by Raffaele Crocco

It’s not just the Twin Towers in New York that make 11 September a date to remember. Back then, 22 years ago, the world stood on the brink of change. As we watched the towers collapse, brought down by the murderous and suicidal attack of bin Laden’s men, we understood that there was a before and there would be an after, with everything different, and changed.

But another September 11, many years earlier, in 1973, had achieved the same effect, with much less fanfare. That 9/11 had also given the world of that time a before and an after. On that day 50 years ago, a military coup backed and planned by the United States seized power in Chile, overthrowing and killing the democratically elected government of Salvador Allende. All this happened in front of a divided world, with some applauding the overthrow of ‘that dangerous socialist’ and others condemning the events from the comfort of their armchairs.

Allende died that day, along with those who defended democracy. Thousands more would die in the years to come. But on that day, 9/11, democracy died with him and became instantly fragile and accessible only at the “convenience of the master”, in this case, the USA.

For those living in democracies, it was no longer the same. There were no more certainties; the values and instruments of the system were too brittle to resist the real and strong power of those who controlled the economy and had the means to impose their will. Democrats around the world realised this and began to adopt positions that were increasingly “coherent” with the master’s vision, and therefore less democratic.

Think of Italy, for example, and the attempt by the Communist Party under Berlinguer to reach out to Christian Democracy, the political arm of the pro-US Atlantic Alliance in the country, in pursuit of the so-called “historic compromise”. Berlinguer’s attempt was to safeguard Italian democracy, driven by the fear of a repeat of the Chilean situation.

Democracy died that day in Santiago, under the blows of the coup leader Pinochet and the United States. It died all over the planet, withering in fear. As democracy lost its pieces and its effectiveness, the great experiment of neo-liberalism emerged from Chile, where the economy ruled the lives of individuals, replacing politics, and the market became the new god. A god so insidious, fascinating and powerful that for decades it’s been the only point of reference. Everything has been done in the name of the market, and everything has been sacrificed on this altar: social justice, the right to work and welfare.

The coup against Allende was not a local event. The 11th of September 1973 marked the beginning of a counter-revolution, the effects of which we are still bearing like radioactive residues. Our democracies, where they somehow survived, have been crippled and sick since that day. That is why we must remember that day today. For tragedies should never be forgotten.

On the cover photo, the Presidential Palace hit by bombings and Salvador Allende