PoliBlog: A Rough Draft of my Thoughts

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  1. Agreed that Pinochet gave the militarized right a face lacking in Argentina or Brazil, but the obverse of that is also true. Who remembers or cares about Joao Goulart or Maria Estela Peron (as president, not as wife of Juan)? In fact, neither Goulart nor Mrs. Peron had been elected president (both had been VP). Nor did either have much ideology or commitment to either socialism or democracy, and no one would ever confuse either with an intellectual.

    Allende, on the other hand, was a long-time senator and leader of an ideological leftist party in a democratic country. (Neither Argentina nor Brazil had as impressive a democratic experience as Chile, even acknowledging the restricted suffrage at the time in Chile). Allende was a genuine intellectual, as well as a very sober man who believed as passionately in democracy as he did in socialism, and loathed the violence of the “ultras” in the ranks of the Chilean left.

    Above all, the passion felt even today on the left stems from the sense that the world changed on September 11.

    And, of course, I am referring to September 11, 1973. It was the last day on which it was possible be both a socialist-in the revolutionary sense of seeking the overthrow of capitalism and imperialism-and a democrat-in the liberal sense of protecting free expression and the rights of opposition. After that day, “revolutionary democratic socialism” became an oxymoron. If you were a socialist after Septemer 11, 1973, you believed either that the path to the revolutionary overthrow of capitalism was through violence, or you became a social democrat and ceased being a revolutionary.

    Comment by Matthew Shugart/Fruits & Votes — Sunday, March 12, 2006 @ 5:36 pm

  2. All quite fair and accurate-Chile was truly democratic when the coup came, which one could not say of Argentina at all, and even in Brazil’s democracy was hardly impressive, shall we say.

    Comment by Dr. Steven Taylor — Sunday, March 12, 2006 @ 5:53 pm

  3. Well done, Dr, Taylor. I really enjoyed reading this piece.

    I think this subject matter is relevant, not only because of the searing in of the new Chilean president; but now the left has itself in a snit over the fact that Milosevic died before he was brought to justice.

    Comment by LASunsett — Sunday, March 12, 2006 @ 9:24 pm

  4. Make that SWEARING in of Chile’s president. (I doubt she was on a grill somewhere)

    Comment by LASunsett — Sunday, March 12, 2006 @ 9:27 pm

  5. Thanks.

    And thankfully there are not major cannibal groups (to my knowledge) in Chile. And if there are, I am sure that they wouldn’t be invited to the inauguration! :)

    Comment by Dr. Steven Taylor — Sunday, March 12, 2006 @ 9:30 pm

  6. With the amount of cold medicine I have had to take over the last few days, it’s amazing I didn’t have more typos. :(

    Comment by LASunsett — Monday, March 13, 2006 @ 6:38 am

  7. Actually, Bachelet was not sworn in. She is agnostic, and she “promised” to uphold the constitution.

    One small clarification to my comment above: Chile’s “restricted” suffrage refers to the period before 1969 (i.e. before the election of Allende). Chile was continuously democratic from the 1930s until 1973, but before 1969, illiterates could not vote.

    In Brazil, democracy was in effect only from 1945 till the coup of 1964, and illiterates were not enfranchised until after military rule, in the 1980s.

    Comment by Matthew Shugart — Monday, March 13, 2006 @ 10:36 am

  8. And in Brazil you had substantial (albeit electoral) involvement of the military in politics prior to the coup.

    Comment by Dr. Steven Taylor — Monday, March 13, 2006 @ 11:04 am

  9. Part of the reason is also the fact that people on the political and academic left in the US and Europe took an interest in Allende’s government at the time, read about it, had conferences and met Chileans. It was a model with attractions, unlike the previous regimes in Brazil and Argentina. And then Pinochet stages his coup and a lot of the Chilean experts, poets, politicians etc were murdered or persecuted. It was, I understand from people of that generation, very personal.

    There was also Pinochet’s personal treachery to Allende, having sworn to uphold the constitution, and the murder of his predecessor. Pinochet also organised terrorism abroad, with the assassination of Letelier in Washington DC.

    There was, in Europe anyway, a rather chilling implied threat from some on the right that the same could happen here if the left got ideas above its station. Some on the right make excuses for him even now, as a kind of Margaret Thatcher figure who played a bit rougher because Chile was a rougher sort of place.

    In Britain there is a bit of a difference, in that we know about (and demonise) General Galtieri of Argentina because of the Falklands war of 1982. Because of the war, the background of the disappeared and the dirty war was aired more thoroughly in Britain than elsewhere.

    Comment by Lewis Baston — Wednesday, March 15, 2006 @ 1:22 pm

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