Allende received his medical degree in 1932.
His promises of a Chilean Road to Socialism ended with his violent overthrow and death at the hands of the military.
In 1937 he was elected, as a Socialist, to the Chamber of Deputies. With the victory of the Popular Front in 1938, President Pedro Aguirre Cerda appointed Allende minister of health. In 1945 he was elected to the Senate where he remained until he became president of the republic.
In 1943 Salvador Allende headed the Socialist Party faction that opposed entry into the cabinet of President Juan Antonio Rios Morales, and rejected merger of the Socialist and Communist parties. When the opposing faction, led by Marmaduque Grove Vallejo, was defeated and withdrew, Allende was elected secretary general of the Socialist Party.
When another Socialist Party split occurred in 1948, over collaboration with President Gabriel Gonzalez Videla and support for a law outlawing the Communist Party, Allende opposed those policies and helped form the Popular Socialist Party (PSP). However, four years later, when the PSP decided to support the presidential candidacy of ex-dictator Carlos Ibanez del Campo,* Allende withdrew and rejoined the Socialist Party.
The Communists then offered support if he could obtain the presidential nom¬ination of the Socialist Party. As the Socialist Party’s nominee in 1952, he came in a poor fourth. He ran again in 1958 as candidate of the Front of Popular Action (FRAP) composed of the reunited Socialist Party, the Communists, and smaller groups, and was very narrowly defeated by Jorge Alessandri Rodriguez, nominee of the parties of the right.
The election of 1964 was a contest between the FRAP, with Allende once again as its nominee, and the Christian Democratic Party, led by Eduardo Frei Montalva. Frei won an absolute majority.
With approach of the 1970 elections, the FRAP was expanded to include the Radical Party and some dissident Christian Democrats, and was rechristened Popular Unity (UP). Salvador Allende was the UP candidate. He received a plurality, but the final decision was up to Congress, where the choice lay between Allende and Jorge Alessandri. The Christian Democrats, who held the deciding votes in Congress, demanded that Allende agree to a Statute of Constitutional Guarantees, reflecting their fear that the UP coalition might destroy the traditional democratic regime. When the statute was passed with Allende’s backing, the Christian Democrats voted for him. He took office in November 1970.
UP had pledged nationalization of 81 major industrial and other enterprises, rapid completion of the agrarian reform begun under President Frei, and workers' participation in management of state-owned firms. In practice, the Allende gov¬ernment went considerably beyond that program. Hundreds of enterprises, most of them small or medium sized, were "temporarily” taken over by the state. Much land not subject to the agrarian reform was also seized illegally, and the government pushed for the organization of collective farms.
After the first year, the economic situation became increasingly difficult. Inflation was more severe than the country had ever known before, production fell in both industry and agriculture, and the balance of payments was drastically adverse. The Opposition-controlled Congress sought to limit the government’s right to seize private firms. Congressional elections in March 1973 left the Opposition still in control, although with a reduced majority. Widespread middle- class opposition was demonstrated during a month-long strike by independent truckers in October 1972, in protest against a move to nationalize trucking enterprises.
Although the Communist Party acted as a force for moderation, Allende’s own Socialist Party collaborated closely with the far left Movement of the Revolutionary Left (MIR) in seizures of farms and urban enterprises. Party secretary Carlos Altamirano boasted two days before the overthrow of Allende, that he and other Socialist leaders had frustrated all of the president’s efforts to reach a compromise with the Christian Democrats.