Forty years after Pinochet’s coup

by Chris Bertram on September 11, 2013

My department just moved into a new building, and, being in a new building, acquired a new set of cleaners. I got chatting to one of them the other day and asked her where she was from. “Chile,” she told me. She had come to the UK some time after the coup, when other family members had been imprisoned and life had become impossible. She had been given refugee status and had raised a family here. She had been back once, but Chile had become a foreign country to her, all her life was now in the UK where her children had grown up. Often, such is the fate of the refugee, permanently exiled, a whole life, with its plans, expectations and connections, very different from how it might have been. In the late 1970s and early 80s I was involved in Latin American solidarity work in Oxford and got to know quite a few Chileans. Many seemed to be happy and friendly people but others were scarred by the experiences they had been through before exile, and it showed. People fleeing conflict, persecution and the threat of torture or death are very vulnerable and often fragile. At least British governments of the 1970s and 80s recognised and put into practice their obligations towards such people. Things are different now.

Today is the fortieth anniversary of that other, bloodier, September 11th when General Augusto Pinochet seized power in Chile and overthrew a democratically-elected left-wing government, with thousands killed, “disappeared”, tortured or imprisoned. The Chilean coup hung over the leftists of my generation as a warning of what can and might happen, should capital ever be seriously worried about its entitlements and prerogatives. Such an atmosphere spawned novels such as Chris Mullin’s A Very British Coup, an imaginative recreation of what a British Chile could be like. We know that in the recesses of MI5 and the Tory right there were murmurings and proto-plans. Plans for eventualities in which the country proved “ungovernable”, where the far left become too strong, or where the miners “brought down” another government. (Of course, it was the electors who actually deposed Edward Heath.) We knew too of the likely hand-wringing reaction of supposedly democratic liberals and conservatives, should such an intervention prove “necessary” closer to home. That thought was present in Ralph Miliband’s well-known “The Coup in Chile”:

In so far as Chile was a bourgeois democracy, what happened there is about bourgeois democracy, and about what may also happen in other bourgeois democracies. After all, The Times, on the morrow of the coup, was writing (and the words ought to be carefully memorized by people on the Left): “… whether or not the armed forces were right to do what they have done, the circumstances were such that a reasonable military man could in good faith have thought it his constitutional duty to intervene”. Should a similar episode occur in Britain, it is a fair bet that, whoever else is inside Wembley Stadium, it won’t be the Editor of The Times: he will be busy writing editorials regretting this and that, but agreeing, however reluctantly, that, taking all circumstances into account, and notwithstanding the agonizing character of the choice, there was no alternative but for reasonable military men … and so on and so forth.

There seems little prospect of the today’s left in Europe posing the kind of threat that would make such a coup “necessary” (though maybe a Syriza-led government in Greece would have tested, and might yet test, that proposition). Still, the words of the editor of the Times find echo in the reflections of many an op-ed writer about recent events in Egypt where “reasonable military men” have “in good faith” believed it their “constitutional duty to intervene”. (That wasn’t a coup though, was it? And the massacred of the Muslim Brotherhood have, on the face of it, little in common with those executed in the night in football stadiums.)

One thing that has changed greatly since 1973 is the sense of obligation of states in the “West” to the victims of persecution. However many Brothers are slaughtered in Egypt, they will find it very difficult to make their way to the United Kingdom in order to claim asylum. Certainly, no British government will be making it easy for them, just as they have taken steps to prevent the arrival of Syrians. Should any “Chileans” of today arrive in a boat in Australia they will not be able to make a new life, but will be sent to rot in a camp in Papua New Guinea. Still, we can be somewhat proud that, forty years ago, when Chileans sought refuge, that despite the attitudes of Times leader-writers, the commitment and solidarity of the Labour movement then ensured that a haven was there for some.

{ 65 comments }

1

Salem 09.11.13 at 8:45 am

I agree with the parallels between Chile and Egypt, but I think they point in a different direction to the one you draw. Frankly I agree with the “hand-wringing” Times editorial – Allende was ignoring the rule of law and the army were right to overthrow him. Despite your sarcastic quotes, it was the duty of reasonable military men to intervene. Being “democratically elected” doesn’t give you the right to bootstrap a Presidential appointment into a dictatorship – particularly when the (also democratically elected!) Congress is opposed. It’s a particular weakness of US-style constitutions that they frequently break down that way, and oblige some outside force to intervene.

But military interventions don’t encourage reasonable men, and they make even reasonable ones unreasonable. So, needless to say, the military intervention was awful and brutal; they shouldn’t have killed all those people, they should have held new elections much sooner, rather than waiting more than a decade, etc., etc. But that too reflects very badly on Allende for provoking the constitutional crisis. Military interventions are generally horrible things – it’s not always 1688 – so any politician who leads his country into such a situation should bear a heavy responsibility. Honestly I don’t know why it’s so hard for some people to conclude that Allende and Pinochet were both shits, rather than one has to be a saint to make the other a deeper sinner.

The parallels to Egypt should be obvious.

2

maidhc 09.11.13 at 9:02 am

On this anniversary, accounts are surfacing about the proto-Internet the Allende government was trying to set up. But the Guardian had it ten years ago:
http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2003/sep/08/sciencenews.chile

3

etseq 09.11.13 at 9:25 am

Salem

“Allende was ignoring the rule of law and the army were right to overthrow him.”

…is Salem a sock puppet for Henry Kissenger?

4

ajay 09.11.13 at 9:33 am

In so far as Chile was a bourgeois democracy, what happened there is about bourgeois democracy, and about what may also happen in other bourgeois democracies

Worth remembering that, contra that dreadful piece of nonsense that circulates around the internet unkillably, democracies do not survive until a majority of the population finds that they can vote themselves largesse from the public purse. They survive until they are overthrown by a military coup, or until they are stupid enough to give political power to a would-be dictator, or until they are invaded and occupied by the Nazis or the Communists.

5

Leo 09.11.13 at 10:18 am

Although it’s quite hard to get hold of, Patricio Guzman’s epic 3-part documentary The Battle of Chile is an important record of the coup. The film had to be smuggled out of the country and edited in Cuba. I thoroughly recommend it: it gives a comprehensive picture for the outsider, the filmmakers seem to have been at every single major event in the lead up to the coup (sometimes dangerously, ridiculously close to what they’re filming), and some of the images are astonishing as a result. One of the cameramen was even shot by the army while filming (the footage is included).

Also excellent is Roberto Bolaño’s novella By Night in Chile, which is concerned with the literary and religious establishments’ complicity with the regime. Bolaño was a committed socialist and briefly imprisoned after the coup. He was supposed to have been executed, but before he could be, two prison guards recognised him as a friend from school and let him go. Benjamin Kunkel’s essay on him in the London Review of Books is really worth reading too, and discusses the book.

6

gatherdust 09.11.13 at 10:21 am

Allende brought it on himself? What a sad and pathetic claim. What a sad and pathetic fool to write it. Forty years on and the clowns abound. I keep forgetting – DON’T read the comments.

7

The Raven 09.11.13 at 11:08 am

Leo, #5: it’s been released on DVD, at least in region 1.

Oh the humanity!

8

Barry 09.11.13 at 12:38 pm

Salem: “Allende was ignoring the rule of law and the army were right to overthrow him”

Do you have a d*mn thing to back this claim?

9

Chris Bertram 09.11.13 at 12:42 pm

Barry, please don’t invite him to elaborate. Salem, you’ve had your say, I decided not to simply delete you, but please don’t say more.

10

Z 09.11.13 at 12:48 pm

Being too young, I had never realized how much the refugee policy of western democracies had actually deteriorated these last 40 years. Better to reflect on that sad fact, to mobilize so that it becomes a fact of the past (and to pray that our brains will forget there was a comment n° 1).

11

Pete 09.11.13 at 2:13 pm

@Z: I have a nasty suspicion that the acceptance of refugees has diminished because they’ve gone from an “exceptional” circumstance to a “constant” one; there’s always some conflict somewhere or another.

12

Barry 09.11.13 at 2:33 pm

Chris Bertram 09.11.13 at 12:42 pm

“Barry, please don’t invite him to elaborate. Salem, you’ve had your say, I decided not to simply delete you, but please don’t say more.”

Thanks.

13

MPAVictoria 09.11.13 at 3:07 pm

“I have a nasty suspicion that the acceptance of refugees has diminished because they’ve gone from an “exceptional” circumstance to a “constant” one; there’s always some conflict somewhere or another.”

Oh I don’t know about that. The world isn’t anymore violent now then it used to be. In fact it is probably less violent then at many times in the 20th century. I think people are/feel less economically secure than they used to. This makes them more cautious about helping outsiders. Also taking in members of the Muslim Brotherhood as refugees is a bit different than taking in leftists from Chile.

14

otto 09.11.13 at 3:13 pm

Lots of interesting questions. Myself, I rather think that many more Egyptians may end up in the UK post Cairo coup, than Chileans in the UK post Pinochet. It’s closer for one thing, and there’s much more free movement in (and perhaps even into) Europe in practice than before.

The real military coup in post WW2 democratic Europe was the role of the army in bringing De Gaulle to power.

15

Corey Robin 09.11.13 at 3:24 pm

Not wanting to feed any trolls here, but if you want a good account of how constitutionally scrupulous Allende was, you should read this piece by Greg Grandin in the LRB a while back.

http://www.lrb.co.uk/v34/n14/greg-grandin/dont-do-what-allende-did

I see it’s now behind a paywall; I think I excerpted more of it here on my blog:

http://coreyrobin.com/2012/07/11/kissinger-allende-more-dangerous-than-castro/

16

William Burns 09.11.13 at 3:32 pm

“British governments of the 1970s and 1980s recognized and put into practice their obligations to such people.” Did you just put in a kind word for Margaret Thatcher?

17

Jason Weidner 09.11.13 at 3:45 pm

A little known fact about Pinochet was that he was initially not a right-wing ideologue. Allende himself named Pinochet head of the Chilean army shortly before the coup. Ironically, during Pinochet’s previous appointment as General Commander of the Santiago Army Garrison, he was tasked with drawing up contingency plans in the case of an armed uprising or military coup–a plan which later formed the basis of the military operation on September 11, 1973. But Pinochet himself was not part of the initial coup plotting. The top ranking officers of the Chilean Navy, by far the most conservative of Chile’s armed forces, were the principle agents behind the coup, and they were initially very suspicious of Pinochet. It is in fact quite likely that Pinochet was faced with a choice of whether to remain loyal to the Allende regime or join the coup plotters and that he chose the latter mainly out of opportunism/survival rather than due to ideological motivations.
Anther irony, though, is that after the coup, Pinochet enjoyed seniority within the military junta due to the fact that the Army has seniority over the other branches of the armed forces, and that Pinochet fairly quickly took control over the junta and consolidated his power. This was facilitated by institutional quirks within the Chilean state.
Going back to Allende, this interview with Victor Figueroa Clark is very illuminating regarding not only Allende’s personal background and trajectory, but also his considerable political skills–something often forgotten due to the unfulfilled promise of the Socialist revolution in Chile.

http://www.newleftproject.org/index.php/site/article_comments/salvador_allende_40_years_on?utm_source=twitterfeed&utm_medium=twitter

18

Zamfir 09.11.13 at 3:53 pm

A family member of mine has worked with refugees for pretty much the period under consideration here, so I sometimes hear stories about the refugees and the attitudes towards them have changed. Note: this is my version, not his, which would definitely be more subtle.

One impression I got is that political asylum seekers used to be from higher social classes than nowadays. Perhaps as result of lower travel costs nowadays, I don’t know.

The ‘archetypical’ political refugees were journalists and other professionals who had been active in a losing political faction. Those people were easy to sympathize with for westerners. They had a clearly identifiable personal reason to flee. And they were often trading down in social position, which made it convincing that they were ‘true’ refugees. As opposed to ‘economic refugees’.

Over time, the balance seem to have shifted towards lower social classes, and the number of asylum seekers grew. More of them were ordinary people fleeing conflict zones, instead of people who were relatively important enough that they might be personally named on a list to be shot in stadiums.

That seemed to have hardened western attitudes towards refugees in general. They look too much like the ordinary poor luck seekers that we are building fences against. And to some extent they really are the same people. Countries with dangerous politics or wars are often also poor countries where people would like to move to richer countries for economic reasons. The line between true refugees and economic refugees was never as sharp as it was supposed to be.

19

ajay 09.11.13 at 4:11 pm

Zamfir’s comment makes a lot of sense. Also:

“The world isn’t anymore violent now then it used to be. In fact it is probably less violent then at many times in the 20th century.”

True. But it is also probably a lot easier for someone to flee violence or persecution than it used to be, purely from the point of view of logistics. Even if Ethiopia (say) had had a terribly unpleasant regime in 1910, it wouldn’t be very cheap or easy for an Edwardian Ethiopian to escape and try to make a new life in London. Steamer passage was expensive, and working your way wasn’t an option amenable to large-scale use. But now there are regular flights.

Historical note: IIRC, until the late 1940s, there was no legal difference between someone born in Liverpool and someone born in Jamaica. Both of them were British subjects and equally entitled to live and work in Liverpool (or indeed Jamaica).

20

P O'Neill 09.11.13 at 4:32 pm

Bhutto made Zia ul-Haq Army Chief of Staff so there’s a history of presidents making unwise choices of their military right-hand men. In Egypt it seems that Morsi mis-read Sisi’s reputation as an observant Muslim as meaning he would be sympathetic to political Islam.

21

Matt Lister 09.11.13 at 4:35 pm

I’m not sure how useful it is to talk about “western” attitudes towards refugees here in this period. There’s too much variation, going in different ways. The U.S. and Canada, for example, mostly got better on refugees after the late 70′s, though there are still lots of problems. Australia got worse, and Germany got worse, though for rather different reasons and in different ways, and at somewhat different times. I expect that we’d see other trends in different countries. But, talking about “western” attitudes here is just too broad to be useful. (There is some good discussion of the US, Germany, and Australia in Matthew Gibney’s excellent book, _The Ethics and Politics of Asylum_. It’s a bit old now, but still useful for much of the relevant time period. Other good historical and analytic sources are available for those who want more detail about particular countries.)

22

adam.smith 09.11.13 at 4:37 pm

@5&6 – The Battle of Chile isn’t hard to get a hold of at all. It’s on youtube in its entirety, all three epic parts of it: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZxRlhggVGoQ
It is the Spanish version, though, i.e. no subtitles (but warmly recommended to anyone able to follow along somewhat in Spanish).

23

engels 09.11.13 at 5:40 pm

Interesting post, and references from Leo, Corey Robin and adam.smith.

24

Philip 09.11.13 at 6:42 pm

I think that Zamfir is right in terms of the UK. Some time around the late 90′s rhetoric of ‘economic migrants’ and ‘bogus asylum seekers’ became prevalent. This seems to have led to an attitude of wanting to reduce the number of asylum seekers, and therefore refugees, without considering individual cases. The idea of a ‘bogus asylum seeker’ is especially pernicious as anyone has the right to claim asylum and the onus should be for decisions to be made fairly and efficiently.

25

Philip 09.11.13 at 6:42 pm

I think that Zamfir is right in terms of the UK. Some time around the late 90′s rhetoric of ‘economic migrants’ and ‘bogus asylum seekers’ became prevalent. This seems to have led to an attitude of wanting to reduce the number of asylum seekers, and therefore refugees, without considering individual cases. The idea of a ‘bogus asylum seeker’ is especially pernicious as anyone has the right to claim asylum and the onus should be for decisions to be made fairly and efficiently.

26

Zamfir 09.11.13 at 7:34 pm

@ Matt, you’re probably right that Western is too broad a stroke. The experience I described is mainly about the Netherlands, though it’s surely wider than that.

Come tk think of it, I didn’t really have the US in mind as reason to write ‘western’ instead of European. It was more as contrast to the Eastern block, which was a constant source of refugees for quite a part of this period. The disappearance of European refugees from the standard mix surely had an effect on perceptions. In the 1980s, Afghani refugees felt like a familar wave, after Hungarians and Czechs etc.

The holocaust is also getting ever longer ago. Many European countries carried a shame about refusing Jewish refugees in the 1930s.

27

Ellis Goldberg 09.11.13 at 7:51 pm

The differences between Allende’s presidency and Morsi’s are at least as great as the similarities. Rather than the moralizing with which your readers probably agree, perhaps an actual exploration of the differences and similarities would be useful especially on the assumption that anyone wanted to understand events in Egypt today. An initial point of departure: Allende never won a majority of the vote, never controlled the legislature (which actually asked for an intervention), but did function in a system that had had regular, free and fair elections for 45 years; Morsi won a majority of votes in a run-off, also had a legislative majority (including members he appointed), and lived under a constitution his party and its allies had just written. And of course had General Rene Schneider not been murdered and General Carlos Prats driven into exile, Pinochet would have remained an unknown figure and the Chilean armed forces quite possibly would have awaited the next election which the 1973 mid-terms had shown the UP was very likely to lose. We don’t know exactly what happened but Morsi not only chose Al-Sisi, he was the one who (apparently) drove his predecessor, Tantawi, out of office. Allende, by the way, in the final weeks before the coup, actually tried to come to terms with the forces arrayed against him; this, as far as I can tell, Morsi refused to consider.

28

EWI 09.11.13 at 9:24 pm

@ Ellis Goldberg

I’m going to charitably assume that you know (and merely neglected to mention) that Schneider was murdered in a CIA scheme to smooth the path of the would-be coup plotters.

29

Ellis Goldberg 09.11.13 at 9:42 pm

@EWI: Thank you for your charity. I did neglect to mention the role of the US in Schneider’s murder. I also, more broadly, neglected to mention that the CIA was actively involved in overthrowing Allende while the Obama administration seems to have been at least passively involved in trying to save Morsi. US policy changes would be another aspect of the difference. And of course I neglected to point out that Roberto Vieira with at least the knowledge of the CIA attempted an earlier coup, the socalled Tanquetazo, and that General Prats was assassinated in exile as was Orlando Letelier (along with Ronni Moffitt who I also recall). I also deliberately refrained from pointing out that in Chile the defeated forces did not respond by attacking largely defenseless members of a minority religious or ethnic group as has occurred in Egypt especially in the South where dozens of churches have been set on fire and Christians killed. But the basic point was not to give an exhaustive history of these two coups but to point out that exploring them would be more useful than moralizing.

30

Wonks Anonymous 09.11.13 at 10:18 pm

The Muslim Brotherhood had a majority in the Egyptian legislature and the coup was directed about as much at the party as it was at Morsi. My understanding is that Chile was more like Honduras, where the legislature summoned the Man on the White Horse to unseat the executive. I don’t think Honduras experienced as much political violence in the wake of the coup as Egypt & Chile did, but I’m quite ignorant about all three cases.

31

Sasha Clarkson 09.11.13 at 10:46 pm

Just to compare: Allende had a bigger percentage of the vote than Tony Blair in 2005, or David Cameron in 2010 – I do realise that the systems of government aren’t comparable.

It’s also worth observing that the GOP congress in the US are doing their best to destroy President Obama’s healthcare – despite losing the popular vote. Their majority is based upon gerrymandering at state level. Would they appeal for a foreign backed coup if they could? They are certainly determined to shut down the government if they don’t get their own way!

32

Hector_St_Clare 09.11.13 at 11:30 pm

The US (and Europe) didn’t get a lot of refugees from Chile, but we did get a ton of refugees from the right wing regimes in Central America, which were generally a lot bloodier than the regime in Chile. (As bad as Pinochet was, and as gross as Salem’s defense of him, he seems *relatively* civilised compared to the right wing military regime next door in Argentina, to say nothing of the mass murdering regimes on Guatemala or El Salvador).

33

Bill Stewart 09.11.13 at 11:32 pm

The reason Costa Rica doesn’t have a military isn’t that they’re more peace-loving than anybody else. It’s that back in the mid-1800s, their president realized that the three jobs of a military in Latin America were to rebel against Spain (done), steal land from the Indians (done), and overthrow the civilian government any time the military feels like it. He didn’t want the latter to happen to him or to future civilian governments, and he successfully got rid of the military.

34

Hector_St_Clare 09.11.13 at 11:34 pm

Allende fell, in part, precisely because he was *too* scrupulous about procedural liberalism and constitutionalism (he refused to arm or to endorse the workers’ militias, like the far left was urging him to do, and which might have at least enabled the left to put up a fight against Pinochet).

35

Matt Lister 09.12.13 at 12:03 am

It’s also worth observing that the GOP congress in the US are doing their best to destroy President Obama’s healthcare

Traditionally, U.S. style systems of government have lead to intense grid-lock and increasing executive power and unilateral rule- sometimes quickly, sometimes more slowly. Parliamentary systems have generally provided better government and more stable systems. (There is some good discussion of this in R. Dahl’s _How Democratic is the U.S. Constitution?_, among other places.)

The US (and Europe) didn’t get a lot of refugees from Chile, but we did get a ton of refugees from the right wing regimes in Central America

In the US, until 1980 and the passage of the Refugee act, it was very hard to be considered a refugee unless one was fleeing from communist countries (or in some cases from the middle east, though that was less used.) After the Refugee Act, this limit was removed and the definition as set out in ’67 protocol to the UN Convention on Refugees was essentially written into US law. When Reagan was in power after 81, there was a strong attempt to not accept refugees fleeing “friendly” right-wing governments from Central America and the like, but thankfully, with the help of various hard-working groups, US Judges and bureaucrats came to insist on the law being enforced as written, at least in a large percentage of cases. (This is a big part, but not all of, the improvements to US refugee law and policy that I mention above.)

36

Ronan(rf) 09.12.13 at 12:26 am

@Ellis Goldberg
If you don’t mind me asking, have you read Hugh Roberts recent article on Egypt in the LRB? If so, what do you make of the story he tells?

37

Ellis Goldberg 09.12.13 at 4:01 am

I have great respect for Hugh Roberts who I know, although not very well and there is much that I agree with in his LRB piece although his analysis and narrative are not mine. Briefly my disagreement with Hugh would be that the Muslim Brothers never quite decided what they wanted and thus vacillated between democratization and creating a new and more effective party-state. I would also read much of the context differently than he does. For me the tragic events at Maspero have their roots not only in what happened at Aswan but in the sectarian conflict that had already occurred in Imbaba and Qena among other places and certainly have roots going back to the 1980s. I am more inclined to accept the analysis of the late Husam Tamam about not drawing the clear bright line between the ikhwan and the salafis that Hugh draws as I am also inclined to believe that the ikhwan understood from the beginning that the Supreme Court was likely to throw out the 2011 legislative election on the grounds that it had thrown out others under Mubarak and that it seems, for reasons of its own, to prefer single-member constituencies to lists. Lastly I do continue to find it hard to understand why President Morsi, even in his final days in office, made no attempt to use any of the legal avenues open to him to defuse the growing tension and unrest. Lastly, like France and Russia events in Egypt especially over the past three years have been dominated by the mass politics of the large urban centers. This is what strikes me, evidently more than it does Hugh or other observers, as the profoundly revolutionary character of these events. These are, of course, only my observations and I see no reason why, given the rich and complex experience of Egyptian political life over the past three years, there should be more agreement than there is about other times and places.

38

Chris Bertram 09.12.13 at 6:20 am

Further interventions along the lines of Salem will be deleted. I’m not interested in providing a platform for right-wingers to rehearse their standard Allende talking-points.

39

a 09.12.13 at 7:24 am

uh-huh. So the fact that Allende was a KGB operative (http://laht.com/article.asp?CategoryId=12394&ArticleId=197550) is not to be mentioned either?

40

William Berry 09.12.13 at 8:20 am

@a: KGB operative bit.

So what? It was their country. WTF business of ours (the U.S.) is it who they elect for president?

41

Phil 09.12.13 at 8:24 am

DNFTT.

42

Daniel 09.12.13 at 8:48 am

>>>I’m not interested in providing a platform for right-wingers to rehearse their standard Allende talking-points.

Bertram, you’re a punk.

43

Torquil Macneil 09.12.13 at 8:55 am

“@a: KGB operative bit.So what? It was their country.”

Yes, but if Allende was in the pay of a foreign government, that does have some bearing on the issue, doesn’t it? I am not saying he was, mind, I have never got to the bottom of those rumours – they seem a bit black-opsish to me – and anyway I still wouldn’t have agreed with shooting him.

44

Torquil Macneil 09.12.13 at 8:58 am

blockquote test (with apologies)

45

VerdadEsJusticia 09.12.13 at 9:51 am

Allende was re-elected, in spite of the reforms that were hated by the Chilean moneyed elites and the US government (basically a national curriculum, a health service, and nationalisation of domestic strategic resources like the copper mines which were owned by US companies), with greater share of the vote than in his initial election.

There is not a single shred of evidence that he violated the Chilean constitution – quite the contrary. The accusation by the right is based on his legal nationalisation and expropriation of property interests.

Prior to the coup, civil unrest (mainly stoked by ultra-rightist paramilitary groups) had lead to something like 13 deaths. In spite of provocation from US-backed embargoes, strikes by the owners of factories “agains their workers” (first time in history) which shut down sections of the economy.

Those who did violate the constitution were the military with an attempted coup and then the successful one, those collaborating with Henry Kissinger receiving weapons in diplomatic bags (see Christopher Hitchens’ book on Kissinger for the chapter on Chile and the depths to which he stooped in order to destabilise the Allende government), and those who murdered the head of the armed forces (General Schneider) because he declared Allende’s government constitutional and refused to engage in a military intervention against an elected government (the “Schneider doctrine”).

In parliament the right wing would scream “Jakarta! Jakarta! Jakarta!” at Allende whilst wielding, unloaded, pistols (very constitutional to threaten a bloodbath).

There are qualitative differences between someone who holds right-wing views and someone who challenges the thrust of the facts about the events in Chile. The latter is somewhat like the self-deceiving genocide deniers or UFO-conspiracy peddlers: against a mountain of evidence from numerous independent sources (including the CIA’s own files, now declassified for that period) they bring one or other ludicrous claim to bear, as if it would hold the deluge of facts against them or shift the paradigm. I think this is what is classically called “ideology” – trying to twist reality into a convenient opinion, at whatever cost.

46

Phil 09.12.13 at 10:49 am

Firstly, even the document ‘a’ linked to only asserts that Allende accepted gifts from a KGB employee – not that he knew the guy was KGB, or that he was influenced by the gifts in any way. Secondly, the document also says that Allende was a great disappointment to the USSR – “if he carries on like that he’s going to get overthrown”, sort of thing; as far as the USSR was concerned, the problem with Allende was that he wasn’t influenced by the USSR (again, according to this same document). Thirdly, would anyone on the Right have believed anything from a source like Mitrokhin 30 years ago? Would they believe anything from such a source now if it didn’t give them a stick to beat the Left with?

Shorter: there’s absolutely nothing to see here. DNFTT. Have a bit of Victor Jara instead.

47

Chris Bertram 09.12.13 at 12:13 pm

A connectivity problem this morning has meant that I haven’t been monitoring things as closely as I should have, else I’d have zapped the whole KGB thing before it got started. Still, no more please.

Daniel (not the famous one) you are permanently banned.

48

MNP 09.12.13 at 8:31 pm

@22: FYI, your link no longer works, thanks to a copyright claim.

49

adam.smith 09.12.13 at 9:56 pm

thanks MNP – too bad, but it’s still easy to find on youtube (and probably elsewhere) using the Spanish title. I’d recommend downloading it though, there are various Firefox and Chrome extension that will let you do that.

50

Hector_St_Clare 09.13.13 at 12:30 am

Re: When Reagan was in power after 81, there was a strong attempt to not accept refugees fleeing “friendly” right-wing governments from Central America and the like, but thankfully, with the help of various hard-working groups, US Judges and bureaucrats came to insist on the law being enforced as written, at least in a large percentage of cases. (This is a big part, but not all of, the improvements to US refugee law and policy that I mention above.)

Oh, not denying that. A lot of the political refugees from Central America had to come illegally and were legalised only much later, if at all. I just meant that they came, and in nontrivial numbers (Salvadorans, for example, are the fourth largest Latino community in America, with almost as many Salvadoran-Americans as Cubans: Guatemelans are sixth).

51

Kaveh 09.13.13 at 3:37 am

@47 I have to say, I found this display of right wing myths on Allende educational. Just the sheer rabid delusional quality of them. Then again, coming from a political ideology that doesn’t believe in anthropogenic climate change, this isn’t too big a surprise.

52

js. 09.13.13 at 4:23 am

I found this display of right wing myths on Allende educational. Just the sheer rabid delusional quality of them. Then again, coming from a political ideology that doesn’t believe in anthropogenic climate change, this isn’t too big a surprise.

It’s worse than that though. I don’t know about the “Daniel” character, but I’m pretty sure that “Salem” has previously identified themselves as a centrist-liberal, or something like that (if I’m wrong about this, apologies to whomever they’re due). So it’s really that there’s a frighteningly significant number of people, in the US at least, for whom the thought of a genuinely leftist government is so horrible, so unconscionable, that they would pick a brutal and murderous dictatorship over it, as the “lesser evil” of course. And genuine right-wingers are no more than a proper subset of this group, perhaps even a minority.

Which, now that I think about it, ties in with CB’s point about Times editorials (for both obvious values of the Times!), so hopefully this is not too OT.

53

derrida derider 09.13.13 at 5:41 am

Neither Daniel nor Salem are trolls. If CT commenters want this to be anything but a boring echo chamber then take their comments seriously – Chris is wrong not to ask Salem back, and js is wrong to be so certain that they are completely wrong.

I worked in refugee resettlement in the 70s (including Chileans) and well remember the coup and its aftermath. People need to question this narrative of an overwhelmingly popular, impeccably democratic government overseeing a prospering and reforming economy which was then – totally out of the blue – overthrown by scheming fascists whose sole source of support was teh evil CIA. I think it is as distorted as those right wing “Pinochet was a sincere democrat just doing his patriotic duty” ones you decry. This morality play mindset – the martyrdom of the blessed Saint Salvador at the hands of the cruel Emperor Augusto, possessed by Beelzebub Nixon – misses the point, for a start, that Allende’s socialism never had majority support. And that Chile’s economy collapsed on his watch. And that Allende faced popular opposition way beyond that of the plutocrats (there were many antigovernment strikes, for example, the bitterest and most devastating by self-employed truckers – hardly plutocrats). That level of chaos was always going to end in the destruction of Chilean democracy by far right or far left, with or without the CIA.

54

js. 09.13.13 at 6:10 am

js is wrong to be so certain that they are completely wrong.

That’s not what I said. And while I hardly agree with your comment (see next para), even if it were entirely right, it would say nothing against what I said.

About your comment. Re “never won a majority”, see Sasha Clarkson @31 and V&D @45; re “collapsing economy”, you might as well see the first 2-3 years of the Reagan administration (hey, that would have been an awesome coup!)*. I mean, look, are you actually disagreeing that the coup was CIA engineered? If so, maybe say so?

*Not actually, no.

55

js. 09.13.13 at 6:23 am

Just to be very clear about the “centrist-liberal” mentality:

Picking Allende as the “lesser evil” is totally an option! It doesn’t have to be a bizarro “morality play” at all. Why always pick Pinochet as the lesser evil?

56

adam.smith 09.13.13 at 6:33 am

@53 – nice strawman you got there. Too bad if something were to happen to it…

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adam.smith 09.13.13 at 6:37 am

I work on Chile&Argentina. I’m too young to have friends directly affected by the military regimes there, but there parents and/or grandparents and their friends were, so while not intensely personal, this is personal for me. I’m rather thankful that people who glorify the murderers&torturers as “reasonable military men” aren’t given a platform here, so thanks Chris.

58

engels 09.13.13 at 2:25 pm

People need to question this narrative of an overwhelmingly popular, impeccably democratic government overseeing a prospering and reforming economy which was then – totally out of the blue – overthrown by scheming fascists whose sole source of support was teh evil CIA. I think it is as distorted as those right wing “Pinochet was a sincere democrat just doing his patriotic duty” ones you decry.

Do you always serve your straw men with a side order of false equivalence?

59

Kaveh 09.13.13 at 2:48 pm

Really, these arguments by the anti-Allende camp do more damage to their own case than a critic ever could.

@53 Allende’s socialism never had majority support.

That’s incredibly vague–what is “Allende’s socialism”? The idea of a sweeping transformation of Chilean society? His specific policies?–and yet you assert it as if the meaning & implications were clear.

That level of chaos was always going to end in the destruction of Chilean democracy by far right or far left, with or without the CIA.

Nothing you mentioned in that comment even vaguely suggests that the far left (meaning what, again? Allende’s policies? far-left paramilitaries? leftists’ innate moral turpitude?) posed that kind of threat.

60

Mao Cheng Ji 09.13.13 at 3:09 pm

The “far left” are marxists. This reminds me of a quote from some old movie about one of those Latin American revolutions of the 1970s-80s. Something said by the evil antagonist in that movie. Goes something like this: ‘you intellectuals fall in love with poets, poets fall in love with marxists, and marxists fall in love with themselves.’ I suspect there is indeed a bit of romanticizing in all this.

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Kaveh 09.13.13 at 3:18 pm

@55 Picking Allende as the “lesser evil” is totally an option! It doesn’t have to be a bizarro “morality play” at all. Why always pick Pinochet as the lesser evil?

This.

@60 I suspect there is indeed a bit of romanticizing in all this.

Memorializing 11 September 1973 as a tragedy is not romanticizing it. Also, not looking at the coup in terms of ‘what could Allende & the left have done differently’, as if we have to take notes because the exact same circumstances are going to repeat themselves in Egypt or somewhere (they weren’t/aren’t) is not romanticizing it, nor is it ‘Manichean’, one-sided, or un-nuanced, or failing to learn from the past.

62

Nine 09.13.13 at 4:15 pm

derrida derider @53 – “If CT commenters want this to be anything but a boring echo chamber then take their comments seriously”

This is the canonical statement of concern trollery. In the higher interests of science some moderator somewhere should boldly conduct the experiment and banish a few trolls. I’m willing to bet a very trivial sum of money that standards & diversity of commentary won’t suffer in the least with the trolls gone.

63

Theobald Smith 09.13.13 at 7:49 pm

@62:
I’d take that bet.

Never read the Slacktiverse, I assume?

64

novakant 09.13.13 at 9:25 pm

Lots of good films from Chile recently:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nostalgia_for_the_Light
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tony_Manero_%28film%29
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/No_%282012_film%29

Also “The Maid” seems to be good – haven’t had a chance to see it.

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Nine 09.13.13 at 10:57 pm

“Never read the Slacktiverse, I assume?”

Never heard of it before just now.

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