I would laugh if the tally on this poll was not so pathetic. It merely goes to show that feelings are more important than facts for so many people. How can anyone take these people seriously?
IN the Washington Post…
The Left Killed Allende, Too
By Roberto Ampuero
Washington Post | September 8, 2003
Roberto Ampuero was a 20-year-old member of the Chilean Communist Students Organization when the elected president of his country, Salvador Allende, was overthrown in a bloody coup on Sept. 11, 1973 – 30 years ago this week. After the coup, Ampuero left Chile. He lived for five years in Cuba, where he became disenchanted with communism.
The author of seven published novels, he is now pursuing a PhD in Latin American literature at the University of Iowa.The following essay, which he titled “We All Killed Allende,” is his attempt to make sense of the events of three decades ago – events that changed both him and his country.
“I raise my glass to your excellency, the president of the republic, and to the armed forces’ loyalty to your government.” Gen. Augusto Pinochet spoke these words to Salvador Allende at the Military Club in Santiago, Chile, in August 1973 – just days before Pinochet led the coup that toppled Allende’s elected leftist government and resulted in a 17-year military dictatorship in Chile.
The image of the traitorous Pinochet fits neatly into the popular interpretations of that time, which rightly condemn not only the Chilean Right but also the U.S. government for its role in the coup. But it also obscures a painful truth: The Chilean Left shares responsibility for the tragic end of the Allende government. Thirty years later, the refusal of many on the Left to acknowledge this continues to retard not only historical understanding, but also a full renewal of left-wing politics in Latin America.
During the Allende years, the Chilean Left’s principal failing was to have mentally cast aside our democratic system in order to try to replace it with a system which, by any reasonable measure, had already failed in Eastern Europe, Asia and in Fidel Castro’s Cuba. Even before Allende’s Popular Unity (UP) coalition – which included Chile’s Communist and Socialist parties and several smaller, leftist parties that became extremist – took control of the government in 1970, many elements of the left, captivated by then-fashionable ideological interpretations of reality, had declared Chilean democracy defunct.
These elements were proposing the Leninist demolition of the “bourgeois” state and its replacement by a “proletarian” one, either by peaceful means or through armed struggle. (The exception, ironically, was the Chilean Communist Party, which, following the cautious Moscow line at the time, advocated a reformist path.) The amazing thing about this is that although UP controlled the executive branch and a substantial part of the legislative branch, this did not cause leftists generally to acknowledge the space for social transformation that the Chilean system did offer in 1970.
Instead of advancing gradually with economic reforms and social benefits for the lower and middle classes, as the UP government had proposed during the campaign, the ultra-left parties within UP played at overtaking Allende on the left, promoting the arbitrary and massive expropriation of factories and farms, demanding the establishment of a unitary single state educational system, of “popular” justice and a “democratic” army. They paraded armed militias that would later prove to be capable only of scaring rightists, not actually fighting; they demanded the renunciation of the country’s international financial obligations; they unfurled the banners of Cuba and North Vietnam and the image of Che Guevara.
All of this helped damage the economy, frighten the middle class and provoke the Right and Chile’s creditors. In sum, it helped create a suffocating atmosphere in the country and deprived the UP of the majority support it required to approve and consolidate change in a democratic way. Leftist leaders, in a kind of anti-Allende conspiracy of their own, called those who remained loyal to the gradualist program “Mensheviks” and “traitors to the people.”
At the same time, they ignored the workings of the democratic system, on the basis of which Allende had established his revolution of “meat pies and red wine,” as we called it. It was based on that system that members of parliament of the Left and center had elected Allende president even though he had received only 36.6 percent of the popular vote. And it should not be forgotten that on August 22, 1973, in the middle of extreme shortages of basic goods, acute political violence and economic crisis, the Chilean Chamber of Deputies declared the Popular Unity government illegal.
Allende entered into immortality by committing suicide as Pinochet’s forces encircled La Moneda, the great gray presidential palace in Santiago – a suicide for which not only Pinochet, the Right and the United States are to blame, but also Allende’s allies, who left him to fend for himself. His sacrifice, orphaned as he was by the UP leaders who fled into exile rather than resist at La Moneda, symbolizes dramatically the abandonment, isolation and betrayal to which Allende was subjected by far left-wing leaders who flirted with the armed struggle but who, when the bullets began to fly, largely vanished into thin air. Today they are mostly neoliberals or center-leftists. What Pinochet did in 1973 was simply to deliver the final blow to a democratic and republican order in Chile that many sectors of the left had already abandoned after the 1970 election.
Allende’s death is full of symbolism. He killed himself with a rifle given to him by Castro. Castro had always posed as Allende’s friend, but at bottom he did not share Allende’s faith in the electoral route to social change. It could not have been otherwise: Allende had won countless elections throughout his life; Castro never even won a student election in his pre-revolutionary days – but he has won them all in his 44 years as a dictator, each time with 99 percent of the vote. Castro played a decisive role in wearing Allende down: first, by organizing and financing the Movement of the Revolutionary Left, a guerrilla group that aggressively pursued socialism through a campaign of bombings, assassinations and bank robberies during the Allende years, and, second, through the military training of ultra-Left members of Allende’s own Socialist Party and other small leftist parties.
Finally came Castro’s official three-week visit to Chile during 1971. For weeks, the Allende government, facing tenacious opposition from the right, could not rid itself of a guest who was as inopportune as he was interventionist. Heedless of the political damage he was causing the Popular Unity government, Castro traveled through Chile boasting of the most radical measures his own regime had taken, attacking parliamentary democracy, teaching how to make Marxist revolution, and generally causing the hair of the Chilean right, the military and the U.S. government to stand on end.
At Castro’s final appearance, at the National Stadium in Santiago, Allende simply did not show up, and Castro failed to fill half the seats. The Cuban played both sides of the street in Chile. He publicly expressed support for Allende’s approach, but at the same time he covertly manipulated Cuban-trained militants who were attacking Allende from the left.
Castro not only harassed Allende during his life, he also tried to control the story of his death. In Havana’s Plaza de la Revoluci&n on Sept. 28, 1973, Castro told a crowd of 1 million Cubans that Allende had died in La Moneda wrapped in a Chilean flag, firing at the army with Fidel’s rifle. In this way, Castro was evading his own responsibility for his interfering in Chile and along the way converted Allende into a man who, at the end of his career, renounced his own peaceful methods and resorted to the armed path blazed by Fidel.
But Allende did not make such a mistake at the hour of his death. And today, more than ever, achieving equality, dignity and democracy for Latin America requires a strategy of building majorities in favor of fundamental but incremental change. At the end of Allende’s government, this is what was left: an honest president who chose to die amid the flames of La Moneda rather than follow the example of those deposed Latin American presidents who have escaped abroad with a fortune robbed from the public treasury; thousands of Chileans tortured, assassinated or disappeared by the dictatorship; hundreds of thousands of exiles, myself included; leftist leaders who, like a phoenix, have reemerged and installed themselves in power as renovated politicians, international advisers or fervent lobbyists for business interests they tried to expropriate 30 years ago; and a tragic and contradictory history that has also served as a source of livelihood for the many who write and talk about it.
Yet there also remains a Chilean people who today seek to realize their dreams through a patient and at times exasperatingly slow process of social and democratic transformation. Yes, we all killed Allende, but fortunately, in Chile, and in the world, his example lives on.
(Translated from Spanish by Charles Lane, a Post staff writer and former Newsweek correspondent in Latin America.)