Shadows behind Pinochet

by Zane Carpenter

Everyone is now aware that the Labour Home Secretary, Jack Straw, ‘has a mind to release’ the mass murderer, General Augusto Pinochet. But what has led Mr Straw to be so ‘minded’?

The official reason is medical advice, intended to have been kept secret, which, supposedly, casts doubt on the ability of Pinochet to stand trial. This reason is very dubious as Britain has not been asked to put Pinochet on trial. Britain has merely been asked by its EU partner, Spain, to transport Pinochet there for trial on Spanish soil, in a Spanish court. This being the case, surely the only question Mr Straw had to ask himself or his medical advisers was: is Pinochet fit, medically, to be tranported to Spain? If the answer to that question is no, then it seems very strange indeed to be ‘minded’ to send him all the way to Chile.

On 14 February 2000, three senior High Court judges ordered Mr Straw to disclose the medical evidence, that had so ‘minded’ him to release Pinochet, to the countries seeking extradition. Jack Straw had, of course, been refusing to do this up to that date on the grounds of confidentiality and claiming that to disclose the medical ‘evidence’ would be an infringement of Pinochet’s human rights! Such concern for the, obviously sensitive, feelings of the man who led the butchery of thousands is very touching, but has Mr Straw not considered the human rights of the ‘missing’ who were tortured and slain in the most horrific ways? Did the Home Secretary not consider the human rights of the surviving relatives of the missing who saw mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, sons and daughters rounded up and led away, never to be seen alive again? No, of course not! The British Labour government, just like any other bourgeois government, recognises the human rights only of the rich and powerful.

Many of those individuals and organisations who are opposed to Pinochet’s release have accused him of faking dementia in order to fool the medical examiners (doing an Ernest Saunders) and this is probably so. However, little is said of the biggest fakes in the whole affair, the Labour government!

In answer to a request from Spain, Pinochet was arrested on 16 October 1998, but it was never intended that the General would stand trial for any of his crimes. It suited American and British imperialism, to look even-handed while bombing and starving the Iraqi people and causing war and destabilisation in Yugoslavia, to play the role of moral judges over one of their own puppet despots.

Another very interesting aspect of this sorry busuiness is the fact that Pinochet was here as a guest, on the special invitation of the Department of Trade and Industry for the purpose of buying weapons. This being the case, is it not strange indeed that the British government arrested him in the first place? Also, despite much huffing and puffing in Santiago, there has been no adverse effect on trade with Chile – arms sales included! Further, if we look at Mr Straw’s announcement as to the state of his ‘mind’ regarding the release of this killer, it coincides with the ending of the Chilean Presidential elections.

Both the candidates in that election, Ricardo Lagos (supposed socialist) and Joaquin Lavin (openly right wing), have consistently called for the release of Pinochet and his return to Chile. Both have played down the fascist overthrow of the elected socialist government of Salvador Allende and the bloodbath that followed it. Both have portrayed themselves as leaders of parties interested only in national salvation through their policies of class compromise. Their ‘national interest’, of course, is the national interest of the bourgeoisie and is against the interests of the working classes. Both candidates, despite their protests to the contrary, were very glad to have the physical presence of Pinochet out of the way while they performed their constitutional illusion (i.e., held the election).

At his victory rally, Ricardo Lagos, who won by 51.3% to 48.6%, clasped the hand of Joaquin Lavin to show their unity of purpose. However, large sections of the crowd were chanting ‘

Put Pinochet on trial’.

This is a course of action that Mr Lagos is extremely unlikely to follow. In fact a constitutional amendment is being pushed through the Chilean Parliament which would allow the bloody General to relinquish his ‘senator for life’ status (an acute embarrassment to the current Chilean government) without the possibility of his standing trial there. In his speech at his victory rally, Mr Lagos declared that

“we have triumphed … but it is a defat for no one … I will be President for all Chieans.”

This meaningless bourgeois-democratic drivel ties in with his statement during the elections that:

“I don’t aspire to be the second socialist President” (Salvador Allende being the first),

“I aspire to be the third President of the Concertación” (the Christian-Democrat/Socialist coalition).

It is now useful to the Chilean bourgeoisie and their American and British imperialist backers to portray the events of 1973 as a military coup by an individual fascist with the support of some like-minded generals. This is not, however, the truth. That the overthrow of Allende’s government was fascist is beyond doubt. It is equally beyond doubt that Pinochet was the figurehead of this fascism. But anyone who believes that fascism is about individual dictators and not about the class rule of the bourgeoisie is sadly mistaken.

In the words ofthat great anti-fascist fighter, Georgi Dimitrov, speaking in 1935:

” … Fascism is not a power standing above class, nor a power of the petty bourgeoisie or the lumpenproletariat over finance capital. Fascism is the power of finance capital itself. It is the organisation of terrorist vengeance against the working class and the revolutionary section of the peasantry and the intelligentsia.”

When the bourgeoisie can no longer rule through their sham democracy, when the working classes become strong and reach for power, then the bourgeoisie of that country (or, as in the case of Chile, their foreign imperialist masters) have only two options: they either surrender their power and watch the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie taken apart; or they employ openly fascist methods to suppress the working classes and deprive them of their most progressive elements. The Chilean ruling class and US imperialism took the second option.

The Chilean bourgeoisie, having now firmly re-established its rule, has returned to the sham democracy it practised prior to 1973. This being the case, it no longer needs fascism, at present, and has put it to one side. But the very last thing they need is Pinochet being put on trial for his crimes, as any real analysis of 1973 would not only find Augusto Pinochet guilty of mass murder, but it would also point the finger at the class which benefits from it and the Amerian imperialists who masterminded it.

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