Before There Was One: Early Postrevolutionary Political Parties in Mexico, 1920–29

Friday, January 6, 2012: 9:30 AM
Old Town Room (Chicago Marriott Downtown)
Sarah E. Osten, Northwestern University
From the time it was founded in 1929, the first official party of the Mexican state, the National Revolutionary Party (PNR) portrayed itself as the sole institutional scion of the Mexican Revolution of 1910-1920. Although scholars have produced innumerable reconsiderations and reinterpretations of the political legacies of the Mexican Revolution over the years, the notion that the PNR emerged from a vacuum of political institutions at the end of the 1920s has proved to be quite durable.  This paper examines the histories of several of the postrevolutionary political parties that preceded the PNR.  It demonstrates that, on the contrary, the decade of the 1920s was a period of active experimentation with political institutionalization and party formation.

A veritable plethora of parties were founded across Mexico in the years immediately following the Mexican Revolution.  Many of these were personalist electoral vehicles that lasted for a single election.  But by the mid-1920s, several parties had begun to attain national prominence, and to achieve real power, both in Mexico City and at the state level. Their institutional structures, their rhetoric and the projects that they undertook reflected meaningfully different interpretations of the political lessons and legacies of the Mexican Revolution.  This paper argues that both the successes and the failures of these early parties over the course of the 1920s provided invaluable precedents for the subsequent design and founding of the PNR.  Rather than being a lone prototype of postrevolutionary political consolidation that emerged out of a prolonged period of political chaos, the first official party of the state was the product of a decade of intense debate and conflict over the shape the Mexican state should take, and over the role of political parties in governing it.

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