Tuesday, September 12, 2006

My 11th September

For several days I have been seeing the media go gaga in its annual US worship. I do not support the killing of innocent people anywhere, and that includes New York. Indeed, I have relatives and close friends in new York, and shudder to think that some of them might have died.
But why must we compulsorily mourn every year the death of a few thousand Americans? Because they hail from the richest part of the world? My friend Steve Bloom, a non-jewish Jew who pointed to his nose to make that point, showed me the skyline (at that time with the World Trade Centre) and said, that small portion is the financial heart of the world. He also admitted to a slight vested interest. As a revolutionary socialist he is commited to overthrowing it. But he makes his living by painting the houses of the rich.
No, it is not what you might think. Steve does not just take brush and paint a bedroom light yellow. He paints walls so they look like other things. You can have a brick and mortar will looking like a marble wall, and so on.
So Steve, you, I we all have more than a slight interest in the uS. When you see KANK, you think Hindi is the national language of NY. Then you realise that NY is the national dream of those willing to shell out the hefty rates for KANK tickets. And that is why, we empathise more when several thousand New Yorkers die.
But I wanted to remember a different 9/11 -- my 9/11, the tragedy of my generation. I have not been a believer in peaceful revolution since 1972, when I was briefly around a Maoist circle. But this did not prevent me from appreciating the popular enthusiadsm that went into the election of Salvador Allende as the President of Chile.
The U.S. ambassador to Chile and other senior Nixon officials saw a regional crisis -- and a blow to Washington's international prestige -- if an avowed Marxist won a fair presidential election in South America.
Ambassador Edward Korry began sending frantic, minute-by-minute commentaries about the last days of Chile's 1970 campaign. Korry's cables became known inside the State Department as "Korrygrams" because of their unusual language and undiplomatic opinions.
On election day, Korry sent no fewer than 18 updates. He reported that he could hear "the mounting roar of Allendistas acclaiming their victory" from the streets. Korry wrote: "We have suffered a grievous defeat."
The next three weeks, Korry flooded Washington with lurid reports alleging a communist takeover. In one cable, he announced that "there is a graveyard smell to Chile, the fumes of a democracy in decomposition. They stank in my nostrils in Czechoslovakia in 1948 and they are no less sickening here today."
Allende's victory also sent Nixon into a rage and started the president's men plotting how to stop Allende's inauguration. Cables focused on a scheme to derail formal ratification of Allende's victory by Chile's congress on Oct. 24, 1970.
According to one idea, the congress would defy the electorate and pick the runner-up, Jorge Alessandri, "who would renounce the presidency and thus provoke new elections in which [outgoing president Eduardo] Frei would run."
On Sept. 12, Korry and Assistant Secretary of State John Richardson met secretly with Frei at the presidential palace. While much of the conversation remains classified, Korry reported that Frei saw only a "one in 20 chance" to stop Allende, but added that he could not "afford to be anything but the president of all Chileans at this time."
Despite the odds, Nixon ordered the CIA to try. The covert action to reverse the results of the Chilean election -- by political or military means -- took the code name, "Project FUBELT."
On Sept. 16, CIA director Richard Helms informed his senior covert action staff that "President Nixon had decided that an Allende regime in Chile was not acceptable to the United States," according to one declassified CIA memo.
"The President asked the Agency to prevent Allende from coming to power or to unseat him," Helms added. The CIA had 48 hours to present an action plan to Kissinger.
Soon, the CIA was pressuring Frei. "CIA mobilized an interlocking political action and propaganda campaign designed both to goad and entice Frei" into the "so-called Frei re-election gambit," according to a declassified "Report on CIA Chilean Task Force Activities." The scheme had "only one purpose," Helms told the NSC: "to induce President Frei to prevent Allende's [formal] election by the congress on 24 October, and, failing that, to support -- by benevolent neutrality at the least and conspiratorial benediction at the most - - a military coup which would prevent Allende from taking office." The election gambit was known as Track I.
The back-up plan for a military coup was called Track II. The CIA inducements to Frei included offering substantial sums of money to his "re-election" campaign, bribing other Christian Democrats outright, and orchestrating visits and calls from respected leaders abroad.
To influence Frei through his wife, the CIA instigated the wiring of telegrams to Mrs. Frei from women's groups in other Latin American nations.
Other mailings to Frei included CIA-planted news articles from around the world about Chile's peril. The articles were part of a covert "black" propaganda campaign which, the CIA boasted, resulted in at least 726 stories, broadcasts and editorials against an Allende presidency. Despite these labors, the Frei "re-election gambit" failed, as Frei refused to have the Christian Democrats block Allende's ratification.
Allende won the election on a reformist program, but his victory sparked a mass movement of the working class and poor peasants which had immense revolutionary potential. Allende and his Stalinist backers in the Chilean Communist Party spent the next three years restraining, discouraging and disorienting the mass movement, blocking any decisive challenge to the Chilean ruling class and American imperialism, while the right-wing and fascist elements prepared their counterattack. During this period there were six unsuccessful right-wing coup attempts, most of them with direct American aid.
And yet, Allende, and even more the Communist party, which stood to the right of tghe socialist Party, insisted on strict legality.No popular regime could coexist with the Chilean armed forces which were led by the most reactionary representatives of the capitalists and landlords. Every one of their leaders was a CIA-trained professional reactionary.
In a seminar organized by the Stalinist journal World Marxist Review, the spokesman for Chilean Stalinism, Banchero, clearly stated his party's attitude to the state: "A distinctive feature of the revolutionary process in Chile is that it began and continues within the framework of the bourgeois institutions of the past.... In Chile, where an anti-imperialist, anti-monopoly, and anti-feudal democratic people's revolution is now under way, we have essentially retained the old state machine. Government offices are staffed mainly with the old officials.... The administration exercises its functions under the guidance and control of the popular government.
"The armed forces, observing their status of a professional institution, take no part in political debate and submit to the lawfully constituted civilian power. Bonds of cooperation and mutual respect have evolved between the army and the working class in the name of the patriotic goal of shaping Chile into a free, advanced, and democratic land.
"Ultra-left elements clamor for the immediate 'introduction' of socialism. We hold, however, that the working class will gain full power gradually: it will be in step with our gaining control of the state machine that we shall begin to transform in the interests of the further development of the revolution."
I also remember Marxism Today coming out with an article by Lios Corvalan, Stalnist leader, saying the army would be constitutional, the day we got news of the coup.
Allende and the CP refused to ride roughshod over the bourgeois oppositon which had a majority in /congress, and they refused to hear any talk about building a revolutionary militia.
After the January 1972 by-elections Allende was forced to drop his socialist Minister of the Interior, while his plans for the reform of the two-chamber system were effectively blocked by the opposition.
In June 1972 more pressure and secret talks between government and opposition produced another cabinet crisis when Allende fired his left-wing economics minister, Pedro Vuskovic, and dropped his nationalization plans. This predictably had the full support of the Stalinists who, as in Spain in 1938, had become the extreme right wing of the coalition.
By the end of 1972 the reaction was ready for its second phase. This was the truck owners' strike in the south against nationalization. After four weeks, Allende not only capitulated to the reaction, but also agreed to bring three generals into his cabinet, and for the second time dropped another Interior Minister. The most prominent of the appointments was General Morio Prats--head of the Armed Forces and notorious anti-working class reactionary. The Interior Minister--Del Canto--was dropped because he permitted "illegal occupation" of private industries by workers. This shift to the right was inexorable.
This was not only a signal victory for the reactionaries, but a significant gain for the Stalinists, who all along fought against any factory occupations or land seizures and ruthlessly opposed any struggle which was not controlled by them or Allende.
All over the world, the Stalinist lie machine went to work to distort the meaning of these ominous changes. Comment (November 1972), the British CP journal, did not hesitate to defend Allende--and Prats:
"Is this not a sign of weakness? Or a surrender? Or a betrayal? ... the entry of these officers into the government, strange though it seems, is an indication that the right wing has been outmaneuvered and defeated in this engagement of the class battle."
And yet, while these class traitors betrayed a possible revolution, I also need to keep reminding people, usually on the extreme left, that sections of the left, including Allende, were, in the owrds of afriend of the late 1970s, "honest reformists'. Allende did not personally capitulate, though his politics was a capitulationist one. Behind the growing intrigues of the opposition, the arrogance of the generals, the mounting vacillation of President Salvador Allende and the capitulation of the Stalinists during 1972-73 lay the insoluble crisis of Chilean and world capitalism.
When Allende took power, Chile was in the throes of a major economic and financial crisis which has since been considerably exacerbated. The Central Bank's reserves had dropped from $500 million to $280 million and by April 1972 were estimated to be no more than $60 million. At the same time Chile's foreign debts exceeded $3,000 million, most of which was subject to scrutiny by European central bankers.
Failure to repudiate this massive national debt, coupled with the continued drop in copper export prices, meant that Allende had to devalue the Chilean escudo four times in two years.
But despite anger, people still had faith in Allende. In June 1973, the right wing made their first attempt at power in the aftermath of the copper miners' strike. This attempt of the Second Armored Regiment failed, but it showed how extremely vulnerable the regime was to a coup.
This attack stimulated the working class to go into action, to seize factories and to strengthen the assemblies of rank-and-file workers which sprang up in October to November 1972.
Even at this late hour, the situation could have been changed by resolute and decisive leadership.... The Chilean Stalinists, however, followed a course which was not only false but, worse still, contradictory. As Corvalan wrote: "The patriotic and revolutionary slogan must be: 'No to civil war! No to fascism.'" But fascism is civil war against the workers and the existence of the capitalist state carries in it the potential danger of civil war against the working class. By renouncing civil war and leaving the struggle in the hands of the reactionary bourgeois officers, Chilean Stalinism only facilitated and expedited the defeat of the workers.
But the Chilean workers were to receive an even more ominous blow. In this desperate search for allies, the Chilean Stalinists began to make the most opportunistic appeals to the ranks of the fascists and extreme nationalist parties. Corvalan unashamedly begged the followers of Pablo H. Rodriguez, the fascist, for a "dialog" to avoid civil war, to "unite our country, to avoid artificial divisions between Chileans, who have a common interest." The fascists predictably treated Corvalan's entreaties with contempt and derision ... and pressed on with the preparation of civil war.
All was not betrayal. if it had been, there would have been no need for a coup. No US government is plotting a coup against theBuddhist pseudo-marxists of West Bengal.In his first year, Allende employed Keynesian measures to hike salaries and wages, thus pumping up the purchasing power of the middle and working classes. This "consumer revolution" benefited 95 percent of the population in the short run because prices were held down and employment went up. Producers responded to rising demand by employing previously underused capacity. The government took over virtually all the great estates. It turned the lands over to the resident workers, who benefited far more than the owners of tiny plots or the numerous migrant laborers. By 1972 food production had fallen and food imports had risen. Also during 1971-72, the government dusted off emergency legislation from the 1932 Socialist Republic to allow it to expropriate industries without congressional approval. It turned many factories over to management by the workers and the state.The Popular Unity government tried to maintain cordial relations with the United States, even while staking out an independent position as a champion of developing nations and socialist causes. It opened diplomatic relations with Cuba, China, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (North Korea), the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (North Vietnam), and Albania. It befriended the Soviet Union, which sent aid to the Allende administration, although far less than Cuba received or than Popular Unity had hoped for. v The problem was that there was no sustained reformist solution possible. The downward Kondratiev (or recessionary long wave) that had begun foreclosed a simple solution of the kind possible in the 1950s.
And so, the contradictions came to a head. With full knowledge, planning and support of the US and american corporations, General Pinochet went into action. Allende was determined neither to flee nor surrender, and at this last moment, he died the death of e hero and martyr, fighting from the Moncada Palace until killed. Tens of thousands were rounded up and killed. The National Stadium was used as a concentration camp holding 40,000 prisoners. Approximately 130,000 individuals were arrested in a three-year period, with the number of dead and "disappeared" reaching into the thousands within the first few months. Most of the people targeted had been supporters of Allende; the September 13 decree also outlawed the parties that had been part of Popular Unity, and all political activity was declared "in recess".
Back in 1973, I was struck by the scale of the tragedy. although a supporter of armed struggle (of a rather juvenile variety), I was still moved by the tragedy. My father was a communist since 1942, and he had taight me that internationalism meant solidarity for struggles, regardless of the party leading it, even though we could criticise the parites.
So my blood boils even now, every 11th September, when i remember the scale of violence on the workers and peasants, and it boils doubly when I see rascally journalistic lapdogs in India shedding tears for the US. do they write articles about Chile? do they think that tens of thousands murdered in Chile are less valuable because the Chielan curreency was worth less than the dollar?

2 comments:

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