Chile: the threatening catastrophe

Monday 11 September marks the 50th anniversary of the coup that overthrew president Salvador Allende in Chile. This article, written in 1971 by Alan Woods two years before these events, warned against the threat of a military coup if the Popular Unity government failed to mobilise the masses and carry out a genuine socialist programme. We have also republished a longer piece, written by Alan Woods after the coup, which can be found here.

The election of the "Government of Popular Unity" in Chile last November was an event of great importance for every Socialist. Both the capitalist press and the journals of the "Communist" Party have presented it as a step towards Socialism "through the ballot box". The experience of the Allende Government will serve as a test-case of the possibility of the "parliamentary road to Socialism". It holds vital lessons for every thinking member of the Labour Movement.

"Popular Front"

Contrary to the legend, assiduously fostered by the Stalinists, there is nothing "unique" about the developments in Chile. Allende is merely repeating the experience of the pre-war "Popular Front" governments in Spain/ France and Chile itself. Against the saccharine "optimism" of the CP "theoreticians" we must point out that in every single case "Popular Frontism" has led to a bloody defeat for the working class.

The Allende government is a coalition of the Socialist Party and the CP, with a number of middle-class "democratic" parties and grouplets - some of them so small that they make no mark upon the country's political life: the Radicals, "Social Democrats", MAPU and API.

The "theory" of Popular Frontism argues that the workers' parties must unite in parliament with the parties of the "liberal" bourgeoisie in order to win over the middle classes from reaction. In point of fact, parties like the Radicals are not the political representatives of the middle class but their parliamentary exploiters. The function of the Radicals is to keep the middle class under the yoke of Big Business by means of deception, lies and "democratic" demagogy. Such unprincipled blocs with the professional deceivers of the middle class can only serve ultimately to demoralise and disorient these sections, who can only be won by bold class policies. But a firm, revolutionary policy can only come from parties basing themselves on the class interests of the proletariat.

Class collaborationism, under no matter what "Socialist" or "Communist" banner it hides, has always had baneful results for the working class. The Chilean variety is no exception.

Masses Radicalised

In the first period of its life, Allende's government has scored some apparent successes: free milk for school-children, rise in the minimum wage and pensions, freeze on rents and prices, nationalisation of copper, the lowering of the voting age to eighteen and the beginning of an agrarian reform.

These reforms have been greeted by the masses with enormous enthusiasm - whenever the downtrodden, demoralised people see a government that appears to mean business, taking real steps to improve their lot, the response is always dramatic. Without a shadow of doubt, the overwhelming majority of peasants and workers see this as "their" government and support it uncritically at this stage.

In the elections to the students union (FECH) held shortly after Allende's confirmation as President, the candidates representing the parties of the "popular unity front" swept the board, increasing their vote by 40%. As always in such cases, the students are a barometer of tendencies at work in society as a whole. The municipal elections held in April revealed the same profound process of radicalisation in the working masses.

The CP's share of the votes in these elections went up from 15.9% (1969) to 17.36% but the Socialist share shot up from 12.2% to 22.89% of the vote. The SP vote nearly doubled in these elections. The right-wing Nationalist Party, which suffered a sharp rebuff, now accounts for 18% of the vote.

The most significant result however, was the vote of the Radicals. Their share of the vote slumped from 13.0% in 1969 to a mere 8.18%. Attempts have been made to explain away this decline by the split-off of the right-wing of the Radicals. But the plain fact remains that the Radicals were the only one of the major "popular unity" parties to suffer a setback at the polls. The conclusion is irresistible. The support for the Allende government represents support for Socialist policies.

It is significant that the Socialist Party - which stands (verbally, at least) to the left of the "Communists" - received the most dramatic vote of confidence. On the other hand, the bourgeois partners in the coalition have no support among the masses. They represent the prejudices of the middle class of yesterday. There is no future for that class on the basis of capitalism. The policies of the Radicals are the death of the middle class. They are doomed to decline still more in the months ahead. The question of the future behaviour of the middle class cannot be determined by parliamentary manoeuvres but the revolutionary overthrow of capitalism. A bold revolutionary policy would galvanise the intellectuals, small shopkeepers and peasants around the working-class. Unprincipled combinations only serve, in the last analysis, to drive the despairing middle class into the arms of reaction.

The Peasantry

At the roots of the situation in Chile is the agrarian problem. The victory of Allende was only made possible by the failure of the "liberal" Christian Democrat Frei to break up the big estates (latifundia) and hand over the land to the peasants.

The condition of the peasants is illustrated by the situation in Cautin province in the South. The Mapuche Indians who make up 75% of the population in this region hold only 25% of the cultivatable land. 37% of these peasants are illiterate, 20,000 (out of 190,000) unemployed. They have the highest infant mortality rate in the country.

Under the Frei government, the peasant masses were led with lavish promises of agrarian reform. But at last it dawned on the peasants that the politicians were betraying them. When the land-hungry peasants, in desperation, tried to seize the land, they were met with hot lead. In 1968, troops and armoured cars were sent to put down a legal peasant strike. The following year 200 troops of the hated Mobile Guard killed eight peasants and wounded another twenty-seven in Puerto Montt. The village poor of Chile learned a harsh lesson in the value of liberal "reform".

Allende's election served notice on the politicians that the peasants were no longer prepared to be fobbed off with empty promises of reform which boiled down to a hypocritical defence of the Big Landowners.

News of the victory of the "Popular Unity" kindled a spark of hope in the minds of the despondent masses of the farm labourers. In the first six months, the Indian farmers of Cautin carried out fifty-six seizures of land. The dispossessed masses understood instinctively that only a revolutionary offensive could break the iron rule of the landowners.

By making a militant appeal to the farm labourers, Allende could have mobilised even the most backward, benighted sections of society in defence of the Chilean revolution. An armed peasantry, organised in peasant committees would have overwhelmed their oppressors with a minimum of bloodshed. The power of the landlords would be smashed forever - and with it the hopes of a reactionary overturn in Chile.

Instead of this, Allende has bent all his energies to prevent the peasants from seizing the land. Far from rousing the masses, his appeals have been to warn them "not to provoke the reaction." Sullenly, mistrustfully, the Indians withdrew - but hadn't they heard this sort of thing before? Didn't the Christian Democrats use to sing the same song?

Reaction Arming

The "Comrade President" - as Allende likes to call himself - has spent the past few months practising this song in various keys: "Don't provoke the Reaction," "Don't give excuses to anti-government forces to act."

Allende demo Image Library of Congress Wikimedia CommonsWithout a shadow of doubt, the overwhelming majority of peasants and workers see this as "their" government / Image: Library of Congress, Wikimedia Commons

Unfortunately, events have shown that the reaction needs no excuses to act.

The landowners - especially in Cautin - are arming to the teeth for a struggle. Pablo Goebbels - owner of a huge estate - declared publicly that any governments official coming to expropriate his land would be met by machine-guns. To underline the point, Goebbels has bought a large quantity of arms in Argentina.

According to an official police report "more than 2,000 men have been recruited in assault detachments for the purpose of engineering breakdowns in the transport system, disrupting water, gas and power supply and thus causing widespread discontent."

Santiago police, earlier this year, discovered a big cache of revolvers, machine guns, sub-machine guns and rifles in the home of Major Jose Cabrera. Investigations proved the existence of a nation-wide fascist-type organisation called "Country and Liberty" pledged to a programme of terror, assassination and subversion against the government.

Already before Allende's election, the Reaction struck. On October 22nd 1970, Rene Schneider, Commander-in-Chief of the Army was shot down on his way to the Ministry of Defence. Subsequent investigations established the existence of a widespread plot involving the ultra right-wing organisations (The Alessandri Legion, "Don't Surrender Chile", The Nationalist Offensive and the Independent Republican Front) pledged to carry out terrorist acts in various parts of Santiago. Among the thirty-two persons detained were one admiral, several big estate owners, generals and political personalities.

Attempted Assassination

Three attempts have been made on the life of Allende, involving armed gangs. The Schneider assassination was intended to cause a crisis and prevent Allende's installation as President. Its failure was followed by a lull. Then, in June of this year, a former right-wing Minister in Frei's government - Edmundo Perez Zujovic - was machined-gunned. The assassination bore all the hallmarks of a provocation against the government.

The right-wing press has raised a clamour for the "disarming of political groups." The intention is clear: to force the Allende government to disarm the workers and peasants, while the Reaction is permitted to stockpile weapons.

No ruling class ever parts with its power and privileges without a fight with no holds barred. While Allende preaches "responsibility" and "discipline" to the masses, the Reaction is gathering its strength for a counter-stroke. Badly shaken by Allende's victory, and bowed by the movement of the masses, the ruling class has been forced to play a waiting game - at least for the present.

The landlords and capitalists understand that it is impossible to overthrow the "Popular Unity" government at this stage. The masses are in an aggressive, self-confident mood. Under these circumstances, an attempted coup could lead to an explosion, the out-come of which might be disastrous for their class.

Nevertheless, careful preparations are being made, arms are being collected, plots hatched in the top of the army and the Civil Service. The danger is very real.

Parliamentary Cretinism

In his reformist blindness, Allende imagines that his position can be maintained by "clever" manoeuvres in parliament. The revolutionary initiative of the masses does not figure in his plans. However, to preserve his reputation as a "Marxist" and a "revolutionary", the "Comrade President" advances demagogic slogans like: "The people have won the government. Now they must win the power."

By this winged phase, Allende wishes to place the entire responsibility for his own ineptitude on the shoulders of the masses. Like Pontius Pilate, he washes his hands off his own responsibility and piously advises the masses to "win the power" - while simultaneously appealing to them not to act, not to "provoke the Reaction." One might well wonder how it is possible to "win the power" without provoking the Reaction? But such contradictions do not bother the "Comrade President" who is proud of his contempt for "dogmatic" theory.

In an interview with Regis Debray - who obligingly feeds Allende with suitably polite inquiries concerning the viability of the "parliamentary road" - Allende put forward the idea of a single chamber to defeat the obstruction of the Senate and the setting up of "peoples' tribunals." Evidently he was adjusting the tone of his arguments to his company, because the "Comrade President" no sooner encountered resistance in Parliament, then he dropped his single chamber, peoples' tribunals and all! Not without a touch of malicious irony, The Economist correspondent quoted Allende's reply that "for the moment, constitutional changes are not high on his list of priorities."

The haughty, bureaucratic contempt in which Allende holds the masses is equalled only by his colleagues in the so-called "Communist" Party, one of whom is reported in The Economist (April 10th) as commenting:

"We want the people with us, but they must not be allowed to go beyond the government line."

That "government line" is laid down for Allende by the Chilean ruling class. His very confirmation as president was made conditional on a pledge not to go beyond the Constitution. The representatives of the "revolutionary" government - faced with an ultimatum from the Christian Democrats - "compromised" - and signed the notorious Estatuto de Garantias Democraticas.

Allende understands quite clearly what he must do and what he must not do in order to keep out of trouble with the Powers-That-Be. On the one hand he is graciously allowed to keep the masses quiet by granting a number of secondary concessions - which do not alter the fundamental class balance of power, and which can all be taken back on the morrow when the masses are demoralised and incapable of resistance. He can issue as many demagogic speeches as he likes, provided none of them actually leads to any decisive action on the part of the workers and peasants.

On the other hand, the landlords and capitalists will make sure that the nationalisations do not go so far as to take the power out of the hands of the fifty giant companies which control the lion's share of the Chilean economy. Allende must not interfere with the armed forces. He must not act against the "freedom" of the monopoly press which daily pours out a stream of dirt and lies against the "Marxist" regime. Above all, he must not attempt to alter the Constitution, which holds him in a straightjacket and enables the Christian Democratic opposition, the Senate and the High Court to block and sabotage fundamental legislation.

The role of the organs of state is clearly shown by the behaviour of the Supreme Court in the investigation of the murder of General Schneider. Senator Raul Morales Adriasola of the right-wing Radical Democratic Party was implicated in the plot and the Military Prosecutor demanded the lifting of his parliamentary immunity. Adriasola was accused of organising a conspiracy which involved bringing five hundred machine-guns from Argentina in order to overthrow the government. The Court of Appeal approved the lifting of immunity but the Supreme Court overruled the decision, protected Adriasola and frustrated subsequent investigations.

The ruling class has worked out a convenient division of labour; reactionary bands stage armed provocations on the streets, while the Christian Democrats act as a "Respectable" cover in Parliament. Under the slogan of "preventing Marxist excesses", the Christian Democrats obstruct and sabotage reforms. Above all, they have their sight fixed on the agrarian programme which, they shout, is proceeding too fast, ''jeopardising food production."

By this cunning and hypocritical formula, these "Christian" gentlemen are blaming the "Popular Unity" in advance for the terrible famine which the landlords and capitalists seek to inflict on the Chilean people. Already, news is coming in from the countryside of the slaughter of cattle and the failure to plant grain.

The only way to prevent the complete breakdown of food supplies to the cities is to mobilise the peasants now, to take over the big estates. Allende is hypnotised by the apparent strength of the Christian Democrats. But that party's strength is based on the inertia of the peasant masses. A revolutionary solution of the agrarian problem would win the mass of peasants - the Christian Democracy would break in pieces.

Instead of relying on the revolutionary peasantry, Allende prefers a parliamentary deal with the Christian Democrats. In fact, he merely echoes their accusation of "anarchism" directed at the peasant squatters:

"If this [agrarian reform] is done in an anarchical way, it would be impossible to plan production."
(Conversations with Allende, page 105)

Only a case-hardened bureaucrat, with a contempt for the working people, can identify the movement of the masses with "anarchy". Actually, the only way to ensure a peaceful and orderly solution of the land problem is to arm and organise the peasantry in peasant committees. It is precisely Allende's parliamentary cretinism which is paving the way for "anarchy" - a bloody civil war and a terrible famine - for the working people.

While Allende and the CP are performing the Parliamentary minuet with the bourgeois parties, the bankers and industrialists are busy sabotaging his reforms. Unemployment is already heavy and is increasing. Already in March, the figure in Santiago was 8%. Investment has dropped sharply, as the capitalists pull out their money. Unless the "Popular Unity" is prepared to take drastic measures, factory closures will continue to create a sea of human misery.

The nationalisation of copper mines was immediately sabotaged by a walk-out of 300 mine managers. Technical staff have been leaving the country in a steady stream. Production has slumped. Meanwhile, the threat of an economic blockade from the USA is constantly suspended over Allende's head as a further gentle "encouragement" not to "overstep the mark". As The Economist gleefully commented:

"If the compensation for the $724 million confiscated investment is bad…then the American authorities, already bristling with ill-will, could cause havoc with Chile's production."

Inflation is rapidly eating away the workers' gains in wages. Speculation against the Escudo is raging unchecked: the black market rate is now twice the official amount. These facts spell disaster for the Chilean economy - a catastrophe which will wipe out at one blow most of the reforms of the present administration.

Despite the increasing hardships, there is no doubt that even now the vast majority of Chile's workers and peasants faithfully support Allende. But that can change. If unemployment and inflation are allowed to go unchecked; if Allende continues to retreat before the Right in Parliament; if armed fascist gangs are allowed to gather strength; then inevitably the attitude of the people will change.

Peasants Feel Betrayed

Beginning with the middle-class, who looked to Allende to halt rising prices, a mood of bitterness will set in. The peasants will no longer believe that there is any difference between Frei and Allende. They will feel betrayed by the "politicians". Workers, deprived of their jobs, will lose faith in a government that proclaimed the right to work, but could not guarantee their jobs.

Once the government has dashed the hopes placed in it by the masses, its fate is sealed. The balance of forces can change radically. In the measure that the workers become demoralised and disheartened, the Reaction will become bolder. The activity of the fascist gangs will be stepped up, while the army and police look on.

In Parliament, the Christian Democrats, voicing the fright of the petty bourgeois, will demand harsh measures to end "anarchy" and restore Law and Order. Allende has already taken the first fateful steps in this direction, by sending police to close down bases of the MIR where workers were learning the use of arms. The army has been used to evict peasant "squatters" from the land.

Allende, like every reformist, imagines that his "respectable" behaviour will stave off reaction. On the contrary. Every retreat before bourgeois "Public Opinion", every blow struck against the Left, increases the danger from the Right. In this way, the stage will be set for the final instalment - the intervention of the military.

The whole process unfolding in Chile poses the question of the army with increasing urgency.

Thus far, the forces of Reaction have been cowed by the sweep of mass radicalisation. The army has remained cautiously in the sidelines.

This has given Allende the possibility of claiming for the Chilean army a "special", "democratic", "non-political" character. From the moment he took office, Allende has constantly flattered the army and its general staff. The pay of the armed forces has been increased. Allende has made a special point of attending big parades, distributing medals, lavishing praise on the army. He fondly imagines that this grovelling will endear him to the general staff. But perceptive bourgeois observers can see further than this self styled "Marxist":

"It has been said that Allende, by flattery and increase of pay has already neutralised the armed forces. This seems to be an over-statement. What he has done is to keep the Army out of politics while he maintains the constitution. If he were to go beyond it, no-one can predict what would happen." (The Sunday Times, June 14th)

So convinced is Allende in the omnipotence of his manoeuvring with the tops of the army that he modestly declined the opportunity of staffing it with his own supporters after the assassination of General Schneider - which he was constitutionally entitled to do.

Allende's sole act of interference with the armed wing of the state was the disbanding of the infamous "Mobile Guard" - a kind of mobile gendarmerie used for suppressing strikes. But the Caribineros remain - "a professional corps equipped with modern, heavy armaments, communication, transport and an efficient bureaucratic organisation. It comprises 30,000 men, distributed all over the country in specialised units."

Nothing has been done to touch the old bourgeois state machine. Indeed, an act passed in the last days of the old regime makes it illegal for Allende to remove the old officials!

However, Allende's slavish respect for Authority - in the form of an Army jackboot - will not save his skin when conditions permit the counter-revolution to raise its head. The tops of the Army, Police and Civil Service are linked by a thousand threads with the landlords, bankers and capitalists. Undoubtedly, the sympathy of the rank-and-file workers in uniform is with the government. But behind their backs stands the officer with his stick and revolver. The passive sympathy of the soldiers will be of no avail unless the hold of the officer caste is broken. Yet Allende persists in propping up the general staff with his own authority.

CP's Despicable Role

The "Communist" Party of Chile has played a despicable role in all this. The following is an extract from an internal bulletin of the CP - published months before the September elections:

"Do you know how much the general of a division, or a vice-admiral, or an airforce general earns? The basic salary for these military chiefs is 857 escudos. Together with 5 yearly increases, professional bonuses, allowances for houses and ranches and other increments, their monthly earnings are in the region of 3,000 escudos. If we take into consideration the fact that these are the highest officials in the Armed Forces, and that they also have the greatest responsibilities in the army and its functions: if, moreover, we consider that these are men with 30 or 40 years of service behind them and have graduated through all the military ranks, that at this level, they have sons and daughters to clothe, feed and educate at good schools ("Ciceos") or universities and that the nature of their employment does not permit them to live in one place, if we take all this into consideration, we can come to no other conclusion than that such a wage is insufficient."

The document goes on, as if to excuse itself:

"To a comrade who lives in poverty, a salary of 3 or 4 thousand escudos a month may seem enormous…"

However, it goes on to "answer" one question by posing another, even more significant:

"Could anyone consider it acceptable for a senior [state] official with 20 years' service and after three years in the same trade, to receive 1,156 a month? Then it is clearly intolerable that a senior army officer after 25 years' service…should receive 1,363 escudos."

These stalinist bureaucrats corrupted to the marrow, are thinking only in terms of their "Socialist Tomorrow" - in a comfortable government office, in which a wage of 1,156 escudos would be "clearly insufficient." (These figures by the way, give only the basic salary, without including the numerous other perks and increments, like free use of staff cars, uniforms, apartments, batmen, etc.)

"It is clear then," the document goes on, "that the unrest in the Armed Forces, which the country is beginning to take note of, is absolutely justified. And we Communists wish to state that in our opinion it is the duty of the Chilean nation to resolve this problem. Tomorrow or the day after, we may be facing some external danger or other. And to meet such an eventuality, which god forbid, patriotic sentiments is not enough. The main thing will be the solid unity of the country around the objectives which correspond to the tendency in the direction of social advance [sic!] and which, in general [!] are identified with the interests of the people."

Marxism Forgotten

If we bear in mind that these lines date from the period of the Frei administration and are the product of the general secretary of the CPC we can see to what depths of nationalist and reformist degeneration these people have sunk.

Allende nacionalizacion cobre Image Biblioteca del Congreso Nacional Chile Wikimedia CommonsFor a Marxist, the state is not an "impartial" body which stands above society / Image: Biblioteca del Congreso Nacional Chile, Wikimedia Commons

For a Marxist, the state is not an "impartial" body which stands above society, but "armed bodies of men in defence of private property". Is it really necessary to repeat this elementary truth 50 years after Lenin wrote State and Revolution? Evidently it is. For the leaders of the "Communist" Parties have learned nothing from the whole history of the last 50 years, while they have forgotten whatever scraps of the basic ideas of Marxism they ever knew.

By their latest policy of "Popular Frontism" which they are pushing forward in every country - they are preparing the way for new and bloody defeats for the workers in France, Italy, Spain and elsewhere. Everywhere they resort to the same pitiful excuse to explain away the policy of class collaboration: "But things will be different in our country. We have different traditions. It happened in Indonesia, it happened in Greece, but it can't happen here."

The Chilean Popular Frontists claim a "special" road for Chile, on account of her past history of parliamentary democracy, the relative stability of her institutions, the tradition of the Army's "non-interference" in politics.

It is true that the Chilean bourgeoisie is a particularly entrenched and "solid" class. The rule of Capital has been maintained through Parliament all these years, precisely because it has never been seriously challenged. It is the "England of Latin America".

Yet precisely in a country with long traditions of stable bourgeois rule, the task of a socialist revolution is infinitely more difficult. The bourgeoisie has perfected a formidable machine of class rule in its state. The Constitution sanctifies that state. And Allende sanctifies the constitution.

Bloody Repression

The story of the "peaceful" traditions of Chilean politics is a myth. At every stage where the ruling oligarchy felt its position challenged by the workers and peasants, they have lashed out brutally. Debray describes it as "one of the most violent and perhaps the most bloody histories in Latin America," and quotes a series of bloody repressions:

"…from the first great strike of port workers in Valparaiso in 1903 (30 dead, 200 wounded) the 'meat strike' in Santiago in 1905 (200 killed), the massacre of Santo-Maria at Iquique, the cradle of the workers' movement, in 1907 (more than 2,000 victims mowed down by machine-guns in the city square), the Punta Arena massacre of 1920, the Coruna massacre of 1925 (3,000 killed in the saltpetre mines), the massacre of peasants at Ranquil in 1934 (60 dead) to the recent exploits of the Christian Democracy at the El Salvador mine in 1966, via the Santiago riots of April 1957." (Conversations with Allende, page 31)

The "civilised" veneer of capitalist democracy lasts only as long as it does not feel its rule challenged by the workers. When that day comes, the velvet glove is cast aside to reveal the mailed fist of reaction.

The Chilean "Popular Frontists" think they are avoiding civil war and bloodshed by "choosing" the Parliamentary road. But Socialism cannot be smuggled through Parliament, while the landlords and capitalists are safely tucked up in their beds. The inevitable logic of all forms of reformism and "gradualism" is to prepare rivers of blood for the working people.

There is still time

The fate of the Torres regime in Bolivia is a warning to the Chilean workers. Unfortunately, Allende is deaf to all warnings. But there is still time to act! The balance of forces is still enormously in favour of the workers' movement. In fact, the situation could not be more favourable for the complete routing of the reactionary forces and a peaceful transition to a workers' state in Chile.

A public opinion poll held in Santiago earlier this year showed that Allende has the overwhelming support of the working class. A highly significant figure was that 89% of working class women supported the government. The majority of these women must be ordinary working housewives - not usually among the most advanced political elements. This fact strikingly illustrates the profound process of radicalisation which has affected the Chilean masses these past months.

If that enormous reservoir of enthusiasm is not to be squandered, decisive measures are necessary to check inflation, halt unemployment and disarm the reaction. The constant obstruction of the state apparatus and the right wing opposition in Parliament give Allende a golden opportunity to appeal to the masses outside of parliament. The masses themselves must be mobilised to carry through the entire programme of reforms "from below".

Allende has his mandate. No "Constitutional" trickery must be allowed to stand in the way. The workers and peasants would respond enthusiastically to an appeal which called for:

1) The setting up of Peasant Committees to take over the land in an organised manner without waiting for parliament. A decree of land nationalisation without compensation can be passed later to "legalise" the seizures.

2) Workers control should be introduced to prevent factory closures and halt unemployment. Factories which close down must be nationalised under workers' management, with minimum compensation on the basis of need, decided by workers' and housewives' committees.

3) The trade unions should set up Committees of Action, drawing in housewives and tenants, to force landlords to reduce rents and prevent price increases.

4) Above all, a Workers Militia should be set up, linked to the trade unions, to defend the workers gains against the onslaught of reaction.

5) Instead of ingratiating himself with the generals, Allende should appeal to the rank-and-file to set up Soldiers' Committees with powers to run their own affairs, supervise discipline, etc. Trade unions must have full rights to organise the troops and draw them closer to their brothers in industry. Faced with a powerful movement of the workers and soldiers, the officer caste would be suspended in mid-air.

6) The mass-media, which at present constitute an important rallying point of reaction, should be nationalised. Access to radio, TV, and the printing press should be guaranteed only to workers' and peasants' parties which support the programme of the revolution.

This is the programme of a peaceful transition to a workers' state, a revolution without bloodshed, like the Bolshevik revolution of 1917. It is possible on the basis of a correct Marxist leadership.

The tragedy of the Chilean people is that such a leadership does not exist at the present time. Allende, who has disgraced the name of "Marxism", cannot provide it. Neither can the wretched careerists who pass for the leaders of the "Communist" Party.

On the "outside left" of the "Popular Unity" is the MIR (Movimiento Izquierda Revolucionano) - the guerrilla organisation.

Like the Tupamaros and other quasi-Guevarist guerillas, the MIR is made up mainly of students and intellectuals. This organisation has made several correct criticisms of the Allende government, but its general position is ambiguous, and its ultra-left orientation effectively cuts it off from the mainstream of the working class.

Claiming allegiance to Marxism-Leninism, the MIR had departed from an elementary Leninist position by boycotting elections - which at the present time means effectively boycotting the mass of the Chilean workers.

Instead of working patiently inside the mass workers' organisations, trying to win the ear of the advanced Communist and Socialist workers, the Miristas cling to the childish illusions of a "protracted war" in the countryside. The idea that "power grows out of the barrel of a gun" is repeated ad nauseam by this group. But what is not explained is that without winning the masses to your programme, guns are of little use. Already the Miristas are frittering away their energies in heroic but isolated and futile military actions. There is every indication that the Allende government - under pressure from the Right - will clamp down on the MIR. That task will be made all the easier if the MIR continues to isolate itself from the masses by its quasi-anarchist, military orientation.

A revolutionary alternative to Allende cannot come from the discredited policies of "Guevarism", but only from the advanced layers of the workers' movement itself. Already there have been rumblings of discontent at some of Allende's policies. The signing of the "Estratuto de Grarantias Democraticas" was criticised by the Socialist Youth as unnecessary and dangerous. Undoubtedly, the criticism of Allende's backsliding will grow in the weeks and months ahead, especially among the Socialist and Communist Youth, although initially there will have been a tendency to give the government "the benefit of the doubt."

Events will teach the advanced workers to reject the policy of class collaboration and "reformism". The demand will be raised to break with the bourgeois parties in the coalition and to press ahead with Socialist policies directed against the rule of the 50 Companies. The need to arm the workers will become all too evident in the coming period. The advanced workers will realise the danger.

All now depends in the ability of the conscious elements to quickly absorb the lessons and to fight for a change of course. The creation of a genuine revolutionary tendency, given the enormously favourable objective factors, could still clear the way for a successful struggle for power. A workers' and peasants' Chile would be a powerful force of attraction for the downtrodden masses in Brazil, Bolivia, Argentina.

An End to Class Compromise! A Socialist Chile in a Socialist Latin America!

This must be the battle cry of the Chilean proletariat. It is the only way to stave off the threatening catastrophe and lead the way forward to Socialism.

Join us

If you want more information about joining the IMT, fill in this form. We will get back to you as soon as possible.