Was there ever a Chilean path to socialism? What was the Allende presidency? On the 47th anniversary of the military coup, we recovered and published in our archive FOR’s publications on Chile during those years.
The historical significance of the Allende’s electoral triumph
In the presidential elections of September 1970, Allende, at the head of the Popular Union candidate – articulated around the alliance of the Stalinist party and Christian Democracy – was ahead of the two conservative candidates. After a series of maneuvers, parliament finally elects him to the post. The situation is unprecedented and very particular within the cold war game. This is the moment when the Stalinist PCI is laying the foundations of what will later be the proposal of Historic Compromise to the Italian Christian Democracy and also when the Spanish PCE, which since 56 had been proposing national reconciliation with the social bases of Francoism and its political families, is beginning to articulate a type of discourse which it will later call eurocommunism.
For the first time since 1948 [stalinists] managed to enter a government of the American orbit and precisely at the moment in which the stalinist parties of Western Europe strived to present themselves as democrats worthy of credit and trust by other capitalist democrats, in whose company they counted on returning to power.
Alarma, nº 15, October 1970
On June 15 of the following year, the Chilean parliament unanimously nationalized the copper industry. This is the great revolutionary triumph of Allendism according to propaganda. But its real economic and historical sense is rather different.
With greater clarity than in other countries of Latin America, Asia and Africa, the tendency of the existing social system towards state capitalism stands out in Chile. It is a new function of what has been called in the revolutionary movement the law of uneven capitalist development. It is causing, in the midst of very backward economies, sometimes in a pre-capitalist, medieval or semi-patriarchal stage, the appearance of some very modern industrial centers. But modern big industry requires financial and technical means so great that they are not available to any national bourgeoisie in these countries. Only the State, concentrating in itself all or most of the wealth, can undertake investments of the required magnitude and impose the political and economic coercion necessary to force workers’ productivity. The policy of nationalizations is therefore an expression of the most centralizing tendencies of capitalism, those that try to carry out a function fulfilled by the big international trusts in the advanced countries. Rivalry between military blocs favors the appearance of such tendencies. The Allende government represents nothing else.
The presence in it of stalinist ministers and the critical support of the pro-Chinese (MIR) corroborates this. It is likely that the attempt will fail, not so much because of the opposition of the tendencies of individual capitalism, but because of the hostility of the working masses who are already suffering the consequences of the initiated concentration of capital. Capitalism is already reactionary globally, no matter how much it modernizes and industrializes backward and advanced countries without distinction. It is not a question of developing it in any way, but of putting an end to it. Production, distribution, political power and arms must be passed on to the working class, which will create factories not just to increase consumption but also to reduce working hours; and then an incomparably greater industrialization will appear, one that liberates rather than crushes man.
Alarma, no. 21, 2nd quarter 1972
Because what is certain and true is that from its first steps the main message of the government of Popular Unity had revolved around intensifying discipline at work, increasing productivity and suppressing seizures and expropriations by the workers.
For months, Mr. Allende and his stalinist acolytes have been calling for the intensification of work and production, at the same time as they called for moderation in workers’ demands. They are particularly angered by the expropriation of land and factories. The expropriations that are made, they claim, must obey a governmental plan. Within the law, Allende wants to organize, by himself, a Popular Assembly.
This language and these projects are a mixture of the well-known reactionary language about the need to produce more to earn more (Franco and his lieutenants have repeated it ad nauseam) and that of the neo-reactionaries based in Beijing and Moscow. In effect, the expropriation of factories and lands, carried out by the workers themselves, gives them the possibility of organizing production and distribution of the products under their own management. That is where socialism begins. On the contrary, in obedience to a government plan, they are no longer anything but expropriations of a bourgeois, a landowner, a corporation or a trust, by the supreme representative of capitalism, the State. For the workers and the laborers of the land, this last operation represents nothing more than the passage from one boss to another, just as if the factory or the land on which they work had been sold to a much stronger capitalist. And it is an invariable law that the growth and concentration of capital aggravates the situation of dependence of wage earners.
Alarm, no. 19, October 1971
This does not mean that the struggle between right and left or the furious hatred of the petty bourgeoisie and sectors of the army were not real. Nor does it mean that the U.S. stood aside. It only takes away any class meaning.
The conflict between the traditional right wing and the ruling coalition is not a conflict between the exploited and the exploiters. They contest with each other only over what each side believes to be the best organization and representation of national capitalism. Since it has been in power, the populist coalition has been confirming our claim, in a way that is tragic for the Chilean working masses. The legal transition towards what Allende with his stalinists and his christians call socialism, is a diversion from private capitalism towards state capitalism.
In the nationalized industries the workers represent as little now as before; now, as before, they are being told to resist, to produce more and to demand as little as possible. The leadership of the nationalized industries is entrusted in numerous cases to the superior chiefs of the army, and this before Allende entrusted it with the maintenance of order and opened the doors of his government to various generals. According to news at the end of January, the same military will henceforth be in charge of the fight against the black market and will advise the government in economic matters (Le Monde 23-1). The army is all over the place, as if in full reaction. It and the police have opened fire in multiple cases against industrial and agricultural strikers, as well as against invaders of large estates. And while the rulers are blackmailing the workers in the name of an anti-imperialist struggle in which they are continually asked to make sacrifices, American imperialism is sending arms to the Chilean army. It will be the latter, in the last instance, which will decide whether to arrive at a more or less complete state capitalism or a mixed capitalism of private enterprise. The guarantee that it represents, both for the government and for Washington, is, above all, a guarantee against the revolutionary action of the workers. […] As long as the masses do not see in the Allende government a class enemy and in the army an institution to be dissolved, they will be at the mercy of both and the situation will have no comparison with that of Spain in 1936.
Alarma, no. 24, 1st quarter 1973
The support of stalinist Russia, Castro’s Cuba and the entire Eastern Bloc, including Maoist China, which had already abandoned the bloc, was neither innocent nor had anything to do with communism.
Communism as a movement is a struggle to overcome wage slavery. It has absolutely nothing in common with any project to reorganize capital and wages within a country or in the world. True, the Stalinist imposture, the vilest and threatening of all times, is still striving to pass off as socialism the redoubling of wage slavery by the single master state. Thus, the expropriation of the bourgeoisie and the trusts is done, not for the benefit of the proletariat; of society, but of a trust of trusts. The trickery is twofold: the natural process of capital concentration is deliberately carried out along such a road, and as long as the workers of a country do not suffer from it on their own shoulders, they may be led to believe that this is the road of socialism. The unavowed motto of stalinism and its cronies is: Long live the master state, legislator, and absolute stowaway! None other was the goal of the Chilean Popular Unity.
An especially important, if not the key, implication of such a trickery: it yields abundant economic, political and paramilitary benefits to the imperialism of the ruble as opposed to that of the dollar. Under its cover, it has penetrated Moscow in Asia, in Africa, in the oil-producing area of Islam, in Cuba… and in the minds of numerous intellectuals everywhere. This has played a considerable role in the outcome of the Chilean tragicomedy. Yankee imperialism could not allow another American country, besides Cuba, to escape into the Russian orbit. And on the other hand, neither Allende nor anyone else, no matter how well prepared, will be able to take off from the Wall Street area today without being captured by the Kremlin area and vice versa. That feat is reserved for the proletarian, necessarily communist revolution. It is not nationalizations which really frighten the U.S. government, but, rather, that once they are carried out, they become commercially, technically, and strategically dependent on Russian imperialism. The military have not been reluctant to declare that they would maintain the nationalizations of the American companies decreed by Allende.
«Chile: civiles y militares», Alarma, nº 26-27, 3rd-4th quarter 1973
After the September 11 coup
When the military coup finally took place, it would find the workers unarmed, demoralized, and disorganized by the Allendist government itself. The most savage repression will be set in motion, aware of its total impunity.
Repression against the industrial and agricultural workers has not been started by the military. This repression has always existed, more or less, since the Allende government came to power, by using the same military as well as the police, and the Pinochet junta took it to an extreme and extended it to the People’s Union itself, where pseudo-socialists, stalinists and christians are intermingled. It is the repression of the Allendist coalition, its general policy, which explains the intervention of the army and its criminal repression. In the last hours of his presidency and his life, Allende incited the workers to take over the factories and called for their help in front of the army. This was an acknowledgement that after three years of his government, the workers had no conquests to defend. In fact, until then, it was Allende who resorted to the army and police to evict them from factories, mines, and occupied lands. […]
The decisive motivation for the military attack was the demoralization of the proletariat, deepened day by day by the policies of Allende and friends. The army knew for certain that the workers would not put up resistance, not so much because they lacked weapons, but because they lacked the fighting spirit at the time. The initial illusions destroyed by the reality of the government, they no longer saw any real or imagined reason for struggle. To take to the streets against the army it would have been necessary that at least an important fraction of the proletariat had organized itself, months before, in sharp revolutionary opposition to the counterfeiters of the Popular Unity. But in that case, the social-military-stalinist collusion would probably have continued, until it clashed with the working class in insurrection. Such was the revolutionary path. There is no solidarity but fictitious solidarity with the Chilean workers, without revealing who bears decisive responsibility for the military ferocity: in the first place those who applauded the Allende government, in the second its critical supporters. In each man executed, in each man tortured, in each man imprisoned, one can see the mark of one and the other, in filigree under the military mark. As for the rest, the presence of Allende’s daughter in Moscow in October, during one of those congresses of Russian imperialist propaganda called by oxymoron pro-peace congresses, gives a good idea of what would have been the complete and steady victory of the Popular Unity. There she was fraternizing with the men who keep tens, if not hundreds of thousands of workers and intellectuals in forced labor camps, while in psychiatric prisons near the congress, political opponents interned for madness moan under the methodical torture of treatment. Their plight blurs with the plight of those tortured in Chile and in so many other countries; their torturers are comparable to each other.
«Chile: civiles y militares», Alarma, nº 26-27, 3rd-4th quarter 1973
But the military’s massive and brutal repression will give the Russian bloc’s propaganda machine an opportunity to begin a unique campaign of global mythification. Allende’s final message, calling on the workers to take over the factories and confront the military, serves to pretend that he did not have time to do the things he utterly opposed in reality and thus reinterpret his government as the opposite of what it truly was.
The supporters of the Popular Union, even the pro-Chinese and Trotskyist MIR, had the objective of centralizing capital by nationalizing it, rather than suppressing it. They deliberately sought state capitalism; not communist revolution at all. Under such conditions, Allende’s last appeal is comparable in fallacy to that of Mussolini’s declaration, when he was already expelled from Rome, for a social republic and workers’ control. In short, the workers were rejected, demoralized, and placed at the disposition of any brute force by the Popular Union. It would have been the government’s own brute force had the military not intervened.
Like so many other times, of course, the primary and raw anti-communism of the petty bourgeoisie, with its unbridled hatred of anything that comes even rhetorically close to recognizing the mere existence of the proletariat, could not but collaborate, first with the coup and its brutality, then with the reinterpretation of Allendism as a revolutionary movement. It is the same tricky phenomenon that Chávez and Maduro recently enjoyed in Venezuela, and now Fernández in Argentina or Sánchez in Spain. The far-right petty bourgeoisie in drift insists on, more firmly than the most alienated of its own followers, the supposed socialism – they even call it social-communism – of presidents bent on saving state capitalism.
The mentality of the petty bourgeoisie and part of the big bourgeoisie has also intervened in the outcome, without a doubt. Not only were they not yet ready for the maximum centralization of capital, but, ignorant and naive, they took for truth what was a lie, the socialist, communist designation of the governmental foundations, and by lie or trickery what was true: the organization of the Chilean economy into state capitalism.
«Chile: civiles y militares», Alarma, nº 26-27, 3rd-4th quarter 1973
But and this is the final lesson of all these texts of FOR, we cannot get the wrong idea that military repression was not something alien to the workers, an internal struggle within the political apparatus of the moment. The repression and savagery of the ruling class in action had as its main objective to physically finish off, through terrorism, the political defeat inflicted by Allendism on the workers. It was capitalist terrorism in its clearest expression. That is why the denunciation from internationalist positions was the only one that was really complete, honest, and fertile, the only one that connected the horror of that present with a future for humanity.
Revolutionaries must not allow their condemnation of military power and repression in Chile to be confused with the hypocritical shouting of some, who silence and defend the incessant repression in the Russian zone or in China, nor with the jeremiads of the opportunists, who mix up their voice with that of the former after having shouldered them politically, and not only in Chile. Ours is a strict and complete recrimination, because in the name of the world communist revolution, it is a class protest; that of the former is the protest of rivals of the Chilean military in the world capitalist game and of the great powers. In the case of the opportunists, it is the dying whimper of those who are caught up in the same game.
«Chile: civiles y militares», Alarma, no. 26-27, 3rd-4th quarter 1973