26 December 2006

Allende vs. Pinochet - between a rock and a hard place

Sometimes history, as if trying to confuse us more than we are naturally confused, shoves at us cases where the main heroes opposing each other could not be defined in simple terms of black and white. Such is the case of Chilean Marxist president Allende and his de-facto killer Augusto Pinochet.

I have stumbled on two articles on the blog Chicago Boyz: one trying to defend Pinochet and another with critical analysis of the times and deeds of Allende.

The first one is a sloppy and lazy attempt to find an excuse for Pinochet on the basis that the people he killed and tortured were of the more visible category, "those perceived to belong to a protected class". Not to keep you in suspense, this strange term means "extreme-leftist leadership". In short, aside of being right on one account - that Pinochet for some reason is being presented as a worse killer then, for instance, Argentinian military junta or Fidel Castro (both are responsible for more politically motivated murders, that's true) - the article is a pile of crap. "Pinochet did kill and torture but not to such a degree as to earn a special place in history." Indeed. Feh.

Now the second article. Allende was a figure no less controversial. In his zeal to bring enforced and speedy reformation of Chile, he ignored the law of the land, the constitution, the Supreme Court. He and his party succeeded in derailing the economy, putting the working class into a situation much worse than it was before.

All this could be excused - after all, no one promised that the road to a new social structure will be straight and easy. But there come other sins that could be hardly excused. The man, according to many sources, was inspired not only by Marx, but by other, much less benign examples - like that of Fidel and his Soviet sponsors. This is what Wiki has to say:

Regular Soviet contact with Allende after his election was maintained not by the Soviet Ambassador but by his KGB case officer, Svyatoslav Kuznetsov, who was instructed by the centre to “exert a favourable influence on Chilean government policy”.
And worse:
Allende's own refusal to obey and/or enforce more than 7,000 Chilean Supreme Court and other legislative rulings (as detailed in the Resolution of August 22, 1973) was a sign of dictatorial style in defiance of Chile's democratic government institutions. Torture was used so extensively by the Servico de Investigaciones during the Allende government that in November 1970 the weekly newspaper La Portada in Santiago published an ironic article proposing that torture ought to be more systematic, with a priest present for the final stages.
The situation in Chile was extremely complex, as you will see from the above linked article by Vladimir Dorta. Of course, there was an ongoing anti-Allende plot by US, and of course the bourgeoisie, the land owners and the monopolies did not look kindly at the wide-spread nationalization of land and factories. But, as the article shows, all these forces were not enough to depose Allende.
In March 1972, thirteen large wooden crates that came from Cuba contained more than a ton of armaments for the Popular Unity (that were stored even in Allende’s own presidential residence), and the arm searches enforced by the military in 1973 revealed stockpiling of arms by both the government and the opposition. This was one of the main factors in the military decision to organize a coup later in the year.
This was stupid of Allende who up till this fateful act succeeded in keeping the army neutral. Of course, this story also repeats the bloody pattern of Fidel's "export of revolution" that caused many a bloodbath in many corners of the world.

So: a search for a clear cut black and white in this story will be in vain. At least where the white is concerned. Is there a lesson somewhere in the story or is there a lesson?

I have decided to refrain from using strong language for this post. Instead, I am going to invite a blogger or two to add their own opinions, which be posted here.

OK, first response is already here (in blue):

Andrew Ian Dodge:

My big problem with the way the intelligensia view latin american politics is they seem to have a soft spot for whatever thug comes from the left but if they come from the right they are vilified.

All I care about when there are discussion about the Chile in that time is that its an accurate description of both regimes. IE they are both as bad as each other.

A good example of the similar behaviour is over Nicaragua. Lefties seem to forget that the Sandinistas were far worse in their behaviour than Somoza. For example their persecution of the English speaking blacks in Nicaragua on the North coast was of the Saddam variety (baring gassing). The bad-mouthing of the Contras that still happens beggars belief. There were Soviet & Cuban advisors...a friend of the family was moved out of his house to make way for Cuban advisors.

Of course it does not help that Isabella Allende has been deified by that bloody musical by Andrew Lloyd Webber.