Recabarren Serrano, Luis Emilio (1876–1924)

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Recabarren Serrano, Luis Emilio (1876–1924)

Luis Emilio Recabarren Serrano (b. 6 July 1876; d. 19 December 1924), Chilean labor leader, newspaper editor, and politician. Born into modest circumstances in Valparaíso, Recabarren began work as a printer, which provided him with the means to educate himself. A newspaper editor of numerous journals, he also organized workers in the north, particularly the nitrate miners, to protest their horrible living and unsafe working conditions. His organizing efforts, as well as his newspaper editorials, led to his arrest and incarceration for sedition.

Recabarren joined the Democratic Party, then Chile's most left-wing party. Although he was twice elected to the Chamber of Deputies, the opposition refused to seat him, arguing that he advocated ideas that would lead to social discord. After serving more than a year in jail for inciting a strike of railroad and dock workers in 1906, he left for Argentina and Europe.

After denouncing the Democratic Party for its willingness to compromise and to support reformist tactics, in 1912 Recabarren created the Partido Obrero Socialista (POS), a working-class party dedicated to bringing socialism to Chile. Extremely puritanical, Recabarren preached a combination of personal morality, opposing alcoholism and prostitution and emphasizing individual hygiene and education, and dedication to the class struggle as a means of uplifting the masses. Recabarren traveled throughout Chile, personally preaching this message and founding countless newspapers.

Disenchanted with Europe's Social Democratic parties because they had supported their nations' participation in World War I, Recabarren became an early supporter of the Communist revolution. Elected a deputy in 1921, he led the Partido Obrero Socialista to join the Third Communist International. After visiting the Soviet Union in 1922, he returned to Chile to continue his legislative battle to improve the lot of the working class and to oppose the incumbent bourgeois government. Recabarren refused to run for a second congressional term. Apparently despondent over infighting within the Communist Party, in ill health, and perhaps depressed over a failed love affair, Recabarren committed suicide in 1924.

See alsoChile, Political Parties: Communist Party; Journalism; Labor Movements.


Paul W. Drake, Socialism and Populism in Chile, 1932–52 (1978), pp. 44-45, 50, 52, 54, 58, 65, 101, 134-139.

Peter De Shazo, Urban Workers and Labor Unions in Chile, 1902–1927 (1983), pp. 91, 99, 110-111, 120-122, 135, 141, 187, 221-222, 229, 235.

Additional Bibliography

Arnaiz, María del Carmen, and Michael Monteón. Movimientos sociales en la Argentina, Brasil y Chile, 1880–1930. Buenos Aires: Editorial Biblos: Fundación Simón Rodríguez, 1995.

Silva, Miguel. Recabarren y el socialismo. Santiago: M. Silva, 1992.

Varas, Augusto. La formación del pensamiento político de Recabarren: Hipótesis para una investigación histórica. Santiago de Chile: FLACSO, 1983.

                                      William F. Sater