The Coup in Chile

Ralph Miliband


What happened in Chile on 11 September 1973 did not suddenly reveal anything new about the ways in which men of power and privilege seek to protect their social order: the history of the last 150 years is spattered with such episodes. Even so, Chile has at least forced upon many people on the Left some uncomfortable reflections and questions about the "strategy" which is appropriate in Western-type regimes for what is loosely called the "transition to socialism". Of course, the Wise Men of the Left, and others too, have hastened to proclaim that Chile is not France, or Italy, or Britain. This is quite true. No country is like any other: circumstances are always different, not only between one country and another, but between one period and another in the same country. Such wisdom makes it possible and plausible to argue that the experience of a country or period cannot provide conclusive "lessons". This is also true; and as a matter of general principle, one should be suspicious of people who have instant "lessons" for every occasion. The chances are that they had them well before the occasion arose, and that they are merely trying to fit the experience to their prior views. So let us indeed be cautious about taking or giving "lessons".

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