This volume, which gives us a Russian, Marxist interpretation of Chilean history, with special reference to the present period, is especially important in view of the fact that Chile may in the next few years go Marxist via the ballot box. According to Marxist theory, historical determinism forces countries irresistibly through a series of phases, the last of which (far in the distance!) will be the withering away of the State. At present the world is moving toward the inevitable dictatorship of the proletariat, a phase which Chile is now entering. To promote revolution before the time is ripe is “dangerous and irresponsible adventurism,” which this book repeatedly condemns.
There is a metaphysical infrastructure in the study reminiscent of older Christian histories in which the facts were marshaled to prove that the irresistible will of God required that the pagan world should be Christianized. At the same time, the book is utterly factual, but the facts are given in a humorless, relentless way with a total lack of literary grace. Lest at the end of the book the reader be unable to see the wood for the trees, there are a chronological table of Chilean history and an index of names. A detailed bibliography opens with a section listing the works of Marx, Engels, and Lenin. They have nothing to do with Chile, but they provide the necessary dogmatic basis for the study.
The book is a collective “scientific” study, planned no doubt as part of the massive Soviet concentration on Chile, and it follows similar volumes on Mexico, Argentina, and Brazil. The team preparing the Chilean volume consists of N. M. Lavrov (editor in chief), M. C. Alperovich, V. I. Ermolaev, and M. F. Kudachkin. While they made a careful study of Chilean historiography and documentation (including statistics), they are especially indebted to Chilean Marxist historians, either for their writings or, in the case of those who are still alive, for their personal counsel. They include Luis Emilio Recabarren, Elías Laferte, Ricardo Fonseca, Galo González Díaz, Orlando Millas, Volodi Teitelbaum, and Hernani Ramírez Necochea. All these historians, both the Russians and the Chileans, share the dogmatic view that history is a science and that historical research, like other scientific projects, can be carried on by scientific teams.
In this regard Chapter xv, “The development of historical science in Chile,” is most interesting. Here Francisco Antonio Encina is singled out for attack. He is denounced for believing that history is created by outstanding individuals and that the masses have nothing to do with the process. He is a “racist” because he believes that the great men who made Chile had Visigothic blood, whereas the masses are of Andalusian and other origins. Encina wants a dictatorship not of the proletariat but of the elite. His hero is Portales. During World War II he was profascist. As a historian, Encina proclaims that history is an art; he rejects history as a science and regards collective historical writing as an absurdity. Encina meets none of the Soviet academicians’ criteria for good historical writing, but he should at least be pleased with the amount of space devoted to him.
Some of the “facts” given are quite startling. On p. 400 the authors claim that in 1950 the United States and the government of González Videla concluded a secret agreement about bases. They allege that the United States built at San Vicente (near Talcahuano) a base under the control of U. S. officers where it would have the right to construct barracks for an unlimited number of U.S. troops. They state further that the lease on bases “seized” by U.S. forces in World War II was renewed and the following Chilean islands were turned over to the United States for additional bases: Chiloe, Huaro, Hannover, Grambley, and Riquelme. I asked the Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs, Covey T. Oliver, for clarification of these points. He replied with a denial of all the statements, adding:
“It seems the Russians have not let up at all in their futile attempts to corset history. . . . We do have agreements with Chile for the establishment and operation of Rawinsonde (weather) observation stations at Antofagasta, Quintero, Puerto Montt, Punta Arenas, and Easter Island. These are civilian installations, but some degree of U.S. military logistic support is permitted and given. We also have an agreement with the Chilean Government for installations on Easter Island in support of our space program. These also receive some U.S. logistic support.”
At many other points the writers have also produced distortions. The events of World War II are discussed in detail, but there is not a single word about the Soviet nonaggression pact with Hitler, a flagrant example of suppressio veri. The book describes the stillborn American plan of 1950 to settle the constant tension between Bolivia and Chile by an exchange of Bolivian water for a corridor to the Pacific at Arica, but attributes it to an attempt of the U.S. monopolists to facilitate the export of Bolivian tin ore. When in 1960 southern Chile was shaken by a violent earthquake, the United States and the other “imperialistic” countries as usual helped generously. There is not a word about this, but the authors speak smugly about the “disinterested” help from the Soviet Union.
The Soviet historians deserve to be complimented on their painstaking study and the remarkable growth of Soviet interest in Latin America. This reviewer merely suggests that an honest exchange of information and views would be helpful to all of us.