From Marxist-Leninism to market liberalism? : the varied adaptation of Latin America's leftist parties




Nogueira-Budny, Daniel

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There has been tremendous variation in the development trajectories of Latin America's leftist parties. Whereas some have successfully entrenched roots in society, built their party organization, and become relevant national parties, other leftist parties have languished organizationally, suffered debilitating internecine rivalries, and witnessed a mass defection of followers, at times despite substantial initial electoral success. For instance, Brazil's Workers' Party (PT) abandoned socialism, moderated its program, and built itself up into one of Brazil's two main parties. Venezuela's Radical Cause (LCR) and Peru's United Left (IU), however, did not. While they had similar origins to the PT, both failed to adapt: LCR and IU fractured and became electorally irrelevant, having been unable to adapt to external challenges. What accounts for this puzzling empirical variation in otherwise similar parties in relatively similar contexts? More broadly, this dissertation seeks to answer under what conditions do leftist parties in Latin American democracies transform from undemocratic, radical, weakly institutionalized parties into democratic, moderate, professional parties? Conversely, under what conditions do they fail to adapt, experience organizational stagnation, and succumb to irrelevance? It argues that the political context in which each of these leftist parties emerged had an indelible effect on the parties' later ability to adapt institutionally and ideologically to future endogenous and exogenous shocks. First, where authoritarian repression dismantled preexisting leftist parties, a political vacuum on the left emerged that created the incentive for the rise of a new type of leftist party that intrinsically valued democracy. Second, the implementation of legal requirements by outgoing authoritarian regimes during a party's formative years encouraged parties to institutionalize, ensuring the development of a disciplined, majoritarian party organization. Finally, obstinance on the part of the military's move to extricate itself from politics encouraged leftist parties to participate in democratization and, thus, widen their electoral appeals. Those leftist parties that were formed under such regimes were induced to take certain actions and adopt certain institutions that made them adaptable in the long run. Those that formed afterwards or never experienced life under authoritarian rule had little incentive to change and, thus, proved unable to respond to external challenges down the line that demanded institutional professionalization and ideological moderation.




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