On this day, September 11th, 1973, the democratically-elected government of Chile, headed by President and leader of the Socialist Party, Salvador Allende, was violently ousted in a coup led by a US-backed, military junta. The Presidential Palace, La Moneda, was bombed by aircraft and army columns moved through the capital of Santiago, seizing government buildings and offices, making mass arrests of protesters and supporters of the government and publicly burning socialist art, literature, and newspapers. The President of Chile aired a defiant last address on the radio to the nation before he and his guards made their last stand against the army, who had stormed La Moneda. Controversy continues to surround President Allende’s death, while officially a suicide, supporters of the late socialist’s memory denounce the ruling as a fabrication to cover up Allende’s assassination, while other commentators believe Allende took his own life so that the military could not force him to resign.
Salvador Allende had served three years of a six-year term, narrowly winning election after a half dozen campaigns where US interference narrowly tipped the scales in the favor of the conservative opposition. During his presidency, Allende pushed through a number of reforms on behalf of the working class and peasantry in Chile, such as a living wage, childcare, transportation, jobs programs, housing and healthcare. Unions were strengthened under Allende’s government as key industries such as copper, one of Chile’s primary exports, were nationalized from American-owned monopolies. Agriculture in Chile became almost entirely collectivized and the latifundium of the big landowners ceased to exist. Allende had also legalized the Communist Party of Chile and granted full amnesty to all communist political prisoners who had been interned over the course of thirty years.
Although an avowed Marxist, Allende looked for a peaceful alternative to socialist revolution and his government generally pursued social-democratic reforms on behalf of the working class, but to do this and to call oneself a Marxist was a challenge to the imperialist nations that could not be ignored. Many attempts of sabotage were carried on in Chile throughout Allende’s term, to be thwarted each time by the Chilean people themselves and primarily the working class. Concerned, Allende started using the bourgeois apparatus against the bourgeoisie, prohibiting armed demonstrations from petty bourgeois communities and organizations while allowing unions from working class-neighborhoods to arm themselves, so long as they did not violently demonstrate. Impartial and bourgeois media lost its government funding and the government took steps to remove unscrupulous elements from the police and military.
The reactionary coup of September 1973, dissolved the government and put in its place a fascist regime headed by General Augusto Pinochet, a man who openly admired Benito Mussolini. Pinochet oversaw the execution of 3,000 dissenters, imprisoned 80,000 political prisoners and pushed 200,000 into exile. Former Nazi officials were granted asylum in Chile and torture became common practice with rape weaponized as form of torture against female revolutionaries. Unemployment grew to be about 30%, poverty increased 45%, unions were banned and taxes leveled on the masses. Despite these fascist crimes, Pinochet continued to receive support from imperialist leaders like Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher until he grew ill and was inevitably ousted in a plebisicite. Pinochet was never brought to court for his crimes and died in his home on December 4, 2006.
The sin of infringement on imperialist profits proved fatal as it had in Bolivia, Honduras and Ecuador. The horrible reality is the tragedy of 9/11/73 is recreated daily for all the democratic strivings in the Empire’s backyard. More than sorrow felt, lessons must be learned of the necessary steps to achieve the aims and victory of the working classes in Latin America and in the world. For imperialism cannot refrain from bringing its boot down on its own people as we strive for liberation and peace. As Enver Hoxha declared in response to this infamous attack on democracy, “While fighting to make use of parliament in the interests of the working class, one should guard against the creation of parliamentary illusions, the fraud of bourgeois parliamentarianism.” In his last address to the people, President Allende declared, “Workers of my country! I have faith in Chile and its destiny. Other men will overcome this dark and bitter moment when treason seeks to prevail. Go forward knowing that, sooner rather than later, the great avenues will open again where free men will walk to build a better society. These are my last words, and I am certain that my sacrifice will not be in vain, I am certain that, at the very least, it will be a moral lesson the will punish felony, cowardice and treason.” Today the people remember and learn from Allende and the brave masses who fought for their liberation from fascism as the people fight the same battle in our streets, from Portland to Bogotá.
Categories: U.S. News