The Null Device

The Liberation of Chile from Socialism

Speaking of the past vanquishing the future, today is the 40th anniversary of the Chilean coup which, signed off by Richard Nixon, overthrew the (democratic socialist) Allende government and established the Pinochet dictatorship, a combination of classic Franco-style Iberian fascism and radical free-market ideology (courtesy of Chicago economist Milton Friedman, whom Nixon had parachuted in; Friedman went on to far greater things; advising Ronald Reagan and becoming the father of the neoliberal economic order we live in today). The Pinochet dictatorship ruled for seventeen years and crushed dissent, real and imagined, with stunning brutality, murdering Communists, trade unionists, human-rights activists, nuns and owners of suspicious literature (for example, books of art by Picasso—he was a Communist, you know—were enough) indiscriminately. Other than the big landowners whose near-feudal grip on their vast tracts of land and the lives of the peasants who came with it had been threatened by Allende, the big winners were multinational corporations (Friedman brought in a spree of privatisations, and the regime kept labour costs low and suppressed industrial complaints) and the Catholic Church (which was given a central role in the ultra-conservative society Pinochet built).

The Pinochet regime had its defenders for a long time after it fell; the most infamous was the late Margaret Thatcher, a close friend of Pinochet's who went to her grave proclaiming him to be a champion of freedom. (Either Thatcher's views or her outspokenness in them weren't widely shared at the time.) Other than that, it's mostly trolls and cranks these days, with most respectable conservatives tactfully keeping shtum (the Daily Torygraph's front page, for instance, is conspicuous in its lack of mention of this anniversary). As memory of the dictatorship's atrocities recedes into the past and witnesses die, however, we will undoubtedly see it rehabilitated by the self-styled mavericks of the Right, in the way that Spain's conservatives are rehabilitating the Franco regime, and the cult of Mussolini is enjoying renewed popularity in Italy; perhaps in ten years' time, we'll see a spate of articles by the rising stars of free-market thinktanks about the 50th anniversary of the Liberation Of Chile From Socialism.

There are 3 comments on "The Liberation of Chile from Socialism":

Posted by: Marti Wed Sep 11 14:58:11 2013

Yes, as you say that's exactly what we are witnessing now in Catalonia and Spain. The last example was brought to us by the mayor of Barcelona, who wants to change the name of a street to homage Juan Antonio Samaranch, member of Franco's regime and later president of the International Olympic Committee.

Posted by: PaulJBis Wed Sep 11 22:32:45 2013

Hrm. I don't live in Barcelona. so I hadn't heard about that one, but I'm pretty confident that if they want to honor Samaranch, it's not because he is a former francoist, but because he was the one who, as president of the IOC, brought the Olympic Games to Barcelona. So the idea that this proves that there's a revival of Francoism in Spain is at least questionable, or at least it's more nuanced than that.

(Of course, the fact that Barcelona owes its Olympic Games and subsequent modernization to a former Franco apparatchick is one of those historical ironies that most catalans (including the independentists) prefer to sweep under the rug nowadays, when they are in the middle of their nation-building process...)

Posted by: Marti Thu Sep 12 07:42:50 2013

Well, I meant it as an example of what the text says: "As memory of the dictatorship's atrocities recedes into the past and witnesses die, however, we will undoubtedly see it rehabilitated by the self-styled mavericks of the Right". We are avoiding to remember the atrocities they committed, and just focus on the "good" things, like in this case bringing the olypmics to Barcelona.

But yes, in any case, there is a revival of fascism in Spain. As an example, this happened just yesterday: