ALLENDE FACED the organised resistance of the Chilean ruling class. Allende’s government did nationalise some industry in its first year. But his government was far from extreme. It nationalised 38 big enterprises and took over 1,400 farms. But this was not a major inroad into capitalist power.
Land reform, for example, touched only 7 percent of the rural population, and the nationalisation of industry affected just one in eight of the major firms. Allende reassured business by signing a ‘statute of guarantees’ which pledged the government would leave the army, education system, church and media untouched.
But the Chilean ruling class wanted to get rid of Allende and to smash the workers’ movement. In December 1971, during a visit by Cuban leader Fidel Castro, right wing parties organised a demonstration-‘the march of the pots’-of 5,000 middle and upper class women through Santiago.
They claimed they were suffering from food shortages and battered pots and pans together in protest. Yet the rich had hoarded food supplies while workers were deprived of food. In October 1972 the lorry owners launched a national wave of sabotage. Nominally this was a protest at Allende’s moves to nationalise the road transport industry.
But although the action began in transport, it developed into a generalised offensive of the ruling class. Other sections of the middle class joined in. Far from challenging the ruling class and the generals Allende sought to conciliate them. In October 1972 he signed a law giving the army extra powers and he brought generals into the cabinet.
Allende said, ‘Over and above all things, the Chilean armed forces are professional and respectful of the constitution and the laws.’
Every working class person will feel the pressure
Two inspiring strikes show the way forward