The Death of Cardenismo
Cardenismo was, in the end, a Janus-faced enterprise. ‘‘Revolutionary’’ yet
traditional and paternalist, Cárdenas at once promoted and circumscribed his
radical agenda of social programs, land redistribution, and labor reforms. He
advocated collective organizing, providing historically disenfranchised actors
a legitimated base from which to challenge landowners and capitalists, but he
also sought to contain the potential radicalism of these ‘‘mass’’ organizations
by consolidating them under the centralizing state’s tutelage and control. He
supported more inclusive, transparent, democratic processes, but only so
long as their outcomes could be predicted and controlled. In the Cardenista
utopia, informed as much by concerns about renegade radicalism as by aspira-
tions to fulfill the promise of Mexico’s ‘‘interrupted’’ revolution, state-
sponsored organizations of educated workers and peasants received guidance
from a strong but benevolent central government that mediated among
conflicting interests, intervening to protect the weaker party in any dispute.∞
By the time Manuel Avila Camacho assumed the presidency, the Mexican
women’s movement had retreated. The su√rage campaign’s failure deflated
Mexico City–based feminists and fupdm organizers, and the state’s with-
drawal of support for popular mobilizations undermined e√orts to utilize
informal politics. The corporatist Party of the Mexican Revolution (prm)
gave women a nominal voice but in practice relegated women’s activities and
organizing e√orts to the margins of Mexican politics. ‘‘Everything changed
then,’’ recalled activist Ana María Flores Sánchez. ‘‘Cardenismo died when
he left o≈ce.’’≤ The Avila Camacho administration turned sharply rightward,
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