RÊVE/CAUCHEMAR: Allende‘s Chile and the Polarization of the Québec Left, 1968-1974

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Date
2014-10-01
Authors
Barry-Shaw, Nikolas
Keyword
Québec , Claude Morin , Marxism-Leninism , Chile , liberation theology , imperialism , Parti québécois , Transnational history , René Lévesque
Abstract
Chile’s ill-fated attempt to build a democratic socialism (1970-1973) was a defining moment for the global New Left. Nowhere was this truer than in Québec. During the Allende years and after, Chile exercised a decisive influence on the political imagination of Québécois radicals, as they searched for a path to socialisme et indépendance. Prior to the 11 September 1973 coup d’état, countless activists travelled to the South American nation to witness – and to learn from – the “Chilean road to socialism.” Arguments about Allende’s socialist government and the subsequent U.S.-backed coup that overthrew him were woven into left political discourse in the province, influencing labour movement debates over the formation of a parti des travailleurs, colouring campaign rhetoric during the October 1973 provincial elections, and serving as a trump card in post-election struggles within the Parti québécois (PQ) over the strategy of étapisme. Allende’s fate even lingered on in the minds of René Lévesque and many other party leaders after the election of the first PQ government in 1976. The Québec left’s deep engagement with Chile was a major factor in the rise of the Marxist-Leninist movement, convincing many activists that attaining socialism by parliamentary means was impossible in a U.S.-dominated world. Allende’s rise and tragic fall was key to the process of polarization that occurred on the Québec left from 1968 to 1974. As this thesis demonstrates, our understanding of Québec’s politics in these years is enriched greatly through a combined transnational and imperial approach.
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