THE CHILEAN REVOLUTION by Regis Debray

THE CHILEAN REVOLUTION

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KIRKUS REVIEW

The young French proponent of revolutionary guerrilla war conducts two interviews with newly elected Chilean president Salvador Allende, head of the Popular Unity coalition and leader of his own Socialist Party. Debray, whose Guevarist enthusiasm sprang from impatience with left-wing reform and parliamentarianism as revolutionary strategy, nevertheless affectionately addressed Allende as ""Comrade President"" and indeed seems to accept Allende as a full-fledged Socialist revolutionary. Explaining that Chile is an exception to the revolutionary rule, he asks his questions in the spirit of an obliging devil's advocate. How can Allende be both Freemason and Marxist? Allende replies: ""First, Regis, let me remind you that the first Secretary General of the French Communist Party was a Freemason."" ""Yes, yes,"" Debray answers, and this line questioning is dropped. When Allende explains that he will not allow civil service unionization, intends to impose wage controls, and is nationalizing the banks by buying out small shareholders, Debray returns with alacrity to the Chilean ""exception"" theme -- the classic rationale for Socialists adopting the via pacifica. Allende's personal appraisal of other leaders is elicited (Chou and Che had firmness, inner force, and irony), along with Allende's view that the Popular Front of the '30's was different from his own coalition, his comments on threats from the right and briefly his relations with the U.S.: ""I shall have nothing derogatory to say about Mr. Nixon as long as Mr. Nixon respects the President of Chile."" There are some vague imprecations against imperialism. Because relations with the Soviet bloc and China are also flitted over, and questions about nationalization and agrarian reform elicit flowery but evasive responses, the book's value for Latin American experts and foreign affairs watchers is limited. Why Debray wanted to put the mantle of revolution on Allende is a topic of speculative interest on the left. A policy statement by the guerrillaoriented M.I.R. movement, which pledges to defend the Popular Unity front, is appended.

Pub Date: Jan. 26th, 1971
Publisher: Pantheon