This is a discussion of Peter Winn’s The Chilean Road to Socialism and Barbara Stallings’ The Allende Regime, 1970-73.
Writing just 5 years after the coup d’état that overthrew Salvador Allende and Chile’s brief attempt at an endogenous development project, Barbara Stallings argues that we should not “say that U.S. forces ‘caused’ the coup, but that their assistance was important in supporting the efforts of the internal opposition; the interests of the internal and external bourgeoisie coincided and each played a crucial role. The current policies... favor the Chilean and foreign bourgeoisie and the military at the expense of all others” (Stallings, 153). In the context of endogenous projects that attempt to break free of foreign domination, we have previously looked at Paraguay, where Eduardo Galeano argues “an autonomous, sustained development process” was led by “the all-powerful paternalist state”, which “filled the place of a nonexistent national bourgeoisie in organizing the nation and orienting its resources and its destiny” (Galeano, 189). The crushing of the Paraguayan experiment was predominantly a product of foreign intervention guided by Britain. But though we know the extent of American intervention to destroy Chile, it is less clear why the “national bourgeoisie” would willingly collaborate in the reversion of their country to the aegis of American imperial control. This prompts us to explore the contradiction between the supposedly “internal” and “external” bourgeoisie; if their interests coincide so starkly, as in the case of Chile, what use is it differentiating them?
It is assumed that a national bourgeoisie, in the context of a struggle for national independence, would play a progressive role, even if only to supplant foreign capitalists with their own national capitalist development. In the case of countries like Chile, however, the national bourgeoisie frequently prove themselves to be “compradors” to American interests. An endogenous development project can strive for the “recuperation of the nation’s basic riches” (Winn, 63), which at face value is not an inherently socialist demand; however, as these demands correlate with the expropriation of the national bourgeoisie as well, and attempt to redistribute wealth and means of production seized from both foreign and domestic exploiters, the interests of the “national” (or comprador) bourgeoisie and the American bourgeoisie become more transparently intertwined. A truly national bourgeoisie may not be inherently threatened by Allende’s 1970 nationalization of American copper investment; one that is thoroughly “parasitic”, as Frantz Fanon may have said, would see that as an attack on itself as well. From the perspective of those like Allende, the goals of socialism and national independence become more greatly correlated as the interests of the domestic and foreign bourgeoisie align. That is why much of the Chilean “national” bourgeoisie was willing to aid Richard Nixon in making their own economy “scream”; as Peter Winn notes, “a stunned elite reacted to Allende’s election with disbelief, dismay, and alarm. Investment ceased, the stock market fell precipitously, and consumer sales plummeted, with the exception of airline tickets for foreign destinations” (70). Perhaps this proves another victim of the coup, Victor Jara, correct when he sang: “Siempre los ricos fueron extranjeros; Que se vayan a Miami con sus tías”. The comprador bourgeoisie cannot ever align with an independent project aiming to delink from the global economic order when its interests are threatened; they would rather sacrifice their entire country to the merciless reign of the Chicago Boys than see their own wealth expropriated for the real national interest. To that extent, we can wonder whether it is relevant to still speak of a “national” bourgeoisie, the historically progressive bourgeoisie Marx wrote of, when in cases like Chile they seem more like aspirant bourgeoisie willing to endorse their country’s domination by America.
By Joseph Mullen