Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Lessons from the Chilean 9/11

By Mike Tudoreanu

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Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Last week, the world remembered 9/11, a tragic day that marks the deaths of thousands of people who lost their lives in a reactionary attack against democracy. Here in the United States, our thoughts and prayers were with the victims of the attack in 2001, 12 years ago.

But there was also another reactionary attack against democracy that killed thousands of people on that day in 1973 in Chile.

Forty years ago, a brutal military coup deposed the democratically elected government of Chile and installed a dictatorship that lasted for 17 years, killing and torturing tens of thousands of people in the process. The deposed president, Salvador Allende, was the first democratically elected Marxist leader in Latin America. And the man who replaced him, General Augusto Pinochet, was a free-market dictator backed by the United States.

The story begins in 1970, when Allende and his Socialist Party narrowly won the Chilean presidential elections. This did not come out of the blue; Allende had run for president twice before, narrowly losing to right-wing candidates whose campaigns were generously funded by the CIA.

The U.S. government was interested in Chile because it was the world”s leading source of copper, and American companies owned the mines. After Allende became president, he proceeded to carry out his campaign promises, which involved placing the copper mines and some other industries under state ownership, redistributing land to poor peasants, providing universal health care and investing in public education. There was also a long-term project known as “the Chilean path to socialism,” which meant a gradual transition from a market economy to a planned economy aided by computer networks.

The U.S. government decided it could not tolerate this, no matter what the Chileans thought. Then-Secretary of State Henry Kissinger remarked, “I don’t see why we need to stand by and watch a country go communist because of the irresponsibility of its own people. The issues are much too important for the Chilean voters to be left to decide for themselves.”

President Richard Nixon ordered the CIA to “make the [Chilean] economy scream.” Economic ties were cut and trade restrictions were imposed, which was particularly devastating for a country so reliant on its copper exports.

Right-wing officers within the Chilean military, many of them tied to wealthy families and corporate interests, also wanted to get rid of Allende. Eventually, in September 1973, with CIA help, a large section of the military , overwhelming constitutionalist forces. The generals offered to let Allende live if he agreed to go into exile. He refused, and stayed behind to fight with his last remaining loyal soldiers until the end.

Once Allende was dead, General Pinochet made himself the new head of state, the Socialist Party headquarters was set on fire, and over the
following days and weeks its members were hunted down by the newly-formed secret police. Pinochet set the tone for his new regime by gathering real and suspected leftists in the Chilean capital’s football stadium, and having them summarily shot. Others were sent to concentration camps in the far north and south of the country, where many “disappeared.”

Meanwhile, the United States openly supported Pinochet and promoted business ties with Chile.

Following advice from a group of free-market economists known as the “Chicago Boys,” which included Milton Friedman, Pinochet began by reversing Allende”s policies, and then went much further. He unleashed a massive privatization campaign, selling off nearly all state-owned assets in Chile (including those that had been state-owned before Allende).

In total, the government sold its stock in 160 corporations, 16 banks and more than 3,600 agro-industrial plants, mines and real estate. Countless public services were turned into for-profit private businesses – the national airline, the telephone industry, the social security system and eventually even public education. Unions were banned and their former leaders were imprisoned, tortured and sometimes killed.

Pinochet”s regime was ultimately overthrown in 1990 after a wave of public protests and demonstrations. Today, Chileans are still coming to terms with his legacy — both the human rights abuses and the enormous inequality and social injustice.

So what does any of this have to do with us? A lot. The tragedy of Sept. 11, 1973, is a warning from history.

The Chilean 9/11 is a warning about U.S. foreign policy. Every time an American president tells the nation about America”s supposed record of upholding freedom and democracy in the world, we should reply, “Tell that to the Chileans!” (or the Vietnamese, or the Cambodians, or the Nicaraguans…).

The Chilean 9/11 is also a warning about the power of the “one percent.” Pinochet received the enthusiastic support of the Chilean business elite. Allende gambled his life on the bet that Chilean corporate interests would accept socialist reforms as long as they were democratic, legal and constitutional. He was wrong.
If they have to choose between democracy and their wealth, the “one percent” will choose their wealth every time. All progressives would do well to remember this lesson.

And the Chilean 9/11 is a warning about the connection between “free markets” and oppression. Libertarian economic ideas have always been hostile to democracy, but Pinochet provided a particularly shocking example of free-market dictatorship, murdering people who did not appreciate his brand of “freedom.” Even today, the ghost of Pinochet lives on in the present drive for austerity policies and budget cuts.

Mike Tudoreanu is a Collegian columnist and can be reached at [email protected]



15 Responses to “Lessons from the Chilean 9/11”

  1. Mike on September 19th, 2013 9:34 am

    How ironic. A fascist blaming capitalism for fascism. To clarify: When you propose others should take what isn’t theirs, by FORCE if necessary, that does in fact make you a fascist.

  2. Kris on September 19th, 2013 11:07 am

    I’ll buy you a one way ticket to any other country in the world if you sign a legally binding contract saying you will never return. Seriously, I will.

  3. Ulysses on September 20th, 2013 11:02 am

    Nice. Indirectly comparing libertarians and austerity to 9/11. I would say I’m surprised but these kinds of ad hominem attacks are sadly all too common.

  4. Arafat on September 23rd, 2013 9:41 am

    Mike is a product (he does not realize the fact that he is a product) of a school system, a main-stream-media and a society that has turned him into a puppet.

    He has no idea what the implications are of his beliefs. No idea whatsoever.

    America is not close to being perfect. America has been short-sighted in many ways. Duh. Let’s state the obvious. But America’s Constitution and Bill of Rights are the greatest governing documents ever, and Mike’s disdain for our country instead of his lack of interest in trying to make us live up to our ideals makes me sick.

  5. Crh on September 23rd, 2013 3:38 pm

    Hey Mike (the one in the comments, not the author), you keep using that word, “fascism”. It doesn’t mean what you think it means.

    And by the way, I am happy to see that Mike Tudoreanu did NOT, in fact, call Pinochet a “fascist”. That’s good, and refreshing. Pinochet was a brutal free-market dictator, but not every brutal dictator is a fascist. “Fascist” doesn’t mean “bad” or “evil” or “someone I really hate”. People really need to stop using it that way.

  6. Jamie on September 24th, 2013 4:29 pm

    I can never understand people (usually conservatives) who see some article about some horrible thing that America did in the past, and then post a response along the lines of, “how DARE YOU say such things about the greatest country in the world?!!”

    Um… maybe the article dared to say those things because they’re true? And because they’re kind of a big deal? I mean, let’s be clear here: the United States, in very recent history, has directly supported a great number of dictators (not just Pinochet) who mistreated, oppressed and murdered countless numbers of people.

    If your response to this history of supporting murder and injustice is “whoops, sorry, we’re not perfect”, then I pray to God that you’ll never, ever get anywhere near political power, because you have a shocking disregard for human life.

    Other countries have admitted their past misdeeds in a public apology and taken steps to ensure they won’t happen again. Japan, for example, changed its constitution to say that the Japanese military may never again be used to fight wars abroad. America should do the same. It’s the honorable thing to do.

  7. Mike on September 25th, 2013 4:01 pm

    So taking peoples property by force for “the good of the country” is not a fascist ideal?

  8. Crh on September 26th, 2013 2:30 pm


    Actually, no. No it isn’t. At all. In fact, it is an idea that EVERY country and every government agrees with, to a greater or lesser extent. Even the United States has something called “eminent domain”, which is a law that allows the government to… well, take someone’s property by force for the good of the country (in certain special circumstances). Like I said, every country does it *to a greater or lesser extent* (and fascist countries did it to a LESSER extent than most, by the way).

    But anyway, this still doesn’t have anything to do with the topic of the article…

  9. Alex on October 9th, 2013 4:51 am

    The only “fascist ideal” I see around here is the idea that it’s ok for a small minority to control most of a country’s wealth – which is exactly what we’ve got now under American capitalism.

  10. Crh on October 10th, 2013 10:49 pm

    Mike (again, the one in the comments): The answer to your question is no. It is not. I really have no idea where you get this obsession with “taking people’s property for the good of the country”, but it is in fact something that ALL countries do, to a greater or lesser extent. Even the United States has Eminent Domain laws for precisely that purpose.

    Of course other countries and other types of societies do it to a much greater extent, but the point is that it’s not an ideal of any ideology in particular.

    Just like, for example, regulating drug use is not an ideal of any ideology in particular. Every present-day country does it to a greater or lesser extent.

  11. Mike on October 16th, 2013 6:56 pm

    The author of this page would like to see those who build businesses that go on to be successful have them taken away by force if necessary and redistributed to those who work there.


  12. Ben on October 18th, 2013 5:46 pm

    The author never states what he would “like to see.” He’s providing an account of an actual historical occurrence. The fact that you (Mike in the comments) seem so possessed by the idea of private property being “taken” away while not at all concerned by the deaths of thousands of Chileans and the participation of the U.S. in backing a brutal dictator shows your extreme lack of humanity. Also, those businesses you keep mentioning are built from the blood and sweat of hard working men, women, and children. In Chile prior to Allende, corporations stole lands from indigenous peasants and then used them as virtual slave labor. Allende was DEMOCRATICALLY elected to end such exploitation and reward those who actually do the work of mining, manufacturing, farming, and educating. Also, you keep using the word “force” which I’m sure you equate to guns and armies, that is not how nationalizing industry works. Stop with the incessant fear-mongering. Again, if you want to talk about “force,” talk about Pinochet killing Leftists at the Chilean National Stadium. Your continued use of simplistic accusations shows a severe lack in understanding of economics, history, and politics. Props to the author for telling this story, a story that needs to be brought to light more often.

  13. Kris on October 24th, 2013 8:28 am

    Anyone who reads the Collegian regularly, or is one of Mihnea’s lackeys, knows that he has advocated taking people’s private property. I refer you here:

    ….oh screw it… read any other article the kid has written. I believe there was even something that was anti-rent.

  14. Brandino on October 26th, 2013 5:52 pm

    I don’t understand why some of these comments are attacks on the author’s character. To call the author a fascist or product of some system, or to invite him to leave the country fails to address the points the author raises.

    Please address the points the author raises. The author cites his sources throughout the piece and addresses legitimate concerns that any reasonable person could dispute.

  15. Observer on October 28th, 2013 8:25 pm

    Kris… Mike Tudoreanu has stated that he is a socialist (as can be seen by reading just the *titles* of his articles, never mind the content). As such, OF COURSE he advocates placing the means of production under public ownership – i.e. “taking away [some] people’s private property [over some things]”. That’s part of what being a socialist means. Socialists argue that private property over the means of production is illegitimate and wrong.
    So… what’s your point? Maybe you disagree with socialism, which is fine, and maybe that guy Mike who wrote the first comment also disagrees with socialism (although he seems to have his -isms mixed up), but (a) that has nothing to do with this article, and (b) you’re not actually bringing up any arguments, you’re just calling people names.

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