The politics of the Chilean right from the Popular Front to 1964
The right in Chile has been crucial to the democratic politics of the country ever since the development of the party system. In the period covered by this thesis (1939- 1964) the Chilean right faced the combined challenge of reformist governments and the emergence of mass political parties on the left. This thesis describes the Chilean right as being composed by political parties, entrepreneurial associations and a leading newspaper, El Mercurio. which represented and expressed the interests, thoughts and common perspectives of the right as a whole. This thesis argues that the right in Chile was able not only to survive the reformist governments of the 1940s, but that it remained very influential politically and as an economic force. The strategies it successfully carried out were those of negotiation and co-optation, which rested in the right's congressional power. With the advent of populism at the beginning of the 1950s, the argument goes, the right faced new threats, especially the discredit of political parties and of Congress conceived as the arena par excellence for negotiation and compromise. The danger came both from within the right itself, threatening to divide it, and from populist governments, which put at risk the right's sources of influence. Thus, the rightist sectors had to develop new political strategies, which in essence pointed towards the formulation of a project of capitalist modernisation centered in private enterprise and free markets. With the election of Jorge Alessandri --an entrepreneurial figure-- as President of the Republic, the right had the opportunity to put into practice its novel economic ideas. In the long run, though, the results were negative. The thesis analises the political dimension of this failure. Once its project collapsed, the right became ideologically marginal, just at a time when Chilean politics had become strongly ideological as well as reformist if not revolutionary. This explains why the leaders of the long established parties of the right, the Conservatives and Liberals, dissolved themselves in 1965. Finally this dissertation speculates on the right at the present time looking for elements of continuity and change between today's right and the one studied for the 1939-1964 period.