A slice of history – the controversial Salvador Allende

17 Mar

While Salvador Allende, the former Chilean President that has sometimes been called a Socialist or Marxist, was praised by the left for being democratically elected by the people, its administration has also been criticised for pandering to the right.

It is no secret that the Americans were threatened by Allende’s promises  of socialist reforms. According to the National Security Archive Electronic Book based on US declassified documents, the Nixon administration had plans to destabilise the government even before Allende was President. Of course,  the US was responsible for backing the military coup which went on to topple the government and culminate in the rise of the Pinochet regime.

That much is however less surprising as compared to alleged Allende’s effort in controlling the populace, especially the workers. According to this report, Allende embarked on an experimental project using a mainframe computer and telex machine which outsmart the workers and prevented an effective strike action in October 1972.

Allende has also been accused by the left, in particular the extreme and militant faction for retaining a power structure that left the ruling and military elites untouched. As Chris Herman writing for the Socialist Worker in 1971, noted,

‘… in recent weeks he has made promises to them [the elites] that he will leave considerable sections of the economy under private control and will keep a close watch on the actions of the ‘extreme left’. He has also made it clear that the period of reforms that favour the workers is past. At a rally to commemorate his first year in office he called upon the workers to show ‘discipline’ and to ‘limit wage claims’, and he criticised workers who have been occupying the premises of a US-owned bank’.

Miguel Enríquez Espinosa, leader of the Chilean Marxist-Leninist terrorist organization Movement of the Revolutionary Left (MIR) was disappointed with the ‘socialist’ reforms which he considered as misplaced,

‘The reformist project put in place by the UP enclosed itself within the bourgeois order…it aimed to forge an alliance with sectors of the bourgeoisie, it didn’t lean on the revolutionary organizations of the working class, in its own organs of popular power, it rejected an alliance with rank and file soldiers and sub officers in the armed forces, it sought to seal an alliance with the bourgeois faction. The reformist illusions allowed the ruling classes to prevail in the superstructure of the state from where it launched its reactionary counter offensive, by, firstly, leaning on private-sector federations, on the petty-bourgeoisie and finally on high-ranking officials of the Chilean Armed Forces…’

It is very likely that Allende’s rule fit the description of Herman’s title in his commentary – that his government was ‘walking a tight rope’ in holding the country together and inching slight reforms to please everyone. All this, while the barbarians were circling on the outside and waiting for the right opportunity to prey on his government.

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