Allende image courtsey: eb.com
Allende (Salvador Allende Gossens and
A Chilean dream that turned nightmare.
When Allende leader of Unidad Popular coalition came to power in September, 1970 by the power of ballots (his party could garner only about 36% of the total votes polled) it was a surprise to the socialists all over the world and they were dreaming a world ‘full of socialism’. Young Turks of the party in their overflowing ecstasy requested him to move in to a slum and reside there as a truly proletariat president! Fidel Castro (the father of all revolutions) in turn advised him that ‘never be a democrat as it is against the fundamentals of socialism’!
A lover of all good things.
Moneda palace image courtsey: flickr.com
As a gentleman to the core Allende ignored both, he preferred to live in the Moneda palace itself among all the luxuries due to a capitalist president as ‘he could only maintain the proper revolutionary spirit among the lovely paintings and exquisite carved-ivory pieces of his luxurious suburban villa’. Moreover he loved good food, class-drinks and enjoyed company of pretty women (classier the better)! When his soul craved for socialism body desired to be engulfed in bourgeois luxuries.
In a hurry!
As the first democratically elected Marxist President Allende’s honeymoon in power was endowed with the ‘glory and freshness of a dream’ as in the case of all debutants he was all set to sweeping changes in the economy of the nation. The long pending demands of his party was first to be met, as a first step wages and welfare measures to workers were enhanced, prices were frozen and all the mining companies were nationalized. There were pressures from comrades for more radical steps; which he was forced to follow as a coalition leader.
Honeymoon is over.
For about one year all worked but no body noticed the dark fact that nations exchange reserves were fast depleting due to the unsustainable measures, the unprecedented hike in wages and welfare measures increased cost of production and the artificial price-freeze made production unviable and all industrial activities came to a grinding halt, shortage of commodities became the norm, inflation exceeded 300%, shops were with empty shelves, women began to demonstrate clanging empty pots and pans.
The extremists in the ruling party were engaged in seizing land belonging to ordinary people and the government was looking the other ways when party-men were taking law and order in their own hands, these situations invited the wrath of middle class and without fearing police or army they voluntarily jumped in to agitations.
From the state of a well to do nation
Allende was aware that things are not moving as he desired, he had only the mandate of 36% and was only legal rights to sweeping changes, put between hardliners in his own party and the opponents he had to take many half-hearted steps which worsened whole affairs. The formation of Neighborhood Judicial Tribunals constituted entirely by extremists to harass those were not with them and the ‘Unicameral Parliament’ for the election as well as manipulation of judiciary, nationalization of small business (a futile attempt to appease the extremist elements) was the last straw on the back of the Chilean horse which made it to go berserk.
Chile map image courtsey: geology.com
When the condition was already explosive in 1972 a move by the government to nationalize transport by forming a state owned transporting company, this triggered the final explosion. Chilean truck drivers struck work en masse,
There were nothing in the shops and people scrambled for whatever that was available, the national currency became utterly worthless as it was exchanged about 10,000 percent less in the black market Chile was returning in to the archaic barter system. Allende had to resort to a state of emergency followed by mass arrests. His popularity was digging greater depths; once a hero turned in to a villain with a less than three years rule.
The military so far a spectator moved in the early morning, Navy confiscated government’s communication systems, and radio stations began to transmit the joint communique demanded Allende’s resignation. His reply was a brave one “I will not resign. I am ready to resist with whatever means, even at the cost of my life’. But the palace was already surrounded by army tanks, Allende, his daughter and his personal body-guards were in it to face the army firing. His last words heard in radio were “Air force planes are flying threateningly”
Augusto Pinochet image courtsey: wehaitians.com
There is no clear indication how Allende got killed, as per army’s version Allende shot and killed himself. His wife also initially stating in similar lines as he shot himself with the submachine gun given to him by
After the fall of Allende the forces were engaged in a hunting spree; the communists were hunted in their on bastions they were herded to soccer-grounds most of them exterminated. The events occurred in
The fall of Allende was natural fallout of events as his continuance would have brought more sufferings to a nation that was not used to poverty it was a natural progression of events. As far as there is no bread in the stores and no fuel to light the stove people will remain unsatisfied and they will revolt. Leftists claim that Allende was ‘too slow and soft’ actually means that he should have shot those who asked bread. Capitalists claim that Socialism and democracy never go hand in hand only partly true it is just the “I told you so” attitude;
The growth of a nation is meaningful only when all the people are benefited. Allende basically a good man lacked economic sense, he thought that artificial freezing of prices and increase in wages would do good to the people. Being a partner in a coalition consisting of hard-core extremists his hands were tied and he had to do things beyond his comprehension, which led to his final fall.
Voters in a democracy are an all powerful lot they can elect whoever they like; voters are easily taken for a ride by charismatic orators who chant sweet slogans. Electing candidates based entirely on glamour and charisma was the real culprit in this Chilean story. There may be more ‘Allendes’ in future as far as parameter for voting remains to be glamour and not economic sense.