Christians for Socialism

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Christians for Socialism (Spanish: Cristianos por el socialismo; CPS) was[citation needed] a worldwide political and cultural movement focused on social inequality and economic injustice,[1] inspired by liberation theology.[2] It was founded in 1971.


Having begun in April 1971,[3] Christians for Socialism first gained notoriety when a collection of eighty Chilean priests, known as the "Group of 80", publicly declared their support of the construction of socialism along the lines being followed by then-President Salvador Allende.[1][4] The Secretariat of Christians for Socialism was formally established in September 1973. The group was predominantly composed of Roman Catholic members of the Christian left who were inspired and spurred on by the Second Vatican Council.


CPS was founded to counteract a presumption that Christian institutions were inherently opposed to socialism. While its founders found aspects of socialist programs that they wished to critique, they wanted to do so as insiders within the socialist movement, rather than as adversaries.[5] From their beginnings as supporters of Allende,[6] CPS has been associated with firm support for socialist leaders.[7] Accordingly, CPS leaders cultivated strong ties with Cuban Marxist politician Fidel Castro.[8] It was intended as a movement of active political involvement and participation,[9] and involved discussions bringing together current political events and church documents in light of each other.[10] CPS inspired a series of social programs in the public sector. Priests in CPS led union units and organized peasant federations.[1]


In Chile the immediate antecedent to CPS was the Iglesia Joven [es] movement.[11] In Italy, many of the young people who had been involved in the Italian student and worker protests of 1968 joined the movement, and the Christian Associations of Italian Workers (ACLI) was very supportive.


López Trujillo considers Giulio Girardi [es; it] a major leader of CPS.[12] Another prominent leader was the Salesian priest Lidia Menapace [de; it], who was also a significant figure in the Italian Catholic resistance during World War II. In Spain, Alfonso Carlos Comín was a key leader in establishing the movement. The theologian Gustavo Gutiérrez was also a member[13] and led sessions at all the major conferences.[10]


CPS faced opposition from the start. Left-leaning priests from Brazil and Bolivia were supportive but unable to participate in gatherings due to severe police control.[1] CPS was short-lived in Chile, due to strong resistance from the Episcopal Conference of Chile under the direction of its secretary general, bishop Carlos Oviedo Cavada.[14] In their letter condemning the movement, the bishops there argued that while the church speaks to "politics insofar as it underlies every social reality", it should not be involved in "partisan activity".[15] Chilean clergy involved in the movement were banned from political participation altogether in April 1973.[16] The movement was suppressed by the Chilean military government after the coup of 1973.[10] Father Pablo Richard [de; es; pt], one of the most active members of CPS, left Chile at this time.[17]


A number of important gatherings have been held under the auspices of Christians for Socialism. In 1972, 400 members met for a week at a textile union hall, urging "class struggle [as] the only valid course to necessary social change in Latin America."[1] CPS brought together similar Latin American movements in the Latin American Meeting of Christians for Socialism 1974 in Santiago, Chile.

In 1975, the Christians for Socialism conference in Detroit, Michigan, formally introduced liberation theology to the United States.[10] This event was a significant convergence where black, feminist, and third-world anti-imperialist movements joined together and recognized each other as peers in the same process of liberation, while also strongly critiquing one another.[18] A detailed account of the meeting was published.[19]

Christians for Socialism groups sprung up in France, Italy, and West Germany.[20] In Germany, CPS was a radical rival to Enlightenment liberalism and "German idealism's aspirations to freedom".[20]

Present day[edit]

The CPS group has as fundamental milestone the celebration of its annual conferences that are held in Spain, alternately in Madrid and Barcelona. CPS has a presence mainly in Madrid, Catalonia, Menorca and with individuals in different autonomous communities, such as Andalusia, Galicia, Aragon and others. At present, the CPS group remains within a larger movement called "Christian Networks", as a critical and reflective encounter in relation to the church, society, and politics.

In the United States, Christians for Socialism was most active through the 1970s and early 1980s. After the election of Ronald Reagan, the movement lost some of its momentum and disbanded. However, in January 2018, Christians for Socialism: North America restarted its struggle for a Christian left organized around the same ideas from the movement started in Chile in 1972.[21]


López Trujillo has critiqued CPS for holding an understanding of liberation too strongly influenced by Marxist political theory rather than the integral Christian liberation stance espoused by the Latin American Episcopal Conference.[12] It has been said[by whom?] that for some members of Christians for Socialism, there is "no salvation incarnate outside of class struggle."[22]

See also[edit]



  1. ^ a b c d e De Onis, Juan (4 May 1972). "Assembly in Chile Urges Socialism". The New York Times. Retrieved 10 December 2016.
  2. ^ B. H. Smith 1982, p. 232; Turner 1994, p. 8.
  3. ^ Lies & Malone 2006, p. 91.
  4. ^ Nessan 2012, p. 41.
  5. ^ C. Smith 1991, p. 182.
  6. ^ Eecmy n.d., p. 116.
  7. ^ Floridi 1986, p. 49.
  8. ^ Floridi 1986, p. 49; C. Smith 1991, pp. 182ff.
  9. ^ C. Smith 1991, pp. 182ff.
  10. ^ a b c d Turner 1994, p. 8.
  11. ^ Garcés 2011, p. 222; Hojman 1985, p. 72.
  12. ^ a b McGovern 1989, p. 48.
  13. ^ Bell 2001, p. 80.
  14. ^ Marshner 1974, p. 42; Tombs 2002, p. 148.
  15. ^ Eagleson 1975, pp. 196f.
  16. ^ Cavada 1974; Lies & Malone 2006, p. 92.
  17. ^ Sigmund 1990, p. 229.
  18. ^ Turner 1994, pp. 8f.
  19. ^ Torres & Eagleson 1976.
  20. ^ a b May 2003, p. 101.
  21. ^ "Manifesto". Christians for Socialism. 15 January 2018. Retrieved 16 January 2018.
  22. ^ Ortiz 1980, p. 102.


Bell, Daniel M., Jr. (2001). Liberation Theology After the End of History: The Refusal to Cease Suffering. Radical Orthodoxy. London: Routledge (published 2005). ISBN 978-1-134-54583-4.
Cavada, Carlos Oviedo, ed. (1974). Documentos del Episcopado de Chile, 1970–1973 (in Spanish). Santiago, Chile: Ediciones Mundo. OCLC 5617121.
Garcés, Mario (2011). "Chilean Social Movements in Confrontation with Neoliberalism". In de la Barra, Ximena (ed.). Neoliberalism's Fractured Showcase: Another Chile is Possible. Critical Global Studies. 3. Leiden, Netherlands: Brill. ISBN 978-90-04-18895-2. ISSN 1573-4234.
Eagleson, John, ed. (1975). Christians and Socialism: Documentation of the Christians for Socialism Movement in Latin America. Maryknoll, New York: Orbis Books.
Eecmy, Gudina Tumsa (n.d.). The Initial Response to Revolution. 2. Addis Ababa: Gudina Tumsa Foundation. Retrieved 22 November 2017.
Floridi, Alexis Ulysses (1986). Moscow and the Vatican. Ann Arbor, Michigan: Ardis. ISBN 978-0-88233-647-3.
Hojman, David E., ed. (1985). Chile After 1973: Elements for the Analysis of Military Rule. Centre for Latin American Studies Monograph Series. 12. Centre for Latin American Studies, University of Liverpool. ISSN 0306-6959.
Lies, William; Malone, Mary Fran T. (2006). "The Chilean Church: Declining Hegemony?". In Manuel, Paul Christopher; Reardon, Lawrence C.; Wilcox, Clyde (eds.). The Catholic Church and the Nation-State: Comparative Perspectives. Religion and Politics. Washington: Georgetown University Press. pp. 89–100. ISBN 978-1-58901-724-5. JSTOR j.ctt2tt4g6.
Marshner, W. H. (1974). Chile First Hand: A Report from Santiago. St. Paul, Minnesota: Wanderer Press.
May, John D'Arcy (2003). Transcendence and Violence: The Encounter of Buddhist, Christian, and Primal Traditions. New York: Continuum. ISBN 978-0-8264-1513-4.
McGovern, Arthur F. (1989). Liberation Theology and Its Critics: Toward an Assessment. Eugene, Oregon: Wipf & Stock Publishers (published 2009). ISBN 978-1-60608-893-7.
Nessan, Craig L. (2012). The Vitality of Liberation Theology. Missional Church, Public Theology, World Christianity. 3. Eugene, Oregon: Wipf and Stock. ISBN 978-1-61097-994-8.
Ortiz, Pacifico A., ed. (1980). Not by Bread Alone: Bishops-Businessmen's Conference Dialogues on Human Development Under Martial Law. Manila: Bishops-Businessmen's Conference. OCLC 8906728.
Sigmund, Paul E. (1990). Liberation Theology at the Crossroads: Democracy or Revolution?. New York: Oxford University Press (published 1992). ISBN 978-0-19-507274-7.
Smith, Brian H. (1982). The Church and Politics in Chile: Challenges to Modern Catholicism. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press. ISBN 978-1-4008-5697-8. JSTOR j.ctt7zvvj7.
Smith, Christian (1991). The Emergence of Liberation Theology: Radical Religion and Social Movement Theory. University of Chicago Press. ISBN 978-0-226-76410-8.
Tombs, David (2002). Latin American Liberation Theology. Religion in the Americas. 1. Boston: Brill Academic Publishers. ISBN 978-0-391-04148-6. ISSN 1542-1279.
Torres, Sergio; Eagleson, John (1976). Theology in the Americas. Maryknoll, New York: Orbis Books.
Turner, J. David (1994). An Introduction to Liberation Theology. Lanham, Maryland: University Press of America. ISBN 978-0-8191-9137-3.

Further reading[edit]

Chilean Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family, and Property (1976). The Church of Silence in Chile: The TFP Proclaims the Whole Truth. New York: Lumen Mariae Publications.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
Encuentro Latinoamericano de Cristianos por el Socialismo, Latin American Working Group (Toronto, Ont.), & Student Christian Movement of Canada. (1972). First Latin American Encounter of Christians for Socialism. Toronto: Latin American Working Group and the Student Christian Movement of Canada.