Was (is) forced hegemony under imperialist domination possible? A single instance, of course, cannot serve to resolve a theoretical question, but in the Chilean case the people provided an answer: mass uprisings and struggle in the 1983-1987 period, begun in 1983 with the Days of National Protest and marked by a major demonstration of half a million people in 1985. This period deserves notice, if only because many people on the left in the United States (S&S readers among them?), and also in Chile (according to personal testimony by Chileans of my acquaintance) developed a blind spot concerning Chile after 1973 -- the subject is, after all, a painful one. The popular surge for genuinely free elections, an end to all aspects of the military dictatorship, and for full disclosure and accountability concerning the atrocities perpetrated by the Pinochet regime, created a political space for a dialog on the right, and the consequent formation of the Democratic Alliance based on the former Christian Democratic Party. On the left, the Democratic Popular Movement took shape, with participation from many of the former forces behind Popular Unity (the Socialist Party, the Communist Party, the Movement of the Revolutionary Left). The regime's goal was to achieve a new stage in its legitimization: creation of a reliable civilian platform for military rule. In the end, the moderate socialists betrayed both the Communist Party and the Democratic Popular Movement. The most class-conscious left (the CP and others) were formally excluded from participation in elections, the object clearly being to achieve the form of democracy without the substance. To the present, the struggle for the balance of forces, especially for the center strata and for control of the populist impulse, continues. While nothing, as usual, can be predicted, it can I think be said that forced hegemony has not been achieved. In a speculative vein, I would add that in a more hospitable international environment than the one offered by the Reagan-Bush era and the subsequent emergence of One Superpower and neoliberal globalization, the people of Chile, calling upon the Popular Unity experience, would have put an end to the Pinochet regime and the U. S.-brokered compromise with the moderate right, the "Concertación," long since.

The question remains: how should we evaluate the Popular Unity era? How might it serve in the renewed struggle for socialism and the path toward socialism, both in Chile and elsewhere? I have mentioned briefly some of the achievements of the UP government. The discussion now turns to its shortcomings. We of course experience 1973 as a failure, and wish to identify the errors leading to that failure, so as not to repeat them. Molina cites the "inability of Popular Unity to conceive a socialism that is based on our originality," i.e., to envision socialism with Chilean characteristics. Other shortcomings are noted: illusions about the Chilean military, and its presumed respect for constitutional authority; failure to adequately address the needs and fears of the (numerous) middle strata of the population; underestimation of the treacherous potential of the Christian Democrats; failure to decisively control the destructive behavior of ultraleft groups, whose violence and provocations, including random and excessive occupations of small-scale properties, drove large numbers of working people, professionals and small property holders toward the right; and so on. "If only these errors had been avoided. . ." "Next time we will get it right. . ."

I would like to offer two propositions in response to this line of thinking.

First, in contrast to participating in the search for UP's "errors," I want to propose that Popular Unity made no errors! The Allende government got it exactly right! With this outrageous formulation I mean simply that the "errors," copiously described in the literature, are precisely the means of coming to grips with monumental and hitherto unsolved tasks. Science proceeds through error and correction of error; so, I would argue, does revolution. The UP was what it could only have been and what similar entities at other times and in other places can only be: a coalition of forces at different levels of experience, understanding and political development. Not only must a similar process of shedding illusions and creating capacities take place again in every new assault upon capitalist power; it must take place under conditions that are partly novel, and for which the 1970-1973 Chilean model will be only partially applicable. Our Chilean friends describe a new generation in the country today, young people with almost no knowledge of the UP experience. These younger generations will have to relearn everything afresh. Of course, when they discover that they need what the past has to offer, they will search for that past and find it relatively quickly. Nevertheless, the past can never be mechanically applied to the present. Shortcomings will always exist, and they will take new forms. The only permanent illusion is to expect a revolutionary process without errors, confusion, learning by doing, and internal conflict.

Second, if the UP was essentially on a valid track, and if we must nonetheless account for its destruction, a large role must be ascribed to the Great External Reserve of the Chilean ruling class: the social, economic, financial and military power of the United States. The revolutionary process in Chile was defeated largely because its opponents were able to rely on a material base for counterrevolution outside of the country. An analogy with the Paris Commune seems appropriate. The Commune was destroyed not so much because of internal weaknesses -- and there were many -- but rather because the revolution did not extend to the peasant countryside surrounding Paris, and this provided the base from which reaction could encircle and eventually overthrow the urban revolution. Chile 1970-1973, then, is our Paris Commune. Its importance for the left in advanced capitalist countries lies in its intimate conjoining of electoral and popular mobilization. A positive corollary follows: when (here, in a burst of "optimism of the will," I prefer "when" to "if") a counterpart to the Popular Unity movement arises and contests for power in the United States, the beseiged oligarchy in question will have no Great External Reserve to fall back upon. That is truly a prospect worth pondering.

I end this essay with the words of Salvador Allende, spoken on Chilean radio on September 11, 1973 (my translation): "Workers of my country, I have faith in Chile and her destiny. Others will move beyond this grey and bitter moment, in which treason triumphs. Keep on knowing that sooner rather than later great pathways will emerge, along which a free people will travel, to build a better society."



Democratic activism is crucial for social progress, not only in revolutionary and transition periods but in all stages through which a country passes. The USA during World War II was not Chile in 1970-73, but the struggle for the balance of social power was essentially the same. Economist Martin Hart-Landsberg ("Popular Mobilization and Progressive Policy Making: Lessons from World War II Price Control Struggles in the United States") provides a valuable study of a topic that is usually confined to the musty realms of economic policy: price control. Students (and teachers) of economics will know that the entire weight of the orthodox paradigm in economics, in the form of supply and demand curves, indifference curves, and so on, is thrown against the very notion of controlling prices -- a practice that, after all, interferes with the sacred "free" market. Hart-Landsberg, to the contrary, shows that price control in wartime USA was not a matter of professional economic policy, to be justified or condemned on the basis of formal economic models, but rather was a process and means of massive popular involvement, activism and education. Tens of thousands of volunteers were involved in defining and enforcing the price control policy, and this policy was widely, and correctly, perceived as an element in the struggle between classes: whose priorities were to govern the distribution of burdens associated with the war, and with economic recovery. One might summarize the remarkable view of the price control movement revealed here: "Out of the think tanks and into the streets!" S&S readers need not be reminded that this point is not just historical; it is theoretical as well.

Brian Lloyd's study of the "Kinoy Paper" -- an 80-page document calling for a new left political party, circulated in 1973 by radical lawyer Arthur Kinoy -- brings our attention forward again to the 1970s, and again to the United States, where the level of political development was of course far below that of Chile. In the circumstances, the difficulties seemed insurmountable, and the ensuing debate among a striking array of intellectuals and activists had a centrifugal quality, fracturing along several fault lines involving strategy and tactics, the balance between international and domestic concerns, and above all the problem of getting the struggles for racial justice, gender equality and economic empowerment into alignment. Lloyd argues that the national/international polarity sheds more light on the conflicts of the early 1970s than does the more common "old left/new left" distinction. We may look back and deplore the left's immaturity as revealed in the discussion of the Kinoy paper and its uneventful outcome, but Lloyd's study also reveals the enormous range of activity and subtlety of thought present in the debates, and suggests that we still have much to learn from them.

Our "Communications" section offers a pair of ongoing controversies. The first refers to Andriana Vlachou's paper, "Nature and Value Theory" (S&S, Summer 2002), which argued, in the tradition of the "overdeterminationist" post-Althusserian school, that Marxist ecological political economy must use Marx's value categories to examine ways in which capitalism is able to respond to environmental challenges, as well as those in which it is not able to do so. She called for a sufficiently complex view, one that takes into account the full range of both destructive and constructive potentials in capitalist accumulation, and that sees the environmental outcome as the product of various forces, including popular resistance. Now critics Paul Burkett and George Liodakis argue, in different ways, that Vlachou's analysis fails to grasp fully the value-theoretic understanding of capitalism's immanently destructive effect on nature and potential for crisis. We are glad to present their arguments, together with Vlachou's response, as an expression of our ongoing interest in the Marxism-ecology and capitalism-ecology interfaces. Our special issue, "Marxism and Ecology" (S&S, Fall 1996) is still, we believe, useful for these investigations.

The discussion of Kate Weigand's Red Feminism continues, following the symposium published in our Winter 2002-2003 issue. Now David Laibman and Paul Mishler, in different ways, raise issues regarding the hitherto unappreciated role of the Communist Party as incubator and transmitter of feminist thought, even while the Party was often inhospitable to the feminist women working within it. Laibman and Mishler also contribute to the historiography by drawing on some personal experiences, from periods later than the mid-century focus of Weigand's book.

Finally, we present a review article, by Michael Williams, of Tony Burns and Ian Fraser's The Hegel-Marx Connection. The Burns-Fraser book is a collection of essays on a difficult topic, and Williams' extended review and appraisal is an excellent introduction to the range of positions -- from those portraying a highly Hegelian Marx to those that put forward a rather Marxified Hegel! -- which will, we think, be useful as an entry guide for readers who have not (yet?) tackled the formidable Hegel in the original.

D. L.



SCIENCE & SOCIETY's readership is unusually loyal. Some subscribers have been receiving S&S for decades. The Editors request that both long-time and new readers consider making a bequest and adding SCIENCE & SOCIETY to their wills. These gifts (which are tax deductible) can be donated to S&S' general fund, or earmarked for developing our subscription base. We hope you will remember our unique journal when considering ways of continuing your commitment to a more just and peaceful world -- ultimately, the goal of all of the scholarship presented in our pages.

Back to Prior Page

End Point Corporation