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University of Utah

Western Political Science Association


Chile's Democratic Road to Socialism
Author(s): Michael H. Fleet
Source: The Western Political Quarterly, Vol. 26, No. 4 (Dec., 1973), pp. 766-786
Published by: University of Utah on behalf of the Western Political Science Association
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CHILE'S DEMOCRATIC ROAD TO SOCIALISM
MICHAEL H. FLEET
University of
Southern
California
N NOVEMBER
1970,
Marxist socialist Salvador Allende took office as Presi-
dent of
Chile,
vowing
to
bring
about
revolutionary change by working
within,
and not
against,
the
country's
constitutional democratic tradition.
Through
its skillful use of
powerful
executive
prerogatives,
Allende's
Popular Unity (UP)
government brought
a
major part
of Chile's
economy
under state control. In addi-
tion,
it nationalized the
country's
once
foreign-owned copper mines,
eliminated its
latifundia,
and secured
important
material benefits for
popular
and
working-class
groups.
During
at least two of the three
years
of democratic Marxist
government,
how-
ever,
Chile faced severe economic and
political
crises. For most of this time it was
divided into
mutually
hostile
camps. Following
the March 1973
elections, opposi-
tion elements turned
increasingly
to
illegal
and
conspiratorial
activities. These
culminated on
September
11
with Allende's ouster and death at the hands of a
coalition of anti-Marxist
military
forces.'
In most Latin American
countries,
such an outcome would have been
pre-
dictable. The rise to
power by
leftist or reformist
forces,
their
subsequent
efforts
to alter
socio-economic
structures,
and
finally
their overthrow
by
those
favoring
the status
quo,
form
a
sequence
of events
quite
familiar to the area. But Chile's
political culture,
institutional
tradition,
and
past political experience
make it
unique among
its sister
republics.
This distinctiveness
initially
made the
experi-
ment in democratic socialism
possible,
enabled Allende to survive
very
serious diffi-
culties,
and until the
coup
offered the world a
remarkably
institutionalized version
of class
struggle.
In
analyzing
Allende's democratic road to
socialism,
this article first reviews
the
major
economic and
political developments
under the
Popular Unity
Govern-
ment. It then examines the constitutional conflict between executive and
legislative
branches as a
representative expression
of the
political struggle
under Allende. And
finally
it considers the
causes,
and
possible consequences
of Allende's overthrow.
DEVELOPMENTS TO MID-1973
In an era of
increasing
recourse to
political authoritarianism,
the
Popular Unity
commitment to democratic
politics
stands out rather
noticeably.
It becomes less
puzzling, however,
if one considers that most UP leaders have
spent
their entire
political
lives within a democratic
political order,
and as such are
ill-equipped for,
and
perhaps ill-disposed toward,
other forms of
political struggle.
In
addition,
most
Marxists were
agreed
that extra-constitutional methods would lead to disaster
(civil
war, military intervention, counter-revolution, etc.),
and
(more positively)
that
'This article was written in
July 1973,
and revised in
early
October.
766
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CHILE'S DEMOCRATIC ROAD TO SOCIALISM 767
the
country's powerful presidentialist
constitution
provided
sufficient
authority
to
overcome resistance to their
objectives.2
Two additional
assumptions
were central to Allende's
strategy
once he took
office. The first was that revolution was
essentially
a
process
of structural trans-
formation,
and not of economic
growth
or
development.
The second was that
success of efforts at structural
change
would
depend
on the
development
of a
popu-
lar or
working-class political majority,
and that at least in the short run this
was
incompatible
with conventional economic
rationality.
Both
assumptions
are
summed
up
in the
following
remarks of Pedro
Vuskovic,
Allende's first Minister
of Economics.
"Revolutionary change
is a
problem
of
power,
a
question
between
social
forces,
to which economic
policy
is to be
subordinated,
which economic
policy
must serve as an instrument for
strengthening
and
consolidating
the
power position
of the workers."3
In the view of UP
strategists,
the
preceding
Frei
administration's
preference
for "rational" economic
measures4
had led to an erosion of both its
political sup-
port
and whatever commitment it had to structural
change. Accordingly, they
chose to move
immediately
to restructure
power relations, creating
a
fait accompli
to which the
country's
various economic interests would have to
adjust. This,
together
with measures
bringing
short-term benefits to the
popular sector,
would
hopefully
assure a
political
base from which to ask later for
necessary
material
sacrifices.
In
adopting
this
strategy
Allende was
taking
a calculated risk. Measures favor-
able to the
popular
classes
might
well stimulate
production through
increased de-
mand. But over the
long
run the burden of
government policies
would have to be
borne
by
the
country's
middle
sectors, long
the
controlling
element in national
poli-
tics. In various and
sundry ways
income
redistribution, price controls, import
re-
strictions,
deficit
spending,
and
hostility
to
private enterprise,
for
example,
would
sooner or later
impinge upon merchants, farmers, professionals,
small
businessmen,
and middle-class consumers and
taxpayers generally.5
The middle sectors thus
* For a brilliant defense of the
compatibility
of constitutional democratic
politics
and revolu-
tionary objectives,
see
Joan
E.
Garces,
El Caso Toha
(Santiago:
Editorial Universi-
taria), 1972, especially Chapter
1. Professor Garces was one of President Allende's
princi-
pal political
advisors. Certain leftist
elements,
most
notably
the Movimiento de
Izquierda
Revolucionaria
(or MIR)
and a
segment
of Allende's own Socialist
Party,
have of course
been
openly
critical of constitutional
politics. Though initially
a
very
distinct
minority,
their numbers and
importance
would almost
certainly grow
if Allende were blocked in
his
pursuit
of
revolutionary objectives.
'
As
quoted
in "La Fracasada Revolucion del Ministro Vuskovic"
(anonymous),
in El Mer-
curio
(Edicion Internacional),
Semana del 13 al 19 de diciembre de
1971, p.
2.
*
One man's economic
rationality obviously may
not be
another's,
but the idea as used here is
of measures and
policies
which
given existing
conditions and
expectations
are
likely
to
result in
greater
levels of
investment, production, efficiency, technological sophistica-
tion,
and financial
solvency.
These concerns are
given top priority,
and matters such as
immediate
working-class
interests or structural
changes
are subordinated and condi-
tioned to them.
SAlso
seeming
to
help
the lower classes at the
expense
of middle-class
groups
was the elimina-
tion of the
legal
distinction between obreros
(workers
and
laborers)
and
empleados
(employees).
The latter were
essentially
white-collar
workers,
and were both better
paid
and
given superior fringe
benefits. UP
policy
reduced
pay
differentials and
completely
eliminated differences in
fringe benefits,
much to the
dismay
of
many
status conscious
empleados.
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768 THE WESTERN POLITICAL QUARTERLY
posed
a serious
problem
for
Allende; indeed,
in view of their traditional
political
power, perhaps
his most serious one.
Accordingly,
unless or until
popular
elements
were in control of the
political arena,
Allende would have to
hope
that economic
conditions for the middle sectors would not deteriorate too
rapidly,
that
political
forces
representing
them would remain
divided,
and that in
any
event the middle
class would retain its
traditionally
constitutional
political
inclinations.
Initially,
the
government
did well in all
respects. During 1971,
for
example,
the
economy actually
seemed to be
flourishing: gross geographic product
was
up
over 8
percent,
industrial
production
12
percent,
and overall domestic
consumption
13
percent;
while
unemployment
was down over 50
percent
and inflation had been
held to 22
percent."
Moreover,
Allende moved
rapidly
ahead with his social
objectives.
Most
importantly perhaps, politically
if not also
economically, remaining
U.S.
copper
interests were nationalized. In
addition, significant
strides were made in income
redistribution, government
services
(public housing, education,
medical
care, etc.),
and
agrarian
reform.' And
finally,
the
country's major
banks were nationalized
(giving
the
government
direct control over
credit),
while
expropriations, requisi-
tions,
and interventions raised direct state control of domestic
industry
to over 25
percent
of the total.8
These various achievements
helped provide
the UP with
initially
favorable
political
weather.9
During
the first six months of the
year, only
the
rightist
National
party
was
consistently
critical of the
government.
The Christian
Democrats,
on the
other
hand,
seemed uncertain as to how to
proceed. They
had
long
been distrustful
of Marxism and
Marxists,
and
yet
much of what the
government
was
doing
con-
sisted of
things
which
they
themselves had
formally
advocated. In this
situation,
the best the
party
could
manage
was a
policy
of "critical
support," by
which it
backed selected
government policies.
Unfortunately
for the
UP,
this fair economic and
political
weather did not
last. Even
during 1971,
in
fact,
there were
signs
of serious
problems
ahead. The
money supply
was far
outrunning
increases in
productivity,
overall investment was
off, previously
idle industrial
capacity
was
rapidly being exhausted,
and
foreign
exchange
reserves were
dwindling
fast. Under these circumstances
steadily
increas-
ing
demand could not be
met,
and both
scarcity
and inflation were
inevitable.
6
These
figures
are taken from Comentarios sobre
la Situacion
Economica,
Primer
Semestre,
1972
(Santiago:
Facultad de Ciencias
Economicas,
Universidad de
Chile, 1972), pp.
1-13.
According
to official
statistics, participation
in total
geographic
income
by
salaried or
wage
labor rose from 53.7 to 58.6
percent. Cf. ibid., p.
217. With
respect
to
agrarian reform,
an estimated 5.3 million hectares were
expropriated during
the first
twenty
months of
the Allende
administration,
this
compared
to 3.6 million
previously expropriated by
the
Alessandri and Frei administrations. See Gonzalo
Arroyo, S.J., "Despues
del
Latifundio,
Que?"
in
Mensaje (a Santiago monthly),
Vol.
XXI,
no. 213
(Octubre 1972), p.
591.
"
See
below, pp. 772-73,
for a discussion of the various
legal
measures used to
bring
industries
under state control. The nationalizations were often associated with worker demands
(and/or government promises)
for
greater
worker
participation
in the
factory's
decision-
making process. Very impressive progress
in this area seems to have been
made, particu-
larly
in the textile
industry.
'
Although
Allende had
garnered only
36
percent
of the
presidential vote, government parties
won almost 50
percent
in
municipal
elections the
following April.
Part of the
jump
no
doubt was due to the effects of the traditional
postelection "honeymoon" period.
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CHILE'S DEMOCRATIC ROAD TO SOCIALISM
769
Developments
since late 1971 have borne these
projections
out.
During 1972,
both GGP and industrial
growth
rates fell
sharply.'" Moreover,
inflation raced
completely
out of
control, reaching
the almost incredible rate of 162
percent
for the
year.
And
finally, scarcity
and
irregular availability
of a number of basic consumer
goods
also
developed.
Natural
gas (for cooking
and
heating), sugar,
meat, milk,
rice, cooking oil, thread,
and certain kinds of
clothing
were
difficult,
if not
impossi-
ble,
to find at various times of the
year.
These
deteriorating
economic conditions were
probably responsible
for the
government's
loss of some of its initial
support. By
this
time, however,
the Christian
Democrats had moved into
full-fledged opposition,
in virtual alliance with the
Partido
Nacional,
and less it would seem because of the state of the
economy
than
because of the
continuing pace
of
nationalizations."1
The Christian Democrats
themselves cited UP "sectarianism and totalitarianism" as
forcing
such a
move,
but
the
party's
shift would seem more
realistically explained
as an effort to retain its
large
middle-class
constituency (whose
concern for its social status and economic
interests had
begun
to make conservative National views more
appealing)
.12 In
any event,
the two
parties joined
forces for an
August
1971
special election,
and
since then have
jointly challenged.
the
government
in
elections, through
counter-
legislation
and censure motions in the
Congress,
and with massive
public
rallies and
demonstrations.
In
June 1972,
the
government attempted
to arrest the
continuing
economic
decline,
and at the same time
allay
middle sector
apprehensions concerning
the
scope, pace,
and social costs of
change.
With well over half the
country's major
enterprises already
under direct state
control,
Communist
deputy
Orlando Millas
replaced
Vuskovic as chief architect of
government policy.
Under Millas the
pace
of nationalizations
appeared
to
slacken,
and
emphasis
was
placed
on
"consolidating"
the
process
of
revolutionary
transformation.'3
Sharp price
increases for basic con-
sumption
items were
authorized,
in the
hope
that more rational
price
structures
would
encourage production
and limit demand. And Allende
began
to
speak
10
Gross
geographic production
increased
during
1972
by only
4
percent,
while the industrial
growth
rate fell to 3
percent.
See Victor Vacarro
G.,
"La Situacion Economica: Un
Examen
Politico,"
in Chile
Hoy (a Santiago weekly),
no.
37,
Semana del 23 de febrero
al
1
de marzo de
1973, p.
16.
a
The PDC's decision was taken in
July 1971,
several months before economic conditions
began
to
decline,
but
immediately
after a series of
key
banks and industries were nation-
alized and
proposals creating "people's
courts" and a
single "people's assembly"
were
sent to the
Congress.
The alliance with the Nationals was
strenuously objected
to
by
left-wing
Christian
Democrats, many
of whom
shortly
left the
party
to form the
Izquierda
Cristiana.
" Recent
scholarship
has
suggested
that the middle class is often one of the
principal
obstacles
to social and economic
changes
because of its concern for
relative
status and
security.
See,
for
example,
Osvaldo
Sunkel,
"Frustration and
Change
in
Chile,"
in Claudio Veliz,
ed.,
Obstacles to
Change
in Latin
America (New
York: Oxford
University Press),
1967.
"
This
was the
policy officially
advocated
by
the Communist
party.
Ever cautious and
judi-
cious,
the Communists were concerned about the disaffection that
pressing
ahead
might
produce among "potentially sympathetic"
middle-class
groups.
Millas'
very important
essay
"La
Clase
Obrera en las Condiciones del
Gobierno Popular" (El Siglo,
5 de
Junio,
1972)
contains the
party's critique
of UP
policy
to that
point.
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770 THE WESTERN POLITICAL
QUARTERLY
earnestly
of the need for
working-class sacrifices, particularly
in the area of
wage
demands.14
By
this
time,
however,
the middle sectors had
already
been lost.
Moreover,
it
does not
appear
that the Millas
policies
had
brought any
immediate
improve-
ment in the
country's
economic situation.
Indeed,
conditions remained unfavor-
able,
and even deteriorated further.
Inflation,
for
example,
continued unchecked.
Moreover, many
basic consumer items were available
only irregularly,
and when
they were, required
one to rise
early
and stand
long
hours in line. In this connec-
tion, rationing
was introduced in limited form and would have been much more
extensive had there not been intense
opposition
resistance?5
The
future, unfortu-
nately,
did not look much
brighter.
Domestic
capital
accumulation and investment
remained
low,
and
apparently
could not rise without further limitation of
general
consumption.
And an
upturn
in the
country's foreign exchange picture,
which
would
permit
increased
importation
of
necessary capital
and consumer
goods,
appeared unlikely.16
Despite
these
extremely
adverse
conditions,
the UP
managed
to retain con-
siderable
political support. Following
its initial
upsurge,
the
government's per-
centage
leveled around 45
percent,
where it held
during
the last
year.
The other side
of the
coin, however,
is that the
opposition
also remained
strong,
and indeed
appeared
more resolved with time.
During
1971 and 1972 in
fact,
Nationals and
Christian Democrats
attempted
to
challenge
Allende's
power directly,
and
pro-
voked a serious constitutional crisis.
In late
1971,
Christian Democratic
representatives proposed
a constitutional
amendment
which
expressly
forbade the nationalization of
private
industries with-
out
congressional approval.
Its
passage
would block further
government takeovers,
and could force the return
(to private hands)
of
temporarily
nationalized indus-
tries. As
such,
it was a clear attack at the heart of the
government's
democratic
road to socialism.
A showdown on the matter
was
indefinitely postponed, however,
in
part
thanks to several sustained efforts at
compromise,
and in
part
because of the advent
4
At the same
time, though
less
prominently,
Millas and Allende also warned that those who
were better off
(i.e.,
the middle and
upper classes)
would be asked for
proportionately
larger
sacrifices. Over the next several
months,
in
fact,
the
government proposed
new
taxes, luxury
scale
price
levels
(for
such
things
as
automobiles, gasoline, televisions,
and
international air
travel),
differential
utility rates,
and
discriminatory cost-of-living wage
increases.
1Local neighborhood
committees known as
JAPs (Juntas
de Abastecimiento
y
Control de
Precios)
were at the center of the
controversy surrounding rationing.
Nationals and
Christian Democrats
opposed
them on
grounds
that
they
were
politically discriminatory
and that
they unwarrentedly superceded legitimately
established merchants. The
govern-
ment,
on the other
hand,
insisted that these committees were
spontaneous expressions
of
local
interests,
and that
they
were
urgently
needed to combat
speculation, stock-piling,
and other abuses
engaged
in
by
distributors and retailers.
'8
It is in the area of
foreign exchange
where the effects of U.S.
policy against granting
Chile
either bilatereal or multilateral credits were most
directly
felt. In this
regard
see
NACLA's "Facing
the Blockade" in U.S. Latin America and
Empire Report.
Vol.
VII,
no. 1
(January 1973).
In
addition,
the world market
price
for
copper,
Chile's
principal
foreign exchange earner,
was far below levels
prevailing during
the
previous
administra-
tion. Since
nationalization, production
levels did
increase,
but did not meet
projected
levels because of administrative and labor
problems.
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CHILE'S DEMOCRATIC ROAD TO SOCIALISM
771
of more
immediately pressing
concerns. The first of these concerns was the nation-
wide
anti-government
strike
during
October and November
1972;
and the second
was the
holding
of
congressional
elections in March 1973. Both events affected the
country's politics
in
important ways.
The strike lasted almost a
month, making already
difficult economic condi-
tions even more
trying,
and
raising
the
specter
of civil war. In the
end,
however,
the
opposition
failed to achieve its basic
objectives
and the
government emerged
with its overall
standing
enhanced.
Shortly
thereafter came the March
elections,
which
gave victory
to the
oppo-
sition
by
a 54.7 to 43.4
percent margin.
Given
preelection expectations
of a much
larger opposition vote, however,
the results were
actually
more
encouraging
to the
government. Moreover,
with the
opposition failing
to win two-thirds of the seats
in the
Senate,
Allende was safe from
impeachment,
and thus at least
constitutionally
assured of
finishing
out his
term.17
Following
the
elections,
tensions increased
markedly
as
opposition groups
searched for
ways
to deal with an
evidently strengthened
Allende
government.
The
constitutional amendment issue was
reactivated,
and efforts were undertaken to
challenge
the UP on
specific questions
at the
grass-roots organizational
level. For
his
part,
Allende continued ahead with his
program:
Additional industries were
nationalized and initial
steps
to reduce
private
control of the wholesale and retail
distribution
system
were
taken."8
These moves
helped sustain,
if not
increase, gen-
eral tension.
To this
point,
Chilean
politics
had been able to
deal,
or at least
cope,
with
enormous
pressures
and difficulties. This
hardly assured, however,
that
they
would
continue to do so. And
indeed, many
were
seriously questioning
whether Chile's
democratic institutions could
long
endure
existing
levels of
conflict,
to
say nothing
of
greater
levels in the future. Whatever its
subsequent fate, however,
the Chilean
experience
was
already
a
unique phenomenon,
one in which certain cultural and
institutional characteristics
played
an
extremely important
role. To
provide
a better
understanding
of these
characteristics,
and of the Chilean
experience
in
general,
I will
present
them as
they operated
in the context of the constitutional crisis of
1971-72. The crisis
provides
a veritable microcosm of Chilean
political life,
and
offers
ample insight
into the
political
tradition to which class
struggle
and conflict
in Chile were forced to
adjust.
In this same fashion the constitutional crisis
may
also
help place subsequent
developments
in
proper
context.
Although
in this
regard
it will also be
necessary
to
look more
closely
at the
implications
of both the October strike and March
elections.
'1
The final results
gave
the
opposition
87 seats in the Chamber of
Deputies
and 30 in the
Senate,
while the
government
held 63 and 20
respectively.
18The
government
utilized the
neighborhood JAPs
and a
newly
created
government
dis-
tributing agency (DINAC)
in an
attempt
to assure a
steady supply
of essential
goods
to
those who most need
them,
and to
prevent
what it
alleged
had been
systematic hoarding
by
wholesalers and merchants to create artificial
shortages.
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772 THE WESTERN POLITICAL QUARTERLY
THE CONSTITUTIONAL CRISIS
During
its three
years
in
office,
the
Popular Unity government generally kept
its
promise
of
pursuing
socialist
objectives through
constitutional democratic meth-
ods. In effect
confirming this, opposition
forces
attempted
to block further sociali-
zation of the
economy by reducing presidential power
under the constitution. A
major
crisis
quickly arose,
and at the time of the
coup
was unresolved. Its
practical
significance,
and the
way
in which it was dealt
with,
offer valuable
insight
into both
Chilean
political
tradition and the Chilean road to socialism.
In
assuming
the
presidency,
Allende faced the
problem
of how to
proceed
in
the nationalization of the
country's economy.
There was no industrial
counterpart
of
existing agrarian
reform
legislation.
And
Popular Unity
forces controlled
only
40
percent
of the seats in
Congress,
the
government body normally responsible
for
formulating
new laws.
True,
the Chilean
presidency
was endowed with substantial
legislative powers,
growing
out of the executive's rather extensive veto
powers."1
But these could
only
be exercised once a
majority
of the
Congress agreed
to consider
legislation
in the
general area,
and thus could be neutralized
by
a hostile
legislative majority.
In their search of constitutional nooks and
crannies, however, government
lawyers
discovered a number of little-known but
powerful
executive
prerogatives.20
One of these was Decree-Law
520,
first
promulgated
in 1932
(under
the short-lived
Socialist
Republic),
and later reaffirmed and
expanded by
laws in 1953 and 1966.
It authorized executive
expropriation
of
any
firm
producing
or
distributing
essen-
tial
goods,
but
currently
shut
down,
otherwise unable or
unwilling
to maintain re-
quired production levels,
or
guilty
of
speculation.
Another instrument available to Allende was the
authority
of the
country's
national
development corporation (CORFO)
to enter into
any
area or
activity
within the national
economy, declaring privately
held stock
subject
to
government
purchase,
and
taking
over actual
operations.
And
finally,
laws of Internal State
Security
authorized
temporary government
intervention and control of vital industries
paralyzed
because of labor
disputes,
while the national Office for
Industry
and Commerce
(DIRINCO)
could
similarly
intervene in and assume control of the distribution or
retailing
of items of basic
necessity.
All of these executive
prerogatives
were
subject
to
judicial
review
by
the
Contraloria General de la
Republica.
Even if the Contraloria were to find a
par-
ticular measure or act
unconstitutional, however,
it could be overridden
by
means
1
The
president's legislative powers
are not
specifically
mentioned in the
constitution,
but
rather
grow
out of his enormous veto
powers.
The Chilean
president's
veto can be sus-
pensive, substitutive,
or additive. This enables
him,
once a
majority
of the
Congress
agrees
to
legislate
in a
given area,
to
modify
the final version of
any
bill
virtually
at will.
His veto
may
be
overridden,
and the bill's
original
version
restored, only by
a vote of two
thirds of the
membership
of both houses. The President is thus often able to
legislate
with
only
a
"negative majority," i.e.,
with the
support
of one-third
plus
one of the mem-
bers of the
Congress.
See Constitution
of
the
Republic of Chile,
1925
(Washington,
D.C.: Pan American
Union, 1962), pp.
13-15.
0
My
discussion of
presidential powers
is drawn from Eduardo Novoa
M.,
"Vias
Legales para
Avanzar hacia el
Socialismo,"
in
Mensaje, Vol. XX,
no.
197, pp.
84-90. Sefior Novoa
was President Allende's
principal legal
advisor.
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CHILE'S DEMOCRATIC ROAD TO SOCIALISM
773
of a
presidential
"decree of insistence"
unanimously signed by
members of the
cabinet. With this
any
measure becomes
"constitutional,"
and there is
virtually
no
possibility
of
appeal.21
These executive
powers
seemed to assure the
implementation
of Allende's
program,
in
spite
of the
government's minority standing
in
Congress.
Not
surpris-
ingly, they
were viewed with considerable alarm
by
both the National and Christian
Democratic
parties.22
In
September 1971,
the Nationals
brought
censure
proceed-
ings against
Minister Vuskovic. The Christian Democrats
initially
went
along,
and
only
withdrew their
support
when assured
by
Allende of a moratorium on nation-
alizations until
legislation defining
the boundaries of the
public, mixed,
and
private
sectors of the
economy
could be
presented.
When this failed to
materialize,
PDC Senators Hamilton and Fuentealba intro-
duced a constitutional amendment
limiting
executive
authority
with
respect
to the
economy.
Under its
provisions, any expansion
of the
public
sector would hence-
forth
require specific enabling legislation,
and
currently
intervened or
requisitioned
firms would
(or
at least
could)
be returned to their
original
owners unless
provided
for
by legislation.
The bill won
approval
of a
majority
of both houses of
Congress
in
February
1972.
The
government, however,
was undaunted. Allende announced he would veto
the
amendment,
insisted that a
congressional
override would
require
a two-thirds
majority,
and
argued
that
any
conflict in the matter should be resolved
by
the Con-
stitutional Tribunal.
Moreover,
to dramatize his resolve to continue ahead with his
program,
he initiated nationalization
proceedings
for an additional number of
important
firms. For its
part,
the
opposition
countered that
only
a
simple majority
was needed to
override,
that the Tribunal had no
jurisdiction
in the
matter,
and
that the President must either
accept
the amendment or call a national
plebescite.
In
April
and
June 1972,
extensive efforts to resolve the conflict were made.
These were
unsuccessful,
and in
early July
Allende's veto was overridden
by
a sim-
ple majority. Knowing
that Allende would
reject
the
override,
and that he would
refer the matter to the Constitutional
Tribunal, opposition
forces for the moment
chose not to force a
showdown,
and
simply
did not
formally
inform the President
of its action.
Additional
postponements
of the
question
were later
agreed
to because of more
pressing
concerns
(the
October strike and the March
elections).
It was
reopened
in
April 1973, however,
when
Congress formally
notified Allende of its override.
Allende
promptly rejected this, promulgated
those sections of the amendment not
in
dispute,
and
appealed
to the Constitutional Tribunal.
Unfortunately,
after
twenty days
of
deliberation,
the Tribunal decided it had no
jurisdiction
in the
matter, leaving
it much as it had been a
year
earlier: the President
arguing
that
Congress
had exceeded its
prerogatives
and that its override was
invalid;
and the
'
Except through
the mechanism of
impeachment proceedings approved by
a two-thirds
majority
of the Senate. See
Frederico Gil,
The Political
System of
Chile
(New
York:
Houghton Mifflin, 1966), p.
97.
*
Each
party comprised groups
whose economic interests would be affected
by
the
govern-
ment's
objectives. Moreover,
both
were
disturbed
by
the
alleged political implications
of the
proposed
state
enterprises: immediate
control of workers and exclusive
oppor-
tunity
for social and
political
influence on them over the
long
term.
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774 THE WESTERN POLITICAL
QUARTERLY
opposition insisting
that Allende either
promulgate
the amendment in its entire-
ty
or submit the issue to a
plebescite.
The
Specific Subject
Matter Involved
Shortly
after initial
passage
of the amendment in
February 1972,
the
govern-
ment
approached
the PDC in an
attempt
to head off a
major
confrontation. The
Communists,
who had been
pushing
for an
improvement
of ties with the middle
sectors,
were
largely responsible
for this
move.23
In
accepting
their
advice,
Allende
was aware that the mere
holding
of
negotiations,
whatever their
outcome,
would
have a
stabilizing
influence on the
general political
situation. But he also knew
that an
agreement
with the Christian Democrats on the nature and
scope
of future
economic
changes
would make a
challenge
of executive
prerogatives
seem unneces-
sary,
and he
appeared genuinely optimistic
that this could be reached.
At the time this was not an
entirely
unreasonable
expectation.
The
PDC,
after
all,
was
publicly
committed to the
goal
of
socialism,
and even
appeared
to
accept
substantial state involvement in the
economy.
Its
major
concerns seemed rather
with
procedural questions
and with the
degree
and forms of worker
participation.24
Once
launched,
the conversations resulted in
agreement
on three
points: (1)
future nationalizations would be
accomplished through
new
legislation (although
Decree-Law 520 could still be
used, subject
to
appeal,
as a
temporary mechanism) ;
(2)
firms
already expropriated
or intervened would not return to their former
status;
and
(3) special
worker-run
enterprises
would be
established.25
Just
when it
appeared
that an
understanding
had been
reached, however,
Allende
repudiated
the terms of
agreement (apparently
under
pressure
from the
Socialists).
This led
to a
suspension
of the
negotiations,
the
resignation
from the cabinet of Allende's
chief
negotiators (members
of the Partido de la
Izquierda
Radical or
PIR),
and
that
party's
abandonment of the
government
coalition.
Two months
later,
in
mid-June,
conversations were
renewed, again
at the
urging
of the Communists.
Legislative
action on the
presidential
veto was sus-
pended,
and
lengthy negotiations
ensued at both staff and
leadership
levels. Once
again, agreement
was
apparently
reached on
virtually
all items. The
government
would withdraw its veto and instead
present legislation delimiting public
and
pri-
vate
sectors,
and
clarifying
the conditions and
procedures
for nationalization. More-
over,
the
governing principles
and
major
features of this
legislation
were outlined
and
agreed
to.
Only regarding
the fate of the
country's
sole
supplier
of
newsprint
and certain details of the worker-run
enterprises
was there still
disagreement.26
'At UP coalition
meetings
at El
Arrayan
in
February,
the Communists
urged
limited
rap-
prochement
with middle sector
groups.
Millas'
June
5 article
specifically
mentions the
Christian Democrats.
~ I do not mean to minimize the
importance
of
"procedural" questions,
which are often the
most difficult to overcome. But if the Christian Democrats were
really
serious about
working
to build
socialism,
these difficulties should have been
surmountable.
Cf. Jaime Ruiz-Tagle,
"De la Reforma
Industrial al
Conflicto
de
Poderes,"
in
MensaJe,
Vol.
XXI,
no. 208
(Mayo 1972), p.
233.
* The
newsprint
firm was the
Compania Manufacturera
de
Papeles y Cartones,
more com-
monly
referred to as
"la papelera"
and owned
by
former President
Jorge
Alessandri.
Its nationalization has
long
been
sought by
the
government
for its
symbolic
and actual
importance.
A detailed account of the
negotiations
is
given by
then
Justice
Minister
Jorge Tapia,
in Clarin
(a Santiago daily),
8 de
Julio, 1972, pp.
16-17.
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CHILE'S DEMOCRATIC ROAD TO SOCIALISM
775
Nevertheless,
the
attempt again
failed. Amidst
complicated maneuverings
on
both
sides,
communications broke down and a vote was
suddenly
forced on Allende's
veto. It was overridden
by
a
simple
majority,
thanks to last-minute
support
from
the Christian Democrats. Conservative
party
elements associated with former
President Frei are
generally
credited with the decision to abandon the
negotiations
and force a vote.27 Their efforts were cheered
by
the Nationals but resented
by
Christian Democrats who
opposed
alliance with the PN and wished in some
way
to
cooperate
with the
government.
On the
left,
the failure was a blow to Allende and
the
Communists,
but was
greeted
with
pleasure
and relief
by others, including many
within Allende's own Socialist
party.28
Though unsuccessful,
the
negotiations
nevertheless reveal
important things
about
political struggle
on the Chilean road to socialism.
First, powerful political
forces
(the
Communists and Christian
Democrats), though
unable to
agree,
seemed
intent on
preventing
conflict from
reaching
levels which affected institutional
stability. Secondly,
when
openly
and
systematically discussed, away
from the dis-
torting
context of
public debate, UP-PDC
differences on
specific
economic
ques-
tions were less
far-reaching
than one
might
have
supposed.
And
thirdly,
neither
the
government
nor the
opposition
could claim to be a
single-minded
monolithic
force.
The substantial
convergence
of
positions
on
specific
matters is a
particularly
important aspect
of the current crisis.
Among
other
things
it
suggests
that the
basic conflict is not one of formal
positions
or
principles.
This view is reinforced
by
a consideration of the constitutional
arguments
of each side.
The Constitutional Issue
The
public airing
of the conflict has consisted
largely
of
legal
or constitutional
debate. The
principal
issue concerned the size of the
congressional majority required
to override the veto of a constitutional amendment. The
ambiguity
arose from a
constitutional amendment
passed during
the Frei administration.
Among
its
pro-
visions was one
enabling
the President to call a
plebescite
if a
simple congressional
majority rejected
his veto of a
proposed
constitutional amendment.29
Prior to this
amendment,
a two-thirds
majority
of both houses was
clearly
required
to override
presidential
vetoes of both
regular
and constitutional
legisla-
tion.30 But now some doubt had arisen. The
government argued
that the reform
had been intended to
strengthen,
not weaken
presidential prerogatives,
and that
in
any
event it in no
way superceded existing
amendment
provisions.
But the
oppo-
Each
group
contained elements
working
at cross
purposes (i.e.,
both for and
against
an
understanding).
The PIR
played
an
important
role in
torpedoing
the discussions
by
refusing
to continue to hold
up
a
legislative quorum,
and thus
forcing
a vote on the
President's veto.
*
Here the different attitudes towards the
negotiations essentially
reflected different
political
assessments of the Christian Democrats and of how
cooperating
with them would affect
the
Popular Unity program.
*
The Frei
reform,
in other
words,
was a constitutional amendment
dealing, among
other
things,
with the matter of constitutional amendment.
*
Cf. Articles
54, 108,
and 109 of the Chilean
constitution,
in Constitution
of
the
Republic
of Chile, 1925, pp.
14 and 26-27.
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776 THE WESTERN POLITICAL QUARTERLY
sition
rejoined
that this would make the
calling
of a
plebescite (a major objective
of
the Frei reform as
well)
an
extremely
rare occurrence.
Each of these
arguments
had
merit,
with the
government's probably
of
greater
legal weight.31 Both, however,
retained
extremely important political implications
as
well. When
introduced,
the Frei reform had been
enthusiastically supported by
the
Christian
Democrats,
who at the time defended the need for
expanded presidential
powers.
The
left,
on the other
hand,
had
opposed
the
measure, defending
the com-
petence
and institutional interests of the
legislature.
Given these
circumstances,
it is
reasonable to
suppose
that
positions
in the matter have had a
great
deal to do with
who controlled which branch of
government
at what
time,
and that what
really
was
at stake was an intense
struggle
for
power.
If
accepted,
for
example,
the current Christian Democratic
position
would
place political authority
almost
entirely
in the hands of the
legislature. By present-
ing
all
legislation
in the form of constitutional
amendments,
the
opposition
could
effectively
eliminate the President's
law-making authority;
and
by making
the
amendment
process
a
question
of
simple majority,
it could
conceivably strip
Allende of his other executive
powers
as well. Whatever its
legal merits, then,
the
Christian Democratic
position
was
very clearly
a direct attack on Allende's
political
power.
The same kind of
argument
can of course as
easily
be made with
respect
to the
UP's defense of
presidential prerogatives.
The
struggle
for
power taking place,
however,
was not
merely
the usual one between executive and
legislative
branches.
It was a
struggle
between
revolutionary forces,
who
currently
held the balance of
legitimate political authority,
and
anti-revolutionary
forces who were
attempting
to reduce that
authority,
thus
forcing
the left either to roll back its revolution or to
move
beyond legal
bounds and
thereby
risk
military
intervention. The constitu-
tional crisis was
thus,
in
fact,
an institutionalized form or variant of the class
strug-
gle, brought
on
by
the efforts of one of the two sides to
change
the rules of the
game
in order more
effectively
to defend its economic and
political
interests.
Related Political
Developments
In their
respective propaganda
efforts in connection with the
crisis,
each side
often accused the other of
attempting
to subvert institutions and
monopolize power.
The crisis also
provided
occasion for renewed leftist attacks on
"bourgeois"
institu-
tions. In the face of
opposition
attacks on his constitutional
authority,
for
example,
Allende
frequently
assailed
Congress
as a bastion of self-interest and
reaction,
and
called for "more
representative
and more
revolutionary
institutions"
in the future.
The crisis also was
accompanied by
a marked
upswing
in mobilization
politics.
Street
demonstrations, strikes,
and mass rallies and marches became
important
elements in the
strategies
of both sides. This
development
was
largely
the func-
See El Mercurio (Edicion Internacional),
Semana del 6 al 12 de
Marzo, 1972, pp.
3 and
5,
for
opposition
and
government interpretations
of the Frei reform. Both sides admit that
the reform was
badly
written and
probably
should not have been
passed
in its
present
form. The
government's position
also
appears stronger
in that it is difficult to believe
that
anyone
intended constitutional amendments to
require
less of a
legislative majority
than
regular legislation.
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CHILE'S DEMOCRATIC ROAD TO SOCIALISM 777
tion of the doubts each had of the other's
respect
for constitutional
politics.
No
one who
questions
this
opponent's willingness
to
accept
defeat within the
present
system
is
likely
to confine his own actions to formal
political channels;
he must
move to counter or overcome them on other levels as well. In
Chile,
both
govern-
ment and
opposition
now seemed to understand and
accept
this.32
In this
way,
the constitutional crisis did
provide
the context for at least a
partial
shift in the form of
political struggle.
Even
so,
at the time it seemed doubtful that
the
days
of constitutional
politics
were therefore soon to end. Constitutional
politics
were
very deeply ingrained
in the
country's
tradition. It had
enjoyed
continuous
constitutional
government
since
1932;
and
only
the overthrow of Balmaceda in
1891 marred the line of
constitutionality
from the era of Portales
(in
the
1830's)
to the ouster of Alessandri in 1924.
Moreover,
this record of constitutional
integrity
had been achieved under con-
ditions that have
occasionally approached
those under Allende. In the late
1930s,
for
example,
the
country
survived Pedro
Aguirre
Cerda's
Popular
Front of Marxists
and
masons,
which had ousted the until then dominant
(and largely Catholic)
political right.
And in the
years
that
followed,
Chile endured food
rationing (under
Gonzalez
Videla),
severe economic
depression (under
Carlos
Ibanez), high-level
inflation
(under Jorge Alessandri),
and
deep
frustration in the wake of
high expec-
tations
(under
Eduardo
Frei),
all without
departing
from the
seemingly
ineffective
but
apparently consoling
tradition of constitutional
politics.
In each of these
instances,
when
popular
dissatisfaction reached its
peak, political
attention invari-
ably
turned to the next
parliamentary
or
presidential elections,
and not to
conspira-
torial
activity.
This tradition and
experience
afforded Chile a
resiliency
to conflict not found
in other Latin American
republics. Moreover, they helped forge
and sustain a
political
consciousness and culture which all
major
forces have shared and to which
all have had to conform. In this
connection,
it is
interesting
that both
government
and
opposition
did feel
obliged
to
justify
their efforts at
political
mobilization as
a means to better
preserve
the
country's
institutional tradition. Each side at-
tempted
to make clear its own
strong
commitment to these
institutions,
as well as
its
opponent's
callous and
cynical disregard
for them.
Thus,
while new forms of
political struggle
had been
added, they
had not
yet superceded
traditional
ones,
nor,
more
importantly,
had
they
altered the terms of
political
reference or debate."3
Summarizing
what the constitutional crisis revealed
regarding
the
political
struggle
under
Allende,
it has been seen that
(1) powerful
forces within each
camp
were able to exert
significant moderating influence; (2) specific ideological
differences between the PDC and UP in themselves
appeared surmountable; (3)
each side
comprised
diverse views and
perspectives;
and
(4)
an intense
struggle
for
power
was
taking place.
"
Such a
judgment has,
of
course, long
been a
prominent
characteristic of Marxist
doctrine,
but it is
interesting
to note the Marxists
being joined
in this
regard by
elements
claiming
to be anti-Marxist and
politically
liberal.
3 It seemed
particularly important
to both sides to
project
an
image
of
strong
constitutional-
ist convictions in the
eyes
of the
country's military, although
other sectors of
public
opinion
were the
object
of attention as well.
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778 THE WESTERN POLITICAL
QUARTERLY
Regarding
this last
feature,
I have
suggested
that basic
political
and economic
interests
lay
beneath the various constitutional
arguments.
In
itself,
this would
appear
to
speak
well of Chile's
political capabilities,
in that it constituted an
impressive example
of the institutionalization of
political
and economic conflict.
In the same
vein, moreover,
the
justification
of new mobilization efforts in terms
of traditional values and institutions served
indirectly
to reinforce them.
All of
this,
of
course,
while
testimony
to the
strength
of the
country's
institu-
tions
during
1972 did not
guarantee they
would survive all future
challenges.
The
refusal of the Constitutional Tribunal to consider the merits of each side's
argu-
ments returned the crisis to where it stood the
previous year.
Allende then
promul-
gated
the
undisputed provisions
of the
amendment,
and at the time of the
coup
was
awaiting judgment by
the
Contraloria.34
Since the initial
emergence
of the
conflict
in
1972, however,
a number of
important developments
had taken
place.
These
must be considered if the
subsequent collapse
of democratic institutions is to be
understood.
THE OVERTHROW
The survival of
political
institutions
depends
on their
being perceived by
a
country's major political
forces as
affording
successful
pursuit
of basic interests.
During
late 1972 and
early 1973, important
elements of Chilean
society
came to
regard
democratic
politics
and
partisan
or class interests as
incompatible, making
a
breakdown in the
country's
institutional life all but inevitable. Two
developments,
the October strike and the March
elections, played particularly important
roles in
this
process.
The strike
provided
dramatic
expression
of the
country's
social and
political
conflicts,
further
intensifying
them in the
process.
The
elections,
on the other
hand,
saw the
opposition
lose its last chance to
constitutionally
remove Allende from
office.
Moreover, although
both had
involved
major political challenges,
neither
development
weakened the
government's
resolve to continue with its
program.
Given this
context,
it seemed the
opposition's
overall
position
could
only
worsen with time. As a
result,
sentiment for
moving against
Allende
by
force in-
creased
markedly.
Constitutionalist forces
within
the
military
saw their numbers
and influence decline.
Right-wing
terrorist activities were
stepped up,
and PDC
and PN
representatives began
to meet
regularly
with civilian and
military
con-
spirators.
These activities led first to the abortive
coup
of
June 29,
then to a re-
newal of the October
strike,
and
finally
to the
coup itself,
once
pro-Allende
or
anti-coup
forces within the
military
had been
isolated,
and
pro-government
civilian
groups forcibly
disarmed.
In the
end,
Chile's constitutional tradition broke under the strain of sustained
class
struggle.
As late as
June, however,
it was
possible
to see the strike and the
elections as
making
such a breakdown less
(not more) likely. Strong governments,
after
all,
were
presumably
less
easily
overthrown than weak
ones,
and both devel-
opments
indicated the UP had become
stronger.
*
There is
precedent
for the Contraloria's
approving
a President's
acting
in this
manner,
but
constitutionally
this need not have mattered as the President could override an unfavor-
able decision with a decree of insistence.
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CHILE'S DEMOCRATIC ROAD TO SOCIALISM
779
The
strike
was initiated
by independent
truck owners in
protest against plans
to establish a state
trucking agency
in a remote southern
province.
It was
quickly
joined
and
expanded by merchants, professionals, industrialists,
white-collar work-
ers,
and anti-Marxist
peasants,
as well as
by
the National and Christian Democratic
parties.
Their common intent was to shut the
country
down
economically.
With
this,
all
hoped
to then win
specific policy
concessions from the
government, although
some were also interested in
weakening
its
legitimacy
and in
creating
sufficient
chaos
actually
to
bring
it down."5 In the
end,
however,
their
designs
failed because
of the
previously unsuspected
extent of
popular
mobilization and
military support
enjoyed by
Allende.
During
the strike a number of middle-class
groups
became
directly
involved
politically
for the first time. Their involvement in the
provision
of
goods
and
services which were basic to
every-day
existence
gave
them a
potential
for consid-
erable
power.3" Fortunately
for
Allende, however,
their efforts to
paralyze
the
country brought
an immediate reaction from
pro-government
forces.
Largely
on
their own
initiative,
workers and other
popular groups
mobilized in defense of the
government
and
against
the strike.
Overnight popular brigades,
self-defense com-
mittees,
and industrial and communal councils
sprang up.
Factories
attempting
to
close were seized and
subsequently operated by
worker committees
(many
of which
then refused to turn the factories over once the strike had
ended). Many shops
and
foodstores were
kept open
as
well,
either
by
their
employees
or
by groups
of local
residents. And
finally,
volunteer drivers manned over
1,000 requisitioned
trucks to
help keep
essential
goods moving.37
During
the course of the
strike, moreover,
class lines and class conflict
sharp-
ened
considerably.
The
country
was
suddenly
divided into two
bands,
with
popu-
lar and
working-class groups supporting
the
government
and a host of
parallel
organizations
of middle- and
upper-class
elements in violent
opposition. Day
in and
day
out for almost a
month,
workers
attempting
to
keep stores, factories,
and services
operating
clashed
verbally
and
physically
with the
merchants, owners, managers,
and
employee guilds
which were
trying
to close them down. Almost
inexorably,
it
s
In
general,
the Nationals
urged
a direct
political
attack on the
government's legitimacy and,
if that
prospered,
on its existence as well. The Christian
Democrats,
on the other
hand,
preferred
to retain the movement's
ostensibly
economic
character,
and
only indirectly
to
impune
Allende's
authority
and
legitimacy. Cf.
a
study
of the strike
by
the PDC's
Claudio
Orrego,
entitled El Paro de
Octubre,
Via Chilena contra el Totalitarismo
(San-
tiago:
Editorial del
Pacifico),
1972.
'
These
groups
included the
country's major
associations
of
teachers, lawyers, shopkeepers,
truckers, banking employees,
and doctors. For a
partial
list of
groups supporting
the
strike,
as well as a formulation of their
demands,
see the 28
point "Pliego
de Chile"
reproduced
in La Prensa
(a Santiago daily),
22 de
Octubre, 1972, p.
7. Not included
in the
list,
but also
major
forces behind the
strike,
were the National
Agricultural
Society (SNA),
the
Society
for
Manufacturing Development (SOFOFA),
the National
Mining Society,
and the Confederation of Production and Commerce.
In a
partial
review of the
newspapers
for this
period, I
came across
specific
references to
seizures of over 20
large
factories in the
Santiago area, although
some observers with
whom
I
have
spoken
estimate the number
actually
seized as over 100. In addition,
the
government
claimed that over
20,000
student volunteers were
engaged
in
loading
and
unloading
trucks and
freight
trains.
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780 THE WESTERN POLITICAL QUARTERLY
seemed, government
and
opposition loyalties
coincided more and more
closely
with
class affiliations as the strike
progressed.38
In this
fashion,
the strike
provided
the first evidence of substantial revolution-
ary
mobilization on the
part
of
popular
forces. It showed them to be
politically
conscious, effectively organized,
and
possessed
of an
impressive capacity
for
struggle.
It
suggested,
in
effect,
that
they
were not
only supportive
of the
changes taking
place
under Allende but also
ready
and
quite
able to defend them.
It is still unclear whether this
suddenly apparent "revolutionary
mass" had
been there all
along,
or whether it
only developed
with this first sustained
challenge
of the
revolutionary process.
Whichever the
case,
it did exist and would have an
important
effect on
subsequent political developments.
It seemed
fairly certain,
for
example,
that
any attempt
to oust Allende
by
force would meet with massive
orga-
nized resistance
and,
if not
immediately frustrated,
would lead to a bitter and
bloody
civil war. At the time it seemed that this would have a
sobering
effect on
virtually everyone,
and in
particular
on how the
opposition
viewed its
strategic
alternatives for the remainder of Allende's term.39
Another
important
feature of the strike was the
strong support given
the
gov-
ernment
by
the
army
and national
police
force.
Despite opposition protests,
the
armed forces maintained order and enforced
government policies throughout
the
strike.
Their
actions,
in
effect,
thwarted its
principal objectives,
and
actually
en-
hanced the UP's
general political standing.40
Army support
also
helped bring
the conflict to an end. On November
2,
Allende announced the formation of a new
cabinet, including army
Commander-
in-Chief Carlos Prats
(as
Minister of
Interior)
and two other
high-ranking
officers.
This
immediately placed
the
opposition
on the
defensive,41
and within four
days
a settlement of the strike was announced. The
government
made several conces-
sions,
but the terms of the
agreement generally
reflected its views and interests. The
opposition
was forced to set aside
many
of its initial demands
and,
in the case of
others,
to
accept
conditional
government
commitments which would
likely prove
inoperative.42
*
Perhaps
the most
impressive
evidence of the
phenomenon
was the case of Christian Demo-
cratic
workers,
most of whom
apparently ignored
the
party's
call for
support
of the strike.
See,
for
example,
the interview of
Juan Lorca,
in Chile
Hoy,
no.
21,
Semana del 3 al
9 de
Noviembre, 1972, p.
4. It is true that the PDC's
peasant
confederations Libertad
and
Triunfo Campesino officially supported
the
strike,
but
they
did not
play
an active
role in the course of its
development.
3
Para-military
structures were created both within and between
factory
and union
organiza-
tions. Arms had also been
distributed, although
it is
impossible
to know how
extensively.
In
any event,
I am not
suggesting
that mobilized workers ever constituted a shadow
army
rivaling
the established
military,
or that
they
were
capable
of
overcoming it,
but
merely
that
they
constituted an
important strategic
force.
*
The
government's response
to strike activities
(many
of which were
clearly
and
consciously
illegal)
was for the most
part restrained, flexible,
and
legally correct,
a fact which seemed
to have a favorable
impact
on
public opinion
at the time.
" Until the
military's incorporation
in the
Cabinet,
the
opposition rejected government
re-
quests
for discussions and
negotiations by claiming
that its word could not be
trusted,
a claim
which,
whatever the case
previously,
was
simply
not
plausible
after November 2.
" The most
important
of the
government's
several concessions was the removal of the
private
wholesaling complex
CENADI from the list of 91 firms soon to be transferred to the state
sector of the
economy.
On the other
hand,
other
government
commitments do not
appear
to have conceded much at all. It was
agreed,
for
example,
that
legal
status would be
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CHILE'S DEMOCRATIC ROAD TO SOCIALISM
781
The
military's support
of Allende was
profoundly disappointing
to the
oppo-
sition.
Many
had
expected (or
at least
hoped)
that the armed forces would
actually
turn on Allende. Others
sought
to
persuade
the
military
at least to let the
govern-
ment fend for itself.
They argued
that the conflict was
political,
that the strikers
were
responding
to
repeated government
violations of the
constitution,
and that
in
such circumstances a
strict
defense of law and order was tantamount to
political
intervention on the side of the left.43
Military
authorities
rejected
these
notions,
and instead
publicly
reaffirmed
their commitment to the constitution
generally
and to executive
authority
in
particu-
lar. In a formal statement
during
the
strike,
General Prats stressed the
importance
of
preserving
social
order,
and then noted the President's direct
authority
over the
armed forces for such
purposes.
".
..
it is clear that the armed forces are a
legitimate
instrument which the President of the
Republic
can
employ
to ensure that the con-
stitution is
respected by
those who threaten
public order,
whether it be
through
acts
of subversion or
sedition,
or
[through]
coercive
attempts
to
paralyze
the
country."44
Moreover, according
to
Prats,
it was not for the
military
to
pass judgment
on the
legality
of
particular
executive orders or
decisions,
as this would violate constitu-
tional
prohibitions against "deliberating" (Article 22)
and
against disobeying
or
pressuring
civil
authority (Article 23).
With
this,
Prats
appeared
to be
making
a
connection between defense of the constitution and the doctrine of civilian
suprem-
acy,
a
position
he later affirmed more
forcefully:
As
long
as the Rule of Law
exists,
the armed forces should
respect
the constitution and have
no
right
to determine a
priori
whether state authorities are
respecting
or
violating
it. To do
so, employing
the
power
of force to
support
their
[own] opinion
or to
replace
bodies consti-
tutionally designed
to resolve the
controversy,
would
paradoxically
amount to
"shoving
the
constitution in one's
pocket."
This statement carried two
very important implications.
On the one
hand,
Prats declared the
military
to be the
enforcer,
and not the
judge,
of constitutional
integrity.
The latter
responsibility
was left to
"constitutionally designated"
bodies.
And
although
it is not
immediately
clear
to whom this
refers,
it turns
out,
in almost
all
cases,
to be the President
himself,
since with the
exception
of
impeachment pro-
ceedings,
the executive can
legally
override all
judgments
as to the
constitutionality
of his actions.4"
restored to certain
organizations
"when the basis for the measures
initially adopted
had
disappeared,"
and that the activities of
private transport
would be
guaranteed
"con-
sistent with the demands of national
security
and the
government's responsibility
to
assure at all times the satisfaction of the
population's
consumer needs." For the
gov-
ernment statement which served as the basis of the
settlement,
see La
Prensa,
6 de
Noviembre, 1972, p.
6.
"
See "Parlamentarios de
Oposicion
con el Comandante
Prats,"
in El Mercurio
(Edicion
Internacional),
Semana del 16
al 22 de
Octubre, 1972, p.
6.
"
See "La Doctrina
Schneider,"
a statement
by
General Carlos Prats Gonzalez
appearing
in
the November 5 edition of El Mercurio
(page
number
unavailable).
45 Ibid.
'
In his statement Prats
acknowledged (with apparent approval)
the
president's authority
to
override Contraloria
judgments.
See ibid. Also cf. F.
Gil, op. cit.,
for a discussion of the
issue.
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782 THE WESTERN POLITICAL QUARTERLY
On the other
hand,
this
respect
for civilian
supremacy
and
existing authority
was conditional
upon
the continued existence of the "rule of law." A distinc-
tion was
implicitly
drawn between executive
authority
to resolve
legitimate
con-
troversy regarding interpretation
of the constitution and
flagrant disregard
or
abandonment of the constitution. In the latter
case,
there would
presumably
be
no
question
that
constitutionality
had been
abrogated,
and that the
military
accord-
ingly
would be authorized to take
steps
to restore
it.47
This assertion
by military
authorities
represented
an
important
limitation on
Allende's exercise of
power,
as well as a
price
to be
paid
for
military support
both
during
the strike and
subsequently.
At the same
time,
however,
it was a limitation
and a
price
which the Allende
government
had
accepted
from the
beginning,
and
within which it had thus far been able to
operate effectively.
In
any event,
the
opposition
was forewarned that
military
authorities would
defend Allende
against
all non-constitutional
attempts
to oust him. When added
to the likelihood of massive
popular resistance,
this made the idea of
removing
Allende
by
force a most hazardous and
unpromising
one all the
way
around.
Adding
further to the
opposition's misfortune,
the March 1973
congressional
elections made the
prospects
of
legal
action
against
Allende even less encour-
aging.
In
failing
to win a two-thirds
majority
of seats in the new
Congress,
anti-UP
forces lost their last chance of
constitutionally ousting
Allende or even
limiting
his
political authority
before the end of his term in 1976.
Of additional
importance
to the overall
political situation,
the elections
suggest
a substantial
development
of
political
consciousness
by
leftist forces. Allende actu-
ally emerged
from the elections as more
popular
at the
midway point
in his term
than
any
other Chilean
president
in recent
memory,
and this
despite increasingly
trying
economic conditions even for
working-class
and
popular
sectors.48
The most
plausible explanation
of this
phenomenon
is that the UP had suc-
ceeded in
making ideological
criteria the
principal
basis of its
popular appeal.
This
is not to
say
that the
government's
earlier material concessions to
popular groups
were
unnecessary,
or that economic conditions were
simply
no
longer important
to
people
on the left. But it does
suggest
that
large
numbers of UP
supporters
were
more concerned with
political struggle
and the
restructuring
of
society
than with
the current status of their material needs and
aspirations.
This reversal of
priorities
was made
possible
because the notion of
restructuring society
had ceased to be an
abstraction,
and
was
an
increasingly
essential
part
of one's
day-to-day experience,
be
this
participation
in the life and
decision-making processes
of the nationalized indus-
tries,
new involvement and
responsibility
at the
neighborhood level,
or the almost
* Thus one would
distinguish,
for
example,
between not
promulgating
a law or an override
approved by Congress
because of a claim that a two-thirds
(and
not
simple) majority
vote was
required,
and not
promulgating congressional
laws or
judicial
decisions be-
cause
(without
there
being
constitutional
ambiguity)
one
simply
did not like them. This
latter action would constitute
arbitrary (and constitutionally implausible) disregard
of
legitimate
actions and
prerogatives
of other branches of
government.
4
The
phenomenon
of el
desgaste
del
poder (the
drain of
power),
in which an administration
sees its
popular following progressively
diminish with
time,
is a
remarkably
constant
feature of
modern
Chilean
politics.
President
Frei,
for
example, having
been elected
with 56
percent
of the national vote in
1964,
could command
only
a 35.6
percent
follow-
ing
in 1967.
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CHILE'S DEMOCRATIC ROAD TO SOCIALISM
783
continuous confrontation with
opposing
social and
political
forces at
virtually
all
levels.49
The elections thus
indirectly
confirmed earlier evidence
regarding
the increas-
ing maturity
of
revolutionary
forces in Chile.
They
showed that workers and other
popular
elements were interested in more than
merely money
and
living conditions,
that
they
would
support
a
revolutionary government
in the face of extreme eco-
nomic
adversity,
and that this
support
had
grown stronger,
and not
weaker,
with
the
passage
of time.50
The
general
conclusions to be drawn from the strike and the elections can now
be
briefly
summarized.
First,
the
opposition
suffered two substantial
political
de-
feats in a
row,
and now faced three more
years
of
Allende's
presidency
without
any
visible institutional means for
countering
executive
power (unless,
as seemed un-
likely,
its constitutional amendment became
law).
The
left,
on the other
hand, emerged
as
politically
much
stronger
than most
people
had
imagined.
It had
respectable
electoral
strength (more
than
enough,
for
example,
to assure Allende of
completion
of his
term),
and it boasted of even
more
impressive political
consciousness and
capacity
for mobilization and
struggle
(which
assured massive resistance and virtual civil war in the event of an effort
to oust Allende
by force).
And
finally,
the
country's military leadership appeared strongly
committed not
only
to constitutional
principles,
but to civilian
supremacy
and executive
authority
as well. As
long
as Allende's
government
maintained its overall
respect
for the con-
stitution and for the
remaining
branches of
government,
the
military
seemed
ready
to defend Allende from efforts to oust him.
These conclusions
very clearly
favored
government interests,
inasmuch as
Allende seemed both able and content to
carry
on as he had to that
point (i.e.
moving steadily
towards
completion
of his
program
within the bounds of the con-
stitution).
The
opposition,
on the other
hand,
could not like the idea of
things
continuing
as
they
had
been,
and
yet
did not seem able to do
anything
about it:
while its
legal
avenues
appeared exhausted, illegal
action seemed both too
unprom-
ising
and too hazardous to warrant serious consideration.
It is true that the
opposition
had become
discouraged by
recent
developments,
and that it was
quite pessimistic regarding
the future. But as
long
as the
military
was
prepared
to defend
duly
constituted
authority,
anti-Allende forces were un-
likely
to take "drastic" action. Without the
complicity
of the
military,
and
given
the
capacity
for
struggle
of
pro-government forces,
the
prospects
for success
appeared poor
and the likelihood of disaster
high.
While the increased
political
strength
of the
government
had
initially
alarmed the
opposition,
it thus also
* The
following
remarks of a worker at the nationalized Fabrilana
yarn factory provides
a
forceful
example
of this
phenomenon:
"There is no
way
we would
accept,
there is no
good
reason to return the
industries,
since to have what we have now has cost us so
many sacrifices,
has cost us so much. If it is
necessary,
we will take to the streets to
defend what is ours now and forever."
Quoted
in El
Siglo,
10 de
Julio, 1972, p.
3.
*
The record number of
factory
seizures
during
the
year,
the formation of the combative
"cordones industriales" in the industrial
park
areas of
Santiago,
and
periodically reported
interviews with so-called
"ordinary workers,"
all offer
support
for the view that revolu-
tionary
consciousness was indeed
growing
in Chile.
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784 THE WESTERN POLITICAL QUARTERLY
seemed to deter it from
responding unwisely.
And it is in this sense that the Octo-
ber and March events
appeared
at the time to enhance the likelihood of institu-
tional
stability.
The crucial variable in all of
this,
of
course,
was the
military. Although
little
was known
regarding
internal
military politics,
a sudden shift in the
military's
position
was
always
a
possibility.
At the
time,
there was
clearly greater sympathy
for the
opposition
than for the
government
in
military
ranks. But the UP had its
supporters
as
well,
and of course there was the
military's
much vaunted tradition
of non-involvement in
politics.
In
any event,
the
great majority appeared
to feel
adequately interpreted by
the civilista line of General Prats.51
Prats himself was an
extraordinarily
able
political figure.
He had led the
army
through very
difficult
times, effectively dealing
with civilian
politicians
and success-
fully resisting
a number of internal
challenges
to his
leadership. Following
the
March
elections, however,
his
position
deteriorated
sharply.
New York Times cor-
respondent Jonathan
Kandell
reports
from
post- coup
interviews with middle rank-
ing
officers of their relief that the UP had done as well as it had.
Although they
had been
actively plotting
since
November,
the results had made it easier to con-
vince others that there was no
way
out but
through
force.52
Widespread planning involving
both civilian and
military groups
was under-
taken almost
immediately.
These
meetings
led to the
attempt
of
June 29,
and to
abortive
coups
on
May
18 and
August
18 as well. Each was
put
down
by
forces
loyal
to General Prats and the
government.
But
by mid-August
Prats had exhausted
his
political resources,
was
isolated,
and
was forced to
resign
as both Commander-
in-Chief and Minister of Interior. He was
replaced by
General
Augusto Pinochet,
and it then became a matter of time before the
military
made its move.
Also an
apparently important
element in the
military's
calculus was the
grow-
ing
evidence that the
country's largest single party,
the Christian
Democrats,
would
support
Allende's
overthrow.
Following
the March
elections,
the PDC had chosen
as its new President Senator Patricio
Aylwin,
a
strong
anti-Marxist with contacts
with
right-wing political
and economic
groups.
From this
point
on,
the
party
subsequently pursued
a
policy
of hard-line
opposition
to
Allende,
and
during
the
renewed strike
by anti-government
forces in
July
and
August,
it refused to consider
Allende's offers of discussion and concessions.
Moreover,
Christian Democrats also
joined
the Nationals in a
congressional
resolution
charging
the UP with the destruc-
tion of the constitutional and
legal order,
and
urging military
action to "end such
a situation." These moves were taken due note of
by
the
military, particularly
their
implication
of
support
or
sympathy
for a
subsequent
intervention.53
5 This
majority obviously
did not include Generals Arturo Marshall or Roberto
Viaux,
both
of whom were
implicated
in
anti-government conspiracies early
in the Allende
presi-
dency.
5
Jonathan Kandell,
"Chilean Officers Tell How
They Began
to Plan the Take-Over Last
November,"
New York
Times, September 27, 1973, page
3.
"
See El Mercurio
(Edicion Internacional),
Semana del 20 al 26 de
Agosto
de
1973, p.
5.
The
party's support
for the resolution was
strongly
criticized on these
precise grounds
(that
it would
encourage coup-minded military elements) by
left
wing
Christian Demo-
crats.
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CHILE'S DEMOCRATIC ROAD TO SOCIALISM 785
With the
complicity
of the Christian
Democrats,
the one
remaining
obstacle
to a
golpe
was the one on which Allende had
probably
counted
most,
the
military's
unwillingness
to
bring
on either a bitter and
bloody
civil war or a
repressive
Fascist
dictatorship.
In an interview
during early 1973,
he described the horror and de-
structiveness of a civil
war,
and then
speculated
that ".. . if a revolt or civil war
were successful in
Chile,
we would wind
up
with a
despotic government,
a Fascist
dictatorship. Why?
Because there is
already political
consciousness
here, particu-
larly among
the
workers,
and there would have to be bloodshed and violence to
keep
them down." 54
Allende believed
strongly
that there would be
widespread
resistance to
any
effort to oust him. But he also
urged
the realization that no
one,
least of all the
country
as a
whole, emerges
victorious from a civil
war,
and that even if
formally
successful,
the
military
would be forced to
impose
a brutal
dictatorship upon
a de-
feated but defiant
people.
This
last,
and
seemingly plausible
defense
against
intervention
clearly
failed.
Whatever the risks of broad scale conflict or civil
war,
the
military
was
prepared
to
run them. The
systematic purging
of their own
ranks,
and the massive disarma-
ment of
popular
forces in the months
preceding
the
coup
no doubt reduced the
likelihood of effective resistance. Even
so,
the
coup
itself was
hardly
a bloodless
changing
of the
guard.
The stern measures announced
by
the
military, together
with the
reports
re-
ceived to
date,
indicate that there was substantial resistance in the
period
immedi-
ately following
the
coup.
Conditions have since become more
orderly,
at least at the level of
appear-
ances. Of course there is no
political activity;
the
Congress, parties,
the central
labor
federation,
and the free
press
have all been abolished or
"suspended" by
the
military government. Moreover,
the
Junta
has announced its intention to recon-
struct or resurrect the nineteenth
century
Portalian
society,
based on strident na-
tionalism,
authoritarian
rule,
the return of a
large part
of the nationalized
economy
to
private hands,
and the formation of new
"unpoliticized"
social and
political
groups.55
The
major question
in all
this,
and
perhaps
the true test of the
significance
of
the
Popular Unity government,
is of course whether such a
goal
is
possible.
Can it
be
achieved,
and can the
developments
of the
past
three
years
be
erased;
or will the
military
be
powerless
to reverse the structural
changes
and
working-class
conscious-
ness which have taken
place?
From the character of
my analysis
to this
point
it should be clear that I be-
lieve the
attempt
will fail.
During
the Allende
years, working-class
and
popular
forces
developed
into a
powerful
and
purposeful
movement. That it could not
"
See
John
P. Wallach's interview of President Allende in the October 1973 issue of
Genesis,
p.
23.
~
See the
special
issue of El Mercurio
(Edicion Internacional), Septiembre 1973,
devoted
entirely
to a defense of the
coup
and to an
explanation
of
military goals
and ideals.
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786 THE WESTERN POLITICAL QUARTERLY
match the Chilean
military
in
firepower
was
tragically
evident the week of
Septem-
ber
11;
but this does not mean that its historical
development
can be arrested or
erased
by
decree. Chile's democratic road to
socialism,
while it
failed,
will be sur-
vived
by
the
strong working-class
movement and structural
changes
which it fos-
tered. And
any government
which
attempts
to
deny
or
destroy
this
legacy
will
only
ensure its own
early
demise.
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