Fifty years since it was crushed, the Chilean revolution of 1970-73 remains a reference point, not only in Chile, but internationally, for both the working class and its organisations and the capitalist classes. In Chile, in the wake of the 2019 mass movement, the legacy of the coup is again hotly contested. The defenders of capitalism feel compelled to go further than ever before in justifying the bloody repression of the workers’ movement, insisting that, brutal as it was, it was necessary to “save” Chile from a “Marxist dictatorship”. In the English-speaking world too, many capitalist newspapers and magazines have devoted coverage to the anniversary, also repeating this line.
This reflects the ruling classes’ fear that in the crisis-ridden capitalism of the 2020s many Chiles potentially lie ahead. Therefore the burying of the real history of the Chilean revolution, and the justification of the horrors perpetrated against the heroic Chilean working class in the years after the coup, is an ideological front in today’s class struggle. From the other side of the class barricades, the working class and radical youth, need to be armed with an understanding of the Chilean revolution, so that in the future, when the working class is again within reaching distance of a successful socialist revolution, it succeeds in conquering power and transforming society.
The CWI is publishing a new book to bring the lessons of the Chilean revolution, and its crushing, to the new generation of working class and young activists. Written by Tony Saunois, CWI secretary, from 1984 Tony spent a number of years working in the underground opposition to the Pinochet dictatorship within Chile.