Allende's Chile: The Political Economy of the Rise and Fall of the Unidad Popular

Allende's Chile: The Political Economy of the Rise and Fall of the Unidad Popular

Allende's Chile: The Political Economy of the Rise and Fall of the Unidad Popular

Allende's Chile: The Political Economy of the Rise and Fall of the Unidad Popular

Synopsis

The evolution of events in Chile during the presidency of the late Salvador Allende attracted attention all over the world. The experiment was unique in that no other Marxist president had been put in power by the democratic process of the ballot box. Political and economic developments under the government of the Unidad Popular undoubtedly had significance beyond the Chilean borders. The 'Chilean road to socialism' was a blind alley, leading not to socialism by peaceful means but to a military dictatorship by exceedingly violent means. Allende and the Unidad Popular were defeated and Chilean democracy was overthrown. But why it was overthrown remains an important question. This study analyzes the economic aspects of Allende's failure.

Excerpt

It is easy to understand why the evolution of political events in Chile under Salvador Allende and the Unidad Popular (UP) attracted attention all over the world. The scarcity of previous attempts at a 'constitutional' transition to socialism made the UP experiment pretty well unique, and undoubtedly the political and economic development during the Allende period had a significance which went far beyond the Chilean borders.

Today we all know that the UP's 'Chilean road to socialism' was a blind alley, leading the Chilean people not to socialism by peaceful means but to fascism by violent means. It can also be debated whether the class character and the objectives of the Allende government really were such as to warrant the designation 'socialist'. What is certain, however, is that with the overthrow of Allende and of Chilean democracy the question of the viability of the 'Chilean road' has already been answered: it didn't work. The Unidad Popular was defeated.

But why it didn't work remains an important question, and the purpose of this study is to analyze one aspect of the UP's failure, the economic aspect. What was the nature of the UP's economic project? How was it implemented, and with what consequences? In what sense is it correct to say that the Allende government's economic strategy failed, and most important of all: if it did fail -- and I will assert that it did -- why? To answer these questions is the main object of this study.

In view of the complete military defeat suffered by the Chilean Left on 11 September, 1973, the economic issues discussed below might appear irrelevant. 'So what,' the reader might say to himself when reading about, say, inflation, foreign trade or the production of corn in 1972 'as long as the working class was unarmed and the enemy armed, the whole UP experiment was doomed to failure.' To this I can only say: the question of the armed forces and the UP's lack of military preparations, despite being of obvious importance, will not be analyzed in what follows. I will concentrate on economic and, to a certain extent, political matters -- the latter mainly in so far as they are of importance for an understanding of economic events (and they very often are). Many of the . . .

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