Chile, 50 years on

by Chris Bertram on September 10, 2023

Tomorrow morning brings the 50th anniversary of the coup in Chile and the death of Salvador Allende [Le Monde has that photo], a coup which was, of course, followed by mass incarcerations, witch-hunts and murders and by the exile as political refugees of many Chileans of the left. (In today’s climate those exiles would have struggled to find sanctuary. Perhaps Sunak and Braverman would have put them on the Bibby Stockholm, a marginal improvement on a Santiago football statium.) I remember the coup, sort of, as a teenager. But not clearly: it was something shocking and far away. But the years of aftermath I do remember: meeting exiles, Latin American solidarity campaigns with them, the showings of films like The Battle of Chile and, later, Missing.

I have nothing particularly insightful to say now about the coup itself, or the later, shameful failure of the British to hold Pinochet to account for his crimes (“he was only giving orders”). But, in an atmosphere where the political right from Fox News to the British Daily Telegraph to France’s C-News whip up paranoid fantasies that might serve to legitimate “pre-emptive” action even against liberal democracies, and where Donald Trump remains a threat, it is worth re-reading Ralph Miliband’s essay from 1973, and particularly his thoughts about the editor of the London Times:

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.

Sunday photoblogging: Château Laurens, Agde

by Chris Bertram on September 10, 2023

Our cultural excitement for the week was a visit to the spectacular Château Laurens in Agde, an art nouveau villa built at the end of the 19th century by a spectacularly rich idle opium smoker and yachtsman, sold to friends when he lost all his money, locked up for 50 years and then reopened in June. It is right next to the railway (modernity!) and was built there so the trains could stop outside, and his friends could alight and drink champagne in the garden. Lots of other pics on my Flickr, but one below.

Chateau Laurens