The Left and Labor:
The Achilles Heel of Allende’s Chile?
Chilean labor has received its fair share of study throughout the twentieth century and today. With the election of socialist president Salvador Allende in 1970 and his eventual overthrow in 1973, much of the research has focused on the political landscape that enabled Allende to come to power and at the same time, how that same political landscape would ultimately help bring about his demise. The external pressures put on the Allende government that led to his downfall are significant. Covert/overt pressure from the United States and its allies in the form of economic blockades (hoping to squeeze the life out of the Chilean economy) to military training and intelligence towards the right-wing military camps that opposed this movement towards socialism, without a doubt put the Allende government in a precarious position. As equally damning to Allende’s plan of instituting a socialist government in Chile was his inability to galvanize the Left in a common plan of transition from capitalism to socialism. But if we step back a minute and address Latin American labor as a whole, of which Chile figures significantly in the field, we find that Latin American labor historians put considerable more emphasis on questions relating to politics and organization. Thus it is difficult to write about labor/unions in Latin America without addressing the political significance that the labor movement and unions were a huge part.
Understanding the historical framework that labor found itself in Latin America is necessary to understand the economic scenario in Chile that labor and Left existed. In his groundbreaking work, Capitalism and Underdevelopment in Latin America, Andre Gunder Frank addresses the economic structure that Latin America finds itself in today. One of his two case studies is Chile. Frank argues, and I concur that Chile has been subjected to the contradictions of the capitalist...