Category: History

Communism- How did it happen?
by Richard R. Tryon

Most Americans want to think that the War on Terror has replaced the Cold War against communism. They think we won that war and that the enemy has been discredited and vanquished. That is obviously so in the sense that we do not see nuclear confrontation with the Soviet Union anymore.

However, those who think they know that communism works if given the right leadership, look at heros like Fidel Castro, Salvador Allende, and Hugo Chavez to cite examples of success of the concept. Well, purists of the left may think they can improve on these examples of leaders still in power, if only they can get the chance to rule.

It is the purpose of this chapter to keep a running log of events and policies that promote or discourage those communist leaders in the world who still cling to power and manage to give evidence that the communist or socialist system is superior.

With Chavez in Venezuela holding so much value in oil, Castro comes calling to find the needed energy in exchange for sugar? Military assistance?

But, the initial part deals with the unknown reasons for the 'dirty war' by Pinochet to save Chile from its self destruction under Allende. James Whelan writes from strong personal experience in S. America.

What Really Happened
In Chile 30 Years Ago


Having recovered from the worst of his own socialist deliriums, George Orwell wrote, after viewing the carnage of the Civil War in Spain: "At an early age, I became aware that newspapers report no event correctly. But in Spain, I read for the first time articles which bore no relation to the facts, not even the relation implicit in an ordinary lie." Of no nation since would that doleful observation apply more keenly than to the Chile of Salvador Allende and of Augusto Pinochet.

Consider the Chilean revolution of that other September 11 -- Sept. 11, 1973. It was less bloody than any other major 20th century revolution and, in economic and political terms it produced the best outcome. And yet, it is the most reviled of any in all the annals of Latin America.

Hear first from Gonzalo Vial Correa, arguably Chile's leading contemporary historian. He has written that Chile's sociopolitical system, beginning at the end of the 19th century, "suffered a progressive decay, culminating in its later and total collapse -- the collapse of death -- in 1973." Out of the wreckage, Gen. Pinochet and his associates erected a sturdy, realistic political system, anchored in the most carefully-crafted constitution in the country's history, one still in effect today after 13 years of democratic rule by center-left governments.

Like most charismatic, pioneering political figures, Allende was a complex man, steeped in democratic traditions, including 25 years in the rigorously democratic Senate, but persistently drawn to violent causes. In 1968, for example, he headed the Castro-backed Latin American Solidarity Organization, dedicated to the overthrow of democratic government.

From the beginning, Allende's Chile became a magnet for revolutionaries from all corners of the globe; eventually their numbers grew to between 10,000 and 15,000. At his show trial in Havana in 1989, Cuban Gen. Patricio de la Guardia defended himself by citing his service in Allende's Chile, training clandestine military forces. Socialist Party congresses in 1965 and 1967 proclaimed that "revolutionary violence is inevitable and legitimate. Only by destroying the bureaucratic and military apparatus of the bourgeois state can the Socialist revolution be consolidated." In 1972 -- two full years after Allende was elected -- the Party proclaimed: "The bourgeois state is not suited for the construction of socialism; its destruction is necessary . . . we must conquer all power."

By March of 1973, when the worst was yet to come, former president Eduardo Frei Montalva spoke of "this carnival of madness." He added: "Chile is in the throes of an economic disaster -- not a crisis but a veritable catastrophe no one could foresee would happen so swiftly nor so totally. The hatred is worse than the inflation, the shortages, the economic disaster. There is anguish in Chile."

Faced with illegal seizures of farms and factories, of defiance of judicial orders, unchecked street violence and death threats against the judges themselves, the Supreme Court warned on May 26, 1973, in a unanimous and unprecedented message, that Chile faced "a peremptory or imminent breakdown of legality." Three months later, on Aug. 22, the Chamber of Deputies -- which had come within two votes of impeaching Allende -- voted a resolution which said "it is a fact that this Government has been, from the very beginning, bent on the conquest of total power . . . so as to implant a totalitarian system."

It was in that setting that Gen. Pinochet and the heads of the other armed forces acted, responding not to the craving for power typical of Latin caudillos, but to the clamor of a desperate people. Former President Gabriel Gonzalez Videla joined Frei and the third living president in thanking the military: "The Armed Forces have liberated us from the Marxist claws . . . the totalitarian apparatus which had been prepared to destroy us has itself been destroyed."

After the coup, the radical left was still not going to give up. The military and the growing cadres of civilians who joined it had to take aim at underground terrorist forces. In that, they had expert help: French secret service agents who had waged France's savage war in the 1950s against Algerian independence forces coached secret police organizations in Chile -- and also Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay. The man who headed Chile's secret police, Manuel Contreras, said recently that Gen. Paul Aussaresses, former head of the French intelligence service, personally trained Chilean agents in Brazil. In his monumental work, "Modern Times," historian Paul Johnson wrote that the French state terror units headed by Gen. Aussaresses "murdered and tortured prisoners, and on a wide scale. In this case, neither liberal France nor the international community raised a whimper of protest."

Mr. Vial Correa, a member of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission has written: "But I believe he [Gen. Pinochet] never imagined that in the feared DINA [the secret police], random abuse would be the rule, much less a rule so extreme and universally outside the law."

Suppose Gen. Pinochet and his fellow commanders had not acted? Patricio Aylwin succeeded Gen. Pinochet as the first elected president and was among those imploring the military to act. A constant and acerbic critic in more recent years, he was in 1973 president of his Christian Democrat Party. He said then that if the military had not acted, Chile would have had to mourn the deaths of hundreds of thousands killed at the hands of Red brigades.

He was far from alone in that judgment. Volodia Teitelboim, the chief ideologue of the Communist Party (who spent his entire exile preaching violence from the microphones of Radio Moscow), said a few months before the coup that if civil war came, "it probably would signify immense loss of human lives, between half a million and one million." On Sept. 11, because the military averted civil war, the actual death toll was under 200.

Mr. Teitelboim was recently honored with Chile's National Literary award. Meanwhile, Gen. Pinochet, the man who saved the country, is every day vilified, ostracized. Abandoned even by his military colleagues, the 87-year-old general is supported by a small coterie of family and friends. But then, a Socialist president once again governs Chile.

Mr. Whelan is an adjunct scholar at the Institute of World Politics in Washington, and former visiting professor at the University of Chile.

Updated September 12, 2003

Commentary by
Richard R. Tryon

This is easily one of the best articles to summarize a book about what really happened in Chile back in 1973. Western journalism has long portrayed Allende as a man of the people,a patriot who did his best to bring Chile's people a hope for a better patterned after his mentor Fidel Castro and encouraged by Russians as well. The novelist niece, Isabel Allende has done well with stories that encourage this benign view of Salvador Allende and encourage the widely held view in the world that Gen. Augusto Pinochet was a tyrant who blatantly lead a repressive regime that systematically murdered thousands of victims, innocent of all but the charge of working in the interests of the people.

Most Americans in 1973 were driven to focusing their attention on the OPEC campaign to prove that they had not only successfully confiscated, by nationalization activities, the control of the world's oil resource by placing an embargo on sales to its biggest customer, the U.S.! We waited in long lines on alternate days depending upon 'license plate bingo' for the chance to buy gasoline! We were not ever much aware of the politics or history of Chile, a long, skinny country in S.America that had something to do with copper and bird guano or fertilizer! That Chile had along reputation as being the most democratic nation in S.America with thriving industry and trade was unknown. That Chile had slid to an unimaginably depressed condition under the communist leadership of the popularly elected Allende was not understood by most Americans, and even among those that did, the common expressions were either to choose to ignore what was happening, or worse, applaud it as a sign of the new kind of thinking necessary to improve the chance for economic and political freedom. Land reform- or more correctly, confiscation with a piece for thousands of peasants was an accepted notion of a way to correct sins of the past when ownership was too concentrated in the hands of too few!

What else did Americans fail to see? That the Pinochet mechanism was moving rapidly to a show down civil war in which all enemies of the people would be eliminated ala Castro's takeover in Cuba or the Russian model of 1917, was not understood here.

How could Chile be saved from the total destruction of its battered economy driven by the zealous communist ideologues? By democratic process at the polls? Forget it! That option had already disappeared. No, it took a call for the military to take matters domestically into hand and to step out of the role of being the servant of the political system and become the leadership of it. The coup was fast and relatively small in terms of loss of human lives- both innocent bystanders and communist rank and file. Without the 'tough love' actions of Pinochet, Chile would have fallen into the Cuban model and become a land of intelligent people ruled by Pinochet in the name of the people who would have no way to cope with the systematic destruction of all of the means of intelligent energy and knowledge to make Chile whole again. It would have become another dictatorship controlled by bureaucrats that could only respond to the top down orders from the select few leaders of the dictatorship. The managed economy would have failed as it did in Russia and does to this day in Cuba.

Those who think otherwise are sometimes nice, well meaning people, who somehow think of the perfectibility of man being a function of good communist leadership and control. These people do not give up. When they see people win back their freedom, they just 'wring their hands' over the fact that somehow the wrong leadership botched up their utopian dream.

We would do well to read the full story. Meanwhile, a further view of James Whelan is found by reading his posting to a web page open to subscribers. It is already out of date in that Chavez has remained in power and nobody yet knows if any peaceful and therefore acceptable or democratic route remains to save Venezuela from this dictator. Our State Department will continue to call for this impossible solution while no doubt secretly hoping for a quick coup that kills few and puts a more reasonable person in control via some sort of election process that still give a democratic sign of legitimacy to a new government.

A reading of the following helps us in understand the history of government in S. America. It is not as pretty a picture as is found by reading the history of such in the U.S.- not that the differences are always an indication of a more favorable result in the U.S. Generally, however, we are still able to make our way, even in the age of a War on Terror.

Immigration & Foreign Affairs
Death by Democracy: Venezuela's Via Dolorosa

by James R. Whelan
Posted Feb 3, 2003

Mortally ill, scorned and rejected, Venezuela's great liberator Simon Bolivar looked back from his deathbed on his Herculean efforts to forge a great democratic union in South America, and pronounced melancholy judgment: "America is ungovernable. He who serves the cause of revolution plows the sea."

That is the crux of today's crisis in Venezuela.

On the surface, Venezuela is "governable." Hugo Chavez, the current president, is the seventh man to reach power in free elections since democracy dawned in the country in 1959.

(There had been a few earlier, sputtering stabs at democracy, but basically the country had been ruled by a succession of dictators ever since Bolivar liberated it from Spanish rule in 1821. Indeed, until the late-30s, Venezuela more nearly resembled a medieval feudal state than a modern nation.)

The problem is that democracy in Venezuela—as in much of Latin America—is more a matter of form than substance. Not surprisingly, in a broad-based survey a few years ago, one in five Latin Americans said they preferred, in some cases, an authoritarian government to a democratic one. Support for democracy was strong in only two countries—Uruguay (80%) and Argentina (76%)—while just 60 % in Venezuela professed faith in democracy. (The support level dropped to 52% in Chile, Paraguay and Peru, and fell further to 49% in Mexico and 41% in Brazil.)

Venezuela's present predicament is compounded by the fact that of the seven "democrats" who have worn the presidential sash, Chavez is, by far, the least democratic and the most incompetent—and that is saying much, inasmuch as one of his predecessors is a fugitive from justice, and another served time in prison. For at least the past 30 years, presidents have specialized in crafting policies that have turned a rich country ever more into a poor country.

The errors of the past pale alongside Chavez's madcap performance. Since early December, the country has been virtually paralyzed by a combination general strike and mass protest designed to persuade Chavez to resign or, at the minimum, agree to an accelerated referendum on the legitimacy of his presidency.

The movement gained powerful clout when oil executives and workers joined the strike, about a month ago. Oil is the country's biggest source of income, and Venezuela is the world's fifth largest producer, and third largest foreign supplier to the United States. Output is now down from the normal three million barrels a day to 260,000 barrels, according to the opposition. The government claims 600,000 to 700,000 barrels are being pumped.

But pump or no, striking ship captains and crews have kept virtually all the oil bottled up in ports. So, political turmoil in a "yawn" country for most Americans has already hit millions of us in the pocketbook. Oil prices have jumped 52% in a year, and crude oil for February delivery rose 65 cents a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

Back to Chavez. Even if he is forced from office—which, right now, looks extremely unlikely—that would leave untouched the underlying problem of a political system built on quicksand. Granted, it would solve the immediate problem of ridding the country of a crackpot president whose idols include Mao Tse Tung and Fidel Castro and whose legacy so far is political gridlock, economic ruin and social upheaval and not a little bloodshed. There is, indeed, a clear risk of civil war in Venezuela, and should it come, the toll of dead, bloodied and homeless could reach Balkan proportions. Healing the wounds of such fratricide could take generations..

Chavez does have one important strength: the "enlightened" governments of the West, which cling tenaciously to the flummery that if a president is elected democratically, he is then untouchable. (By that logic, of course, the democratically elected Herr Hitler would have been untouchable.)

Chavez actually has been elected twice: once in 1998, and again in 2000, both times overwhelmingly (contriving the second time, to become the only president in Venezuelan history re-elected while still in office). He also scrapped the old Constitution and produced a new one, vastly expanding his powers. From a high of 80% in 2000, his backing in the polls has dropped recently to around 30%, as his autocratic style and demagogic policies spread alarm and misery.

But, to the international elites, the cries of anguish of the Venezuelan people matter far less than the niceties of preserving "democracy." It seems not to matter that Chavez himself is Public Enemy # 1 of democracy in Venezuela.

The State Department is, of course, caught in the same trap. Once democracy is deified, how to support the clamor of a people seeking to throw off their "democratic" shackles? (Oil also—quite obviously—figures in the namby-pamby posturing of the State Department in this crisis.)

Nobody seems, either, to notice that analysts from Plato onward have warned that democracy can—and frequently does—run amok. And, as the late (and eminent) political scientist Hans Morgenthau observed, some years ago, democracy is not some sort of gadget than can be installed, willy-nilly, in any political household.

Diego Portales, the architect of the political instruments that propelled Chile after independence far ahead of the other countries of Latin America, put it even more pungently:

"Democracy," he wrote in 1822, "is an absurdity in countries like those of America which are full of vices, and whose citizens lack the virtue necessary for a true Republic. . . . [Still], the Republic is the system we must adopt; but [one with] a strong, centralizing Government whose members are genuine examples of virtue and patriotism, and thus set the citizens on the straight path of order and the virtues. When they have attained a degree of morality, then we can have the completely liberal sort of Government, free and full of ideals, in which all the citizens can partake."

But, why go afield for expert opinion? While he fought as hard to lead his countrymen to a viable democratic government as he did on far-flung fields of battle, Bolivar was also, in his twilight years, deeply skeptical about the ability of the people to vault from colonial vassals to democracy. The federal form of government that he liked he rejected as unworkable:

"I believe," he wrote to a comrade-in-arms, a year before his death in 1830, "it would be better for South America to adopt the Koran rather than the United States' form of government, although the latter is the best on earth." Instead, he came down on the side of a lifetime presidency with a strong, central government—but always subject to the free will of the people.

As he grappled with the enduring dilemma of Latin America—tyranny or anarchy?—Bolivar tinged his skepticism with a never-extinguished hope that the people could be raised up to the self-reliant level of his democratic dream through "moral enlightenment, our first necessity." This enlightenment would come from selfless leaders of learning and character, who would consult history and the experiences of other newborn lands, all under "the protection of the holy religion that we profess."

Venezuela—most of Latin America—would embrace no such vocation. Chavez, then, is not the first to scar democracy beyond recognition. But when he goes—if he goes—it will be the task of those who come after to build not on the rotten foundation bequeathed by those who went before, but on one matching the vision of the man who made them free.

Then it will be said that Simon Bolivar did not, after all, attempt to "plow the sea."

Mr. Whelan lived in Venezuela for five years as part of a Latin America career spanning more than four decades.

Previous Chapter