Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

February 2, 2007

Was Allende too radical?

Filed under: cruise missile left — louisproyect @ 4:50 pm

Although I don’t consider the Euston left to be genuinely leftist, I try to keep up with their deliberations since they function as a kind of volunteer think-tank for the people who run Great Britain and the United States (even if this means taking anti-nausea medication before reading Christopher Hitchens). As Michael Corleone said in “The Godfather”, “Keep your friends close, but your enemies closer”.

Marc Cooper: Allende had only himself to blame

There’s a yahoo mailing list called DemocraticLeft, whose archives are public and that I like to check once a day as part of my tour of the Euston wing of the Internet. It was launched about 5 years ago by the red-baiting teacher’s union bureaucrat Leo Casey in an effort to create a pole of attraction for what would emerge as the Euston left. The fact that there are only 163 subscribers should give you some indication of the market demand for this kind of sniveling, rightwing Menshevism.

There are basically two ideological tendencies at work on DemocraticLeft. The first is full-tilt liberalism of the sort represented by Danny Postel, the editor of the website Open Democracy that receives funding from the Rockefeller Foundation and other well-known friends of the left. The other is a sort of toothless social democracy that feels the need to pay lip-service to class politics when the list liberals go too far. For the past week or so, these divisions have been exposed over Chavez’s turn toward the left, which has upset the bourgeois press and their friends at Open Democracy and elsewhere. Michael Hirsch, who is on the editorial board of the left-Shachtmanite New Politics, has defended Chavez in the most begrudging terms, while Marc Cooper has been leading the charge to denounce him as an enemy of democracy.

Over the past day or so, the discussion has shifted to comparisons between Chavez and Allende. Since Cooper was a translator for Allende, he is seen by other people on Casey’s mailing list as some kind of authority on Chilean politics. In my view, the fact that he lived and worked in Chile during Allende’s term in office makes him as much of an expert as Thomas Friedman was on the Middle East, having lived in Lebanon from 1979 to 1989.

Although I consider Cooper to be almost as discredited at Hitchens, and hardly worth a blog entry, he did put forward a truly rancid analysis of why Allende fell that deserves some commentary. In the course of the discussion, Cooper raised the idea that Allende provoked a coup by going too far–a startling assertion given Allende’s notorious faith in the political neutrality of the Chilean army. This led Hirsch to ask: “But if you believe –all in all- that a coup was inevitable, what does the lesson of Chile say about the capacity of a social democratic movement to ever rule a capitalist nation peacefully while also engaging in redistributive policies.”

Cooper’s reply was breathtaking in its groveling before bourgeois rule:

Indeed, if the UP had been content with that which was, in reality, its reformist and social democratic political traditions, the government might very well have survived. Problem is, once in power, it all went to our heads (myself included) and –of course– when you actually start expropriating the factories, seizing the land and broadening the power of the bottom half of the population you ought to damn well be prepared for a counter-attack. Allende’s policies went well beyond reformist redistributionist measures. Many of the UP’s policies started to profoundly and radically alter social and economic relations and were — by definition– extremely polarizing. In short, we learn very little about social democratic possibilities for success from the Allende experience because that’s not what it was.

It is clear from what Cooper has written on his own blog that he considers any government to the left of Lula or Bachelet as too far left. It is important to understand that Cooper’s hostility to Hugo Chavez or Evo Morales has a class basis. As is the case with many ex-leftist journalists who grow fat and complacent feeding at the trough of publications like the Los Angeles Times or the Atlantic Monthly–two of Cooper’s venues–they tend to act as watch-dogs for American corporations even as they continue to tout their leftist credentials. During the 1960s, people like Irving Howe and Michael Harrington attacked the antiwar movement using phraseology from their radical youth. It is of course too bad that we are stuck with the likes of Hitchens and Cooper to carry on in that tradition, a sure sign of the decline of the West.

To begin with, the USA and its Latin American hired guns often overthrow elected governments even if they pass Cooper’s litmus test. In 1965, LBJ sent the Marines into the Dominican Republic to “rescue” the people from a bogus Communist conspiracy. This meant overthrowing the democratically elected Juan Bosch, who might be best described as the nation’s Adlai Stevenson.

To blame Allende for provoking the rightwing is a stunning act of political bad faith, all the more so for somebody with the reputation (admittedly undeserved) for being a partisan of the martyred Chilean president.

I suppose that it was only a matter of time before Cooper would piss on Allende’s grave in this fashion. For Cooper, Chavez is an enemy of the free press in Venezuela. In the early 1970s, the same exact charge was leveled at Allende. El Mercurio, the CIA-funded newspaper in Santiago, promoted a coup against Allende in the same exact fashion as the private TV stations called for the overthrow of Chavez.

In June 1973, El Mercurio ran an advertisement declaring Allende to be in violation of the constitution and that openly called for insurrection. On June 21, Allende charged the newspaper with subversion and ordered it shut down. However, an appeals court ruled against the government and El Mercurio once again began calling for the violent overthrow of Allende’s government. Needless to say, the very same arguments that Cooper used against Chavez were used by Allende’s enemies back then. He was trying to impose a Cuban-style dictatorship, etc. One imagines that if Cooper were as fat and complacent in 1973 as he is today, he’d have made the same CIA-inspired arguments against Allende.

On the question of Allende “expropriating the factories”, I imagine that this is a reference to nationalizing American copper mines in 1972. Considering the fact that the USA launched an economic war against Chile 2 years before such a measure took place, one can only conclude that Cooper has an addled sense of cause and effect. Upon hearing the news that Salvador Allende was elected president of Chile in 1970, Edward Malcolm Korry, the US Ambassador to Chile, warned that “not a nut or bolt shall reach Chile under Allende. Once Allende comes to power we shall do all within our power to condemn Chile and all Chileans to utmost deprivation and poverty.” One supposes that Allende should have not taken office in order to stave off deprivation and poverty. Of course, it was deprivation and poverty that caused the Chilean people to vote for Allende in the first place, so one wonders what the real alternatives were.

Perhaps the Chilean people could have all gone to journalism school in the USA and gotten well-paid jobs writing anti-Communist propaganda for the Los Angeles Times and Atlantic Monthly like Cooper did. Then they too could take junkets down to Las Vegas where they can piss away thousands of dollars, go deep sea fishing or collect antique cars. Competition to become media lap dogs is obviously intense, but the rewards are great for those willing to swallow their principles.


  1. Louis, the reference to ‘nationalizing industries’ does NOT refer to the copper mining industry, which was pass with the support of both the Christian Demcocracy and even the far right National Party. The nationalizations talked about by Cooper are the other ones, nationalizations of plants and distribution of Chilean owned industries (only a small percentage of which were nationalized but with which sent chills up the spines of the Chilean capitalist class).


    Comment by David Walters — February 2, 2007 @ 5:03 pm

  2. Note also that it took quite a lot of work to get the Chilean Armed Forces to actually start the coup against Allende, up to and including assassinations so Allende’s trust wasn’t entirely misgrounded: he just underestimated the determination of his enemies.

    Comment by Martin Wisse — February 4, 2007 @ 12:59 pm

  3. In international law, governments have a right to nationalize industries. This is well recognized even by honest conservatives, but not by Mr. Coopers it seems.

    Comment by Tanweer Akram — February 4, 2007 @ 7:34 pm

  4. […] Louis Proyect The new myth floating about is that the liberal hawks are in a self-questioning mood: how could they have been so wrong? The answer is that they trusted the Bush administration to do the right thing but the Bush administration let them down. […]

    Pingback by The Cruise Missile Left « UFO Breakfast Recipients — February 6, 2007 @ 2:35 am

  5. Good blog devoted to tracking the ‘decent left’ here:

    Comment by Scott — February 10, 2007 @ 2:10 am

  6. http://groups.yahoo.com/group/DemocraticLeft/message/24040

    Comment by Doug Cooper — February 10, 2007 @ 5:02 pm

  7. “In international law, governments have a right to nationalize industries. This is well recognized even by honest conservatives, but not by Mr. Coopers it seems”

    A government has no right to break the law and the constitution like Allende did by passing laws that violated the private property, lands and rights of millions of chileans……. laws that were expressively veto in the parliament.

    Or was the parliament undemocratic, too?… please

    Not mentioning Allende`s support of terrorist marxist groups in the country and the shipments of weapons and war equipment from Cuba to Chile with Allende`s consent to start his “socialist revolution”.

    A true democrat indeed…. may he burn in hell.

    Comment by Felipe — February 9, 2009 @ 5:27 pm

  8. The quoted passage does not in any way demonstrate that its original author thinks Allende went too far left. It only says that moving as far left as Allende is bound to be “polarizing”, and that when moving that far left one should expect a “counter-attack”. As for the idea that Allende should not have moved so far left, you must have read that into the quoted passage by yourself.

    Comment by MillionsOfDeadCops — March 7, 2010 @ 9:24 am

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