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Ian Birchall

Allende’s road to disaster

(September 1973)

From Socialist Worker, 22 September 1973.
Reprinted in In the Heat of the Struggle, London 1993, p.98.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

LAST WEEK’s military take over in Chile was a massive defeat for the Chilean working class, and indeed for the working class of the whole world. There is still little information as to the precise extent of the repression taking place, though some reports have spoken of up to 20,000 dead. But it requires little imagination to recognise that the army and their right wing friends are setting out to destroy completely the organised working class in Chile.

A month before the coup the armed forces were already raiding factories and homes of left wingers in search of arms, while disregarding open preparations for violence by the right. Now that they have a completely free hand they will have few scruples about killing and torturing.

For the Chilean working class this is nothing new. Over the last few years there has been a carefully fostered myth that Chile is a country of peaceful and democratic traditions. As far as Chilean workers are concerned nothing could be further from the truth. The Chilean labour movement, one of the strongest in South America, was forged in struggle and bloodshed. The Valparaiso dock strike in 1903 left 30 dead and the 1905 Santiago meat strike left 200 killed. In 1907, 2000 were massacred at Iquique and in 1925, 3000 at Coruña.

In January this year, just before the elections a left wing socialist newspaper issued an open letter to the election candidates. This said: ’We saw what these politicians did in October and we know where the the path we want to follow will lead. But, they ask aren’t you afraid of the violence of another Coruña? Of more bullets? Of an underground existence? Of confrontations? For years we have had Coruñas, bullets, clandestinity, and confrontations. Nothing new that Chile’s rich can come up with will terrorise us.’

The Chilean working class will not be crushed forever but it has learnt a hard lesson in the hardest possible way. That lesson is that no enlightened leaders, no alliance with progressive forces, no parliamentary compromise can substitute for the basic need for the working class to create its own organisations and fight for its own programme.

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Last updated: 11 March 2010