40th anniversary of bloody overthrow of Allende government

The terrorist attack on the Twin Towers in New York in 2001 was not the first ’9/11’. In Chile, on 11 September 1973, a bloody coup, led by General Augusto Pinochet and backed by the US administration, overthrew the democratically-elected, Left government of President Salvador Allende. In its aftermath, thousands of trade unionists and socialists were slaughtered and thousands more imprisoned, tortured and exiled.

On the fortieth anniversary of the coup, Chile is embarking on a new presidential election scheduled for 17 November 2013. Following a massive student movement, which has continued to rock the country, the first possible important steps are being taken to rebuild an alternative for the working class.

The two main political blocks, the ‘New Majority’ and the ‘Alliance’, both represent the existing ruling elite. They have offered no alternative for the working class and poor of Chile. The parties of the “left”, like the Socialist Party and Communist Party, have long since abandoned the radical left ideas they adhered to during the Allende-era. Like there counterparts internationally, these parties have embraced capitalism and the market and offer no alternative to the working masses.

Former President Michelle Bachelet of the Socialist Party and New Majority coalition is standing again, as no other credible candidate emerged from the former governing coalition. Bachelet is the daughter of air force General Bachelet, who supported Allende and died under torture following the coup. The right-wing Alliance is fielding Evelyn Metthei, daughter of former Pinochet junta member, General Matthei.

Neither candidate offers anything but a continuation of neo-liberal policies. Yet also running in this election is Marcel Claude, the candidate of the Humanist Party and Left Alliance. Defending the students’ movement, demanding free quality education for all, and re-nationalisation of the copper industry, banks and big monopolies, Claude’s campaign has drawn big crowds and won enthusiastic support from workers and young people. The campaign represents an important step forward in re-building the workers’ and socialist movement. To build on this and to take it forward following the November election, the lessons from the bloody coup 40 years ago need to be learnt by a new generation. The reasons for the defeat 40 years ago are relevant for the workers and youth of Chile and all countries.

To read about the background to the coup and the lessons workers and youth must draw from it, we are re-publishing, ‘The other 9/11 – 1973 bloody coup against Popular Unity government, lessons for today’, by Tony Saunois, written in 2011.

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