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Samizdata quote of the day

I’m always curious why the killing of millions of kulaks by Communists is shrugged off as the price to be paid for the glorious socialist ideal, whereas Pinochet’s killing of thousands of avowed Marxist revolutionaries is the most eeeevil thing that ever happened.

When I was in Chile back in 2005, I asked a middle-class woman why Pinochet remained a revered political figure by all levels of Chilean society. After all, didn’t he cause the deaths of poets and folksingers? Her answer: “Those poets and folksingers owned AK-47s.”

The most confounding thing for the Left is that Pinochet was loved by common people, more so than the elitist and aloof Allende. I saw for myself that the general’s house in Montevideo (a small, modest bungalow in a working-class neighborhood) is a shrine — women passing by will make the sign of the cross, or place tiny bunches of flowers on the sidewalk in front of it. And they’re not just old women, either: they’re of all ages.

And the Chileans still drink toasts to Pinochet as “the saviour of Chile”. But of course, to the Left all these people count as much as the Russian kulaks.

- Kim du Toit, in a comment here on Samizdata.

58 comments to Samizdata quote of the day

  • The useful idiots of the left will never forgive us and never forget. That is why in a leftist revolution we will be all up against the wall.

    Whereas if the libertarians were to win, they would just be left to stew in the sauce of their own misery and contempt.

    This is the great thing about libertarianism, there is no required reading, no dogma or set text, it just requires an understanding of liberty and a yearning to be free.

    This is why the collectivists hate us and will do so ’til the ending of the world. Because no matter the chains that bind us we are always free.

  • Mr Ed

    Fine words JG, and a reminder that our message is ‘The only person we want telling you what to do, is you’ (or whoever you choose to follow). There’s no middleman, no violence, no hatred, no shortcuts, no pretending, nothing but finding yourself an economic existence and letting live.

  • William O. B'Livion

    That is why in a leftist revolution we will be all up against the wall.

    Nah, they’re the only ones unarmed.

  • David Crawford

    William,

    You’re wrong. The left has plenty of guns. The things is, those guns aren’t locked in a gun locker in their basement. No, they pay people to carry guns for them. Those people are known as the government. In return for a nice paycheck and pension those people will wield those guns as the left so orders.

  • Nick (Blame The French) Gray

    If libertarians can’t unite, how can they win? The collectivists DO have the advantage of numbers. Even if we won, they would be free to unite, and try to reimpose majority governments. Our best alternative might be to not have armies, but have lots of voluntary local militias, so we can out-number them if we needed to defend ourselves.

  • The Wobbly Guy

    Voluntary state militias vs professionally trained army?

    I bet on the professionals. Especially when they can and will impoverish themselves to build better weapons and equipment that a voluntary militia cannot match.

  • Nick (Blame The French) Gray

    But didn’t the communist guerrillas in Vietnam wear down the French, American-Australian and Vietnamese armies? Having hi-tech weapons didn’t seem to help, since the commies had dedication and commitment.

  • Vinegar Joe

    Nick, the Viet Cong (supported by the USSR and China) were destroyed in 1968. The North Vietnamese Army fought on but guess what? They never won a battle. Not a single one. The Communists won the war in the US Congress and media.

  • Jacob

    Allende’s regime caused total economic collapse and chaos. Property rights were ignored, “workers” (i.e. bandits) took control of businesses and looted them. Allende ordered police not to intervene. Big wage increases were decreed by the socialist government, in the public but also the private sector, which were pure fantasy, devoid of any economic basis.There were pot-banging protests in the streets – conveying the message that there was nothing to put in those pots to eat. Business men and entrepreneurs fled the country.

    This chaos and this disregard of the constitution and the laws by the government, which only enacted it’s ideological driven whims, could not continue, everyone in Chile was well aware of that. It had to be replaced by either a communist or a right wing dictatorship. Allende himself was not murderous, he didn’t terrorize his opponents, and didn’t practice mass arrests of murders.
    It should be remembered that in those days the left preached and practiced armed revolution and terror.
    Chile was probably saved by Pinochet from a communist terrorist regime like in Cuba (though Allende’s regime was not a communist style dictatorship).

    Pinochet imposed his rule by harsh methods, some 3000 of his leftist opponents (armed opponents mostly) were murdered. That isn’t such a terrible toll: compare it to some 200-300 thousand deaths and several million refugees in the Syrian civil war, or the many thousands murdered by the communist regime in Cuba for example. After he consolidated his power, the murders ceased, and Pinochet just expelled his opponents. Tens of thousands of Chilean political refugees were forced to live in exile, in Sweden for example, enjoying fat government welfare checks there.

  • Jacob

    What is remarkable is Pinochet’s economic policies. He carried out the deepest, most extensive free market reforms that have ever been implemented, anywhere. He anticipated (or predated) the Reagan and Thatcher reforms, but he went much further than they.
    He privatized thousands of government enterprises, but stopped short, keeping big mining, railways and electricity under government ownership. He privatized the social security system, replacing it by mandatory personal saving accounts, known worldwide as “the Chilean model”. He deregulated, liberalized and freed up business and trade.
    His reforms bore fruit, Chile became the most successful, fastest growing, and most stable economy in South America. His reforms have mostly been preserved intact by the several left leaning presidents that followed.

    Pinochet, like Franco in Spain, is adored and revered by about half of Chile’s population which sees in him a savior, and intensely hated and reviled by the other half (the lefties) which, lamentably, include most of the “intellectuals”, the media and the Universities – i.e. the most vociferous half.

  • Jacob

    For the Left, Pinochet’s (and Franco’s) biggest crime was that he prevented them from implementing the “Socialist Paradise” (utopia). They were on the verge of achieving it, in Chile and Spain, they actually were in power, they were “almost there” but then they were evicted by force. I can understand their hatred.

    What happened in countries where the commies were not stopped or evicted from power – that is history.

  • Alan Little

    Franco both saved his country from Bolshevism and kept it out of the Second World War. It’s hard to see how a European leader in the mid twentieth century could have achieved much more.

  • Paul Marks

    Kim – if what you say is true, how come the Socialist Allende supporter (who openly said that she, this time, even wanted to get rid the Constitution limiting government power) won the election in Chile?

    Most voters seem (as in most of Latin America) to have made a deliberate choice for “Social Justice” – i.e. for envy based politics.

    As for Franco in Spain.

    Yes – he could have won the war for the Axis in a day.

    Sorry brave defenders of Gibraltar – but with 1940s forces (which Hitler would have gladly provided) Franco could have taken the rock (and thus closed the Med to the Royal Navy) in a few hours.

    Franco decided not to do this for the same reason he decided NOT to exterminate the Jews (indeed to shelter many Jews in Spain – much to their surprise).

    Franco was not committed to the Axis cause. He actually feared that if Hitler won the war – Spain would just become a subject state of Germany (and Franco wanted Spain to be independent).

    Franco had used Hitler in the 1930s – not the other way round.

    But do not expect an academic to say anything positive about Franco.

    By the way on Spain…..

    Whilst the 1978 Constitution remains in force (that “Christmas Tree of Right” – like so many Latin American Constitutions) there is no fundamental hope for Spain.

  • John K

    Paul:

    I am not so sure about Franco. If Hitler had been willing to grant him France’s North African possessions, he would have gone all in with the Axis. Hitler balked at doing that, as Vichy France was a nominal ally. Hitler also famously remarked that he’d rather have a tooth pulled out than deal with Franco again.

    Spanish politics was indeed extremely polarized by the mid 30s, and many leftists indulged in needless idiocy such as banning church festivals and the like. Nonetheless, the actions of Franco’s armies were brutal in the extreme. Anyone at all left leaning was treated as an enemy to be shot or imprisoned for life, and their women were routinely raped. Having the Francoist army take your town would have been about as welcome as a visit by Boko Haram.

  • Alan Little

    I wasn’t suggesting for a moment that Franco was a Nice Man, but he was almost certainly the lesser evil compared to a leftist victory in the civil war that would have resulted in a soviet puppet government.

  • John K

    Alan:

    The Spanish Civil War started as a military coup against the elected government. The Popular Front was indeed leftist, and far from perfect, but it was the legitimate government, and was not Communist. Under the pressure of the Civil War, moderates were forced out, mush as we see now in Syria. I agree that a Communist Spain would have probably been worse than Franco’s Fascist Spain, but the only way Spain would have gone Communist would have been if they had won the Civil War which Franco and his co-conspirators started.

  • Mr Ed

    many leftists indulged in needless idiocy such as banning church festivals and the like.

    Let’s put that in context of the Bolshevik Terror in the USSR, well established by this point, and the later Spanish Leftist ‘needless idiocy’ (perhaps ‘useful idiocy’?), say, of throwing nuns off the bridge at Ronda, or this from the Andalucia.com website.

    One true story about the appalling death of 500 inhabitants of Ronda in Andalucía was made famous by Ernest Hemingway in his book For Whom the Bell Tolls.

    Within days some hundreds of churches were burnt or ransacked and it is estimated that over 7,000 priests, monks, nuns, and even bishops were horrifically slaughtered. But this was only the beginning of the indiscriminate or mass killings that were committed in this Civil War by both sides.

    The Spanish Republic, Nun the Worse for Stalin’s help.

  • Jerry

    ‘I bet on the professionals. Especially when they can and will impoverish themselves to build better weapons and equipment that a voluntary militia cannot match.’

    King George thought the same thing. He also tried disarming us first – that didn’t turn out so well either !

  • Lee Moore

    I think Jacob is in danger of veering a weeny bit off the tracks. As Rich Rostrom said on the MPLA thread :

    “Sometimes the other side is worse. And if the other side is really bad, there is a powerful temptation to idealize this side, if only to sustain the fight against the other side. Supporting the lesser evil is at best a unpleasant necessity, even when there are no good guys.”

    This contains two valuable thoughts – one that the lesser of two evils is to be preferred (eg Pinochet over Allende) and the other is that there is a temptation to idealise the lesser of two evils and imagine it isn’t evil. (Pinochet was a good bloke.)

    The truth is that Pinochet was fully justified in ousting Allende and preventing a Commie dictatorship in Chile, that – after some initial silliness – he pursued very sensible economic policies which greatly benefitted the people of Chile, that after the initial counter-revolution his regime was, as dictatorships go, not very oppressive, and that…..he started off by murdering a few thousand people. That last little detail makes him very definitely a bad man.

    Of course, as Kim du Toit says, he was a Nasser Hussain of mass murderers, not a Bradman or a Tendulkar like Stalin, Mao or Pol Pot. Yes some, but not all, lefties are as Mr Ed said, excited by and attracted to the bloodthirstiness of the revolution. And even more, though not all, have the disease Rich Rostrom diagnosed – a tendency to idealise enemies of the bourgeoisie, however bloodthirsty, because they are sticking it the really evil people (Tsars, landlords, Koch Brothers etc)

    All the more reason for sober classical liberals to restrain any temptation to idealise the likes of General P. He was the lesser of two evils.

  • Kim – if what you say is true, how come the Socialist Allende supporter (who openly said that she, this time, even wanted to get rid the Constitution limiting government power) won the election in Chile?

    At the risk of stating the obvious, because the promise and the manifested reality proved to be very different. A good chum of my late folks was a Chilean lady who was a former Allende leftist who ended up a committed Pinochet supporter. Of course the fact such a woman could have even existed is enough to make the head of your typical Guardian reader explode.

  • All the more reason for sober classical liberals to restrain any temptation to idealise the likes of General P. He was the lesser of two evils.

    Agreed, but sometimes, all too often in fact, those are the only two choices on offer. If I had been in Finland in WW2, rather than choosing between Joe the Communist or Adolf the Nazi, I would have preferred Fred the Libertarian, but sadly…

  • Jacob

    “All the more reason for sober classical liberals to restrain any temptation to idealise the likes of General P. ”

    I don’t think I idealized Pinochet. I stated the facts. He did size power by force (there was no other way), he suspended human rights while doing so, he killed people – mostly people who were engaged in an armed attempt to fight him.

    It is claimed that Allende was elected democratically, and his regime was the legitimate one. Well, Hitler, too, was elected democratically. Allende was elected by a minority vote, he was legitimate, sure, but he swore to upheld Chile’s constitution, and he failed to do.

    So, I think the admonition above was uncalled for.

  • Jacob

    Paul,
    ” how come the Socialist Allende supporter (who openly said that she, this time, even wanted to get rid the Constitution limiting government power) won the election in Chile?”

    This lady, Michelle Bachelet, served already one term as President of Chile, after Pinochet, 8 years ago. Despite her leftist rhetoric, she performed quite reasonably, without undoing most of Pinochet’s reforms. Leftist rhetoric is obligatory if you want to win any election in South America.

    By the way: her father was a Chilean air force officer who opposed Pinochet, and died in prison, it was said that he had an heart attack. Bachelet herself, who is a doctor, was exiled during Pinochet’s regime.

  • John K

    Mr Ed:

    I don’t deny the murder of many priests and nuns in the course of the Civil War. But I would also point out that the Red Terror did not exist before the Civil War. Franco brought the army over from Morocco, and started a deliberate campaign of terror. In any town he took, any leftists caught, whether moderates or Communists, were simply shot, and their wives were usually raped. He used terror as a weapon, and also because he truly wanted to exterminate leftist thought in Spain. He was in all respects a thorough shit.

  • The Wobbly Guy

    King George thought the same thing. He also tried disarming us first – that didn’t turn out so well either !

    The power differential and economies of scale for technology was different then. Now? It’s tough to build tanks and B-52 bombers en masse without coordination and centralisation of power, which in turn requires a bureaucracy and higher taxes.

    For that reason, no libertarian states have existed in history for long before being squashed by their envious neighbors. Even the nascent US soon transformed into… something else.

  • Snorri Godhi

    Leaving aside the comparison (almost clichéd by now, but still quite reasonable) between Pinochet and commie mass murderers, i’d like to raise the question of why Pinochet is demonized so much more than any other military dictator except Franco.

    Could it be because Franco and Pinochet were the only military dictators (at least, outside of East and South East Asia) to introduce free market reforms?

    NB: afaik the 2 military dictators with the greatest death toll by far, were Napoleon and Suharto. Cromwell was 3rd, i believe.

  • Jacob

    “Franco’s armies were brutal in the extreme”

    Seems to me both sides in the Spanish civil war were brutal to about the same extent.
    Beware of “official”, i.e. lefty versions of history telling.

    Despite the brutality of the war, and the accounts settling in its aftermath, it seems to me that Franco’s dictatorship, along the years, was quite benign, without prolonged and permanent terror or mass murders.

  • Jacob

    “Franco and Pinochet were the only military dictators … to introduce free market reforms?”

    I don’t know about the extent of Franco’s free market reforms, if any.
    Pinochet’s were absolutely exceptional in their depth and scope.

    There were other dictators, in Bolivia (Hugo Banzer), in Argentina, Brazil, and maybe Paraguay, who let markets work, at least a little. It was some mix of market policies with crony capitalism, with “do nothing” governments, which is by default, the right policy.

  • “how come the Socialist Allende supporter (who openly said that she, this time, even wanted to get rid the Constitution limiting government power) won the election in Chile?”

    Paul, voters have short memories. While the Chilean economy is relatively robust, there is still crippling poverty in the country, which makes the desperate seek remedy outside the status quo. Also, the Left is adept in disguising its violent power aims in soothing populist rhetoric, precisely to engender such a response.

    One of the brakes on Chilean leftism in the past has been the example of neo-Marxist social and economic policy (and the appalling results thereof) that lie just across the Andes, in Argentina. Sadly, it would seem that Bachelet has the usual Socialst blinkers on. Remember, the Left cares not a whit about poverty, other than that its sufferers provide a convenient base upon which to base their path to power.

    Let’s just hope that

  • …the people of Chile come to their senses and maintain the Pinochet reforms.

  • “Seems to me both sides in the Spanish civil war were brutal to about the same extent.”

    Jacob, what people don’t know about Franco was that he looked at the solution to every problem in terms of its probable outcome. Let’s use the best example thereof.

    In a certain town, the local Republicans (Marxists) were doing their usual wholesale slaughter of “reactionaries” (priests, royalists etc), in keeping with the usual Marxist philosophy of “agree with us or we’ll kill you”. When this situation was brought to Franco’s attention, his response was, (I paraphrase) “We should just destroy the whole town.” When his staff protested that their “own” people would be killed along with the Republicans, his response was simple: “If we do nothing, [our people] will all die anyway, at the hands of the Republican execution squads.”

    Hence: the bombing of Guernica. To Franco, it was a simple solution to end Republican takeover of a town. Was it brutal? Of course it was. Did it have the desired solution? Unfortunately, yes. But we should never forget that without the Republican death squads, Guernica would never have been bombed. (As I recall, Guernica was also the scene of the greatest death toll in Spain of Soviet agents and functionaries sent by Stalin to pursue such policies. So the Guernica death toll wasn’t ALL bad.)

    It’s always tough to make value judgments in situations where brutality is wholesale. American GIs were tried for war crimes for killing German soldiers who had already surrendered. That those German soldiers were in fact SS camp guards at Dachau, and the GIs had just encountered the atrocities committed by those same camp guards, perhaps provides a parallel situation to Guernica (and Pinochet, for that matter).

    Note that in no way am I attempting to excuse either side; what I am saying is that post facto armchair criticism is not always appropriate, but we should at least take the totality of the situation into account before we do so.

  • Rich Rostrom

    If Pinochet had killed only the armed revolutionaries, he’d be OK. Unfortunately, as reactionaries often do, he went (or let his henchmen go) crazy, and they did disgraceful things.

    John K @ May 8, 2014 at 3:17 pm:The Spanish Civil War started as a military coup against the elected government.

    True. But what constitutional loyalty does the military owe to an elected government which is dominated by people who openly disdain the constitution and appear to be subverting it? The Socialist Prime Minister, Largo Caballero, gloried in the sobriquet of “the Spanish Lenin”. Socialist party gunmen and security police murdered the co-leader of the parliamentary opposition. And President Azaña, though not a Red, would have “no enemies to the left”. What were the generals to do?

    Mr Ed @May 8, 2014 at 3:17 pm:… over 7,000 priests, monks, nuns, and even bishops were horrifically slaughtered.

    The Spanish Republic, Nun the Worse for Stalin’s help.

    Ironically, AIUI the “Red Terror” in Spain was not the work of the Communists; it was the radical Socialists, Trotskyites, and anarchosyndicalists who ran wild. Then the Communists stepped in as the disciplined “good cops”, and liquidated many of their political competitors in the crackdown.

    Perry de Havilland (London) @ May 8, 2014 at 4:22 pm:If I had been in Finland in WW2, rather than choosing between Joe the Communist or Adolf the Nazi…

    Your choice is made for you when Joe attacks you first (with Adolph’s tacit blessing BTW).

    John K @ May 8, 2014 at 5:42 pm: …the Red Terror did not exist before the Civil War. Franco brought the army over from Morocco, and started a deliberate campaign of terror.

    This seems to be an argument that “They did it first.” Which is wrong on several levels. First, what sort of twisted sickos respond to alleged atrocities against helpless civilians by… committing atrocities against helpless civilians? Second, the Red Terror began within a few days of the rebellion, before any atrocities by the rebels. And third, in the years before the rebellion, the left had committed thousands of acts of political violence including assassinations and a full-scale armed rebellion, so it’s absurd to say that the rebellion of 1936 was an outrageous provocation to them; rather it freed them to do what they had always wanted.

    Kim du Toit @ May 8, 2014 at 8:39 pm: … the bombing of Guernica.

    Guernica was a supply depot and had an arms factory – a legitimate target. The bombing became iconic in part because the Nazi airmen who did it bragged on the destruction – they wanted it to be “terror bombing”.

    American GIs were tried for war crimes for killing German soldiers who had already surrendered… SS camp guards at Dachau…

    Not as far as I know. There were some reprimands and acts of internal discipline, but no court-martials and certainly no “war crimes” trials. Again, as far as I know; I welcome new information.

  • “American GIs were tried for war crimes for killing German soldiers who had already surrendered… SS camp guards at Dachau…”

    Rich: It’s absolute fact. But the courts-martial acquitted the GIs, and thereafter every effort was made to conceal the trials’ very existence. Only in recent years (I mean during the 2000s) has this become known. The documentary series “Nazi Hunters” placed those trials in context with the postwar trials of Joachim Peiper and Sepp Dietrich for the Malmedy massacres — yet another tiresome exercise in moral relativism, although thankfully it failed. But the facts remain.

    The U.S. military during WWII was quite concerned with the blatant killing of German POWs (two NCOs were tried for executing groups of POWs in Sicily, for example), but the men responsible were either acquitted or honorably discharged, with little fanfare (see Nick Atkinson’s wonderful “Day of Battle” for details).

    For details about Franco’s attitude towards the Spanish Civil War and Guernica, I suggest you take a look at Paul Preston’s “Spanish Civil War”, which is a much more measured look at the conflict than the usual paeans of praise and worship for the Republicans.

  • Nick (Blame The French) Gray

    Weren’t the British also bribing Franco’s military, so that their advice was always to not join Hitler?

  • Mr Ed

    The Red Terror I was referring to was the USSR, which was the inspiration for the Spanish Communists. Their own terror plans were nascent at the the point of the Uprising, why take the risk?

  • John K

    Mr Ed:

    Although the Popular Front government was a rag bag of various leftist parties with which I have little sympathy, it was nonetheless the legitimate elected government, and had certainly not embarked on a Red Terror when the army staged its coup. It is beyond doubt that leftist groups committed many atrocities during the Civil War, but for Franco and his co-conspirators terror was a fundamental part of their plan from the start. Franco used his Moroccan troops against Spanish towns, allowing them to indulge in murder and rape as a deliberate terrorizing tactic. When his forces took a town, every member of a leftist party or trade unionist was shot out of hand, their wives raped and their property stolen. As I said, he was a complete shit.

    As to Franco’s economic policies, such as they were, I do not think he can be compared to Pinochet in any way. I do not even think Franco was a fascist as such. If anything, he was something like a rather more blood soaked De Valera. He wanted to preserve an austere, traditional Catholic Spain, and to that end was quite prepared to kill anyone, including right wingers, priests or army officers, who disagreed with him.

  • Nico

    No military govts ever did much to introduce free markets in Argentina. And Pinochet only killed a startlingly small number (by historical and regional standards, even adjusting for Chile’s smaller population) of opponents most of whom would have been soldiers in a civil war if that had been a civil war. Pinochet screwed up by sticking around as dictator for so long; he should have called new elections immediately, but instead he became (or already was) quite corrupt.

    Would I defend Pinochet? Not in absolute terms I wouldn’t. In comparison to the left’s crimes, his are petty sins though — even in comparison to the dirty war that followed next door (the generals weren’t leftists in Argentina). Kim’s quote is definitely fascinating. Yeah, the left will always ignore/cover up its fellows’ crimes, Stalin’s, Mao’s, …

  • Paul Marks

    John – you may be correct (I just do not know).

    Kim – thank you for your response, it is as a suspected. I agree.

  • The value of arms in the US is not that the unorganized militia will somehow win against the US Army in a future where the right of rebellion has come into play. The value of arms in the US is in assassination, hit and run incidents, and making it distinctly unhealthy to take a government job, any government job. This is how Klamath Falls was playing out at the end of the Clinton administration and it seems to be the pattern that’s emerging with the Bundy affair unfolding now.

    The US has been shadow dancing a civil war for many years now. Nobody’s going to pull the trigger and go all out unless they’re certain they are going to win. Right now nobody is certain and I hope that it never gets to that.

  • Rich Rostrom

    John K @ May 9, 2014 at 10:38 am:
    Although the Popular Front government was a rag bag of various leftist parties with which I have little sympathy, it was nonetheless the legitimate elected government, and had certainly not embarked on a Red Terror when the army staged its coup.

    That is correct. The Communists and radical Socialists were preparing the ground for seizure of total power, after which there would be a Red Terror.

    The Spanish Reds were fairly open about this: they admired Lenin and Stalin, and spoke of the need for “bolshevization”, and about what they would do, “come the revolution”, to “class enemies”. In the meantime, they were infiltrating the state security services with their partisans, and organizing party militias. And oh yes, assassinating lots of people.

    After the rebellion, the Red Terror broke out almost at once. Many of those complicit in the Red Terror were in the government already – which suggests what they would have done eventually, rebellion or no.

    If the Reds had not been subverting the Spanish state and committing political violence, or the government had been willing to stand up to them, there would have been no rebellion.

  • John K

    Rich:

    I don’t think that what various red factions might have done if given the chance excuses the savage brutality of the Franco coup. One of his supporters said that it would probably be necessary to exterminate 30% of the male population, and although that didn’t happen, in some towns 10 to 20% were indeed executed. At the risk of repeating myself, he was a shit.

  • Jacob

    “At the risk of repeating myself, he was a shit.”

    That depends on which historians you read or believe. “Franco was a shit” is the meme promulgated by leftist intellectuals. It’s impossible for me to accept this as the pure truth.

    Seems to me that Franco was a rather ordinary low-nobility, Catholic, moderate conservative. His ancestors, several generations back were naval officers. Franco was very reluctant to join the military rebellion, which was organized by other officers. He became leader only by chance, when the main military leader got killed in an air crash. He became leader mainly thanks to his ability to reconcile and unite the various conservative and fascist factions. He never belonged to or sympathized with the Spanish falange (fascists) (which were part of the coalition).

    In time of war atrocities happen, the left side committed no less murders than the nationalist side, and I’m not sure the supreme commander has full control over all that shit.
    There was no communist style reign of terror in Spain during the later years of Franco’s regime, after consolidation of power.

    Sure, opposition parties were banned, opposition press not allowed, regional autonomy suppressed… it was a dictatorship… but there was no totalitarian reign of terror, like in communist regimes.

  • I am rather reminded of this remark:

    “My own opinion is that one should never kill an unarmed enemy – no matter what he or she might have been planning to do.”

    Paul Marks, in case you were wondering.

  • John K

    Jacob:

    What do you call a man who uses his Moroccan troops to perpetrate widespread rape and murder on a surrendered population? This was a deliberate policy, not a case of a few troops running wild.

  • Pardone

    Yes, let’s admire a man who presided over torture, rape, murder. The fact that Pinochet was friendly with Allende, bum-chumming at dinner parties and the like, shows that he served whoever he felt would benefit him. Pinochet believed whatever Pinochet felt would benefit Pinochet.

    Physical Torture
    One torture method which was very commonly used was the “grill” or “La Parilla.” In this torture, electricity was fed from a standard wall outlet through a control box into two wires each terminating in electrodes. The control box gave the torturers the option of adjusting the voltage being administered to the prisoner. The naked prisoner was stretched out and strapped onto a metal bedframe, or a set of bedsprings, and tied down. He or she was subjected to electrical shocks on several parts of the body, especially on sensitive areas like the genitals and on open wounds. The Valech Report includes a testimony of a Chilean man who was interrogated by prison captors. They took off his clothes and “attached electrodes to his chest and testicles. They put something in his mouth so he would “bite his tongue while they shocked him.”[19] In another method, one of the wires would be fixed to the prisoner (typically to the victim’s genitalia) while another wire could be applied to other parts of the body. This caused an electrical current to pass through the victim’s body, with a strength inversely proportional to the distance between the two electrodes. A smaller distance between the electrodes led to a stronger current and thus more intense pain for the prisoner. A particularly barbaric version of the “grill” was the use of a metal bunk bed; the victim was placed on the bottom bunk and on the top bunk, a relative or friend was simultaneously tortured.
    Most prisoners suffered from severe beatings, and broken or even amputated limbs. At Villa Grimaldi, DINA forced non-compliant prisoners lie down on the ground. The captors ran over their legs with a large vehicle, and crushed the prisoners’ bones.[20] The assailants also beat prisoners in the ear until they became deaf, and entirely unconscious; this torture method was called the “telephone.”[21] Most of the acts of punishment were intended to severely humiliate the prisoners. At the Pisagua Concentration Camp, captors intimidated prisoners by forcing them to crawl on the ground and lick the dirt off the floors. If the prisoners complained or even collapsed from exhaustion, they were promptly executed.[22]

    Sexual Abuse
    General Pinochet’s regime carried out many gruesome and horrific acts of sexual abuse against the victims. In fact, several detention sites were solely instituted for the purpose of sexually tormenting and humiliating the prisoners. Discothèque (La Venda Sexy) was another one of DINA’s main secret detention centers. Many of those who “disappeared” were initially held in this prison. The prison guards often raped both men and women. It was at this prison where internal repression operations were centralized. Militants anally raped male prisoners, while insulting them, in an attempt to embarrass them to their core.[23]
    Women were the primary targets of gruesome acts of sexual abuse. According to the Valech Commission, almost every single female prisoner was a victim of repeated rape. Not only would military men rape women, they would also use foreign objects and even animals to inflict more pain and suffering. Women (and occasionally men) reported that spiders and live rats were often implanted on their genitals. One woman testified that she had been “raped and sexually assaulted with trained dogs and with live rats.” She was forced to have sex with her father and brother—who were also detained.[24]

    Yeah, what a hero that Pinochet is! Doesn’t all that torture make you proud. The fact that you folks approve of sick rape and torture just because the man presiding over it is ideologically agreeable to you, this is essentially Fanboy Logic. Also, Pinochet was a massive statist given he approved of a police state and felt the government had the right to rape people. Torture was used deliberately as an instrument to make people afraid of the Chilean STATE. Pinochet was essentially a Communist; he worshipped the power of the state. He did not privatize the mines, in fact he further nationalized them, forcing them to fund the military even more., hardly the actions of one who believes in the free market. If you rape or murder you go to jail, except if you are the President or Prime Minister or King, in which case you can rape and kill to your hearts content, because you’re “special”.

    Boko Haram, Che Guevera, Castro, Pinochet, Hitler, Stalin, Vidella, the Shah, Khomeini, Castro, Noriega, all were Fanboys or Prostitutes who believed the “ends justify the means”, the path of evil, and they are all cheeks of the same putrid, cancerous arse. I won’t excuse evil on the basis of stupid Fanboy Logic.

  • Slartibartfarst

    @Pardone seems to put quite a strong case against Pinochet, and lumps him in with all those other great national leaders, including the WWII favourite – Adolf Hitler. Well, I suppose Pinochet is in good company, at least.
    Who can speak up and reply on behalf of Pinochet? I’m not sure that I could.

  • Mr Ed

    John K

    When his forces took a town, every member of a leftist party or trade unionist was shot out of hand, their wives raped and their property stolen.

    I take it that you have thoroughly researched that assertion in primary sources and are asserting it as a historical truth? Or are you repeating what some Lefty has said? It’s just that the latter sounds more plausible.

    As for Pinochet, I have read the Libro Blanco (White Book) written by the Chilean Junta setting out the scale of Allende’s plans to bring in militias under his control to enforce his rule. There can be no doubt that Allende’s plans were murderous and that they were forestalled. The actual coup was after the Chilean Congress had declared Allende’s regime illegal and although many people were killed, the focus of the Junta was on killing those actively engaged in the conquest of Chile for Allende (and hence Castro and hence Brezhnev). Nasty, but of Allende prevailing or Pinochet (appointed by Allende after a bizarre set of circumstances involving the resignation of General Prats who fired his pistol at a car containing an unarmed housewife after being insulted whilst driving, and later a demonstration against him by Army officers’ wives who felt that he was not up to keeping order in Chile.

    Had Prats (the word is Catalan for ‘meadows’, cognate with ‘Prado’ in Spanish), not resigned (along with two colleagues), then Pinochet would not have been in the position of Head of the Army with no Army generals opposed to a coup in key positions, and the coup might never have occurred or failed. Life is full of bizarre ‘what ifs’, but a Chilean General shooting at a housewife’s car after being insulted must rank as one of the most bizarre turning points in history.

    And certainly the murder of Prats in Argentina in 1974 was just that, murder.

  • John K

    I take it that you have thoroughly researched that assertion in primary sources and are asserting it as a historical truth? Or are you repeating what some Lefty has said? It’s just that the latter sounds more plausible.

    Mr Ed:

    I find your comment tiresome. I have taken the trouble to read up on the Spanish Civil War, and if we are all to be barred from commenting on a subject unless we have engaged in primary research the world would be a dull place indeed.

  • Mr Ed

    John K, I am sorry if I am taken as being tiresome, but I think that you have answered my question.

    I prefer to base my assertions (other than when being speculative, asinine or facetious) on matters of fact or logic as the case may be and I am often surprised that others seem to think that it is OK to exaggerate or make assertions that are not founded in reality. We all know that Franco was brutal, but as with Pinochet, he seems to have been the lesser of two evils acting on the ground in the real world at the material time, and again, as with Pinochet, the Left hate him not for what he did, they adore terror and murder, especially if they are at a safe distance or able to act with impunity, but Franco prevented the Lefty W@nkfest that a Republican victory in the Civil War would have been, and that, and that alone, is his crime in their eyes

    A great many of the Leftist in Spain were so nutty that, I have heard, Anarchists who had been deliberately given blank ammunition by the NKVD/GRU advised Republican government when on the front line, (this, IIRC, I was told by some Trotskyite in the 1990s in a discussion on Spain) thereby acting as a sort of Soviet Penal Battalion or target practice for the Nationalist troops, decided nonetheless to carry on ‘fighting Fascism’ knowing that they would only die whilst drawing fire and keeping some heads down on the other side until destroyed, so great was their hatred of the Nationalists. Surely the Republicans would have purged them in the event of a Republican victory anyway.

    When that was the political culture of those inclined to fight, the poor blighters who want a quiet, peaceful life have no realistic options other than to fight against the least evil or hope for the best. The politics of the Spanish Civil War was like a firestorm, consuming and destroying much in its wake, roasting for those in control of the fire their enemies, but also consuming many who sought to control it. The sad thing is that, as with all politics, people and property are the kindling used to start the blaze.

  • Jacob

    “I have taken the trouble to read up on the Spanish Civil War”

    The question is: what have you read.

    I’m no great expert, but most books are ideologically driven and not factual.

    Mr Ed nailed it. The deep hatred of Franco and Pinochet is not driven by abhorrence of the atrocities that they might have committed, but by ideological hatred – because they defeated leftist regimes. The very regimes that committed and commit a worse atrocities. These “historians” or “reporters” fail to mention the atrocities committed by the communists, or even adore them (“you can’t make an omelette without breaking some eggs”, “I’ve seen the future and it works”).

    I do not doubt the purity of you intentions, but those of your sources.

  • John K

    Mr Ed & Jacob:

    I take it that you have toiled long in the archives of the Spanish state? I mean, merely reading books is clearly no basis on which to form an opinion is it?

  • John, if I understand correctly, Ed and Jacob are not saying that they know the facts better than you do or better than the books you read. They are merely putting that information under a question mark, considering its possible sources. I happen to agree with them. Your idea of looking into the state records is the only correct way to go about it, or at least going to sources (books) which explicitly cite such sources, and hopefully quote them. Of course I have no idea whether you or any of the other commenters have done so.

  • John K

    Alisa:

    Their problem really is that they hate the left so much that they do not want to face up to what Franco did. The enemy of my enemy is not necessarily my friend. Franco was not responding to a Red Terror, he organised a coup and used the methods of mass murder and rape to exterminate his opponents. He was an evil human being.

  • John, I do not presume to speak for “them”, but personally I do not hate the Left, I simply do not trust them (or, rather, trust them much less than others). So before I face up to what Franco did, I first want to know what exactly was it that he did, and are his deeds as currently accepted as facts, are just that, facts? I have my doubts. You may dismiss them, it is your prerogative, but I stick to mine, until proven otherwise.

  • Alisa, you might like to read Anthony Beevor’s book on the Spanish Civil War. To the best of my knowledge he doesn’t have an agenda and he makes it perfectly clear that if Franco himself was not a nasty piece of work the people surrounding him certainly were.

  • if Franco himself was not a nasty piece of work the people surrounding him certainly were

    Indeed, Patrick. To me at least, the most important bits of information would be those showing how much the Top Guy did or did not know, what orders or directives were given or not, implicitly or explicitly. For example, we do have plenty of such info when it comes to such Top Guys as Hitler, Stalin and Mao. It seems to me that we have less of it when it comes to the likes of Pinochet and Franco – or am I wrong? And again, when I say ‘information’, I mean first-hand sources – i.e. actual documents, with signatures, etc. It seems to me that books are an excellent secondary source to get one a general idea where and what to look for further, but they will always remain secondary, and that remains true even when authors are clearly unbiased.

  • Mr Ed

    With Pinochet, it seems that his DINA thugs killed opponents of Pinochet in Buenos Aires and Washington, Prats and Letelier, I cannot imagine any justification for such actions, they were not fighting an insurgency or dealing with armed opponents ready to kill them in return, and frankly it strikes me as odd that no US administration took on Pinochet over the Washington killings, and the leniency given to the convicted killers was astonishing. I cannot imagine an assassination in the USA by a foreign government’s agents not being cleared at the highest level, and if it were not, some serious purging going on in the aftermath of an ‘unauthorised’ murder, that’s not evidence of course, just comment, but either way, it does not look good.

    The scale of Pinochet’s killings is however, entirely different to that of a socialist regime like Mao, Castro, Stalin or Hitler, where the killing and elimination of opponents as ‘classes’ of people (as in categories) was systematic and the highest priority of the state. Putin’s regime, for example, is far more like Pinochet’s than Stalin’s in this respect, not seeking to eliminate entire nationalities or groups of people. In the 20th Century, that counts as progress of sorts.

  • […] Samizdata quote of the day I’m always curious why the killing of millions of kulaks by Communists is shrugged off as the price to be paid for the glorious socialist ideal, whereas Pinochet’s killing of thousands of avowed Marxist revolutionaries is the most eeeevil thing that ever happened. […]