The Febrerista Party ended thirty-two years of Liberal rule when it took power in the February 1936 rebellion in Paraguay. Originally controlled by the military under Colonel Rafael Franco, the Febreristas quickly evolved into an assortment of Liberals, nationalists, fascists, social democrats, and Communist sympathizers. The Febrerista government set forth an agrarian reform program that redistributed some land on a relatively small scale. More significantly, Paraguay's first major labor code was passed under Febrerista rule. A combination of ineptitude, party factionalism, and increasingly totalitarian politics led to the end of the Febrerista's rule on August 9, 1937. The Liberals returned to power under General José Félix Estigarribia, hero of the Chaco War, who actually took up many of the labor and agrarian policies of the Febreristas. However, Estigarribia also pushed for a new constitution that expanded executive power.
Years of exile followed, with the Febreristas returning to power in June 1946 in a coalition with the Colorado Party. The dissolution of the alliance in early January 1947 led the Febreristas, remaining with the Liberals and the Communists, to fight a bloody civil war against the Colorados. After being defeated in August 1947, the Febrerista leaders went into exile.
The Febrerista leaders continued to be outlawed under Colorado leader General Alfredo Stroessner, who took power in 1954. When the party was finally legalized in 1967, its popularity stood at less than 3 percent of the electorate.
The main ideological basis for the party was a political philosophy known as Democracia Solidarista. Its leading exponent was Juan Stefanich, an intellectual who became foreign minister in 1936 under the short-lived Febrerista government. Stefanich based his New Paraguay movement on a combination of liberalism and social democracy as an alternative to the laissez-faire ideology of the epoch. Democratic Solidarity was a centrist political philosophy within the Febrerista Party, flanked on the right by nationalists, many who favored a corporate state, and on the left by radicals, who supported social revolution. Democratic Solidarity was nationalistic and favored a tough bargaining position in the Chaco War peace talks between 1935 and 1938. The movement's followers were also lopistas, supporting the resurrection of the nineteenth-century dictator Francisco Solano López's discredited image to the status of patriot. After the Febrerista defeat in the 1947 civil war, many of its members were forced into exile, reducing Democratic Solidarity to the periphery of Paraguayan politics.
On the Febrerista Party see Paul H. Lewis, Politics of Exile: Paraguay's Febrerista Party (1968); Paraguay: A Country Study, edited by Dennis Hanratty and Sandra Meditz (1990). On Democratic Solidarity see Juan Stefanich, Mundo nuevo: Una nueva teoria de la democracia (1941) and El Paraguay Nuevo: Por la democracia y la libertad hacia un nuevo ideario americano (1943); Charles H. Kolinski, A Historical Dictionary of Paraguay (1973).
Ashwell, Washington. Concepción, 1947: Cincuenta años después. Asunción, Paraguay: W. Ashwell, 1998.
Freire Esteves, Gomes. Historia contemporánea del Paraguay (1869–1920). Asunción, Paraguay: Ediciones NAPA, 1983.
Rahi, Arturo. Franco y la revolución de febrero, 2nd edition. Asunción, Paraguay: Augusto Gallegos, 2001.
Miguel A. Gatti