Since the atrocities on September 11th 2001, this date has naturally become one of pity, for the victims of the attack on the World Trade Centre. It would take a very biased view of history to not acknowledge that the in the 1980s the US funded, supplied and trained Al Qaida in Afghanistan. Then they were considered ‘brave freedom fighters’ against the occupying forces of the Soviet Union. Furthermore, in the 1990s, the US intervened to support Islamist fanatics in Kosovo, this was only a few years after Al Qaida launched their first attack on the twin towers in 1993. Over the space of just a few years, Al Qaida morphed from US allies to supposedly the greatest threat to American freedom and democracy in history. This is a threat that has been used to impose all kinds of unconstitutional and totalitarian attacks on the liberties of American citizens, such as the patriot act and the incredible expansion of NSA spying activities. The extreme ignorance and gullibility that would be necessary to believe the idea that the US were not siding with terrorist organisations, simply because Al Qaida’s actions supported their imperial and economic interests is on par with believing that America ‘fights for peace and democracy around the world’. An idea now commonplace at remembrance ceremonies.
One event no one in the US ceremoniously remembers however is what has been called ‘the other 9/11’ by writers such as Noam Chomsky. This was the attempt to undermine and destroy democracy in Chile, after a US backed military coup on September 11th 1973, which removed the left wing government of Salvador Allende and replaced it with the fascist government of Augusto Pinochet. Importantly, this coup marked the birth of the toxic neoliberal ideology pursued by the Chicago School economists. In 1973, neoliberalism was a fringe anti left wing ideology endorsed by almost no one. Today this bankrupt pseudo economic gibberish is the global economic orthodoxy pursued by most mainstream political parties in the west. It is therefore important that we realise where this idea started, and the victims that died as a result.
When Salvador Allende was elected president of Chile in September 1970, the regime that was then inaugurated was supposed to make the case for a peaceful transition from capitalism to socialism. I have trouble myself with this form of government. Indeed, as it turned out over the following three years, the ‘socialism’ part was a bit of an exaggeration. Allendes government achieved a number of economic and social reforms under incredibly difficult conditions. However, it remained a deliberately moderate regime.
In spite of this, we were told by experts such as professor Thomas from Reading University that the trouble with Allende is that he was too much influenced by such people as Marx and Lenin, ‘rather than Mill, Tawney or Aneurin Bevin, or any other European democratic socialist’. This being the case, defenders of what happened in Chile argue, the coup cannot by any means be regarded as a defeat for democratic socialism but a defeat for Marxist Socialism. The Trouble with Allende to many of his detractors was that he was not Harold Wilson, surrounded by advisers and steeped in Keynesianism. Regardless of what type of Socialism Allende appeared to be offering however, the coup in Chile gives an excellent example of what may happen when a government gives the impression, in a bourgeois democracy, of wanting to bring about lasting reform and real change; to move in socialist directions in however gradual or transitional a manner. Whatever else may be said about Allende, there is no doubt that this is what he wanted to do. Allende and his supporters were neither Marxists nor mere Keynesians. They were people who believed in democracy.
The result of the Coup
To say that neoliberalism started with the military coup in Chile is an understatement. The man that the neoliberals backed to replace Allende was a brutal dictator called General Pinochet. During his dictatorship, over 3,000 people were ‘disappeared’, which as we now know meant captured and tortured to death. In addition to this, another 2,800 were detained without trial, most of whom were suffering torture and in many cases sexual abuse as well. Aside from those tortured and killed and the families that survived, other victims of this brutal US backed dictatorship included protesters that were burned alive in the streets by police and musicians that had their fingers broken before being machine gunned to death.
This cruel and undemocratic regime was supported by the US every step of the way. To successive American governments and their corporate backers, military dictatorship, imprisonment without trial, torture, rape and murder were an insignificant price to pay when it came to securing and defending access to the Chilean government so it could be used as a mechanism for making profits for US corporations, and letting the neoliberal pseudo economists from the Chicago school rule over the country with an iron fist. In fact, the Chilean regime was part of the US financed Operation Condor, which was a plan to control the population of the southern zone of South America through the installation of numerous brutal military dictatorships. The members of this anti-democratic group were the Pinochet military dictatorship in Chile, The Stroessner dictatorship in Paraguay, the Banzer military dictatorship that lasted from 1964 to 1985 and the 12 year military dictatorship in Uruguay.
Chile was by no means the only country to suffer at the hands of neoliberalism. Undoubtedly the most brutal members of Operation Condor were the US backed Argentine Junta that joined in 1976, after the military coup against Isabelle Peron. Whilst the US backed military dictatorship were busy murdering an estimated 30,000 Argentine civilians and torturing countless thousands more, the Chicago boys were imposing their favoured economic ideology of deregulations and privatisations, resulting in poverty and chaos for millions of Argentines. The state terrorism of this savage regime meant that few people spoke out against this economic vandalism. In the late 1970s the US and the Argentine Junta even collaborated to export their model or brutal right wing dictatorship Central American nations such as Guatemala and El Salvador, and in 1980 the Argentine Junta, the US administration and the Nazi war criminal Klaus Barbie collaborated to assist the ‘cocaine coup’ in Bolivia, which installed Luis Menza. Menza was another brutal dictator who, upon his instillation to power, outlawed all political parties and oversaw the murder of 1,000 people in just thirteen months. These are the consequences of neoliberalism.
The 43rd anniversary of the US backed military coup in Chile passed virtually unnoticed in the United States, and great swathes of the public will continue to believe the comforting lies that the US has a history of promoting democracy and freedom, rather than a demonstrable history of undermining these values. The millions of victims of the vile US backed Latin American dictatorships are not the only ones who should be remembered however. The countless global victims of the entire ‘greed is a virtue’ economic ideology, born in Chile in this day on 1973, are just as worthy of remembrance as the victims of the September 2001 atrocities.