Scholars have recognized that contentious political action typically draws on relatively stable scripts for the enactment of claims making. But if such repertoires of political practice are generally reproduced over time, why and how do new modes of practice emerge? Employing a pragmatist perspective on social action, this article argues that change in political repertoires can be usefully understood as a result of situated political innovation—i.e., of the creative recombination of existing practices, through experimentation over time, by interacting political agents for whom old repertoires were proving inadequate to the changing context of action. The utility of this approach is demonstrated by applying it to explain the historical emergence of a new set of populist mobilizing practices in early twentieth-century Peru. The results have implications for the study of political action and historical change.
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On revolutions, see Goodwin 2001; Skocpol 1979; Wickham-Crowley 1992. On regime transitions, see Huntington 1991; Linz and Stepan 1978; O’Donnell and Schmitter 1986. On political institutional change, see Clemens 1997; Mahoney 2001; Mahoney and Thelen 2010. On voter realignments, see Manza and Brooks 1999; Manza, Hout, and Brooks 1995. On social movements, see Fligstein and McAdam 2011; McAdam 1982; Piven and Cloward 1977; Tilly 1978.
To be clear, this article is not concerned with understanding “populism”—the definition of which is hotly contested (de la Torre 2000, pp. 1–27; Ionescu and Gellner 1969; Jansen 2011; Laclau 1977, pp. 143–158; Canovan 1981, pp. 3–16)—but rather with explaining the historical emergence of a particular package of rhetorically-infused political practices that is common to many Latin American cases often considered under this rubric.
Due to space constraints, this article places more emphasis on the tactical, and less on the rhetorical, side of this equation, as the latter has been explored more thoroughly in the Peruvian historiography (see, for example, Alexander 1973 and Pike 1986). One consequence of this is that it is unable to explore as fully as it might the ways in which the ideas embedded in the populist rhetoric were not only tools for persuasion, but also recursively shaped the subjectivities and informed the strategic visions of those who developed and deployed them (although it does make some suggestive moves in this direction). This would be a fruitful avenue for further investigation. Similarly, as this article’s concern with political innovation leads it to focus on the strategic vision and actions of political leaders, it cannot address the important questions of why and how populist mobilization resonated as it did amongst different groups in Peruvian society. This is another important topic for additional research.
Thus, this article does not claim to explain the origins of populist mobilization writ large, nor is it advancing the argument that populist mobilization first emerged in Latin America. The world had clearly seen examples of large-scale populist mobilization outside of Latin America prior to 1931. Rather, this article is concerned with explaining the historical emergence of that particular set of rhetorically infused practices—the distinctly Latin American style of populist mobilization—that was developed with reference to this specific regional context.
My claim is not that the word “populismo” had never appeared in the Latin American context prior to 1931. Nor is it that there were no prior episodes in the region that historians might reasonably call populist. It is, rather, that Peru’s 1931 election was the first episode of populist mobilization as defined here, and that this marked a qualitative shift in repertoires of political practice.
On political spectacle and performance, see Alexander et al. 2006; Berezin 1997; Tilly 2008. On political violence, see Auyero 2007; Brubaker and Laitin 1998; Tilly 2003. On political organizing, see Clemens 1997; Morris 1984; Polletta 2002. On movement strategies and tactics, see Bloom 2015; Ganz 2009; Tarrow 1998; Zald 2000.
Indeed, Stamatov (2011) argues that Tilly missed a critical part of the story of the emergence of the modern protest repertoire in nineteenth-century Great Britain by neglecting the importance of another contextual element: the organizational field of religion.
While I believe that this point is not inconsistent with Tilly’s own view, especially as expressed in his later work (see, for example, McAdam, Tarrow, and Tilly 2001; cf., Gross 2010), his writings on repertoires provide few tools for this sort of analysis.
As political innovation is often as much about repurposing and recombination as it is about outright invention, it is reasonable to identify a particular modality of political practice—a coherent bundle of tactics and ideas—as novel even when some of its specific elements are not. In the case of populist mobilization, for example, my claim is not that any of the specific tactics were in themselves entirely new, or even necessarily populist. (Indeed, many had figured in distinctly non-populist political projects at some point in the past.) My claim is rather that, when motivated by populist rhetoric and practiced in concert with other such tactics, they cohered in a distinctive—and distinctively populist—mode of political practice. It was this that was new.
See Joas 1985, 1993, and 1996. Good overviews of classical American pragmatism are available in Gross 2007; Schefler 1974; and Shook and Margolis 2006. More recent works, representative of the new “pragmatist turn” in American sociology, include Bargheer 2011; Biernacki 2005; Dalton 2004; Emirbayer and Goldberg 2005; Emirbayer and Mische 1998; Emirbayer and Schneiderhan 2013; Frye 2012; Gross 2008 and 2009; Mische 2009; Schneiderhan 2011; Silver 2011; Tavory and Timmermans 2014; and Whitford 2002.
The sociological question, with regard to innovation, is thus not, who has exceptional levels of innate creativity, and who lacks it—as if there were dramatic inequalities in the distribution of this human capacity—but rather, what triggers creative responses to particular situations (given that these are significantly less common than are habitual responses).
This formulation builds on Gross’s (2009) lucid distillation of a “pragmatist theory of social mechanisms.”
Excluding Central America, the Caribbean, and the Guianas, these countries are: Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Mexico, Peru, and Venezuela (see discussion in Jansen 2011, pp. 87–90).
This comparison will be controversial in some circles. Many historians object to labeling Sánchez Cerro a “populist,” because he lacked the thoroughgoing commitment to social change evidenced by Haya de la Torre. Indeed, some historians prefer the label of “fascist” (Dobyns and Doughty 1976, p. 231; Molinari Morales 2006). Needless to say, the disagreement hinges on how “populism” is defined. As this article adopts a practice-based approach (under the rubric of “populist mobilization”), and as the mobilizing practices of these candidates shared a great deal in common in 1931, the comparison is appropriate. Indeed, it is precisely because of the substantive differences between the candidates that their convergence on similar practices is so intriguing.
The candidates of both parties sang the praises of Peru’s Incan heritage, elevated the indigenous population, valorized workers, reached out to the growing middle class, and painted an inclusive picture of the national body that transcended traditional cleavages of ethnicity, class, region, and party. Beyond this, however, they differed somewhat in the specifics of their rhetoric and argumentation. Haya was more intellectual and verbose; Sánchez Cerro’s speeches were shorter and simpler. Haya’s assessment of the state of Peruvian social and economic realities was more complex, informed by socialist, anti-imperialist, and indigenista thought. Sánchez Cerro’s reading of reality was more conservative and patriarchal, focusing less on the importance of restructuring social relations than on morally cleansing the national body. And importantly, the candidates constructed their targets—the anti-popular elite—differently. For Sánchez Cerro, it was the political allies of the recetly removed dictator. For Haya, it was the traditional liberal oligarchy. Of course, since both candidates were making such claims, each strove to identify himself with the Peruvian people and his opponent with the parasitic elite, such that a genuinely popular stance would imply identification with and support for his own political party (and opposition to that of his opponent).
It is widely acceped that the 1931 election represented a watershed in Peruvian political history (Basadre 1999 [vol. 13], pp. 3181–3183; Castillo Ochoa 1990, p. 57). As Pedro Ugarteche—Sánchez Cerro’s personal secretary—would later reflect, the campaigns of 1931 “had neither precedent nor equal in all the republican life of Peru” (1969 [vol. 2], p. xli). (Note that Ugarteche 1969 is a four volume work that both reprints important documents related to Sánchez Cerro and compiles Ugarteche’s own recollections. Hereafter, references to specific documents reprinted in this work will be identified as such. Otherwise, as in the present footnote, references to pages in this source can be assumed to point to Ugarteche’s own words.)
A further problem with the application of conventional comparative-historical methods to the Peruvian case is the impossibility of establishing an appropriate set of comparison cases. The fact that this case was the first in which populist mobilization was practiced in Latin America means that other potential comparison cases—i.e., subsequent episodes of populist mobilization in the region—are neither independent (in that their political leaders were aware of the effectiveness of the practices developed by Haya de la Torre and Sánchez Cerro) nor comparable (in that they do not represent similar cases of political innovation).
In addition to this work, there is just one scholarly book on Sánchez Cerro and his UR party (Molinari Morales 2006)—and this devotes only thirty-one pages to the 1930–1931 period. The slightly larger literature on Haya de la Torre and his APRA party tends to focus overwhelmingly on Haya’s changing ideology and to skip quickly over the 1931 election (see, for example, Alexander 1973 and Pike 1986). The best work on the early years of ARPA is Klarén 1973, which devotes one chapter to the election. The secondary historical literatures are more helpful on other contextual issues (like understanding the development of the Peruvian labor movement in the 1920s or shedding light on the biographies of specific political actors).
Most of APRA’s organizational records from the period have been destroyed; there are very few records for UR, apart from those collected in Ugarteche 1969; and state survelance of the parties was far from systematic.
In Lima, I collected and analyzed primary and secondary materials in three archives (the Archivo General de la Nación, the Centro de Documentación de Ciencias Sociales of the Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú, and the Instituto Riva-Agüero [also affiliated with the Universidad Católica]) and at three libraries (the Biblioteca Nacional del Perú, the Biblioteca Central of the Universidad Nacional Mayor de San Marcos, and the library of the Instituto de Estudios Peruanos).
See Decreto-Ley 7103 (Congreso de la República del Perú, Archivo Digital de la Legislación del Perú [http://www.congreso.gob.pe/ntley/default.asp], hereafter cited as ADLP). For the official governmental account of its efforts to respond to unemployment between 1931 and 1934, see Departamento de Lima 1935.
In construction, the unemployment rate was nearly 70 % (Departamento de Lima 1931, p. 257). It is difficult to assess the reliability of official government statistics for nineteenth and early twentieth century Peru, but such figures are the only ones available. The 1931 census of Lima and Callao—cited here and relied upon elsewhere—was commissioned by a government committee charged with measuring the impact of the depression on the metropolitan area. For a critique of this census, see Derpich et al. 1985.
While provincial capitals like Arequipa and Cuzco grew during this period, Lima expanded tremendously. The population of the province grew by nearly 30 % between 1908 and 1920 (from 172,927 to 223,807) and then by another 67 % between 1920 and 1930 (when it reached 373,875 people, nearly 40 % of whom had been born in provinces other than Lima or Callao) (Departamento de Lima 1931, pp. 45, 187). This migration was further encouraged by the increasing availability of modern amenities in the cities and was facilitated by the expansion of Peru’s transportation and communication infrastructures (discussed below). Projects to modernize cities and expand infrastructure were spearheaded during this time by the politically ascendant liberal elite (Karno 1970; Pike 1967).
This valuable source, produced by the “Touring Club Peruano,” provides what appears to be a comprehensive catalogue of all major civic associations active in Lima in the mid-1920s (Laos 1928, pp. 185–379). The data seem to have been gathered mostly in 1925. In addition to the workers’ and regional societies already noted, the guidebook provides information on seventeen elite social clubs, seventeen cultural societies, twelve professional and four scientific societies, eleven religious and four patriotic societies, sixteen women’s societies, nine university student societies, twenty-seven shooting clubs, and various sporting clubs—including eighty-one soccer clubs.
On how the development of civic associations can provide an organizationl infrastructure for new forms of political practice, see Riley 2010.
This is according to the 1939 statistical report released by Peru’s Dirección Nacional de Estadistica (República del Perú 1939, p. 175). Leguía reinstituted what was called the Conscripción Víal (Highways Conscription Act) in 1920 (Klarén 2000, p. 250). This act “… transformed the unconnected roads built over old Inca and colonial paths into a proper highway system that became the material base essential for mass migration …” (de Soto 1989, p. 8).
It is important to remember that Peru’s infrastructural expansion was uneven. While rail service began in 1851, for example, the great Incan capital of Cuzco was not connected to Lima by rail until 1908 (Jacobsen 2005, p. 281). Also, Peru’s level of rail connectivity at the time of the 1931 election was still comparatively low. In Peru in 1932, for example, there was 0.4 km. of track for every 100 km.2 of national territory and 6.9 km. for every 10,000 inhabitants. By way of comparison, Argentina (in 1933) had 1.4 km. of track for every 100 km.2 and 32.8 km. for every 10,000 inhabitants; the United States (in 1934) had 4.5 km. of track for every 100 km.2 and 37.7 km. for every 10,000 inhabitants; the United Kingdom (in 1934) had 13.6 km. of track for every 100 km.2 and 7.0 km. for every 10,000 inhabitants (República del Perú 1939, pp. 48*-49*).
Passenger use on conventional and electric rail grew accordingly. The number of annual passages on conventional rail lines increased from 2,943,465 in 1908 to 5,784,710 in 1919, then held steady in the six million range through 1929 (República del Perú 1939, p. 186). Lima’s first electric tramline was inagurated in 1904. The city did not begin to record tram passenger data until 1908, when the electrified lines sold 22,575,083 passages over the course of the year. By 1930, that number had increased to 29,239,045 (ibid.). For more information on the development of the tramlines, see Bromley and Barbagelata 1945 (pp. 96–97).
The figure on telegrams transmitted is for the 1923–1930 period, as no data are available for 1922. The total number of telegrams transmitted jumped from 826,777 in 1923 to 1,625,508 in 1930.
The once formidable parties of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries—the Partido Constitucionalista, the Partido Liberal, the Partido Demócrata, and the most powerful Partido Civil—had been built around the personalities of their founding members. By 1919, these politicians were aging and struggles for succession by the younger generation had left the parties fragmented (see Karno 1970).
Sánchez Cerro’s letter of resignation is reprinted in Ugarteche 1969 (vol. 2), pp. 91–92.
See Decreto-Ley 7160 and Decreto-Ley 7177 (ADLP). For an extended discussion of the reforms, see Basadre 1980, pp. 141–160.
This figure is in tension with the one offered by Klarén (2000, p. 269), when he notes that “the size of the electorate rose 59 %, from 203,882 in 1919 to 323,623 in 1931.” This is because Klarén appears to have been comparing the number of registered voters in 1919 with the number who actually voted in 1931. The more appropriate comparison for present purposes is between registered voters in both periods. According to the electoral census of 1933, the number of registered voters in 1931 was 392,363 (República del Perú 1933, p. 23). It is important to note that suffrage remained limited. The new electoral laws continued to exclude women, kept the voting age at twenty-one, and retained a literacy requirement that effectively disenfranchised the country’s Quechua-speaking indigenous population.
That the expansion of male suffrage was mainly among urban workers and the lower middle class was a result of the interaction between the continuation of the literacy requirement and the removal of property qualifications. The male rural indigenous population remained largely disenfranchised by the literacy requirement. (The 1933 electoral census reports that 74.1 % of registered voters in 1931 were white or mestizo and only 25.0 % were indigenous—although these figures are suspect for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is that the assignment to racial categories was done by survey registrars based on their personal assessments of respondent skin tone [República del Perú 1933, pp. 25, 218].) Those newly eligible in 1931 were adult men who now had enough education to meet the ongoing literacy requirement, even if they still did not own property. This characterization applies most distinctly to the expanding sector of urban laborers, artisans, and lower level administrative workers who, although still working in low-earning occupations, were increasingly more likely to be educated and living in cities. One comparison illustrates this point particularly well: in the largely rural and indigenous department of Cuzco, only about 14,000 people were eligible to vote in 1931 (out of a total population of around 700,000); whereas roughly the same number (14,276) were eligible in the urban and mostly working class province of Callao, out of an overall population just one tenth the size (70,141) (Departamento de Lima 1931, p. 259; República del Perú 1933, p. 216; República del Perú 1939, pp. 13–14).
This was after initially declaring that Sánchez Cerro would not be allowed to return from exile to campaign (Basadre 1999 [vol. 13], pp. 3178–3179). The preliminary ban was largely the work of Lieutenant Colonel Gustavo Jiménez, commander of the Lima garrison and Sánchez Cerro’s main political rival within the armed forces (Masterson 1991, p. 45).
Carlos Miró Quesada Laos (1947, pp. 162–164) remarks that the candidacy of la Jara had been premised on the misguided notion that there was a broad political center that would support him as a representative of the traditional elite. La Jara believed that it was unnesssary to hold rallies and marches to court this silent majority, but that they (“our masses”) would make themselves known on Election Day.
In their estimation, Sánchez Cerro was more likely to safeguard their interests and could be more easily controlled than Haya de la Torre.
Mariátegui’s former Partido Socialista became the Partido Comunista upon the leader’s death in 1930, when the former Aprista and now Moscow-aligned communist Eudocio Ravines assumed leadership. Shortly thereafter, Sánchez Cerro persecuted party members during his brief tenure as head of the provisional military government (Decreto-Ley 6926 [ADLP]; see also Basadre 1999 [vol. 12], pp. 3114–3116). After Sánchez Cerro’s outster, the Sámanez Ocampo junta suspended active repression of the party, but nevertheless impeded its electoral participation.
“Resolución del Comite Ejecutivo” (p. 1, see also p. 7), Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú, Lima, Centro de Documentación de Ciencias Sociales, Colección Moisés Arroyo Posadas [hereafter cited as C.MAP], folder 3.12 “P.C.P.”
“Resolución del Comite Ejecutivo” (p. 2), C.MAP, folder 3.12 “P.C.P.”
Eudocio Ravines to the Comité Regional de Junín (p. 3), 20 August 1931, C.MAP, folder 7.1 “P.C.P., 1931.” See also Giesecke 1992, p. 82.
Eudocio Ravines to the Comité Regional de Junín (p. 4), 20 August 1931, C.MAP, folder 7.1 “P.C.P., 1931.” See also Ravines 1951, pp. 96–98.
In correspondence to a provincial party cell, Ravines explained that “APRA disciplines the bourgeois and petit bourgeois reactionary forces as armed bands to pounce against the revolutionary proletariat” (Eudocio Ravines to the Comité Regional de Junín [p. 4], 20 August 1931, C.MAP, folder 7.1 “P.C.P., 1931”).
See for example La Noche (Lima, Peru), April 28, 29, 30, May 2, 4, 8, and June 7, 1931. Because the PCP anchored the far left and exercised influence among significant sectors of the working class, it remained an important actor in the political field of 1931. It is for this reason that the party’s polemical exchanges with APRA in the months before the election were so important.
This argument should not be interpreted as suggesting that the various elites and members of the PCP did not innovate because they lacked the capacity for creativity—and that Haya de la Torre, Sánchez Cerro, and those assembled around them had deeper reservoirs of this human potential—as creativity is available to and utilized by all actors (in tandem with habit). Rather, the point is that the elite and commmunist actors, shaped by their developmental experiences and relationships, did not interact with the context of action in a way that would trigger a shift from habitual to creative responses; and that the outsider candidates and their parties did. This is what remains to be explained—and the task to which a structuralist mode of analysis is inadequate.
Haya had stayed in contact with these supporters from abroad through extensive correspondence (see, for example, the letters excerpted in Enríquez 1951, pp. 79–101; and Víctor Raúl Haya de la Torre to La Célula del Apra del Cuzco, 25 February 1930, Archivo General de la Nación, Lima [hereafter cited as AGN], Prefectura de Lima, legajo 184.108.40.206.220.127.116.11, folder 5, “Documentos del P.A.P. Cartas Confidenciales 1930–32–33-34-35 y 1937”).
Haya returned from exile and began campaigning in person on July 12th (Basadre 1999 [vol. 13], p. 3179). He landed first at the northern port city of Talara and finally arrived in Lima, to much fanfare, on August 15th (see Luis Eduardo Enríquez’s recollections [1951, p. 75] and La Tribuna [Lima, Peru], August 17, 1931).
See, for example, Haya de la Torre’s trusted advisor Luis Alberto Sánchez’s letter to Haya, dated December 21, 1930, informing him of Sánchez Cerro’s persecution of Apristas (reprinted in Haya de la Torre and Sánchez 1982 [vol. 1], pp. 27–30). Sánchez opens his letter with the following summary of events: “You will have alraeady been informed by the compañeros of the true situation that began on the 23rd of this past month, as a result of which [Carlos Manuel] Cox has been imprisoned, [Manuel] Seoane has left [the country], others remain underground, and others—myself included—are persecuted” (ibid., p. 27). See also Luis Eduardo Enríquez’s letter to Sánchez Cerro, dated December 9, 1930, asking him to end this persecution (AGN, Prefectura de Lima, legajo 18.104.22.168.22.214.171.124, folder 5, “Documentos del P.A.P. Cartas Confidenciales 1930–32–33-34-35 y 1937”).
Mariátegui was not wrong in this assessment. Haya indeed did intend to pursue electoral options and to make himself the figurehead of such efforts. This became patently clear in 1929, when Leguía held a presidential election. Although it was broadly understood that the election would be rigged, Haya made plans to run anyway (Klarén 1973, p. 117 and 2000, p. 260). Moreover, rumor had it that he was also orchestrating a rebellion and military mutiny to respond to his inevitable electoral defeat (Salisbury 1983, p. 6). Mariátegui refused to back this plan, taking issue not only with the electoral participation, but also with the subsequent insurrectional strategy—not to mention the personalism that both evidenced (Klarén 1973, p. 113 and 2000, pp. 261–262). Although he would later abort his plan, Haya took Mariátegui’s opposition as a fundamental slight. On the relationship between Haya and Mariátegui, see Luis Alberto Sánchez’s own reflections in his memoir (1969 [vol. 1], pp. 295–320).
See the recollections of and correspondence reproduced by Luis Eduardo Enríquez, one of the early organizers of the Partido Aprista Peruano on the ground in Peru (Enríquez 1951, pp. 79–101).
Sánchez Cerro was a product of the professionalization of the Peruvian armed forces that began in the wake of the War of the Pacific and that continued through the 1920s (see Masterson 1991, pp. 23–37 and Villanueva Valencia 1962). Born in the northern town of Piura to middle class parents, he attended public schools and later enrolled in the national military academy at Chorrillos (Ugarteche 1969 [vol. 1], pp. 1–4). Yet while military careers had always provided a unique route to social mobility in Peru, they rarely led to real political power, economic wealth, or social prestige.
Sánchez Cerro arrived by ship at the port of Callao on July 2nd and disembarked on July 3rd (see El Comercio [Lima, Peru], July 3, 1931; Basadre 1999 [vol. 13], p. 3179; Miró Quesada Laos 1947, pp. 151–152). His sustained popularity must be viewed in the context of the intense opposition to Leguía that had developed by 1930 (Molinari Morales 2006, pp. 18–19).
See Luis M. Sánchez Cerro to A. E. Pérez Araníbar, 30 July 1931 (reprinted in Ugarteche 1969 [vol. 2], pp. 122–124).
This consecration had been an attempt on Leguía’s part to improve relations with the Catholic Church and to secure its support for an unconstitutional reelection bid (Klarén 2000, pp. 253–254).
See for example his condescending depiction of striking workers in a 1916 letter to his brother: “I’ve always maintained that this misunderstood system of strikes—typical of the rabble—is the worst of the ills recently introduced to this already degenerated and convulsed country. The stupid masses, who only give in when the stick is brought into play, are completely ignorant of who they should be listening to…; in the best of cases, the result obtained [by a strike] doesn’t remedy the ills that the strikers bring upon themselves. It truly irritates me, as if I were being personally attacked, every time such wretchedness is produced” (Luis M. Sánchez Cerro to Antonio Sánchez Cerro, 4 June 1916 [reprinted in Ugarteche 1969 (vol. 1), p. 17]). See also Stein 1980, pp. 86, 104–105.
These attempts were in 1919 and 1922. For a brief discussion of the latter, along with a collection of primary documents pertaining to the event, see Ugarteche 1969 (vol. 1), pp. 28–61, 63–67. It is notable that Sánchez Cerro had also taken part in one successful coup many years before: as a young officer, he was seriously wounded while participating in the 1914 overthrow of Guillermo Billinghurst (Basadre 1999 [vol. 12], p. 3094; Ugarteche 1969 [vol. 1], pp. 11–14).
It is important to note that, while mass support erupted in response to Sánchez Cerro’s 1930 overthrow of Leguía, the coup itself was a military act and not strategically premised on the mobilization of widespread popular support.
On Sánchez Cerro’s removal to a post in La Pampa and subsequent exile to fascist Italy (where he remained from late 1925 through early 1929), see the summary and supporting documents collected in Ugarteche 1969 (vol. 1), pp. 68–73.
Many other future Aprista leaders had similar experiences in exile, in countries ranging from Chile and Argentina, to the United States and United Kingdom, to France and Germany. These experiences are less well documented and assessing their full impact on APRA’s strategy would require substantial additional research.
See, for example, Haya’s attempt to do this in his January 31, 1931, letter to Luis Alberto Sánchez (reprinted in Haya de la Torre and Sánchez 1982 [vol. 1], pp. 30–34).
Haya’s writings of this period carried heavy doses of anti-imperialist and anti-oligarchical thought and were clear about the importance of coordinating active political support from various social sectors, including students, urban laborers, coastal plantation workers, highland peasants, and middle class professionals (Alexander 1973; Pike 1986; for Haya’s collected writings, see Haya de la Torre, 1984).
Haya had been interested organization from an early age. In a 1971 interview with historian Steve Stein (1980, p. 134), he described his childhood obsession with organizing: “We had some very spacious rooms to play in, and we created a republic there. We had a President, we had cabinet ministers, deputies. We had politics. And there we practiced … at reproducing the life of the country with spools of thread. […] I used to receive very nice toys: locomotives, trains. But I was not interested in these things. What interested me was to have an organized setup, like a country…. When I recall this, you can see how early I had a political imagination. It was quite noteworthy, because we imitated life, but we assured a life of order. Now I tell myself, how I’ve always had this thing about organizing.” As Stein notes, this childhood game is also discussed in Cossío del Pomar (1977 [vol. 1], p. 33).
See, for example, Víctor Raúl Haya de la Torre to La Célula del Apra del Cuzco, 25 February 1930, AGN, Prefectura de Lima, legajo 126.96.36.199.188.8.131.52, folder 5, “Documentos del P.A.P. Cartas Confidenciales 1930–32–33-34-35 y 1937.”
For indications as to APRA’s organizational structure, see La Tribuna (Lima, Peru), May 24 and August 8, 1931.
See, for example, Víctor Raúl Haya de la Torre to Luis Eduardo Enríquez, 31 August 1930 (excerpted in Enríquez 1951, p. 95, my italics). In this letter, Haya explains: “In Germany it is different: now the communists, similar to the fascists, go to the elections with a program to revise the Treaty of Versailles—the first principle of extremist German patriotism. This is tactical. In the elections that will be held in two weeks, the parties (fascist and communist) that advance this slogan are going to win a large number of votes.” Indeed, Haya emulated fascist mobilization strategies to such an extent that his opponents accused him of importing dangerous foreign ideas.
Víctor Raúl Haya de la Torre to Luis Eduardo Enríquez, 31 August 1930 (excerpted in Enríquez 1951, p. 82).
As Luis Alberto Sánchez recalled in his memoir: “In the late afternoon, Víctor [Raúl Haya de la Torre] called me aside and said, ‘I beg you to go in person to see what this rally is like; getting in will be risky, but I trust your objectivity” (Sánchez 1969 [vol. 1], p. 355).
For a description of Sánchez Cerro’s arrival in Lima, see La Prensa (Lima, Peru), August 28, 1930.
See El Comercio (Lima, Peru), March 7, 1931, as well as Ugarteche 1969 (vol. 2), pp. xxxix-xlii, lxvii, 100.
In an account that clearly illustrates Sánchez Cerro’s ambition, former head of the PCP Eudocio Ravines reported (in his narrativized remembrances of Peruvian communism in the 1930s) that Sánchez Cerro expressed his intent to overthrow Leguía upon his return from his first European exile, in early 1930. At the home of José Carlos Mariátegui, which had become an intellectal salon of sorts, he declared: “I must be president; I must overthrow this rogue” (Ravines 1952, pp. 168–169; see also Ugarteche 1969 [vol. 1], p. 100). In response to the disbelief of his hosts, Sánchez Cerro continued: “I’m not bluffing—I do what I say I’ll do, even though you don’t believe me;… I swear on my mother that you haven’t heard the last of me” (Ravines 1952, pp. 168–169). Molinari Morales (2006, p. 20) emphasizes the opportunistic side of Sánchez Cerro’s political character, referring to him as “Machiavellian.”
In describing an Aprista march, for example, Pedro Ugarteche (1969 [vol. 2]:liv) claimed that Haya de la Torre’s “followers had marched through the streets of the city imitating the Italian fascists and the German Nazis, in squadrons in military formation, as if they were a civil army.”
It is beyond the scope of this article to assess how, and the extent to which, the Peruvian case influenced the subsequent development of the practice elsewhere in Latin America. It is clear that, once the mode of practice had crystallized and been demonstrably successful in Peru, it appeared on the radars of, and so became available to, other political actors in the region facing comparable conditions. But a simple diffusion argument—appealing as it might be—is unlikely to prove adequate, at least on its own, for explaining this complex historical phenomenon.
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I am grateful to Elizabeth Armstrong, Chris Bail, Josh Bloom, Rogers Brubaker, Howard Kimeldorf, Greta Krippner, Iddo Tavory, Andreas Wimmer, Geneviève Zubrzycki, and the Theory and Society Editors and reviewers for their valuable criticisms and suggestions. Earlier versions of this article were presented at the 2015 UCLA Comparative Social Analysis Seminar Reunion Conference and at the Sociology departments of the University of British Columbia, the University of Chicago, the University of Michigan, the University of Toronto, and Grand Valley State University, where audience members also provided helpful comments. Thanks are due to the generous staff at the archives and libraries mentioned in the text, as well as to Demetrio Laurente Eslava and Simeon Newman for their research assistance. The archival research was supported by a Fulbright IIE Fellowship and by a small grant from UCLA’s Latin American Institute. Writing was supported in part by the Michigan Society of Fellows.
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Jansen, R.S. Situated political innovation: explaining the historical emergence of new modes of political practice. Theor Soc 45, 319–360 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11186-016-9272-0
- Historical sociology
- Populist mobilization
- Political repertoires
- Twentieth century Latin America