1973.11.01: Coup in Chile (Red Tide)

[Historical Note: The Red Tide was a revolutionary high school underground newspaper and youth organization that existed from 1971-1981. See: http://theredtide.wordpress.com/http://theredtide.wordpress.com/]

Red Tide, Vol. 3, No. 1 [Issue # 11]
November 1973

Coup in Chile
[By Michael Letwin]

Since the coup on September 11, at least 20,000 people have been murdered in Chile. General Pinochet has outlawed all political parties except those which support the government, and the military dictatorship is in the process of murdering thousands of workers who were working for socialism, and jailing thousands more.


In 1970, a “Marxist”‘ Salvador Allende, was elected president of Chile, representing a coalition culled “Popular Unity.” Allende stated that he would carry out radical reform, and that in the end, he would bring about socialism.

The first and most radical step that Allende took was the nationalization of the (primarily U.S. owned) businesses such as Anaconda, Kennecott Copper and numerous other foreign corporate interests. These firms had been making enormous profits and paying the workers starvation wages. After the nationalizations, the firms affected attempted find ways of getting rid of Allende to protect their profits.


This was disclosed when IT&T failed to shred incriminating evidence before it fell into the hands of columnist Jack Anderson. When the Allende Government seized IT&T’s subsidiary, the Chilean Telephone Company (Chiltelco) in October 1971, additional evidence was discovered in the flies.

As early as February 1970, more than six months before the popular vote for president, IT&T cabled instructions lo Chiltelco to compile a list of the leading U.S. corporations in Chile, so that they could band together to defeat Allende. It was also found that IT&T offered the CIA $1 million to help get rid of Allende. This was all uncovered in U.S. Congressional hearings.

IT&T and its cohorts were able to influence the US. Government to block loans to the Popular Unity Government. Kennecott Copper, one of the nationalized firms, waged a fight in courtrooms around the world to impound the shipments of copper that were coming from “their” mines. In response, Canadian and Dutch banks suspended all credit to Chile in October of 1971.


What all of this amounted to was a U.S.-sponsored blockade similar to that which was placed on Cuba since the early 1960s. Chile was unable to purchase food, medicine, equipment, and spare parts for machinery that had been bought prior to the Allende regime from the U.S.

Because of the economic blockade, designed to ruin Chile’s economy and bring Allende’s downfall, inflation rose to 300% and Chile was unable to pay $700 million it had promised to pay for the nationalized U.S. corporations.


The only government agency in Chile to receive any sort of financial aid was the military, which was completely independent of the Allende regime, and which the U.S. hoped would turn on that regime, reversing the reforms which had been brought about.


It is interesting that the press in this country, especially since Allende’s fall, has blamed the disastrous economic situation in Chile on the Popular Unity Government. In fact, many of the economic problems were part of a plan by the U.S. Government and business to sabotage the economy of Chile.

However, the U.S. involvement  in Chile was only half the problem. The other was the Allende government itself, although not in the way that U.S. corporations or press would characterize it.


Allende never understood some basic facts. Socialism is not simply a society in which the president claims to be a socialist. Rather it is a completely different system where the working class as a whole democratically runs all aspects of society.

In Chile, Allende was attempting to get the army and the rest the government to come to the side of the workers, or at least remain neutral. No army is ever neutral. They line up lo defend a certain type of economic and political system.

Allende continually made concessions to the army officers, the rich, and small scale owners (truck owners, shop keepers, etc.), He gave the army total political freedom. He told workers not to take over factories. He placed army officers in positions in the government. He helped disarm the workers. He never seemed to realize that one day, he and the army have to have it out. He did nothing to prepare himself or the people of Chile for such In event.


The army was just waiting for the right chance to launch a right wing attack. Allende, forgetting that people with money and power never give up without a fight, could not defend his government nor could the working people of Chile defend themselves.

While the military carried out executions of workers in the streets with U.S. arms, and the air force cordoned off whole working class sections of Chile and destroyed them with U.S. planes, the working people had nothing to defend themselves with. This was so because Allende had told people to keep faith in Chile’s “neutral” army, that there was no need to arm themselves.

This reaction too, was not reported accurately in the press in this country, and one must listen to those who were in Chile at the time to really understand the effect of Allende’s mistakes, and of the U.S. government’s sabotage.

Thousands upon thousands of workers and peasants who supported the gains of the Allende regime have been murdered by the troops of the Pinochet government. Jeff Boltz, an American who was in Chile at the time of the coup, reported at UCLA on Sept. 27th that “the machine guns of the military didn’t stop all night in the summary executions.”


What is clear is that the U.S. role in Chile was more than just the sabotage of the economy. Assistant Secretary of State Jack Kubisch had originally informed members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that the U,S, received warning of the coup the night before its execution. This warning, according to the September 13th Washington Post, was passed on to “the highest level” in Washington, and a decision was made not to warn Allende.

It is not hard to imagine why the U.S. Government would want to get rid of the Allende Government.

And of course there were editorials such as those in the L.A, Times of September 12th, claiming that because Allende was a “Marxist,” he could not hold the economy together, and this caused his own downfall.

And in relation to the possibility (or rather inevitability) of U.S. involvement they say: “We assume it didn’t happen.” How logical! Perhaps the Times just doesn’t remember Vietnam, Korea, the Bay of Pigs in Cuba, to name a few, where the U.S. Government secretly intervened in foreign nations to protect U.S. business.

The events in Chile were made possible by the combined efforts of the U.S. Government and the illusions of the Allende regime. Though there can be no doubt but that the U.S. did its best to bring the present military coup to power, Allende and his policies of limited reforms, instead of total revolution, made it possible for the reaction to succeed, and that while we must point out that the U.S. policies are typical of a government that works in the interests of big business, socialism, a society in which the working people are in power, can only come about by a revolution which makes it impossible for a counterrevolution to succeed.



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