12 December 2006

After the initial euphoria, more on Pinochet...

As promised a couple of days earlier, a more considered analysis of the legacy of General Pinochet. For the most part the media response has been quite heartening. There was of course Thatcher's "great sadness", which the charitable would put down to dementia, except that it was entirely consist with her previous actions in government, which were unremittingly pro-Chile. And that's consistent with her philosophy, which is that any inhuman monster is worthy of praise provided they stand up for British interests. As Alan Partridge once said (not about her, but it fits), "scum. Subhuman scum."

Others on the right have been more reasonable - for example, Daniel Finkelstein on The Times's Comment Central blog wrote as good a piece as anything I've seen. Conversely, for a supposedly 'centre-left' politician, Margaret Beckett's comments were a pathetic cop-out and insulting to the thousands of Chileans who died during the Pinochet dictatorship. What's the matter, Margaret? Worried that Baroness Thatcher won't vote Labour next time?

But the main lesson for the left to learn from the 1973 Pinochet coup which overthrew Salvador Allende's democratically elected government is that control of the military is essential to implement a radical programme - by which I mean, anything to the left of Blair/Brown/Cameron (BBC!) style centrism. Hugo Chavez in Venezuela understands this well, which is why he has put so much effort into keeping the military onside. (Incidentally, Johann Hari in The Independent wrote a very good article on Chavez a couple of days back.) Whiilst the spate of documentaries that ran earlier this year marking the 30th anniversary of Harold Wilson's resignation suggested that the rumours of a military coup in the UK in the mid-70s were never that serious, the military is a much tighter operation now than it was in those days and the modern Chinese model - high growth and rampant corporate power at the expense of democracy - is probably an attractive alternative our rather decrepit democratic system, to high-ranking armed forces personnel and business movers and shakers alike. Brown and Blair are neo-liberal enough not to worry anybody outside the most reactionary elements of the system, but if, for example, the Green Party were ever to get into government on anything like a radical environmentalist programme, they wouldn't last very long unless they had infiltrated the military. Incidentally the latest Populus poll in The Times puts the Greens on 4 per cent, which is still not very much, but is a damn sight more than they were getting even a few months ago. Fallout from the Stern Report perhaps?


Van Patten said...

Unfortunately the Americo/German corporation I work for no longer allows me access to the 'comments' section of the blog so this is somewhat belated. I think a succession of comments on the Times blog answer the Finkelstein comment and the first part of this blog.

It is not excusing or pardoning Pinochet to acknowledge the assistance given during the Falklands war (unless of course you were greatly saddened by the not so recent death of General Leopoldo Galtieri, the Argentinian leader) nor do I condone necessarily the 'disappearances' and other atrocities committed during this man's regime. His supporters also dwindled in number when it was revealed he had embezzled millions of pounds for his own personal enrichment during 16 years of unchallenged rule.

Nevertheless, the alternative path which Chile would have taken would have resulted in unmitigated disaster. A swift glance at the two countries whose regimes did follow the kind of policies advocated by Allende and his supporters, North Korea and Cuba would quickly reveal the necessity for this action. Yes, 3000 died and that's extremely regrettable. How many more have died at the tender mercies of the regimes in Pyongyang and Havana?

The Hari articles doesn't stand up to scrutiny and as soon as Venezuela's oil wealth runs out, the country will revert back to its pre-Chavez structure. Thank God we didn't ever have Ken Livingstone as Prime Minister during North Sea Oil peak production!

The last part of the post I agree with, but probably not for the reasons you do!A Green party regime would produce something like the situation in North Korea where military control would be an essential part of the regime as a small cabal of self-appointed 'enlightened types' attempted to force , on the basis of often contentious scientific hypotheses, policies that would be anathema to at least 90% of the populace. The concomitant economic collapse would also mirror the situation in the Korea DPR where the people are too busy scraping enough food to survive to worry about a revolution.

Keep the faith, I'm sure Raul Castro will keep Cuban living standards below the Batista regimes for some time yet!

Seth B Ramal said...

I simply don't agree that Chile would have ended up like North Korea had Allende carried on... neither will Chavez's Venezuela end up like that. Your approach is based around saying that anyone left of centre is basically a hardline communist. That's like saying that David Cameron is a Nazi; amusing but not borne out by the evidence.

Van Patten said...

If you ignore North Korea as a Red herring, surely even your blindness in the face of Socialist atrocities cannot ignore the Cuban connections. Allende had visited Havana on several occasion and even used Cuban troops to disperse striking demonstrators! Are you seriously suggesting that Cuba under Castro is better off econmically than Post -Pinochet Chile?