Luis Emilio Recabarren

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Luis Emilio Recabarren

Luis Emilio Recabarren Serrano (July 6, 1876 - December 19, 1924) was a Chilean political figure. He was elected several times as deputy, and was the driving force behind the Worker's Movement in that country.

Early life[edit]

Recabarren was born in the port of Valparaíso in 1876, to José Agustín Recabarren and Juana Rosa Serrano. He was of Basque descent.[1] His family was very impoverished. From a very early age, he started to work as a typographer to help with the family finances. Even though he had very little formal education, he was a very voracious reader and was self-taught. He married Guadalupe del Canto, with whom he fathered two children. After the death of his first wife, he married Teresa Flores, who helped him with his political activities.

After a trip to Antofagasta, Taltal and Tocopilla, Recabarren became aware of the extreme poverty and near-enslavement of the nitrate workers. He decided to act. In 1894, he joined the Democratic Party of Chile. He became an ardent public speaker and founded several organizations and newspapers to foment solidarity within the workers. He concentrated, at first, his political activities to his own natal city, where he became director and editor of the El Trabajo (Work) newspaper. Due to his harsh criticisms of the governmental labor policies, he was jailed for eight months. In 1905 he moved with his family to Antofagasta, where he became the publisher of the La Vanguardia (Vanguard) newspaper.

Political career[edit]

On May 15, 1906, Recabarren was elected as a deputy for Tocopilla to the National Congress representing the Democrat Party. He was prevented though from assuming his position because he refused to be sworn on a bible, based on his atheist position. He moved his family to Iquique. Heavily involved in the Labor movement, organising workers both politically and industrially, as a consequence of which he was again prosecuted by the government and had to escape to Argentina. In that country he joined the Socialist Party of Argentina and in 1908 he travelled to Europe (Spain, France and Belgium), finally returning to Chile at the end of that year.

After his return, Recabarren was arrested and sent to jail in Los Andes during 18 months, until August 1910. In 1911 he moved back to Iquique where, unhappy with his party and together with a group of nitrate workers, he founded the Socialist Workers Party (POS) on June 4, 1912. Previously, on May 20 of that same year he had founded the El Despertar de los trabajadores (The awakening of the Workers) newspaper to promote his ideas. During its existence (1912–1926) the newspaper was banned several times, but Recabarren continued preaching his socialist credo from any tribune he could get.

"Reading is one of the means of emancipation for the working classes. That is why we recommend that they read widely."
Luis Emilio Recabarren

He moved again, this time to Antofagasta, where he founded El Socialista (The socialist) newspaper. In 1915 he was a candidate to congress for Antofagasta, but was defeated (probably due to massive fraud.) He then moved back to Valparaíso where he lived until 1916, when he started a tour along Chile all the way to Punta Arenas. In 1918 he travelled to Argentina where he participated in the foundation of the Communist Party of Argentina, becoming member of its first national directory.

After his return to Chile, he participated in the III Congress of his party, where they agreed to incorporate themselves in the Third International and become the Communist Party of Chile. In 1919 he was deported to the south of the country for three months for speaking against the government. He was candidate for the Chilean presidential election of 1920, where he lost to Arturo Alessandri. At the time of that election he was in jail (again) so he couldn't campaign and got a very small vote. Nonetheless he was elected a deputy for Antofagasta again in 1921. After he moved to Santiago, he founded and edited the La Justicia (Justice) newspaper.

Funerals of Luis Emilio Recabarren (1924)

Fascinated by the October Revolution, and after the party congress of January 22, 1922 that transformed the Socialist Workers Party (POS) into the Communist Party of Chile (PCCh), he travelled to the USSR as the only Chilean delegate to the Union Congress of the Third International that took place in Moscow. He returned on January 1923 to a hero's welcome by the various worker's organizations.

Death[edit]

Recabarren, for all his fiery rhetoric, was a very sensitive person. After his return to Chile his ideals and projects were bitterly attacked by the majority of the central committee of the Communist Party of Chile, who accused him of being excessively soft and liberal and too much in accord with the social-democratic ideas and not enough in agreement with the opinions of the Comintern. These harsh criticisms, on top of personal and family problems, caused a severe depression. He refused to run for deputy in the 1924 elections and on December 19 of the same year he committed suicide in Santiago at the age of 48.

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