The Chilean Road to Socialism


CHAPTER 18

Christian Democracy

The Christian Democratic Party is a loosely organized political grouping, the largest in Chile, with considerable support in all sectors of Chilean society, but particularly in the middle strata. As such, it reflects diverse and contradictory political tendencies from left-of-center to right. During Eduardo Frei's tenure in office (1964-70), the Christian Democratic government pursued, on the whole, modestly reformist policies. The Agrarian Reform Law, the major accomplishment of the regime, was a model of reform for a non-revolutionary government and was pursued with considerable vigor (the Allende government uses the same law, but applies it even more energetically). For the rest, however, reform was pursued largely at the rhetorical level or was used as a political instrument to pacify discontent or to bring sectors of the population under the political control of the government and the Party. Violent repression of opposition and protest assumed even greater significance than under the previous, conservative government of Alessandri. The Frei regime was considered by U.S. officials as a model Alliance for Progress government and was liberally rewarded with aid and political backing. (Allende was presented with one of the highest per-capita foreign debts in the world, $3 billion, when he assumed office.) U.S. multinational investors also found Chile under the Christian Democrats a good place to do business—and the Popular Unity government is now engaged in a struggle with powerful economic centers for control of the Chilean economy.

The seriousness and success with which Allende and the PU have pursued their program have thrown all opposition forces into political alignment. In effect, Chile has become politically polarized. Eduardo Frei, taking the main body of the Christian Democratic Party with him (losing the Christian Left to the PU), has moved over to join the intransigent Right.

In this chapter, the Movement of the Revolutionary Left (MIR) analyzes Frei in office and in opposition. In doing so, MIR comments at length on its vision of correct strategy in view of the polarized situation, attacking the Communist Party in the process and thereby provoking the CP into a denunciation of the MIR for political error and ultraleftism. A principal tactic of the Christian Democratic and National Party opposition is to force divisions on the Left.


THE MIR ANSWERS FREI
From Punto Final Nº. 134, July 6, 1971.

SECRETARIAT OF THE REVOLUTIONARY LEFT MOVEMENT

After the assassination of Edmundo Pérez Zujovic, [1] a new political situation was created in Chile, intensifying the social and political conflicts that had been crystallizing since the Popular Unity came to power. The dominant classes and their parties, the National Party, the Radical Democracy, and the Christian Democratic Party, became more aggressive in their struggle against the Left and the mass movement in order to regain their lost level of power. They managed to unite as a class, which they had been unable to do since the electoral victory of the PU, formulating new strategies and objectives and applying new tactics. They delivered the leadership of the reactionary counteroffensive to Eduardo Frei and publicly outlined their strategy in Frei's speech at the Caupolicán Theater.

The definitive swing to the right by the Christian Democratic Party and the beginning of a new reactionary counteroffensive are elements defining the new political situation. All this must lead the Left to evaluate what it has accomplished during recent months and to determine its next steps. This must be done by attacking and unmasking the political strategy of Freism and the Right. This is what we wish to analyze at this point without attempting to offer political lessons to anyone and without evading our own responsibilities in this area.

But there are also other reasons compelling us to state publicly what we think. During recent weeks, the Right and Freism through statements, speeches in Parliament, and the press have done their best to criticize and attack the MIR publicly. Sometimes they referred to what we have thought or said or done; at other times, and more frequently, they have ascribed evaluations and activities to us. They have used all methods to attempt to separate the MIR from the Popular Unity, to emphasize the differences between our organization and the PU, to induce us to attack the Communist Party or vice versa, etc.

Unfortunately, some sectors and representatives of the PU have allowed themselves to be carried away by this propaganda, and in the middle of this reactionary offensive they believed that the moment had come to start polemics within the left circles, "to require the MIR to define itself" or to "reflect."

Frei 1971: Hypocrisy as a Banner

Eduardo Frei takes the leadership of the counter-offensive by the dominant classes under precise conditions attempting to hide the real aim of their offensive, which is none other than that of arresting the progress of the workers, who threaten their interests, and defending the power and wealth they possess today. Frei thus appears as Chile's ex-President who returns from abroad after the death of his friend and "from a position above interests or sectors" he watches, "overwhelmed" by the situation of his country, and "offers a way."

His speech was addressed fundamentally to the urban middle classes and the officers of the Armed Forces who had been carefully "trained" by the Right and the Christian Democratic Party before and after the death of Perez Zujovic; he seeks to frighten them with the Chile he describes in order to lead them in his struggle against the government. He presents the same two objectives the Christian Democrats had cunningly posed after Perez Zujovic's death: the "dissolution of the armed groups," which is nothing other than a demand for repression of the MIR and pressure on the PU so that it may break with the revolutionary Left; and "that the campaign of insults and slander should cease," which is essentially a way of urging the government to tie its hands on one of the most important questions in the present process: the propaganda and agitation capable of being developed through the mass media, an important way of elevating the consciousness of the masses, pointing out their enemies and handing them banners.

This speech, which was intended as a call for struggle against the government, the Left, and the movement of the masses, hidden behind the banners of "peace, order, law, and security for all Chileans," is a masterpiece of impudence, cynicism, demagogy, and opportunism. It is the duty of the entire Left to unmask it to the people as seditious, reactionary, and hypocritical. Not that much time has elapsed nor are the people so stupid as to enable Frei and his party to erase their past and present themselves today dressed in the clothing they burned yesterday.

Frei and the Christian Democrats ask "as a first demand the re-establishment of peace, safety, and order for the citizens, the minimum harmony which is a condition of the democratic way." Nobody can wish anything else for Chile; but what "minimum harmony" did Frei and the Christian Democrats establish in Chile when from his desk he ordered that dozens of miners, settlers, employees, students, women, and children be killed at El Salvador, Puerto Montt, Puente Alto, Copiapo, San Miguel, etc? What "safety for the citizens" was there during his government when universities were trespassed against, when workers, journalists, members of parliament, and students were imprisoned, when country estates and settlements were evacuated, when university students and teachers were tortured and whipped? What peace was there in the streets of Chile, which were real battlefields, where tear-gas bombs, water tanks, beatings, chases, arrests, and sometimes bullets were the rule, as the result of his repressive policy against the people?

Frei, the council of the Christian Democratic Party, and the Christian Democrats in general today demand "respect for the law." It is not possible to demand "respect for the law" a few months after having instigated and assisted physical attacks intended to prevent the assumption of power by the PU.

Would they dare to deny that the September speech of Zaldívar on the economic situation, corrected in Frei's own handwriting, was aimed at creating a picture of economic chaos to justify the resignation of four of Frei's ministers, thus provoking a ministerial crisis and the formation of a military cabinet as a way of making a countercoup to prevent Allende from assuming governmental power? If the government knew that Viaux [2] and his gang were plotting, why were they not arrested before General Schneider was assassinated? The Minister of the Interior, Patricio Rojas, was informed by Vicente Huerta, one of the plotters; we ourselves denounced the plot on October 21, twenty-four hours before General Schneider's death, giving more than ten names of the plotters involved, and the plot was confessed to at the Central Police Station by an arrested person on the same day. The only thing Patricio Rojas did was to delete from the statement of the arrested person the paragraph implicating him. On the morning of October 22, General Schneider was assassinated by the same people known by the government to be plotting.

Eduardo Frei and the Christian Democrats state, "It is an essential condition for public peace that groups outside the law should be disarmed, that the nation be aware of their existence and that they are armed." What armed groups is Mr. Frei talking about? Does he refer to armed landowner groups that during his administration and with his knowledge were organized and armed to defend their wealth and privileges and that today murder peasants? Or does he refer to the right-wing group of plotters who assassinated Schneider and who during the last months of his government were sheltered by him, as he did not even investigate them, much less "dissolve" them while they were developing attempts against other people's lives, throwing bombs, etc.? Or is it a question of hired killers trained on the very premises of the Christian Democrats?

Frei's impudence does not stop there; he deplores the "climate of hatred and violence" created in Chile and demands its end. Frei forgets that he came to power supported by a campaign of terror, the most sinister Chile has known and to be compared only with the one of the Right in 1970 and with that of his party, the Christian Democrats, during the municipal elections.

Finally, with Pharisaean hypocrisy, Frei offers a novel and attractive road to Chileans: revolution in liberty, ". . . that as time goes by will acquire its true outline . . . ," because ". . . we are an option, we are an alternative, we are a way for Chile." What revolution in liberty is he talking about? The one that trespassed against universities? The one that stagnated the economic growth of the country? The one that surrendered copper to United States interests? The one that added two billion dollars more to Chile's foreign debt? The one that left behind more than three hundred thousand unemployed? The one that redistributed the national income in favor of the upper classes through a galloping inflation?

All this is what Chile and its people have to ask Frei. He, the Christian Democratic Party, the newspaper La Prensa, and Freism in general must be unmasked. Their hands are stained with blood, they are responsible for six years of government, and we cannot permit the hypocritical and unpunished to set themselves up as judges of situations they themselves created or as bearers of banners they have just trampled on themselves.

Yes, Mr. Frei, what is today endangered in Chile is not order and safety. What is really endangered, and what you are defending, is the power and wealth of a few who want to keep everything in their hands. It is not the Left forces or the revolutionary Left that are causing chaos, but the Yankees, the landowners, and the industrialists, who are today conspiring against and sabotaging industrial, copper, and land and cattle production. It was not the Left that sowed hatred and violence in Chile, but those who exploited and massacred the people for decades and who today have not hesitated to resort to crime or exploitation of crime in order to defend their privileges. This is what is at stake and in dispute today in Chile. . . .

The New Political Situation

The assassination of Pérez Zujovic and the political situation that was caused by it objectively denned the conflicts of the previous situation.

Taking as pretext the death of Pérez Zujovic, the dominant classes and their representative parties succeeded in obtaining what they had not been able to obtain during the previous months: their union as a class. On this basis, they started a seditious and reactionary counteroffensive against the government, the PU, the revolutionary Left, and the movement of the masses. Countless speeches, statements, and editorials in their newspapers openly called for sedition from this moment on. [3] They succeeded in raising banners disguising the real intentions of their struggle against the advance of the government and the workers. Their apparent objectives, the defense of the law, order, and safety of the Chileans, allowed them to try to drag the urban middle classes and officers of the Armed Forces behind their seditious policies.

But the essential feature was that Christian Democratic Freism succeeded in definitively imposing its reactionary policy; the Christian Democratic Party swung openly to the right and formed a bloc with the National Party and the Radical Democrats, thus creating a new political situation and closing the possibility of parliamentary understanding between the PU and Christian Democracy for the purpose of progressing in the execution of the program. The alliance of the Right with Freism expressed itself in the election of the Rector of the University of Chile, in the fall of the executive board in the Chamber, in a joint list of candidates in the town council by-election in Valparaiso, etc. This is not the time to lament the swing to the right of the CD, to magnify the weight and possibilities of the Christian Democratic Left, or to attempt to hold a party sliding down the slope of reactionary politics.

All this goes beyond opinions and intentions and objectively places matters so that there is only one way to continue progressing: to recover the strength lost in Parliament by means of the mobilization of the masses.

Only an effective mobilization of the masses, in all its forms, starting with the large rural estates, factories, and settlements, for the problems specific to the masses and the struggle for the satisfaction of their aspirations will make it possible to break the hold of Freism. Only a mobilization that clearly shows the masses who are their enemies, that gives them slogans, allows them forms of struggle, and raises their consciousness and organization will be really effective. The production goal is a fair objective, as it seeks the satisfaction of the material needs of the masses. But it cannot be the only one, or the essential one. Chilean production is threatened, it does not grow, and not because of an ill design of the gods or black magic. Production does not increase sufficiently because production means are predominantly in private hands, and the big factory owners and large-rural-estate owners sabotage production. It is the responsibility of the large capitalist owners, rather than the workers, to increase production. The workers' task is not to increase production, but to control and inspect, to see that their bosses increase production; the task is to fight production sabotage perpetrated by owners, and if the owners should persist, to defeat them and make their factories and rural estates the property of the whole people. Economic and production problems are not placed above class struggle; no goals can be hoisted for the workers that will hide their enemies from them. . . .

The Popular Unity and the MIR

We have referred above to the importance we attach to an understanding between the PU and us and to the benefits this understanding has already produced. During recent months on countless occasions different sectors and representatives of the PU have critically referred to some position the MIR maintains; paradoxically, it is the Communist Party that has persisted with the greatest vigor during the very same days the Christian Democrats and the Right rushed upon the Left and the movement of the masses. At the same time, this same political force did not respond to the Christian Democratic aggression, or did so weakly. . . . The CP has persisted in its public criticisms of our policies. We have already said publicly that the moment has come to close ranks in the Left to confront the enemies attack, and we think that the ideological discussion already posed must not weaken but rather strengthen the entire Left, particularly if it is done at a level of mutual respect.

On many occasions, and recently more frequently, it has been maintained that "indiscriminate land seizures," "house and apartment occupation," and "the occupation of small industries and land properties" are reprehensible. We do not believe it would be useful to enter into combat against windmills, against positions we do not hold. We are not partisans of "indiscriminate land seizures"; we condemn "house and apartment occupation," and we do not encourage the "occupation of small industries and small land properties." It has been asserted that "the MIR should take a position"; it is not MIR but rather the CP that should take a position, not about "indiscriminate land seizures," but about whether the occupation of large factories and rural estates is not a legitimate form of the workers' struggle. The same thing must be done by the PU.

We also believe that the struggle forms of peasants and the working class must be in accordance with the present situation, with the specific experience, and the proved effectiveness or lack thereof. There are other forms of workers' struggles, apart from occupation, and we shall develop them as well. But we believe that it is a legitimate procedure, measuring the national correlation of forces at each moment and, if certain necessary levels of the workers' organization and consciousness exist, in each specific front to occupy a large rural estate when a landowner does not sow, dismisses his workers, dismantles the estates, kills animals indiscriminately, and sabotages production. We also believe it legitimate, among other forms of struggle, for workers to seize the factories of bosses who sabotage production, fire workers, or do not want to increase production sufficiently, in spite of the demand.

The experience of months of struggle by the Revolutionary Peasant Movement in the fields of the central and southern parts of the country has taught us that occupation as a form of struggle is mobilizing, provides organization, and increases the awareness of the workers. Of course there are other forms of struggle that increase the possibilities of formulas whereby workers can be mobilized. It cannot be a question of furthering the mobilization of the masses as an essential task, if occupation of factories and large rural estates is condemned in advance. The responsibility for employers' sabotage cannot be attributed to the workers struggling to make large factories and rural estates the property of the whole people, nor can the chaos provoked by plotting right-wing groups or by the bosses who seek a lack of supply and exploit the reactionary mass media.

The Tasks of the Present Moment

We believe it is necessary to preserve the understanding between the PU and the MIR. It is necessary to tighten the relations among all Left forces, especially now that ideological discussions have been publicly opened, to unite and maintain a strong unity of all the workers in the country and the city, to close ranks against the reactionary and seditious counteroffensive by the Right and Freism.

The Christian Democratic hypocrisy must be unmasked; the seditious policy raised today by the Right and Freism has to be denounced. Today more than ever, the workers must continue their advance. The mobilization of the masses, raising their consciousness and organization in factories, rural estates, and settlements through adequate forms of struggle is the basic task and is the only thing that will make it possible successfully to fight in the fundamental battle: THE BATTLE FOR THE CONQUEST OF POWER FOR THE WORKERS.


THE MIR ATTACK ON THE COMMUNIST PARTY
From El Siglo, July 18, 1971.

ROBERTO PINTO

In what is intended to be an answer from the MIR to Eduardo Frei published in the anti-communist magazine Punto Final, the National Secretariat of the MIR does in fact question the Popular Unity's policy and openly attacks the Communist Party.

The MIR is an organization whose strategic formulations, political actions, and tactical operations have been proved inefficient and have been rejected by our people and defeated by Chilean social practice, except for investigation and exposure of seditious activities, where they have made their contribution.

An elemental sense of revolutionary honesty demands of people who boast of fighting for the revolution the recognition of their mistakes and consequent actions.

However, since the political and theoretical defeat experienced by the MIR on the occasion of the Popular Unity's victory, no attitude of open self-criticism on the part of the movement's leaders is evident.

Quite the contrary; they persist in many theoretical formulations and practical activities that are incorrect. And this remains clearly proved in the document of the MIR published in Punto Final.

Communists have no sectarian attitude toward the ultra-Left. Evidence of this is that today forty members of the MIR's "Ranquil" Movement are active in the Communist Party. These are healthy and honest people who have admitted and learned from their errors, and who today contribute to the development of the revolutionary process from the ranks of the Communist Party.

One of the most reactionary representatives of Freism, Jaime Castillo, praises the position of the MIR in the columns of a right-wing newspaper, La Prensa. In his analytical commentary on the MIRist document, the old Freist fox emphasizes that "the document, however, is not basically a reply to the Christian Democratic Party, to the former President, or the Right (for the MIR, all are the same). It rather means a new start of polemics with the Popular Unity forces. To be more precise, with the Communist Party." And Castillo adds, "The anti-Christian Democratic action is, therefore, a kind of introduction, or prior safe-conduct."

This analysis by the Freist representative is not accidental. It disdains the MIR's critical judgment of the Christian Democratic administration, ignores the repeated denouncements of the anti-popular policy pursued by his colleague's government, and instead emphasizes what they are interested in—positions against the Popular Unity, the government of Salvador Allende, and in particular, the hostility of the MIR to the Communist Party.

The Communists have specified their position with regard to the ultra-Left in general and the MIR in particular, pointing out that most of that movement's activities harm the popular government. In specifying those actions, Communists have been explicit in pointing out that it is incorrect and harmful to raise to the category of a general policy line the indiscriminate occupation of land estates, grounds, factories, and dwellings.

Communists have insisted, and the facts continue to confirm their point of view, that the MIRist thesis that tends to limit the class struggle in Chile to an inevitable and desirable armed confrontation is incorrect and alien to our concept of reality.

The revolutionary process in Chile shows that the confrontation mentioned takes place every day, every hour, in the various fields of action of the masses. To evade or hide this reality means, ultimately, to scorn the role of the masses and overlook the action possibilities of the class enemy.

The MIR points out that one of the essential peculiarities that has appeared in this Chilean political process "is the understanding between the Popular Unity and the revolutionary Left."

The truth is that an understanding with honest people in the ultra-Left is in our opinion desirable and necessary, but agreement among all revolutionaries must be reached on an essential basis of revolutionary social discipline and ensuing support for the Popular Unity. These last two basic premises do not at all agree with the political practice of the MIR.

The MIR points out that the big revolutionary task that confronts our people today, the battle of production, is the responsibility of the large capitalist owners and not of the workers.

It is difficult to find a greater absurdity and a more open inconsistency with a proclaimed revolutionary position. The MIRist thesis seems to ignore the importance of the changes that have been taking place in Chile since the constitution of the Popular Unity government. The increase in production is not intended, as hitherto, to benefit capitalists, but to serve the Chilean workers, the country and its people; to contribute to strengthening the Popular Government and to assure the advancement of the Chilean revolution. . . . President Allende emphasized on the first of May that "the great combat, the great battle of Chile is now and henceforth will be production."

Complaining about the Communist criticism of the ultra-Left's positions, and in particular of the MIR, the National Secretariat of that movement claims that the Communist Party has not replied to the Christian Democratic aggressions or would do it feebly.

Such an accusation by the MIR does not stand up under the slightest analysis and exhibits ignorance with respect to the policies of the Communists. The different appraisals of Christian Democracy made by the Communists and the MIR represent different matters. The MIR-ists maintain that since the assassination of Perez Zujovic a definitive turn to the right by the Christian Democratic Party has taken place, and that the possibility of an agreement with the Christian Democrats is now closed. The Communists judge that among the Christian Democrats there are forces in favor of getting the process under way in our country—together with the revolutionary sectors. The social heterogeneity of that party's membership leads to a situation, among other factors, in which the Freist sector, which occupies the controlling positions, is unable to place all Christian Democrats in the ranks of the Right.

Finally, the MIR invites, or rather challenges, the Communist Party and the Popular Unity to take a definite position on whether the seizure of big factories and large rural estates is or is not a genuine form of workers' struggle.

The "challenge" of the MIR to the Communist Party lacks all seriousness. It is merely a play on words. It is not a serious statement by revolutionaries, but a sophistry unworthy of mature revolutionaries.

In this matter, as in others, they reduce the tactic of the programmatic achievement to a merely quantitative matter regarding big or small occupations.

Communists are not a priori against seizures. They are indeed against them when they are indiscriminate and absurd; they are against those actions creating difficulties for the popular government and helping reactionaries. There are unquestionably real bases, very definite ones, which determine some occupations. But it is also unquestionable that for the consolidation, deepening, and progress of the revolution it is better to attempt to resolve the disputes leading to seizures, to find solutions for the problems of the masses in accordance with the popular government, and to advance in strengthening the economy of the country.

In the new conditions created in Chile it is very easy to carry out seizures. It is not difficult to mobilize small groups of workers to take a factory, a large rural estate, or some dwellings. But what is genuinely revolutionary is helping the government achieve its program and mobilize the masses in pursuit of this accomplishment. But it must be the masses and not small groups, the organized masses, the masses with social consciousness, the masses with a clear understanding of the final objectives of their struggle.

In this task, in a wide organizational policy, a policy of education and mobilization of the masses for revolutionary aims, it is possible and necessary for all those who honestly and resolutely want to consolidate and deepen the movement that leads to opening a wide channel for the coming of socialism in Chile to be under a common leadership.


Notes:

1. Perez, Minister of the Interior in the Frei government, was assassinated by a far-left underground group, the "VOP," in May 1971.

2. Ex-Army officer involved in a 1969 military revolt and in the October 1970 assassination of the Commander of the Armed Forces, General Schneider.

3. We do not wish to miss this opportunity to answer the questions that the Christian Democratic newspaper La Prensa put to us some days ago. It asked us whether we had attacked some banks, stealing money, during the recent administration, and what we had done with the money. We shall answer the first question at once: Yes, Christian Democratic gentlemen! We have expropriated money in quantities that are public knowledge, but what you stole from the public treasury during your administration is still unknown to anyone. As to the question of what we did with the money, we shall not be able to satisfy your curiosity for the moment, but be assured that at least it was meant for more respectable purposes than those you used it for, many of you having become wealthy at the cost of what was the property of the whole country.


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