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Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Volume 36, Number 23. 23rd September 1973

"The bourgeoisie will let you sing psalms..."

page 8

"The bourgeoisie will let you sing psalms..."

Photo of a march against fascism

Chilean youth mass action supporting Allende on Jury 5.

After three years of intense and open class struggle, the government of Dr Salvador Allende, the "first freely elected Marxist president in the Western Hemisphere" as the news media has mistakenly dubbed him, has fallen to a violent coup. The first concerted application of Khrushchovism has reached the tragic denouement that Marxist-Leninists so clearly foresaw when Allende took office.

In September 1970 the six party coalition Popular Unity formed a self-proclaimed socialist government in Chile following the surprise victory of Allende in the presidential elections. In polling 36% of the vote Allende narrowly defeated Jorge Allesandri, candidate of the right-wing National Party, who polled 35%. The third candidate, a Christian Democrat, polled 28%. With a groundswell running in favour of Popular Unity due to the assassination of General Schneider, Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces, and Allende's declaration to act constitutionally, the Chilean Congress confirmed Allende as President by 1 53 votes to 35.

Pretty Pictures of Singing Tomorrows

Throughout the world the pro-Moscow revisionist parties, all committed to the parson's theory of peaceful transition to socialism, hailed the Popular Unity government as proof that a socialist government could come to power by parliamentary struggle. Luis Corvalan, General Secretary of the grossly reformist "Communist" Party of Chile, asserted: "The Chilean example... bears out the proposition of the CPSU's 20th Congress... that in the struggle of the working class and other forces for socialism, resort to arms is not inevitable for the conquest of power and for making revolutionary changes." ('Pravda', December 1, 1970.)

Pretty pictures of singing tomorrows in a socialist Chile following the peaceful, constitutional expropriation of the bourgeoisie were painted by revisionists everywhere. "Chile moves in unity" effused the Socialist Unity Party's paper 'Tribune' in October 1971, once again closing its eyes to the obvious, namely that the class struggle was beginning to intensify. Chile was the final refutation of Mao Tsetung — or so they thought!

But Marxism teaches us never to judge a period of transition by its own consciousness. In fact there had never been a socialist revolution in Chile; state power, the fundamental question of revolution, remained firmly in the hands of the Chilean bourgeoisie. Although Popular Unity had control of the executive branch in Chile, the bourgeoisie had retained its control of the Congress, the armed forces, the police, the judiciary and the administrative apparatus of the government.

Chile Before Allende

To understand both the significance of Allende's progressive administration and the events of the past few months, we have to look briefly at Chile prior to the formation of the Popular Unity government.

In essentials Chile was a neo-colony of the United States. The industrial sector was highly monopolised by giant US-owned corporations, while in the countryside much of the land was farmed on the basis of pre-capitalist relations of production.

US investments in Chile were about $1000 million, with $586 million concentrated in mining. Kennecot and Anaconda were in copper. ITT, General Motors and Ford had big holdings. Profits were high: for every dollar invested in Chile about four dollars per year flowed back to the United States. The daily profit that went overseas could have paid one million Chilean workers their daily wage.

Slow Starvation

About two percent of the population owned 50 percent of the land, and 3000 very large farms owned by big landlords accounted for about 58% of farm production and 80% of the farm land. Overa long period agricultural production increased at 1.6% annually, but food consumption was increasing at 2.3%. Chile was obliged to import large quantities of food, the cost of which constituted about 25% of the import bill. This is the significance of the copper strike earlier this year. The Chilean Government had to suspend copper shipments which resulted in a loss of foreign exchange and put a strain on food supplies.

Chile had a chronic balance of payments deficit in consequence. Heavy borrowing abroad created a massive foreign debt. Servicing this debt and the growing mountain of Government debt internally (25% of revenue annually was spent on the armed forces and police!) caused massive inflation.

For the industrial bourgeoisie, foreign and domestic, and the big landowners this meant rapid enrichment; for the masses, unemployment and poverty. Half of all Chilean families did not receive enough to maintain a bare subsistence 3nd were slowly starving. Half a million families (Chile's population is about nine million) lacked homes and a further half million lived in hovels.

About 55% of those economically active are industrial workers; a further 13 percent are white collar workers (university teachers, school teachers, technicians, students, doctors, etc); 23% are small traders and farmers, the rest being employers. The nine percent who were employers took 34.4% of the earnings. This latter grouping is not homogenous, but is split into a national bourgeois section (the domestic capitalists), a compradore section (Chileans dependent on foreign capitalists) and the foreign bourgeoisie.

Popular Unity's Programme

The contention between these classes determines the development of Chilean politics. Grouped around Popular Unity were large sections of the working masses, in town and country, as could be expected from its composition of the Socialist Party, the "Communist" Party, the Radical Party and left Christian Democrats. Popular Unity's programme reflected this. Included in it were the nationalisation of foreign monopolies (particularly the copper industry), banks, insurance companies, large domestic monopolies, transport, communications, oil, electricity production and other key Industries. Much of private industry was to remain in private hands, and there were to be joint state-private concerns. Agrarian reforms would include expropriation of the large latifundias (large landholdings which used virtually slave labour) and the formation of cooperatives. Inflation was to be halted, wages raised and unemployment ended.

This programme was not one of socialist revolution but a continuation and deepening of the bourgeois revolution in Chile; it struck at the latifundia economy, the monopolies and foreign imperialism. Allende himself stated, "We are struggling for Chile's economic, cultural and political independence."

Much of it was implemented in the first year of Allende's presidency. Unemployment was cut in half. Production was lifted in heavy industry. Flats were built in Santiago de Chile which holds one-third of all Chileans. A new fishing port was constructed with Soviet and Cuban aid. Political prisoners were freed. Land reforms were instituted. The principal textile and cement plants, breweries, nitrates, steel and tyre factories, 80% of banking and credit facilities, and wholesale distributors were nationalised.

But as this programme was implemented Popular Unity ran into difficulties. Inflation could not be halted, an important factor in the desertion of the middle classes to the bourgeoisie this year. With the nationalisation of the latifundia came spontaneous land seizures. Peasants with land less than 80 hectares began to worry about their future and turned away from the government. As the rich and middle peasantry recoiled from the bourgeois revolution, counterrevolutionary detachments appeared in Southern Chile. Allende attempted to deny the existence of these detachments at the time.

The Chilean bourgeoise supported the expropriation of the foreign monopolies. But once this process had been completed it used its control of Congress to amend the Constitution in late 1971 to prevent further nationalisations. Allende vetoed this amendment, setting in motion the permanent crisis of his administration which culminated this month.

"In War One Has To Kill"

The year 1972 was one of sharp struggle between the bourgeoisie and Popular Unity. There had been the "empty pots" demonstrations organised by the right and the truck owners strike in October, But things came to a head in June of this year.

Sections of the armed forces launched a premature coup on June 29 which was put down in a few hours. Allende and the national labour federation called on the workers to seize the factories. Peasants began seizing farms in the countryside. In his first radio broadcast Allende called on the workers to stage armed street demonstrations, but one hour later, when it became apparent that the coup would fail, he asked the people to "stay in their places of work." Later in the day, at a huge workers' demonstration calls were made for shutting down the Congress. But Allende refused to do this and earned the meeting's intense displeasure.

Image of a man with glasses and a 'Viva Allende' speech bubble

The bourgeoisie replied with a coordinated offensive which was met by passivity and impotence by Popular Unity. The Christian Democrats demanded throughout August that Popular Unity form a military cabinet, disarm groups on the left and right, restore the factories and farms seized by the workers and peasants since June 29, and approve a bill that would define the private, state and mixed sectors, of the economy. This was a demand for Popular Unity's surrender. Allende refused this and reshuffled his cabinet four times in a month, bringing into it elements of the armed forces.

Working in close unity with the leaders of the National Party and Christian Democrats, the fascists launched armed terrorist raids against state property and cadres. The middle classes began their strikes. The truck owners went out in August pledged to bring down the government. Professional organisations followed them. The naked language of class struggle was expressed by the director of the medical college which supported the doctors' strike: "It is true people die for lack of medical attention. In war one has to kill." (August 28)

The armed forces and the police carried out repression against the left-wing. Despite Allende's pathetic declarations that "the armed forces of Chile are an expression of its people", the army and police disarmed, jailed, tortured and murdered militant workers and students; later they answered the fervant pleas of the bourgeoisie for "order". Late in August the Christian Democrat and National Parties passed a declaration in the Congress accusing the Popular Unity government of "serious violations of legal and constitutional order" and calling on the armed forces "to direct the government's action".

To the end Popular Unity pursued the "peaceful" path. Even as the bourgeois offensive reached its height, the government refused to arm the working class and peasantry. Despite Allende's declarations that if the bourgeoisie continued its struggle he would arm the people — a hollow threat to frighten them — Popular Unity continued to place its faith in the loyalty of the armed forces. The contemptible Corvalan had stated back in its early days that the formation of an armed people's militia " in the present situation.... would be equivalent to showing distrust in the army.... It is not a body alien to the nation, in the service of antinational interests. It must be won for the cause of progress in Chile and not pushed to other side of the barricades."

Political Power Grows out of the Barrel of a Gun

Writing in actual defence of peaceful transition to socialism a certain M. Williams of the pro-Russian New Zealand Socialist Unity Party stated "at this very moment events in Chile are providing an educational back-drop from which we can all learn." ('NZ Tribune', October 1970, p. 5). The words remain, but the lessons are different. Chilean experience, a "unique revolutionary experience" according to the absurd Gus Hall, leader of the CPUSA, has in fact confirmed the basic Marxist principle that it is impossible for the working class to simply lay hold of the ready-made state machinery and wield it for its Own purposes. The working class and its allies have to smash the old state machinery and replace it with its own.

Photo of strinking workers

Striking workers in Santiago: A rocky road to socialism

At no time in Chile had the question of state power been settled in favour of the working class. Even if one accept that the executive branch controlled by Popular Unity represented worker's power (which I do not), the Congress remained firmly in the hands of the bourgeois parties. More importantly, the main components of state power — the armed forces and the police-remained committed to the bourgeoisie. As long as Popular Unity was prepared to observe bourgeois legality, the armed forces remained "neutral". Once the bourgeoisie called on them, they went into action. The policy of toadying to the military pursued by the Socialist and "Communist" parties, like the policy of concessions to the right-wing, was always bankrupt. Without a new army and new police force under worker leadership, Popular Unity could remain in power only as long as it did not threaten the interests of Chile's ruling classes.

In the tragic days in Chile, Enver Hoxha's remarkable far-sighted warnings ring out more loudly. Refuting the ridiculous Khrushchov at the meeting of 81 communist end workers' parties in 1960 in Moscow, Enver Hoxha said: "We should be prepared and prepared well for both eventualities, especially for power by violence, for if we are well prepared for this eventuality, the other eventuality has more chance of success. The bourgeoisie may allow you to sing psalms, but then it deals you a fascist blow to the head and crushes you because you have not trained the necessary cadres to attack, nor done illegal work, you have not prepared a place where you can be protected and still work, nor the means to fight. We should forestall this tragic eventuality."

Allende was a courageous and tragic figure. When it became clear that the bourgeoisie were calling for his overthrow, he rejected their invitations to resign. He declared that he would end his term or be taken out with his body riddled with bullets. But as Guevara demonstrated in Bolivia, courage alone is not enough . Without Marxism-Leninism, no revolutionary movement can lead the working class and its allies to the seizure of state power. The Chilean reformers, for all their "Marxist" gloss, increasingly grew isolated from the working class in reality; like all petty-bourgeois reformers they failed to mobilise the working class to launch a revolutionary offensive, despite their repeated declarations of their determination to do so if the need arose.

Khrushchov has his Allende. The revisionists around the world will bury their Chilean dead with the usual hypocritical psalms of "peace". But will they bury their counter-revolutionary ideas?