GLW:Put Pinochet on trial.

Owen Jones owen.jones at
Thu Jan 27 06:01:03 MST 2000


          I don't want to restart the Pinochet debate. I just want to make a
few comments.

 After the coup, thousands of progressives fled Chile after Augusto Pinochet
overthrew the socialist government of Salvador Allende. At the time my
parents were activists in the labour movement, being very close to Ted Grant
and Alan Woods (who my dad went to Sussex University with). They took in a
woman and her two children who were in the family of a famous Chilean
leftist singer.

 Her husband was killed, she was tortured and probably raped. Basically, she
was psychologically damaged. The misery she had endured led her to beat her
children; when the headmaster of the local school found out her kids had
bruises all over them, she literally stormed to the school and tried to kill
him. Anyway, eventually she left, but my parents later found out from a
newspaper article that she had thrown herself off the top of a block of
flats and killed herself. Another victim of that reactionary dictatorship of
the Chilean bourgeoisie.

 I probably don't need to tell anybody this dictatorship killed thousands of
progressives, tortured thousands more in the most hideous ways, smashed down
the workers' movement, attacked the working class, imprisoned and exiled
thousands upon thousands... It was directly put into power by American
imperialism, after the US bourgeoisie panicked that its property in Chile
were threatened. In the Falklands War, it sided with British imperialism and
aided its war against Argentina.

 Indeed, there are two sides of the barricades on this question - those who
want him on trial and those who want him set free. In this country, the most
reactionary and anti-communist elements are leading the campaign for his
"freedom". Margaret Thatcher, being a dear friend of the bastard for being
such a great ally, and her followers protest that Pinochet "saved" Chile
from communism. In Chile, the bourgeoisie who so benefited from his rule
call for his return. The "Pinochet Foundation" is funded by the wealthy
Chilean businessmen Pinochet created through his implementation of
reactionary Thatcherite anti-working class policies before Thatcher was even
in power. Anybody who calls for Pinochet's freedom, whose reactionary
dictatorship represented the interests of the Chilean bourgeoisie, is on the
same side of the barricades as these extreme reactionaries and
anti-communists, and on the opposite side from the progressives who fled his
fascist terror.

 It is not the bourgeois state here in Britain that demanded his
imprisonment, it is a leftist judge in Spain acting on behalf of the various
victims and exiles of the Pinochet regime. In fact, the British ruling class
has done everything conceivable to send him back to Chile. At first three
out of five House of Lords judges accepted his deportation; this was then
disqualified on the grounds one had links to Amnesty International; another
ruling declared he could not stand trial for any crime committed before
1988; and now it is likely he is going back to Chile after our dear old
reactionary home secretary was minded to send him back on "humanitarian
grounds". Meanwhile, the various exiles and victims continue to campaign for
his extradition to Spain, whilst extreme reactionaries from both Britain and
Chile call for his release.

 It should be pointed out that a trial in Spain could not result in his
imprisonment, since there anybody over 75 cannot be sent to prison. That is
not the purpose. The involvement of US imperialism without which he could
never have seized power would be revealed; workers across the world will be
stripped of their illusions of the "humanitarianism" of the American State
and see it for what it is. The vicious attacks on the working class and
socialists his reactionary dictatorship undertook on behalf of the Chilean
bourgeoisie will also be revealed. Our movement that was so brutally crushed
in Chile will have the chance to speak out to the world.

 My only regrets are that a workers' revolution in Chile that was on the
verge of occurring did not overthrow his regime. If that were to happen,
real justice would be for Pinochet and his followers to be shot in the
stadium of Santiago de Chile. Now that would be revenge.

 But no need to worry, comrades. The British State is now, in all
likeliness, going to send him back to Chile. The British and Spanish
bourgeoisie are panicking that not sending him back "home" will damage their
markets in Chile and their relationship with the ruling class there.
American imperialism is desperate for his freedom so their involvement
cannot be revealed.

 And a few leftists stand in solidarity with the Chilean, British and
Spanish bourgeoisie and the most reactionary and anti-communist elements of
these countries in defending Pinochet, whose progressive victims continue to
struggle for his extradition. All in the name of anti-imperialism...indeed,
the same people who politically defend the Milosevic regime on the same
grounds. The difference is this time you are defending what is a tool of
imperialism and the bourgeoisie. How very revolutionary.



> Yes, you are right (not used to surfing the GLW site). Here it is, and
> I still renew my objection. In the case that you put forward, it seems
> overlooked that all such trials are crafted in such a way as to
> legitimize the process, not expose and undermine it. Even if I were to
> believe that the benefits of exposing the CIA/Kissinger connection
> outweighed the further DESTRUCTION of already limited sovereignty held
> by third world countries, I can promise you that the trial the
> Spaniards would put on would never go beyond what is "safe". Witness
> Iran-Contra, to those of us on the left, it exposed things about the
> war on Nicaragua, yet the scope of the questions was only allowed so
> far. It now plays in the history books as something that was part of a
> working systems attempt to clean itself up. More importantly, it did
> not set a precedent for other countries to have their cronies hi-
> jacked. This sort of willingness to go after Pinochet will produce more
> Pinochets, and leave their leaders forever untouched. It will
> legitimise the capture of a Noriega in the future, it will open the
> door for a "trial" against Fidel or Qadaffi. Is this a reasonable price
> to pay for the knowledge that, yes, Pinchet ordered the dissappearance
> of many innocent families? Is it reasonable to make political points on
> this issue, if it will mean institutionalising the crimes of
> Imperialism in the name of "human rights"? Not in my book!

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