11 September was the 50th anniversary of the death of President Salvador Allende in a military coup in Chile. Until last year that was commemorated in Harlow by the addition of Allende’s name to Fifth Avenue.
The military coup that overthrew the democratically elected socialist government of Salvador Allende brought to power the regime of General Pinochet, which was responsible for murdering 3,000 political opponents, torturing 40,000, and forcing 200,000 people into exile.
Last year, a meeting of Harlow District Council decided to remove the name of Allende from Fifth Avenue. The chair of the meeting stated: “I am not hearing any voices of dissent”, and thus there was no formal vote on this piece of historical denialism.
The Conservative majority on Harlow Council wanted the memory of Allende to be ‘disappeared’ like the corpses of the trades unionists buried in the Atacama Desert by the Chilean armed forces, and the ‘opposition’ Labour councillors on Harlow Council did not oppose their motion.
The predominant trend in the modern Conservative Party likes the fact that Pinochet pioneered the neoliberal monetarist policies that Thatcher adopted. It was only under the iron heel of military rule that such policies could be fully applied.
Infant mortality in Chile had reduced significantly during Allende’s presidency, but it increased by 18% during the first year of the military government.
The economy of Chile contracted by an unprecedented 12.9% in one year and the annual rate of inflation topped 500%.
Before the coup, unemployment in Chile was 3.1%, one of the lowest in the western hemisphere. By July 1976 approximately a quarter of the population had no income at all, and depended on food and clothing distributed by humanitarian organisations.
It was estimated that by the end of 1975, the real income of the poorest urban workers had declined to one-third of what it was in 1972.
It is a disgrace that Harlow’s Labour councillors aligned themselves with the local Thatcherite right-wing of the Conservative Party last year, as it spat on the memory of those who suffered under 17 years of Pinochet’s brutal rule.
John Wake, member, Harlow Constituency Labour Party