Chile's rightwing socialists

Louis Proyect lnp3 at
Wed Dec 8 10:40:27 MST 1999

NY Times, December 8, 1999

Socialist Runs in Chile, Disclaiming Radicalism


SANTIAGO, Chile -- In a country still emerging from a quarter of a century
of revolution and counterrevolution, the presidential campaign of Ricardo
Lagos flies the red Socialist Party flag and is infused with the memories
of revolutionary dreams dashed by the military coup of 1973.

A Lagos campaign headquarters here is decorated with a poster emblazoned
"With Allende Always," memorializing the last Chilean Socialist Party
member to occupy the presidential palace. When Lagos joined in a televised
debate with Joaquin Lavin, the main conservative candidate, last month, the
widow of President Salvador Allende Gossens, who died in the coup, sat in
the front row cheering the man she hopes will revive her husband's legacy.

But with Lagos slightly ahead in the polls as Sunday's election nears, he
and his aides have engaged in a critical reassessment of the party's
performance in the Allende years in speeches, interviews and before a panel
of military officers and human rights lawyers negotiating how to atone for
the thousands of people who disappeared during the regime of Gen. Augusto
Pinochet, who overthrew Allende.

Lagos and other Socialists have implicitly blamed the party's radicalism
for the country's hyperinflation, shortages and economic collapse in 1972
and 1973. They have conceded that the Socialists went far beyond their
governing partner, the Communist Party, in encouraging peasant land
invasions, worker takeovers of factories, and even calling on military
units to mutiny, acknowledging that such actions were a crucial cause for
the coup.

"We put the interests of the party before the interests of the people,"
Lagos said last week at a campaign stop full of symbolism -- the
presentation of a book of speeches and essays written by Radomiro Tomic,
the Christian Democrat who ran for president against Allende in 1970.
Quoting Tomic, Lagos added, "There are no innocents in the destruction of
Chilean democracy."

Sen. Ricardo Nunez Munoz, the Socialist Party president, said in an
interview: "It's wrong to say that the CIA, the armed forces and the
bourgeoisie alone brought down the Allende government. It's obvious we need
to admit we made critical economic and political errors that were as
decisive if not more decisive."

He added, "It's possible some are frightened by the prospect of another
Socialist president, but while Ricardo Lagos is a son of the Allende years,
he and we know another Allende-like experiment would only be a colossal

The reasons for the self-criticism are in large part tactical at a time
when most Chilean voters reject either political extreme. But the often
painful reflections underscore how far the Socialist Party has come from
the days it sent fighters to join Che Guevara in Bolivia, declared its
overriding philosophy as Marxist-Leninist in 1967, and accepted the help of
East German intelligence agents to spirit out its main party leader in the
days after the coup.

complete article at:

Louis Proyect

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