The Damned Law is the nickname by which Chilean law 8987 is known, for the Permanent Defense of Democracy. It was promulgated on September 3, 1948 and its objective was to prohibit the participation of the Communist Party of Chile in the political life of the country.
Through this law, both the Communist Party and the National Progressive Party (the name the PCCH used in the elections) were eliminated from the list of legal organizations. In addition, it caused the disqualification of the public offices that he had won in the previous elections.
The bill was born from President Gabriel González Videla, a member of the Radical Party. The election of this president took place with the vote in favor of the communists and, in fact, they were part of his government.
There are various theories to explain González Videla’s change of position towards his allies, with whom he had a complicated relationship.
Despite being in government, the communists did not stop their activity in the streets, calling numerous demonstrations demanding more rights.
Years before the law was finally enacted, the idea had been on the minds of other Chilean presidents. The first to raise it was the socialist Carlos Dávila Espinoza, in 1932.
The numerous mobilizations that the Communist Party called at that time were about to cost it its ban. It did not take place because Congress was closed during that period.
Later, in 1937, under the second presidency of Arturo Alessandri, with a very tense atmosphere in the street, the State Security Law 6026 was approved, but the Party was not banned.
Again in 1941, a bill was introduced affecting the communists. However, then-President Pedro Aguirre Cerda ended up vetoing the proposed law.
Juan Antonio Ríos, who became president shortly thereafter, expressed strong criticism of the Communist Party that same year.
His words demonstrated the differences that existed between Communists, Socialists, and members of the Radical Party. Despite this, Ríos established diplomatic relations with the USSR during his tenure.
The death of José Antonio Ríos in 1946 led to the obligation to call new elections in the country. The Radical Party proposed Gabriel González Videla as a candidate.
The conservatives chose Eduardo Cruz to face González Videla, with three other candidates running for what was presumed a close election.
In the second round, González got the support of the communists and the liberals, being elected president.
With this victory, he became the second candidate of his party to reach power with the support of the Communist Party. In November 46, the presidential cabinet was formed, in which liberals, radicals and also communists were incorporated.
The mix existing in the new government headed by González Videla suggested some tensions within it.
The international situation, with the beginning of the Cold War and the world polarization between the United States and the Soviet Union did not help to reach agreements easily.
There is no consensus among historians to explain the causes that led the González government to promote the Damned Law. Several reasons are usually mentioned, although, perhaps, it was a mixture of all of them.
Among the reasons mentioned, as noted above, was the international situation. This was reflected in the interior of Chile when the communists and part of the socialists demanded the rupture of relations with the United States.
On the other hand, the communists soon began to organize union demonstrations, even though they sometimes did so to protest decisions made by a government in which they were.
Municipal elections of 47
Another hypothesis that some historians use refers to the internal politics of the country. The municipal elections held in 1947 had produced a very good result for the Communist Party. Thus, it became the third party in Chile, with 16.5% of the votes.
This result brought him closer to conservatives and radicals. In addition, the latter had lost part of their voters, who had preferred to vote communist.
The situation worried prominent members of the Radical Party, who even accused the Communists of some electoral fraud.
Finally, the tension grew so much that a segment of radicalism left the party to found another.
The president’s reaction was to reform the government administration cabinet. On this occasion, it only included technicians, independents and members of the Armed Forces.
If, before González Videla took that measure, the Communist Party had called enough mobilizations of workers, after it the calls were continuous and massive.
It was a great wave of protests and strikes, notably that of the transporters of Santiago (which ended with several deaths), that of the railways, that of the coal miners in the south of the country or that of the miners of Chuquicamata.
Apart from labor issues, one of the causes of these mobilizations was the exclusion of the Communist Party from the national government.
Those carried out by the miners took place in a climate of great violence, since the Armed Forces were sent to control them.
On the political level, the United States began to pressure the President to stop the advance of the communists and these, in turn, reproached him for the repeated failure to fulfill his most social promises.
The Cursed Law
Already in April 1948, González Videla had sent a draft of the Law on Permanent Defense of the Democratic Regime. Likewise, he petitioned Congress to grant him special powers to stop the actions of the Communist Party.
In favor of the law were the liberals, the conservatives, part of the radicals and a sector of the socialists. The rest, were positioned against the illegalization.
In September of that same year, the so-called Damn Law was approved by Congress. With it, the Communist Party was prohibited and its members disqualified from holding public office. This disqualification even reached simple recognized militants, who were erased from the electoral register.
González Videla reshaped the government again, this time with members of his party, the Liberal, the Conservative, the Democratic and some socialists.
The first consequence of the promulgation of this law was the prohibition of the Communist Party of Chile, as well as the erasure of its members from the electoral registry. In this way, they lost all the political rights that they could have as citizens.
The candidates who had been elected in the last elections, both national and municipal, were stripped of their positions.
Similarly, the law ended the freedom of organization, association and propaganda. In general, all acts that were considered contrary to the political regime were prohibited. It also limited the right to strike until it almost disappeared.
Finally, part of the communist militants are sent to the Pisagua prison camp, led by the army captain Augusto Pinochet.
The Law could have been approved with the votes in favor of a majority in Congress, but the parties with representation did not form monolithic blocs.
In the Radical Party itself, that of the President, there was a minority that did not want to support the initiative of its leader. Thus, they left the organization and founded the Doctrinary Radical Party.
Another party that suffered internal division was the Socialist. Despite having voted in favor, an important group had refused to follow the direction guidelines.As happened in the Radical, this dissidence led to a split and they created the Popular Socialist Party.
Later, it was the same Socialist Party that supported the Communists so that they could stand in the elections through the so-called National Front of the People.
So did another faction of socialism, the Authentic Socialist Party, which allowed communists on its lists.
Another of the major Chilean parties, the Democratic Party, also suffered the effects of the promulgation of the Damned Law. It ended up divided into two different factions: one that was in favor of the communist ban and the other against.
Finally, not even the Conservative Party was spared from these consequences. Inside there was an important group attached to the Christian Social movement, which was against the outlawing and persecution of the Communist Party. Finally, they separated and founded the Christian Social Conservative Party.
- Chilean Memory. Law for the Permanent Defense of Democracy. Obtained from memoriachilena.cl
- Ayala, Rodolfo. A day like today: Law for the Permanent Defense of Democracy or Cursed Law. Obtained from latendencia.cl
- Icarito. Government of Gabriel González Videla (1946-1952). Obtained from icarito.cl
- US Library of Congress. Gabriel González Videla’s Presidency, 1946-52. Retrieved from countrystudies.us
- Human Right Watch. Freedom of Expression and the Press. Retrieved from hrw.org
- Paul W. Drake, John J. Johnson. The presidency of Gabriel González Videla. Retrieved from britannica.com