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Alan Woods: Lessons of Chile 1973

I anledning af 25 året for Pinochets kup I 1983 blev dette dokument skrevet af Alan Woods udgivet på engelsk. Oprindelig stammer det fra det spansksprogede marxistiske Magasin ”Nuevo Claridad” (Ny klarhed) og er fra 1979. Teksten her er forkortet.

Efter en indledning med rids af Chiles historie fortsætter det med

 

Labour movement's birth

Capitalism had already become the decisive force in the country before the First World War. But Chilean capitalism, from its birth, was tied in a decisive manner to foreign imperialist interests. On the other hand it was tied to the interests of the big landlords through banking and commerce. It is precisely for this reason that the "national" bourgeoisie has never been capable of carrying out the historic tasks of the bourgeois democratic revolution and never will be capable of so doing.

How could a serious fight against imperialist control of the country be posed when the vital interests of the Chilean bourgeoisie were dependent upon foreign investment and foreign trade? How could a real agrarian reform be posed when an important part of its capital came from the same landlords with whom the bourgeoisie were connected by thousands of ties of family, education, etc.?

In short the historic tasks of the bourgeois democratic revolution could not be carried out by the bourgeoisie. Which other social class could carry them out? The peasantry? These "dark masses", dispersed, ignorant, and subjected to the most brutal oppression for centuries, were only capable of periodically carrying out acts of desperate rebellion, without any possibility of success, because they did not find a conscious leadership in another social class, based in the nerve centres of the country; the towns. The peasantry, the most heterogeneous social class, has been the social class that is least capable of playing an independent political role. It either acted under the leadership of the proletariat or the bourgeoisie. In fact the struggle for political hegemony in the peasantry is a key question for the socialist revolution in Chile. In this sense the first step is the recognition that it is impossible for this social class to play an independent role.

The middle class? The political representatives of the middle class in Chile have got nothing in common with the French Jacobins, the petit-bourgeois revolutionaries of the 18th century who made up the spearhead of the bourgeois democratic revolution. The long period of economic boom which lasted from 1891 to 1918 gave the Chilean oligarchy a wide margin for manoeuvre to buy the loyalty of the middle class, offering it bureaucratic careers in the State and in government. In this way there arose a new caste of professional politicians. The "liberal" politicians of the middle class sold themselves to the oligarchy for a small amount of money. From that moment the middle class in Chile thought of politics as a very profitable business; this have been even more true for the so-called "progressive" politicians of the bourgeoisie. The "liberals", "radicals" and "christian democrats" fully participated in this repugnant spectacle of corruption and prostitution, whilst the masses of the peasantry and the working class were mere passive spectators of the parliamentary game. The political representatives of the middle class were tied hand and foot to the carriage of the oligarchy which guaranteed them positions in the administration. For them the system functioned quite well. From the very beginning the Chilean "liberals" have been the left boot of the oligarchy.

On the other hand the rise of the Chilean economy carried with it the development of industry and the working class. With the development of industry and commerce masses of poor peasants emigrated to the towns from the country. In 1907 some 43.2% of the population lived in urban centres. In 1920 this figure reached 46.4%. In Santiago alone there was 14% of the total population. This rapid process of proletarianisation led to the first attempts to organise the working class, beginning in the trade union field.

From the beginning of the century Luis Emilio Recabarren already headed the process of organisation in the nitrate mines. Much later in 1910 the FOCh was formed. Two years later Recabarren tried to give the first political expression to the Chilean labour movement with the formation of the POS in Iquique.

But it was the events which followed the First World War, above all the Russian Revolution, which provoked an enormous radicalisation within the young Chilean working class. The world recession which began in 1918 caused a fall in the price of copper and nitrates. All the social contradictions which were hidden in the previous period came to the surface. Between the years 1913 and 1923 the real wages of the workers were reduced by 10% because of inflation. The importance of this period of radicalisation is demonstrated by the wave of strikes which took place between 1911 and 1920: some 293 were counted.

The key event in the process of the awakening consciousness of the Chilean workers was the Russian revolution. In an atmosphere of general radicalisation the Socialist Workers Party of Chile (POS) came out in favour of the Russian revolution and in 1922 accepted the 21 conditions by which it could enter the Communist International, changing its name to the Communist Party of Chile.

In the following years Chilean society experienced a permanent crisis at all levels, which created enormous possibilities for the triumph of the socialist revolution. The illusions of the masses in the "progressive" politicians of the bourgeoisie were frustrated after the elections of 1918. The "Liberal Alliance" government of Alessandri Palma showed its complete inability to solve even one of the problems of the working class.

The workers learnt through bitter experience to completely distrust the "liberal" politicians of the bourgeoisie. Economic power remained in the hands of the monopolies and the landowners. The economic crisis went from bad to worse. With the growing control of imperialism over the economy it became increasingly evident to everyone that the Chilean bourgeoisie was nothing more than the local agency of foreign capitalism.

The political instability was reflected in the number of "pronunciamientos" (military coups) and in the change in the constitution in 1925.

The world recession of 1929 hit Chile very hard, forcing it to abandon the gold standard and to repudiate its foreign debt. Mining production in 1929 only reached 52% of the average for the period 1927-29. Unemployment rose massively. In 1929 there were 91,000 miners employed, at the end of 1931 only 31,000.

 

Opportunities lost

The generalised discontent at all levels of society found its most clear expression in a wave of agitation amongst the students at the University of Chile. In general intellectuals and students are a very sensitive barometer of the contradictions and tensions within society. Lenin explained many times that the objective conditions for carrying out a socialist revolution were (and are) four in number: in the first place that the ruling class loses confidence in itself and cannot continue exercising its rule with the same methods as before. Secondly, that the social reserves of reaction, the middle classes, are vacillating or at least neutral. Thirdly, that the working class is ready to fight for a radical and decisive change in society. And fourthly that there exists a revolutionary party with a revolutionary leadership that is able to lead the masses towards the taking of power.

The crisis of the Chilean ruling class was shown by the permanent governmental crises which characterised the decades of the 1920s. The ferment amongst the students indicated a generalised discontent amongst the middle class. Doctors and other professional sections joined in the protests of the students. There were a number of violent demonstrations which led to the collapse of the Ibanez dictatorship and his fleeing the country. If there had existed an authentically mass revolutionary party in Chile, the pre-revolutionary situation could have been transformed into a revolutionary situation with the taking of power by the working class.

The tragedy of the Chilean working class was that the consolidation of the Communist Party coincided with the Stalinist degeneration of the USSR. We saw the same processes reflected in all the parties of the Communist International which continued to blindly follow the political line determined by the interests of the Russian bureaucracy. From 1928 onwards the International, created under the Leninist policy of proletarian internationalism, officially approved the Stalinist line of "socialism in one country", which effectively converted the communist parties into mere instruments of the foreign policy of the Russian bureaucracy. This was the decisive step in the national reformist degeneration of all the parties of the Comintern.

At the same time, under the instructions of the Stalinist clique in Moscow, the parties of the International approved the ultra-left madness of the so-called "Third Period", according to which all the other organisations of the working class were "social fascist". This policy was the cause of the terrible failure of the German working class in 1933. In all the other countries the Communist Parties lost their base amongst the masses as a consequence of this madness, which went directly against the policy of the United Front as advocated by Lenin. In Chile too the Stalinist policy produced disastrous results. We saw the CP reduced to a sectarian grouplet isolated from the masses at a decisive moment, and totally incapable of giving serious leadership to the revolutionary movement.

 

Foundation of the Socialist Party

Consequently the opportunity was lost. The short-lived "socialist" government of Carlos Davila was overthrown in September 1932 by the coup d'etat of Arturo Alessandri. It is interesting to draw attention to the fact that the "liberal" party of the Chilean bourgeoisie the Radicals, supported Alessandri. During the 1930s in fact the Radical Party was controlled by a clique of landlords and big capitalists.

In the main the disaster of 1932 was caused by the absence of a mass revolutionary party. The Davila government had proclaimed the "socialist republic" in Chile, but not counting on the active support of the masses it remained suspended in mid-air. The method of the "pronunciamento" is sometimes sufficient to carry out a radical change without breaking the bourgeois order. But the socialist movement has to be based on the conscious movement of the working class. In this context Adonis Sepulveda comments in his article on the history of the PSCh:

"The movement did not maintain its support in the masses, it did not hand over arms to the people to defend the government, there wasn't a party to give a lead to the resolve of the workers to fight." (El Socialismo Chileno, no. 1, May 1976)

The experience of these events convinced the best fighters of the Chilean working class of the urgent need for a new party, a party which would really defend the interests of the working class, which would not base itself on the social-democratic reformism of the Second International, nor on the Stalinist perversion of the Comintern, but which had to return to the authentic ideas of Marxism-Leninism, the ideas of Bolshevism and the October Revolution. Many cadres of the old POS, discontent with the Stalinist line of the CP, joined in with this initiative to found the Socialist Party in April 1933.

Here it would be convenient to precis some of the most outstanding points of the old "Declaration of Principles" of the Socialist Party.

Methods of Interpretation

The Party accepts Marxism, enriched and altered by all the scientific contributions of constant social developments, as a method of interpreting reality.

The Class Struggle

The present capitalist organisation divides human society into two classes which are clearly defined as each day passes. One class which has appropriated the means of production and which exploits them for its own benefit. and another class which works, which produces and which has no other means to live than its wage.

The need of the working class to achieve its economic well-being and the eagerness of the possessing class to maintain its privileges determines the struggle between the classes.

The State

The capitalist class is represented by the existing state which is an oppressive organism of one class over another. Once classes have been eliminated the oppressive character of the state should disappear and it should limit itself to guide, harmonise and protect the activities of society.

Transformation of the System

The system of capitalist production based on the private ownership of the land, the instruments of production, exchange, credit and transport, should of necessity be replaced by a socialist economic system in which the above-mentioned private property is transformed into collective property.

Dictatorship of the Workers

During the process of the total transformation of the system a dictatorship of organised workers is necessary.

The evolutionary transformation by means of the democratic system is not possible because the ruling class has organised itself into official armed bodies and has erected its own dictatorship to maintain the workers in poverty and ignorance and prevent their emancipation.

Internationalism and Economic anti-imperialism

The socialist doctrine has an international character and demands a joint and co-ordinated action by the workers of the world.

In order to realise this aim the Socialist Party will propose the economic and political unity of the peoples of Latin America to achieve the Federation of Socialist Republics of the continent and the creation of an anti-imperialist policy

These basic principles were kept in a written form in the membership card of every militant of the PSCh for the first 25 years of its existence.

Madrid, January 1979

 

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