Special Issue: Chile’s Popular Unity (UP) Experiment at 50

Radical Americas special issue.

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Chile’s Popular Unity (UP) Experiment at 50

Radical Americas special issue.


The last decade—from the 2008 financial crisis to the electoral bids of politicians like Bernie Sanders in the US and Jeremy Corbyn in the UK—has witnessed a resurgence of public interest and debate about democratic socialism in Europe, the United States, and beyond. Yet much of what we now associate with the term democratic socialism first emerged in Latin America. This special issue explores the idea and practice of democratic socialism as it was understood in Chile, which became the first country to pursue socialist transformation at the national level through democratic means during the government of Salvador Allende (1970-73).

In few places and at few moments have past democratic socialist horizons been more strikingly reanimated than in Chile when, in October 2019, high school students engaged in civil disobedience by jumping subway turnstiles to protest subway fare increases. The government of Sebastian Piñera responded by imposing a state of emergency and calling the military into the streets. In the weeks that followed, massive and sustained protests erupted across the country in what has been termed the estallido social. The slogan, “It’s not about 30 pesos, but about 30 years,” captured the simmering discontent with neoliberal policies imposed under dictatorship and the failure by political elites to dismantle Pinochet’s economic and political system in the three decades since the return of democracy. As they seek to envision alternatives to neoliberalism, students, indigenous groups, and feminist activists, among others, have reclaimed cultural images and political practices from Chile’s early short-lived socialist experiment.

Taking the 50th anniversary of Chile’s Popular Unity (UP) government (1970-73) and the country’s recent wave of social unrest as its two points of departure, this special issue of Radical Americas sets out to reassess the meaning of the democratic socialist experience of Salvador Allende. Through contributions from scholars based in the US, the UK, and Chile, it seeks, on the one hand, to explore the meanings, successes, and shortcomings of Chile’s 1000-day revolutionary experiment. And on the other hand, in the wake of the estallido social, the issue offers reflections from leading scholars on the lessons from past revolutionary experiences for contemporary social mobilizations against Chile’s neoliberal order.



Guest Editors

Dr Joshua Frens-String, Department of History, College of Liberal Arts, The University of Texas at Austin, USA
Dr Tanya Harmer, Department of International History, The London School of Economics and Political Science, UK
Dr Marian Schlotterbeck, Department of History, University of California, Davis, USA


Article list



Fifty years after Popular Unity: Chile’s Estallido Social in historical context

Authors: Joshua Frens-String, Tanya Harmer & Marian Schlotterbeck
Published: 1 June 2021



Unfinished Transitions

Movements in dialogue
Spanish/Español - Movimientos en diálogo

Authors: Peter Winn & Mario Garcés
Published: 1 June 2021


Collective trauma, feminism, and the threads of popular power: a personal and political account of Chile’s 2019 social awakening

Author: Romina Green Rioja
Published: 1 June 2021


Protest and the persistence of the past

Author: Alison J. Bruey
Published: 20 January 2021



Historiographical Essays

Towards a global history of the Unidad Popular

Author: Tanya Harmer
Published: 1 June 2021


Scholarship on the Popular Unity in Chile since 2000. Are historians lagging behind?
Spanish/Español - Los estudios sobre la Unidad Popular en Chile en el nuevo milenio. ¿Están en deuda los historiadores?

Authors: José del Pozo, Danny Monsálvez & Mario Valdés
Published: 1 June 2021



New Histories of the UP

A “popular option” for development? Reconsidering the rise and fall of Chile’s political economy of socialism

Author: Joshua Frens-String
Published: 1 June 2021


‘A new power structure will be built from the grassroots’: The challenge of radical democracy in Allende’s Chile

Author: Marian Schlotterbeck
Published: 1 June 2021


The permanent rebellion: an interpretation of Mapuche uprisings under Chilean colonialism
Spanish/Español - La rebelión permanente: una interpretación de levantamientos mapuche bajo el colonialismo chileno 

Author: Fernando Pairician & Marie Juliette Urrutia
Published: 1 June 2021


"To work more, produce more, and defend the revolution”: Copper workers from socialism to neoliberalism

Author: Georgia Whitaker & Angela Vergara
Published: 1 June 2021


The presence of left-wing militant women within projects of ‘poder popular’ during the Popular Unity years in Concepción and Santiago de Chile (1970-1973)
Spanish/Español - Presencia de mujeres militantes de izquierda en los proyectos de 'poder popular' durante la Unidad Popular años en Concepción y Santiago de Chile (1970-1973)

Author: Gina Inostroza Retamal
Published: 1 June 2021


The Chilean counterrevolution: roots, dynamics and legacies of mass mobilisation against the Unidad Popular
Spanish/Español - La contrarrevolución chilena: raíces, dinámicas y legados de la movilización de masas contra la Unidad Popular

Author: Marcelo Casals
Published: 1 June 2021



Commentary: The Past is Present

Women in Chile 50 years after the UP: “The revolution will be feminist or nothing at all…”
Spanish/Español - Mujeres en Chile a 50 años de la UP: “La revolución será feminista o no será…”

Author: Karen Alfaro Monsalve
Published: 1 June 2021


The politics of the street: street art, public writing, and the history of political contest in Chile

Author: Camilo Trumper
Published: 1 June 2021




Concluding reflections

Author: Steven Volk
Published: 1 June 2021


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