Socialist Worker

The battle to determine what Allende's government in Chile represented

by Ken Olende
Issue No. 2370

 After the 1970 election UP argued it found a new path to socialism bypassing old divisions between reform and revolution.

Allende argued, “Sceptics and catastrophe-mongers will say that a parliament that has served the ruling class so well is not capable of transforming itself into a parliament of the Chilean people.”

But, he explained, “Our case opens up possibilities, it shows a way. Apparently it can be said of us that we are mere reformers, but we have taken measures that imply we want to bring about revolution.”

Much of the world’s left agreed uncritically. Many dismissed Socialist Worker as living in the past for insisting that the classical Marxist understanding of the state was still vital. 

Socialist Worker was in a small minority in arguing that, “The same army that has been used to shoot down strikers would not sit by and let the ruling class be voted out of existence.” 

After the coup much of the left flipped to saying that too much had been attempted.

A British CP statement at the end of the year echoed a line taken up around the world as it complained that UP had moved too fast and so “contributed to the alienation of large sections of the middle strata and aggravated the situation of conflict at a time when the relation of class forces was still unfavourable.”

But as Socialist Worker’s sister publication International Socialism said at the time, “All the elements necessary for such a movement were present in Chile: the occupation of the factories, the fight of the peasantry for land, the preparation of at least some sections of the workers for armed struggle”.

Those who thought that UP had gone too far took a pessimistic view of the potential for socialist progress. The disastrous idea of the labour movement in Italy making a “historic compromise” came from this mood. 

As did the rise of Eurocommunism that effectively said there is no alternative to capitalism and the left must make its peace with the system.

But all of these ignored the fact a real alternative was workers overthrowing capitalism altogether.

 


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