Mexico's Accion Nacional: A Catholic Alternative to Revolution

Mexico's Accion Nacional: A Catholic Alternative to Revolution

Mexico's Accion Nacional: A Catholic Alternative to Revolution

Mexico's Accion Nacional: A Catholic Alternative to Revolution

Excerpt

Acción Nacional, Mexico's primary opposition political party, has not won a major election in its thirty-three year history, even though its Catholic activist leaders use Catholic reform doctrine in a Catholic country. The explanation of this paradox lies in the successful Mexican Revolution and its aftermath. The secular refomism and virulent anticlericalism of the Revolution reduced the Church to a spiritual institution and removed it from the political scene. Identification with the Church, or Catholicism in general, is counterproductive to political success. Further, since 1928 the Revolutionary government has so controlled the political system that only its political party has any hope of governing the country. In spite of all this, Acción Nacional was created in 1939 to offer what is essentially a Catholic alternative to the Revolution.

Studying such a political party is important for a variety of reasons. Although extensive literature has been produced on the Mexican political system, few studies examine that system from "the other side." Yet, the problems of an opposition party reveal important information about a political system and how it operates. Acción Nacional history suggests the possibilities of electoral opposition to the Revolution as well as indicating some of the strengths and weaknesses of Mexican Revolutionary governments. In Acción Nacional's case, the study of the party suggests what reform-minded Catholics did after the Church lost its conflict with the State in the 1920s and 1930s. Moreover, it shows the limits of Catholic reform politics and Christian Democracy/Socialism in Mexico and perhaps suggests their limits whenever such movements have to face entrenched, successful secular reformers. Acción Nacional's involvement in the major political events since 1940 contributes to our understanding of contemporary Mexican history. Finally, such a study narrows the gap in our knowledge of Latin American political parties.

I first began this study in an attempt to understand why a political party had such a lengthy existence in a country where political parties . . .

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