It is unutterably painful to have to read the U.S. press on Chile: The N. Y. Times quotes a bulletin dispatch by El Mercurio - whose photographer was permitted by the Junta into the bombed presidential palace - describing Allende on a blood-stained sofa with a bullet through his mouth. But it is no accident that it was Mercurio that was admitted in, with the chief of national police and the morgue doctor. And no accident that the Times quotes Mercurio.
It seems very unreal - even the blood. And for the next months New Yorkers will be talking about State of Seige, a second rate film scenario made about Uruguay and merely produced in graceful and libertarian Chile. Now it has become real.
In an interview several weeks ago, a Socialist Member of Parliament, Adonis Sepulveda, asked what would happen in the event of a golpe, an armed coup, answered:
A military take-over would never succeed in unifying the country. Socialists - while we have life - would fight against it. That is also the feeling of the Chilean people. Whoever would make a coup must take that into account, that they would do it over thousands and thousands of corpses of workers; because they - with or without direction - are going out to defend their interests.
The workers have a clear consciousness that they are playing out their destiny now. . .
The hard truth is that, whatever degree of consciousness they had, in the week of the golpe one of the main interests of the masses must have been bread. With the transport strike little food was coming into the shops, and the country had only three days' supply of flour. The truckers’ strike was reinforced by a small shopkeepers’ strike. It was these two strategically located sectors of Chilean society that brought the citizens to their knees so that the army could bludgeon them.
The absolutely weird thing about American reporting - or about the climate of ideas in which the stories are read - is that the strikes were described as terrorism by the workers. The reverse was true: they were strikes by the owners, and a crucial and determined part of the Right's strategy.
The recent history of Chilean politics has been largely an elaborate game of chess in which Allende was trying both to placate, and to defuse the army. The French weekly, Le Monde, put it this way:
An experienced politician carefully respecting the legality which permitted him to come to power in an election, the socialist and moderate Allende is the tranquil father of the revolution. He hoped to associate a large fraction of the middle classes In the experience of a non-violent transition to socialism. . .
The great majority of the army officers are middle class. To bring them to participate more and more widely in the tasks of government was Mr. Allende's way of reenforcing the tactical advantage of an alliance between the voters of the Popular Unity Party and the lower middle class. In this he was encouraged by the Communists. It was the left wing of the Socialist Party that was opposed to this line, which was judged too reformist . . .
In the last election the Far-Right party, the Nationalists, had gotten 21% of the vote. Their strategy was quite simple: to make Chile another Greece, in a game of provocation and subversion that was the theme of the moving picture, Z. This small openly fascist segment of the populace has now won, and the military junta in its decrees and press releases is now mouthing its slogans.
Also opposed to the Popular Unity Government were the Christian Democrats, who received 28% of the votes in the last March elections. But the Christian Democrats were trying to paste over a serious split: much of the leadership favored the strategy of the Nationalists but did not want to be swallowed by them after a take-over. Their proclamations in favor of legality and the constitution were in part a maneuvering for position and in part to hold their own grass roots membership of average apolitical Chileans horrified by the idea of soldiers fighting citizens. Now the blood has run and the leaders of the Christian Democratic party have declared for the junta. But my guess is that they have alienated their membership, and are either dead, captured or hunted.
Among the Popular Unity parties which constituted the government, the Communists were the moderates. (Their vote in the elections was 15%; the Socialist 18%. The leaders and Congressmen of both parties are now on the subversives list.) The Communists had been preoccupied with political compromise, directed at almost any costs to keeping the constitutional regime. In addition to the political maneuvering they had two main tactics. One was a campaign directed towards the enlisted men in the army. The street slogans of the Communista Juventud (not reported in The N. Y Times) were: "Soldiers and the People, United we will Win"; and the other: "Soldiers join your class brothers".
The Communists also controlled the over-all trade union organization, the C.U.T. On this level they devoted themselves to coordinating the leaders of the syndicates - mainly in the larger nationalized factories but also others where the ownership was in dispute. The response of the workers to the preliminary golpe of June 28 - as it had been to the owners' strike last autumn - was simply to seize all the factories, and keep on working.
This also was not mentioned in The N. Y Times reports. These were the two anchors of the Government's strategy - concurred in by the Communists and by the moderate wing of the Socialist party and by MAPU. On the day of Allende's death most of the factories must have been seized in Santiago.
But this classic strategy of the Left had been tried in Uruguay, and the occupying workers had been systematically liquidated by the army. The main question was, should the workers be armed? But this was never mentioned publicly by the Chilean Left (except by M.I.R.). To do so would have immediately brought the army over to the side of the Rightists. In the face of the mutiny by the army the left was stuck - whether it wanted it or not - with a basically nonviolent and passive resistance strategy.
The long range plan of the Left was simply to organize the people to push on to socialism, and very intensively to develop mass organizations, organizaciones de les bases at every level. In other words the centrists and trade union organization of the Communists, and a kind of parallel and auxiliary effort everywhere else: in the pobblaciones where people lived: the juntos des vecinos, neighborhood clubs; centro des madres, womens’ organizations; the commando communales, neighborhood self-defense forces; the peasant organizations and the Cordones Industriales, the local factory workers' groups.
Given a time span of possibly three years - until the 1976 elections - this strategy could conceivably have worked. With the tanks on the streets, that was the end of it. Or have we reached the end yet in Chile?
In any case there was a point just before the tanks moved in where the drama was still unresolved and the balance of forces quite close - that was the economic front in the last few weeks, more precisely the truckowners' attempt to create economic chaos, to deny the city of Santiago food.
The basic situation with the transport strike up to the last days was this: in the public area the government controlled less than 20% of the trucks. The rest were owned by the big outfits, the Confederacion Nacional de Duenos de Camiones, headed by Villarin. These were taken to large truck parks outside the principal cities and parts removed. The government was able to seize and recondition only a few. These truck parks were guarded by para-military bands of the Patria y Libertad. The neighborhood food and supply committees were somewhat organized, and had a supply network into the countryside. But when independent drivers tried to go out into the countryside, they were shot down.
The army and the national police did not choose to intervene to protect the supply lines and maintain law and order. There were thousands of acts of terrorism - committed by the owners and the organized right.
This drama has been played out on a small stage: a country of 12 million people, where many of the public leaders, in one camp or another, knew each other. There is a curiously intimate quality; when they speak they conjure up faces. There is certainly the flavor of Marquez' novel, A Hundred Years of Solitude, in the laconic resignation statement of General Carlos Prats, loyal to Allende and forced out by the Santiago Military Corps: (quoted in Le Monde)
I'm leaving because I do not want to break the Institution of which I am a part. Among the women who have been demonstrating in front of my house there have been several wives of generals.
Allende was fond of using the word "impudent" to characterize certain Nationalist political figures. In his last words, broadcast as the presidential palace was being attacked, he uses the word 'ignominy'.