The Allende government, representing the Unidad Popular coalition in Chile, has now been in office for over two years. It is time enough to make an assessment of it. The stated goals of the up were to end the monopoly structure of the Chilean economy, break Chilean dependence on imperialism, and begin the construction of socialism. Given the past history of reformism in Third World countries, it can be taken as read that the accomplishment of the first two goals presupposes the achievement of the third. That is to say that without building socialism it is impossible to escape from imperialist domination or from the concentration of wealth in the hands of big capital. The up has expressly acknowledged this fact in its Programme: ‘In Chile the “reformist” and “developmental” solutions that the Alliance for Progress encouraged and that the government of Frei made its own, have not succeeded in changing anything important’. The Frei government attempted to curb the power of the most wealthy and take away the land of the biggest landowners, but it tried to do so in order to modernize capitalism and make it more efficient. Therefore it failed. The Frei government sought to regain the country’s independence by ‘nationalizing’ copper, but it ended up simply making us control of the copper more effective and cheaper. During the second half of Frei’s regime the economy was stagnant, with the gnp increasing at an average of 3 per cent a year, barely keeping up with the population; Frei’s reforms had failed to make the capitalist system healthy.

The up formally acknowledges that another attempt at reform, even if more conscientious and efficient, will only lead to more stagnation, if carried out within the context of capitalism. It therefore calls for the struggle against monopolies and against imperialism to be synchronized with the building of socialism. Unfortunately, the various parties in the up coalition disagree on the time schedule for this programme. The Communist Party believes that socialism can be built at some indefinite future date after the anti-monopoly and anti-imperialist tasks have been carried out. This theory of stages, with the last and most important stage left to an indefinite future, forgets that revolutions which do not advance rapidly are crushed. In the words of Rosa Luxemburg: ‘In this, the Russian Revolution has but confirmed the basic lesson of every great revolution, the law of its being, which decrees: either the revolution must advance at a rapid, stormy, and resolute tempo, break down all barriers with an iron hand, and place its goals ever farther ahead, or it is quite soon thrown backward behind its feeble point of departure and suppressed by the counter-revolution. To stand still, to mark time on one spot, to be contented with the first goal it happens to reach, is never possible in revolution. And he who tries to apply the home-made wisdom derived from parliamentary battles between frogs and mice to the field of revolutionary tactics only shows thereby that the very psychology and laws of existence of revolution are alien to him and that all historical experience is to him a book sealed with seven seals.’

The attitude of the cp has crippled the up; after initial advances, and despite tremendous economic gains, the up today is retreating. The other major party of the up, the Socialist Party, is too disorganized and heterogeneous to counter-balance the strong and disciplined cp; in every crucial encounter the cp line has triumphed over the more radical sp line. It is too early to tell, but at present it looks as if the up will fail and that the parliamentary tactics of ‘frogs and mice’ have predominated.

In September 1970 the up, while professing to build socialism, found itself in the unusual historical position of having been legally elected to the government of a bourgeois state. The up, a coalition of parties the majority of which are solidly based on the working class, had taken advantage of a split in the ranks of the bourgeoisie to gain this electoral victory.footnote1 The election gave the up formal control of the executive branch of the state, but the right remained in control of the congressional and judicial branches, as well as tax-collecting, state auditing, and the bureaucracy in general. Factions within the Armed Forces feel so threatened by the up that they have backed several attempted coups d’état.footnote2 The majority of officers, however, have hitherto maintained official loyalty to the Constitution and the President. Any major attempt by the up to sidestep the Constitution would undoubtedly provoke a military intervention.

The continued existence of the traditional Armed Forces means that the up has been forced to try to gain control of the capitalist state using all the rules of the bourgeois legal system, and with the eventual goal of using electoral office to eliminate the present bourgeois state and create a worker’s state. Historically, this puts the up in an unusual position, and, to say the least, a very difficult one.

The up’s strategy was to use the considerable power of the executive branch to carry out some immediate economic reforms which would snap the economy out of the stagnation of the Frei years (nationalization of large industries, redistribution of income, state hiring of the unemployed, nationalization of the copper). The subsequent economic pickup was to be accompanied by mass political mobilizations, leading to an electoral majority for the up (which would mean an increase from the 36·2 per cent of September 1970 to over 50 per cent). With an electoral majority the up would be able to pass a new Constitution by plebiscite. The new Constitution would be the basis of a worker’s state, replacing the old Congress, the old Judiciary, and the old state bureaucracy. The legality of this process would prevent the military from overthrowing the government, although serious internal stresses in the army were reckoned to be inevitable. At the same time that the process of political mobilization was carried out, the state would be expropriating the major industries and creating the basis for a new socialist economy.

This initial scenario seemed a plausible one. The first steps were carried out successfully. In the April 1971 municipal elections, the up won an electoral majority. But at this point the plan stalled. The vital question of state power was postponed: the planned Constitutional plebiscite was put off till an indefinite future date. At present the up is belatedly preparing a new Constitution, but no date has been set for its presentation in a plebiscite. Meanwhile almost all observers agree that the up has lost its momentum.