This is the fourth book to come from the prolific pen of John D. Martz. It is essentially his doctoral dissertation, for which he conducted research during 1962 and 1963 under a grant from the Ford Foundation Foreign Area Fellowship program, combined with his subsequent studies of the December 1963 election. The research consisted mainly of interviewing party leaders, analyzing party publications, and piecing together party history from a mixture of writings by party leaders and of secondary accounts. What emerges is something very close to an “official” history of the Acción Democrática party.

The book is divided into three distinct parts. The first is a narrative of party history from 1928 to 1964. This is a conventional account, previously related by Betancourt, Alexander, and the reviewer, to which Martz adds nothing really new or striking in the way of either facts or interpretations. Part Two, on party structure and organization, is original research based on primary sources, and it constitutes a significant contribution to knowledge. The writing in this section ranges from dull technical descriptions of national, regional, and local party organization and official statements of program and doctrine to timely and often brilliant analysis of factionalism and leadership in the party. Part Three, the party and Venezuelan society, is the best of all, for here is sound, precise analysis of the relationship between the party and organizations (urban labor and the peasantry), between the party and institutions (the Church and the military), between the party and classes, and between the party and other parties. Chapter XII, plus appendices A and B, constitutes the best synthesis and information so far available in English on the 1963 elections.

The main weakness of this book is its lack of unity. Despite the author’s efforts, the descriptive history is never quite successfully blended with the political analysis. However, the strengths of the work far outweigh the weaknesses. Martz should be commended for digesting, synthesizing, analyzing, and reporting a great mass of hitherto unused materials on the Acción Democrática party. Hopefully his fine pioneer work on Acción Democrática will encourage other young scholars to undertake penetrating studies of a similar nature on other major political parties in contemporary Latin America. Once this is done, the badly needed base for comparative studies will have been established.