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The Death of the Dream for Socialist Chile

The Death of the Dream for Socialist Chile

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Published by NathanielWhittemore
An essay about how often military power ends ideological revolution.
An essay about how often military power ends ideological revolution.

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Published by: NathanielWhittemore on Jun 17, 2011
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Nathaniel WhittemoreLatin American RevolutionsPaper 1May 03, 2005Prompt 2
Intro
 The Chilean socialist experiment was an exciting moment of confluence between different political and economic actors. It was also atragic lesson in the force that powerful minority interests can bring to bearupon the rights of the collective. The relationship between the so-called“revolution from above” and the “revolution from below” was never as simpleas shared or divergent goals and means. Salvador Allende’s Popular Frontprovided a national context and revolutionary lexicon for the ongoinglocalized frustrations of workers. The workers movements, such as that of the Yarur mill, animated the movement at large and provided Allende’sgovernment with the resonant constituent base and demonstrable saliency itneeded to formally confront the existing order. To some degree, the interplay between the two was based onimagined relationships. The anxious workers appropriated the idea of Allendeas their own, projecting their struggled onto both the man and his ideology.His real ideology imagined a relationship with the working class that in someways combined the
 patron
system with socialism. Yet even in the Yarur take-over crisis these two colliding imagined relationships were able to inform realdiscourse and find political compromise and maneuverability. This paper explores the particular circumstances of those imaginedrelationships and their brutal snuffing just a few years after they had formed. The Chilean socialist experiment is the story of these relationships and theirextinction. Left to its own devices, it seems as though Allende’s popular frontsocialism might have been buckled under its own political and economicdivisions and inefficiencies. Yet the truth of the situation remains that the endof the movement came with the mobilization of incredibly powerful minorityand international actors.
The moment of new socialism
 
Allende’s Popular Front vision and the surging Chilean worker’srevolution of the early 1970s were born into a set of circumstances thatreflected not only the economic, political, and industrial conditions of themoment, but were predicated on a long history of worker activism andchanging demographics. Allende’s triumph at the polls and the Yarur worker’sreclamation of their union were manifestations of a particular moment inwhich local labor discontent finally found context in national politicalmomentum. The revolution from above and revolution from below would,over the course of the coming months, shape, inform and give strength toone another. At the same time, their sometimes-divergent techniques,emphases and timing would threaten the socialist unity that was the lifebloodof the movement for the overthrow of the old system of exploitation. Theinterplay between the two was often rooted in the way in which workersimagined Allende’s government and indeed, Allende himself, in relation tothemselves.Allende’s 1970 campaign saw a very different electoral compositionthan eighteen years earlier when he had first run for president. There hadbeen a doubling of eligible voters and increased power concentrations withinthe lower class
1
. The composition of laborers at the Yarur mill reflected thesedemographics and a particular combination of experiences that went alongwith them. The “Old Timers” were a group whose experience was that of conditioned pessimism. Almost all had witnessed or been part of thesuppressed strike of 1962 and some had been there even earlier. For most,the only politics that mattered were those of survival. The youngsters, on theother hand, reflected a move in the Chilean industrial base from rural tourban youth. These new circumstances of upbringing had implications for theanxiousness of the young workers to improve conditions that went beyondthe fact of their youth itself.For young Chileans, a move from countryside to city meant increasedcontact with peers. The family ceased to be the singularly dominant socialunit as new communities, in the forms of class mates, neighborhood friends,sports teams and other clubs came to occupy a significant place in the lives
1
Winn, “Weavers of Revolution,” 58
 
of young people. This was a world in which “loyalty” was increasingly themost important characteristic of relationships and people’s friends came toexert a stronger and stronger influence over decisions and actions.At the same time as these new sorts of relationships were forming, the Yarur factory was becoming increasingly de-personalized and de-humanized. The
 patron
system which relied so heavily on the personality of the leaderhad not been successfully transmitted between generations of the Yarur clan.Moreover, the system was predicated on a tangible sense that real gainscould (only) come from the individual relationship with the boss. It wasdoomed to wither in the face of decades passed with work conditions thesame or worse as before. As Winn writes, the gifts of the patron system“were double-edged, instruments of social control as well as expressions of benevolence. Their intent was to bind workers to their boss by ties of gratitude…and fears of losing those [benefits] already granted.”
2
The lastvestiges of the system employed by Don Amador failed to resonate with ayounger group of workers not weaned with the same sense of filial piety asthe older generation.More than that, the mechanization of the working process increasedthe physical and social isolation of workers from one another. Indeed, thismechanization was the final blow to any sustaining power of the old familialpatron system. The replacing Taylor System was an American innovationdesigned to increase the productivity of the workers. While in purelyeconomical terms, it had the desired outcome; it also created an impersonalsituation in which labor was separated from the laborers. Indeed, the workersbecame “extensions of the perpetual motion machines they tended.”
3
Onpage 46, Winn writes that “
companerismo
was another casualty of the TaylorSystem – and paternalism perished with it as well. There was no longer timeto talk with other workers.”
4
This was completely at odds with the senses of community that had become increasingly important in the social fabric of theyoung workers.
2
Ibid, 80
3
Ibid, 80
4
Winn, “Weavers of Revolution,” 46.

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