From Allende to Lagos: How Ideological Transformation and a Tradition of Coalition Building Have Enabled the Chilean Left to Maintain Power in the Post-Cold War Era

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Title: From Allende to Lagos: How Ideological Transformation and a Tradition of Coalition Building Have Enabled the Chilean Left to Maintain Power in the Post-Cold War Era
Author: Sacker, Diane
Advisor: Isaacs, Anita J.
Department: Haverford College. Dept. of Political Science
Type: Thesis (B.A.)
Issue Date: 2000
Abstract: After the collapse ofthe Soviet Union in 1990, there were predictions that the Left in Latin America would also collapse. The Left in Latin America is expected to lose its political influence because it has lost the international support of the Soviet Union. The Left in Latin American has also been expected to fail because the global capitalist economy of the Post-Cold War era is at odds with the state planned economy advocated by traditional parties of the Latin American Left. Parties of the Left will also experience difficulty if they no not expand their base of electoral support beyond trade unions and organized labor, because the neo-liberal reforms instituted in the 1980's have weakened trade unions and organized labor. In spite of the collapse of the Soviet Union, the grim predictions for the Latin American Left, and the collapse of its own Socialist government in 1973, the Left in Chile has emerged as a viable political alternative. In this work, I will demonstrate that the Left's ability to build a coalition with the Center and its ability to transform its ideology so that it is in line with the economic and social realities of the Post-Cold War era has enabled the Chilean Left to return to power on January 16, 2000 with the election of Socialist Ricardo Lagos. In the first section of this thesis, I will illustrate that the Left's historic participation in Chile's democratic institutions set the groundwork for the Left's strategy of coalition building. I will then demonstrate how this strategy of coalition building enabled the Left to gather enough popular support to ensure that its candidate Salvador Allende was victorious in the 1970 elections, despite the opposition of two strong candidates and opposition from a United States government that did not want to see a Socialist State emerge in during the Cold-War. In the second section of this thesis, I will demonstrate that the absence of "a united party, widely based support, ideas that are seen as relevant, and credible and popular leaders," made Salvador Allende's vision of implementing a state planned economy within Chile's pluralistic democratic structure an impossibility. I will first address that Allende's understanding that he did not posses a wide base of support caused him to try to appease the members of his opposition, and work to broaden his base of support among the Chilean electorate. I will then examine how Allende's economic plan for implementing a successful state planned economy was hindered when Allende's opposition in the Congress worked to exacerbate the economic problems that resulted from Allende's economic policies. Lastly, I will address how the Left's deviation from its strategy of coalition and unification, exemplified by a split over economic policy and its decision to not unify with the Christian Democratic party, and economic crisis lead to the demise of the Allende government and the emergence of the Pinochet dictatorship. In the third section of this work, I will examine how the repressive nature of the government of General Augusto Pinochet (1973-1989) contributed to the decline and the reemergence of Chilean Left. I will demonstrate that the Pinochet government's disregard for democratic institutions and practices furthered the decline of the Left because these practices caused a division within the Left over the best strategy to remove Pinochet from government. I will then illustrate that this decrease in power forced the Left to expand its strategy of coalition building to include the Center in order to amass a broad enough base of popular support to defeat General Pinochet in the 1990 election and reemerge into Chilean politics. In the fourth section of this work, I will illustrate that the Left's ideological transformation and subsequent success, marked by the election of Socialist President Ricardo Lagos, can be explained by Roberto Bibbo's theory that when a party's ideology becomes unpopular it will synthesize the positive elements of the opposing party's ideology into its own and create a vital new political alternative. The Left underwent an ideological transformation from adhering to a state planned economy, associated with the collapse of the Soviet Union and the Allende government, to promoting a capitalist economy with a social safety net, an economic plan that is relevant to the global Post-Cold War economy. I will then analyze how the Left's ability to ideologically align with the new international socialist movement "the third way," an attempt to transcend both old style social democracy and neo-liberalism will aid Lagos's ability to govern. In my conclusion, I will demonstrate how the election of Ricardo Lagos, the election of a Socialist aligned with the Center, provides a formula for the declining Left in Latin America. I will also illustrate that the international support for "the third way" poses a challenge to Francis Fukuyama's assertion made in 1989, that "capitalist democracy represents the final and highest stage of the development of human political and economic institutions."
Subject: Chile -- Politics and government -- 1973-
Subject: New Left -- Chile
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Sacker, Diane. "From Allende to Lagos: How Ideological Transformation and a Tradition of Coalition Building Have Enabled the Chilean Left to Maintain Power in the Post-Cold War Era". 2000. Available electronically from

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