It’s September 11th and I watched the first part of Patricio Guzman’s documentary masterpiece about the coup that overthrew Chilean’s elected president Salvador Allende with my partner, my kid, some friends, and others I hadn’t seen or heard from in a very long time.
Although I knew what would ultimately be the outcome of the election and Allende’s short-lived reforms, the entire time I was watching the film I couldn’t help but think how the eventual successful coup was not inevitable.
From the beginning, the U.S. government funded right wing groups and other organizations that would ensure a defeat for Allende in the democratic election of 1970. Allende won anyway, with ~34% of the vote. Something else that’s interesting although not surprising-the U.S. government spent more money per capita in 1964 (the preceding election which Allende ran in) in the Chilean elections than was spent by both candidates in the U.S.’ own election in that same year.
So what did Allende do exactly that had obviously posed such a threat to the hegemony of the ruling class in the United States?
-Called for a minor distribution of wealth
-Instated a milk program for very poor, marginalized kids
-Called for nationalization of major industries like copper mining (a resource previously monopolized by U.S. copper company Anaconda)
Cuando Allende gano la eleccion, Nixon held a meeting with top officials like Kissinger and the director of the CIA. Acordaron hacer dos cosas: quebrar la economia y overthrow Allende through a military coup.
“Make the economy scream.”-Nixon.
Otra cosa que necesitamos recordar, after the military took power the U.S. sent economic aid back to the dictatorship of Pinochet whose government was very grateful but also very busy torturing, imprisoning, and slaughtering thousands of Chilean people.
Kissinger was indifferent ,or in his own words:”We don’t care about torture-we care about the important things.” The important things are profits for multinational corporations like Anaconda copper company and in Chomsky’s words: “the threat of a good example.”
The example of a successful revolution led by unions, workers, and peasants on the ground who produce to provide necessities and the good things in life for the people, not the blood-sucking ruling class.
Allende was not a radical revolutionary. Allende was overly concerned about doing things the “proper” way and using the “legitimate” channels of a state apparatus that had always served the wealthy and the elite.
One of my favorite scenes in the film is a debate between a rank and file union member and a union top official, which all supported Allende. The workers had just taken over a factory and the union official was telling them to slow down and that change would come gradually (typical position of those in leadership when they’re threatened by working class independent action). One worker responded by saying the occupations are actually not happening fast enough or as widespread as they need to be, that the workers need to challenge the bureaucracy within their own class, and that the Allende government needs to start putting faith in the workers’ power rather than applying resistance to it.
The real problem is that we’ll never know the outcome of the revolutionary process Chile had been undergoing in the 70’s.
Estas son parte de las ultimas palabras de Salvador Allende, barricaded inside La Moneda:
“Placed in a historic transition, I will pay for loyalty to the people with my life. And I say to them that I am certain that the seed which we have planted in the good conscience of thousands and thousands of Chileans will not be shriveled forever.
They have strength and will be able to dominate us, but social processes can be arrested neither by crime nor force. History is ours, and people make history.”