Wednesday, 1 January 2014

INTRODUCTION TO CHILE - republished 37 years on

(A cartoon history)
By Chris Welch

First published in 1976 and now – thanks to Unite the union - reprinted by Chile40YearsOn.

Foreword by Richard Gott, who as the Guardian correspondent witnessed events in Chile before and after September 11, 1973.

Visual propaganda in the form of political cartoons is an ancient art. High levels of illiteracy meant those who sought to lead truly popular (mass) movements saw cartoons as part of an effective strategy as the images would reach a large amount of people and ensure the greatest possible amount of understanding.

Although much less well used today, good political cartoons can still retain the ability to convey complex social problems and historical events to large numbers of people with very different educational backgrounds.

Introduction to Chile covers the period up till 1976. This was three years after General Pinochet ousted Chilean President Salvador Allende in a US-supported coup in which he was murdered.

In the aftermath Chile became the first testing ground for neoliberalism whereby Chilean students – titled the Chicago Boys for having received their education in the US – were enlisted to restructure the economy. Privatisation, deregulation and cuts to social spending followed. The rich got a lot richer and the rest got a lot poorer as inequality was intensified. If that sounds familiar, it is, as a watching Margaret Thatcher subsequently brought these policies to Britain in the 1980s and they remain in place today.

In a country dominated by large landowners and major foreign multi-nationals, Allende had become a symbol of hope for many during his brief time (1970-1973) in power in which he legally recognised the trade unions by bringing them into government and the management of nationalised industries. He provided half a litre of milk to every child per day, vital in reducing malnutrition. A large-scale public housing programme was instituted and public services were extended to the vast shantytowns. His government nationalised the copper industry, which continues to provide the bulk of Chile’s income.

Allende said that the world was plagued by poverty, injustice and exploitation and since governments across the world had failed to deal with these issues, they must be caused by capitalism. Allende and his generation proposed to move away from capitalism.

Forty years on, left governments are back in power across parts of Latin America. It is thus appropriate that this book of witty drawings and accompanying text by Chris Welch (a cartoonist since the mid 60s) is being reprinted.  It means a modern audience seeking solutions to an exploitative, unequal, undemocratic world that is wracked by war and poverty and ruled by a tiny elite can examine ‘the Chilean Road to Socialism.’

Free to Unite members – contact Unite education at to collect your copy.

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