“This will surely be the last time I speak to you. Magallanes Radio will be silenced, and the reassuring tone of my voice will not reach you. It doesn’t matter. You will continue hearing it. I will always be with you. At the least, your memory of me will be that of a man who was loyal to the country. … I have faith in Chile and its destiny. Other people will be able to transcend this sad and bitter moment, when treason tries to force itself upon us. … I’m sure that my sacrifice will not be in vain … It will be a moral lesson that will punish the felony, cowardice, and treason [of the Armed Forces].”
–the last broadcast of President Salvador Allende, Sept. 11, 1973
EDITOR’S NOTE: This week marked the 44th anniversary of what is called, by people who know history, “The Other 9-11” or “The First 9-11”, as Heather Gray of the Atlanta-based organization Justice Initiative calls it. Below, we share two of Justice Initiative’s releases, which include commentaries by Heather Gray, Noam Chomsky and Naomi Klein. For even more background, we invite you to check out an archived issue of our newsletter, KUUMBAReport, “The ‘Other’ 9-11”.
JUSTICE INITIATIVE on Chile: The First 9/11
As September 11, 2017 is upon us, millions around the world and in the U.S. will invoke the September 11, 2001 tragedy at the World Trade Center in New York City and the Pentagon in Washington, DC. Simultaneously, for many there will also be the recollection of the CIA coup in Chile on September 11, 1973, when Chilean President Salvador Allende was assassinated. And yes, this had to do with the economic desires of corporate America along with its U.S. government support.
With Trump as president we are once again faced with the prospect to diluting programs that have been in place since the New Deal to benefit the masses. We are now faced with the threat of the stark economic policies of neoliberalism, or its more bleak form of the structural adjustment market-driven model, being thrust down our throats. This is thanks to, for one, the likes of the leader in the House of Representatives, the former GOP Vice Presidential candidate Paul Ryan and his radical economic “go it alone” Ayn Rand philosophy.
Ryan and others have wanted to dismantle the last vestiges of the New Deal in its current form. It’s also what Milton Friedman, of the University of Chicago’s School of Economics, wanted which is that his market-driven policies be imposed on the American people. The right wing on the whole is likely pleased that the United States might finally be the victim of these failed and tragic economic policies that they’ve forced on developing countries where the wealthy benefit and no one else. It’s a home-coming and not a pleasant one. This is also accentuated now with the presidency of Donald Trump.
Friedman’s probably smiling from his grave. Contrary to all the hype, neoliberalism is a failed system throughout the world leading to inequities, environmental degradation and starvation. As Filipino economist Walden Bello said of Friedman, “Indeed, there is probably no more appropriate inscription for Friedman’s gravestone than what William Shakespeare wrote in “Julius Caesar”: ‘The evil that men do lives after them, the good is oft interred with their bones.'”
Ironically, the two tragedies of the September 11, 1973 assassination of Allende and the September 11, 2001 World Trade building disaster are not totally unrelated. In fact, the consequences of these disasters are immense in terms of the implementation of American economic and ideological domestic and foreign policy.
What are neoliberal or structural adjustment economic policies? These are Global North v Global South distinctions on the whole: “neoliberalism” is referred to market-driven draconian economic model in the “developed” Global North; “structural adjustment” refers to the same market-driven draconian model but with distinct policies being enforced, if money is loaned, by the world’s banking system in the so-called “developing” or Global South. The requirements are austere and restrictive than what’s yet appeared in the “developed” economies, although Paul Ryan and others want to change that in the U.S. The imposition of structural adjustment on “developing” countries has made them essentially without protections and vulnerable to vulture capitalists.
Market-driven means that the market will solve our problems – place no restraints on the market because as an entity it will determine what’s needed in terms of products and consumption and everyone will benefit as a result, economically and otherwise. Yet, it’s a farce!
Neoliberalism, or its more austere structural adjustment model, was ultimately enshrined as the leading paradigm in the policy guidelines of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. In fact, to receive loans, countries were required to curtail government programs that offer services to the people that are then privatized or ended altogether; tariffs that had wisely been in place to protect local business ventures were required to be lifted; and the country was generally required to provide the opportunity for foreign investment in their country, perhaps of land ownership, resource extraction and control of large scale business ventures by foreign interests.
The policies have never created a level playing field. The West’s corporate leaders have dominated as a consequence and while corporate capitalists have thrived, thanks to the World Bank and IMF, many of the poor have starved and been driven deeper into poverty. We saw this in Mexico after the passage of NAFTA as well as among workers in the United States with virtually no protection of worker rights and unions and, for the first time, under NAFTA, foreigners could own land in Mexico. This forced many Mexican farmers off the land coupled with the dumping of cheap, largely unhealthy produce, such as corn, on the Mexican market, again thanks to NAFTA.
Similarly, Paul Ryan’s philosophy is that you’re on your own essentially and to shrink the government programs altogether to insure that you don’t get help and/or to privatize everything. This brings efficiency they say. It would also finally put the nail in the coffin of the New Deal policies. Ryan apparently wants to complete the process except for the military. Who will benefit? Certainly not the 99%!
Friedman knew his neoliberal policies would essentially throw out the popular New Deal programs and that there was no way this would pass the U.S. Congress in the 1970’s. He instead needed another country and most likely a crisis to test his neoliberal policies. Chile was it.
Allende was a socialist and a friend of Cuba’s Fidel Castro. When he became the Chilean president in 1970, he immediately began to restructure the economy with admirable socialist initiatives to advance opportunities for the Chilean masses. For example, his sweeping policies included the nationalization of some large-scale industries such as cooper mining and banking; he took under the auspices of the Chilean government the educational system, the health care system, and offered a free milk program for poor children; he was engaged in land reform and the raising of the minimum wage for Chilean workers. (And you’re right – some of this sounds like our own New Deal under President Franklin Roosevelt in the 1930’s that, as mentioned, conservatives have always wanted to dismantle.)
At the time Allende took office, the three major American corporations in Chile were ITT and two American cooper-mining companies Anaconda and Kennecott. ITT owned 70% of the Chilean Telephone Company and funded the right-wing newspaper El Mercurio. They were not pleased with Allende and by all accounts complained to the American government and had, with US government knowledge, given money to Allende’s opponents. There are also reports that ITT channeled money to the CIA to help dismantle the Allende government.
Yes, we would certainly call this U.S. interference in another country’s government!!!
Allende’s threat? It was apparently independence from the United States and offering a new democratic alternative in the region.
Allende also obviously thought Chile was a sovereign nation, but Henry Kissinger (Nixon’s Secretary of State) and the U.S. corporate investors in Chile thought otherwise.
Allende’s policies infuriated Kissinger, who, by all accounts, gave the CIA the green light to get rid of Allende. But Allende also alienated some of the Chilean middle class and some Christian groups who saw his policies of empowering the poor as a threat or as a Cuban style authoritarian state.
So Allende was assassinated, became a martyr, and what followed was devastating for Chileans on the whole as thousands of Chileans became “disappeared” and activists were killed or tortured – tortured, I am told, to cleanse them of their collective “social contract” mindset.
In the coup, thousands of Chileans were taken to the Chilean Stadium in Santiago where many were immediately killed or tortured.
One was the renowned folklorist and guitarist, Victor Jara, who was also a political activist and a member of the Communist Party. Jara was inspired by the folk songs of Chile and other South American countries. Under Allende, he was one of the artists who created the “Nueva Cancion Chilena” revolution of popular music.
At the stadium, where he had performed many times, his ribs were broken by his captors, and his fingers broken as well, to prevent him from playing his guitar. His captors then mocked him by suggesting he play the guitar and he responded by “defiantly” singing part of “Venceremos” (We Will Win). He was then shot 44 times by a machine gun and his body thrown into the streets of a shantytown in Santiago.
At the Chilean stadium when Victor Jara was killed on September 16, 1973
In 1977, I was in the office of MIT professor, Dale Runge, in Boston, who had been in the Peace Corps in Chile before the coup and had known Jara. While sitting at his desk, he cried as he described what happened. Also a guitarist, Dale had frequently played with Jara and learned from him.
|Victor Jara singing in Chile
Just prior to his death, Jara had written the following, almost as if he envisioned his fate – here’s some of the verse:
My guitar is not for the rich no,
nothing like that.
My song is of the ladder
we are building to reach the stars.
For a song has meaning
when it beats in the veins
of a man who will die singing,
truthfully singing his song.
There is no way a discussion about Chile in 1973 can be recalled without referring to Naomi Klein’s excellent book, the “Shock Doctrine“. Shocks to countries, says Klein, offer a vacuum for “disaster capitalists” to sweep in for the kill to change and control what and how they want for their benefit. In her book she describes how on September 12, 1973 – the day after the Allende assassination – young economists in Chile had on their desks documents drafted by the Chicago School of Economics on neoliberal policies for Chile. Actually, these Chilean graduates of the Chicago School, known as the “Chicago boys”, under the tutelage of their neoliberal godfather Milton Friedman, were already well informed about the market-driven economic model.
These Chicago “boys” imposed the new policies with a vengeance, which was coupled with the ruthless and murderous Pinochet dictatorship. As Bello said, so much for “political freedom going hand-in-hand with free markets.” Yet, Friedman called it the “Chilean miracle.”
Bello, who was a graduate student in Chile around this time, has also noted, after Pinochet’s 17 years of terror, that “Chile was indeed radically transformed…for the worse“. He said further that:
Chile was the guinea pig of a free market paradigm that was foisted on other third world countries beginning in the early 1980’s through the agency of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. Some 90 developing and post-socialist economies were eventually subjected to free-market, “structural adjustment.”
Structural adjustment policies (SAPs), which set the stage for the accelerated globalization of developing country economies during the 1990’s, created the same poverty, inequality, and environmental crisis in most countries that free-market policies did in Chile, minus the moderate growth of the post-Friedman-Pinochet phase. As the World Bank chief economist for Africa admitted, “We did not think the human costs of these programs could be so great, and the economic gains so slow in coming.” So discredited were SAPs that the World Bank and IMF soon changed their names to “Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers” in the late 1990’s. (Bello, 2006)
When, on September 11, 2001, the planes struck the World Trade Center Towers, it’s important to note that they struck at the symbolic heart of the American capitalist system. We lost thousands of innocent workers in this tragic event. It’s also important to note that a plane flew into the Pentagon on the same day, which is the heart of the U.S. military that essentially protects America’s foreign economic ventures and its corporate capitalists. The targets were incredibly symbolic of American imperial arrogance that has tragically destroyed countless countries, communities, families, individuals and environments throughout the world.
As writer Chalmers Johnson would say, the attack on September 11, 2001 would be “blowback” time. He noted that there was only so much that others in the world can take of arrogant economic and aggressively violent U.S. foreign and military behavior.
Was the 9/11 tragedy in New York a ploy for a U.S. on-going war in the Middle East to then destabilize it for easier exploitation by the west and to advance the military industrial complex? This question is on-going.
In fact, the aftermath of 9/11 has resulted in significant and costly wars in the Middle East by the U.S. which, coupled with the disastrous deregulation of the banking system, for one, and the economic disaster in 2008, has led to a perfect crisis for the likes of the Friedman neoliberal/structural adjustment followers, like Paul Ryan, to impose their draconian policies on Americans. The situation is the perfect “shock”, as per Naomi Klein, for these disaster capitalists in America to sweep in and create even more havoc then they have already in the U.S. and for them to gain at the people’s expense. This is similar to Chile in 1973 minus the bloody coup in America itself.
It’s way past time that we all begin to develop concrete ideas for another economic system than what we have now. As Marxist economist Richard Wolff told me, in an interview a few years ago, since the Occupy Movement Americans now have in their mindset the 1% versus the 99%. There is a concrete understanding of the dreadful inequities in this U.S. capitalist economy. He said it is now much easier to talk about economic systems that we simply were denied during the Cold War and after the Cold War as well. The Cold War system set the tone for the dialogue. Yet, finally we had a prominent socialist, Bernie Sanders, running for the presidency in 2016 and actually more of an open dialogue. Now, that is progress!!! It’s way past time for a change!!!
Walden Bello, “Eye of the Hurricane: Milton Friedman and the Global South” (2006) Foreign Policy in Focus (FPIF)
Note: I had first written an article about 9/11 in Chile for Counterpunch in 2012. The above article has been updated. Heather Gray
JUSTICE INITIATIVE: Chile Was Not Saved by Milton Friedman
Note: This week, on September 11, 2017, I sent out an article entitled “Chile: First 9/11″ regarding the September 11, 1973 coup in Chile and the assassination of the Chilean president Salvador Allende. In the article, I did not go into the details about what happened in Chile years after the assassination; the installation of the dictator, Augusto Pinochet, as president; and the largely disastrous results of attempting to implement the U.S. directed neoliberal economic plan to privatize virtually everything in Chile. Below are two articles about the aftermath of the Allende assassination. One by Noam Chomsky, written in 1994, with more details about the Chilean coup in 1973; and a later article, in 2010, by Naomi Klein, about the devastating impact of the economic neoliberalism on the Chilean people.
As we explore economic systems in America and as Trump and others are also wanting to privatize virtually everything, in their economic neoliberal style in America, such as education, healthcare, social security, etc., we should take heed and learn lessons from happened, for one, in Chile. Chomsky and Klein, in particular, refer to the importance of the democratic “public sphere” funded largely by “nationalized” institutions, as Allende had planned for his country. As Klein notes below:
…. (in Chile) by the early 80s, Pinochet’s Friedman-prescribed policies had caused rapid de-industrialisation, a tenfold increase in unemployment and an explosion of distinctly unstable shantytowns. They also led to a crisis of corruption and debt so severe that, in 1982, Pinochet was forced to fire his key Chicago Boy advisers and nationalise several of the large deregulated financial institutions. (Sound familiar?)
September 13, 2017
Henry Kissinger said in his eulogy: “The world is a better place, a safer place, because of Richard Nixon.” I’m sure he was thinking of Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam. But let’s focus on one place that wasn’t mentioned in all the media hoopla – Chile – and see how it’s a “better, safer place.” In early September 1970, Salvador Allende was elected president of Chile in a democratic election. What were his politics?
He was basically a social democrat, very much of the European type. He was calling for minor redistribution of wealth, to help the poor. (Chile was a very inegalitarian society.) Allende was a doctor, and one of the things he did was to institute a free milk program for half a million very poor, malnourished children. He called for nationalization of major industries like copper mining, and for a policy of international independence – meaning that Chile wouldn’t simply subordinate itself to the US, but would take more of an independent path.
Was the election he won free and democratic?
Not entirely, because there were major efforts to disrupt it, mainly by the US. It wasn’t the flrst time the US had done that. For example, our government intervened massively to prevent Allende from winning the preceding election, in 1964. In fact, when the Church Committee investigated years later, they discovered that the US spent more money per capita to get the candidate it favored elected in Chile in 1964 than was spent by both candidates (Johnson and Goldwater) in the 1964 election in the US!
Similar measures were undertaken in 1970 to try to prevent a free and democratic election. There was a huge amount of black propaganda about how if Allende won, mothers would be sending their children off to Russia to become slaves – stuff like that. The US also threatened to destroy the economy, which it could – and did – do.
Nevertheless, Allende won. A few days after his victory, Nixon called in CIA Director Richard Helms, Kissinger and others for a meeting on Chile. Can you describe what happened?
As Helms reported in his notes, there were two points of view. The “soft line” was, in Nixon’s words, to “make the economy scream.” The “hard line” was simply to aim for a military coup.
Our ambassador to Chile, Edward Korry, who was a Kennedy liberal type, was given the job of implementing the “soft line.” Here’s how he described his task: “to do all within our power to condemn Chile and the Chileans to utmost deprivation and poverty.” That was the soft line.
There was a massive destabilization and disinformation campaign. The CIA planted stories in El Mercurio [Chile’s most prominent paper] and fomented labor unrest and strikes.
They really pulled out the stops on this one. Later, when the military coup finally came [in September, 1973] and the government was overthrown – and thousands of people were being imprisoned, tortured and slaughtered – the economic aid which had been canceled immediately began to flow again. As a reward for the military junta’s achievement in reversing Chilean democracy, the US gave massive support to the new government.
Our ambassador to Chile brought up the question of torture to Kissinger. Kissinger rebuked him sharply – saying something like, Don’t give me any of those political science lectures. We don’t care about torture – we care about important things. Then he explained what the important things were.
Kissinger said he was concerned that the success of social democracy in Chile would be contagious. It would infect southern Europe – southern Italy, for example – and would lead to the possible success of what was then called Eurocommunism (meaning that Communist parties would hook up with social democratic parties in a united front).
Actually, the Kremlin was just as much opposed to Eurocommunism as Kissinger was, but this gives you a very clear picture of what the domino theory is all about. Even Kissinger, mad as he is, didn’t believe that Chilean armies were going to descend on Rome. It wasn’t going to be that kind of an influence. He was worried that successful economic development, where the economy produces benefits for the general population – not just profits for private corporations – would have a contagious effect.
In those comments, Kissinger revealed the basic story of US foreign policy for decades.
You see that pattern repeating itself in Nicaragua in the 1980s.
Everywhere. The same was true in Vietnam, in Cuba, in Guatemala, in Greece. That’s always the worry – the threat of a good example.
Kissinger also said, again speaking about Chile, “I don’t see why we should have to stand by and let a country go Communist due to the irresponsibility of its own people.”
As the Economist put it, we should make sure that policy is insulated from politics. If people are irresponsible, they should just be cut out of the system.
In recent years, Chile’s economic growth rate has been heralded in the press.
Chile’s economy isn’t doing badly, but it’s based almost entirely on exports – fruit, copper and so on – and thus is very vulnerable to world markets.
There was a really funny pair of stories yesterday. The New York Times had one about how everyone in Chile is so happy and satisfied with the political system that nobody’s paying much attention to the upcoming election.
But the London Financial Times (which is the world’s most influential business paper, and hardly radical) took exactly the opposite tack. They cited polls that showed that 75% of the population was very “disgruntled” with the political system (which allows no options).
There is indeed apathy about the election, but that’s a reflection of the breakdown of Chile’s social structure. Chile was a very vibrant, lively, democratic society for many, many years – into the early 1970s. Then, through a reign of fascist terror, it was essentially depoliticized. The breakdown of social relations is pretty striking. People work alone, and just try to fend for themselves. The retreat into individualism and personal gain is the basis for the political apathy.
Nathaniel Nash wrote the Times’ Chile story. He said that many Chileans have painful memories of Salvador Allende’s fiery speeches, which led to the coup in which thousands of people were killed [including Allende]. Notice that they don’t have painful memories of the torture, of the fascist terror – just of Allende’s speeches as a popular candidate.
Milton Friedman did not save Chile
Ever since deregulation caused a worldwide economic meltdown in September ’08 and everyone became a Keynesian again, it hasn’t been easy to be a fanatical follower of the late economist Milton Friedman. So widely discredited is his brand of free-market fundamentalism that his admirers have become increasingly desperate to claim ideological victories, however far fetched.
A particularly distasteful case in point. Just two days after Chile was struck by a devastating earthquake, Wall Street Journal columnist Bret Stephens informed his readers that Milton Friedman’s “spirit was surely hovering protectively over Chile” because, “thanks largely to him, the country has endured a tragedy that elsewhere would have been an apocalypse … It’s not by chance that Chileans were living in houses of brick – and Haitians in houses of straw -when the wolf arrived to try to blow them down.”
According to Stephens, the radical free-market policies prescribed to Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet by Milton Friedman and his infamous “Chicago Boys” are the reason Chile is a prosperous nation with “some of the world’s strictest building codes.”
There is one rather large problem with this theory: Chile’s modern seismic building code, drafted to resist earthquakes, was adopted in 1972. That year is enormously significant because it was one year before Pinochet seized power in a bloody US-backed coup. That means that if one person deserves credit for the law, it is not Friedman, or Pinochet, but Salvador Allende, Chile’s democratically elected socialist president. (In truth many Chileans deserve credit, since the laws were a response to a history of quakes, and the first law was adopted in the 1930s).
It does seem significant, however, that the law was enacted even in the midst of a crippling economic embargo (“make the economy scream” Richard Nixon famously growled after Allende won the 1970 elections). The code was later updated in the 90s, well after Pinochet and the Chicago Boys were finally out of power and democracy was restored.
Little wonder: as Paul Krugman points out, Friedman was ambivalent about building codes, seeing them as yet another infringement on capitalist freedom.
As for the argument that Friedmanite policies are the reason Chileans live in “houses of brick” instead of “straw”, it’s clear that Stephens knows nothing of pre-coup Chile. The Chile of the 1960s had the best health and education systems on the continent, as well as a vibrant industrial sector and a rapidly expanding middle class. Chileans believed in their state, which is why they elected Allende to take the project even further.
After the coup and the death of Allende, Pinochet and his Chicago Boys did their best to dismantle Chile’s public sphere, auctioning off state enterprises and slashing financial and trade regulations. Enormous wealth was created in this period but at a terrible cost: by the early 80s, Pinochet’s Friedman-prescribed policies had caused rapid de-industrialisation, a tenfold increase in unemployment and an explosion of distinctly unstable shantytowns. They also led to a crisis of corruption and debt so severe that, in 1982, Pinochet was forced to fire his key Chicago Boy advisers and nationalise several of the large deregulated financial institutions. (Sound familiar?)
Fortunately, the Chicago Boys did not manage to undo everything Allende accomplished. The national copper company, Codelco, remained in state hands, pumping wealth into public coffers and preventing the Chicago Boys from tanking Chile’s economy completely. They also never got around to trashing Allende’s tough building code, an ideological oversight for which we should all be grateful.
Thanks to CEPR for tracking down the origins of Chile’s building code.