What happened on 11 September 1973 is important

Contributed by Joe Montero

Yesterday, 11 September, marked an ominous day in the calendrer. For Australia this is when popular rebel Ned Kelly was hanged in 1880, and the United Sates engineered coup that overthrew the Whitlam government in 1975. In the United States itself 11 September is the anniversary of the Twin Towrs bombing in New York.

The 11 September marks another event. One that shook the world. This was another United States designed and organised and brutal coup that overthrow the Salvador Allende government in Chile and installation of the Augusto Pinochet dictatorship. Unlike in Australian case, this one was bloody. Thousands were executed. Many disappeared. Even more Chileans found themselves in military prisons and subjected to ongoing torture and dehumanisation.

CIA in Latin America: How Chile Lost Its Democracy 1973

Video from The Hidden Wars

Chile – The Other 9

Torture included ongoing bearings, the strapping into steel beds through which electrical charges were passed, the use of drugs to induce extreme depression, and pretending that the person screaming in the next room is a relative to induce confessions.  

Personal stories were told at a commemoration held at the Trades Hall in Melbourne. These people and others who were in the hundreds in the audience, are among those who managed to escape from the horror and end up in Australia.

Five decades on, Chile still grapples with legacy of Pinochet dictatorship

Video from FRANCE 24 English

This event was organised by the Latin American Solidarity Network (LANET) and the Victorian branch of the Australian Manufacturing Workers union. A list

Among a list of inspiring speakers, poets, journalists, and musicians, special contributions were made by the head of Mission of the Embassy of Venezuela Daniel Gasparri, and the Cuban Ambassador Tanieris Dieguez. They told of how the United States engineered actions to overthrow their own governments, and the role played through the imposition of sanctions and other forms of economic war against the government and people. They also spoke of how the experience of Chile and the example of Allende both informed and inspired their own nations.

Back in 1973, the Chile coup horrified the world. It affected many of us at a personal level. In the bigger picture, it strengthened the movement for democratic rights. The United States, although continuing to be involved in coups, it could never again do this so openly. Coup was relabelled regime change.

Nevertheless, the legacy remains. And this is that the courage of Allende who died defending the elected government of his people inspired a generation to resist oppression. The impact was felt all the way to Australia.

Other speakers at the Commemoration, notably the Victorian Assistant Secretary of the AMWU Tony Piccolo and former Victorian Secretary of the Maritime Union of Australia Kevin Bracken, emphasised the importance of supporting each other across national boundaries, of opposing the tyranny of imperialism, its crusade against democracy to exploit the world, and to pull together to build a new future for humanity.

There is another far less positive legacy. This is that Chile under the dictatorship was used as laboratory to experiment on a new kind of economic policy. Overtime, this morphed into what became known as neoliberalism. Its essence is a closer merger of state and the dominant private monopolies. With it comes a reorganisation of society into as a giant corporation. In Italy under Mussolini, Germany under the Third Reiche, and wherever other fascist government existed. It began to rise again in the late 1960s.

Neoliberalism and Fascism

Video from Systemic Analysis

Today the neoliberal form takes a somewhat a more subtle approach to achieve the same end, and this has brought the re-organisation of the public service as corporations in their own right, the turning over of resources to the private corporations, the restructuring of government provided services to the private business model, and the imposition of greater labour force discipline and flexibility of application.

All of this began in Chile under Pinochet and subsequently exported to most of the world. Neoliberalism came into Australia during the Hawke government and subsequently expanded. This is another reason why what happened in Chile 50 years ago is so important.

There is a connection between what happened in Chile, the coup against Australia’s Whitlam government, and the hanging of Ned Kelly. Each in its own way was about the tyranny of oppressors and resistance to this tyranny. Each is a battle in the same war.

Remembering what happened in Chile, paying tribute to those who fell, learning from the example of Salvador Allende, who preferred to die than betray his government and people, should aspire us to continue the battle for a more just world, where we can all stand together as equals.

1 Comment on "What happened on 11 September 1973 is important"

  1. The article doesn’t say
    “In June 1973, a rebel wing of the Army made a failed coup attempt by sending a column of tanks against the presidential palace, an episode that became known as the Tanquetazo. The UP’s response was to deepen its concessions, naming Pinochet commander-in-chief of the Army and bringing him into Allende’s cabinet.”

    US imperialism is ruthless and relentless. Allende knew, or should have known, another coup was coming but he didn’t warn worker in Chile or internationally. We must learn this lesson to avoid his mistakes.

    (Also: The Canberra coup was on November 11, 1975. Not in September)

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