Chile today: Allende’s anti-neoliberal autumn

One of the most viral images on social media of the massive and sustained protests in Chile is a stunning photo of rallyists gathered around one of Santiago’s many iconic statues with the Mapuche flag on top.
Human rights lawyer Maria Sol Taule made this artwork in solidarity with the Chilean people.

A people’s march took place in a port city in Chile’s coast Valparaiso and Viña del Mar . We know that Chile has been in flames for more than a week, the massive anti-government protests, dubbed as the anti-neoliberal autumn is really something else. This video of people marching in Valparaiso is particularly special as it appears like a sequel to an earlier recording that is widely shared on social media. It features people being attacked by the police for simply walking on the road. The savage assault on protesting people in different parts of Chile, with over 27 people killed, thousands wounded, of which 546 are wounded by firearms, 3,193 detained, widespread torture and militatry brutality, is precisely the objective of President Sebastian Piñera’s “state of emergency.”

This condition is reminiscent of Pinochet’s brutal repression during his military dictatorship from 1973-1990. In fact, the last time that a state of emergency was ever declared was during his reign. Pinochet came to power through a US-imperialist, CIA-instigated coup d’etat. The same coup dislodged and killed popularly elected Marxist and socialist leader, President Salvador Allende. During the same period, Chile’s military and intelligence operatives initiated what turned out to be a covert military transnational security network. This is the US- sponsored Operation Condor in late 1975.

The online National Security Archive makes available a catalog of declassified US documents on Chile under Pinochet. Operation Condor is the code for at least three types of covert action:

1. “collection, exchange, and storage of intelligence data concerning so-called “Leftists,” Communists, and Marxists…
2. “provides for joint operations against terrorist targets in member countries of Operation Condor, Chile is the center of Operation Condor and in addition to Chile its members include Argentina, Bolivia, Paraguay, and Uruguay. Brazil also is tentatively agreed to supply intelligence input for Operation Condor…
3. involve the formation of special teams from member countries who are to travel anywhere in the world to non-member countries to carry out sanctions up to asssination against terrorist or supporters of terrorist organizations from “Operation Condor” member countries.”*

Chile has since then been one of the world’s main laboratories for overt and covert military action and neoliberal economics. The pioneers of neoliberal economics in the West handpicked their first batch of trainees from Chile. There is no trace of brutal repression and revolutionary history-making in their brand name: The “Chicago Boys” of the infamous neoliberal policy shocks. Nothing works as well as the US imperialist brand of regime change to make ruling class attacks like neolib look like a scholarly endeavor within an academic discipline—Economics.

This imperialist system is also identity defining. Those Chilean scholars were dubbed as boys under the tutelage of Euroamerican men— neoliberal masters, Milton Friedman and Arnold Harberger. That the Chicago Boys are actually Chileans is always a moment of discovery for anyone who gets her hands on the history of neoliberalism. In this particular case, this sort of imposed amnesia functions in an interesting fashion. Nobody is forgetting that they are from Chile. It is their branding/identity as Chicago Boys hat prompts forgetting, the kind that is actually manufactured.

Manufactured forgetting drives the mystique of neoliberalism. The history of neoliberalism is not supposed to be known. We are not supposed to know how the policy that rests on the pillars of privatization, liberalization and deregulation rose out of the contradictions between imperialist repression and socialist resistance. So we are not supposed to know that these young boys of Chicago were uprooted from a nation that was severely punished for for its successful fight for freedom.

Forget Allende. Forget his party–the Socialist Party of Chile. Forget the broad untied anti-imperialist front embodied by the party of Popular Unity. Forget that the people of Chile dared to struggle, and won. Forget that their subsequent provisional defeat was made possible through US imperialism’s wanton violation of human rights and international law.

None of that history is supposed to be known and remembered. For the global ruling calss, neoliberalism must appear as the natural trajectory of a timeless market. But as partly exemplified in Chile’s history, neoliberalism is a solution to the problem of narrowing profits in crisis-ridden capitalism imposed by the global ruling class at a partiuclar historical juncture, the ’70s.

The expansion of capital in the global South requires relentless extraction of value from natural resources and racialized labor. The resurgence of the anti-imperialist and revolutionary movements– in Latin America and the Caribbean, Asia, the Middle East and even in USA, the Black Panthers– extends the long period of mass revolts in the 20th century, an age of revolution marked by victorious overhauls in Russia, China and Iran.

With all that history, the Chicago Boys is definitely a  brand that is supposed to function beyond its infantilized referents. But all that forgetting is currently being challenged. One of the most viral images on social media of the massive and sustained protests in Chile is a stunning photo of rallyists gathered around one of Santiago’s many iconic statues with the Mapuche flag on top. As the Chicago Boys conquer the world through the naturalization of neoliberal economics and its transfiguration into actual policies of governments across the world, the Mapuche movement finds itself firmly planted on the struggle for communal land.

The indigenous Mapuche communities started to push back against Pinochet’s law to divide and privatize communal lands in the 1970s. By the late 90s, the Mapuches called for a collective land occupation to recuperate lands grabbed by huge real estates and corporate forestries. They were so organized and effective that apart from expropriating communal land, they were also able to up the ante of struggle to demands for land and territorial autonomy based on an ecological critique of capitalism and its impact on biodiversity. The climate justice strike has been on in Mapudungun,the language of the Mapuche (Mapu=land; dungun=speak/speech).

One of the supreme ironies in the history of protest movements is the fact that Chile, a US laboratory for covert action and direct military aggression is also the place in which the slogan “¡El pueblo unido, jamás será vencido!” (The people united will never be defeated) originates. It is chanted by peoples in protests and meetings which honor revolutionary international solidarity. It is a well known song from the Nueva cancion chilena (New Chilean Song) movement composed and first sung by scores of fighting people in 1973.

On September 11 of the same year, President Salvador Allende delivered his “last words to the nation.” ** It is through that speech that Allende gifted us with a radical claim and an urgent task, which continue to resonate with and inspire activists worldwide: “History is ours, and people make history.”

Forty six years later, and at the height of the mass uprising in Chile, a radical organizer from Italy’s Potere al Popolo performs Victor Jara’s “Manifesto” on his Facebook wall (https://bit.ly/2Jqpfcw). But instead of singing, Comrade Steppe whistles all the way a la Alessandro Alessandroni and captions his post with “History is ours, and people make history.”

What is absolutely stunning about this Facebook post from an Italian revolutionary internationalist is its resonance with a great encounter between two people and the history that it made possible for the rest of the world. It happened long ago. Italian anarchist Juan Demarchi, in his advanced age, introduced the works of Marx to a second year high school student who was a topnotcher in sports and academics.***This young man was born and raised in Valparaiso where brutalized people are currently making history. He was to lead a massive and glorious anti-imperialist struggle that is still being waged by the people of Chile after his death by US Imperialism. Remember Salvador Allende. ()

*Available at www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/ and www.foia.state.gov (“Chile Collection)

** https://www.marxists.org/archive/allende/1973/september/11.htm

*** https://monthlyreview.org/castro/salvador-allende-his-example-lives-on/

Sarah Raymundo is a full-time faculty at the University of the Philippines-Diliman Center for International Studies. She is engaged in activist work in BAYAN (The New Patriotic Alliance), the International League of Peoples’ Struggles, and Chair of the Philippines-Bolivarian Venezuela Friendship Association. She is a member of the Editorial Board of the Journal for Labor and Society (LANDS) and Interface: Journal of/and for Social Movements.

Share This Post