Monday Column by Emmanuel Yawe
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Salvador Allande’s lifelong goal was the presidency of his country Chile. During his fourth try at elections to achieve this goal, he used to tell his followers that the route to power for a Marxist was not through violence but by la via pacifica -the peaceful route through the ballot box.
This was a rather strange message because all through human history, since Karl Marx and his collaborator Engels invented the theory of socialism, no socialist government had been established through the ballot box. By 1970 however, Allande waged an exhaustive campaign supported by a coalition of six leftist parties dominated by his own socialists, won an upset victory and was tapped by the parliament to become the president of his country.
It was the first time in history that a man would campaign on the platform of Marxism and win election. “We won by legal means” Allande was proud to say. “We have won by the way established within the game of the laws by bourgeois democracy. And within these channels we are going to make the profound transformations that Chile demands and needs.
“We will change the constitution by constitutional means to move on to popular constitution that authentically expresses the presence of the people in the conquest and exercise of power.”
After decades of reaching for the ultimate power in Chile, Allande moved swiftly to fulfill his campaign promises. Within a few days of taking office, he reestablished relations with Cuba, ruled by his long time friend Fidel Castro. He then quickly recognized Communist China, North Korea and other communist regimes with which Chile had not had relations for many years.
On the economic front, Allande pushed the congress for approval of a bill to nationalize the country’s copper mines, the main source of foreign exchange for Chile. This was his main campaign promise in all the eighteen years he had campaigned to be president on the previous three elections. His government with the approval of parliament took over complete mastery of the copper riches in Chile.
On agrarian reforms, Allande did not move fast enough so radical students called peasants to arms. Many did and armed with rifles, shovels, hatchets, sticks and woods they routed large scale farmers out of their property. The Allande government verbally denounced the seizures but did not move in the police or other law enforcement agents to stop the expropriations. Allande instructed the police to use only rubber bullets when confronting potentially riotous crowds like the ones seizing lands
He introduced the National Day of Voluntary Labor which his government believed would open the way to socialism in Chile with an extra days work without pay. The program was designed to bring working class and lower ranks of Chilean society together in “socialist solidarity”.
All this did not last long. The American CIA instigated the coup that ended Allende’s socialist government on 11th September 1973, The man was killed when his Presidential Palace La Moneda came under heavy tank and air bombardment. General Pinochet and the forces that overthrew the Allende Government conducted a severe campaign against leftists and perceived political enemies in the early months after the coup and thus reversed all the progress made by Allande by bringing into power a regime of human rights abuses that lasted for decades. The dictatorship presented its mission as a “national reconstruction.” but was characterized by the systematic suppression of political parties and the persecution of dissidents to an extent unprecedented in the history of Chile. Overall, the regime left over 3,000 dead or missing, tortured tens of thousands of prisoners and drove an estimated 200,000 Chileans into exile. The dictatorship’s effects on Chilean political and economic life continue to be felt up to date even when Gen Binochet’s government came to grief in 1990.
Ten years after Allande recorded the first socialist victory in the world at an election, Robert Gabriel Mugabe made history as the second person to fight an election on a Marxist – Leninist program and win in 1980. Mugabe was born into a poor Shona family and after an education at Kutama College and Fort Hare University worked as a school teacher in Southern Rhodesia, Northern Rhodesia and Ghana. Angered that Southern Rhodesia was a British colony governed by a white minority, Mugabe made an anti government speech which led to his conviction and imprisonment between 1964 and 1974.On release from prison he fled to Mozambique, embraced Marxism and joined African nationalist protests calling for an independent black-led state. He established his leadership of ZANU and oversaw ZANU’s role in the Rhodesian Bush war, fighting Ian Smith’s white government.
As the war raged, there was international outcry on the loss of human life and a call for negotiated settlement. He took part in the peace negotiations brokered by the United Kingdom that resulted in the Lancaster House Agreement. The agreement dismantled white minority rule but gave special protection to lands forcibly acquired from black Africans by the whites. Mugabe under heavy pressure from Nigeria reluctantly signed the agreement on conditions that the United Kingdom would provide the funds to buy back the lands from the whites and redistribute it to the dispossessed poor black Africans.
This resulted in the 1980 general elections in which Mugabe contested on his Marxist Leninist platform and won. He became the country’s prime minister from 1980 t0 1987 but worked to change the constitution and become President giving himself more powers after the British reneged on their promise to provide the funds for land redistribution. . Mugabe’s administration expanded healthcare and education and—despite his Marxist rhetoric and professed desire for a socialist society initially adhered largely to orthodox, conservative economic policies.
Frustrated at the refusal of the United Kingdom to provide the promised funds and slow rate of land redistribution, Mugabe encouraged the violent seizure of white-owned land. Food production was severely impacted, leading to famine, drastic economic decline and international sanctions.
He has been praised as a revolutionary hero of the African liberation struggle who helped to free Zimbabwe from British colonialism, imperialism and white minority rule. But he became increasingly isolated as he was accused of being a dictator and responsible for economic mismanagement, widespread corruption and crimes against humanity which drove him closer to his wife who sought to take advantage of the situation, manipulate her way and succeed him as President.
In the midst of all this Mugabe made the costly mistake to sack
Cuba has been able to sustain its revolutionary reforms since 1959 against all the aggression and sabotage of the CIA and the United States of America.