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A Few Words About Chile and Australia

In 1970 the people of Chile had the temerity to elect the radical socialist Salvador Allende as their President, through a coalition of Christian leftists, social democrats, democratic socialists, radical liberals, and communists. The Allende government sought to nationalise major (and often foreign-owned) industries, engage in agrarian reform, increase minimum wages, employment, enhance social security, education, and public health. Three years later the military, under General Augusto Pinochet, organised a coup against the Allende government, ushering in seventeen years of a fascist dictatorship where tens of thousands would be executed, "go missing", imprisoned, tortured, and raped.

With declassified documents it is evident that the coup against the Allende government was encouraged and supported by the U.S. government, despite claims to the contrary by public officials for years. Further, the U.S. government supported the Pinochet régime, especially through Operation Condor, a U.S. campaign of assisting state terrorism against left-wing and democratic activists in South America. At least 60,000 deaths have been attributed to Operation Condor. Under the influence of anti-public economists, such as Milton Friedman and Arnold Harberger, the Pinochet régime banned trade unions, and privitised social security and public enterprises, with many of the latter being sold below market price to politically-connected buyers.

Always following as a subservient second-ranked imperial power, Australia too supported the murderous coup and all that followed with our own operatives in Chile. Now former Australian military intelligence officer and academic Clinton Fernandes is seeking the release of classified documents relating to the role Australia played in helping the military regime of General Pinochet. Most of these documents are around fifty years old, but nevertheless the Australian government is resisting the release of these documents, arguing "national security" issues, as is always done. It stands in stark contrast that other countries involved, including the United States, that have already declassified information relating to their involvement.

On a personal note the events in Chile had a profound and formative effect on own political thought. Through the movie "Missing", which traced a family's attempts to find their murdered son (Charles Horman) after their coup. It was a fair film, carried well by Jack Lemmon and Sissy Spacek. The haunting soundtrack by Vangelis was never released, however a kind person has put it up on Youtube. Whilst the film concentrated on the loss of one non-Chilean life, the book went into significantly further details of the setting and the events. The important lesson learned from Allende's Chile is that, despite any claims to the contrary, if democratic capitalism is threatened by democratic socialism the loyalty of the State is not to democracy but to capitalism, and those forces will use any means in their disposal, including instituting a fascist and military dictatorship, to protect their profits, power, and privilege.