Courtesy Reuters

Centralism and Nationalism in Latin America

For the last century and a half, Latin America has been a faithful echoing chamber for every political noise uttered in the more civilized regions of the northern hemisphere. It now appears that this period may be drawing to a close, partly as a result of domestic developments, and partly because the source of models deemed worthy of imitation is drying up. This is not the end of ideology, but it certainly suggests that the era in which Latin America accepted blindly the political experiences, aspirations and recommendations issuing from the shores of the North Atlantic is coming to an end.

Practically every major political ideology which found a sympathetic echo in Latin America during the last hundred years was produced by the impact of the Industrial Revolution upon a European social structure which in turn was fundamentally modified by historical events like Feudalism and the Reformation that had no counterpart in the Luso-Hispanic tradition. Thus, under different names and guises, conservatism, liberalism, radicalism, communism and social democracy (and its Christian Democratic variant), all with deep European roots, have dominated the political life of this part of the world. Even conservatism, which could perhaps claim to be timeless and pre-industrial, never succeeded in clearing the awesome frontier of 1810; it retained a distinct republican flavor which placed it closer to modern European conservatism than to any irredentist monarchial movement with Hispanic roots.

The European origins of liberalism, radicalism and communism of course need no documentation. The aura of modernity and originality which currently adorns the Christian Democratic and Christian Socialist movements in Latin America is more than faintly similar to that which graced their European precursors, not only in recent times but also when they provided Chancellor Bismarck with some of his livelier political difficulties or when they shattered the complacency of the Bishops' Conference of 1908 at Lambeth.

The modern political arrangements of the so-called Western world-which most certainly includes the Soviet Union-are to an important degree the offspring of the transformations

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