Socialist Studies Socialist Studies

Who Remembers The Other 9/11?

9/11

Each and every September the US government remembers what it calls "9/11” when the twin towers in New York were destroyed by terrorists with the loss of nearly 3000 lives. The President of the United States gives a speech at “Ground Zero” extolling the “values” of “US democracy and liberty” over its enemies as though the destruction of the buildings was an inexplicable event that came out of a clear blue sky.

As for those who went to the rescue of the dead and the dying at “Ground Zero”, latest figures show more than 2,500 police officers, firefighters, ambulance staff and sanitation workers reported they had cancer in 2013 – twice as many as said they had the disease 12 months earlier (DAILY TELEGRAPH 27. 7.2014).

The dust from the building debris contained cancer causing chemicals and asbestos. These harmful particles entered the lungs of those at or near the Twin Towers when they collapsed with catastrophic consequences. Just like civilians in Vietnam who are still being killed by unexploded bombs long after the US military left in 1973, so the total deaths from 9/11 will continue to rise over the next decade as more workers succumb to cancer and asbestosis (HUFFINGTON POST 08.03.13).

However, this is not the only 9/11 anniversary to be remembered. There is an earlier 9/11 almost forgotten except for those who had to live through its violent history. The other 9/11 cost the lives of more people at the time than the events in New York some thirty years later; and it is conveniently forgotten for a very good reason. On 11th September 1973, President Salvador Allende, who had been elected on just 36 per cent of the vote, was overthrown by a military coup assisted by the CIA and funded by the US government. President Nixon informed the CIA that an Allende government in Chile would not be acceptable and authorized $10 million to stop Allende from coming to power or unseat him (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Salvador_Allende ).

Allende’s government took power on the basis of a state capitalist not a socialist platform. The political programme called for the break-up the big landed estates, for the nationalisation of foreign-owned businesses and some Chilean-owned industry, and for the implementation of various social reforms. Nevertheless its political programme was seen by the Nixon administration as a threat to US interests in the region. The fact that President Allende had been democratically elected, albeit by a minority of the vote, appeared to count for nothing. He had to go, even though this meant the clandestine machinations of political intrigue leading to a violent military coup and the imposition of a ruthless dictatorship.

In fact, if the US government had waited long enough the Allende government would have either fallen into unpopularity and been kicked out of office or become a dictatorship in its own right to cover up its inability to deliver its popular reform programme which had initially attracted so many votes. Politicians who try to administer capitalism in the interests of all society eventually fail to meet the promises they initially gave. All capitalist politics ends in failure except for the continuation of the profit system and the life of privilege and comfort of the ruling class.

The working class in Chile would still have remained exploited propertyless wage and salary earners even if Allende’s political programme had been successfully implemented. At some stage in Allende’s regime workers would have come into conflict with employers and their state over the extent and intensity of class exploitation. Surplus value has to be constantly extracted out from the working class for capital to accumulate and expand. That is the reality of capitalism the world over and applies equally to Chile as to any other capitalist country.

Capitalism can only ever be administered in favour of a minority capitalist class living off the unearned income of rent, interest and profit no matter what reforms are enacted and who has been elected into political power. Private or state capitalism and free market or regulated capitalism offer no solution to the problems facing the working class; only the establishment of socialism will ensure production and distribution will take place just to meet human need.

Allende had no socialist mandate from a non-socialist working class to establish socialism. In fact he did not have a majority to control parliament and the armed forces and was therefore always vulnerable to a coup. However, he had been elected by a limited political democracy, but when it comes to furthering its interests abroad the US is as interested in “democracy” as Russia was when it seized the Crimea in early 2014.

The military coup in Chile was a temporary backward step because it restricted the working class to freely, organise, discuss and spread socialist ideas but the Allende option was no option at all for the working class to support. The coup in Chile also led to 3200 deaths many from torture while 200,000 were forced into political exile. On a recent trip to Chile, President Obama found nothing to apologise for. He just could not care less. Quite frankly he couldn’t give a damn.

Socialists did not support the Unity Popular government of Salvador Allende any more than we supported the subsequent political opposition to the Chilean military junta under Augusto Pinochet, arguing instead that the working class support for capitalist politicians does not bring socialism any nearer. Only the clear and distinct movement towards the formation of a socialist majority necessary to end capitalism can open up the way to establish Socialism.

Workers have to think and act for themselves no matter how hard the temporary political conditions may be. The interest of the working class must be kept separate from those calling for “freedom and democracy”. Despite the military junta being replaced in 1990, Chile is as far away today from becoming socialist as is any other capitalist country. Unfortunately, the working class in Chile, as is the case with workers elsewhere in the world, still vote for political leaders at elections. Political leaders, however benign and sincere cannot establish socialism nor can socialism be imposed upon a non-socialist working class. Only the conscious and political action of a socialist majority working democratically through a principled socialist party can establish socialism.

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