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Volume 53 / Social Sciences

GOVERNMENT AND POLITICS: CHILE


MICHAEL FLEET, Associate Professor of Political Science, Marquette University

THIS BIENNIUM'S CHILEAN MATERIALS are dominated by studies of opposition social movements and political parties, whose growing unity and determination helped them to defeat Pinochet in the Oct. 1988 plebiscite and to win the 1989 general elections. These successes, and their importance to the politics of the post-military period, have returned them to the center stage of both political activity and the academic literature.

Preparing the ground for understanding Chile's transition to democracy are a number of studies of the military government and the breakdown of its political base. Foremost among these are the chapters by Valenzuela on military government during the 1970s, by Varas on Pinochet's loss of military support during the 1980s, and by Silva on the government's embrace and adaptation of neoliberal economics, all three in Drake and Jaksic's outstanding volume The struggle for democracy in Chile (item bi 91027329). Alvear relates the Pinochet regime's durability to certain features of Chilean culture (item bi 91000960). Piñera's account of the development of Pinochet's labor policy indicates how policy decisions were reached (item bi 91024863), and Arriagada's study of the Pinochet regime (see HLAS 51:3824), now available in English (item bi 91000930), sheds light on the dictator's skills in intra-military maneuvering. Also of note are Constable and Valenzuela's By reason or by force (item bi 93021952) and Pinochet's own Camino recorrido (item bi 92009820), his presidential memoirs through 1981.

Works focusing on repression and human rights violations under military rule include the National Truth and Reconciliation Commission's authoritative Rettig report (item bi 91024854), a two-volume (890 p.) "summary" of the six-volume original; Gómez Araneda's remarkably literary Tras la huella de los desaparecidos (item bi 92002795); Rojas' La represion política en Chile (item bi 91000945); Patricia Verdugo's interviews of relatives of the disappeared (item bi 92002788); and Sergio Villegas' account, first published in Argentina in 1974, of the experiences of Chileans detained and murdered in the National Stadium (item bi 92002816).

A number of general studies of Chilean politics have appeared recently, and are useful for the light they shed on the country's party system, relations between parties and social forces, as well as the thinking of the authors themselves. Books by military officers are among the most notable instances in this latter regard. They include Huidobro's Decisión naval (item bi 91024861), Col. Carlos Molina's studies of the military and politics, and the 1973 "breakdown" of democracy (items bi 91000925 and bi 92002774), and the 5th edition of Pinochet's El día decisivo (item bi 92002772), an account of his military career in which he claims (falsely) to have been among the original coup conspirators. Scully's Rethinking the center (item bi 92008597) and Israel's Politics and ideology in Allende's Chile (item bi 91024856), on the other hand, provide important insights into political parties and their relations at crucial junctures. Conservative journalist Pérez de Arce's Durante la UP (item bi 92002818), and Christian Democrat Patricio Dooner's Crónica de una democracia (item bi 91024868) are useful expressions of important partisan perspectives.

A number of particularly insightful studies of popular culture and social movements have appeared as well, reflecting the important role that both played in the opposition movement during the 1980s. De la Maza and Garcés' Explosión de las mayorías (item bi 92002821), first published in 1985, remains the most complete study of the anti-regime protests that began in 1983 and continued over the next several years. It underscores the importance of parties, popular organizations, and direct and indirect involvement of the Catholic Church in organizing and sustaining these protests in the face of government repression. Aman and Parker's Popular culture in Chile (item bi 93015875) includes thoughtful essays on various popular sector groups. Politzer, whose earlier Miedo en Chile (Santiago: CESOC, 1985) dramatically depicted the trauma experienced by regime opponents in Chile and abroad, has written La ira de Pedro y los otros (item bi 91000927), a moving study of young Chileans belonging to paramilitary groups that took up arms against Pinochet. Also worthy of note is the Argentine Jacobo Timerman's rambling but insightful Chile, death in the South (item bi 91000935).

Students of Chilean politics have a variety of recently published materials on parties, and by party spokespersons, from which to choose. Many of the books and pamphlets were prepared in advance of the general elections of Dec. 1989. Of the studies of political parties and/or personalities included in the annotations below, the most illuminating are Varas' study of the Communist Party (item bi 91000943), Bascunan's general reflections on the left (item bi 92002771), and Walker's masterful study of the Socialist Party (item bi 92002776), which he sets against the socialist parties of Europe, and which goes beyond previous works on the subject in depth of analysis and insight. Politzer's interview of Carlos Altamirano helps shed light on his ideological transformation during the period of military rule (item bi 92002773). Rojas' highly favorable biography of right-wing presidential candidate and former Pinochet Treasury Minister Hernán Büchi (item bi 92002798) and the collection of interviews and speeches by Andrés Allamand (item bi 91000938) articulate the views of two right-wing figures likely to play important political roles in the next several years. Also worthy of note are Dooner's interviews of 13 party spokesmen, representing virtually the entire political spectrum, on the subject of the Chilean Catholic Church and its political influence (item bi 92002784).

Various studies of the 1988 plebiscite and the subsequent transition to democracy help to capture the dynamics of current Chilean politics. As has been the case for most of the last two decades, Garretón's work is the most prominent, the most extensive, and the most insightful. His short essay on the plebiscite (item bi 92002828) captures the logic that finally brought the opposition together to defeat Pinochet, while his Reconstruir la política (item bi 91000942) combines insightful and theoretically sophisticated analysis with a strong argument on behalf of a moderate, liberalized socialism. Tironi's La invisible victoria (item bi 91000939) brings together many of the trenchant articles and essays he wrote as a regular news magazine columnist during this period. Also of note are Caviedes' electoral study of the plebiscite and the general election (item bi 91025349); Tulchin and Varas' collection of essays (item bi 91021824), many of them written by people who played key roles in the transition; Vásquez Muruaga's interviews of the country's leading political figures at a crucial juncture in the transition, after the plebiscite but long before the 1989 election (item bi 91024865); and Derechos humanos y plebiscito (item bi 91024855), which contains material designed to help citizens detect irregularities in campaigning, voting, and the counting of ballots.

A final set of materials offer indications of the Aylwin government's policy orientations and the economic and political problems it will likely have to face in the 1990-94 period. Aylwin's Un desafío colectivo (item bi 91000949), the Concertación de Partidos por la Democracia's Programa de gobierno (item bi 91024858), Muñoz's collection (item bi 91000959), and Foxley's Chile y su futuro (item bi 92009824) all provide valuable insight into the new government's policies, and the logic and calculi underlying them. Huneeus' collection (item bi 91000940) offers lessons to be learned from the consolidation experiences of other countries, as do Flisfisch et al. (item bi 91000955), who stress the importance of a country's political cultural characteristics in determining the success or failure of a consolidation process. Finally, Garretón's Reconstruir la política, mentioned above, argues that consolidation will become a reality only when the social, economic, and political conditions that asssure democratic stability are fully developed, and points to four "requisites" that must be met if this is to happen: the establishment of civilian supremacy, the formulation of a development model that popular sectors will support politically, the achievement of greater autonomy by social forces vis-à-vis political parties, and the emergence of a party system capable of producing majorities committed to both democratic politics and social reform.


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