Labor Movements and Dictatorships

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Why have labor movements, from Europe to Latin America, successfully outlasted authoritarian regimes? How did they survive often brutal repression, and how did they change as a result of the experience? In Labor Movements and Dictatorships, Paul Drake provides a comprehensive comparative study of the experience of working-class movements under capitalist authoritarian regimes from the 1920s to the 1990s.

Drake offers a series of extended country studies―on Uruguay, Chile, and Argentina―set against a larger comparative context that includes Portugal, Spain, Greece, and Brazil, all of which experienced similar transitions into and out of authoritarianism. In all of these countries, Drake explains, labor movements advocating far-reaching political, economic, and social reforms were met by authoritarian governments determined to preserve capitalism and erase any hope of socialism. The autocrats imposed antiworker economic structures, institutional rules, and political prohibitions. They succeeded in breaking labor in the short run, Drake concludes, but their efforts ultimately failed. A valuable work of historical perspective and synthesis, Labor Movements and Dictatorships tells the compelling story of how workers' organizations around the world suffered, subverted, and survived the tyrants.

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About the Author:

Paul W. Drake is Institute of the Americas Professor of Inter-American Affairs in the Department of Political Science and dean of the Division of Social Sciences at the University of California, San Diego. His books include The Money Doctor in the Andes and Socialism and Populism in Chile.

Review:

Paul Drake has written a useful analysis of the role of labor and left parties that deserves study and could profitably be employed in latin American studies and comparative government classes. I give it my strongest recommendation.

(N. Patrick Peritore Journal of Developing Areas)

Drake has made an important contribution to comparative labor studies and to comparative politics, particularly to the literature on democratic breakdowns, authoritarian regimes, and transitions to democracy, where the role of labor has been generally neglected. He succeeds in showing that authoritarian regimes seize power in large part as a response to perceived labor mobilization and, therefore, target labor and its leftist allies as primary victims. The book's comparative focus and country narratives also provide a rich and complex analysis of labor's experience of authoritarian rule, of the process of redemocratization, and of restored democracy.

(Peter Winn, Tufts University)

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