down and the doors of the courts were opened to judge crimes against humanity and the doors of the prisons were opened to allow the entry, after a fair trial, of (some of) the greatest criminals in history. It was with and because of the people’s struggle.

It is about this world that we have come this far and about this country that is also creaking because of the asphyxiation to which the IMF and its accomplices are subjecting it, those who raise food prices by four hands, those who keep the accumulated capital for themselves.

It happens that there is a slogan that is going around. That these 40 years of democracy, with 43 and a bit of poverty in the country, is not the reason why the 30,000 disappeared comrades gave everything they had. That there are other issues going on here, which are not talked about.

Social democracy insists on placing the focus on the recovery of democratic freedoms. But democratic freedoms, if they are not accompanied by a minimum of justice, let’s call it social justice, are very limited freedoms indeed. They are valuable, important freedoms that must be completed with another cycle, that of the justice that is lacking in the country, of which obviously very little is said, and much less is seen.

This democracy has very serious, very profound limits, which in some ways until a few years ago still recognised forms of “salvage”, to give it a name. Under some reformist formula mechanism. It is worth remembering the previous governments of all these years, where at times it could be thought that somehow it was the first step, a stepping stone to improve the situation.

The passage of time has shown that this step is not a step upwards, it is a step downwards. And we are going down more and more steps. So, what we have to think about is what is happening.

Memory means precisely that, asking ourselves why violence from below in response to violence from above, the study of Argentine society and its repeated betrayals of democracy and the people. To elucidate why this violence from below failed, and why the incredible and perhaps now unsurpassable cruelty of Argentina’s military repression.

For Pen Club members, inventing demons is much easier than asking her why the brutal orders of repression were given. Memory in us is indispensable so that we are not surprised again by disappearances and torture in the defence of so-called Western and Christian values, said Osvaldo Bayer.

The Spanish poet León Felipe already said it: The same men, the same wars, the same tyrants, the same chains, the same fakers, the same sects, and the same poets! What a pity that everything is always like this, always in the same way!