William F. Warde

The People’s Front and
the Coming Elections in Chile

(31 January 1942)

Source: The Militant, Vol. 6 No. 5, 31 January 1942, p. 4.
(William F. Warde was a pseudonym of George Novack.)
Transcription/Editing/HTML Markup: 2021 by Einde O’Callaghan.
Public Domain: George Novack Internet Archive 2021; This work is completely free. In any reproduction, we ask that you cite this Internet address and the publishing information above.

The Coming Elections in Chile

Chile is one of the few South American countries in which popular elections are still held or have any real significance. At the same time the political equilibrium in Chile is extremely unstable; the nation is torn by deep-rooted class conflicts arising out of the hopeless economic situation of this semi-colonial country dominated by native and foreign finance capital. For some time Chile has been pregnant with civil war.

The impact of the world war has pushed these conflicts to the point of imminent crisis. Therefore the presidential election scheduled for February I assumes great importance. There are two chief candidates for the office. One, General Ibanez, is the stalking horse for the most reactionary capitalist and openly fascist elements. He is suspected of dictatorial ambitions and has been accused of conspiring to overthrow the republic and rule after the fashion of President Vargas of Brazil.

The other, Juan Antonio Rios, is the candidate of the Popular Front. The Popular Front with many of its celebrated supporters from Europe, ekes out a feeble existence in South American exile. Like the recently deceased President Cerda, Rios belongs to the Radical Party, the Chilean equivalent of the former French Radical Socialist Party or the Spanish Republican Left Party, now wiped out by the Fascists. He is a rich capitalist, President of Chile’s mortgage bank, the Caja Hipotecaria.

Friendly Rivals for Office

Rios is supported by the Socialist and Communist Parties on the assumption that he is willing and able to defend Chilean democracy against the anticipated coup d’etat from the extreme Right. According to a cabled interview from Santiago published in the New York Times of Jan. 20, 1942:

“Senor Rios’ partisans have been insisting that the victory of General Ibanez would mean a Fascist dictatorship, but Senor Rios was mild in his comments on his opponent, who, he said, is a personal friend. He insisted that there was no danger of a coup by General Ibanez should he lose the election, because, if for no other reason, he himself has ‘many friends in the army and in the gendarmerie.’

“On the other hand, Senor Rios insisted, should there be a coup, the dictatorship would not last a week, because of the strength of organized labor and of public opinion generally in Chile. This mildness of Senor Rios has been matched by a corresponding politeness by General Ibanez toward Senor Rios.”

What cynical confessions! The Popular Front “protector of the Republic” is an avowed intimate associate of the potential dictator planning its overthrow. He helps screen the machinations of the Fascists by absolving them of any conspiratorial activities. He goes further in covering up their crimes. By declaring that even in the event of a coup d’etat, it would fall within a week, he thereby lulls the masses and lends aid to the Fascists in their preparations far the insurrection.

Here the division of labor between the reactionary and liberal wings of the bourgeoisie in preparing the way for fascism is openly disclosed. While the head of the Popular Front blindfolds and binds the workers and peasants, his capitalist blood-brother gets ready to crush them and their organizations by armed force and to abolish all remaining democratic institutions. This outright treachery is aided and approved by the Socialist and Communist Parties in the name of defending “democracy against fascism.” Such is the crime and the folly of Popular Front policies.

The Lesson of Spain

Six years ago in February 1936, the Spanish Republic held similar elections in which the Popular Front was victorious. Azana, head of the Popular Front government, shielded Franco and the other generals who were planning their military coup, because he, too, was friendly with them and it was unthinkable to him that they would proceed against the republic. He denied that a Fascist plot was afoot, not only before the uprising,’ but even after it had broken out in July! Azana then tried to arrive at an understanding with the Fascist officers and hand the country over to them.

The direct revolutionary action of the workers prevented Azana from completely consummating his treachery. Undeceived and alarmed by the Fascist uprising, the workers broke through the shackles of the Popular Front and proceeded to arm themselves and smash the Fascist garrisons in the city. They became for the time being masters of Republican Spain. The workers and peasants met defeat only after their official leaders diverted them from the revolutionary road toward the complete overthrow of capitalism by reimposing Popular Front policies upon them.

Is the tragic experience of Spain to be repeated in Chile? The Fourth Internationalists of Chile are working to avert this catastrophe. They alone, among the workers’ parties, have refused support to the Popular Front program and candidate. Instead of relying upon the empty promises of the capitalistlabor coalition candidate, they call upon the workers to forge a united proletarian front of struggle against the fascist threat and its Popular Front accomplice as a necessary step toward the creation of a Workers and Peasants Republic.


A Correction

An editorial mistake in last week’s Militant credited William F. Warde with the authorship of the article, Davies’ Book and the Elimination of the ‘Fifth Column’. Actually, the article, was written by Anthony Massini.


Last updated on: 3 July 2021