The Socialist 15 December 2006
NHS Crisis: Turn anger into action
Good riddance to the 'butcher of Chile'
ON SUNDAY 10 December the biggest killer and robber Chile has ever seen, ex dictator Augusto Pinochet, died. Hundreds of thousands of Chileans went out onto the streets to celebrate.
Celso Callufan, Socialismo Revolucionario (CWI Chile), Santiago
In the centre of Santiago they celebrated with champagne drums and dancing. But unfortunately, when they arrived in front of the government building the 'carabinero' police began to violently repress the demonstrators.
When Pinochet carried out his military coup on the 11 September 1973, he said that it was to "bring an end to corruption and the loss of moral values".
Thousands of Chilean workers and mapuche (indigenous people) were killed, hundreds of thousands were tortured and imprisoned in the country's football stadiums.
The majority of dead and tortured were completely disarmed when they were taken away by the country's "valiant soldiers". The majority of today's Armed Forces top command were the young officers of that period, "the mummy's boys". They were the most savage in their treatment of the detainees in the first days of the criminal dictatorship which terrorised this country for 17 years.
Christian Democracy, together with the Right, was one of the main promoters of the coup. Given that the Chilean Socialist Party long ago assumed the political and economic legacy of the dictatorship, it is not surprising that these same people want to honour the dictator.
The Right and the 'Concertacion' (the coalition government including the Chilean Socialist Party) heap great praise on the economic model inherited from the Pinochet dictatorship. But this neo-liberal model has only benefited the richest 20% of the population. At the other end, 20% live in extreme poverty and another 40% in poverty conditions.
With the neo-liberal 'model' we have lost our rights in the workplace and the bosses have increased exploitation.
Under the dictatorship we had levels of unemployment reaching 30%. They created job schemes where we were paid starvation wages and many families had to eat in soup kitchens and churches or with neighbours. We saw the highest levels of children begging in the streets and women and girls becoming prostitutes in order to eat.
The right that workers had to a decent retirement was turned into big business for the bosses, with a few getting very rich while millions of elderly people will face a miserable future in years to come. There has been a similar situation with health and education. While the bosses are enriching themselves from this 'market' the majority of workers and their families have terrible health conditions and an education that doesn't even reach the basic requirements that existed before the dictatorship.
Health workers and teachers receive terrible wages and are badly treated. Social housing which used to be a right is a nightmare today for workers. The construction bosses and the banks, meanwhile, fill their pockets by robbing ordinary workers on starvation wages.
These same 'valiant' and 'patriotic' soldiers, together with the Right, are the very people who, for the price of an egg, handed over the natural wealth of our country, such as copper, to the multinational companies. They continue to rob us of our wealth, leaving nothing of their profits in this country.
This is the real economic legacy of the dictatorship which the current coalition government continues to defend and against which we are beginning to see the first important struggles, such as the struggle of the secondary school students earlier this year and currently the struggle of people who are in debt trying to keep a roof over their heads.
Pinochet's deadly 'neo-liberal' legacy
THE BUTCHER of the Chilean working class has died at long last. Unfortunately, the working class of Chile were denied the right to put this anti-working class and anti-socialist tyrant on trial for his crimes.
General Pinochet led a military coup which overthrew a democratically elected Social Democratic government of 1970-73. This government carried out a raft of reforms that improved the conditions of workers and peasants in Chile. The copper industry (Chile's largest export) was nationalised and the government received support from the masses.
Unfortunately, the government, under the leadership of Salvador Allende, failed to complete the socialist revolution and left the levers of power in the hands of the ruling capitalist class. Pinochet himself was brought into the cabinet as it was felt that the armed forces would remain loyal.
With the support of US Imperialism, reactionary forces were backed and built up in Chile. Funds were given to the truck owners who organised a reactionary strike, along with bank workers and other sections of the middle class, in an attempt to destabilise the goverment.
Workers set up local committees which were an embryonic form of soviets and if the Allende government had leant on these committees they would have formed arms of resistance to the reactionary forces. Indeed, one million people out of a population of 14 million marched a week before the military coup, chanting "Allende, Allende the people will defend you". They demanded arms to defend the government but were denied them.
One week later on 11 September 1973, the military seized power, bombing the Presidential palace using British-made planes. Allende died in the palace, thousands were taken prisoner, between 3,000 and 4,000 were murdered or "disappeared", tens of thousands were brutally tortured and thousands more fled Chile. The leadership of the Chilean working class was slaughtered by the butcher Pinochet.
Under his dictatorship Chile was used as a laboratory for neo-liberalism - which was later introduced by Thatcher in Britain. This led to the impoverishment of hundreds of thousands of Chileans and the swelling of the coffers of the rich in society.
As someone who spent one year on the picket line when Pinochet was held under house arrest in England, along with Chilean friends who had suffered brutal torture under this murdering bastard, I rejoice that he is dead.
In this issue
War and terrorism
Violence against women
Workplace news and analysis
Socialist Party Marxist analysis
International socialist news and analysis
Socialist Party news and analysis
The Socialist Xmas quiz