Latin American Political Movements
Latin American Political Movements
The dominant characteristic of twentieth-century Latin America is the pressure for fundamental change—social, economic, and political change. In several nations, governments committed to such change have come to power. Even in many of the nations where conservative oligarchies maintain their hold, the pressures for change are such that few governments have believed it wise to ignore them completely. Dynamic forces are at work: population growth, urbanization, industrial development, growth of labor unions, the appearance and increasing influence of certain political parties, and an increasing demand on the part of the underprivileged and depressed mass of people for a better material life (“the revolution in rising expectations”). These forces have promoted, and to some degree have been promoted by, the emergence of several radical or reformist political movements during this century. The major ones are the Mexican revolution, the Uruguayan reforms (Batllism), the Apristas, Peronism, the Vargas movement, the Christian Democrats, and Castroism.
Considerable similarity exists among these movements. They advocate development and various economic reforms, a strong government and a larger role for government, especially in the economic and social areas, and social reforms (e.g., increased literacy, expanded educational opportunities, social welfare programs). They appeal to and in varying degrees involve the masses. They urge either a breaking down or a modifying of traditional class lines and concomitantly urge broader mass participation in national life. In their economics most movements embrace some form of socialism. They are nationalistic and, either as an aspect of nationalism or as a separate ingredient, they inveigh against economic and political imperialism. Their anti-imperialism may be simply a negative, anti-United States sentiment, or it may be an aspect of a more positive phenomenon: a prohemispheric or pro-Latin American sentiment.
Numerous differences also exist among the movements. Some have a well-developed theoretical or philosophical base (especially the Apristas and the Christian Democrats); others are primarily pragmatic. They differ in the stress put on certain goals. Perhaps the major differences concern means of achieving desired changes and the kind of society that would be created. These differences are the effect of several factors: the level of social, economic, and political development; the political situation; and the variety of attitudes, inclinations, and estimations of the individuals who provide or have provided both intellectual and practical leadership for the movements.
The stress that twentieth-century movements put on change places them in sharp contrast with the political thought that previously dominated Latin America. That thought, primarily European in origin, was the monopoly of the small elite that had enjoyed political and economic power and high social status since independence. Reflecting the interests of the elite, the earlier thought either defended the status quo or urged relatively minor change, usually of a political nature (e.g., changes in electoral laws). In those instances where the principles advocated cannot be termed “minor” (e.g., matters in the area of church-state relations), they did not call for fundamental changes, nor were the changes called for intended to affect the masses. Where concerned with economic matters, the earlier thought proposed relatively moderate changes. Comtean positivism, the single most influential line of political thought in late nineteenth-century Latin America, emphasized a free secular society and the idea that the growth of knowledge gradually promoted political freedom and economic improvement. In short, the earlier political thought—still dominant in some of the nations—did not advocate a restructuring or reorganization of society; the newer political thought does.
This article will focus first on general factors influencing the new political thought, and then on each of the twentieth-century political movements and the methods it endorsed or employed to promote change.
The factors that have molded or influenced the movements may be classified as primarily material or primarily intellectual. These, in turn, may be classified as indigenous or nonindigenous, positive or negative influences.
Material influences . The most obvious and the single most important material influence is negative and indigenous: the reaction against prevailing economic conditions. Indeed, this is usually the main goal of all the movements, for other goals are seen to be directly related to it. The movements insist that conditions must be changed and advocate a massive, multipronged program of economic development. To some degree the desire for economic development may be attributed to the positive, nonindigenous influence of the world’s mature economies, since economically less-developed nations desire to have the same level of economic well-being and diversity of economic activity. (This desire does not mean, however, that Latin America accepts the economic principles of the mature economies.)
A second influence, also negative and indigenous, is the reaction against prevailing social conditions. A large part, in some cases a majority, of the population is cut off from national life, living in a depressed condition without opportunity to achieve a better status. The movements pledge to improve the lot of this segment of the population and appeal to it for support.
Prevailing political conditions are a third negative, indigenous influence. Democratic forms (constitutions which are often modeled after that of the United States and provide for separation of powers, bills of rights, political parties, elections, and a variety of special devices to ensure democratic government) have long existed, but in many of the Latin American nations political practice has been quite undemocratic. Further, government, whether military or civilian, has been by and for the small elite, usually ignoring the needs of the masses. All of the movements advocate change in the political process. They may not agree on the kind of political system or how it should function, but they do agree that government by them and based on their principles will not be government devoted to promoting and protecting the interests of the elite. It will be government for (although not necessarily by) the masses.
Another negative influence, both indigenous and nonindigenous, on all of the movements (except perhaps Batllism) is the resentment against the economic and political influence the United States has long had and still has in Latin America. Limitation, if not elimination, of U.S. influence is a goal of the twentieth-century movements. Proposed means of accomplishing this end include controls on foreign capital, nationalization of some or all foreign investment, closer cooperation among Latin American nations, and creation of a new inter-American organization. The extent and intensity of efforts to reduce U.S. influence vary, of course, from movement to movement and from time to time.
Intellectual influences . For the most part the programs put forward by the movements are not borrowed ones. Rather, they are a response to local conditions. Nevertheless, various “outside” ideas and events have influenced all of the movements. European socialism, including Marxism, has had a tremendous impact on most of the movements. The same is true of French, British, and United States liberal thought. The notion of Latin American unification can be traced back to the liberator Simón Bolivar, and the ideal has been embraced by a host of persons in succeeding years. Similarly, the Aprista emphasis on the development of an Indian or Indo-American culture has some roots in Latin American thought.
The economic and social reforms of President Franklin D. Roosevelt (the New Deal) had an impact on several of the movements. The same can be said of the British Labour party and the development program “Operation Bootstrap” carried out by Munoz Marin in Puerto Rico.
Since the end of World War II, the “new economics” of Raul Prebisch and the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America has been the major influence on Latin American economic thought.
The Mexican revolution and the Uruguayan re-forms may be added to the list of general influences, since these movements preceded the others and have served as examples, if not as models. They will therefore be discussed first.
The Mexican revolution . The Mexican revolution, the foremost political movement of twentieth-century Latin America, began in 1910 under the leadership of Francisco I. Madero as a revolt against the dictatorship of President Porfirio Diaz. Its original objectives were entirely political, as epitomized by Madero’s slogan, “Effective Suffrage! No Re-election!” As the revolt spread and its support increased, it became a full-blown social revolution. Economic and social objectives—land reform, economic development, restrictions on the church and foreign capital, integration of the Indians, destruction of the existing class structure and class barriers—were added to the political objectives. Civil war raged until 1916. Thereafter order was progressively restored, and implementation of the revolutionary program began on a nation-wide scale.
The revolutionary program. The revolution was pragmatic and evolutionary, not ideological. No master plan existed concerning the implementation of objectives. The revolution consisted of a series of acts, and often these acts were experiments. As Robert Scott says, “Mexico had no Marx to supply a theoretical, rational, and systematic model for its revolution. And somehow history failed to produce any single dominant personality who could perform this service. . . . Probably the movement was too big, too diverse, and too spontaneous to be identified with any one program or person” ( 1964, p. 98). To answer the question “What was the Mexican revolution?” one must look at what was done.
The best place to begin is the constitution of 1917. That document expresses the objectives of the revolution and gives considerable insight into its philosophy. It is a hybrid, because “. . . it retained the ideals of liberalism while placing the interests of society and of the state above those of the individual” (Ross 1963, p. 89). Three articles are especially worthy of note. Article 3 assigns to the national government responsibility for providing free, public elementary education. The article reflects the importance attached to education by the revolutionary leaders and the anticlerical bent of the revolution. Article 27 deals with landowner-ship and the rights of foreign capital, limits the size of agricultural holdings, and asserts the nation’s control over the subsoil. Property is held to have a “social function,” with the rights of private property subordinated to “social welfare.” The article expresses several tenets of the revolution: hostility to the hacienda, commitment to agrarian reform, determination to overhaul the prerevolutionary class structure based on landownership, anticlericalism (for the church was a large land-owner), opposition to foreigners, and nationalism. Article 123 assigns to the state the task of promoting, protecting, and regulating the labor movement and spells out the economic and social rights of labor. “The basic principle of Article 123 was that labor was a status, a way of life, for which the minimum essentials were now constitutionally guaranteed, rather than an economic commodity, subject to the market vagaries of supply and demand” (Cline 1953, p. 169). The article reflects the role—both the right and responsibility—assigned to the state in promoting social welfare, the effort to enhance the position of the working class, and concern with industrialization and the urban sector of the economy.
An extensive land reform program was begun in the early 1920s. Under this plan, land, either government-owned or taken from persons owning more than 5,000 hectares, was distributed to landless peasants. While some land was given outright to the peasants, most of it was given to village communities, ejidos. The ejido is not a collective farm; rather, it is a form of landholding with historical antecedents both in Spain and in pre-Hispanic Mexico. Ejido land is divided among the families of the community and is worked by them as individual units. Although the ejidatario cannot alienate his land, he can pass it on to his heir. By the mid-1960s, 40 to 50 per cent of the cropland was in eiidos, and about 30 per cent was in small and medium-size private holdings (Needier 1964, pp. 21–22).
During the early years of the revolution relatively little was done in the economic area apart from land reform, despite the declared objective of economic development. Admittedly some actions were taken that had economic effects (for example, nationalization of agricultural lands, railroads, and petroleum), but they were socially and politically, not economically, motivated (Cline  1963, p. 231). And the few economic programs that were attempted were unsuccessful.
The desire for economic independence, plus the adverse effects of the great depression and World War n, dramatized the need for action and led to the inauguration of a development program. One part of this program was to increase the tempo of land reform. Another part, the key, was industrialization, and through various inducements a high rate of industrial development has been achieved. Industrialization is, in large part, the result of a shift in Mexican attitudes toward foreign capital; it is no longer rejected, but is welcomed. This shift in attitude is only one manifestation of a more general phenomenon: moderation of the revolution. (Such moderation is typical of radical movements once they have achieved power and consolidated their position.) However, the government is at least partially enforcing “Mexicanization” laws, which require that Mexicans must own 51 per cent of all business enterprises.
The economic and social programs accomplished fundamental change. The class structure was revamped and the prerevolutionary landowning elite was replaced by a new upper class whose wealth is in industry, commerce, and finance. A large, predominantly urban and industrial middle class has developed. The urban and rural masses have benefited, although the benefits have been limited. However, there has been much upward mobility of individuals between classes, and it is primarily through such individual mobility that substantial improvements in the real standard of living of the urban and rural proletariats can result (Needier 1964, p. 31).
The political objectives of the revolution have been implemented. Governmental stability has been achieved. “Effective Suffrage! No Re-election!” has been effected. A fairly high level of democracy prevails. Government is sensitive to citizen wants. Opposition groups are free to organize and operate. Civil liberties exist.
Mexico’s foreign policy is based on the principles and experiences of the revolution: national sovereignty, juridical equality of nations, self-determination, and nonintervention. The Estrada doctrine, a Mexican contribution to international legal ideas, asserts that granting or withholding of diplomatic recognition at a government’s discretion constitutes interference in the affairs of another state. Recognition should, therefore, be automatic.
Theory and philosophy. Although not an ideological movement, the revolution was not devoid of political thought. A list of writers would include (but not be limited to) Andres Molina Enriquez, Jesus Silva Herzog, Graciano Sánchez, Vincente Lombardo Toledano, Manuel Gamio, Gilberto Loyo, Fernando Gonzales Roa, Daniel Cosio Villegas, and Gómez Morin.
Uruguayan reform (Batllism) . A much different but only slightly less important movement (Batllism) remade Uruguay during the first quarter of the twentieth century under the leadership of José Batlle y Ordónez. Like the Mexican revolution, Batllism was concerned with social, economic, and political problems. Also like the Mexican revolution, it was pragmatic, not ideological. Unlike the Mexican revolution it was a peaceful movement and did not touch the whole population; its impact was primarily urban.
The program. The actions taken under Batllism earned for Uruguay the reputation of being one of the world’s most advanced laboratories for political, social, and economic experimentation (Fitzgibbon 1954, pp. 96–97).
The social and economic aspects of Batllism— which constituted a high degree of state socialism —can be described by citing what was done during Batlle’s two presidential terms, 1903-1907 and 1911-1915. His proposal for an eight-hour working day and a weekly rest period was enacted, as were laws to protect the worker’s life and health and to encourage labor union activity. During Batlle’s presidency elementary education was made obligatory and education at all levels was made free. New schools were constructed; a women’s university was established. Foreign professors and technicians were brought to Uruguay, and scholarships were given for study abroad.
Various social service measures were also enacted. Laws were passed giving protection to women, children, the sick, and the elderly. Women were emancipated. Divorce was legalized. Tax was abolished on the earnings of the lowest-paid public officials and on the smallest pensions.
Furthermore, steps were taken to stimulate industry. Immigration was encouraged. A state insurance monopoly was created. The Bank of the Republic was nationalized. Several government-owned and government-operated industries were established to provide certain basic products at a low price and to reduce dependence on imports. Railroads, power facilities, meat-packing plants, and some other businesses were nationalized.
Although Batllism focused attention on urban, industrial problems, some attention was also given to the agricultural sector. Stock raising and agriculture received governmental assistance. Rural credit facilities were established. Agricultural research was promoted. Import duties on agricultural tools and machinery were removed. To some degree, the agricultural programs may have been a means of “buying” rural toleration, for Batlle was detested and opposed by the large landowners.
From the perspective of the second half of the twentieth century, Batlle’s reforms may seem extremely mild, but for the first quarter of the twentieth century they were radical.
The political reforms were equally radical. Batlle saw a Uruguay plagued with political problems, e.g., dictatorship, instability, and civil strife. He blamed these problems on the domination and abuses of past presidents. To overcome the problems, Batlle proposed the abolition of the presidency and the establishment of a nine-member executive council (modeled on the Swiss collegial executive) with three of the seats assigned to the minority party. Further, he proposed that congressional elections be conducted on a proportional representation system. The proposal met with hostility, especially from his own party, and was not adopted until 1919 (after Batlle was out of office) —and then in limited form. The bi-partisan collegial executive was abandoned in 1933 but reestablished, and in the form Batlle envisioned, in 1951. Batlle’s political reforms are largely responsible for the high level of democracy that prevails in Uruguay.
Theory and philosophy. Very little theoretical writing is associated with Batllism. Batlle’s ideas are expressed in his articles in El Dia, his newspaper. But the articles “do not form a very systematic whole, since he did not generally concern himself with the philosophical base of ideas” (Davis 1958, p. 103).
The “Apristas.” Between the two world wars Peru produced a distinctive ideological party, the Alianza Popular Revolucionaria Americana (APRA), whose ideology was popularly known as aprismo and whose members were called Apristas. The party dates back to 1914, but it was not formally organized until 1931. Led by Victor Raul Haya de la Torre, the Apristas have had an almost hemisphere-wide influence, and Aprista-type parties have been founded in these areas and countries: in Cuba, Partido Revolucionario Cubano (Auténtico); in Venezuela, Actión Democrática; in Costa Rica, Liberation Nacional; in Paraguay, Partido Febrerista; in Haiti, Mouvement Ouvrier et Paysan; and in Puerto Rico, the Popular Democratic Party. However, there was little contact between the Aprista parties during their formative years.
Aprismo was begun by a group of students at Lima’s University of San Marcos who led a successful effort to reform the school. Their next step was to establish night schools for adults, in order to raise the economic and social level of the illiterate (Kantor 1953). The government suppressed the schools and exiled the student organizers, who then decided that political action was necessary and developed the Aprista ideology.
The ideology. Aprismo is a blend of ideas and ideals about the uniqueness of Latin America and democratic socialism. The aim is to create a “new” Peru and a “new” Latin America. The basic thesis is that Latin America is unique; it is different from the United States and Europe, and must cease imitating their institutions and create its own Indo-American culture. (The thesis is related to Haya’s historical space-time theory, which holds that there is no single theory or explanation of history valid for all societies.) Its over-all plan consists of two parts: a “maximum program” for all Latin America and a “minimum program” for Peru only. The principles of the maximum program are integration or assimilation of the Indian population, opposition to imperialism, unification of the Latin American nations, a planned economy including nationalization of land and business, and democratic government.
Aprista thinkers stress the need to integrate the Indian into society. To the Apristas, Latin America will not realize its economic or political potential until the Indian has been integrated. Two conflicting cultures are said to exist in Latin America, one European, the other indigenous, or Indian. The result is instability. A stable society will be possible in Latin America only when the two clashing cultures are merged. The Apristas believe that their program would amalgamate the Indian and Europeanized sections and produce a new, integrated Indo-American culture containing elements from both (Kantor 1953). Integration would not be easy or quick, and to achieve it several actions would be necessary: free, state-controlled education, including technical education; agrarian reform (formation of cooperative farms, government authority to regulate land purchases and sales, programs to increase productivity, and dissemination of technical information); and laws to enhance the position of labor (wage and hour laws, retirement benefits, employment services, organization of unions).
Anti-imperialism is another major tenet. Indeed, the Apristas believe that the most important problem facing Latin America is that created by imperialistic penetration. Imperialism, held to be economic in nature, is explained in the following terms:
Outward expansion is inevitable in a highly industrialized country based on the capitalist system of production. As the Apristas see the process, capitalism forces an industrially developed country to seek raw materials in the underdeveloped areas of the world. At the same time, an industrial country must seek markets for the manufactured goods which cannot be consumed at home. (Kantor 1953, pp. 37–38)
And in an alliance with local elites, foreign capital gained control of the Latin American economies. However, the Apristas do not reject foreign capital; they recognize that it has made a contribution and can continue to do so. But foreign capital must be controlled to ensure that it plays a “useful role” Without eliminating their opposition to imperialism,Aprista leaders have over the years moderated their statements on this subject.
The Apristas hold that unification of Latin America is the only means of combating imperialism and strengthening Latin America. They see Latin America as a single “natural unit.” Existing bound-aries have no justification, being mere carry-overs from the colonial period that perpetuate economic feudalism. Apristas insist that unification would not be difficult. There are, they say, more similarities than differences among the hemisphere’s people. Unification is necessary for defense. Further, realization of increased economic and political strength should be sufficient to overcome any hurdles that may exist. Two strong but not insurmountable forces—U.S. imperialism and the elite—work against unification. Although opposed to U.S. imperialism, the Apristas are not anti-United States. They desire to cooperate with the United States, seeing cooperation as a benefit to both parties. And Latin American unification is seen as a means of promoting cooperation by putting Latin America and the United States on an equal footing.
Economic development is a goal. Originally nationalization of industry and land was posited as the ideal form of economic organization. However, nationalization was a long-range goal, and the means of achieving it was spelled out. Nationalization is another area in which Aprista doctrine has changed; a mixed economy is now envisioned.
Hay a de la Torre and other Peruvian Aprista leaders insist that the political process must be democratic, and they refuse to use force to obtain power. One author states that the most conspicuous weakness of the Peruvian Apristasis their neglect of the means of achieving power (Kantor 1953, p. 1). Asked why the Apristas have not used force, Haya replied “. . . that although the Apristas were not pacifists, they were convinced that the experience of history demonstrated that the use of violence in politics exposed its users to the danger of degenerating into complete dependence upon violence . . .” (Kantor 1953, p. 56). However, not all Aprista-type parties have refused to use force.
In Venezuela, Acción Democratica joined with segments of the military to overthrow a government, and when it came into power, established a democratic political process.
The Peruvian Apristas endeavor to make their movement more than a political party, seeing them-selves as soldiers in a crusade and as seekers of educational purification which will transform Peru into a modern, democratic nation. They want to establish a high standard of living, but even more important than that, they want to see a spiritual renovation within Peru which will create a new country based on a morally changed people (ibid., p. 61). In short, they seek to make aprismo a way of life.
Theory and philosophy. The theory and philosophy of aprismo is expressed in countless works and by numerous writers. Of the writers, Haya de la Torre stands out. Others who should be mentioned include Manuel Seoane, Luis Alberto Sánchez, Alfredo Saco, and Carlos Mariategui (a founder of aprismo who later embraced international communism).
Peronism . Argentina’s Peronist movement began in 1945: the following year the movement’s leader, Juan D. Perón, was elected president of Argentina; he and his program then dominated the nation until mid-1955. Although Peronism wrought change, the change was not as fundamental as in the Mexican revolution and Batllism or in the Aprista program. Nevertheless, Peronism had a tremendous impact on Argentina, and despite the dictatorial, corrupt nature of Perón’s regime and its eventual collapse, its impact has not been eradicated—probably cannot be eradicated.
Some have labeled Peronism as fascism (Lipset 1960, pp. 173–176). Still others reject the label (Silvert 1963, pp. 361–366), and the latter individuals may have the better case. Granted Peron may have been favorably impressed by Franco’s Spain and Mussolini’s Italy and some of his statements had fascist or profascist overtones. But Peronism differed from European fascism in fundamental ways. Actually, Peronism was nonideo-logical, despite the appearance of justicialismo — the so-called ideology of the movement. The term justicialismo did not appear until 1949 (Blanksten 1953), and the justicialist ideas were propounded after that.Justicialismo —the “balancing of forces” or “Third Position”—never passed beyond being whatever Peron did or said.
The program. Peronism advocated the “economic independence of Argentina,” and to this end a primarily industrial development program was pursued to free the country from dependence on agriculture, imports, and foreign capital. As part of the development program, and as part of the nationalism that characterized Peronism, the government nationalized some industries and took over foreign-owned transportation and communications facilities. In typical twentieth-century Latin American fashion, private property was held to have a “social function” and was subordinated to state regulation.
The heart of Peronism was the program of “social justice.” That program was directed toward the great mass of workers (the descamisados), who lived in ignorance and poverty and whose minimum wants and needs were ignored by the privileged members of society (Edelmann 1965, p. 354). A large body of social and labor legislation was enacted. The social and economic rights of the masses were written into the 1949 constitution. The descamisados were molded into a political force and a source of support by Perón, who, in return, rewarded them with social and economic benefits, a voice in government, and a government that was sympathetic to their needs and wants. (Peron’s wife, Evita, played a major role in the program of “social justice.”) The benefits were achieved at a price in addition to their financial cost: a loss of freedom of action.
Perón attempted to export his movement, or at least his influence, through labor attaches in Argentine embassies in Latin America, through general publicity, and through contacts with military leaders in other Latin American nations. And al-though Peronist governments did not come to power elsewhere in Latin America, Perón’s efforts had some political impact in other Latin American nations.
The program was, however, very limited. The land tenure system was not changed. Wealth was not redistributed. The pre-Peron social class structure was not overthrown. And a question may be raised if Peronism was anything more than a typical Latin American dictatorship. Davis, for example, says Peronism was simply “a shrewd mixture of militarism, economic planning, and a demagogic appeal to the underprivileged [cemented with] a long overdue program of labor and social legislation” (1958, p. 112). Certainly Perón “governed internally by juggling already existing power centers in a fashion typical of states in immediately prenational situations, and . . . the regime even toppled in traditional . . . Latin American style” (Silvert 1963, p. 366). The power centers referred to were the army, the church, the oligarchy, “foreign imperialists,” the interior, the porteños, and a new one, labor.
But the importance of Peronism must not be underestimated. The workers saw a government aware of their needs that allowed them a certain degree of participation in the political process, and, perhaps equally important, even the integrated middle and upper classes were finally willing to admit the alienation of some of their fellow citizens. Most of all, Peronism convinced the workers that much could be done by government to improve their lot. As a result, Peronism—even without Perón—remains a political force in Argentina.
Theory and philosophy. Peronism, a pragmatic movement, at first borrowed from the Neo-Thomism of Nicolas Desiri, an Argentine priest and philosopher, and from the ideas of Hernan Benitez, whose writings appeared in the Revista de la Universidad de Buenos Aires. After 1949, Peronism sought to develop its own ideology, justicialismo. Three men in particular endeavored to make it a social and political philosophy: Raul A. Mende, Julio Claudio Otero, and Luis C. A. Serras. However, it is in the speeches of Peron and his wife that one finds most of the ideas of Peronism.
The Vargas movement . The major twentieth-century political movement in Brazil was that of Getulio Vargas, who headed the government from 1938 to 1945 and from 1950 to 1954. In many respects, the Vargas and Perón movements are of the same species. Originally Vargas relied for support on the tenentes ( a group of young officers and civilians), but gradually he expanded his base through appeals to the discontented. Shortly before the 1938 election, Vargas promulgated a new constitution (the estado novo constitution) with features resembling Portuguese corporatism and Italian fascism. But the resemblance “was rather superficial; . . . the estado novo .. . is better under-stood as the product of Brazilian social and political elements” (Davis 1958, p. 109).
The program. Vargas pushed economic development. The government built highways and railroads. A development commission was established to promote industry and commerce—Vargas’ principal objective. Education was promoted. Social and labor measures were enacted. Of all the decisions made by Vargas, probably none had greater political implications than his determination to bring the working groups into the political arena. Vargas retained their approval through elaborate welfare programs and by imposing restrictions and obligations on business and management. At the same time he maintained strict federal control over the labor movement as a guarantee to the business community that labor would not be permitted to get out of hand (Johnson 1958, pp. 167–168).
The movement contained a strong element of nationalism. One expression of this nationalism was the law providing that two-thirds of the workers in every enterprise had to be Brazilian. Another expression, the most dramatic, was construction of the Volta Redonda steel plant.
The importance of the movement did not end with Vargas’ death in 1954. The forces activated or promoted by him retain much political influence.
Theory and philosophy. The Vargas movement evolved no political theory of its own. Vargas’ speeches were pragmatic and opportunist, not theoretical. Francisco Campo’s O estado national, published in 1940, was widely but wrongly viewed as the regime’s fascist theory (Loewenstein 1942).
The Christian Democrats . The Latin American political movement growing most rapidly in strength and influence is Christian Democracy. The movement is not new. The first Christian Democratic party was established in 1910 (in Uruguay), and since then Christian Democratic parties have been established in all the nations except Cuba, Haiti, Honduras, and Paraguay (Edelmann 1965, p. 355). Its growing influence is, however, a recent development (Szulc 1965). In 1958, a Christian Democratic party, COPEI, became the second largest party in Venezuela. In 1964, the Christian Democratic candidate, Eduardo Frei, was elected president of Chile, and the following year the party gained control of the lower house of congress.
The movement possesses a well-developed ideology, of European origin, adapted to fit the Latin American scene. It was greatly influenced by the writing of the Catholic philosopher Jacques Maritain, a spokesman for liberal Thomism. Frei is the leading Latin American spokesman of the movement.
The ideology. Christian Democracy is based on the Christian ethic. More specifically, it is based on the tenets of Roman Catholicism, especially the encyclical Rerum novarum, issued by Pope Leo xni in 1891. That encyclical, the so-called Magna Carta of labor, declared that laborers had the right to organize and the employer had an obligation to pay a fair wage.
Latin American Christian Democracy is reformist, and left of center or leftist. Its leaders are committed to achieving a social revolution through evolutionary means. Their objective is a society of social and Christian justice for all. They are committed to democracy—a political system by and for all the people. “Democracy,” Frei writes, “will not be saved by those who, praising it as it now exists, petrify its abuses. Much less will it be saved by those who see only its defects and not its infinite possibilities. . . . Our task is to realize the possibilities of democracy” (see statement in Pike 1964, p. 213). Frei argues that democracy does not in fact exist when a sizable portion of the population is not incorporated into society—a common phenomenon in Latin America. “In order to acquire and preserve the precious gifts of democracy it is necessary,” Frei declares, “to incorporate this proletariat into the national existence” (ibid., p. 217).
The programs of Latin American Christian Democratic parties differ from nation to nation. Some general comments may be made about the Chilean party, not because it is a “typical” Christian Democratic party but because of its political power. The Chilean Christian Democrats reject both capitalism and communism. They condemn capitalism as “merciless” and “degrading of human dignity “and brand communism as “totalitarian” and “undemocratic” (Bray 1965, p. 24).
They advocate a middle way, a “communitarian society,” characterized by labor’s involvement in management and ownership, and government action to prevent “economic concentration” (Sigmund 1963, p. 309). The 1963 Chilean Christian Democratic platform advocated a mixed economy, control of foreign investment, agrarian reform, and government reform. In the international sphere, the Chilean Christian Democrats desire to cooperate with the United States. At the same time, they insist that Latin America should have a stronger voice in world affairs and a broader range of inter-national relations. Further, they urge the Latin American nations to cooperate among themselves. Frei is endeavoring to expand Chilean contacts with Europe. Also, he supports Latin American economic integration and is urging the creation of a common market for all of Latin America.
Theory and philosophy. As noted earlier, a large measure of the Christian Democratic ideology is drawn from European sources. In addition to Frei, Latin Americans who have contributed to the ideology include Jaime Castillo, Jacques Chonchol, Julio Silva, Máximo Pacheco Gómez, Bernardo Leigh ton, Radomiro Tomic, and Rafael Caldera.
Castroism . On New Year’s Day, 1959, the Batista dictatorship in Cuba collapsed and Fidel Castro came to power. The victors, who had waged a guerrilla war since December 1956, were determined that “this was to be a thorough-going revolution. The institutions and groups which possessed sufficient power to block such a revolutionary course were to be neutralized and, if necessary, destroyed. Above all, the United States was not going to be able to impose limitations upon change” (Schneider 1964, pp. 27–28). And for the first time in Cuban history, a group of revolutionaries, after achieving power, began a full-scale social revolution instead of rewarding themselves with the spoils of government.
The program. A social revolution is a complex of actions. Only a few of the Cuban actions can be cited here.
The Agrarian Reform Law was passed just four months after Batista’s fall. It had three objectives: to Cubanize and socialize the sugar industry, to give land to the landless, and to diversify agricultural production. The law provided for three types of holdings: state farms, sugar cooperatives (now scheduled to be converted into state farms), and small peasant properties. At present more than 70 per cent of the land is state owned.
Decrees during 1960 nationalized all large businesses, both Cuban and foreign. Since then additional businesses have been nationalized and a collective economy has emerged.
Beginning in 1962, emphasis was put on industrial expansion. However, after Castro’s trip to Moscow in May 1963, Cuba accepted the principle of the international socialist division of labor, which led to a reversal of the revolution’s original emphasis on agricultural diversification and industrialization (Hennessy 1964, p. 203). Now, as before 1959, emphasis is on sugar production.
Education has also received attention. An imaginative attack was made on adult illiteracy through the 1961 alfabetismo campaign. The public education system was reformed; teaching was nationalized; and private schools were suppressed. Emphasis in university education was placed on science and technology.
Evolution of Castroism. The Cuban revolution became a communist revolution. This statement is based on the view that “Castro was not a Communist for all practical purposes before he took power but decided to cast his lot with the Communists sometime afterward” (Draper 1965, p. 3).
Castro’s “History Will Absolve Me” speech at his 1953 trial and the succeeding pamphlet provided the first insight into his objectives. He promised restoration of the 1940 constitution, a popularly elected government, and a relatively limited land reform program. “The most radical note in the speech . . . was perhaps a brief reference to the ’nationalization of the U.S.-owned electric and telephone companies’” (ibid., p. 6). The “History Will Absolve Me” program was within the scope of traditional left-wing Cuban politics. The same judgment applies to the several pronouncements issued during the guerrilla war.
On December 2-3, 1961, Castro made his “I Am a Marxist—Leninist” speech. The speech was preceded by a host of actions indicating an increasing closeness between Castro and the communist bloc. Relations between Castro and the Cuban communists had not always been cordial; in the early 1950s they were strained. However, after Castro gained power, the communists not only supported him but also gave him the assistance of their trained cadres. At the same time Castro was gradually alienated from his moderate supporters, who consistently called for a slowing down of his efforts to turn society inside out (Burks 1963, p. 82).
With the “I Am a Marxist–Leninist” speech, Castroism obtained an ideology or philosophy. In and of itself Castroism was an armed struggle, not an ideology, and Castro gave very little attention to developing one for the movement. Rather, the movement borrowed or attached itself to existing ideologies and could change attachments (although it may no longer be able to do so).
Castro’s identification with Marxism—Leninism put the Cuban revolution in a very different category from the other Latin American movements and led Castro to adopt means different from those used by the other movements. It also affected Cuban relations with the outside world. The identification with communism and the declared intention of exporting Castro-style revolutions have, more than anything else, made the United States and many Latin Americans hostile to Cuba.
Theory and philosophy. The numerous speeches and articles of Fidel Castro and his closest associates are the best source of the ideas or ideology of Castroism. Many of the speeches and articles have appeared in the Cuban periodicals Cuba socialista, Revolutión, Hoy, and Verde olivo.
This article has focused on movements for relatively sharp reform or revolution. A more comprehensive treatment of significant political elements and groups would include an analysis of elements supporting the status quo, even though these elements perhaps do not constitute “movements.” Hopefully, however, the article shows both the essence and the variation of the major twentieth-century Latin American political movements. In a very real sense, the essence is far greater than the variation. Furthermore, the movements, in their goals as well as in their means, resemble those found in other developing regions, and even the diversity of movements found in Latin America is similar to the diversity found in the new nations of Asia and Africa.
The ideas embodied in the twentieth-century movements stand in sharp contrast with the bulk of Latin America’s nineteenth-century political thought. Nineteenth-century thought was nonindigenous, primarily imitative of European thought. The current movements are rooted in local socialeconomic—political conditions; hence, they are more realistic and practical as means of solving Latin American problems and restructuring Latin American society.
James D. Cochrane
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"Latin American Political Movements." International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences. . Encyclopedia.com. (September 23, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/social-sciences/applied-and-social-sciences-magazines/latin-american-political-movements
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