First Milton Friedman, now Alexander Pinochet. It’s sure going to be a bleak Christmas at the Thatcher bunker.

Amidst all the clamour and fury around the death of the General, a couple of interesting factoids come to mind.

As The Guardian obit notes, Pinochet was barely in the loop while the coup against Allende was being planned in the years leading up to September 11, 1973. While other generals and a few of Friedman’s University of Chicago students drew up plans for a free-market dictatorship, Pinochet was Allende’s preferred and appointed military leader. “I wonder what they have done with Augusto” Allende is said to have remarked when the coup began.

Chile might not have been the only Left democracy scuppered that day, for it was the rise of Pinochet that convinced the Whitlam government to limit some intelligence contacts with the US, and ensured that Australia went to the top of Nixon’s sh-t list. Ironically, Whitlam too was scuppered by a CIA-client he thought he could trust.

Pinochet’s victory rang alarm-bells on the Australian Left, who noted the way in which assiduous CIA soft propaganda – pro US comics and the like – had prepared the way for it. It got them interested in the classic Chilean Marxist anti-propaganda text “How To Read Donald Duck” which was championed by a NSWIT lecturer named Keith Windschuttle. In the words of Noel Coward, I wonder what happened to him?

As Charles Richardson noted yesterday Pinochet’s reign of state terror was comparatively mild compared to a bunch of other regimes then and since, which is not unfair — and the Right is already getting into training to argue this. Indeed it’s a bit of a distraction from the real point of Pinochet’s Chile – that it was the only place where genuine monetarist policies were fully implemented (both Thatcher and Reagan pulled up well short).

Why? Because with unemployment running at 33% in the midst of the Chilean experiment in the late 70s it should be clear that such policies could only be introduced at the point of a gun. Monetarism didn’t create freedom, it guaranteed dictatorship. It was proof that neoliberal policies and democracy can’t co-exist when there’s a large, impoverished, working class. Pinochet’s legacy isn’t the befuddled Latin American centre-right – it’s China.

Peter Fray

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