THERE WAS SOME good news from Chile last week.
The Popular Unity Coalition headed by Marxist President Salvador Allende took 43 per cent of the vote in the by-elections, increasing its strength in both houses of the legislature.
The results confounded the pundits, who predicted that opposition gains would be great enough to block Allende's legislative program and threaten him with impeachment.
Instead, Popular Unity--a coalition of five Socialist and Communist Parties--increased its popular vote from 1970's 36 per cent.
Popular Unity's victory is especially important because Allende has coupled his desire for radical social reform with a belief in a free press, free speech and the democratic electoral process.
But the fight for a socialist Chile is far from won. The Opposition is still strong enough to make passage of Popular Unity legislation difficult. And upper and middle class opposition is fostering unrest in its effort to impede the transition to Socialism.
Economic difficulties have also contributed to Popular Unity's problems. The 1970 nationalization of the nation's largest industry, copper, mining and smelting, was followed by a production decline as American firms departed for good, taking their expertise with them.
Allende has charged that the nationalization has prompted a retaliatory United States trade boycott. His claim seems justified: Anaconda and Kennecott Copper, giants on the American corporate landscape, were crippled by the move, and one-side-revelation of the ITT case last year was that the conglomerate contemplated toppling Popular Unity to safeguard its investments.
The United States government also bears responsibility for Chile's economic difficulties. Before Allende took power, the U.S. was giving Chile substantial amounts of economic aid. Now, the United States has cut off all economic aid, and is giving money only to the Chilean military. Moreover, the U.S. has worked in international financial organization to cut off Chile's credit.
We urge an end to America's policy of economic discrimination against Chile. We also support full resumption of economic aid, with no strings attached. For too long, United States Latin American policy has been almost exclusively concerned with the interests of multinational corporate giants. It is time for this policy to end.
ALLENDE IS OFTEN criticized for mismanaging the economy. Without doubt, Chile's rate of inflation--the highest in the world last year--must be brought under control. But it must be remembered that the inflation is due at least in part to pressure from the United States and from those in the upper classes who have pulled their money out of the country, and to the initial disruptive effects of the government's agrarian reform. Moreover, since Allende has taken office, the buying power of the lower classes and working classes has actually increased, owing to increased wages. Of course, higher wages have made goods more expensive; but the end result has been to redistribute income.
Despite Chile's difficulties, support for Popular Unity is growing. The profits from copper, once extracted for American corporate barons, now benefit the Chilean people, and the country is now the master of its own economic destiny. Social reforms have added to Allende's already broad base of support among the working class and peasant Chileans.
We applaud Allende's victory and recognize it as a triumph for the Chilean and other Third World peoples. We are confident Popular Unity will continue to reshape Chile along participatory socialist lines.