Extraterritoriality, families of the disappeared

Néstor Miguel Gorojovsky gorojovsky at SPAMinea.com.ar
Sun Dec 19 08:16:52 MST 1999

David Bruce asks on the consequences of sticking to _ius solis_
in the case of the first peoples of what today is Argentina.
Well, this is easily answered, but allows me to broach a
different issue. The answer first.

_Ius solis_ means that, if you are born in Argentine land, you
enjoy every benefit that comes down from that (including the
right to be plundered by the imperialists!). At the same time, it
implies that, save for very particular situations (people born of
parents in forced exile, for example), you are not an Argentinian
if you are not born here. And from the political culture this
idea generates derive some more laughable situations, such as
calling 'Turk' every one born in Turkey or the former Ottoman
Empire. Thus, in Argentina as well as in Brazil (there is a
delicious novel by Jorge Amado on this) we call the _Arabs_
"Turks', and (abomination of abominations) we even call Armenians
'Turks'. Now, to the issue of the consequences of all this on the
rights of the indians.

Since whoever is born in Argentinian territory enjoys the rights
of an Argentinian citizen, an indian enjoys them at the same
level that a kelper or another kind of Argentinian does. If the
kelpers, born in the Falklands, wanted to vote in our elections,
nobody would be able (nor willing, by the way) to stop them.

Now, more generally, on the 'indian question'.  Julio posted
something in Spanish some weeks ago which should be, IMHO, a
reader for those who want to understand what did this really mean
in Argentina.

People use to have the wrong idea that Argentinians have behaved
towards the indians as the Anglo americans did against the native
peoples. This is a by product of the fantastic tale that
Argentina is a white-skinned, European country, a tale that has
been pervasively difussed by our oligarchic governments abroad.

But Argentina is a characteristically miscigenated country, where
most population is of mixed blood.  Immigration changed this to a
certain extent, something that more less evident in the middle
classes, particularly in the professional middle classes, of the
large port cities, But the mass of the people (included the mass
of the immigrants) has some Indian or even Negro ancestry, since
most immigrants who did not manage to become middle class mingled
with the original Argentinian workers and poor people during the
early 1900s, and at last mixed their ancestry with that of the
Creole. And, believe me, save for a few rich nuclei in a couple
fo very stratified provinces, the 'purity of blood' of our Creole
population (even at the higher classes) is a myth. In fact, it is
obvious to anyone's eye when one looks at the mass of the
population and to the toiling masses in particular that the
Argentinians are of mixed ancestry, and that there are American
genes as well as African ones in almost whoever has a family
with, say, a couple of centuries in the country. This is
particularly intense in the North, but internal migration during
the industrialization of the 30s diffused the 'dark genes' all
over the working class.

I am not implying that the Argentinian record on the question of
the 'first peoples' is spotless. Not at all. In fact there are
enormous mistakes and terrible brutality in some particular
cases, which every socialist must be aware of and take as her or
his own cause. But, in the whole, the original population of
Argentina simply got mixed with the early Spanish people who came
here, and constituted the bulk of the Argentinian population,
particularly in the "old',  Inland provinces. In this sense,
there is no "Indian problem' in Argentina.

A case has been pertinaciously laid, however, concerning the
indians of the central Pampa and Patagonia. It deserves scrutiny,

The problem of the Indians in the central and western Pampa, and
in northern Patagonia, is quite more complex. The Creole elites
who in 1880 made an effective occupation of this no-man's land
did not practice, as it is usually said, a 'genocide'.  The land
was to be occupied sometime, either by Chile or by Argentina. The
indians in the Pampas were partly trapped in (and partly engaged
into) the struggle between these two Creole countries. These
indians, by the way, were not the original inhabitants of the
Pampas: before the introduction of the horse, by the late 1500s,
the Pampa was not a beckoning land, and save for some rare
passers by, it was populated only in the humid fringes to the
East or at the Andean foothills to the West.

The tribes that roamed along the Pampa during the 19th. Century
were a branch of the great Araucano family that, during the 17th.
and 18th. centuries, had incorporated the horse to their own
civilization, and riding on horseback conquered the vast spaces
to the East of their original hearth, and built up an original
culture centered on the newly acquired animal. The problem with
these indians is that, the further East they went, the less they
kept their original pottery and agriculture traditions. When they
touched on the sparse Creole estancias and the immense herds of
cattle, they began to suffer a fast process of aculturation,
internal social differenciation, commercial exchange with the
Creole formation of the River Plate and, yes (though we may feel
it is not politically correct, this is the truth), they turned to
cattle theft and traffic as a means of living. That is, these
societies lost most of their own particularities, and, second and
more important, lost their social and economic independence, by
becoming a link in a chain dominated, in the main, by the Creole
elites of the neighbouring, non-Indian formations of what was
finally to become Argentina and Chile.

In this, the Chilean tradesmen and cattle raisers were very
interested. There were indian chiefs who, at the same time, were
officers in the Chilean army, in the Argentinian army, or even in
both. They strongly tended to specialize in stealing cattle on
the Eastern pampas, dragging it along what everyone by then knew
as the 'desierto' to South-central Chile across the mountain
passes at the 36S/39S parallels, and selling it there. Some of
these chiefs, particularly on the Andean borderland, weren't even
Indians, and happened to be wealthy Chilean tradesmen engaged in
every aspect of this profitable business.

The fate of the Indians in the Southern territories was not much
worse than that of the Creole lower classes, which under the
project of the Generation of the 1880s became the toiling mass of
a country that was being constructed for the benefit of the
incoming immigrants. And even in this sense, they were luckier
than the vanishing gauchos, because for them at least there were
politicians and military of that generation who claimed for the
incorporation of the Indians as free farmers on the land of their
own (the gauchos were deprived of any property when the interest
of the British railways ran across them, for example). Alvaro
Barros, the founder of the Argentinian city of Olavarria and one
of the most interesting characters in that brilliant generation,
devised plans in this sense, and proposed them to a not at all
deaf government.

But how could one expect that the needs of the Indians be
listened to in a country where the mass of the population was to
deserve the sad destiny of becoming the workers, servants and
beggars of a formation where the immigrants were building the new
Argentinian bourgeoisie and petty bourgeoisie?

In fact, Argentinian citizenship is a _right_ of the Indians born
here, a right that we socialists must defend. The Argentine
military generation who conquered the millon sq. kilometers to
the South did not have in their minds the idea of elliminating
the Indians. They wanted to establish the rule of the Argentinian
state on a contested area (even England had dreams of conquering
at least Eastern Patagonia from time to time, and the Welsh
colonies in the lower Chubut river had been partly established
with this goal in mind!).

Colonel Conrado Villegas, one of the ablest and most intelligent
commanders of that army of military and political chiefs, and the
man who discovered that in order to win over the Indians the
Argentinian troops had to learn to tame the horses the Indian
way, and had to learn the Indian tactics for Pampa warfare, was
very respected by the Indian chiefs.  And, not at all slyly, not
at all lying, when in 1884 he conquered the area where conflict
with Chile was most dangerous, the area of the Neuquén province,
he held ceremonies with every tribe that accepted the Argentinian
sovereignty, where everybody, in gleeful but honest naivety,
cheered to the word of "Viva Conrado Villegas! Vivan los indios

It was not the same with the original peoples in the USA. No
Custer that I know held any ceremony at the cry of "Long life the
American indians!'.

All this does not mean, of course, that the policies of Argentina
towards the Indians are wonderful, etc. etc. But the truth must
be restored, and after that we can begin to debate seriously the
point.  The Indian question in Argentina was very different to
the Indian question in the United States simply because the
Indians and the Creoles were not separated by a history where a
powerful capitalist nucleus advanced mercilessly on lands to the
West. We are a half-caste country, with all the consequences of
this. One of them is the complexity of our Indian question, that
cannot be reduced to a simple matter of _ius solis_ or _ius

The principle still holds: whoever is born here, is Argentinian.
I stick to it, although there is a good bunch of sepoys and -as
we know them here- 'vendepatrias' who do not deserve such a

Now, on to a different issue, that of my criticism to the Human
Rights movement. First of all, allow me to say that my position
is softer than that of, say, the Colombian FARC. These, I have
been told by a Colombian journalist, have sometimes said that
"the human rights issue is on the agenda of imperialism, not on
ours'. I do support the human rights struggle, and have been
helping them for years. Which does not imply that I share their
global view. I do not feel that the human rights people are
imperialist agents (though some among them may happen to be), I
consider them people struggling on my side against a common
enemy. But I strongly criticize their apoliticism, which gives
imperialism the chance to fill with contents a socially
menaningless struggle (when I speak of social meaning, I am
thinking of class contents, OK?).

Let us see. David Bruce says:

:I would put it differently - a group of ordinary citizens (by
your own
:admission, non-political) has for years sought justice following
the murder
:of their relatives. That is surely their perfect democratic
right. The man
:chiefly responsible flees abroad to spend some of his ill-gotten
loot on
:the best medical facilities on offer. This group follows him
and, by
:exploiting the particular character of the Spansh legal system
and the
:UK-Spain extradition treaty, manages to corner him.

The problem, dear David, is that the struggle for 'democratic
rights' in the Third World, important as it is, is pointless FROM
A POLITICAL POINT OF VIEW if it does not begin with the most
democratic of all rights, a right that people in the First World
enjoy so much that they are not aware of it: the right of having
an independent nation. When these struggles are rent asunder, and
when you depoliticize them you DO tear them away of each other,
then it resorts to any means, including imperialist intervention,
to obtain their basic goals. There are things that people in the
Third World cannot do without running the horrible political risk
of giving weapons to our main enemy, the very one that backed
people like Pinochet. By the way, Pinochet did not get THAT rich
during his regime. The ones who grew rich are absolutely out of
any harassment by the Empire, and this is exactly what cases such
as that of Pinochet help consolidate.

:BTW, as I recall, this treaty was passed (or amended) recently
to make it
:easier to extradite wanted criminals living in Spain back to the
UK. There
:were so many shady characters living in some Spanish resorts
that the more
:slobby Brit tabloids dubbed them the "costa del crime". Well,
that one
:seems to have backfired.

Shady characters, in my own brutal vision, constitute a part of
the bourgeoisie. As that great film, The Godfather 3, put it in
the crystal language of Corleone:  'The higher I get, the more
rot I see'. I don't mind on the tricks played by the established
bourgeois on the newly arrived rogues. They are not my business.
I do not see the modification 'backfiring' on the British or
Spanish bourgeoisies, since it is my own view that, save for some
dynosaurs like Meg Thatcher (ok, ok, Mr. and Ms. T-rex, I did not
want to offend you!), these classes as such, as full subjects of
their own history, WANT Pinocho to be tried. The head of the
British bourgeoisie is not M.T., the head is Tony Blair.
Churchill would have agreed with this trial, for example.

:It seems to me that the group has shown resourcefulness and some

Not 'some'. Lots of. I am not denying it. I am doing a political
analysis of their action.

:Perhaps they are not quite so non-political as they seem
although I agree
:that the Marxist distinction between a Spanish imperialist
judiciary and
:the Chilean non-imperialist judiciary has eluded them. All they
seem to
:want is to get their man and they do not mind where they go to
do so.

But this is not something we Marxists can allow to pass
unnoticed. The distinction is THE distinction here. If you are
wrong on this, then you will be wrong on anything else, no matter
how learned you are in the works of Marx, Engels, Lenin, Mao,
Trotsky, Gramsci, Mariategui and the Che Guevara.

:Due to their determination and to the stubbornness of a Spanish
judge, the
:British authorities are hugely embarrassed. Despite their best
:they cannot bury the issue. They cannot let Pinochet return
home - where I
:believe, far from facing trial, he enjoys life membership of the
senate and
:the privileges that brings. To concede to the Spanish request is
to open a
:can of worms, to ignore it is to open another one. The Brit
judges were no
:help to the politicians, whom they will regard - with some
justification -
:as opportunist "arriviste" upstarts who should do they own

Now, what is the contents of the 'can of worms'? The British
implication in the Pinochet regime? If so, then a good result may
be the outcome of a wrong action. This is not forbidden by any
law. It sometimes happens. But I suppose that when the can of
worms actually menaces breaking open, SOMETHING WILL HAPPEN, and
the lid will remain closed.

:I am happy to salute these campaigners and uphold their right to
:justice wherever and whenever and however they can, even if it
does upset
:us Marxists.

Look, dear David, I do not care a damn for the tranquility of us
Marxists. As such, we are supposedly people who have made a
choice for turmoil and lack of tranquility, for getting upset and
for debating, and essentially for an 'unflinching struggle
against the bastard exploiters of capitalism' as a woman, who was
far from being a Marxist - Evita by name-, explained in Argentina
to Argentinian women and workers. Now, if a radicalized national
bourgeois can get to these extremes, we should stand for worse
things.  What is wrong with resorting to imperialist courts is
that it is the basic right of every Latin American to have an
independent country what is being questioned. And this is the
FIRST rule of revolutionary politics in the Third World, and in
Latin America in general: Thou shalt defend your nation against
imperialists ALWAYS.

Ah, and on being patient with British politics. I understand that
it is not easy to be a Marxist in the womb of the beast. But you
may understand, at your own turn, that us here, in this ocean of
human suffering that finds no comparison in history, would
actually welcome a serious movement of your working class that
would set us a little more optimistic as to the future of class
struggle there. That is why we have been so happy at what
happened in Seattle. I am Biblic today, so that "Lazarus, rise
and walk!'


More information about the Marxism mailing list