Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Semester of Degree Completion


Thesis Director

Margaret Soderberg


On September 4, 1970 Salvador Allende became the first ever democratically elected Marxist president of Chile. In addition he headed a predominantly left-wing coalition government whose program entailed the achieving of socialism by peaceful means.

During the first six months of his administration Allende began to carry out a number of his policies in the areas of agrarian reform, nationalization of industries, and redistribution of income. These policies were populist in nature and succeeded in raising the level of support for the Unidad Popular government as shown by the results of the April 1971 Municipal elections. I argue that the results of the Municipal elections were a "strong mandate" for Allende to progress from populism to a faster and more radical implementation of socialist policies. The reality of the situation, however, was one in which Allende became increasingly reformist and willing to compromise with the opposition. I try to describe and analyze the steadily increasing polarization process which was taking place in Chilean society. The Right, with help from the United States, was slowly beginning to organize itself against Allende by the use of constitutional and violent means. I argue that the United States in particular was instrumental in causing economic disruption and fueling dissatisfaction with the Unidad Popular.

The Right's offensive against the government reached high points in the "Bosses Strike" of October 1972 and the abortive coup d'etat attempted by a section of the armed forces in June 1973. In response to these events, the workers mobilized themselves to defend their communities and factories. However, Allende failed to provide the workers' mobilizations with leadership. Instead, he became increasingly reformist and compromising with his opponents.

During the last year of the Allende administration the polarization process continued to intensify, and it became clear that the Right was commited to the overthrow of the U.P. government. Even so, Allende came to rely increasingly on the armed forces for support, a policy which proved to be extremely naive as he was overthrown by this aforementioned group in September 1973.

Throughout the paper I attempt to analyze the roles played by the respective political actors as the polarization process unfolded, intensified, and culminated in the coup d'etat. Those who come in for special attention include the United States and the M.I.R. (Movement of the Revolutionary Left).

In addition I make a brief study of the left-wing parties in France and Italy at the present time (re: September 1977), and make some tentative comparisons with Chile under Allende, and some predictions for the future.

My main sources of data are books, articles, and newspapers, though I also make use of United States government documents. This thesis is not an empirical study, but is based on closely reasoned arguments which are used to support a particular analytical viewpoint. These arguments are presented in the form of six hypotheses or propositions.