In September 2003, The Militant ran a 3-part series on the 30th anniversary of the coup in Chile. It was taken from Elizabeth Stone's introduction to the Pathfinder book Fidel Castro on Chile, which you can purchase here.
I have added a fourth article from 2007 by Martin Koppel, written after Pinochet's death.
How Allende government was overthrown
Sept. 11, 2003, marks the 30th anniversary of the U.S.-backed military coup in Chile led by Gen. Augusto Pinochet. The coup overthrew the elected government of Socialist Party leader Salvador Allende. Many working people today are eager to get an accurate balance sheet on that terrible setback for the working class in Chile and throughout the Americas and the world. Recent events indicate that the Chilean working class is awakening again. On August 14 of this year hundreds of thousands of workers honored the call by the Central Workers Union of Chile for a nationwide walkout. It was the country's first general strike since 1986. For these reasons, bringing history into the present, the Militant reprints below excerpts from Fidel Castro on Chile, an Education for Socialists bulletin published by Pathfinder Press. The bulletin contains speeches by Cuban president Fidel Castro during his tour in Chile Nov. 10-Dec. 4, 1971, while Allende was president. The excerpts are taken from the bulletin's introduction written by Elizabeth Stone. Copyright © 1982 by Pathfinder Press, reprinted by permission.
BY ELIZABETH STONE
In the fall of 1970, Salvador Allende Gossens, a Socialist Party left-winger and longtime supporter of the Cuban Revolution, was elected president of Chile. He ran as the candidate of Popular Unity, a coalition of the Socialist Party, Communist Party, Radical Party, United People's Action Movement (MAPU—a left split from the Christian Democrats), and two smaller parties. The CP and SP were the dominant forces in the coalition.
Allende's victory reflected a broad radicalization of the Chilean masses. Popular Unity committees sprang up throughout the country to work for Allende's election, and when it became clear that Allende was going to get the largest vote of the three candidates running, masses of people poured into the streets to celebrate.
During the first year of the UP government, a number of far-reaching reforms were carried out. Foreign holdings in copper, nitrate, iron, and coal were nationalized, as well as many banks and textile mills. Steps were taken to implement a land reform law passed under the previous Christian Democratic government but never carried out. Along with this, peasants began seizing land. The government opposed such seizures, but in most cases went along with them, offering to pay the owners.
Workers received a significant increase in wages. A half quart of milk a day was supplied to children. Thousands of political prisoners were released. And Allende opened up diplomatic relations and trade with Cuba and took other foreign policy stands, such as opposing U.S. intervention in Vietnam, that earned the wrath of the U.S. government.
These challenges to imperialism helped to deepen support for Popular Unity among the masses, so that by the time of the legislative elections the next year, the UP vote went up from 36 percent to 49.75 percent. Within the UP, the number of votes for the workers' parties increased, with 22.89 percent for the Socialist Party and 17.36 percent for the Communist Party, while the Radicals—a bourgeois party—declined to 8.15 percent.
The UP government did not claim to be establishing socialism in Chile. But Allende insisted that his was a "revolutionary" government that was "laying the basis for socialism." In an interview with Régis Debray, Allende described himself as follows: "The president of the Republic is a socialist…I have reached this office in order to bring about the economic and social transformation of Chile, to open up the road to socialism. Our objective is total, scientific Marxist socialism."
Despite Allende's radical rhetoric, and despite some significant anti-imperialist actions, Popular Unity was a class-collaborationist coalition, a popular front. It subordinated the struggles of the masses to an orientation of collaborating with bourgeois parties and forces. The top UP leadership opposed a perspective of mobilizing the working class and its allies to take power, dismantle the old army and state apparatus, and build a new one based on the toilers. They looked to the army brass and to agreements with the Christian Democratic Party to protect them from the imperialists and the right wing.
At critical points in the Chilean struggle, the UP brought members of the top Chilean officer corps into the government as a guarantee to Chilean capitalists. Even when attacks from the right wing became severe, the main forces in the UP were afraid to organize the masses for an effective fight because this would frighten the Christian Democrats and cause them to turn against the government.
The UP government was also scrupulous in making sure that everything was done without infringing on bourgeois legality. It proclaimed that the "revolution" was being made in the context of bourgeois institutions.
Unlike the UP leaders, the imperialists and the Chilean ruling class had no allegiance whatsoever to bourgeois legality. From the beginning, imperialism began to plot to get rid of Allende. In fact, the U.S. corporation International Telephone and Telegraph (ITT) connived with Richard Nixon's administration to try to prevent Allende from even being elected. And after the election, there were further plots to try to keep Allende from taking office.
Economic sabotage was one of the most effective weapons used against the UP government by the U.S. and Chilean capitalists. By undermining the economy and driving down the standard of living of the masses, they sought to demoralize the workers and to turn the middle class against the government.
The U.S. opened up a virtual economic war against Chile. It used its influence to block the refinancing of Chile's foreign debt. World Bank credits for Chile dropped from an annual average of $230 million to $27 million. There was a flight of capital from Chile, and private companies ended new investments. U.S. trade with Chile was slashed. The U.S. cut off all shipments of spare parts and wheat. Foreign aid was cut. U.S. copper companies claimed that they were not getting paid fairly for the nationalized copper and tried to block Chile from marketing the copper. American technicians were pulled out of the mines to sabotage their functioning. The U.S. also sold off some of its copper reserves, driving down the price of copper on the world market. Within Chile, the bourgeoisie decapitalized industries, sabotaged production, hoarded goods, and withdrew money from the banks.
All of this had the desired effect of creating economic chaos and of putting the economic squeeze on the masses. Given his framework of not challenging bourgeois legality and the norms of capitalism, Allende found himself more and more in the position of calling upon the workers to sacrifice to meet the payments demanded by the imperialists.
As the crisis deepened, the right-wing actions against the government began to grow and involve larger layers of the middle class. In October 1972 small shopkeepers went on strike against government searches for hoarded goods. Upper class and middle-class women began to demonstrate against the shortages. Fascist movements began to grow and to carry out violent attacks. Right-wing forces carried out bombings, assassinations, and provocations. The bourgeois press produced an unending stream of lies against the UP and the workers' movement. Finally, right-wing bosses' "strikes," spearheaded by the truck owners, paralyzed the economy.
U.S. imperialism played a direct role in this destabilization campaign. The U.S. embassy, the CIA, U.S. corporations, U.S.-trained Cuban counterrevolutionaries, and the American Institute for Free Labor Development (AIFLD)—the AFL-CIO bureaucracy's government-funded counterrevolutionary operation in Latin America—all had a hand in the action.
When U.S. aid to Chile was cut, there were two notable exceptions: 1) U.S. military aid and training continued for the Chilean armed forces; and 2) a million dollars were made available through AID to finance counterrevolution. Most of the latter was channeled through AIFLD and used to help organize and finance the truck owners' strike, as well as other activities of the right wing.
Working people in Chile responded to these attacks by defending the Allende government and by taking steps to keep the economy running. When the capitalists began to sabotage production, the workers occupied the plants and continued to produce without the bosses. In the summer of 1973, the army responded with searches of the plants, harassing and arresting workers under the pretext of searching for weapons. The Christian Democrats backed up the army in their growing attacks on the workers and the UP.
The process culminated, three years after Allende's election, in a bloody military coup. Thousands of workers, political activists, and people from the poor neighborhoods were massacred, along with many foreign revolutionaries who had obtained political asylum under the UP government. Allende himself was killed as he fought to defend the national palace against attacking troops. It was a terrible setback not only for Chile, but for the oppressed and exploited masses throughout all of Latin America.
These tragic events provided important lessons for the workers movement. They showed what imperialism was ready to do to defend its interests. They also showed the bankruptcy of a perspective of relying on the bourgeoisie in the struggle against imperialism.
The UP was in a contradiction from the beginning. Under the pressure of the masses, it took certain deepgoing anti-imperialist actions, and then expected the bourgeoisie of Chile to help defend these actions. But it has been shown time and time again that the national bourgeoisie in semicolonial countries will not wage a consistent struggle against imperialism; instead, it lines up with imperialism against the workers and peasants of its own country.
These events also showed how, under the blows of capitalist attacks, the workers found it necessary to take more and more radical steps, occupying plants, taking over distribution, and other steps that led in the direction of challenging the capitalist system itself. Two alternatives were posed: either the masses would be mobilized in a struggle that would culminate in a workers and farmers government, or the workers would be crushed.
There was no question that the workers of Chile were ready to fight. Every time there was an opportunity, the workers came out en masse to demonstrate against the right wing. In the industrial areas, organizations known as cordones industriales began to coordinate the struggle. But, the UP government—with the CP in the lead—put a brake on these activities.
By restricting the organization of the masses, the UP leaders blocked the workers from taking the lead in providing real solutions to the problems faced by the masses, including the peasantry, the unemployed, and the poorer layers of the urban middle class. Efforts by the MIR (Revolutionary Movement of the Left) and the left wing of the SP to organize such layers and to build an effective resistance to the right wing were attacked by the CP as ultraleft. Even when it was obvious that a coup was coming—and there was plenty of warning—the UP leadership refused to take the necessary steps to mobilize and arm the workers.
Cuba responded to the events in Chile in the following ways:
1) by solidarizing with Chile as a country that was charting a foreign policy independent of Yankee imperialism and taking its natural resources out of the hands of the imperialists;
2) by defending the Popular Unity government in the face of a concerted drive by imperialism and Chilean reaction to overthrow it; and
3) by attempting to bolster the positions of those in Chile who were trying to mobilize the masses to defeat the right-wing forces and to make a revolution, and to influence the broadest possible layers in the UP and Chilean labor movement along these lines.
The Cubans jumped to the defense of Chile as soon as the U.S. attacks began, even before Allende became president. They sought to expose what the U.S. was doing and viewed the election itself as a victory against this. Granma carried a banner headline, "Anti-imperialist Victory in Chile."
'In revolution, price of defeat is very high'
Sept. 11, 2003, marks the 30th anniversary of the U.S.-backed military coup in Chile led by Gen. Augusto Pinochet. The coup overthrew the elected government of Socialist Party leader Salvador Allende. Bringing history into the present, the Militant reprints below excerpts from Fidel Castro on Chile, an Education for Socialists bulletin published by Pathfinder Press. The bulletin contains speeches by Cuban president Fidel Castro during his Nov. 10-Dec. 4, 1971, tour in Chile while Allende was president. Last week we published the first part of the bulletin's introduction, written by Elizabeth Stone. This week's installment consists of the second part of this introduction. Copyright © 1982 by Pathfinder Press, reprinted by permission.
BY ELIZABETH STONE
The Cubans recognized that one of the reasons for Washington's fury against Allende was his well-known support for the Cuban revolution. Allende was a friend of Che and Fidel and he frequently spoke in support of Cuba in his speeches. More important, Chile's extension of diplomatic and trade relations to Cuba was the first big breakthrough against Washington's policy of isolating Cuba in Latin America. A year later came the invitation to Castro to come as an official guest of the UP government. This was the first time that Castro was able to visit another Latin American country in eleven years. During this three-and-a-half week trip, Castro was greeted by hundreds of thousands of Chileans. He spoke to large rallies of workers, peasants, and students.
The Cubans and Castro identified themselves with the UP government and its anti-imperialist measures. At the same time, however, Castro's political line for Chile, and his projection of what the workers needed to do to carry the struggle forward, was in opposition to the line of the UP leadership. This is shown clearly in the speeches he gave while he was in Chile.
Castro arrived in Chile about a year after Allende was elected, which was at a relatively early stage in the bourgeois challenge to the UP government. Nevertheless, the right-wing attacks were already underway. The first reactionary march of the upper and middle-class women took place while Castro was there, and these actions were directed, in part, against him.
In expressing his opinion on these events, Castro had to take into consideration that he was a visiting head of state and that right-wing forces were attacking the UP by claiming that he was "intervening" in Chilean politics. Despite this, he was able to find ways to present his view that a revolution was needed, and was possible, in Chile. To help explain this, he filled his speeches with lessons from the Cuban revolution, describing how it was that the Cuban masses were able to defeat imperialism, how the Cubans were united precisely because they were defending a system that had ended class exploitation, how the Cubans were organized in mass organizations, and how they had defeated the Batista army and the imperialist invasion, arms in hand.
Castro was always careful to make it clear that he did not think, as the UP leaders did, that the electoral victory and reforms of the UP government represented a "revolution." Speaking to students at Concepcion, for example, he described what was taking place in Chile as "a revolutionary process," and then he went on to say: "This must be clearly understood; a process is not yet a revolution. A process is a road; a process is a stage that is beginning."
Later in the speech he said, "The experience we had [in Cuba] was different from yours. I don't believe there's any easy road to revolution, but I know you Chileans will find a solution to all these problems. Of course, it is a political axiom that there can be no revolution without the total destruction of the old bourgeois state."…
Castro also explained his view of the election of Allende: "When Popular Unity won, there were many dangers, many obstacles. The electoral victory was like a door slightly ajar. But it was, nevertheless, a breach, an opening, a little slit if you would."
He saw this "breach" as part of a sharpening class struggle that would end either in revolution or a terrible defeat. This is the way he described the situation at a news conference in Santiago:
"A revolutionary process or a revolutionary crisis is scientifically determined at the moment when the struggle between antagonistic interests becomes acute, when the privileged and the powerful feel that their interests are threatened to such an extent that they resort to every imaginable procedure and weapon in their effort to crush the revolutionary movement. Undoubtedly, this is the struggle that is being waged in this country now. It is obvious, and everybody is aware of it. Now then, this is unequivocal proof of what you're going through… And I hope that all of you, especially all the revolutionaries, are convinced of this fact. A revolutionary process is a revolutionary process. It's a serious problem, a very hard struggle.
"The price that has to be paid when a revolutionary process is crushed is a very high one. The price that nations have to pay for defeat is a very high one, and so is the price paid by the people's movement. This is because when these processes become acute and the privileged classes, driven by hatred, are out to prevent changes in society, they resort to every procedure, even extreme violence and the most horrible crimes. We find proof of this in historic contemporary events. Mankind has been accumulating experience of this sort for almost 100 years.
"Therefore in my opinion, this is a revolutionary process. And it's imperative that revolutionaries realize this. The reactionaries are aware of it—and how! They have their strategy and plans, a whole series of schemes instigated from the outside. One can see the CIA's hand behind many of their actions. We are more than familiar with that hand, because it's been pretty active around our country for many years."
Castro constantly sought to educate those he spoke to on the rapacious and violent nature of the ruling class and imperialism, preparing them for what was to come. This was in stark contrast to Allende and the UP, who sought to reassure people about the possibility of a "peaceful road." Several months after he was elected, for example, Allende explained in an interview with Régis Debray that he did not think Chile would see a serious economic attack from the imperialists: " I believe that they will not do anything of this nature; firstly because as I say, we have acted within the laws of Chile, within the Constitution. It is for this reason, Régis, that I have maintained that victory through the polling booths was the way to preempt such a policy, because this way their hands are tied."
At the end of the tour, after Castro had gotten a better first-hand view of what was happening, he became more outspoken about his warnings about the need to mobilize the masses for a revolutionary struggle to defeat imperialism and the reactionaries. His entire farewell speech, given at a mass rally in Santiago, was dedicated to this theme:
"All obsolete social systems and societies have defended themselves when threatened with extinction. They have defended themselves with tremendous violence throughout history. No social system ever resigned itself to disappearing from the face of the earth of its own free will…
"Because, as I have said on other occasions, the revolutionaries are not the inventors of violence…
"What do the exploiters do when their own institutions no longer guarantee their rule? How do they react when the mechanisms they historically depend upon to maintain their rule fail? They simply go ahead and destroy them…
"Every revolutionary process teaches the people in a few months things which, otherwise, would take them dozens of years to learn.
"This involves a question: Who will learn more and sooner? Who will develop more awareness faster? The exploiters or the exploited? Who will learn faster from the lessons of this process? The people or the enemies of the people? (Exclamations of 'The people!")
"Are you absolutely sure—you, the protagonists in this drama being written by your country—are you completely sure that you have learned more than your exploiters have? (Exclamations of 'yes!')
"Then allow me to say that I don't agree this time with the masses. (Applause)….
"I was amazed when I heard the President [Allende] say that a very important newspaper in Washington or New York had published statements by a high-ranking government official who said that 'The days of the people's government in Chile are numbered.' (Boos)
"I would like to point out—not that government official's rudeness, intromission, his arrogance, his offensiveness, his insolence—that it's been many years since some crazy U.S. official said that the days of the Cuban Revolution were numbered. (Shouts and exclamations)….
"We should ask what grounds they have for such optimism, for such assurance. What is the assurance based on? And you are the only ones who can supply the answer.
"Or maybe you'd be interested in hearing the opinion of a visitor who is not a tourist? Do I have your permission to give it? (Exclamations of 'Yes!')
"All those in favor, raise your hands.
(All hands go up)
"Well, in view of the permission granted me in this plebiscite (Shouts of 'Fidel, Fidel, Fidel!') to express my opinion on matters of concept, I say that assurance is based on the weakness of this revolutionary process, on the weakness of the ideological battle, on the weakness of the mass struggle, on weaknesses displayed in the face of the enemy. (Applause) The outside enemy, which supports the inside enemy, is trying to take advantage of the slightest crack, the slightest weakness.
"In fact, I could also say that your efforts to consolidate your forces, to unite them and to increase them, have been weak.
"You're going through a period which is very special, but not a new one, in the arena of class struggle.
"There are countless examples of this. You're going through that period in the process in which the fascists—to call them by their right name—are trying to beat you out of the middle strata of the population.…
"There are places where I found the revolutionaries kind of hard-hit, and there are places where they even looked demoralized.
"If I weren't sincere, if I didn't believe in the truth, I wouldn't dare say what I have just said. It might even sound as if I were saying something that the enemy could use to his advantage, to gain ground. No! The only way in which the enemy can gain ground is by deceit, by confusion, by ignorance, by the lack of awareness about problems! (Applause)
"If you want my opinion, the success or the failure of this unusual process will depend on the ideological battle and the mass struggle. It will also depend on the revolutionaries' ability to grow in numbers, to unite and to win over the middle strata of the population…
"The people are the makers of history. The people write their own history. The masses make history. No reactionary, no imperialist enemy can crush the people! (Applause) Our country's recent history proves it!
"How did we manage to resist and why? Because of the unity of our people. Because of the strength that such unity generates.
"I said that it would take two hours for us to get together 10 times as many people as there are here now. And I also say that we can mobilize 600,000 men in arms within 24 hours! (Applause)
"A close unbreakable unity exists between the people and the armed forces of our country. This is why I say that we have a strong defense.
"There's one thing that the experts in war and history and the professional soldiers know, and that is that man plays a decisive role in battle, that moral factors play a decisive role in battle, that the morale of the combatant plays a decisive role in battle.
"Those familiar with history and great military deeds know that when forces are united, inspired and deeply motivated, they can overcome any obstacle. They can assail and take any position and make the most incredible sacrifices.
"What is it that gives our people this deep motivation in their unity against danger from the outside? The fact that, when it comes to defending our country, that country is not divided between millionaires and paupers, between wealthy landowners with all the privileges in the world and miserable peasants without land or work, living a life of poverty. The fact that our country is not divided between oppressors and the oppressed, between the exploiters and the exploited, between ladies overloaded with jewelry and girls forced to lead a life of prostitution. (Applause) Our country is not divided between the privileged and the dispossessed."
'There is no electoral road to revolution'
Sept. 11, 2003, marked the 30th anniversary of the U.S.-backed military coup in Chile led by Gen. Augusto Pinochet. The coup overthrew the elected government of Socialist Party leader Salvador Allende. Bringing history into the present, the Militant reprints below excerpts from Fidel Castro on Chile, an Education for Socialists bulletin published by Pathfinder Press. The bulletin contains speeches by Cuban president Fidel Castro during his Nov. 10-Dec. 4, 1971, tour in Chile while Allende was president. The last two weeks we published the bulk of the bulletin's introduction, written by Elizabeth Stone. This week's installment consists of the final part of this introduction. Copyright ©1982 by Pathfinder Press, reprinted by permission.
BY ELIZABETH STONE
Castro's statements about the need to strengthen the mass struggle were in direct contradiction with the orientation of the Chilean Communist Party. The CP, with its 100,000 members, was the backbone of the Popular Unity (UP) government. It was also the main enforcer of the UP's conciliationist line. The CP was to the right of Allende. It was especially in a constant fight against all forces that, like Castro, wanted to turn the rising struggles into a genuine working-class revolution.
Whereas Castro warned that the bourgeoisie in Chile was preparing to destroy its own bourgeois democratic institutions, CP leader Luis Corvalán told Chileans that "the armed forces were faithful to the law and to the legitimately constituted government." While Castro was urging that the masses be organized to prepare for battle with the ruling class, the CP was playing a nefarious role in dividing working-class forces.
The treacherous lengths to which the CP went in their fight against the revolutionaries was reflected in a speech by CP leader Volodia Teitelboim in May 1972, charging that the "ultra-left" in Chile was equally responsible with the right wing for the violence. Teitelboim said: "There is an extreme right that traffics in arms and is aiming for a civil war. But there are also 'ultra' groups that call themselves 'left' who are following the same course, playing the role of partner in a mad waltz with their political opposites. They feed on each other…"
After the military coup, under the pressure of the events, the Stalinists were forced to criticize their policy in Chile. At the same time, however, they stuck by their concept of the peaceful road to socialism and reiterated the position that too much "radicalism" on the part of the so-called "ultra-left" played a role in bringing about the coup. An article by Alexander Sobolev in the February 1975 Communist Party USA's magazine, Political Affairs, said: "The left-wing extremists elements played a provocative role in respect to the middle layers. They proceeded from the assumption that a socialist revolution was developing in the country and for this reason demanded the immediate socialization of all means of production…
"The Allende government struggled against the 'left-wing revolutionaries' but could not fully paralyze their activities. Then, a large number of members of the Socialist Party sympathized with the 'leftists.' Reaction used this to drive a wedge between the working class and the middle layers."
History has shown that in every revolutionary situation, the middle class will move to the right when the working class shows itself incapable of decisive action against the bourgeoisie. If the working class is unable to mobilize a competing power to the capitalists, if it does not lead in providing radical solutions to the problems faced by the masses, including the poor urban middle class and peasantry, it is then that the right-wing and fascist movements gain momentum.
Castro often took up this theme of the need to win the middle class, but his advice was not that of retreating from revolutionary action so that the middle class would not be "frightened." Instead, at the press conference in Santiago he urged the revolutionaries to intensify the struggle on every level:
"I have spoken of the necessity of uniting the revolutionary and the progressive forces. I said that yesterday, and saying it here now would only be repeating what I said about the need to struggle in the ideological field: the need to win over the middle strata of the population in this struggle, because both forces are engaged in this struggle; the need to develop an awareness; and the need to arm one's spirit. In a word, the need to struggle, the need to keep the enemy from taking the initiative. I would say that these struggles are class struggles and they have their own laws, and so, passivity and a defensive attitude are very harmful. In these struggles, the revolutionary forces must be on the offensive at all times. This is a historical law, applicable to all countries and in all circumstances.
"I would tell you this: Apply the laws of history; apply the wise principles of Marxism. Do it intelligently and creatively, and you'll see, you'll win."
Through their advice and support, the Cuban's tried to strengthen the revolutionary forces in Chile. They also went all out to campaign against the imperialist attacks. The attention of the Cuban people was focused on this, and there were mass rallies and page after page of coverage in Granma [Cuban daily newspaper].
When the imperialist attacks were having the biggest impact, the Cubans gave material aid. In 1972, Allende was invited to a rally in Havana where Castro proposed that each month every Cuban give up a part of their ration of sugar to be sent gratis to the Chilean people. Castro suggested that the proposal be discussed in the mass organizations, and then went on to say:
"We must raise a huge wall of solidarity around the sister nation of Chile! We simply cannot stand idly by! We mustn't let the people of Chile be asphyxiated by imperialism! (shouts of 'NO!') We must raise a huge wall of solidarity like the one that was raised around the people of Peru at the time of the earthquake. We must raise a huge wall of solidarity like the one that was raised around the heroic people of Vietnam in their struggle for independence, a struggle that has been going on for ten years. (Applause and cries of 'Cuba, Chile and Vietnam united they will win!')
"The imperialists not only attack the peoples with explosives and napalm; they not only attack the peoples and try to bring them to their knees through the use of arms. They also try to bring them to their knees through starvation, through blockade, through economic asphyxiation. And in the same way that they have tried to bring Vietnam to its knees with bombs, they are trying to bring Chile down on its knees via economic asphyxiation.
"We are Latin Americans; we belong to that great community and some day we will be an integral part of it; the day when the wave of revolution sweeps away misunderstanding, chauvinism, balkanization and selfishness; the day when the wave of revolution sweeps away imperialist domination over the peoples of Latin America and with imperialism, the odious system of exploitation of man by man.
"We belong to Latin America. And for her sake, we are willing to fight shoulder to shoulder with the other peoples of Latin America; and for her sake and for Chile's sake, Comrade Salvador Allende, we are not only willing to give our blood but our bread as well!"
As the coup drew closer, the Cubans once again offered their aid. On July 29, 1973, Castro wrote the following letter to Allende:
"Using the pretext of discussing with you matters related to the Conference of Nonaligned Nations, Carlos and Piñero are coming to see you. Their real objective is to get information on the situation from you, and to offer, as always, our willingness to cooperate in the face of the difficulties and dangers that block and threaten the process….
"I see that you are now involved in the delicate matter of the dialogue with the Christian Democrats, in the midst of serious events like the brutal murder of your Naval Aid-de-camp and the new strike of truck owners. I can imagine that tensions must be high and that you want to gain time to improve the balance of power in case fighting breaks out and, if possible, find a way to continue the revolutionary process without civil strife, avoiding any historic responsibility for what may happen. Those are praiseworthy objectives.
"But if the other side, whose real objectives we are not able to judge from here, continues to carry out a perfidious and irresponsible policy, demanding a price which is impossible for People's Unity and the Revolution to pay, which is quite likely, don't ever forget the extraordinary strength of the Chilean working class and the firm support it has always given you in difficult moments. In response to your call when the revolution is in danger, it can block those who are organizing a coup, maintain the support of the fence-sitters, impose its conditions and decide the fate of Chile once and for all if the need arises. The enemy must realize that the Chilean working class is on the alert and ready to go into action."
After the military coup
After the military takeover, the Cubans once again offered material help to the Chileans, this time to the large numbers of exiles who came to Cuba to secure a livelihood and to get support in the continuing struggle against the junta.
The Cubans also joined with the exiles in drawing the lessons of the Chilean events, continuing to take the position that what had been needed was a revolutionary mobilization of the masses for combat with the ruling class.
Just a few days after Allende was killed, at a rally in Havana, Castro explained how Allende had refused the army's offer of a safe plane ride out of the country and instead had taken the rifle Fidel gave him and led a group of supporters in a desperate battle to defend the Presidential Palace from the army. Castro praised Allende as a hero and a "fighter for socialism," and then went on to give his own view of how the coup could have been prevented:
"But, what can you expect of fascists? They've even made a big thing of the rifle Allende fought with, the automatic we had given him, using it for their despicable ridiculous propaganda. But the facts have shown that there could have been no present for President Allende other than that automatic, used in defending the People's Unity Government! (Applause)
"We were right in our premonition in giving the President that rifle. Never before has any rifle been taken up in the hands of so heroic a constitutional and legitimate president of his people! (Applause) Never has a rifle better defended the cause of the poor, the cause of the Chilean workers and farmers! (Applause) And, if every worker and every farmer had had a rifle like it in his hands, there wouldn't have been any fascist coup! (Applause and shouts of "Fidel, For Sure, Hit the Yankees Hard!')
"That is the great lesson which revolutionaries should draw from the happenings in Chile….
"The Chilean example teaches us the lesson that it is impossible to make the revolution with the people alone: arms are also necessary! (Applause) And that arms alone aren't enough to make a revolution: people are also necessary! (Applause)…
"Chilean revolutionaries know that now there's no alternative other than revolutionary armed struggle. (Applause) They tried the electoral way, the peaceful way, and the imperialists and reactionaries changed the rules of the game. The reactionaries trampled the Constitution, the laws, the Parliament, everything, and there's no way out of the situation."
How capitalists used Pinochet dictatorship in Chile to boost profits
BY MARTÍN KOPPEL
Obituaries in the international big-business press have offered a "balanced" assessment of Gen. Augusto Pinochet's blood-drenched record. Pinochet, who led a 1973 military coup against the elected government of Salvador Allende and imposed a U.S.-backed military dictatorship in Chile until 1990, died December 10, in Santiago, the capital, at the age of 91.
The editors of the Wall Street Journal said Pinochet was a "military dictator," but one who "supported the free-market reforms that have made Chile prosperous and the envy of its neighbors."
"The official death toll of the Pinochet dictatorship is some 3,197," they noted in a December 12 editorial. "Civil liberties were lost and opponents tortured. But over time, with the return of private property, the rule of law and a freer economy, democratic institutions also returned."
The business paper argued that Pinochet's role "can't be understood without considering the behavior of the Allende government he deposed." It accused Allende of "unlawful assault on private property."
In a December 13 editorial, the Dallas Morning News cited approvingly former Reagan administration official Jeane Kirkpatrick's argument "that authoritarian nations, however objectionable, are to be preferred to totalitarian ones, because they can more easily make the transition to liberal democracy." An "authoritarian" Pinochet was preferable to a "totalitarian" Cuba, it said.
1970s working-class upsurge
In September 1970, at a time of ascending working-class struggles and radicalization in Chile and throughout South America, Chilean Socialist Party leader Salvador Allende was elected president. He was the candidate of the Popular Unity coalition, made up of the Socialist and Communist Parties as well as two capitalist parties.
Encouraged by Allende's election, Chilean workers and farmers mobilized to fight for jobs, land, improved living standards, and expanded rights. When capitalists sought to sabotage production, workers in some cases took over factories and ran them without the bosses. Newly formed councils of workers—cordones industriales (industrial belts)—began to coordinate struggles.
In face of growing popular demands, the Popular Unity government nationalized U.S. copper mines and other foreign-controlled industries, and carried out other social reforms.
The social democratic SP and the Stalinist CP, however, promoted a course of subordinating the needs of working people to an alliance with "progressive" capitalists. They politically disarmed workers and peasants, fostering the illusion that the military brass was on their side.
Chilean and foreign capitalists, alarmed by the popular upsurge, organized a campaign to destabilize the economy, demoralize working people, and topple the government. Washington cut off aid to Chile except funding to the military. The Nixon administration financed bosses' "strikes," including one by truck owners.
Under these conditions, many small property owners and other middle-class layers were won over to the side of the counterrevolution. Middle-class and wealthy women held cacerolazos, pot-banging rallies, to protest the economic crisis. As the military openly plotted a coup, the SP and CP blocked workers' demands for arms and initiatives to organize militias.
Reign of terror under Pinochet
Military officers staged two coup attempts. The second one, on Sept. 11, 1973, succeeded. In the attack on the presidential palace Allende was killed. Gen. Augusto Pinochet set up a military junta, backed by Washington, that unleashed a reign of terror.
Thousands of unionists, political activists, and others were slaughtered or tortured. During Pinochet's rule 250,000 people were imprisoned and an estimated 1 million forced into exile. The junta shut down Congress, censored the media, and banned workers parties and trade unions.
This outcome was a defeat for the working class whose effects were felt for years, both in Chile and internationally.
Employers in Chile profit
The regime turned over many nationalized industries to former owners, privatized banks and utilities, freed up prices and interest rates, and slashed import tariffs. It implemented the "free-market" policies advocated by the "Chicago boys," disciples of Milton Friedman at the University of Chicago. The pension and social security system was privatized—what today is hailed as the "Chilean model" by U.S. officials who advocate steps toward dismantling Social Security and Medicare.
In other words, naked repression allowed bosses in Chile to boost their profits by brutally driving down workers' living standards through high unemployment, low wages, jacked-up prices, and regimented labor. That was the basis for the much-touted "success" of Chile's economy.
The Pinochet regime was a loyal ally of imperialism. It backed London's war against Argentina in 1982, and was part of Operation Condor, a campaign of kidnapping and assassination of political activists in other South American countries. Pinochet also received support from the Stalinist regime in China, eager to cultivate its ties with Washington (see article on this page).
By the mid-1980s Pinochet had outlived his usefulness to the Chilean capitalists and their U.S. backers. A bourgeois democratic government took office in 1990. Today another Socialist Party leader, Michelle Bachelet, runs the capitalist government.
Media talk about Chile's "success" is measured by hefty profits for foreign investors and domestic bosses. It's a different story for workers and peasants. By the time Pinochet left office, 40 percent of the population lived below the official poverty line, double the number from 1970, and real wages were slashed by 40 percent.
Today, the wealthiest 10 percent of Chileans account for nearly half of Chile's income, while the poorest 10 percent receive less than 2 percent. These conditions fuel the ongoing struggles by working people in that country.