Historic Compromises, Ralph Miliband, Allende 1973 and Jeremy Corbyn

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29/09/2016 by socialistfight

‎By Wang Hongwen


Socialist Fight Introduction

Ralph Miliband (father of former Labour leader Ed and contender David) wrote this very radical reformist article on the other 9/11, Chile 1973, just a month after the terrible coup.

He does consider the revolutionary alternative to Allende’s course but rejects it ultimately in the paragraph quoted below and so finishes a very informative and detailed article on that coup in a very lame and apologetic manner.

The significance of the article for the prospects of the government of Jeremy Corbyn and what might follow him from the left are obvious, as are the analysis of the character of Allende compared to Corbyn. Surely as compromisers ‎at the head of a mass socialist movement they are very alike. Let us remember the warning the British general made immediately Corbyn was elected [2] and the outcome of the coup in Chile in 1973. [2]

Note that Miliband senior seems to defend the obviously correct instincts of the masses as the revolutionary situation developed. The soviets in the Russian Revolution are the obvious political ancestors of the comités de la Unidad Popular which developed everywhere in Chile in that revolutionary period.

Miliband sees these spontaneous organs of working class power as mere creations of Allende and says the new regime ‘must from the start begin to build and encourage the building of a network of organs of power’ but then displays his own fatal inability to see the capitalist state as the absolute intractable enemy of the working class in revolution because these ‘organs of power’ must be made ‘parallel to and complementing the state power’.

In other words, in a dual power situation in contrast to 1917 Russia, which Lenin and Trotsky led to working class victory, in Chile in 1973 that class must subordinate itself to the capitalist ‘organs of power’, the capitalist state itself and its armed forces and its judges and prisons, mediated via the ‘organs of power’ in a bourgeois democratic parliament, the executive (government) and legislature (parliament).

It is the height of political foolishness or conscious duplicity to propose that the parliament and legislature can peacefully capture the judiciary and its allied armed forces, police and prisons. For that a mass struggle is necessary which leads to the working class conquering state power as analysed below by our correspondent from France. The comrade is a Marxist and a Chilean national who was obliged to flee his homeland in the late 1970s from Pinochet’s death squads.

Lastly we really cannot let any account of the Chile coup pass without mentioning the absolute class treachery of Mao Tse-tung, who actually supported the coups in Chile and Mobutu in Zaire and welcomed the fascistic regimes on the basis that they were allies of the USSR, the most dangerous imperialist power on the planet. The US agreed, obviously.

This is where Ralph Miliband definitively rejects revolution:

‎’What this means is not simply ‘mobilizing the masses’ or ‘arming the workers.’ These are slogans — important slogans — which need to be given effective institutional content. In other words, a new regime bent on fundamental changes in the economic, social, and political structures must from the start begin to build and encourage the building of a network of organs of power, parallel to and complementing the state power, and constituting a solid infrastructure for the timely ‘mobilization of the masses’ and the effective direction of its actions.’ [3]

Image result for Allende coup images

President Salvador Allende moments before his execution while the military coup unfolded on September 11.

Introduction: A defeat is a defeat and it lasts long time

I write this as short as I can, because to review the whole article needs or a book. I make very few references to the British situation because I do not know it well. Corbyn is not an Allende, the Communist Party of Chile (Partido Comunista de Chile) led by Luis Corvalán, were not looking for socialism but for a gentleman’s agreement with the centre right to make some very necessary reforms to the backward Chilean capitalism.

But this nonetheless gave the Soviet Union a foot in the back yard of US imperialism and they would not tolerate a ‘new Cuba’ without a big fight. The USSR let Allende down and the CP, even though after the coup they took an ultra-left turn and reproached the USSR later for their ‘pacifism’, didn’t want a ‘new Cuba’ either… The whole struggle was condemned from the beginning and the CP knows it. They had forced their best militants not to vote for Allende in 1970! They tried in every way to arrive at their cherished compromise but to no avail.

As with Romeo and Juliet we might see them as doomed to failure by their own destinies; ‘A pair of star-crossed lovers take their life, / Whose misadventured piteous overthrows / Doth with their death bury their parents’ strife.’ In this real and political world, as Saint-Just has said, ‘Those who make revolution half way only dig their own graves’. In fact, you can’t achieve anything worthwhile with a half-hearted effort.

The CP are still trying the same in Chile today. More disenchanted and corrupt, but the same policy and with the same result. But the masses are more reluctant to follow them – they have just lost the elections in the Unions because of their treachery.
Please, don’t miss your chances if ever there is one in Britain. Better, strive to confirm Marx’s predictions. For that abandon every dogmatism, but don’t forget the laws of the class struggle always apply. They will be verified always, but often at the last moment. Before, is the ability and efforts of the most militant combined with extreme flexibility that will move the process forward.

Two important features missing; internationalism and class struggle

This analysis (or report on the Chilean coup) lacks two very important features. The international situation, not only of the class struggle but the one between the Soviet Union and the US imperialism and their ‘division of the world’. and the rising struggle of the Chilean working class. Strikes by the working class were in the rise (they multiplied fivefold in the last years before the coup) and were accelerated by Allende’s win in the elections (they believed that Allende and his political coalition were sincerely fighting to institute socialism), the peasants were occupying the landlords’ lands in great numbers and the ‘pobladores’, people without a decent roof over their heads, were occupying open pieces of ground on the periphery of the main towns to build their sham-towns.

For the rest, the description of all the particularities of the legal and parliamentary fight that was going on is quite accurate but, even it is very important to hold all the particularities of a fight in a country with some democratic-bourgeois traditions and institutions, he dares not go to the roots of the problem. Even if he goes very far for a social democrat, he has a left social democrat point of view, he just cannot see that the main aspect of the whole question was not the failures of the Allende coalition, or the importance of the reactionary offensive (this aspect will always be there) but the lack of a political direction for the rapidly rising working class movement.

What he sees as an electoral ‘triumph’ for the Allende coalition (when they get 44% in March 1973) is in fact the expression of the rising consciousness of the masses, which even confronted by the sabotage of the right and centre under the direction of US imperialism, even if they still remain attached to Allende and the UP, were asking to go even further towards socialism but mainly against (and in the rough ways of the working class) against the ‘momios’ (the rightist opposition).

The coup was mainly directed against this rising of the working class will to fight and their class consciousness which was going ever further left but could find no real guidance. The main leftists in Chile then were the MIR, [4] a sort of POUM [5] and the left wing of the Socialist Party a sort of Largo Caballero [6] mess. This should not be forgotten. If the plebiscite that Allende was to propose the 11 September 1973 to solve the ‘institutional crisis’ was not accepted it was because, as one of the main conspirators and head of the bosses said: ‘The plebiscite would have signified the end of the Allende government and on this we can count on Allende’s word of honour, he would respect his word, but who can guarantee us that the working class will follow him?’

That’s the real ground reason of the coup. This reason underlies and determines all the constitutional, political parliamentary strife and every other form that covers this question.
The problem is that after the fall of Allende, every sensible social democrat politician has taken the conclusion that the ‘leftist’ course of Allende was bound to fail because it will go exactly the same way as Allende.

Mitterrand in France will make the ‘reforms’ that were acceptable by a large minority of the bourgeoisie. Blair in Britain moved even further to the right to the point of making social democracy a better help to imperialism and initiated more attacks against the labour movement and the working class than their traditional rightist politicians. Going back, one of the main ‘errors’ of the Allende’s Popular Unity government was to dissolute, to abandon the Comités de la Unidad Popular; the militants grass roots committees that had helped achieve the electoral triumphs and were organised all over the country in every factory, works, public administration, poor neighbourhood, etc.

Well, it should be said that, on account of the international situation, the scope of the most influent political party of that time (and going back to 1934 till today at least) the CP was not trying to make a new Socialist society, in whatever form they could imagine this, but to conclude a compromise with the ‘middle classes’ represented or by the Radical Party in the 30-40s or with the Christian Democrats in the 60-70 till today. And with ‘a part’ of US imperialism ‘the ones interested in some capitalist (or ‘progressive’) development of the Latin American countries. Because, they ‘theorise’’, that they will have a broader market to sell their products in. That is the ‘Historical Compromise’ [7] that at the time was proposed and imposed to the communist parties in Europe and in Latin America.

And the Chilean Communist Party follows that line blindly.

Without this two important, fundamental questions, the article is a very good one (that is a very social democrat article of a bourgeois intellectual but it is useless, not to say dangerous to be followed. Theirs is no real conclusion at its end because there is no possible solution on the basis of its analysis. Revolutions take place with the conscious participation of the masses. There can exist some real consciousness or a sort of Real Need that forms a distorted form of consciousness. The question of the leader comes here with big force.

The limitations of all bourgeois politicians, even left social democratic ones

Allende was an old political member of the right wing of the Socialist Party. He has been minister, senator, parliamentary for decades and was the candidate of the CP and the far right spectrum of the UP (Popular Unity). He ended his life with arms in hand fighting a coup as another franc-maçon (freemason) and president of Chile died, committing suicide after a lost civil war at the end of the nineteenth century instigated by the British imperialism that time.

First of all, it should be said that when the masses enter into in the uprising the whole spectre of the political life fractures to the left and to the extreme right. Allende dying as a hero is an expression of the great amounts of energy the working class could give if they were called to fight. But, as a bourgeois politician, and he was one of them, and they will never call the working class for that fight. The middle classes fear most, not the massacres of the army but the working class destroying every obstacle in front of them. And they know that they can’t allow the explosion to begin because they could not know where it might stop.

When the time came for fighting, for the ones who were willing to fight, were to overcome many obstacles. These did not include the CP or Allende who had the broader support of the masses. The obstacles inclused bourgeois legality, the laws against the arming of the population, the lack of organisation of the broader masses – remember the dissolution of the ‘Comités de la Unidad Popular’ –, the force of the bourgeois propaganda which controlled 70% of all the mass media, the Allende propaganda telling that the army is ‘the people with uniform’, the calls ‘No to the Civil War’ by the CP and the personal ties the MIR leaders had with Allende and their absolute lack of militants and influence. Not to say the lack of revolutionary leaders or a revolutionary party which are conditions sine qua non of a revolutionary situation so complicated of a class struggle situation such as this (and every other).

This elementary conclusion has been taken by every ‘responsible’ social democrat all over the world and out of a capitalist crisis, they have taken the only possible way. To capitulate and to be better bourgeois politicians than their ‘concurrents’ from the right. With the crisis, the question that are propelled to the fore are, with every difference coming from different countries and circumstances, more or less the same, and the problems should also be similar. The basic laws of revolutions should confirm themselves always, but the particularities will change.

My own conclusions from my own struggle; three problems and three solutions

Chile was in need of three main changes, the ones the UP try to resolve in its own way: 1. the agrarian question that was resolved finally in a capitalist form; 2. the question of the riches of the country (copper and other minerals) in the hands of imperialism, the problem today is even worse, and 3. the poverty problem which is more or less the same.

Our fight had to have some result. Not the one we fight for, a socialist agriculture, but a capitalist one. The result of your fight is never nothing. As Engels tell us, the result is always something no one looked for but always sole sort of progress. What are my personal lessons for all this? Nothing much original. 1. First of all, you need a real working class party and a very good leader. Without that you got nothing. 2. Second you need an organized working class on the rise. 3. Third you need the absolute consciousness that this will be a fight ‘à la vie, à la mort’ (in life and in death).

But also, favourable international conditions (which Allende lacked) or a strong international working class movement will be of much help. The main aspect of all this are the two first ones. The ones we lacked.


Time Magazine 14 June 1976: Palmiro Togliatti betrayed the post-war Italian Revolution on Stalin’s orders, Enrico Berlinguer was father of the Historic Compromise and of Eurocommunism, both were treacherous counter-revolutionaries to the last.



[1] The Guardian 20 September, Notions of a military revolt if Corbyn became PM are far-fetched So what do the senior ranks of the military think about Corbyn in private? The Sunday Times had a bloodcurdling quote – bloodcurdling at least for anyone who believes in democracy and the neutrality of the military – from what it described as a senior serving general warning of direct action in the event of Corbyn becoming prime minister. ‘There would be mass resignations at all levels and you would face the very real prospect of an event which would effectively be mutiny.’ http://preview.tinyurl.com/z5m3men

[2] Thor Halvorssen, president of the Human Rights Foundation, National Review Pinochet is history: ‘But how will it remember him? ‘He shut down parliament, suffocated political life, banned trade unions, and made Chile his sultanate. His government disappeared 3,200 opponents, arrested 30,000 (torturing thousands of them)… Pinochet’s name will forever be linked to the Desaparecidos, the Caravan of Death, and the institutionalized torture that took place in the Villa Grimaldi complex’

[3] Ralph Miliband, The Coup in Chile, (October 1973) https://www.marxists.org/archive/miliband/1973/10/chile.htm

[4] The Revolutionary Left Movement (MIR) (Spanish Movimiento de Izquierda Revolucionaria) is a Chilean political organization and former far-left guerrilla organization founded on October 12, 1965. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Revolutionary_Left_Movement_(Chile)

[5] The Workers’ Party of Marxist Unification (Spanish: Partido Obrero de Unificación Marxista, POUM; Catalan: Partit Obrer d’Unificació Marxista) was a Spanish communist political party formed during the Second Republic and mainly active around the Spanish Civil War. It was formed by the fusion of the Trotskyist Communist Left of Spain (Izquierda Comunista de España, ICE) and the Workers and Peasants’ Bloc (BOC, affiliated with the Right Opposition) against the will of Leon Trotsky, with whom the former broke. The writer George Orwell served with the party’s militia and witnessed the Stalinist repression of the movement, which would help form his anti-authoritarian ideas in later life. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/POUM

[6] Francisco Largo Caballero (15 October 1869 – 23 March 1946) was a Spanish politician and trade unionist. He was one of the historic leaders of the Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party (PSOE) and of the Workers’ General Union (UGT). In 1936 and 1937 Caballero served as the Prime Minister of the Second Spanish Republic during the Spanish Civil War. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Francisco_Largo_Caballero

[7] In 1973, the Italian Communist Party’s General Secretary Enrico Berlinguer launched in Rinascita (a communist magazine) a proposal for a ‘democratic alliance’ with the Christian Democracy, embraced by Aldo Moro. The call for this alliance was inspired by the overthrow of the Allende Government in Chile. For Berlinguer, the events in Chile proved that the Marxist left could not aspire to govern in democratic countries without establishing alliances with more moderate forces. After the 1973 Chilean coup, there was cooperation between the PCI and DC that became a political alliance in 1976. Then Berlinguer’s PCI attempted to distance itself from the USSR, with the launching of ‘Eurocommunism’ along with the Spanish Communist Party and the French Communist Party, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Historic_Compromise


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