On September 11, 1973, actively supported by the US administration, General Augusto Pinochet abruptly ended the experience of the Chilean government of Popular Unity led by Salvador Allende. Back to the reasons for such a failure.
The continued interest in Chile’s 1973 coup d’état is not only due to compassion for the victims of military brutality – brutality the magnitude of which has recently been brought up to date as a result of the military brutality. arrest of the main person responsible, General Pinochet. It is also a delayed reflection of a capital of international sympathy for an experience that crystallized several political phenomena at work on a global scale in the early 1970s.
The formation of Popular Unity (UP) and its electoral victory of September 4, 1970 are events to be related to the historical acceleration of the growth of combativity and class consciousness, as well as to exhaustion. bourgeois responses to development in Latin America.
The last bourgeois reformist experience had already been strongly conditioned by the peasant struggles, which had imposed the development of agrarian reform in exchange for the support of the peasantry. At the start of Eduardo Frei’s Christian Democrat government (1964), there were a thousand organized peasants. There were hundreds of thousands in powerful peasant trade union federations at the end of E. Frei, six years later.
Several general strikes and a multiplicity of sectoral mobilizations will precipitate the fall of the reformist Christian Democrat government, in an international context where the warning signs of the crisis of the 1970s prompt the bourgeoisie to be cautious. The application of an austerity program caused a split on its left in 1969 with the formation of a new party, the Mapu, which would join the future components of the UP.
The struggle for university reform and the democratization of education integrates students into the general movement of social transformation underway.
With 36% of the votes cast, the UP candidate, Salvador Allende, came first in the presidential election of September 4, 1970. The legitimacy of his victory was immediately recognized by his Christian Democrat (DC) opponent, Radomiro Tomic, as by the Christian Democrat Youth (JDC). This did not prevent the leadership of the DC from conditioning its support to the signing of a pact of constitutional guarantees, thus demonstrating its mistrust towards the winning coalition and the elected president.
The election of Salvador Allende triggered a series of maneuvers in the sectors opposed to his victory. The most spectacular was the assassination of the Commander-in-Chief of the Army, General Schneider, in October 1970. The commotion caused by this assassination precipitated an agreement which allowed ratification by the French government. National Congress – with the voices of the DC – of the electoral victory and the handover of power on November 4.
The first measures were quickly initiated: general wage hikes, nationalization of the entire banking system, start of the creation of the “social area of the economy”, acceleration of land reform, etc. ; but above all, sending to Parliament a draft constitutional reform allowing the nationalization of copper, the country’s main wealth and source of foreign exchange, in the hands of US multinationals.
Due to the magnitude of the profits made by these firms in the sight of the previous government, the new power refused any financial compensation for the act of expropriation. A jurisprudence which could have consequences for all imperialist economic relations around the world had just been established. Not a single voice was missing when the constitutional reform bill was put to Congress for a vote. The votes of the Communist and Socialist senators happily joined together with those of the representatives of the land oligarchy and industrial lobbies in approving the expropriation of the imperial master of the latter.
Resulting from the power of popular support for Salvador Allende and the UP, this forced unanimity should not however mask the fact that Chile was becoming, due to the nationalization of copper – followed by that of all raw materials – a center of the anti-imperialist struggle. For the same reasons, he was the announced victim of imperialism.
The reduction of inflation and the unemployment rate, measures to protect women and children – including the iconic half-liter of milk per day, the extension of social coverage, free health services for more disadvantaged, the creation of a social housing construction company at an accelerated pace, etc. – were all measures at the source of the increase in popular support for the new government. On March 4, 1971, the UP won over 50% of the vote in the municipal elections.
This broad popular support, however, did not in any way weaken the resistance capacities of the bourgeoisie, especially since the foreseeable intervention of the United States became more and more a catalyst for internal reaction.
Under Washington’s orders, international financial organizations destroyed Chile’s current trade finance capacity, the courts imposed an embargo on copper, thus blocking 80% of income from exports. The dollar financed the conspiracy on all fronts: strikes to cripple the economy, the black market, the opposition press and media, fascist paramilitary groups and terrorist actions.
Scarcity, disorder, insecurity have taken hold in the country. Employer strikes, especially by truckers, have sought to cripple the economy, and attacks have multiplied. The reaction threw all its troops into battle: even women from the upper quarters took to the streets to popularize the “empty pot concerts”.
During the election campaign, a network of more than 15,000 Popular Unity (CUP) committees, with around 700,000 members, was formed. Despite the assessment made at the CUP congress on the extremely positive role these structures had played, the UP leadership declared their dissolution. Shortly after, the shortage as well as the need for control and increased vigilance – which the UP could not guarantee through the state apparatus alone – forced the government to create monitoring bodies and distribution of essential foodstuffs (JAP). Their effectiveness was quickly demonstrated.
These bodies succeeded in coordinating and ordering the distribution of foodstuffs, the artificial shortage of which was caused by the black market. But the main source of the black market, established commerce, was not affected. Thus traders were able to continue to organize the shortage by eliminating the products. No measure towards the necessary monopoly of internal trade was envisaged.
At the same time and in the face of the truckers’ strike, another form of dual power has taken hold: industrial cords. They brought together the most radicalized sectors of the working class, in open conflict with the orientation of the Communist Party, which saw in the creation of these bodies an act of division of the working class. Structured territorially, these cords spontaneously organized all of life on their territory: transport of goods and people, requisition of means of production and transport, anti-sabotage vigilance tasks, but also an attempt to manufacture popular weaponry.
These cords have developed in all major industrial centers and have shown extreme efficiency in the tasks they have assigned themselves, particularly in the area of worker mobilization.
Many forms of self-organization appeared during this period, notably that of peasants affected by agrarian reform or struggling to obtain the expropriation of land. By their number, their intensity and their creativity, they all reflect the will
Instead of relying on the powerful creativity of the popular movement, the UP chose the path of negotiation and institution building, calling on the military to government during the crisis created by the bourgeois strike at the end of the 19th century. The year 1972. An obvious sign of weakness, this attitude disoriented the mass movement and stimulated counter-revolutionary activity.
Sad end for the UP and the hopes of a people. While the military raided and brutally cracked down on workers, under the guise of gun control law enforcement, Allende relied on Augusto Pinochet to defend the government and the rule of law.
The cost of the defeat of September 11, 1973 showed how reformist blindness can lead to disaster: sixteen years of one of the fiercest dictatorships in contemporary history. No single factor can mitigate the UP’s responsibility for failure. She had all the conditions to change the life of a people who generously trusted her. She sacrificed hope before the altar of the institutions of the bourgeoisie, the mortal enemy of the people.
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