Until 1973, the Chilean labor movement distinguished itself from union
movements throughout Latin America by its Marxist political identity.
Unlike workers in Brazil, Argentina, and Mexico, Chilean workers built
unions with close ties to the Communist and Socialist Parties and sup-
ported a socialist program of change that culminated in the election of
Salvador Allende and the Popular Unity in 1970. Although traditional
Chilean labor historiography focuses on the first decades of the century,
particularly the experiences of nitrate miners, to explain the singular
trajectory of Chilean labor, in this book I demonstrate that the period
following the Great Depression and during the Radical Party-led coali-
tion governments between 1938 and 1952 was crucial to the process of
working-class formation and to the construction of a leftist political cul-
ture and radical anticapitalist labor movement in Chile.1 The forces that
contributed to the electoral victory of the Marxist Popular Unity gov-
ernment in 1970 were already in motion during the 1930S, and the ten-
sions and contradictions that beset Chile's experiment with a peaceful
and democratic socialist revolution were well in place during the Popular
Front's efforts to establish programs of moderate social reform and capi-
talist national industrial development.
The 1930 world economic crisis initiated a new period of working-
class formation both nationally and in Chile's export sector. The de-
velopment of the copper industry introduced a new form of modern
industrial enterprise that employed sophisticated technologies and meth-
ods of production for extracting, processing, and refining copper ore.
unlike the nitrate industry, the North American copper companies were
capital-intensive and oligopolistic and required a permanent and trained
labor force. Whereas the radical fluctuations and labor-intensive nature of
nitrate production, combined with the unequal structure of land owner-
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