Revolution and Restraint: The Evolution of the Contemporary Partido Socialista de Chile
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The contemporary socialist movement of Chile has been at the heart of one of the most complicated political struggles of South America in the 20th century. Established shortly after the Great Depression, the Partido Socialista de Chile (Socialist Party of Chile) gained strength during the tumultuous decades that followed. As conditions in Chile remained squalid, political unrest spawned from discontent. Chile was plagued by poverty and a historic class-division that systematically marginalized a dangerous number of citizens. To combat this, the Socialist Party took up the fight for justice and greater equality among the people of this small Andean nation. The socialist movement began with devoted idealists and was brought to the forefront of Chilean politics by charismatic leadership and a motivated grassroots initiative. With unparalleled success, this progressive socialist movement took both peaceful and violent steps in its path to install the first democratically elected socialist president in the world in 1970. However, economic despair continued to plague the socialist administration, perpetuating social unrest and crisis. The military coup of 1973 and the onset of the Pinochet regime signify the greatest struggle encountered by the Socialist Party. Thus, over time, the socialist movement took the form of a fledgling start-up party, a victorious underdog, and ultimately arose from defeat to become a significant coalition member within contemporary Chilean politics. This paper will stress the evolution of the Socialist Party from its height from the late 1960s up to its reemergence following the Pinochet dictatorship. Emphasizing the immediate events leading up to the military coup and the clandestine transition period, this account will detail the main factors that explain why the party went from being a more radical Marxist organization to a moderate, disjointed party. With a focus on the executive leadership and the events that preceded the Pinochet dictatorship and life under the military regime, this paper will trace the evolution of the Socialist Party from the once radical popular party to the more conservative member of the moderate coalition government. This process is a direct result of the impacting dictatorship and the subsequent need to restructure the party. The lasting effects of Pinochet's regime represent the most significant challenge to the stability of the Socialist Party as it still struggles to find its composure on the national level. The deficiency of viable "collective left projects, accompanied by what might be termed a shrinking of the political imagination, comes at a time, paradoxically, when members of the sixties revolutionary generation have assumed the reins of political society in countries across the globe" (Hite 2000, 1). This overview is essential if one is to understand contemporary Chilean politics and the underlying reasons for the shape of contemporary socialist ideology, struggling to find a place in the world. With a focus primarily on the leadership, one can follow the evolution as it took shape both within Chile's borders and internationally. Leaders served as guideposts for the masses of followers and had lasting impacts upon the course of the Socialist Party itself. As the Socialist Party of Chile regains power and the support of the country, it is difficult to reconcile the socialist's moderate position with its radical and forceful predisposition over three decades ago. An appreciation of the socialist movement's path over the last half century is necessary to comprehend why Chileans and particularly the Socialist Party behave as they do today. This account begins, in chapter one, to explore the beginnings of the Socialist Party in the early 19th century. The following chapter examines the emergence of Salvador Allende as a prominent figure within the Chilean socialist realm. In chapter three, attention is given to the Socialist party's role in the creation of the Popular Unity Coalition as an important political force. From there, I will examine the left-wing coalition's ascension to power with the presidential victory of Allende. Within a continuingly polarized political arena, chapter five highlights upon the persistent crisis and mounting tensions that characterized the Popular Unity's government. The military coup and dictatorship of General Pinochet are discussed in chapter six, followed by an analysis of the renovation process taken by the socialist movement in chapter seven. The next chapter gives attention to the split of the Socialist Party in exile while chapter nine examines the final reemergence of the socialist movement within Chilean politics during the 1980s. Finally, chapter ten focuses on the reformation of the Socialist Party in a newly democratic Chile and a contemporary overview concludes the body of this monograph of the Socialist Party of Chile.