Copyright © 1998 by Hugo S. Cunningham
The anti-Communist view, eg by historian Paul Johnson:
Salvador Allende's parliamentary socialism was unworkable, partly because he lacked a mandate (a small plurality [36.3%] for President, with Congress in the hands of his opponents), and partly because the radical wing of his coalition would not allow him to take an incremental, moderate approach. In particular, they engaged in chronic seizures of farms and factories, wrecking the economy and eliminating any hope Allende could negotiate a compromise with "Christian Democrats."
For the next four decades (up until the Great Depression), Chile would get more than 50% of all government revenue from export taxes on nitrate (Loveman, p. 177).
The tax was a flat-rate assessment per ton exported, rather than a share of profit; when world prices fell, Chile's government objected to cartel agreements to strengthen world prices by reducing production (and Chile's volume-based tax receipts). (It is unclear to me personally, however, that Chile would have been any better off with a share of profits, soaring upward during global booms, but collapsing during global depressions.)
Starting in the 1930s, copper replaced nitrate as Chile's principal foreign exchange source.
Chile tried to inject her new wealth into the economy through massive public works schemes, state industries, and protectionism. A generally increasing dependence on the state would make Chile's economy less and less competitive in the world market. Inflation, originally begun to finance the Pacific War, was never to be brought under control.
After 1933, a "superficial reconciliation ...of urban labor, reformist political movements, the traditional landed elite" (Loveman, p. 239) [and employers] was made possible by (1) mineral royalties and (2) artificially low food prices (Loveman, p. 239), maintained by (a) various subsidies to landowners and (b) exclusion of rural labor from both unionization and political participation.
President Carlos Ibáñez (1952-58) overturned this equilibrium in 1958 with an electoral reform that overthrew the rural dominance of conservatives: rural peasants got a secret ballot, and voting became compulsory (Loveman, pp. 261-62).
Frei's program included land reform (dividing large estates among peasants), nationalization of chronically-unpopular foreign copper companies (with negotiated compensation), and various social programs.
The economy remained anemic; in 1965-1970, real per-capita GDP grew by only 5% (Loveman, p. 282). (Note-- this 5% must be a cumulative figure. 5% per year would have been quite respectable.) Chronic inflation continued in an annual range of 20-30%. Nowadays, it is clear the principal culprit was the heavy drag of an overgrown state sector (47% of the economy in 1970, according to Roxborough et. al, p. 76) and other politically-motivated "mercantilist" policies; in the 1970s, however, more people blamed capitalism.
Frei more-or-less kept his promises, but that did not diminish the appeal of the Marxist Left; on the contrary, rising expectations remained unfulfilled. After its failure in Chile, the "Alliance for Progress" foreign-aid-and-left-wing-reformism model lost its credibility with US policymakers.
Frei was Constitutionally barred from succeeding himself in 1970, and the Right-moderate-Left coalition that had supported him fell apart. The Right nominated former President Jorge Alessandri, while the Christian Democrat Left stuck with Radomiro Tomic, who sounded almost as Left-wing as Allende. Alessandri had been favored to win the 3-man race; Allende's plurality (Sep 1970) was a surprise.
Jorge Alessandri (1970)
The Left's actual popularity was higher than Allende's 36.2%. The 27.8% vote for Christian Democrat Radomiro Tomic cannot be considered anti-socialist, since Tomic ran a Left-sounding campaign.
Under Chilean law, Congress (who had the final say) were not required to elect Allende President with only a plurality. Nevertheless, Congress had not previously challenged a plurality, and moderate Christian Democratic deputies were not ready to start now. Congress elected Allende on conditions (Oct 1970), the most important of which turned out to be the Army's autonomy (de Vylder, p. 233--note 8 on chapter 3).
Allende had the authority to call a plebiscite to overrule or even abolish Congress (de Vylder, p. 46), but the political reality was that his opponents would have united against such a plebiscite, and could win enough electoral support (over 50%) to defeat it.
(2) money to pay for it could be had by
(b) raising taxes on the classes who supported UP's opposition (de Vylder, p. 83).
(2) Leftists blamed an "invisible blockade" (investment cut-off) by expropriated Americans, speculation, and "sabotage" by domestic opponents, eg ever-escalating wage demands, strikes, and lockouts.
(b) "Invisible blockade"?
True, the US government and expropriated copper companies blocked foreign aid programs and further investment, but what did Allende have the right to expect? Especially egregious was his nationalization of the Gran Mineria copper mining companies: from a book value of $663.7 million, Allende's accountants deducted enough "excess profits" and other items to offer a laughable compensation of $28.3 million (De Vylder, p. 127). In any case, however, US economic pressure was only one of many unfavorable factors (de Vylder, p. 106); Allende's Chile continued to get credit from other sources, and engaged in substantial foreign trade to the end.
(c) "Sabotage" occured on various levels
B. Blocking supposedly anti-inflationary tax increases (de Vylder, p. 83)-- So? If Allende's government was serious about inflation-fighting, they could have stopped increasing spending so much.
(2) Unlike their counterparts in Argentina, Chile's Left did not engage in kidnapings, though there was an occasional assassination by radicals on both sides, repudiated by the leadership. Noteworthy assassinations included
Jun 71 Christian-Democrat ex-interior minister Perez Zujovic
by far Left "Vanguardia del Pueblo"
Jul 73 Allende's naval aide Captain Araya
(by far Right? My source book didn't say)
(Roxborough et al., pp. 280-286)
(4) There was a non-stop series of farm and factory seizures by radical members of Allende's coalition, without his authorization.
(b) More often, however, the seizures were successful. Legal requests to Allende to reverse them were almost never granted. As a result
2. Middle-class entrepreneurs not on Allende's hit-list nevertheless distrusted him, as unable to keep his promises.
2. In other cases, however, they reflected a breakdown of Allende's moderate approach. The official Unidad Popular program concentrated on pampering workers in government enterprises, and limiting expropriations to foreign firms and large "monopolies." Workers in smaller farms and factories were supposed to be patient and content with the symbolism of the UP coalition. They soon became impatient, however, and demanded the nationalization of their own workplaces, so that they too could enjoy inflated public-sector paychecks and laid-back public-sector working conditions (de Vylder, pp. 143-44, pp. 155-56).
(6) Both sides prepared for the worst, but Allende was fatally handicapped: his radicals (the people seizing farms and factories) would not allow him to appease moderate Christian Democrats, and the Army, which he never controlled, would not allow him to consolidate revolutionary power.
(7) On 26 July, the opposition began another truckers' strike/lockout.
(8) On 23 August, the opposition-controlled Congress issued a declaration that the Allende government was in fundamental violation of Chile's constitution.
(9) In the final weeks before Pinochet's coup, the Army used a 1972 gun-control law to conduct numerous searches for weapons in Leftist-controlled factories (Roxborough et al., p. 216). Apart from disrupting the formation of Leftist militias, this enabled Army commanders to collect intelligence on who their likely enemies were in each factory, and who among their own troops might be unreliable (Loveman, p. 306). General Carlos Prats, considered too sympathetic to Allende, was forced by other officers to resign as Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces. Allende appointed General Augusto Pinochet, a man without a political record, as Gen. Prats's successor (24 August).
(2) It was bloody, though no proper tabulation of casualties was made until recently. Leftist attempts to hold factories proved ineffective, as did guerrilla tactics, ferociously repressed (Roxborough et al., pp. 233-37).
(b) After Pinochet's retirement (1990), a democratically-elected Center-Left government set up the National Commission on Truth and Reconciliation (also known as the Rettig Commission) to investigate deaths during the Pinochet years. In 1992, the "National Corporation for Reconciliation and Reparation" was established to complete the work. Their final report (1996) blamed Pinochet for 2,095 confirmed deaths and 1,102 suspicious "disappearances," for a total of 3,197.
In 2003, President Ricardo Lagos commissioned an investigative body, the "National Commission on Political Imprisonment and Torture." In late 2004, they issued a report authenticating claims by 27,255 people to have been tortured during the 17 years of Gen. Pinochet's rule.
(d) Comparisons: Argentina
2. Argentina's military had more provocation: years of murder and kidnaping by Left-wing guerrillas. Some military torturing may have started in order to find and rescue kidnap victims, though the military soon found themselves on a "slippery slope."
3. Argentina's military badly mismanaged Argentina's economy, continuing the same statist Peronist economics that led inexorably to hyperinflation. If Pinochet had done equally badly with the Chilean economy, he would have far fewer defenders today.
Places where anti-Communist land reform worked:
Japan after World War II (by US occupiers)
Taiwan after 1949 (by KMT, after their retreat from mainland)
South Vietnam-- (under US sponsorship)-- Disrupted anti-Communist elements in countryside without necessarily setting up anything in their place
Mexico (by PRI)-- Promotes dependency. Failure to make definitive settlement both discourages landlords from maintaining property and landless peasants from planning future responsibly.
(2) Ian Roxborough, Philip O'Brien, and Jackie Roddick, "Chile: the State and Revolution," Holmes & Meier Publishers, New York, 1977.
The authors explicitly identify themselves with the "international working class movement" (ie Communists).
(3) Johnson also cited this book,
Brian Loveman, "Struggle in the Countryside: Politics and Rural Labor in Chile, 1919-1973," Indiana, 1976 but I have not yet managed to see it.
Mary Helen Spooner, Soldiers in a Narrow Land: The Pinochet Regime in Chile, University of California Press, Berkeley CA Los Angeles and London, 1994.
The author chronicles the misdeeds of Pinochet and his supporters (eg in the USA) 1970-1990. An occasional hint that the Left might also do something dubious (eg Castroite subsidies to Chile's Left) might have provided a feeling of balance, though even a reactionary like me must admit that in 1973-1990, Pinochet & co had more opportunity to sin, and used it.
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