Cybersocialism: Project Cybersyn & The CIA Coup in Chile (Full Documentary)
[Stafford Beer]: "What happened when I got to Chile and took over this team? Let us look at a little diagram to show how I set about things. I built it up on a piece of paper lying on the table between us--there's a system three and a system four, and i got that far, and then I got to system five and I drew a big histrionic breath and I said--I was going to say this compañero presidente is you! Before I could say it, he suddenly smiled very broadly and he said "ah system five at last... the people" "the people" "At last... the people"
What you've clicked on here is a short story. It's a true story, not too long past, about a future trapped in the past. There are those things you hope for in a good story: drama, plots, heroes, sages, our better angels and bitter devils.
But--and I'll spoil this for you--it's a tragedy; though it would be more of a tragedy that it remained history. It's undeniably the history of our present, this friction-free present: a planetary network of automated machines, of one government with a face, and one without; a fantastical assemblage of networks, profits, control, consciousnesses, and behind it all something faceless, but something we know is woven through it. The front is impressive, smiling, controlling. As far as logistical operations go today's cybernetic systems are peerless. They've conquered time and space. Amazon is amazing-- at delivering. In total it's a cybernetic organism, each component tuned and regulated for a single purpose: the fast, frictionless domination of space and time, from desire to delivery.
There is of course a price--not this price, but this one. An organic cost by which any inefficient human output is a hindrance, an alien quantity to the machine's purpose. [James Bloodworth]: "people were receiving disciplinaries for taking toilet breaks. The productivity targets were so high that workers were afraid to go to the bathroom. "I mean one afternoon walking walking around the, you know, the top floor of this huge warehouse and yeah though I found an empty Coca-Cola bottle with with urine in it on the shelf, you know, yellow liquid, smelt it, is very clear straight away what it is. All the pickers were afraid to use the bathrooms because of the productivity targets." We have all around us in bright colourful typefaces the faces of cybernetic control, and behind those faces are a few people making a lot of profit and a lot of other people doing everything else.
These are capitalism's greatest success stories, the happy ending, unparalleled speed and efficiency have made these artificial organisms virtually indispensable. They have increasing sway over our lives, meanwhile, those who supposedly give us sway at all in this world don't do much. When's the last time you had to contact your government? How was that experience? I spent six hours on hold and then waited six months for a response that was supposed to take a day. Conversely, if I need help from Amazon I can get it in 48 hours, guaranteed, and they welcome my feedback. The juxtaposition gets me to thinking: why is Amazon so good at what it does, as far as their customers are concerned anyway, and government bureaucracies are so bad at what they do, Namely, responsiveness to the people who they nominally represent? Leftists, for their part, pride themselves on having good political imaginations. They can imagine the utopias of universal benefits or even classless societies. Though, for most of us, I should think
we'd be contented by a functioning government, one capable of representing public interest at all. Why is it that those who represent us are unable to prioritize what these private economies do every single day? Responsiveness in place of bureaucracy, effective feedback, adaptation to changing conditions, two-day delivery on what's promised. A functional government that serves people couldn't actually be a novel idea in the 21st century... could it? Turns
out it was an idea. Not just in theory either, no no, this was planned built and operational. A national economy relying on the communication between human beings and intelligent machines. A utopian dream for which the concrete was already poured and the cables already in the ground. So, if this happened and if it really was so great, where is it? Where's our democratic socialist utopia? Where's this magic land and if it was for real, then what the hell happened to it? This was, in the end it's true, a lost cause. But in defense of lost causes it demonstrates possibilities yet unrealized today: that technology and intelligent machines can be put to other ends, the ends of people rather than the ends of profit. And at the same time it serves as
a warning of the lengths to which the status quo will go to maintain itself: kidnapping, sabotage, terrorism, and public execution, to abort this future before it had the chance to be born. Cybernetics and socialism are both methods for understanding systems and their goals. They do not often appear together, as they do here, and they are both popularly misunderstood. But it turns out they make quite an inspiring amalgam. Cybernetics offers models for understanding processes that are too complicated to model in terms of linear cause-and-effect and as a method it has often inspired theorists of various disciplines to interpret their objects of study in new ways, whether those objects are machines, bodies, minds, or even social systems, like an economy.
We have various uses for "cybernetics" as a prefix that are sometimes misleading when it comes to its meaning, which in its modern form was popularized by theorist Norbert Wiener. For Wiener, cybernetic systems are characterized by feedback and control, and they use feedback loops with their environments which adapt to new information so they can accomplish a predetermined goal. Such machines are found all around us if you know where to look: thermostats and temperature governors, automated self-guided missiles, video recommending algorithms and the vestibular system of cyborgs including our bodies. We can stay upright only by a synthesis of inputs. In our case, our eyes, limbs, and inner ear. In each instance live, incoming information controls how the system behaves in real-time, allowing a thermostat to maintain the temperature of a space, a missile that self-adjusts to hit a moving target, for a video site to recommend videos that you'll actually click on, or for your body to stay upright while being knocked around.
When we use the word control many tend to think of autocratic control, as orders given in a military hierarchy. But when it comes to cybernetics or cybersocialism we don't mean autocratic control but automatic control. Rather than giving orders top-down, all of these control systems receive live information from their environments and adjust their decisions in real time. Just as it would be strange to suggest that your brain rules your body, it would be similarly strange to suggest that a government rules its people. These are not distinct as the existence of one persists only by the healthy operations of the other.
[Stafford Beer]: "Let me tell you what happened when I first explained it to President Allende himself. Allende was a doctor, a medical doctor, as you may know, and therefore it was very easy to explain the model to him in terms of neurocybernetics as the way of controlling the body." And it's no mere coincidence that "cybernetic and governance" are derived from the same Greek word: κυβερνάω, to steer. Reciprocal steering is the animating principle of cybersocialism, and for socialists like Allende, governance is only legitimate insofar as it is steered by the will of the people. And in turn,
reciprocally, those entrusted to govern are capable of organizing much larger, more complex, even state-wide projects that steer individuals' energy and ability towards ends that benefit all, ends that could never be accomplished by atomized individuals acting on their own. Whereas Wiener was the father of cybernetics, Stafford Beer would come to be known as the father of management cybernetics. Before arriving in Chile, Beer was a corporate consultant. A well-compensated handshaker of the elite, managerial class while cruising around in his Rolls-Royce. He worked for the steel and publishing industries among others. After the events of Chile, 1973, the one-time darling of corporate capital would say this: [Beer]: "Allende was very successful. Now the whole of the rich world were being told that
he was a disaster, that his policies would be inflationary, and all the rest of it. I have never seen a more misrepresented thing in the media in all my life. It was outrageous. And of course had every conceivable political motive because this was the first democratically-elected Marxist in the history of man." Beer would renounce his former, luxurious lifestyle, retreating to a remote cabin in Wales, becoming something of a cybernetics guru. Before meeting Stafford Beer, Salvador Allende had probably never heard of cybernetics, but some of his younger staffers had, including Fernando Flores, who was a young engineer and political activist in Unidad Popular, a leftist coalition of social democrats, communists, and anarchists that won Chile's 1970 election, beating out the centrist Christian Democrat party, and the right-wing National Party. Flores had been inspired by Beer's ideas and saw in his writings a potential path for Chilean socialism to progress, one based not on autocratic control but on cybernetic control. First, by creating
direct communication loops between government agencies and the country's resource extraction and manufacturing sectors. If only in the mind of Flores, cybersocialism had been conceived. [State Media Propaganda]: "The Challenge of Ideas" "The conflict itself, how can it be defined? Well let's look at it this way: the communist bloc would like to see the entire world under communist domination. They have begun to talk more and more about their ability to win from us in the arena of ideas. This of course, is fine with us, for
we are a people with a traditionally great faith in our ideas: the ideas that have moved mountains, and created wealth, and shaped us as free men, and we are confident that history can do no other than award us the victory in any contest in which ideas are the weapon." Allende indeed had some ideas. In his bipolar world socialism conjured up images of violent overthrow, property seizure, and executions and, well, autocratic control. He believed there could be a new way: Chilean socialism would not include servitude to American corporate interests, nor a soviet-styled bureaucracy, nor armed insurrection, as was accomplished in Cuba.
He believed that socialist revolution could occur democratically in Chile, within the existing legal framework, and without violence. He dreamed of a uniquely Chilean revolution, a chill revolution, one of "red wine and empanadas." Allende's idea, and the platform on which he was elected, was that the government should serve the needs of the people. Particularly that the profit earned from Chile's natural resources should remain in Chile to produce consumer goods that would be of use to Chileans. His challenge was not one of ideas, but of production and ownership. The first step to accomplishing this was for the Chilean government to purchase--yes purchase, legally--the mines, factories and banks already operating in Chile from their foreign owners, so that the future profits from these industries would not disappear overseas, but rather that they would remain in Chile's national economy. Hardly a radical idea, but a
Chile for Chileans would be the cause for which Allende would give his life, three years later. Here's where cybernetic feedback comes in: managing a whole network of resources, labour, and production from government offices in the capital would be very difficult; it would require a massive government bureaucracy, which as we still know today are colossally inefficient. But Flores had an idea, what if they introduced cybernetic feedback into their centralized system? Then, information could be received and acted upon in real-time. For example, if there were raw materials backed up at one smelter, they could send it to another smelter with less on their plate before it caused disruptions.
Or again, if there were raw materials stacked up somewhere, transportation could be diverted to a factory where they could be turned into consumer products. The entire production line could, in theory, work on automatic feedback, if resource extraction, refineries, factories, and transport were all directed from a centralized computing centre. These nodes would run on their own most of the time with the control centre stepping in only when important decisions had to be made or if something went wrong. In 1970 this was
nothing more than a thought experiment; the technology for it did not exist yet, anywhere, though we see its legacy everywhere today. This is why the project was so ingenious: not only did they theorize it, but they had to build it from the limited resources they had available to them; there were only four mainframe computers in the entire country at the time. In 1971, Flores hired Beer, one of the world's leading cyberneticians, to consult on the implementation of this grand idea, to develop the technologies required to make it happen, and eventually to run the whole Chilean national economy. Beer agreed, having only a vague idea of what he was getting into. [Beer]: "And then I suddenly got a letter which very much changed my life. It was from the Technical General Manager of the State-Planning Board of Chile. Remember 1971 President Allende was in office.
He remarked in this letter that he had studied all my works, he had collected a team of scientists together, and would I please come and take it over. I could hardly believe it as you can imagine." Over the next two years, Flores and Beer put together an international team of engineers, programmers, and designers, which would come to be known as Project Cybersyn or SYNCO. It was planned to have five parts, most of which had already reached proof-of-concept by the time of the military coup.
First was the control centre. Inspired by German industrial design, this futuristic room would be the globally recognized face of a futuristic socialism and remains, today, the image of this lost future. Cybernet: a network made up of computers, telephone cables, and telex machines that connected nodes such as the nationalized factories to the control centre, allowing them to communicate. This was to be the information backbone of this cybernetic system.
CHECO: the Chilean Economic Simulator, which would use a variety of economic indices and variables which could predict how these variables could interact if they were changed. This would allow policy makers to play with economic models in advance of making decisions. Cyberstride this was the software: new programs written from scratch that could synthesize data such as information about factory input and output. The Chileans hired a British firm to help up with the code, as there were too few computer scientists in Chile at the time, and too few computers. And finally: Cyberfolk. Cyberfolk was not implemented in the two years of Cybersyn's
existence but was proposed by Beer as a method to gather data on workers' self-reported happiness, anonymously. This would allow for the control centre to react, intervene, or direct resources to locales that were unhappy--direct feedback to your elected officials. This was at least the dream, the future hoped for, at least that these parts would continue operating towards collective ends. We do have modern equivalents, profit-driven equivalents, to each of Cybersyn's components: ubiquitous, networked computing via the internet (the creation of which, it should be noted, was not for profit). Various governments and researchers use economic simulators and it's spawned a whole industry in the financial and investment sectors. There are also innumerable algorithms that make large data sets useful. Even feedback and rating systems (private feedback, anyway) on the products we buy
or the content we think is worth watching. So really, 50 years later, none of what the Cybersyn project invented is alien to us. What's astonishing is that the Cybersyn team conceived, built, and designed each of these independently, together, and often did so with rudimentary technologies as they were being blockaded and sabotaged by the United States Government and the CIA, cut off from many of the world's best computer scientists, technologies, and component parts. Furthermore, this was already decades before we would see private corporations use online platforms for the same purposes, to their own ends. Despite the apparent similarities, however, we should not confuse Cybersyn with something like a proto-Amazon, particularly because of Beer's proposed system: Project Cyberfolk. As a socialist idea, this whole
apparatus would be at odds with its goal if it did not incorporate the people into the production process, something our modern, private cybernetic systems never do as their only interest, in so far as workers are concerned, is the lowest possible wage for the most possible work. Feedback via Cyberfolk would gather information from around the country on happiness using a simple binary choice: are you happy or unhappy? Unlike our modern data-collection systems Beer immediately recognized the importance of anonymity, thus he designed feedback via cyber folk to be anonymized such that only the averages of terminal inputs could be seen by the government. The threat of autocratic control was made functionally impossible in the way the system was designed, but policymakers could see where their attention was needed. Allende did not want automation to replace workers. Rather, he wanted workers to have control of their workplace, something that new technology
could enable. At the same time, another problem with centralized economies was solved; that is, that people lie when they're afraid of losing their jobs, even due to circumstances beyond their control. A widespread problem in centrally-planned economies--notably that of the Soviet Union at the time--was a production quota system. With a quota, a factory is expected to produce a set number of goods regardless of disruptions in the production line. If there is a disruption and something goes wrong, factory managers are incentivized to lie to the central agencies about output to avoid the blowback coming back on them.
The problem here is too many interests: interests to oversee, interests to report to, and fear that negative results would reflect back on individuals. A disinterested computerized system, on the other hand, allows the control centre to oversee inputs and outputs in real-time and respond to disruptions before they can impact the production line. Allende's program worked: by the end of 1971, Chile's GDP was up 7.7 percent. Production was up 13.7 percent. Consumption was up 11.6 percent. With the whole economy on the upswing, still the most important metric to Allende was the real wages of Chilean workers, which had increased by a massive 30 percent. Allende's approval soared and he was on track
for a majority government with over half the country's votes in the next election. That election would not take place. In fact, he would be the last democratically elected president in Chile for the next 20 years.
Chile's nationalized economy, the communications networks, the control centre, worker feedback, as well as an economic simulator, all run by computers was one of the most ambitious socialist projects ever conceived and solved problems we have yet to solve five decades later. Unlike the Cybersyn team however we wouldn't even have to invent anything new to realize it. It would require little more than a change in the way technologies are used, to turn them towards collective ends rather than being run solely to maximize the private profits of a few individuals at the top of monopolistic corporations. This is fundamentally a question of design, the design of systems, and the goals they are given in the generation of a future.
[Nixon]: "I say to every American, let us raise our spirits. Let us raise our sights. Let all of us contribute all we can to this great and good country that has contributed so much to the progress of mankind." Cybersyn was ambitious, innovative, and appeared to be accomplishing the material goals Allende, Flores and Beer had set out for it.
Yet it was stormed by soldiers and shut down in September 1973. What happened here? Well let's go back to Allende's election campaign: "a Chile for Chileans." Not everyone agreed with this platform. There were other forces at work in Chile: big, wealthy, imperialistic forces.
It would be egregious to call this a battle for ideas, or an ideological conflict, rather than what it was: a war for profit. On another continent, within two weeks of Allende's election--eleven days actually--a network of politicians, spies, and CEOs set to work organizing his demise, not with ideas but with money. Recall that the first step of Allende's plan was to buy foreign-owned mines, factories, and banks etc. in order to keep Chilean
resources and capital in Chile. Foreign-owned, in this case, means owned by Americans, and they didn't want to sell. To sell was to forfeit their future profits in Chile and everyone with something to lose allied themselves against Allende: the rich, the right wing, the spies who funneled money to them, their bosses, the politicians, and the corporations that contributed to those political campaigns or had assets in Chile they didn't want to sell. There you are. There's your "battle for ideas." [Nixon]: "The only answer to communism is a massive offensive for freedom, freedom from hunger, from disease, and a victory for the ageless hope of people everywhere: freedom from tyranny."
So what did they do? Well they exemplified those good, old American, land-of-the-free virtues we hear so much about. That is, they knocked on the President's office door and asked him to pretty-please depose the leader of a democratically elected government on another continent, which he promptly put in his day planner. Let's back up a second and have a look at the situation in a little more detail. See, entire sectors of Chile's economy were American-owned: the banks in the capital were owned by American banks; factories and plants were owned by American multinationals, hence Pepsi's interest in the country. The telephone networks were controlled by ITT [International Telephone & Telegraph], one of Nixon's big donors, and on down the line it goes.
But let's focus on copper which is, and was, Chile's main export. In 1970, 80 percent of the copper industry was owned by just two American companies. These companies got Chilean miners to mine the ore out of the ground, turn it into usable copper, which was then sent to American factories where it could be put into American products like cars and televisions, which were then in turn sold back to Chileans. But no surprise, most Chileans couldn't afford them.
American companies got rich. American consumers and rich Chileans got their toys and ordinary Chileans... well they got long hours in harsh work conditions with none of the benefits, which is to say they got f--ed. This is why they elected Allende, who vowed that his interest was in their interests. Now the USA did not have to inform Allende what would happen if he nationalized Chile's mines, factories, and banks; he was not the first to do it and he knew full well what would happen to him, just as happened six years prior in Brazil, seven years prior in the Dominican Republic, nine years prior in Cuba (attempted, at least) and 15 years prior in Guatemala, while similar interventions befell Bolivia and Uruguay during Allende's term. Well look at that: looks sort of like an empire (and by the way this is only regime change up to 1973 and they were just getting started).
Invasions, assassinations, and toppling governments were normal in the defense of freedom--the freedom of American corporations to profit from the metals, oil, and food extracted by low-paid workers and farmers. The American empire is not primarily one of military occupation, there are exceptions of course (notably the invasion of the Dominican Republic in 1965) but normally the empire is one of economic exploitation, as Allende knew. It is formed not by a legal agreement, but a tacit one between corporations and the state, including the CIA and military. See, it's a big risk for a corporation to set up shop in a country where, you know, a socialist might get elected. Then they could lose their investment. But with the wealthiest country and the largest military in the world on their side, one which will face no accountability for interfering in other states, that risk is almost entirely mitigated because they can trust that if ever such a leader was to come to power he would be in short order either assassinated or deposed, and business can continue as usual. The US military functions as the guarantor of otherwise risky investments, of course, this gets a little more complicated when the socialists have guns of their own.
The US executive knew Allende would be a problem years before he won, which is why every time he ran, three times prior to winning, the CIA dumped millions into his opponents' campaigns and into right-wing propaganda against him, over 40 million in today's dollars. In exchange, multinationals with interests across the continent would fund both parties of would-be presidents in the United States: it's a perfect, if illegal, symmetrical flow of capital. So in short, they never expected Allende to actually win. After he did win, and before he took office, the CIA totally botched a coup attempt then aggressively spent somewhere between 100 and 200 million dollars (adjusted for inflation) on this country of just 10 million people, funding the right wing, the military, American-friendly business associations, and propaganda. The full amount we'll never know as it came from a convoluted mix of corporate and taxpayer dollars. Eleven days after Allende's election a furious President Nixon had a breakfast with Donald Kendall the CEO of Pepsi and Agustín Edwards, one of Chile's richest men who pretty much owned the mainstream media in Chile--the Chilean Rupert Murdoch. They asked Nixon for his help in getting rid of Allende.
From this meeting, Nixon marched over to CIA Director Richard Helms promising him a blank check to solve "the Allende problem." Helms was given a lot of latitude, up to and including anything short of a military invasion, or what they rather brazenly called a "Dominican-type action." The CIA conducted a secret war of espionage, behind what was referred to as an invisible blockade, funding anyone who would make Allende's socialist reforms and the Cybersyn project as difficult as possible. Nixon ordered the CIA to, quote: "make the economy scream," but that wasn't all he did.
In public, he had the weight of the American presidency to throw around, and he did his best to ensure that no money entered Chile. He went to international banks and to the IMF and made it apparent that his office would not look kindly on anyone who lent money to Allende's government. [Nixon]: "Chile of course is interested in obtaining loans from international organizations where we have a vote and I indicated that, uh, wherever we had a vote, where Chile was involved, that, uh unless there were strong considerations on the other side that we would vote against them."
Chile's credit rating was downgraded for no apparent reason such that no one in the world was willing to invest in the country for fear of American reprisal. Lastly, as we should expect, Nixon also cut off all U.S. government aid to Chile. "Aid"--sounds really beneficent doesn't it? It's called aid but it's yet another means of American imperialism. Here's how the system works: the USA supports friendly governments--that means friendly to American companies looting their resources, not "friendly" friendly, so fascists are a-okay by this standard.
American aid goes to governments, many of which were or became military dictatorships during this decade. Dictators lined their pockets with government aid and let companies get on with exploiting the working people of their countries. That's not to say it was a free lunch, however, they had to earn their aid through autocratic control, including imprisoning, torturing, and murdering those who resisted or mobilized. Meanwhile, the people, once again didn't have schools to send their kids to didn't have hospitals to go to yeah they got f--ed. Allende's was not the only government who was unaided. Fulgencio Batista "earned" billions of dollars (adjusted for inflation) while he was president, yet a quarter of the people in his country couldn't even read. As soon as these guys kicked him out, what do you
know? No more aid to Cuba yet virtually everyone in the country was literate in about three years. So when you hear "aid," don't think "aid." Think: a government-to-government bribe where ordinary people get nothing and leftists end up imprisoned or dead.
Needless to say, Allende didn't get any of that pie. And in addition to fascists and spies there was a third group of enemies allied against his government: private corporations. These are the attendees of just one meeting: Nixon's Secretary of State, William Rogers, sat down with Ford Motor Company, Bank of America, First National City Bank, Ralston Purina "...depends on me for loving care, and I depend on Purina Cat Chow to give him great taste and nutrition. Let's chow chow chow. Purina Cat Chow you can depend on Purina Cat Chow"
--sorry, not sure how that slipped in there-- Ralston Purina, ITT, and the mining companies who had their interests threatened by Allende's policies, including Anaconda Copper. Together they were assured that action would be taken to protect their profits in Chile. [Geneen]: "I directed that an approach be made to both the State Department and Mr. Kissinger's office, to tell them that we had grave concern over the outlook for ITT's investment and we were desirous of discussing our thoughts in Washington and willing to assist financially in any government plan to help protect private American investment in Chile." This list is exemplary of who has the ear of power. This is whose interests direct foreign policy.
None of this was done within view of congress, by the way, who didn't even know about it, nor did the voting public. This was entirely the executive branch, and who gets in the room to make their voices heard and get other nations burned to the ground. This was Allende's war, one in which he had a lot of enemies and very few friends.
Looking at the tilt of the board, perhaps he saw the inevitable conclusion and chose not to prevent it, choosing rather to have history judge his life, and death. For instance, Fidel Castro visited Allende and toured his nationalization projects, which very much impressed him. What did not impress Castro was Allende's commitment to remain within the bounds of law, especially when they were being subverted by the enemies of social progress. For example, Allende maintained the freedom of the press even though that press was owned by moguls like Agustín Edwards, and was used as a propaganda machine for the CIA. Castro knew the value of the threat of violence and symbolically gave Allende the Kalashnikov which he would use, not on his enemies, but on himself.
Castro, who had already by this time survived 300 CIA assassination plots, did not see Allende's commitment to the law as altruism, but as stupidity. He left Chile saying: Additionally, the Soviet Union was hesitant to financially support Allende's government, which they believed was doomed, precisely because of its commitment to constitutional rule and non-violence. Yet Allende kept his faith to the moment of his death, unwavering in the light of the world that he foresaw. By 1972 the economy was indeed screaming. Because of the corporate blockade of Chile when machines or trucks broke down there were no parts to fix them; an estimated third of the transportation in Chile needed repair. This was by design. The American Ambassador to Chile, Edward Korry, said: For Cybersyn too, because most computers and telecommunications equipment were manufactured by American companies, they were severely set back by a lack of resources and had to get creative.
At the time this whole program of sabotage was clandestine, run by Nixon on one front, American companies on another, and the CIA on a third. It's really difficult to run an economic simulator with all these unknown variables in play, and the computer scientists, both British and Chilean, who were programming CHECO could never figure out why the numbers always came back so strangely. All of this sabotage and secret funding came to a head in October 1972, with what began as a truckers' strike. Usually, strikes are associated with the left--labour action against their employers. This one, however, was the employers against the left: protesting Allende's creation of a national trucking company that would compete with them. Owners of every industry joined: they closed the doors of businesses and private
factories, they blocked highways and vandalized infrastructure. Violence broke out on the streets provoked not least by right-wing fascist groups trained, funded, and infiltrated by the CIA. The situation looked grim. But then something happened that no one had predicted: the left united behind Allende to prevent economic collapse.
The workers rose up, determined not to let the owners destroy Allende's government, which had brought so much benefit to their class. Truckers drove their routes in defiance of their bosses. Factories began to correspond and share resources to keep production going. Radical left factions who were initially opposed to Allende's moderate policies took up arms to defend factories from sabotage by right-wing mercenary gangs. They also seized private factories that had closed their doors, by force, something Allende had refused to do. This was also Cybersyn's shining moment as the networks Flores and his team had built allowed leaders to keep in contact and keep production going even where telephone lines were cut or highways were blocked. Without the network, October 1972 would likely have been Allende's last month in office.
Unable to destroy the government as they had planned, the right and left came to a stalemate, and Allende, out of options, was forced to ask the military to intervene and end the strike. In exchange they wanted cabinet positions in his government. He had little choice in the matter and agreed. The following year, the same uniformed men would seize control of the capital, by force. Still the October Strike demonstrated the power of a united left, despite 100 million CIA dollars, Anti-Allende propaganda, and the capitalist solidarity arrayed against them. Throughout the next year, Cybersyn continued to consolidate data, but eventually the economic pressure put onto Chile was too much. Nixon had effectively prevented any foreign investment in Chile while Allende was president. Meanwhile, the CIA and business
associations could continue to pour support into anti-Allende organizations, propaganda, and assure the military that the United States would look favorably on a change in leadership. On September 11th, the military seized control of the capital and bombed the presidential palace. Refusing to be taken alive, Allende shot himself.
Chilean democracy ended amid the sounds of explosions, gunshots, and Allende's final words broadcast out over the radio: With General Pinochet in power thousands of leftists were killed. Hundreds of thousands were kidnapped, arrested, imprisoned, and tortured. A secret cable from the White House from two days after Allende's death read: "The United States Government wishes to make clear its desire to cooperate with the military junta, and to assist in any appropriate way." "We welcome
General Pinochet's expression of desire for strengthened ties between Chile and the U.S." Among those imprisoned was Fernando Flores. Beer fled the country but used his international network, working with human rights organizations to get his former colleagues out of Pinochet's prison camps. Flores would eventually be released and moved to California where he'd study and start a career as a business consultant.
The Chilean economy was given over to the "Chicago Boys" a group of economists who had studied under Milton Friedman. They set to work rolling back all of Allende's reforms, including cutting government programs, re-privatizing factories, selling farmland to giant agribusiness multinationals, and of course first freezing the wages of Chilean workers then abolishing the minimum wage. They invited back the American multinationals with open arms. It is claimed by some that they saved Chile, which is in one manner of speaking true: they saved it from Chileans and returned it to those who had designed the crisis in the first place.
While funding to public housing, health care, and education were slashed, poverty increased, public utilities were sold off to the highest bidder, and foreign investment could finally return. Investments now protected by the soldiers and armoured cars of a military regime in the streets. Cybersocialism was dead--assassinated. Only after to appear as a ghost, as it does here, only as a partial body half in this world and half in some other one. Our world is that one where the heads of state mediate in secret between corporations and spies. Where they say one thing in public, another in private, and where cynicism is far more reasonable than faith.
Salvador Allende kept faith. And in the face of all he had witnessed still chose sacrifice instead of compromise-- not for this world, but for that other one that has not appeared. In his death he leapt from our world of noxious imperial machines, of secrets, and of reductive repetition. Cybersocialism is dead, still--shattered. But each of its pieces is still here: for the time being, mechanized to spy, to guide missiles, to deliver, to give you more of the same thing you had yesterday, and to serve the same conspiratorial interests that brought it down back then. Just as they were 50 years ago,
we're still left with a question of design: the design not only of machines but also of futures, and the machines that make futures. He always said that he wouldn't be taken alive. That he would die defending the constitution. He kept his word.