Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

September 3, 2007

Salvador Allende

Filed under: Film,Latin America — louisproyect @ 4:02 pm

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-mPeqB-QXa8

Made in 2004, Patricio Guzmán’s “Salvador Allende” makes its debut at New York’s Anthology Film Archives from September 5-13. Guzmán, who fled Chile after Pinochet’s coup, also directed “The Battle for Chile,” a film trilogy on Allende’s government that I have not seen. Although there is a tendency to sidestep painful political lessons from the 1973 coup in “Salvador Allende,” I strongly urge New Yorkers to see it. It is an extremely moving account of the life and death of a socialist politician, whose career would seem to speak to the contemporary situation in Latin America, where a democratic transition to socialism seems to be unfolding to one degree or another in Venezuela. Given the hostility of the US and the upper classes in Allende’s Chile and Hugo Chavéz’s Venezuela, a documentary such as “Salvador Allende” offers much food for thought.

It is obvious from “Salvador Allende” and from reviews of “Battle for Chile” (a film that I have not seen) that Guzmán is a partisan of the Popular Unity government, a coalition of working class and bourgeois parties that campaigned successfully for Allende in 1970. Despite this, the film is not uncritical. In a gut-wrenching segment that occurs toward the end of the film, a group of worker-militants–now in advanced middle-age–think back ruefully on the period and wonder why they were so ill-prepared to resist the coup. One, barely holding back tears, says, “We should have done more to strengthen the cords.” As somebody who followed the events in Chile closely between 1970 and 1973, this reference was obscure even to me. What was a cord?

In the course of looking at some studies of the Popular Unity government days after seeing the film, I discovered the answer. Cord is the nickname for cordónes, the neighborhood and factory based committees that Chileans recognized as a form of “people’s power.” If organized and armed on a nation-wide basis, this institution and others like it could have successfully beaten back the coup. Unfortunately, Allende’s Socialist Party and the Communists were suspicious of the grass roots movement and relied almost exclusively on official state institutions such as parliament and the army to promote an agenda that while progressive stopped short of the elimination of private property.

“Salvador Allende” is filled with oblique references to this failure but focuses more on Allende the individual, whose tragic inability to remain in power obviously flows from his political roots. In one of the film’s very revealing interviews, the former mayor of Allende’s hometown Valparaiso, a self-described Communist and friend, states that Allende identified with the values of the French Revolution and never once defended Marxist ideas in private conversations, even though he was familiar with the literature. Another interviewee states that Allende’s earliest ideological influence was an Italian anarchist shoemaker. These two accounts add up to a portrait of somebody committed to the ideas of freedom, but not in the best position to realize them through the exercise of state power.

The film excels at bringing to life the long journey Allende made in Chilean politics. Contrary to the impression many people–including me–have of the Popular Unity government being something unique in Chilean history, the first popular front government was elected in 1938, a Latin American counterpart of the Spanish and French Socialist Party-led coalition governments. On that occasion, the 30 year old Allende became Minister of Health. Like Che Guevara, Allende was a trained physician. After the popular front was voted out of office, Allende continued to run for regional and national offices for the remainder of his political career. The film includes fascinating scenes of the young Allende speaking to crowds of working class people with joyful expressions on their face. If Allende lacked a clear vision of how their interests could be defended through the use of state power, he at least was always forceful about what those interests were.

If Allende was torn between revolutionary and reformist impulses, there was little doubt that his main coalition partners in the CP of Chile were far more dedicated to staying within the framework of bourgeois democracy and deferring to the rule of capital. On June 20, 1972, the NY Times editorialized:

President Allende has moved to resolve a severe crisis within his Popular Unity coalition in Chile by rejecting the radical counsel of his own Socialist party and adopting the more moderate and conciliatory approach urged by the Communists. In thus shifting back toward the center of Chile’s political spectrum, Dr. Allende has reduced the danger of large-scale civil strife and given his revamped Government its best chance to revive a sagging economy.

The Communists hurl such epithets as ‘infantile’ and ‘elitist’ at the M.I.R. and condemn its illegal seizures of farms and factories. They urge consolidation, rather than rapid extension, of the Allende Government’s economic and social programs, negotiations on constitutional reform with the opposition Christian Democrats and a working relationship with private businesses. Dr. Allende has now taken this road in an effort to curb unemployment and inflation and to boost production.

Whatever unwillingness he had to confront big business within Chile’s borders, Salvador Allende never backed down from global capital in various speeches, including one made to the United Nations on September 4, 1972 speech to the United Nations. Guzmán correctly points out that this speech was one of the first to recognize the problems of “globalization” in language that sounds strikingly to Naomi Klein or Walden Bello:

We are faced by a direct confrontation between the large transnational corporations and the states. The corporations are interfering in the fundamental political, economic and military decisions of the states. The corporations are global organizations that do not depend on any state and whose activities are not controlled by, nor are they accountable to any parliament or any other institution representative of the collective interest. In short, all the world political structure is being undermined. The dealers don’t have a country. The place where they may be does not constitute any kind of link; the only thing they are interested in is where they make profits.

Fundamentally, there was a disjunction between Allende’s obvious commitment to ending this dependency on imperialist corporations and his willingness to empower the only class in society that had the power to do so. In a delicate balancing act between a radicalized proletariat and peasantry and the more privileged classes in Chile and their American benefactors, Allende hoped to make incremental changes that would tip the scales in favor of the poor. Unfortunately, the rich and important sectors of the middle class would not respect parliamentary rules and began to plot to overthrow Allende, just as has been the case in Venezuela. While Guzmán is quite penetrating when it comes to the machinations of the rich, he tends to hold back when it comes to contradictions within the left.

Apparently, there is much more willingness in Guzmán’s “The Battle for Chile” to examine the clash between the Popular Unity government and its base. The World Socialist Website, which tends to sectarianism frequently despite its generally astute political analysis, was quite generous in its review of “The Battle for Chile,” which it regarded as a “heartfelt testament to Pinochet’s victims.” It made clear that the ambivalence about and or hostility to “people’s power” within the upper circles of Allende’s government were shared by the director, whose remarks in a Q&A following a screening of the film in London, demonstrated an unwillingness to come to terms with Mao’s observation that political power grows out of the barrel of a gun:

Guzmán described the trilogy at a question and answer session after the screening as a tribute to the Popular Unity government period and Allende particularly. This was clearly the intention of The Coup, but because of the way the film was made, a more critical picture of the situation in Chile still emerges. It is clear, for example, that the workers were a huge and potent force. In the middle of July workers took the streets of the Vicuna McKenna district. In the ensuing stand-off the mayor of Santiago had to be called in to move the police two blocks away. Workers are repeatedly seen demanding arms to defend Allende, arms which Allende was denying them. An old member of the Communist Party is seen warning that if the workers lose it will be like Spain after the civil war.

The issue of arms crops up repeatedly. Allende, who refused to create a workers militia, dismissed his police from La Moneda before the bombardment began, leaving only 40 bodyguards. As the coup approached, the military stepped up weapons searches in order to gauge the strength of the workers. At the question session, Guzmán expressly disagreed that the refusal to arm the workers had been a mistake. It would have been impossible, he said, because the military would have known it was happening. In any case, it was already known that the military were preparing a coup. In other words, once it began the coup was inevitably going to be a success. Yet even in the last few days before the coup, the streets of Santiago were filled with mass demonstrations in defence of Allende.

Despite both coming to power through the ballot, there are significant differences between Allende and Hugo Chavéz. First of all, Chavéz was a military officer himself with broad connections to leftist officers, perhaps the most striking characteristic of Venezuelan politics where an Air Force general is described by Richard Gott in “Shadow of the Liberator” as having “Trotskyist” politics. By contrast, Air Force officers in the US tend to be followers of the Christian Right.

But more importantly, the primary ideological inspiration for Chavéz’s movement is revolutionary socialism rather than 1930s style popular frontism. According to Gott, a number of Chavéz’s primary influences were Marxists to the left of the CP. In declaring for a 21st century socialism, Chavéz has made repeated references to the failure of Soviet socialism in terms that reflect the influences of the Trotskyist movement. Of course, as is always the case with Chavéz, he makes up his own mind based on what he thinks is right. This includes his willingness to stand up to the bourgeois parties in Venezuela, unlike Allende who kept making concession after concession to the Christian Democrats who were plotting his overthrow. To show that he was deferential to their interests, he kept bringing military men into his cabinet and even put Pinochet in charge of public security not 6 months before Pinochet overthrew his government.

Guzmán reflects a tendency that was very strong on the Chilean left and that even included the radical guerrillas of the MIR. It found itself torn between support for Allende’s government and support for the “people’s power” in the street that could have been Chile’s salvation.

In reviewing one of the better leftwing critiques of the Popular Unity government (the aptly titled “Chile: The State and Revolution” by Ian Roxborough, Philip O’Brien and Jackie Roddick), I came across the words of ordinary Chilean workers from this period reflecting an acute awareness of the danger they faced. This interview with a “Socialist militant” from the Cordón San Joaquín appeared in Chile Hoy a month before the coup:

Chile Hoy: What do the majority of the comrades in the cordon think of the new cabinet? [one that included military officers]:

Socialist militant from Cordon San Joaquin: We have not discussed it yet. But certainly people are very confused. In fact, the demonstration today lacks a sense of combativity, there is no common purpose, and there are no clear slogans. One can see that the masses don’t look on the incorporation of military men into the cabinet with much sympathy. There is no clarity. The parties should tell the masses what their reasons are for choosing this road. Neither Calderon nor Figueroa (both leaders of the CUT, and ex members of the government, the first Socialist, the second Communist) filled this need in their speeches. And it would have been difficult for them to do it, in this climate of agitation. The president of Cordon Vicuna Mackenna, where the movement to take over factories after June 29th was strongest:

We saw this cabinet as a betrayal of the working class. It shows that the government is still vacillating and has no confidence in the working class. The generals in the cabinet are a guarantee for the capitalists, just as they were in October, a guarantee for Vilarin (leader of the striking lorry owners) and not for the working class. We’ve already been through this solution: More tyres and trucks for Vilarin . . . the same thing again. For this reason, we think that the situation is quite dangerous, because we think the army’s searches will continue and we believe that many of those now fighting will fall, including those of us who are at this moment struggling for People’s Power.

Youtube: the final speech of Salvador Allende

14 Comments »

  1. Many on the left use Chile as a cautionary tale to discourage radical movements from alienating “civil society” and from pushing the middle classes to embrace right-wing solutions. “Allende’s legacy today…entails an important element of political pragmatism for the left as it seeks to honor the most productive aspects of Allende’s legacy, while avoiding some of its pitfalls,” writes Philip Oxhorn in NACLA’s 2003 issue dedicated to the 30-year anniversary of Pinochet’s coup. This legacy, according to Oxhorn, includes Allende’s democratic convictions (“property owners had important democratic rights”), his principled pragmatism and his commitment to building strong political organizations for an equal and just society. Oxhorn praises current leaders such as Lula in Brazil and Ricardo Lagos in Chile, who have learned these lessons from Allende, and who have thus committed themselves to “responsible” fiscal policies and political pragmatism.

    The reformist interpretation of Chile’s tragedy has prevailed since its first formulation by the Communist Party of Chile (CPC), one of the organizations inside the UP [Popular Unity government], in the wake of the coup. Chilean workers went too far, the CPC argued, because they refused to wait for Allende to win over the middle and ruling classes to the idea of a gradual path to socialism. Workers sought control over society too quickly, and thus they alienated the middle classes, whom the CPC considered an important part of the UP alliance.

    Yet Allende undertook constant efforts to win over sectors of the national bourgeoisie to the UP government–at the expense of the working class. In order to become president, Allende had signed a “Statute of Guarantees” declaring the inviolability of bourgeois institutions (the courts, the police). In other words, the “Chilean road to socialism” committed itself to preserving the bourgeois state machine–including its institutions of repression, which were in the end to turn on Allende’s government.

    In the midst of the revolutionary process, Allende’s allegiance to “democratic institutions” even led him to call for workers to return occupied factories and land to their “rightful property owners” until the courts could decide their fate. He ordered police to attack, arrest and disarm workers who defended the UP against the bosses’ strikes that aimed to starve the poorest Chileans. Eventually, it was Allende himself who invited General Pinochet into the UP government to head the military, describing him as a military man who “respected the constitution.”

    While the president demanded that workers respect the constitution, the Chilean ruling class and their U.S. supporters felt in no way compelled to respect democratic institutions. Fascist thugs violently attacked workers and peasants with impunity. Private television networks fomented right-wing violence against the government. And the September 11, 1973 coup killed off all semblance of democracy in Chile for years to come.

    The UP’s call for broad unity with the middle class meant in practice, therefore, the curtailing of workers’ self-organization, i.e. the very forces capable of defeating the right and pushing through to a new society. The result was that as the ruling class prepared for a military coup–a situation crying out for workers to organized armed self-defense–Allende was busy finding ways to demobilize and disarm the working class in order to prove his commitment to bourgeois democracy.

    In many analyses of the Allende government there is no mention of Chilean workers’ role in the UP years of 1970-1973. Both the Pinochet government and U.S. administrations have tried to blot out this history of workers’ struggles. Allende was not the only martyr on the Chilean road to socialism. Thousands more remained nameless but died fighting in the streets, in the factories or on lands seized for communal production. These workers and peasants called for more radical changes in Chile, and they formulated more viable alternatives than those proposed by the UP government.

    [snip]

    When the right wing attacked the Allende government by trying to shut down transportation in 1972, workers and peasants defended themselves by forming cordones–workers’ forms of democratic control over factories, food distribution, transport and community work and defense. Representatives to the cordones were elected to make decisions and they were recallable at any time by the workers who elected them. Thus, in the course of struggle, Chilean workers and peasants created a highly democratic form of self-governance that represented an embryonic form of workers’ councils–a political body that could decide the course of society based on the needs and wishes of the majority.

    Reformists in the UP coalition–led by Allende–denounced the cordones as counter-revolutionary. Although the cordones successfully defeated the bosses’ strike in 1972, the UP government called for all supporters to organize to win the March 1973 elections. The UP never called for the strengthening of the cordones as key revolutionary organizations of the working class.

    When the UP government won the parliamentary elections in March 1973, the right wing and Nixon’s government discarded all pretense of democracy in a barbaric effort to recover control of Chile. Heavily funded by the U.S. Department of State, the Chilean military overthrew Allende on September 11. Carrying lists of “subversives” provided by the CIA, Pinochet’s forces murdered, tortured and imprisoned thousands of leftists. Pinochet went on to establish one of the most repressive military regimes in all of Latin America, and, again with the help of U.S. spy agencies, to hunt down exiled Chilean leftists all over the world.

    The cordones were the best and most inspirational examples of what the Chilean road to socialism could offer workers, the landless and the unemployed today. The history of workers’ power in Chile between 1970 and 1973 is rarely mentioned, but it provides the most vital lesson for the class struggles occurring today. Whether in the recent and ongoing mass struggles in Bolivia and Ecuador, or in Argentina, Brazil, Venezuela, Peru, Paraguay and Uruguay, the class character of the actions and demands made by Chilean workers in the course of their fight for socialism are the real lessons to learn from the Allende period in order to advance today’s struggles.

    Full: http://isreview.org/issues/31/editorials.shtml

    Comment by Phil Gasper — September 3, 2007 @ 7:14 pm

  2. So NACLA in 2003 was saying that Allende’s “pragmatism” was a good thing. This is another reason to hate this shitty, centrist rag. Around 5 years ago somebody I know who used to write for the magazine told me that he suspected there was some kind of CIA involvement with the magazine’s transformation. I am not into skullduggery, but on the evidence of what’s between the covers, I can almost be seduced into believing so.

    Comment by louisproyect — September 3, 2007 @ 9:36 pm

  3. Hi I enjoyed reading your blog and would like to invite your readers to pop by and visit us here at ‘An Unrepentant Communist’, an increasingly popular Left blog from Ireland….No I did’nt consciously ape your excellent blog title, it was a genuine coincidence, it being derived from a descriptor of Eric Hobsbawm which appears every time you google his name.

    http://unrepentantcommunist.blogspot.com/

    I hope you will be able to link our blog to yours.

    Greetings to all progressives reading this from County Kerry in Ireland!
    Gabriel

    Comment by Gabriel — September 4, 2007 @ 12:55 pm

  4. A useful review of what seems to be a good movie – thanks Louis.

    Coincidentally, i just saw a (very good) documentary about the MIR at the World Film Festival in Montreal, Calle Santa Fe, which i’m in the process of trying to review. If you get a chance to see it, i encourage you to do so, it gives a fascinating look at the coup and a surprisingly uncritical look at Allende “from the left”.

    Comment by kersplebedeb — September 4, 2007 @ 3:33 pm

  5. Pilger just made an amazing documentary, “the War on Democracy,” which is a panorama of U.S. policy in Latin America with a focus on Chile in ’73 and Chavez. I posted it in my blog: http://prisonerofstarvation.blogspot.com/2007/08/john-pilgers-war-on-democracy.html

    Allende always struck me as a less-contemptible Kerensky who was a bombastic egomaniac (as well as a criminal for continuing WWI). It’s really unbelievable that he dismissed the police from the area of the palace right before the coup.

    One thing about the Venezuelan revolution that Pilger’s film captures is the consciousness among the workers and the poor that it was their intervention in 2002 that saved Chavez. What I am getting at here is that among many of the leading grassroots activists, there is an awareness that only through their own self-mobilization and self-organization can the revolution survive or progress, which is a lesson that too many in Chile learned the hard way at the expense of thousands of lives.

    Comment by Binh — September 4, 2007 @ 4:07 pm

  6. And the lesson is:what ever the communist party’s suggest, do the opposite.Sorry Louis I couldn’t resist

    Comment by dirk — September 4, 2007 @ 9:50 pm

  7. The above article is an interesting, if erroneous analysis of the Popular Unity (UP) process. Like many contemporary and more recent analyses it suffers from an overly simplistic vision of the social and political context within which the Popular Unity government was elected. These versions of history often emphasise the role of an individual actor, or of a particular party in the downfall of the government, without giving the role of US imperialism its true weight. It is this flaw that the above article and comments suffer from. The article also contains a series of assumptions about Allende, Popular Unity and about Chilean society, that are, in my opinion incorrect.

    The Popular Unity government was the culmination of a 40-year process of accumulation of forces by the two main workers parties of Chile, the Communist and Socialist Party (PC and PS). The two parties had participated in the construction of the Chilean political system from the outset, and were therefore a crucial part of it, something that made the Chilean Road to Socialism possible. These parties shared a tactical vision of how to achieve power (via unarmed struggle), but differed somewhat about what they would do with it once they had it (would it be a socialist revolution, or the preparation for one). These differences between the parties were somewhat nuanced, with elements within both parties actually subscribing to the views of the other. The other parties of the UP coalition more or less agreed with the views of the two main parties.

    The UP coalition was also divided over how it analysed Chilean society. The PS was convinced that the middle classes would betray any revolution (as the PS perceived them to have done at the end of the Popular Front period) and that therefore the only strategic alliance should be with the PC. The PC on the other hand saw Chilean society as a series of fragmented classes, with elements at every level having reasons to support, and reasons to oppose a revolutionary government. This vision was the one that dominated within the alliance, and it allowed the construction of the victorious UP coalition. This analysis actually has much to commend it, and a careful look at history shows that the coup was in no way caused by it. In fact, careful analysis shows that the key factor in producing the coup was foreign intervention.

    The reason this analysis is correct is that Chilean society at the time was characterised by a unique level of party-political affiliation and identification, which broadly represented the class structure of the country. The key point is that no one class or party was big enough to dominate alone, and this social factor had been a key part in the establishment of the Chilean political system. It is this that analyses that concentrate on the needs of the working class miss out upon. The overwhelmingly working class leadership of the PC saw this, and it was an approach confirmed by its membership in congress after congress. The strength of this approach was measured in the way that the alliance broadened and grew stronger throughout the 1960s, in the face of massive US intervention via ‘black propaganda’.

    The Allende governments power rested upon the strength of the party organisations that formed the UP coalition, and upon the strength of organised labour. It also depended, to a large extent upon the legitimacy conferred upon it by its rule according to the constitution. This legitimacy gave the government its support among those who were supporters and sympathisers, and also among some of those who opposed the government but supported constitutional rule. There is sometimes an assumption made that Allende and the UP faced a choice when deciding whether to work within the bounds of the constitution, but this is not so. They were committed to the constitution because it was a source of tremendous power, as well as a source of vulnerability. In a situation where, at most, the Allende government could garner under 50% of the vote it would have been political suicide to abandon the rule of law. This need to adhere to the constitution is what underlies assumptions about the UP governments’ hostility to grassroots organisation.

    Once the UP government was under political, economic and social siege, it had to rely upon the structures that traditionally gave it support if it was to remain within the bounds of the constitution. These structures were those of the political parties of the alliance and of organised labour. This is why the government did not support the creation of cordones industriales. However, the government did not in any way repress the cordones. The statement that Allende ordered attacks and arrests on the workers are simply wrong. In the wake of the July 1973 coup attempt and after a year or so of escalating terrorism (by CIA trained, funded and equipped groups) the military began to carry out raids sanctioned by the Arms Control Law (passed in 1972 by the opposition controlled congress). It was these raids, carried out by the armed forces, mostly without knowledge of the UP that led to the arrests, attacks and in some cases murder of workers. To say that Allende ordered these attacks is a crass slur on the reputation of a man who gave his life to defend the only workers government Chile has ever had. In a secondary point, to say that the cordones were the only workers organisations that helped to defend the government from economic sabotage is also incorrect. The majority of this voluntary work was carried out by the trade union and party organisations, especially outside of Santiago.

    These points hopefully illuminate the extremely complex political situation that existed in Chile at the time of the Allende government. It is far too simplistic to claim that Allende was torn between reformism and revolution – he saw reforms as being part of a revolutionary process, a process that needed time to develop and mature.

    There also exist a series of misconceptions around the issue of armed struggle, and these misconceptions crop up time and again in reference to Chile. None of them take into account the UP need to stick to the Constitution. It was this need that meant that it was impossible to arm the workers. To do so secretly would have been impossible. In order to provide a realistic opposition to the armed forces the government would have needed at least 30 000 rifles, as well as machine guns, RPGs and the ammunition for them. This would have weighed thousands of tons, and would have required storage space as well as distribution networks. While all this is going on, who organises the political work among the masses? Who convinces them that civil war is the only remaining option? To arm them openly would have meant breaking with the constitution, and the probable loss of the majority of their support, which would have swung behind the military as they moved to remove the government, largely legitimately in the eyes of the people. The way forward was to try to convince the armed forces to stand by the constitution, and to stand alongside loyal units in the event of a coup.

    How realistic this option was is rarely debated in the English language analyses of the coup. In Chile however, recent information points towards a completely different interpretation of events within the armed forces prior to the coup. These sources point towards an armed forces as divided over the Popular Unity government as the rest of society. Although pro-Allende officers were in a minority, there were large numbers of ‘constitutionalist’ officers who would refuse to take up arms against a legitimate government. Most of the officer corps was gradually turned against the government by the propaganda campaign in the media, by the worsening economic situation, and through pressure from the political parties of the opposition. Even so, the process that led up to the coup was one that required the assassination of the Commander in Chief in 1970, the assassination of Allende’s Naval Adjutant in 1973, the forced resignation of the Commander in Chief in 1973 (General Prats), and the replacement of loyal officers in combat units by anti-government ones. Even so, the loyalty of some units could not be assured and both before and after the coup the armed forces were purged of ‘leftist’ officers and men. The Chilean police were also not trusted by the coup plotters. The Carabineros (para-military police) were seen as being far too pro-government, and the police (Policia de Investigaciones) were all known Allendistas, this is why the Carabineros were not completely trusted with details of the coup (the Policia were not part of it), and which is why both were violently purged in the hours after it.

    The one cause of the coup that lies behind all the other causes is in fact, US intervention. Without this intervention the conditions that justified the coup in the eyes of many would not have existed. Without this intervention it is doubtful that the armed forces could have carried the coup out. Without this intervention, the Allende government would have been able to negotiate a compromise with the opposition, an outcome which might not have been revolutionary, but which would have been a step forward in a revolutionary process. This intervention was necessary in US eyes, because of the revolutionary nature of the Chilean process, because it provided inspiration to the Marxist left in Europe and because its nationalisations of the copper industry (among others) directly affected the interests of US transnational corporations. To say that Allende did not confront big business within Chile is simply not true.

    The failures of the Popular Unity government stem from the pressures it was under, pressures that would not have existed without US intervention. The failure to utilise the divisions within the opposition to forestall the coup, was a result of internal divisions within the government, but the advancement of the putschist position within the armed forces was another direct result of US intervention. Only without understanding the key role played by imperialism in the Chilean counter-revolution is it possible to think that arming the workers was a realistic option, or that the Allende government was sunk by its ‘reformism’.

    Comment by Jose Miguel — September 6, 2007 @ 10:22 am

  8. I didn’t write about US intervention because there are no illusions about the CIA. There are, however, illusions in Allende’s ability to move Chile toward socialism as should be obvious from Jose’s post.

    Comment by louisproyect — September 6, 2007 @ 12:49 pm

  9. Gotta love the reformist line on Chile: blame the foreigners, not us, for the counter-revolution.

    When I read Jose write that, “the constitution … was a source of tremendous power” I’m reminded of something Big Bill Haywood used to say about socialists who would stand behind stacks of law books firing legal briefs while the capitalists’ army would be firing bombs and bullets.

    Comment by Binh — September 6, 2007 @ 3:05 pm

  10. You should see the Battle of Chile before you do any more film reviews.
    I first saw a 16mm version of it the late 80s. It is without doubt the best political documentary every made.
    It makes it clear that the working class was capable of arming itself and defeating the military. It was not the PU itself that should be held accountable for the failure to do this since it was openly reformist with Constitutional illusions, but the Castroists and Trotskyists who actively countered the formation of workers and peasants militias. I note that when Castro visited Chile in 1972 he lectured army heads including Pinochet on the compatibility of the socialist government with the military.

    Comment by raved — June 29, 2008 @ 12:07 am

  11. #10: I think I should know better than to respond to ultraleftist nonsense such as this, but would it be too much to ask for a citation on what Castro supposedly said in 1971 (that was the year of his visit). I looked through the LANIC Castro speech database and could find nothing. I am not denying that he made such comments. I would only like to read them for myself.

    Comment by Louis Proyect — June 29, 2008 @ 12:35 am

  12. […] September 2007, I wrote a review of Patricio Guzmán’s documentary on the Chilean socialist martyr that was premiering that month. Just by coincidence, I took up the […]

    Pingback by Trotskyist postmortems on a dead party « Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist — July 11, 2012 @ 5:28 pm

  13. […] September 2007, I wrote a review of Patricio Guzmán’s documentary on the Chilean socialist martyr that was premiering that month. Just by coincidence, I took up the […]

    Pingback by Trotskyist postmortems on a dead party | SWP History: 1960-1988 — July 23, 2012 @ 12:56 pm

  14. […] of Chile” that I saw forty years ago when it came out and the 2004 “Salvador Allende” that I reviewed eight years ago. Since my view of the director’s work was informed by these newsreel-like films, I was not nearly […]

    Pingback by The Pearl Button; Bering: Balance and Resistance | Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist — October 24, 2015 @ 6:17 pm


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