The death of Augusto José Ramón Pinochet brought some closure to a person who came to appreciate socialism by reading about Salvador Allende. He was elected as a member of the Popular Unity coalition. His Socialist Party was further to the left than the Communist Party of Chile.
He was elected president and I began to realize that socialism could be democratic. I liked many of the ideas of socialism, but I also liked the ideas of elections and freedom of speech and so forth. Allende respected these things. My own government did not. When Pinochet took over in a violent coup, Time magazine reported the deaths of 20,000 people. Now they say it was 3,000, so I guess 17,000 people came back to life. By 1980 all but two countries in South America were under some form of military dictatorship and some where even more murderous than Pinochet. However, it’s hard to imagine why a musician as Victor Jara, needed to be killed as a political subversive. Over the years I have seen the right wing of capitalism support such monsters as Francisco Franco, the murderous dictator of Spain. All this was to counter communism and as I was told as a kid, communism took all your freedom away.
So naturally I wondered why we had leaders who supported dictators who opposed any freedom to stop communism. Maybe it wasn’t about freedom at all. Maybe it was about economics.
The character in my new book held similar misgivings about our government’s anti-communist sentiments:
“Each week, I flipped through the glossy pages of Time magazine and saw what issues were popping up in the world. In 1970, the people of Chile elected a new president, Salvador Allende Gossens, a Marxist. Since the sixth grade I had taken an interest in South America. There were many times as a child that I had wondered who lives in those countries towards the bottom of the globe and what they do. Most Americans never talked about those places vary much. They weren’t mentioned on the news often.
When Allende got elected, many media pundits and politicians in high places, including President Richard
proclaiming democracy dead in Chile. A Marxist had been elected and the whole country had gone communist. This came up one day in my government class.
“Is it true that Chile is now a communist country?” a student asked our government teacher, Mr. Daly.
“That’s right,” the tall, dark haired teacher, in his 40s, told the student. “The people there have elected to become communists,”
The class was very large and held in an auditorium that could also serve as a theater, with a floor that leveled upward and chairs with desk tops that folded in.
This was supposed to be the first time a Marxist had been elected into office. But strangely enough, from what I had read, Allende did not end democracy. Allende did nothing heavy handed to stop the constant attacks from the press and demonstrations organized by rightwing groups. Allende’s Popular Unity government held about 40 to 45 percent of Congress. I began to realize that it might be possible to have socialism with democracy. The idea of democratic socialism began to intrigue me. I read everything I could on Allende, much of it from Time magazine. Allende was an important political influence for me. He seemed a courageous and just leader.
September I was watching the evening news, in my parents’ living room, when they announced that Allende was toppled by a military leader, General Augusto Pinochet. There was news footage of the presidential palace being bombed and it was announced that Allende was dead. Pinochet banned political parties, disbanded Congress and rounded up many predominant supporters of Allende and his Popular Unity government. Many of these people were executed. This meant the bitter end of both Allende and Democracy. Time reported about 20,000 people killed by the new regime. As
I read the Time article, I sat on my parents’ couch feeling a sense of loss and disillusion.
…….. Nixon and Kissinger could hardly hide their joy at seeing Chile’s President Allende overthrown by the murderous Pinochet. I was beginning to see just how bad a leader Nixon was. I could remember back in 1970 when four students were shot at Kent State in Ohio. The governor had called out the national guards to keep order and prevent turbulent protests. The news media suggested that Nixon didn’t seem to care. He almost seemed content that students protesting him got shot. He seemed to brutally oppose anyone whom he thought was in his way. Nixon may have been the worst US president of the entire century. It was a great moment when he fell.”
_ Memoirs Of A Drugged-up, Sex-crazed Yippie ---Tales from the 70's Counterculture: Drugs, Sex, Politics and Rock and Roll.
My site has many Maoist pictures on it. I found Mao to be more interested in political dialog than other Communist leaders in his time. And what he said is true “political power comes from the barrel of a gun.” I learned that lesson watching what happened in Chile in 1973, How can a real democracy support fascism every where but here. The Weather Underground and the Symbioneses Liberation Army both took up arms believing America would become a dictatorship and it almost did when Nixon stole an election, stopped only by the Watergate scandal.
So vote for one of the two parties if you like. But don’t count on any real democracy coming from this country.