Through the retrospectoscope: Salvadore Allende

By skepticlawyer

For a combination of reasons too obscure to recount, Catallaxy’s last open thread finished up debating (largely) the merits (or otherwise) of deposed Chilean leader Dr Salvadore Allende, alongside the merits (or otherwise) of General Augusto Pinochet, the military impresario who deposed him in a bloody coup in 1973.

Allende was a socialist, and I think it’s fair to say his economic policies were ruinous. He expropriated much of the country’s wealth without compensation, behaved like a robber baron with respect to agrarian reform, and sought advice of all kinds from Fidel Castro. He was, however, democratically elected. Pinochet, by contrast, was a strongman in the classic junta mould; he killed and tortured many of his political opponents during his accession to power and rule. Although it is fair to say that his regime was by no means as bloody as comparable leftist regimes during the same period (Cambodia, anyone?), he was not a nice guy, sponsoring terrorism outside Chile’s borders (including in the US) to serve his own ends. That said, his economic advisors were largely taught by Milton Friedman. Known as The Chicago Boys, they laid the foundation for a spectacular economic recovery. Chile now has the highest standard of living in Latin America; subsequent Chilean governments – of all political stripes – have disavowed Pinochet, but they haven’t changed his economic policies.

Pinochet occupied the centre of a cause celebre in Britain over his detention while in the UK for medical treatment, on alleged torture charges. He has since been stripped of his immunity in his home country, and (presuming he doesn’t die soon) may yet come to trial.

Jason and I were firmly on the side of the angels, pointing out that while Allende was a twit, he was a democratically elected twit, and that for all the economic good Pinochet did later, he had no right to conduct a military coup against a democratically elected leader. Graeme Bird then (as is his wont) pointed us to this article.

Victor Farias, best known for blowing Martin Heidegger’s Nazi cover, has now done a similar job on Allende. Among other things, he went and read Allende’s thesis. In it, Allende advocated sterilizing the disabled and mentally ill and described Jews in the following terms:

The Hebrews are well-known committers of certain types of crimes including: fraud, deceit, defamation, but most notably usury.

Of course, he likely changed – lots of people supported eugenics in the 1930s, not just Hitler. There were eugenics programs in Sweden, Brazil, the USSR and the US – countries representing all shades along the political spectrum.

However, Farias maintains that Allende’s anti-semitism did not wane in quite the same way:

the new revelations about Allende give more meaning to Allende’s refusal to turn Nazi criminal Walter Rauff over to Germany in 1972, after Rauff had found refuge in Chile. Even attempts by the Nazi hunter Simon Wiesenthal to intervene with the president failed at the time. In a letter, Allende responded that the president was not allowed to get involved in judicial matters. Formally speaking, Allende was right. Chile’s Supreme Court had previously ruled that Rauff – who had been a senior official in the SS and headed the development of portable gas chambers – could not be handed over because the statute of limitations on his case had expired.

Now that may be a reasonable refusal – lots of other countries have refused to hand over alleged Nazi war criminals when asked by Israel or the Simon Weisenthal Centre. However, Allende was busily behaving in a most unconstitutional manner when it came to his corporate expropriation and land distribution program. How did Walter Rauff suddenly earn due process and constitutional respect?

Allende has become something of an icon to the left, much as Pinochet is uncritically admired by the likes of Margaret Thatcher on the right for his economic reforms. Is it time – in light of Farias’ research – to reconsider both?


  1. GMB
    Posted October 30, 2006 at 7:01 pm | Permalink

    They deserve the abuse skeptic.

    Its good for them.

  2. GMB
    Posted October 30, 2006 at 7:02 pm | Permalink

    “PS I’m not a communist, and I bathe every day.”

    Marxists lie all the time.

    Go take a bath.

    Don’t just talk about it.

  3. GMB
    Posted October 30, 2006 at 7:06 pm | Permalink

    “Look, if Pinochet was acting for the ‘people’ or in defence of democracy, he would have held free elections immediately instead of seizing and consolidating power. Instead, he destroyed democracy in Chile.”

    No thats bullshit.

    Its not cut and dried (at least from where we sit) that he didn’t have to contain a civil war.

    Find some more data.

    You don’t just have people running 500% inflation and freelance commie thugs stealing 1500 farms and then you oust the marxist and everything comes right.

    Don’t be ludicrous.

  4. fatfingers
    Posted October 30, 2006 at 7:10 pm | Permalink

    I’m not a Marxist either. You do know about this thing called naunce? Subtlety? Grey areas? Political spectrum? Centrism? Mixed economies? Social democracy?

    Obviously not. You are either Bird-brained or Marxist/communist in your funny little world.

    You make me giggle. 🙂 Come back anytime, I might have more silver stars for you.

  5. GMB
    Posted October 30, 2006 at 7:13 pm | Permalink

    Your as subtle as a crap on silk sheets.

  6. jc
    Posted October 30, 2006 at 7:17 pm | Permalink

    You are truly being an idiot; Bird is right on that score. You’re all over he fucking place, dude. One minute your telling us what a wonderful cook Allende was, next you are telling us how awful he was and then you have a shot at the Americans. The last one seems to be par for the course for any leftist twat for brains to somehow demonstrate his credentials to the rest of the useless fucking gaggle.

    Look you nimrod; we were in the middle of a cold war. In the early 70”s it really did look like we were on the back foot and losing to a Sovs. Things looked awful for the good side. There was Vietnam, Watergate, and inflation edging up. Most markers looked like shit for the west.

    The one area that looked safe for the US was South America and then Allende started to get cozy with Moscow and their little buttfuck stooge, Castro.

    Allende was also a KGB stooge as we have found out from various books detailing what was in the KGB files. So was his son in law. Pino acted because he knew what was coming if these worms ever got a leg in. All he had to do was count the dead as a result of Castro’s handiwork. Recent count is about 100,000 dead as a result of Castro and Che. Pino knew and he had to stop it before it engulfed Chile. So as I said at the beginning it was swapping less evil for greater evil.

    I thought about your Thailand analogy. No comparison. The Thais aren’t dealing with communist insurrections the way they were 30 years ago. When they did it was bloody and the only reason the good Thais won was because the Thai military had the support of the King to go after those pricks and destroy them. These present coups are essentially political machinations with the king always in firm moral control. If the coup was a commie led thing the level of violence would be horrendous.

  7. jc
    Posted October 30, 2006 at 7:19 pm | Permalink

    you’re essentially telling us that your family would have preferred allende to Pino. Well that’s a choice, but there are millions of other Chilians who may not have supported what he did, but they certainly don’t dwell on it as they knew what was in store for them if the other side won. Sometimes you just hold your nose.

  8. jc
    Posted October 30, 2006 at 7:21 pm | Permalink

    “I’m not a Marxist either. You do know about this thing called naunce? Subtlety? Grey areas? Political spectrum? Centrism? Mixed economies? Social democracy?”

    He we go, the leftist rule that the other side needs to meet them on their terms. Fats, go away.

  9. Bring Back EP at LP
    Posted October 30, 2006 at 7:34 pm | Permalink


    stop inventing fiction.
    Allende was elected.
    He was allowed decrees. It wasn’t illegal.
    There wasn’t any red army inspired militia about to take over Chile.

    If there was Pinochet would have blurted it to the hills.

    you are merely putting a very poor rationalisation of changing a government you do not like by a coup.

    didn’t your parents ever tell you swearing is the mark of the uneducated?

  10. Posted October 30, 2006 at 7:45 pm | Permalink

    Well I didn’t get to do my sooning because my glorious DSL connection decided to shit itself.

    But sooning is a definite possibility.

  11. jc
    Posted October 30, 2006 at 7:59 pm | Permalink

    When do you think it is worth a fight? When do you think it is time to take a prick out of government?

    I am not making stuff up, you are. He was issuing edicts without asking congress to vote. He was doing a mini Castro.

  12. GMB
    Posted October 30, 2006 at 7:59 pm | Permalink

    What are you talking about EP?

    You have merely worded things so that you are saying non-relevant JIVE and staying a tiny bit clear of not lying.

    We aren’t interested in what ALLENDE didn’t do. What he did do was unforgiveable.

    And it was lawful to oust him.

    We are beyond that.

    We just don’t have the information to see if the killing was basically pre-empting a civil war.

    Or was it totally gratuitous?

    Now I don’t know that. But what I do know is that the first part THE FIRST STEP the ousting of Allende from the government….. Well that was good and necessary and legal.

    If Thaksan wants to go out shooting to try and inspire a revolution…… or if Mr Whitlam had rigged things in that way…..

    Well thats not helpful.

    But it doesn’t make their ousting more or less legal or more or less unjust then what it was in real life.

    Now I think we are beyond that stuff and onto the relative prudence and justice of the crackdown.

    But then I could be wrong. But if you can prove that I’d like to hear it.

    Otherwise lets focus on the crackdown.

    Who got killed and why?

    If it was the farm-stealers then thats all good and according to Hoyles.

  13. Bring Back EP at LP
    Posted October 30, 2006 at 8:01 pm | Permalink


    was it legal.

    I am afraid it was. It was done before thus no court battle on which sat no ‘friends’.

    you are simply into hyperbole because you are defending the indefensible

  14. fatfingers
    Posted October 30, 2006 at 8:04 pm | Permalink

    GMB: “Your as subtle as a crap on silk sheets.”

    That’s rich coming from you, OH WONDERFUL PARAGON OF INTELLECT. And you spell it “you’re”.

    JC: “One minute your telling us what a wonderful cook Allende was”

    ??? That line was so bizarre, I just had to go back and check I wasn’t sleep-typing at some point and did actually write that. Of course, I didn’t.

    “next you are telling us how awful he was and then you have a shot at the Americans.”

    My gosh, can’t I hate everyone?

    “The one area that looked safe for the US was South America and then Allende started to get cozy with Moscow”

    That’s right, I forgot. Countries other than the US are not allowed to determine how they live their lives. They are to be vassal states or enemies, nothing less.

    “Pino acted because he knew what was coming if these worms ever got a leg in”

    There’s your all-seeing eye again. Are you a Mason? So how come Pinoshit only acted after three years if “he knew what was coming”? And they had more than a leg in – they were in government!

    “Fats, go away.”

    Why, do I make you uncomfortable? Do I niggle at your conscience? Do I undermine your assumptions about the world? Do I negate your clumsy arguments with facts and figures and reasoning? My apologies.


  15. GMB
    Posted October 30, 2006 at 8:08 pm | Permalink

    “you are simply into hyperbole because you are defending the indefensible”

    Are you A GENIUS???

    What was indefensible about legally ousting a marxist.

    Come on GENIUS. Walk the walk.

    You’ve come up with this idiocy.

    Now defend it.


  16. Bring Back EP at LP
    Posted October 30, 2006 at 8:15 pm | Permalink

    birdy there is an idiot roaming this blog but this time it isn’t me

  17. Posted October 30, 2006 at 8:16 pm | Permalink

    Have now started sooning.

    Graeme, watch the immoral equivalency. Fatfingers, how deep was Allende in with Castro and the Soviets?

  18. Jason Soon
    Posted October 30, 2006 at 8:16 pm | Permalink

    Just FTR, that wasn’t me doing the Sooning 🙂

  19. fatfingers
    Posted October 30, 2006 at 8:18 pm | Permalink

    Oh, no, I’ve been Sooned! And my language was so tame compared to you-know-who, too.

  20. Posted October 30, 2006 at 8:18 pm | Permalink

    This blog now has Vice-Soons? 😉

  21. Posted October 30, 2006 at 8:23 pm | Permalink

    Yep, that was me doing the sooning. I’m not as good at it as Jason, but have decided it works much better than deleting (what I did last time people got narky).

    As you were (minus the language, pls).

  22. GMB
    Posted October 30, 2006 at 8:24 pm | Permalink

    ““you are simply into hyperbole because you are defending the indefensible”

    I aint letting you give this one the slip EP.

    How can you say it was indefensible to legally oust Allende after his committed theiving spree and 500% inflation?

    What on earth are you talking about.

    Don’t pussy out now EP. Surely you must have an excuse for this sort of talk.

  23. fatfingers
    Posted October 30, 2006 at 8:27 pm | Permalink

    SL, Allende was cultivated by the Soviets and he provided them with information. He wasn’t an agent. He received aid and advice, but he condemned the invasions of Hungary and Czechoslovakia too. Allende wasn’t an arm of the Soviet empire – he was a nationalist who though socialism would work in Chile.

  24. Posted October 30, 2006 at 8:29 pm | Permalink

    I suppose it might be worth considering the reasonable limits to fermenting revolution. That only deals with the coup itself, though. Pinochet stayed in power until 1990, and for at least the first part of his reign was extremely oppressive – even if the killing and torture was fairly small beans by contemporary lefty standards.

  25. GMB
    Posted October 30, 2006 at 8:29 pm | Permalink

    He did what and he got what and you say he ISN’T AN AGENT?

    You are a communist bud.

    You just can’t help yourself can you?

  26. Posted October 30, 2006 at 8:32 pm | Permalink

    SL – that opens up the key moral question doesn’t it? To wit, allowing that the General rightly felt he had to crush the heathen communist society-wreckers, could he have marginalised and defeated them by less brutal means?

  27. Posted October 30, 2006 at 8:33 pm | Permalink

    How much was he in bed with Castro?

    I don’t usually buy ‘saved from future nasties’ arguments (why I didn’t like commenters projecting how many people they thought Allende would kill were it not for Pinochet). However, I am glad the Yanks got rid of Che while he was still young enough to look good on a t-shirt.

  28. Posted October 30, 2006 at 8:36 pm | Permalink

    Yep, that’s the big one, CL. And Pinochet crucially undermined himself by holding onto power for so long.

  29. GMB
    Posted October 30, 2006 at 8:36 pm | Permalink

    Well thats the point CL.

    But dudes are shying away from it.

    What was the likelihood of a communist Guerilla movement breaking out.

    If you have farm-stealing goons and relationships with both Castro and the Soviets it looks pretty likely.

    How could you stop and insurgency with a country shaped like that.

    And what was their template. The Spanish and Mexican civil wars?

    Thats what we have to figure out. Whether its a case of the General beating the insurgency before it really got a head of steam.

  30. fatfingers
    Posted October 30, 2006 at 8:38 pm | Permalink

    GMB, just because you have high inflation and the government stealing more than it normally does, doesn’t mean any random thug evicting the government is doing so legitimately.

  31. GMB
    Posted October 30, 2006 at 8:38 pm | Permalink

    It might be that the country wasn’t safe to go back to democracy until after the cold war was won.

    Look at the make-up before and after Reagan.

    And explosion of democracy he leaves in his wake.

  32. fatfingers
    Posted October 30, 2006 at 8:42 pm | Permalink

    Castro? Not very much. Fidel didn’t like Allende’s “go-slow” tactics, although he thought Allende was heading in the right direction.

  33. GMB
    Posted October 30, 2006 at 8:51 pm | Permalink

    In the right direction to WHERE commie.

    Its still the enslavement of everyone via the theft of everything.

  34. GMB
    Posted October 30, 2006 at 8:55 pm | Permalink

    “GMB, just because you have high inflation and the government stealing more than it normally does, doesn’t mean any random thug evicting the government is doing so legitimately.”

    Yes it does. And we would thank that random thug and his faithful Indian side-kick.

    But it was no random thug. It was the head of the armed forces acting on a request from the Congress……

    Thats right isn’t it?

    When a thief is trying to enslave everyone via making their savings worthless and stealing all their property……. Well thats one thing…But if he’s going to operate ruthlessly outside constitutional norms to do it I wouldn’t care which wondering gunman made him stop.

  35. jc
    Posted October 30, 2006 at 11:33 pm | Permalink

    Is Castro finally dead again? There are reports the old bastard may have dropped it and little brother is consolidating power before Castro is officially pronounced dead. That’s good. That’s a good thing.

  36. Posted October 30, 2006 at 11:46 pm | Permalink

    Can’t find anything on the main news-sites, but there have been rumours flying about.

  37. cosmo
    Posted November 17, 2006 at 7:18 pm | Permalink

    Just some comments on this thread.

    The whole “Allende is a Jew hater and racist” charge is false. While Farias may have read Allende’s thesis (and deliberately misrepresented what he read), the person who wrote this article (skepticlawer?), clearly did not. The first rule of any research, especially when a charge so serious is leveled at a figure that for many of his countrymen represents the very meaning of dignity, is to go to the source itself. Allende quotes, and dismisses the Italian criminologist’s ideas. Only Farias knows why he would attribute those ideas to Allende, when the text of the thesis is quite clear, especially to a native spanish speaker. Allende was never a “Jew hater” anymore than he was a racist, or a proponent of euthenasia for the disabled. The true nature of his correspondence with Wiesenthal is clear to anyone who cares to take the time to read all of it.
    Second, I don’t know who jc is, but I do know that his/her grasp of the situation in Chile, both in the early ’70s and after Pinochet left the Presidency, bears little relation to reality. That Chile is a little better off than her neighbours is hardly something to trumpet as some sort of economic miracle, and Chile has always been one of the more stable economies in that continent anyway. To go and credit the ruinous policies of the Chicago Boys for Chile’s “prosperity” in relation to her neighbours is silly. Chile survived despite the Chicago Boys and Pinochet, not because of them. I might also point out that these policies were attempted in a good chunk of Latin America. What happened to those “miracles”?
    Allende was a humanitarian, whose sense of dignity and personal honor were confirmed at a critical point. His eternal optimism refused to let him see, perhaps, that the forces arrayed against him were overwhelming. The military, trained, armed, and most importantly, indoctrinated by the US, as most Latin American armies are. The rich landowners and businessmen, the same ones who occupied the opposition seats in the house, desperate to hang on to their villas and privileges as children died of poverty in slums that were breeding grounds for disease. The US, fighting the Cold War and viewing Latin America and its resources as its own vast colony. And even within his own UP movement, the extreme left, which never really believed in what he was trying to do and who undermined and provoked Allende at every turn. The juggling act he carried out for three years was remarkable, given the circumstances, but was doomed to fail. Of course, it’s always easy to look at everything after the fact and say “He should have done this or that”. I admire the man. For what he tried to do, and for the way he conducted himself to the very end. How many right-wing dictators in Latin America, to a man puppets of US policy, have run like the cowardly rats that they were when faced with similar situations, usually pausing only to rob the national treasury on their way out?
    Allende was not an economist, and certainly economic policy during that time was haphazard, but he was no moron. He was a medical doctor, an orator that was the equal or better of any the US has ever produced, and far more sophisticated and well educated than the person here who so flippantly uses the term “moron”. And to say, as another person here does, that a thieving (see recent charges), murdering (see human rights record), cowardly (see extradition saga and self granted immunity), torturer such as Pinochet is a better man than Allende is laughable. Allende proved what kind of man he was on Sep. 11, 1973. Pinochet proved what kind of man he was by murdering, stealing from the nation’s coffers, and faking infirmity in order not to face the music in a Spanish court. The sight of him bounding down the stairs from the plane to the tarmac in Santiago’s International Airport, sans the wheelchair that was apparently the only thing holding him up just hours before, and the very picture of vigor compared to the drooling, semi cognizant figure he presented to the world while in London, was particularly disgusting.
    Economics can be debated. Politics can be debated. But let there be no doubt who Pinochet and Allende were in deed and in thought. It is strange, ultimately, that the very people who denounce Allende’s alleged violations against the constitution, and can only hypothesize about how he would have curtailed freedoms and killed his opponents, have no problem defending a known murderer whose regime outlawed political parties for well over a decade, censored and controlled the media for 15 years, tortured thousands, exiled close to a million people, carried out political assisanations in foreign countries, and who even to this day, resorts to intimidation and threats in an effort to cover up his crimes.

  38. cosmo
    Posted November 17, 2006 at 7:27 pm | Permalink

    Not sure if my comment made it in, as I cannot see it. What’s the process here consist of when I submit a comment?

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