Bibliography on Party Politics in Uruguay, 1950-1962

Jean Jacobsohn

During our time period, Uruguay's two-party democracy stood amidst a welter of Latin American dictatorships and coup-ridden regimes. In view of her unique features, it is surprising that so few scholars have chosen to investigate Uruguay's century old Colorados and Blancos. Although much attention has been given to Uruguay's experiments with committee executives and her extensive welfare program, the parties are seldom treated in depth in the literature contained in our information file.

The bibliography search was begun with every expectation of finding good literature. The researcher was already familiar with Philip B. Taylor, Jr.'s fine study, Government and Politics of Uruguay, and assumed that this was indicative of scholarly interest in the country. Unfortunately, nearly all the English language material dealt with the economy or the history of welfare legislation. Therefore, Spanish language material was also selected and indexed.

Material Processed into ICPP Information Files

Eventually 697 pages were processed for the file from 39 documents. The distribution of indexing codes is given in the first table. The frequent usage of the 6&endash; codes (political environment) results mainly from the use of codes 680, 620, 660 and 640. Code 680 (governmental structure and political history) merits a great deal of attention, because the most active period in Uruguay's political system came in the early 1900's, when Jose Battle rebuilt the Colorado Party, put through an amazingly inclusive welfare program, and began an experiment in the committee. This period set the stage for nearly all that has since taken place in Uruguay. The file includes good coverage of this information.

Code 620 covers Uruguay's electoral system with its very peculiar provision for factions; the system merits comment by nearly everyone who writes about Uruguayan politics. The intensive use of 660 (the executive) results from Uruguay's experiments with a nine-man committee throughout part of this time period. A great deal of writing deals with political norms and attitudes in Uruguay (code 640), mainly because they contrast rather sharply with those of the typical neighboring Latin American countries.

Code 370 (party factions) exceeds all others, accounting for 8.1% of all codes used. This is to be expected, for the factionalized condition of her political parties is Uruguay's most arresting political feature. Although there are only two major parties--the Colorados (381) and the Blancos (382)--each contains many well-organized factions with their own names, candidates, and programs. These factions even occasionally switch to the other party. The electoral system and the committee executive all helped perpetuate the factions.

Since the middle 1950's, Uruguay's economy has suffered major inflationary pressures. The severe disruption of the economy supposedly caused the 1958 election to result in a turnover of government to the Blancos after the Colorados had been in power for more than 90 years.

After the Blancos came to power, the problems continued in much the same fashion, and a great deal of material analyzed this situation and its effect on the parties.

Nearly every other Latin American country would contain far more citations of 750 (activities of the military) and 730 (religious), but Uruguay's party system is little affected by either. True political power is, for once in Latin America, actually to be found within the framework of the two major parties. The amount of material on "party organization" (4--) was disappointingly meager, however, and what we have is not very illuminating. It appears that neither party has a very extensive organization below the national level. At no time is either code 410 (district organization) or 420 (regional organization) ever used. The six instances of code 400 (local organization) consists mainly of the tagging of minor references to political "clubs." The actual hierarchy of party organization in Uruguay remains a mystery.

Observations on the State of the Literature

Uruguay's party literature leaves many important questions shrouded in shadows. There is scarcely any information on how candidates and party officials are selected (200) how parties raise and disburse funds (260, what social activities they perform (290), and what accompanies party membership (320). Not only do we have no idea of what their regional and district organizations are like (410 and 420), their national conventions and executives (430 and 440) receive very little attention as well. There is scarcely any notation of legislative organization (450) or ancillary organizations (460). The locus of power (490) for most activities must be deduced from the fact that party leaders (350) seem to be tremendously powerful.

The table of data quality codes reveals that Uruguay's parties have not generated any appreciable amount of theoretical articles or propositions. Those that exist are mostly found in the Spanish language material. Duverger's concepts do not seem to have stimulated scholarly analysis of Uruguayan politics. The literature focuses on the history of the parties, their electoral activities, and their leaders.

Our heavy reliance on news items in the file is due to two principal reasons. First, the 1958 election was covered fairly thoroughly in the newspapers; and second, for several years of our time period, Philip B. Taylor, an expert on Uruguayan politics, wrote a number of articles for the Christian Science Monitor that proved useful for our purposes.

There was scarcely any material dealing with the statistical analysis of any aspect of Uruguayan politics. Most of the few tables which did turn up, merely reported voting statistics with the breakdowns for the major factions. There were no electoral studies with sample surveys and voting behavior analysis. Because Uruguay is so different from her neighbors in Latin America, it seems that theoretical works would thrive as scholars sought an understanding of her party politics. But it seems this research is yet to be done.