While writing, just before the 9/11 date, I can only assume that there will be another series of memorials … — and the one nearly complete amnesia: September 11, 1973 is the date which marks much more than just another violent rebuke of an alternative to business as usual as capitalist is called — and it is called even more so today, while the hegemony of this kind of business is barely contested in real terms.
What makes the Coup in Chile special?
To begin with, an important point can be taken from a piece by Ralph Miliband, published in the Jacobin
. He makes us aware
of the fact that Chile was a showcase. We read
When Salvador Allende was elected to the presidency of Chile in September 1970, the regime that was then inaugurated was said to constitute a test case for the peaceful or parliamentary transition to socialism.
And leaving the different interpretations Miliband utters aide, it is surely true that
class struggle also means, and often means first of all, the struggle waged by the dominant class, and the state acting on its behalf, against the workers and the subordinate classes. By definition, struggle is not a one way process; but it is just as well to emphasize that it is actively waged by the dominant class or classes, and in many ways much more effectively waged by them than the struggle waged by the subordinate classes.
Chile had long been a favoured area for research by North American social scientists. The age and strength of its popular movement, the tenacity and intelligence of its leaders and the economic and social conditions themselves afforded a glimpse of the country’s destiny. One didn’t require the findings of a Project Camelot to venture the belief that Chile was a prime candidate to be the second socialist republic in Latin America after Cuba. The aim of the United States, therefore, was not simply to prevent the government of Allende from coming to power in order to protect American investments. The larger aim was to repeat the most fruitful operation that imperialism has ever helped bring off in Latin America: Brazil.
And this is the core of such class struggle: undermine systematically any success story that shows that another world is possible. So we read
During the first year, 47 industrial firms were nationalised, along with most of the banking system. Agrarian reform saw the expropriation and incorporation into communal property of six million acres of land formerly held by the large landowners. The inflationary process was slowed, full employment was attained and wages received a cash rise of 30 per cent.
Hegemony, we know too well from Gramsci, is linked to two ways: the direct control, using violence where needed — and this is the force making sure that oppression is maintained if the soft means of hegemonic control fail to fulfill their duty. The geopolitical constellation was clear — The Time Magazine (October 19, 1970) brought it on the point, titling:
Marxist Threat In The Americas – Chile’s Salvador Allende
Indeed, as Márquez points out,
For the Christian Democrats, it was proof that the process of social justice set in motion by the Popular Unity coalition could not be turned back by legal means but they lacked the vision to measure the consequences of the actions they then undertook. For the United States, the election was a much more serious warning and went beyond the simple interests of expropriated firms. It was an inadmissible precedent for peaceful progress and social change for the peoples of the world, particularly those in France and Italy, where present conditions make an attempt at an experiment along the lines of Chile possible. All forces of internal and external reaction came together to form a compact bloc.
At the time, and I remember it well, everything was clear though undocumented – and there was still the attempt of denial – the denial of the obvious fact that this was a geopolitical strategy with many heads behind it. And mentioning those heads, pointing out that it was a coup that had been prepared for some time, had to face too often skeptical answers — but at some stage the truth cannot be denied anymore
Actually, what is true for the hot war is also true for the cold war. Chile was, at the time of Pinochet, celebrated as blueprint for what is now known as neoliberalism – to on a pedestal by Milton Friedman; and fostered by the IMF. But even in the IMF, some people wake up
, seeing in tendency the wrongs for which they stand today:
An assess- ment of these specific policies (rather than the broad neoliberal agenda) reaches three disquieting conclusions:
• The benefits in terms of increased growth seem fairly dif- ficult to establish when looking at a broad group of countries.
• The costs in terms of increased inequality are promi- nent. Such costs epitomize the trade-off between the growth and equity effects of some aspects of the neoliberal agenda.
• Increased inequality in turn hurts the level and sustain- ability of growth. Even if growth is the sole or main purpose of the neoliberal agenda, advocates of that agenda still need to pay attention to the distributional effects.
Back to today’s main stage then where it had been
against Chile as well — for Cuba it had been already the known strategy for a while.
And the new strategy after the democratically elected government was overthrown, was clear. The Pinochet-regime, after first establishing itself by bloody measures, established the new reign – present in an article published in The Guardian
After Allende’s enemies finally claimed their victory against him on 11 September, Chileans protected themselves as best they could while Pinochet and his cohorts, well favoured now by Washington, turned to making themselves fortunes from the privatisation of public services and, quietly, from the trade in cocaine from Bolivia which the US never seemed to want to criticise or attack.
Indeed, Clausewitz new it and spelled it out:
War is not merely an act of policy but a true political instrument, a continuation of political intercourse carried on with other means.
And it is in this sense that we have to learn about the “invisible financial and economic blockade” Allende spoke of, addressing the UN in December 1972.
Of course, the Wise Men of the Left, and others too, have hastened to proclaim that Chile is not France, or Italy, or Britain. This is quite true. No country is like any other: circumstances are always different, not only between one country and another, but between one period and another in the same country. Such wisdom makes it possible and plausible to argue that the experience of a country or period cannot provide conclusive “lessons.”
But still, despite that there are many lessons we can learn from history, also from the history of 9/11 1973 – in particular when we see all these events, now and then, not as individual occurrences but as part of the ongoing history of striving for global hegemony.