The Chilean Road to Socialism



Chile's uniqueness extends to the phenomenon of violence. While Chile, like other countries of the West, does have a history of people dying unnecessarily, violence with political motives has been relatively sporadic, and then almost always associated with police and military repression of social protest. Under the previous government, of Eduardo Frei, there were several massacres of workers and demonstrators by repressive forces of the state. But even this cannot compare with the systematic killings and tortures of authoritarian regimes such as those of Brazil, Guatemala, and the Dominican Republic. However, as the social tensions have increased, the level of violence has also increased. The roots of this violence reside in two interrelated phenomena: a growing awareness on the part of poor and oppressed peoples that what the Christian Left terms "institutionalized violence"— disease, malnutrition, the poverty of underdevelopment— is not an immutable condition; and the desperation of those who, faced with a growing demand for change, would preserve the status quo by any means necessary. The government of Allende and the Communist and Socialist parties are absolutely committed to a peaceful transition to socialism, which they believe will put an eventful end to the institutionalized violence of capitalist underdevelopment. They will, of course, defend themselves against any counterrevolutionary violence unleashed by Chile's reactionaries and their covert foreign backers.

Since the election of Allende there have been two sensational political assassinations, those of General Schneider, the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, and Edmundo Pérez, former Minister of the Interior of the Frei government. Both were meant to precipitate a political crisis, which, if successful, could have meant civil war. The following selections provide background and reflections on this new and unfortunate turn in Chile's relatively pacific political history.


Excerpts from an interview held by Prensa Latina, with René and Raúl Schneider, sons of General René Schneider,
just a few hours after their father's death. (Prensa Latina Especiales, SE-912/70)

It is not just determined persons who are guilty. An entire system is guilty. Society will continue living with these things as long as material goods and machines are central, and not human beings. What can I say in this moment. . . . The first thing that went through my mind when the attempt occurred was that it is more necessary than ever to create a human society of solidarity, a society in which all can be compañeros. I think that now in Chile the doors to form this society are a little bit open. Now the country has taken important steps. It is necessary to go onward. I don't want to be interpreted in the sense of personal vengeance. Certainly there are guilty persons and they must be found and judged. But most important is to change the guilty society so that it doesn't produce individuals who deny human solidarity and justice.

The ideas of my father as a military man were very clear. My father died defending the doctrine that he held throughout all his fife—that the Army must maintain its professional character and not intervene. . . . Chile has its identity, but we are not in isolation, we are a part of the West and under the influence of an entire process that the West is experiencing. The West is living under a climate of violence, where the center of society is egoism, the law of the jungle. . . . Those who assassinated my father were not individuals, it was an unjust society; a sector of this society thought that to defend their interests it was necessary to kill a person and they had no scruples and killed him. ... I say again that Chile is part of the West. . . . We continue to be a cultural colony. . . .

Raúl: Well, we all know the Right killed him. But I doubt that it was the Right alone. The Right never acts alone. It cannot live without the support that everyone knows about. The thread leads to other parts. For example, why did this Mr. Olalguiaga, from the United States, come to Chile? Suddenly a man appears handing out dollars generously. It is very suspicious.

René and Raúl: Papa always had the same position with respect to the function of the Army. One day two years back he arrived home furious from a visit to the house of a man who turned out to be from the Right. As if joking, this man said to papa, "And when is the military going to take power?" "I understand that you are joking," papá said, "but I don't accept it even as a joke. We will respect the Constitution up to the ultimate consequences." "And if the Left wins in the next elections?" the mummy asked him. "Also, senor. The rules of the game are the same for everybody." "No, this no," the mummy said, frightened, and papá left the house. Afterward he said to us, "Look at that guy; see how far they go."

Because of the rank he held, papd had to know many people. He withstood many pressures from people on the Right.

Once he arrived home furious. He was disgusted with a North American military man. ... It was in those days when they assassinated Martin Luther King. Papá made a comment about the savagery of the crime, and the yanqui said, as if saying good morning, "I think that basically it was positive. He was making too much trouble. . . ."

Once, mamá told us, a few months ago I believe, they went to a cocktail party or a dinner at the Embassy of the United States, and two men approached him, two North American military men, and began to ask him questions, particularly questions about his political thinking. Then my father whispered in my mother's ear, "We better run; these two must be from the CIA."

An unsigned editorial from Portada, June 22, 1971.

First it appeared as a beautiful idea for bourgeois-intellectual, progressive thinkers; an idea that could reconcile the progressive to the comforts of his easy life; an idea that helped silence the conscience of those indulging in the amenities of existence: gourmet food, vintage wines, sporty cars, fashionable clothes, children in private schools, in the midst of collective mass despair; a cathartic idea of redemptive, purifying violence doing away with the vices of a capitalist world, conjuring the romantic vision of the black flag of anarchism; an idea espoused by the classics of Marxism, and now upheld by its new prophets, Althusser and Marcuse. And so, the new idea, the beautiful idea, the redemptive violence of "Che," of Camillo, of the "Tupas," [1] triumphed in the closed chapels of an emboldened bourgeoisie. Liberated priests proclaimed the new word to their scandalized /enraptured audience of perfumed ladies and pale young men of the Catholic Action.

Revolutionary artists portrayed it in posters, or sang its virtues in protest songs: "Ra-ta-ta-ta-ta" goes one, imitating the rattling sounds of a submachine gun. How appropriate! Eminent university professors, sociologists, economists, international experts, and "humanists" exalted it in their obscure but stirring jargon.

A few fog-heads did attempt to curb the threatening wave of the new idea. They pointed to the necessity of social order; they claimed that one could not at once be the jury and the prosecution; they added that the game of violence is not necessarily limited to the Left, that it may well lead to unforeseen endings. They argued that the end cannot justify the means, that one may not sacrifice the life, honor, or property of the innocent. On hearing such antiquarian scholasticisms, the condescending bourgeois smiled: "It is capitalist society which does violence to the poor." They called it "institutionalized violence." A presidential candidate, even a bishop joined the chorus denouncing this "institutionalized violence." To this reactionary violence, they opposed their revolutionary violence, which would give rise to the new man, the new society. Confronted with such idyllic prophecy, what could the antiquarian do but remain silent?

The gospel of violence thus first triumphed within the progressive circles of bourgeois intellectuals. From there its spark moved on to the university campus where it caught on like a prairie fire. Everything contributed to make this gospel attractive to the young. It was defended by those whom they most admired in the adult world: intellectuals, artists, protest singers, fashionable priests, the most sought-after and convincing teachers. It satisfied youth's fascination for the mysterious, the forbidden, the romantic. It answered its impatience, promising to do away, at once and definitely, with evil. Then came the "expropriations" of landed property, the looting of banks and supermarkets, the stone-throwing confrontations with the police forces, the MIR. These well-fed, well-brought-up, and intelligent youths cast their violence in a friendly mold. They saw to it that no one, or almost no one, got hurt. One or two policemen, maybe. But who cares? Are they not the prototypical representatives of institutionalized violence? The young became Robin Hoods. The antiquarians again found their speech to remind them of the sacred principles of authority. An eloquent professional phrasemaker retorted that authority can only survive if it is obeyed. Once more, they were reduced to silence.

The new idea, the beautiful idea of violence then found its new audience in the people themselves.

Unlike the intellectual, the common man does not speak harshly and act softly. His action is as rough as his speech. He does not brandish the resounding phrases of intellectuals and universitarians. He does not hold to the high canons of Marxist rhetoric. The VOP manifesto does not speak of "dialectics" or "structures," but of those who kiss the boss's ass. Ill-fed and ill-mannered, the common man plays no Robin Hood game. He does not stop midway through violence. With rigorous logic, he brings the new idea, the beautiful idea to its fatal conclusion.

A few days ago, a man of the people, an ordinary man, finished off a wounded and defenseless policeman and stole his machine gun. With it he later murdered in cold blood the ex-Minister of the Interior and former Vice-President of the Republic, Edmundo Pérez Zujovic.

Many who had earlier warmly applauded protest singer Victor Jara's song about the incident of Puerto Montt when he defined Edmundo Pérez as a "murderer" are today horrified, because an uneducated, uncouth man of the people believed Jara and took it upon himself to do away with the "murderer."

Tomorrow this VOPist will face the rigor of justice. Where then will be the progressive intellectuals, the fashionable priests, the progressive bishops, the candidates of "institutionalized violence," the protest singers, the professors, the sociologists, the psychologists, the economists, the international experts, the "humanists," the fans of "Che"? Where will the press of violence be with its guerrilla manuals, its detailed accounts of kidnapings and executions? Will they be there too? Who will ever repay the wretched VOPist for the mindless corruption of his heart and soul?

Prensa Latina, wire service, June 16, 1971.

President Allende today denounced the rising wave in the reaction's plans to create a state of chaos in the country with the support of the rightist press and called on the workers to meet any attacks by seditious elements with firmness.

In an impassioned speech to the people gathered at the Plaza de la Constitution, across from the Palacio de la Moneda, President Allende announced a three-day period of mourning as a posthumous tribute to the detectives killed only a few hours before in a suicidal attack by one of the murderers of former Minister of the Interior Edmundo Pérez Zujovic.

The President spoke of "an incident that has shocked Chile": the fact that one of the murderers of Pérez Zujovic, an escapee, walked into the police investigation department today armed with a submachine gun and several dynamite bombs with the intention of killing the Director in retaliation for the excellent work done by the department in the Perez Zujovic murder case.

Allende said that "The action, a personal attack carried out by a terrorist suicidal maniac, cost the lives of two detectives, and a third is waging a battle between life and death."

Allende then said that there are well-founded indications that the murderers of Perez Zujovic were in contact with foreign elements, and he added, "The opposition accuses Marxism of international links, but neither the Communist Party of Chile nor the Socialist Party of Chile has ever been involved in political crimes carried out under the direction of foreign advisers.

"In this type of crime the reaction utilizes declared elements, false revolutionaries and sometimes even infiltrated 'revolutionaries' at the service of the enemy."

With regard to domestic difficulties, the President said that, despite the trouble caused by the illegal activities of the enemies of his administration, none of these enemies have been put in prison in Chile; there are no political prisoners; and, in fact, freedom of the press has become a sort of freedom to offend.

The President then told his listeners of the relationship between a fascist terrorist group and the so-called Organized Vanguard of the People (VOP), which passed itself off as an organization of the left and which is responsible for the crimes perpetrated against the Government these past few days.

Speaking of a seditious group named the Homeland and Freedom Nationalist Front (FNPL), Allende said "How can those who murdered the chief of the Army, General René Schneider, speak of morals, order and respect for society?"

He described the members of that small grout)—who, in a series of expensive advertisements published in the rightist press, have called themselves "the vanguard of the resistance against communism."

He denounced the FNPL, which, together with other groups of the ultraright, has tried to blame the government of People's Unity for the murder of former Minister of the Interior Edmundo Pérez Zujovic.

After indignantly denying the accusation, Allende said that such groups had no moral authority whatsoever. "These groups," he added, "were involved in the murder of General Schneider and are linked to retired General Roberto Viaux, now in prison for his participation in that murder and in a seditious movement against the Government.

"When Tomás Gutiérrez, a Carabineers' corporal, was murdered on May 24," the President went on to say, "we came to the conclusion that his murderers had to be elements who were passing themselves off as revolutionaries and had been infiltrated by the reactionary sectors. There was no other possibility."

Allende repeated his statement that there are those who will try to make an attack on his life, using mercenaries and criminals for this purpose, and added, "I want them to know that I am going to defend my life in order to contribute —with my attitude, my determination and my will —to the construction of socialism and the establishment of social justice in Chile.

"There could be other attempts," Allende said, "VOP might have some members who shoot at both Government and opposition politicians, but I have absolute confidence in the support of the masses and am aware that the success of our administration will constitute a guarantee against both chaos and the installation of a fascist dictatorship in Chile."


1. Tupamaros are Uruguayan urban guerrillas.

Edición digital del Centro Documental Blest el 07feb02
Capitulo Anterior Proximo Capitulo Sube