Unesp Journal | Fifty years ago, Allende’s Chile came to an end

Alberto Aggio

On the morning of Tuesday, September 11, 1973, a column of black smoke rose over the center of Santiago de Chile. It didn’t look like just a fire, but it looked like something serious and threatening because of the sounds that had been heard a few minutes before. The noise of Chilean Air Force fighter jets flying low over the city center. Information about what was happening quickly began to arrive.Dramatic footage of surgical bombing of palace La Moneda They started traveling around the world. These were shocking scenes in a country that has cultivated an image of political stability and institutional solidity. That day marked the end of the democratically elected government of socialist politician Salvador Allende. In addition, it also includes Chile’s democracy and all that it means in terms of political culture and the coexistence of the Chilean people.

Salvador Allende ruled Chile for just under three years after winning elections in 1970 as a candidate for the Popular Unity (UP) party. The UP was a left-wing coalition formed by the Socialist Party (PS), the Communist Party (PC), and several smaller allies. It is important to emphasize that: Izquierda revolutionary movement (MIR), which was not part of the UP, permanently contested the line adopted by Allende.

Chile route plan

What happened before the coup? Looking back at events half a century later, several explanatory factors can be considered. Allende was a minority president. He was elected with 36% of the vote, and his inauguration took place in parliament with occasional support from the Christian Democrats (DC). Chilean politics at the time was divided into three blocs: liberals and nationalists, Christian Democrats, and the socialist-communist axis. Each bloc supported its own social project, making it difficult to balance the political system with its extreme positions. The reforms implemented by Allende proved to be overly maximalist, and the path taken to implement them through the executive branch, without negotiation with Congress, became an unavoidable problem. And there is no doubt what happened in Chile, which became one of the theaters of the “Cold War” as the United States supported the rebels and ultimately the coup.

How long did Allende rule Chile? chile experience. Allende cherished his idea that it was possible to build socialism through the preservation and deepening of democracy. He called this “Chile’s path to socialism.” It was an unprecedented revolutionary proposal and had universal resonance.

As evidenced by the data, the first year of the Allende government was very successful. GDP grew by 8.6%, unemployment fell to 4.2%, industrial production increased by 13%, and inflation fell from 34.9% in 1969 to 22.1% in 1971. In the public sector salary he increased by 35%, in the private sector he increased by 50%. Copper was nationalized with the unanimous support of Congress, almost all banks were placed under government control, and a social ownership area of ​​the economy was established based on the intervention of about 150 large factories and enterprises. Ta.

However, the overheating of production, the expansion of public spending, and the policy of increasing wages would soon have an inflationary effect. Allende and UP chose a “wild Keynesianism” that would be difficult to overturn. This, combined with North America’s boycott of the Chilean economy, quickly brought the country into an increasingly uncontrollable economic situation, with immediate political consequences. UP’s electoral advancement, which had reached more than 50% of the vote in the April 1971 local elections, would ultimately be lost along with the neutrality of the Christian Democratic Party at the time.

Fidel and the “Unusual Chilean Process”

Despite everything, 1971 was a bright year for Allende’s Chile and seemed to show that commitment to Chile’s path to socialism could bring success. But things start to get complicated at the end of the year. Fidel Castro’s visit to Chile and 24-day stay in November, as he traveled the country from north to south, giving speeches and giving interviews, represented a direct challenge to Chile’s path to socialism. The path to revolution in Latin America, the armed path.

This visit brought about a change in the political situation, and from that moment on, talk began about “civil war” and “fascism”. Fidel knew that the idea of ​​a democratic transition to socialism was not a consensual strategy for the UP, and he bet on a change in direction for the Chilean revolution. When the Empty Pots march began in late November, Fidel openly defied Allende and defended the repression of protesters. In his final speech, delivered alongside Allende at the National Stadium, Fidel said Chile was not experiencing a revolution, but an “abnormal political process.”

In 1972, the government’s difficulties in Congress meant that an agreement between UP and DC was becoming increasingly difficult. The risk of DC drifting to the right was known and was seen at every step. To make the situation even worse, the socialists relied on the support of other leftist forces, especially the MIR, to prevent this type of alliance. What we saw was that those who proposed “power accumulation” and “move forward without slowing down” (Go forward without turning back), he defended the establishment of popular power. On July 26, commemorating the anniversary of the barracks attack. Moncada – The episode that sparked the Cuban Revolution – supporters of this latest trend rallied Concepcion He established the People’s Assembly and declared the end of the Republican Congress. A “duality of power” was clearly projected and contradicted the foundations of the Arendist way.

In October 1972, the right-wing openly challenged the government with a truckers’ “strike” that affected food supplies for more than a month. This US-funded movement was a kind of checkmate for the government. Unrest and social conflict became commonplace, reinforcing already established “parallel markets” for products. In this situation, Allende considered the only solution to be to call in the army to the province with the aim of restoring order. Although this was not part of the Chile Route Strategy, it indicated that Allende felt that an important element of his project had been left out.

All subsequent efforts proved futile. DC openly moved to the right and formed the “Democratic Alliance” to participate in the March 1973 parliamentary elections, which achieved satisfactory results, but not enough to propose impeachment of Allende in Congress. On June 29, the military garrison in Santiago rose up in an attempted coup d’état, resulting in several casualties, but was ultimately defeated. The scenario was one of daily clashes in the streets, strikes and strikes, and open terrorist acts in different parts of the country. The divided left was torn between provoking or containing the nascent “civil war.” It will not be long before Congress recognizes the unconstitutionality of Allende’s government, closing any possibility of overcoming the crisis. Next there will be a coup d’état.

overcome the revolution

If we look at what happened between 1970 and 1973, it is clear that the political process has changed significantly. From Allende’s victory and inauguration, and his successful first year, the dynamics and direction of the conflict developed from a certain stabilization to an increasingly deep polarization, quickly escalating into conflict, and then the Allende regime. Forced deinstitutionalization.

In any case, the dramatic ending is chile experience It doesn’t seem like a tragedy whose outcome was already determined. There was a possibility of an agreement between UP and DC, but it was lost and the crisis irrevocably took hold. Second, we need to reflect on the fact that radical change cannot be achieved without the support of a majority, not just electoral support. The theme of hegemony is a concept completely absent from the discourse of UP and Allende. Mr. Allende’s international isolation is also a surprising fact. There was no significant support from the Soviet Union, much less from China. Allende also did not seek closeness or identification with European social democratic reformism, preferring to remain in the revolutionary camp whose complicated relationship with Fidel Castro’s Cuba brought him more problems than solutions. I liked it.

Looking at the Chilean left in particular, it is clear that they are grappling with the challenge of building socialism while preserving democracy in traditional ways. Basically, he thought of the Chili route as just a route. slogan, the art of solidarity and mobilization. Therefore, the Chilean path never effectively materialized as a democratic path to socialism, but ended up being reduced to a series of tactical operations against the economy and state apparatus.

It is also clear that, strictly speaking, the Chilean left’s concept of socialism was the same as that of the victorious revolutions of the 20th century. chile experience It historically marked a turning point in the political culture of the revolution. This shows that this culture needs to be overcome and without it we will not be able to face the problems and impasses of democracy. And democracy is understood as a civilizational projection of modernity, capable of ensuring historical transformation without losing freedom and individuality.failure chile experience It shows that the revolutionary era is incompatible with the political era. While the former is characterized by the urgency of seizing power, the latter recognizes that historical change must occur on the basis of politically agreed consensus within a democratic framework.

Alberto Aggio is full professor in the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences at the UNESP Franca Campus, author of Democracy and Socialism: The Chilean Experience and author of Fifty Years of Allende’s Chile – A Critical Reading Also the organizer.

Signed opinion articles do not necessarily reflect the views of the agency.

Image above: La Moneda Palace, the seat of the Chilean government, bombed during the September 11, 1973 coup. Credit: Library of Congress/Wikimedia Commons.

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