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International Socialism, February 1975


Ian Roxborough

How Allende Fell


From International Socialism, No.75, February 1975, p.30.
Transcribed & marked up by by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


How Allende Fell: A Study In US-Chilean Relations
James F. Petras and Morris H. Morley
Spokesman Books, 1974.

THIS short book is an analysis of US policy toward the Allende government It documents the pressures put on Chile by the US government and shows how these aimed at bringing down a regime which presented a potentially serious challenge to US control in Latin America. Petras and Morley argue that the US reaction to Allende must be seen in the context of an overall policy designed to keep Latin America safe for US business. US support for the present Chilean Junta is on a par with its support for the military dictatorships in Brazil and Bolivia.

The authors argue that the US was successful in creating the conditions which brought about the downfall of Allende by

  1. building up economic pressure on Chile and
  2. building up close ties with the Chilean military.

In the authors’ jargon, this was a policy of ‘disaggregating’ the Chilean state so that the military would not support an attempt by Allende to realise a ‘nationalist development effort’.

This approach leads to two difficulties. Firstly, they present a picture of Allende’s downfall which emphasises almost exclusively US pressure and underplays the internal class struggle. There is no serious effort to show how external pressures and the course of the class struggle in Chile are linked to each other. Secondly, the uncritical acceptance that what the Allende government was trying to do was implement some kind of abstract ‘nationalist development effort’ enables the authors to avoid an analysis of the class character of the Allende government. They ignore or gloss over the mistakes and failings of the Allende government, fail to mention the split in the Chilean left between the reformist project of Allende (and the Communist Party) and the revolutionary position of the MIR and sectors of the Socialist Party, and totally ignore the question of the viability of the Parliamentary road to socialism.

The upshot is a very incomplete and one-sided book. As a study in US-Chilean relations it has its uses, but as a study of how Allende fell the book’s omissions amount to an extremely distorted view in which the struggle between classes is replaced by the struggle between nations. This is a book for Stalinists and Liberals.

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