“Learn the lesson…(because) sooner rather than later, the great boulevards will open again through which the free man will pass, to build a better society… I am sure that my sacrifice will not be in vain.”
Salvador Allende, at 9:30 am on September 11, 1973.
The military coup, the death of Salvador Allende and the end of the Popular Unity government, on the cloudy, cold and melancholy morning of Santiago de Chile, that September 11, 1973, was a tragic moment in the political history of the Latin American left, and it was also a moment of irreversible change in the continent’s critical and progressive thinking.
In the 60’s, and until the beginning of the 70’s, of the last century, Latin America lived a moment of intense intellectual and political creativity. It was the golden period of the Cuban revolution and its influence on the armed struggle movements of the continent, in particular, in Brazil, Uruguay and Argentina, and a little later, in Central America.
It was the time of the military reformism of Velasco Alvarado, in Peru, and Juan Jose Torres, in Bolivia; the return of Peronism and the victory of Juan Domingos Peron, in Argentina; from the first Christian Democrat reformist experience, in Venezuela, and above all, from Eduardo Frei’s “Cepal reformism” and Salvador Allende’s “democratic socialism” in Chile. Against the background, as a political and intellectual challenge, the “economic miracle” of the Brazilian military regime.
During this period, Santiago became the meeting point for intellectuals from around the world, and became the epicenter of what was perhaps the most creative period in 20th century Latin American political and intellectual history. Revolutionaries and reformers, Christian Democrats, socialists, communists and radicals, technocrats and intellectuals, union leaders, priests, artists and students discussed – at all hours and in every corner of the city – about revolution and socialism, but also, on development and underdevelopment, industrialization and agrarian reform, imperialism and dependency, democracy and social reforms, and on the very historical specificity of Latin American capitalism.
:: After 48 years of the coup, what is Allende’s legacy for the constituent in Chile? ::
Why Santiago? Because Chile was the only country on the continent where attempts were made – in fact – to combine democracy with socialism, nationalizations with private capitalism, and developmentalism with agrarian reform, during the Popular Front period, between 1938 and 1947, and during the Unity government Popular, between 1970 and 1973, but also, in a way, during the Christian Democrat government of Eduardo Frei, between 1964 and 1970.
In the 1930s, Chilean socialists and communists formed a Popular Front with the Radical Party, won the 1938 presidential elections, and then were re-elected three more times before being separated by US intervention at the start of the Cold War. in 1947.
The Chilean Popular Front governments, under the leadership of the Radical Party, placed their emphasis on universal education and public health programs, but also on infrastructure, planning and protection of the internal market and industry. But it was only in 1970 that the Popular Unity government explicitly proposed a project of “democratic transition to socialism”, as a development strategy without destroying the capitalist economy.
Before Allende, the Christian Democrats “Chileanized” copper, and began agrarian reform, but the UP government accelerated agrarian reform and radicalized the nationalization of foreign copper-producing companies, and went beyond that by proposing to create a ” strategic industrial nucleus”, owned by the state, which should be the leader of the capitalist economy and the embryo of the future socialist economy.
This was, in fact, the bone of contention that divided the left throughout the Popular Unity government, reaching the point of rupture, between those who wanted to limit industrial nationalization to strategic sectors of the economy, and those who wanted to extend them, to give rise to a new “mode of production” over state hegemony. Well then, this absolutely original project of “democratic transition to socialism” by the Popular Unity government was interrupted by General Pinochet’s military coup, with decisive support from the US and the Brazilian military government.
But as Salvador Allende predicted, in his last speech, “much sooner than later”, the Socialist Party returned to the government of Chile in 1989, allied with the Christian Democrats. But at that time, Chilean communists had been decimated, and socialists had already adhered to the neoliberal consensus, hegemonic during the 1990s, and had put aside their socialist dreams.
A decade later, however, at the beginning of the 21st century, the left has advanced much further and conquered the government of almost every country in South America. Allende’s last words at Palace of Money, were called to rule.
Everywhere, in various parts of South America, the left returned to discuss socialism, developmentalism, equality and new strategies for social transformation for the 21st century.
But after a decade, the Latin American left realized that the word “socialism” today has absolutely different connotations in the Andean Mountains, in the Great Metropolises, in small towns, or in the vast fields occupied by the export success of agribusiness; that “developmentalism” has become an anodyne and technocratic project, devoid of any utopian horizon; that defending “industry” or “re-industrialization” has become commonplace in the press, which can mean anything according to the economist on duty; and “social reformism” was dissolved in a set of disconnected policies and programs originating from the World Bank, more concerned with its “cost-effectiveness” than with the struggle for social equality.
Adding and subtracting today, exactly forty-eight years after the death of Salvador Allende, the balance is very clear and challenging: the leftist generation of the 60s and 70s came to power in many countries, but they no longer had on their side. the power of the dream and the utopia that led Salvador Allende to resistance, silence and death, on that violent and unforgettable morning of September 11, 1973, in the cloudy, cold and melancholic city of Santiago de Chile.
*This article only updates the date and reproduces an article with the same name published on September 11, 2013, when the Chilean coup d’état completed 40 years.
**José Luis Fiori is a permanent professor at the Postgraduate Program in International Political Economy, PEPI, coordinator of the GP of UFRJ/CNPQ, “Global power and the geopolitics of capitalism”; assistant coordinator of the “Ethics and Global Power” Laboratory; researcher at the Institute for Strategic Studies of Oil, Gas and Biofuels, INEEP. He published O Poder global and the new geopolitics of nations by Editora Boitempo in 2007; History, strategy and development by Boitempo, in 2014; and Sobre a Guerra, by Editora Vozes Petrópolis, in 2018.
***This is an opinion piece. The author’s vision does not necessarily express the editorial line of the Brazil in fact.
Edition: Vivian Virissimo