Bibliography on Party Politics in PERU, 1950-1962

Jean Jacobsohn

Political power in Peru is diffused among many contenders: the military, charismatic personalities, economic groups, labor unions, and political parties. The literature on Peru reflects this state of affairs and deals with parties only in terms of their activities in the political arena and their relations with the aforementioned groups. Peruvian party literature does exist mainly because Peru is the home of the Apristas (373) and their leader Haya de la Torre, one of the rare original political theorists of Latin America. In Peruvian politics up through 1968 one tended to be either pro-APRA of anti-APRA, and this cleavage carries over into the scholarly literature. Most writings about parties in Peru seem dedicated either to glorifying APRA or defaming it. Until the ascendancy of the Popular Action Party (379) in the late 1950's, parties were dealt with primarily in terms of their relations with the Apristas.

The apparent abundance of material on Peru is deceptive for most of it is redundant or contradictory. After a while one's knowledge is never complemented, only repeated or disputed. In the hope of correcting this deficiency, the bibliographic search was extended to Spanish language sources. Some Spanish material was included, but most of what was available was discarded as redundant or otherwise unsuitable.

Material Processed Into ICPP Information Files

The bibliographic search eventually produced 972 pages of acceptable material from 75 documents. The first table presents a description of the major indexing categories and their frequency of use. The distribution of these codes is indicative of the focus of the available literature, but a few explanations are called for.

The 7-- codes, used for information about the "social environment," are crucial to the understanding of the Peruvian party system. The 750 code (activities of the military) is used 113 times and reflects the importance of the military in Peru. The army's thirty-year feud with the Aprista party has resulted in more than one military coup and is credited with preventing that party from coming to power and implementing its reform program. For six years of our time period, 1950-56, General Odría with the support of the military, effectively suppressed all political party activity.

The frequent usage of code 720 (social) resulted from the heavy emphasis the literature placed on the importance of the social divisions in Peru. Fully 60% of the population, which is of Indian extraction, is disfranchised by a literacy requirement and exists by subsistence agriculture. The "forty families" of the coastal cities, on the other hand, have more political power than most of the parties.

Scholarly interest in Peru does not extend to the structure of political parties. Such tantalizing statements as, "The Apristas are the best organized party in South America" are never developed. One has to piece together, as best one can, off-hand references to national conventions, election committees, and auxiliary organizations. Party activities stimulate some interest, but attention is primarily focused on '1campaign activities" (219) and "demonstrations" (270). Inciting riots and assassinations appears to be a more important activity in the life of the party than "raising funds" (260) and "influencing government policy" (230).

This brings up the importance of the political environment" (6-- codes) as related to the functioning of party activity in Peru. Apathy (generally tagged with code 630) and a predisposition to violence (reflected in the intensive use of code 640) present the development of a party system with difficult if not insurmountable obstacles. The high frequency of indexing code 660 (the executive) results, strangely enough, from the fact that at no time during our time period was the executive in the hands of any ICPP defined political party. From 1950-1956 General Odría ruled as a military dictator; and in 1956 President Prado, a candidate of the M.D.P (Movement Democratico Prado), was elected with the support of the illegal Aprista Party. Prado's Prime Minister Pedro Beltran was a very influential political figure with no recognized party affiliation. The activities of these men, which were considerable, are identified in the 660 code.

Richard Patch1's American University Field Staff Reports from Peru offered excellent descriptions of "electoral activities" (210) and backgrounds of "candidates" (340). Most of the material included on auxiliary organizations (460) reflects Patch's studies of the student elections and the parties' relations to them.

More than 50 percent of the party index codes are for the Apristas (373) reflecting particularly the work of Harry Kantor and Fredrick Pike, who have devoted considerable attention to the programs and ideology of this party. In addition, because the Apristas dominate the labor movement and until recently the student federations, any discussions involving these groups automatically relate to the activities of the Apristas. Party code 379 did yeoman duty in covering material about the small but persistent Communist Party, the Movement Democratic Prado, the small personalistic parties of the right, and most important of all--Action Popular--the party of Fernando Belaunde Terry, who secured the Presidency in 1963. Almost every reference to the Union National Odrista (371) discusses Odría in some capacity. The less frequently used code 372 of the small but growing Christian Democratic Party is apt to be associated with more useful information than the references to the U.N.O.

Some Observations on the State of the Literature

The glaring deficiencies and inequities in the processed material appear to be the result of two reinforcing factors; first, Peruvian parties do not command the center of the political stage, and secondly, there has been so little interest in them that no one seems stimulated to examine their workings in detail.

The more glamorous and exciting aspects of the party system--campaigns, candidates, revolutionary platforms, sabotage--receive attention while the more mundane, less dramatic details--membership figures and requirements, local and regional organizations, party financing, party discipline--are virtually ignored.

The Peruvian political environment has produced political theoreticians of considerable merit such as Haya de la Torre; but Peruvian parties certainly have not inspired theoretical tracts about themselves. Much of the literature is good solid journalism; some of the literature is nothing but propaganda. Perhaps if more authors would have approached the study of Peru's politics with hypotheses about parties and their operations, the literature would have investigated their power structures and activities in a more systematic and detailed fashion.

The data quality analysis table provides some valuable insights into 71 of the 75 documents which were evaluated on the data quality variables. There are virtually no books on Peru's party system. Instead one must rely on journal articles, which are often short and tend to focus on political events rather than parties. The predominance of journal articles also tends to add to the overabundance of 6-- and 7-- codes because the articles generally gave a brief description of the geographic, social, economic, and political background of Peru.

On the positive side, a few authors have done much valuable and useful research on Peru although their major focus has not been on political parties. James Payne, whose primary interest is labor unions in Peru, deals with parties in terms of their relations to the unions. He has also conducted extensive interviews and surveys. Anthropologist Richard Patch has spent many years in Peru, and presents a very knowledgeable discussion of ethnic support for the various parties. Nearly all those who write extensively on Peru have competency in the Spanish language and have spent some time in the country.