Populism: Chile, Argentina, and Mexico

Populism is a political movement, which supports the mass of the working class and/or peasantry, but individuals who lead them are from higher social classes. In Argentina the populist movement emerged with Juan Perón. Before Perón, Argentina’s export of beef and grain grew exponentially. Matter of fact, in the early twentieth century the country was going through incredible growth with a growth national product that rivaled European countries. However, the social gap was rapidly increasing as growth was increasing. The conservative party opposed to incorporate workers into the system and to advance women’s rights, which let to the dissatisfaction of the system. Perón realized the forging of an alliance between Argentina’s industrialists, popular sector, women, and the working class was essential to win the working class of the revolution. Perón along with his wife recognized that ISI was a program that could increase hyper-nationalism to achieve women’s and worker rights. Perón also tried to combine the idea of communism and capitalism throughout his policies, but not pleasing either side. He controlled the labor movement and sought it as a threat if any other movements represented workers’ interest independently. Throughout his policies, Eva and Perón managed to incorporate the working class into politics.

A second case study of populism is Chile. Salvador Allende Gossens was the leader of Chile for three simultaneous years. Comparative analysts would claim that Allende’s theories were not fully populist, but were more Marxist and Socialist. Social changes were occurring in the late nineteenth century due to the increase in exports nitrates mined from Guano (the northern desert). Resistance towards the political reform started to increase when the elites tried to modernize the economy on behalf of dismissal of the social sectors and increasing the wage gap. The political system collapsed when an economic crisis impacted Chile due to the collapse of the international market for nitrates. However, populism in Chile was not like Argentina, it was more about political parties than charismatic leaders. Chile incorporated the Chilean Corporación de Fomento to encourage ISI programs, but the populist movement ended with failure due to military rule.

After the revolutionary era of Mexico in 1910–1917, the country’s ruling party adopted ISI and populism. The civil war during the revolution era was followed by eleven more years of sporadic uprisings and assassinations. Unlike other forms of populism, Mexican populism had to incorporate the population because they had mobilized to fight the Revolution. This resulted in the Cárdenas presidency, which was an era of union organizing, land reform, cultural innovation, and nationalism. Cárdenas built a coalition of working and middle classes supported reform and ISI, but although there were attempts to aid the rural sector, change was not effective planted. Unlike Chile, Argentina, and Brazil, the system did not end with military rule. However, cases of fraud and repression increased and the political system became more authoritarian.

The role of church and religion on the populist movements in Chile, Argentina, and Mexico plays a central role between the hierarchy and Conservative parties. As economies adopted more liberal policies, politicians wanted to adopt more Enlightenment ideas about the separation of church and state. The church seems to hold more conservative ideologies and these nations grow socially, economic, and political, more liberal ideas are enacted throughout the nation. Some of these revolutions occurred to oppose the church and to offer more freedoms for women’s and workers class.