Bulletin N° 38 septembre 2023 Fifty years after the putsch which bloodily put an end to Popular Unity
Fifty years ago, on September 11, 1973, the Chilean army brutally ended the experience of Popular Unity in Chile. Far from being a clap of thunder in a calm sky, the fascist coup d'état of the sinister Pinochet, was the conclusion of numerous combined actions from the White House or the CIA headquarters which had begun even before the official election of Salvador Allende.
The best example is the famous truckers' strike called by the employers' federation, launched in July 1973: each boss received from the United States between 40 and 160 dollars per truck and per day of immobilization. More generally, the United States and the Chilean Big Bourgeoisie are organizing economic chaos; the CIA was instructed by Richard Nixon, then President of the USA, to “ make the Chilean economy scream ”. It is a question of detaching at least in part the middle classes from the working classes, and of arriving at a situation so chaotic that a majority of Chileans can approve the putsch or, at least, be neutral.
The experience of Popular Unity can only be viewed with extreme kindness and great interest by today's revolutionary activists. The main measures adopted by the Chilean government between 1970 and 1973 are:
― the increase in salaries from 40 to 60%;
― the large-scale nationalization of certain industries (notably copper , Chile's main export).
― reform of the health system to establish free care;
― price blocking;
― reform of the education system;
― various measures such as a free milk program for children (at the rate of half a liter of milk per day per baby);
― agrarian reform, which temporarily destroyed the land tenure system;
― a new “ profit tax ”;
― a moratorium on foreign debt repayments and the cessation of payment of debts to international creditors and foreign governments.
Moreover, Pinochet, the CIA and the big Chilean capitalists were not mistaken: as soon as the coup d'état took place, the first measures taken were to " return the companies to their legitimate owners " in the words of the putschist general, the end of agrarian reform and the return to latifundias, these large agricultural properties and the freezing of wages.
However, we must question the circumstances which caused the end of this experience. Allende's big mistake was to trust the military, based on the fact that the Chilean army had a tradition of non-intervention, unlike those of Brazil, Uruguay, Bolivia, Argentina , etc. He was not convinced of the need to arm the people, even though it was supported by part of Popular Unity. He paid for it with his life. The savage repression that followed the fascist takeover clearly indicates the fear that the Chilean capitalists, the ultra-reactionary military, the US leaders and even the Chilean petty bourgeoisie had at the idea that the experiment could succeed. .
The question we ask ourselves afterwards, and which was already being asked, is this: was this fear founded? On the one hand, one might think not: Allende's dream of achieving socialism through elections in a bourgeois democracy was illusory. But it is clear that the measures adopted, which did not make Chile a socialist country, any more than the program of the National Council of Resistance for France, these measures were enough to legitimize this fear of the owners and their instruments.
What followed for the Chilean left, as we know, was the " conversion to the market ", starting with the Chilean PS, Allende's own party, which, holding a congress in Belgrade in 1976, abandoned the reference to Marxism and to the class struggle, to become a good social democratic party, and the presidencies of Ingrid Bachelet or, currently Gabriel Boric, who do not really scare the big capitalists. This path to the right, we can see, has also been taken in many South American countries, in one way or another.
Quick overview of the left in South America
In the 2000s or more recently, in many South American countries, parties or individuals claiming to be from a radical left, without necessarily wanting a socialist society, came to power. It is clear that, in most cases, the results are far from convincing. Right-handed evolution or reversals prevailed.
In Argentina, this was the experience of the left Peronists (Justicialist Party), supporters of a State which more or less controls the capitalists, of Social Security and a certain limitation of exploitation, in other words the squaring of the circle. Nestor Kirchner, elected in 2003, and his wife Cristina Fernandez, who succeeded him in 2007 and was re-elected in 2011, are the representatives of the Justicialist Party. Their policy has interesting aspects, especially under Cristina Kirchner, collective agreements, nationalizations, price freezes and wage increases and the nationalization of retirement pension funds. The crisis of 2008 and, in the same year, the struggle of agricultural bosses against the government were difficult tests. In 2015, the assessment of the " Kirchner years" is mixed: real social measures and reduction in poverty but inflation and corruption on the rise. In addition, the new candidate of the PJ, Daniel Scioli claims to be a " moderate ", which means, more inclined to make a pact with the Great Capital. It is therefore a man of the right, Mauricio Macri, who is elected and works to unravel the achievements of his predecessors. If the Justicialists return to power in 2019, it is at the cost of a "broad " alliance on their right embodied by President Fernandez. His program announces “ a renegotiation of the debt, a stronger involvement of the State in economic regulation and investment, a consolidation of the Argentine internal market through a greater redistribution of income and the development of national production .
It is a Keynesian-inspired program intended to oppose the “ neoliberal ” Mauricio Macri. However, this is not a revolutionary program and Alberto Fernandez does not want to alienate employers and global financial organizations like the IMF. The considerable increase in inflation, unemployment and poverty under his mandate puts into perspective the possible victory of an uninhibited ultra-free trader, a sort of emulator of Bolsonaro, Javier Milei, during the future general elections in next October.
The Brazil of the Workers' Party
In Brazil, pretty much the same scenario played out, we are probably at the next stage. On October 27, 2002, former trade unionist Luiz Iñacio Lula da Silva won the presidential election. He was re-elected on October 28, 2006. He is the first president of Brazil from the Workers' Party. The former trade unionist and his party, formerly Marxist, have put water in their wine. What are the results of Lula's two mandates? The country is emerging from the economic slump, gaining the status of a powerful emerging country, thanks to the development granted to the middle class which massively supports the president's democratic reforms, and the creation of a large domestic market that attracts foreign capital and export industries following the return of bank confidence and the stabilization of the country's currency. By successfully completing the largest capital increase in history in September 2010, the oil giant Petrobras becomes the symbol of this strong growth. The left has clearly made Brazil a capitalist power  .
Then it gets bad. Dilma Roussef, candidate supported by Lula in 2010, made an alliance with part of the right embodied by her vice-president Michel Temer. She was elected with this "ticket" in 2010 and re-elected in 2014. But, caught up in a vast anti-corruption investigation and accused of having concealed the real importance of the public deficit, she underwent an impediment procedure and was dismissed by the Senate in 2016. It is therefore Temer who ends his mandate as president and adopts a so-called " liberal " policy, very unpopular: " free and undistorted competition ", like the EU.,
As in addition, he is also being prosecuted for corruption, Lula is imprisoned for the same reason, it is the famous Bolsonaro, an ultra-reactionary, fascist evangelist, who is elected in 2018. And, freed, Lula can return to the power in 2022 in the name of: everything except Bolsonaro. But he only has a majority with the deputies of the classic right and has clearly not decided to embark on the construction of socialism.
The Uruguay of “Frente Amplio”
Scenario barely different in Uruguay, but here we are at the previous stage. In this country where, for a very long time, politics was limited to the alternation between the Colorado parties (of the RPR type) and Blanco (of the UDF type), the Communists were in 1971 at the origin of the creation of the "Frente Amplio "(the Broad Front), with the entire left, and the critical support of those who had chosen armed struggle, the " Tupamaros". Then there was the coup d'état by President Bordaberry and the army in 1973. The Front was banned, like all political parties, its leaders hunted down and a number of activists arrested, tortured, even murdered. The military remained in power, through Bordaberry, then three other presidents of the Republic, until 1985. The FA reconstituted itself. The former " Tupamaros " abandoned the armed struggle and created the Popular Participation Movement (MPP) which integrated into the Front. The Large Front, as the elections progressed (1989, 1994), progressed electorally and, in 1999, its candidate was in the lead in the first round of the presidential elections, but beaten in the second by the candidate of the Colorado Party, supported by that of the Blanco Party.
It was then the Socialist Party of Tabaré Vasquez which dominated in the FA. A defeated candidate, he initiated a refocusing operation, in order to obtain electoral gain.
A text, the “ Compromise for Change for the New Century ”, was the culmination of this process of refoundation, ratified by the IVth Congress of the Broad Front between September 20 and 23, 2001 and accepted by all parties. of the Front, with the exception of the Left Current (another organization resulting from the " Tupamaros "), whose motion obtained only 5% of the votes during the Congress. The Compromise notably formulated the acceptance of the role of the market while noting the " exhaustion of neoliberalism ", and giving the government the role of " regulating this market ", of " playing a central role in the construction of a united country ", and of " guarantee access to the population to basic public services, preventing them from falling into the hands of private monopolies or oligopolies .” In short, with this social-democratic background, the FA, which, in another resolution of this congress, asserts itself as “ an anti-imperialist force ” will finally be able to access power, because it will no longer scare the upper middle classes. .
This is the case in 2004. Tabaré Vasquez is elected President of the Republic and the FA obtains a majority in both chambers. In the legislative elections, it is the MPP of the former " Tupamaros " which takes the lion's share. Rebelote in 2009 where the former guerrilla José Mujica, of the MPP, was elected president. Then, Vasquez took over in 2014. When the 2019 general elections arrived, the results of the “ Frente Ampliowho received the support of Manini Rios and the Colorado Party, Luis Alberto Lacalle Pou. The Large Front lost the absolute majority in the Senate and in the Chamber of Deputies.
The ouster of Fernando Lugo in Paraguay
In all South American countries except Bolivia, the left has found itself with an elected president, who governs, but does not have a legislative majority. And this can be used, if it scares the owners a little too much, to get rid of them. We saw the case of Dilma Roussef, replaced by her running mate more to the right than her; it was the same thing recently in Peru, where the President of the Republic Pedro Castillo was dismissed by the Assembly, mainly on the right, and imprisoned (we mentioned this situation) and where the former vice-president who became president governs now with the agreement of this same assembly and continuously organizes repression against protesting workers.
The most exemplary case is that of Fernando Lugo, elected president of the Republic of Paraguay in 2008. In this country, it is the Colorado Party which has exercised power unchallenged since the first half of the 20th century .century, including the period of the dictatorship of General Alfredo Stroessner which lasted 35 years, from 1954 to 1989. But, in 2008, the 60-year reign of the Colorado Party ended. At the head of a coalition of peasant and Native American organizations, Lugo, a former bishop, negotiated an agreement with two opposition parties, the Liberal Party and the Christian Democratic Party. Forming a ticket with the liberal leader Federico Franco, he was elected President of the Republic. Paraguay is then an extremely unequal country: the richest 10% of Paraguayans monopolize 60% of national wealth and their collective wealth has increased by 20% in ten years, while that of the poorest 10% is estimated at 1 % of the country's wealth. Poverty affects more than 40% of the population, real unemployment is around 40%, and only 30% of employees receive a minimum wage which is itself too low to cover basic needs. In the countryside, nearly 80% of land is owned by less than 2% of owners. More than a million people have emigrated since 1992.
Lugo is a sort of “ social Catholic ”, holding “ Liberation theology ”, more progressive than many activists on the South American left. The fight against corruption and agrarian reform constitute its priority areas. However, in the spring of 2009 he lost the support of the Liberal Party (PLRA) and the majority of Parliament, and was unable to bring this latest reform to fruition. The PLRA, traditional defender of landowners, defended “ respect for private property ” and the media launched a violent campaign against “ land invasions”. » by the farmers. A number of initiatives have been introduced to improve the lives of Paraguay's poor, such as investments in social housing, the introduction of free treatment in public hospitals, and social assistance for the most deprived citizens. He refused the installation of an American military base. During his mandate, the poverty rate fell by 9 points, from 38 to 27%. GDP increased from 24.6 to 33.3 billion. Paraguay was strongly affected by the global economic crisis of 2008/2009, the country entering into recession, with a resumption of 15% growth from 2010, then less but positive until the impeachment in 2012.
But the impeachment march is getting organized.
The U SAID  increases its presence in Paraguay after the election of Lugo. Its financial aid, directed to NGOs and employers' organizations, increased from 17.25 million dollars in 2007 to 36.2 million in 2010. In December 2009, Lugo claimed to have been the subject of several putsch attempts and to be threatened by a coup. The national media launched an offensive to have him dismissed under various pretexts, accusing him for example of corruption. Its vice-president himself, Federico Franco (liberal), says he is ready to assume power.
On June 15, 2012, 384 armed police officers tried to dislodge the 60 farmers present in a camp near Curuguaty, although declared “ of social interest » by decree in 2004. A shootout broke out, killing eleven farmers and six police officers. One of the peasant leaders, Vidal Vega, shortly after declaring that he was going to testify about what he knew about the presence of infiltrators at the scene of the massacre, was assassinated. In addition, the film made by a police helicopter that constantly flew over the scene of the events mysteriously disappeared. Finally, the presence of women and children within the peasants' camp disavows the theory of an ambush by the latter against the police. An investigation will later indicate that six of the eleven peasants killed may have been executed. This event is then used by the right-wing opposition, the majority in Parliament, to initiate the procedure for the impeachment of President Fernando Lugo, whom she accuses of having fueled violence against big landowners. On June 21, 76 members of the Chamber of Deputies voted for the dismissal of the president. The next day, the Senate dismissed him by 39 votes for, 4 against and 2 abstentions. The new power takes control of public television to stop the broadcast of demonstrations in support of Fernando Lugo. This is what happens when a South American leader displeases the capitalists of his country and US imperialism! The new power takes control of public television to stop the broadcast of demonstrations in support of Fernando Lugo. This is what happens when a South American leader displeases the capitalists of his country and US imperialism! The new power takes control of public television to stop the broadcast of demonstrations in support of Fernando Lugo. This is what happens when a South American leader displeases the capitalists of his country and US imperialism!
The impressive achievements of MAS in Bolivia
We have already spoken a lot about the shift to the right of the Venezuelan government which, not content with trying to ban the Communist Party of Venezuela, has just decided to create a vast free zone, to attract multinationals, so we will not expand on the subject.
To finish, let's briefly mention Bolivia, where the reactionaries' attempt to usurp power, following false accusations of fraud when Evo Moralès had just been re-elected, fizzled. Certainly, Moralès had to go into exile in Mexico, reactionary fanatics occupied the presidential palace for a while by bringing copies of the “ Holy Bible ”. But, when they were forced to organize elections, the MAS (Socialist Action Movement), Moralès' party won an absolute majority in the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate and its candidate, Luis Arce, was elected to the first any President of the Republic with more than 55% of the votes.
It is probably the results of the years of Evo Moralès' presidency which explains this happy outcome. He is eloquent. On May 1 , 2006, Evo Morales announced by decree the nationalization of hydrocarbons and the renegotiation of all contracts of foreign companies within 180 days. The objective was that 82% of hydrocarbon revenues would be reserved for the State. The national company Yacimientos Petrolíferos Fiscales Bolivianos (YPFB) thus becomes the only body authorized to market hydrocarbons. This initiative primarily affects the Brazilian company Petrobras. The income generated by these nationalizations makes it possible to finance several social measures: Renta Dignidad (or old age minimum) for people aged over 60; the good Juana Azurduy (named after the revolutionary Juana Azurduy de Padilla, 1780-1862), who ensures full coverage of medical costs for pregnant women and their children in order to combat infant mortality; the Juancito Pinto voucher (named after a child hero of the Pacific War, 1879-1884), aid paid until the end of secondary school to parents whose children are in school in order to combat school desertion, or even the Single Health System which since 2018 has offered all Bolivians free medical care. Finally, in 2010, the Bolivian parliament lowered the retirement age from 65 to 58 and entrusted the management of pensions to a public body. Consequently, the two private funds previously existing,
For mothers of more than three children, the retirement age is lowered to 55 years.
The reforms adopted have made Bolivia's economic system the most successful and stable in the region. Between 2006 and 2019, GDP increased from $9 billion to more than $40 billion, real wages increased, GDP per capita tripled, inflation was essentially eliminated, and extreme poverty was eliminated. fell from 38% to 15%, which represents a drop of 23 points.
We could also mention Colombia and Ecuador, but we have already said a lot. And, except in Bolivia, the scenario is the same everywhere. Left parties, sometimes revolutionary movements, are calming down and becoming compatible with capitalism. Certainly, we see it in Uruguay or Argentina during the Kirchner era, they sometimes help to alleviate poverty, but what's the point if the others return to power afterwards?
Lula's Brazil never attacked the capitalist order, Chavez's successor converted to cohabitation with US imperialism and with his own capitalists, even organizing the repression of metal workers, as Correa's successor did. abandoned the few progressive achievements of his mandate in Ecuador. The Peruvian Castillo was unable to put in place another policy, the Chilean Boric launched the work of a new constitution which will clearly be written mainly by those nostalgic for Pinochet.
Not only is it an error to think, like Allende, that we can achieve socialism thanks to the elections of bourgeois democracy, but there is no longer even a question of socialism in these countries, only of winning the elections, at the price of abandonment of anti-capitalist positions (Uruguay, Venezuela) or agreements with some of the reactionaries (Brazil, Argentina).
For the Communist Revolutionary Party, this assessment calls for several conclusions to be drawn.
― The South American left is mostly not anti-capitalist, it is often ready to make a number of concessions to stay or return to power.
― When the goal is simply to be elected, without class requirements, this does not ultimately improve the situation of workers. The election under capitalism can be a point of support for revolutionaries, never a goal.
― Where we do not wage the class struggle without respite, we do not leave the system and we do not even begin it.
― Improving the condition of workers requires the fight for the construction of socialism and this fight only involves class struggle. The role of a revolutionary party is to lead and lead this struggle.