Thursday, November 12, 2009

Salvador Allende, Victor Jara, Many Questions

Being an ex communist is not always easy. My musical tastes were formed during my youthful communist years One chapter in Latin American history was very troubling and that was the overthrow of Salvador Allende by the Chilean military junta on September 11, 1973. Although I now realise that Chile was being moved towards Marxism and the Soviet orbit, the bloodiness of the coup,and the the horrible brutality still trouble me. As stealthy as I believe the communists to have been, I can not condone the murder of Salvador Allende, the Marxist president who was overthrown. The claim that he committed suicide by shooting himself in the back seems ludicrous. It would have been reasonable to put him on trial for crimes against the constitution, but what the junta did during and after the coup was inexcusable.

Salvador Allende became a martyr, much celebrated in song and poetry around the world. One of my favourite songs about Chile and the 1973 coup was the song "Chilenische Metall" by the East German folk rock group "Klaus Renft Combo." Unlike the Puhdys, who sometimes made the regime a bit uncomfortable, the Klaus Renft Combo had a number of overtly political songs that lent East Germany's foreign policy some pretty snappy tunes. They still enjoy a following among devotees of East German rock music. I have included "Chilenische Metall" below. The video has a very interesting slide show of Salvador Allende commemorative stamps from around the world.

To underscore the point of the brutality of the coup, I have included an Arlo Guthrie version of a song about the murdered Chilean folk singer Victor Jara that is historically accurate and quite disturbing. The world of communist music remains fascinating to me as does the 1973 coup in Chile. I must candidly admit that American influence and American values do not always travel abroad together. How does one correct that? Jimmy Carter tried to promote democracy in Iran and elsewhere and created one catastrophe after another around the world. There are no easy answers. In looking at the world beyond America's borders, there are far too many questions and precious few answers.

Below are the lyrics to Chilenische Metall with a very rough translation into English

heutzutag´ wie dazumal
denn es starb das volk der inkas
dazumal dazuland an der spanischen gier
nach all dem gold das man dort fand

Nowadays like back the
the incas were dying
back then from the Spaniard's greed
for all the gold they could find

hört das lied hört das lied
vom chilenischen Metall
fremde herren woll´n es haben
heutzutag´ wie dazumal
doch die erde unter chile
so aus kupfer und blei
schlug wie eine grosse glocke
mach dich frei mach dich frei

hear the song hear the song of chilean metal
foreign masters want to have it
today just like in times past
but the earth of Chile
yields copper and lead.
strike it like a big bell
and set yourself free

fasste zu die fremde hand
hart am hals hart am hals
und mir ihr kam über´s land
erneut der fluch des metalls
presste zu des landes kehle
kupfern wurde das rot
bleiern schmeckte jene nachricht
- allende ist tot -
und mit ihm starben viele
und man sah es überall
die ermordeten von chile
war´n ermordet für´s metall

the foreign hand gripped hard
hard on the throat , on the throat
and there came over the land the curse of the metal
pressed to the throat of the country
copper was the colour red
a leaden pall to the news
allende is dead
and with him died many
one saw it all over
that the murdered of chile
were killed for metal

hört das lied hört das lied
vom chilenischen metall
fremde herren woll´n es haben
heuzutag´ wie dazumal
doch ein jeder soll es wissen
der nach chiles reichtum strebt
daran starben noch die inkas
doch das volk von chile lebt

hear the song
hear the song
of chilean metal
today like long ago
but everyone must know
that whoever struggles for chile's wealth
the incas still die
but the people of chile lives

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