Pinochet's arrest

It is of the most essential interest of imperialism and the Chilean scoundrels who call themselves "socialists" and "progressives" that Pinochet be judged, if he is, by an imperialist courthouse wherever. The interest of the Chilean masses is to do their own history and try and judge Pinocho themselves. The interest of the oppressors of those masses, is that the Chileans never imagine they will be able to cast a fiery look on any imperialist again (as the German Emperor said before he repressed the Boxers in China). If the imperialists can try Pinochet, what will they not be able to do with my dear friend Patricia Valenzuela!

It was good that you named the "Nunca mas! report: it does not tackle the main issues with repression in Argentina, mainly who are the _true_ and _essential_ criminals of the Proceso. The whole report is a part of the effort to put all of the blame on the military and thus to give a political alibi to the true criminals, the Alsogarays, the Martinez de Hoz, the Klein, the Cavallo, the Alemann. All of these are now revered as economic gurus, after they led the criminal years after 1976. The Pinochet trial would fulfill the same role. All of the Chilean right is -in the depth of their hearts- waiting for the moment to shrug these military away. Perhaps this Garzon will provide them with the alibi.

In this sense, supporting the right of extraterritoriality of European courts -no matter how cogently one argues for it, the courts of one country trying crimes that took place in another country are extraterritorial courts- amounts to supporting the subjection of all of Chile to imperialist law. Pinochet, in this case, is not the murderer that deserves death penalty, he is another Chilean. When the European courts try Pinochet (if they ever do) they will be _also_ trying the "weakness" of the Chilean people that, as you yourself say, cannot try Pinochet themselves.

Of course the Chileans cannot put Pinochet to trial within their own country. Their weakness will be still deeper, however, if they can't even stop extraterritorial courts. The problem is not whether the person Pinochet should be punished or not. The problem is whether punishment at the hands of those who have sunk the Chilean people into a bondage it had seldom known is for the good of the Chileans. It will be the Spanish, or British state, against the Chilean state, not because Pinocho has been a President, not because he has been a Senator, not because he has been an assassin and a butcher, but because the only good thing with him: that he is Chilean. He is a Chilean criminal who did not commit crimes in Spain nor in Britain (nor, to my knowledge, has he been proven to have had those crimes committed there), so he cannot be tried by Spanish or British courts. If the American courts were the case, perhaps I would think different (Letelier, but Letelier only).

The day the High Courts and the Garzones put to trial people like Kissinger or Thatcher, or all the bourgeois owners of privatized enterprises in Chile, that day I will accept their judging people like Pinochet, who is no worse than them. But that day, of course, there will be truly socialist governments in Britain and Spain.

While that day arrives, I stick firmly to Bolivar: "Let us live our own Middle Ages by ourselves!"

Nestor Miguel Gorojovsky

In opposing the trial of Pinochet outside, Nestor has quoted from Trotsky's article "Fight Imperialism to Fight Fascism", published originally on september the 21st. 1938. The article goes thus:

"Democracy for Mexico, for instance, signifies the desire of a semicolonial country to escape from bonded dependence, to give land to the peasants, to lift the Indians to a higher level of culture [now, what will Lou think about that?], and so on[...]And what does democracy signifies in Great Britain? The maintenance of what exists, that is, above all the maintenance of the rule of the metropolis over the colonies.". So, we must oppose the idea of having Pinochet on trial before a "metropolitan"-i.e. imperialist- court.

However, let's take a closer look to the issue. 1st., as opposed to Lazaro Cardenas- whom Trotsky had in mind- Pinochet doesn't represent the Latin American populist state and its strivings to scrape - or at least to minimize - imperialist dependence and to give the native bourgeoisie more elbow-room in dealings with finance capital. He is much more the opposite, in that his economic policies have reduced Chile to the role of a enclave economy (to borrow FH Cardoso's expression) based on exports of forestry and mining products. This process- which lead to the atomization and reduction to political insignificance of the Chilean working class- has had its repressive side made evident by the Pinochet affair, and so has for a long while avoided the further appearance in the Brazilian bourgeois media of further articles praising the "Chilean model" and Chile as some late XXth Century Uruguay- which in the early XXth. Century was hailed as the "S. American Switzerland". At the same time, it has stressed the fundamental solidarity existing between neoliberal rulers in impoerialist countries like Maggie to their authoriatarian counterparts in the IIIrd. World, and is presently putting the ideologues of the Blair government in dire straits about the issue of extradition (we must protect our investments, but how about propaganda of the "3rd. Way"?). We have here, I think, a lot of ground for further- and potentially profitable- agitation.

In fact, I do not think that the imperialist courts need Pinochet to begin trying us; the Norwegian court that tried Trotsky and finished by allowing the Social-democratic government of that country to intern him in some Artic wilderness (a fate from which he escaped by having asylum granted by Mexico) acted much on his own, as early as 1936. Litigation, in all societies, has been a form of class struggle - national and international; remember that Marx had to spend much of his exile litigating from England in Prussian courts, as he tells in "Herr Vogt". Perhaps that's a case of recognizing "the physical force of reality" , and try to get some advantage from that. But I've not settled my mind entirely over that issue, of course.

Carlos Rebello

In many ways, it is irrelevant if Pinochet ever sees a courtroom. History has already passed judgement on him. Our class has passed judgement on him, and he is the enemy. When I think of him, I feel a knot in my throat and an upwelling of utter revulsion and hatred, in a sense that I can only define as class hatred. I am not Chilean, but I am a worker and that man headed a regime which was one of the worst enemies our class has ever confronted. History and our class have indeed passed judgement on him. Only the sentence remains to be determined.

I cringe at the missed opportunity in 1986, and only wish the Frente had succeeded in excuting him. I would not then, nor would I now, shed a single tear for him, as I did not shed any for Reza Pahlavi, Ceaucescu, Roberto D'Aubisson, or Yitzhak Rabin.

Juan Fajardo

If you haven't seen it, this is an interesting and very readable book on the subject:

Claribel Alegria and Darwin Flakoll, Death of Somoza (Willimantic, CT: Curbstone Press, 1996).

I highly recommend it.

Marc Becker

I would be entirely convinced by Nestor's thoroughly and convincing replies on the Pinochet case weren't it for one thing. In fact, any marxist knows that "the emancipation of workers must come from the workers themselves", and that we must not try to lift the Chilean people to a higher level of political activity in spite of themselves. However, that's exactly the point. Of course I cannot fully grasp what is happening in Chile by reading the Brazilian press, that's is now busy offering printed space to people like the former tzar of finance to the early 1964 dictatorship, Roberto Campos, to expand his considerations on Pinochet's mildness as compared to Fidel Castro, and so on. But the problem is that the arrest of Pinochet's seems to have shattered badly the consensus of silence that existed in Chile, that forms the very root of the- again much praised by the Brazilian bourgeois press- Chilean "stability". The great problem, to me, seems to be whether the Chilean working class will take *subjectively* the return of Pinochet to Chile as a *political defeat* to themselves, or not. If yes, we risk a deeper plunge of the Chilean left into political apathy, akin to the depression that hit the Brazilian Left after the deposition of President Collor was allowed by the Left to be solved by strictly constitutional means, thereby granting the emergence of the weak interim Itamar government, that functioned as a buffer in order to prepare the setting-up of an all-embracing neoliberal program under Cardoso, that launched the Real Plan in july 1994 as Finance Minister to Itamar and soon-to-be presidential candidate. Given the state of prostration that has befallen the Brazilian Left since then, it must be asked if we can allow something like that to happen in Chile.

Carlos Rebello

A. Olaechea wrote of Pinochet:

"There is ten thousand times more patriotism and anti-imperialism in a Pinochet - even if belatedly arrived at - than in a social-democrat renegade sepoy or in a Trotskyist worm!"

The positive attitude toward Pinochet is something that I do not find surprising given the vicissitudes of Maoist politics and what I know of Senderistas politics in general and those works by Olaechea that I have read. What does stand out for me is the reference to social-democrats as "sepoys", a reference which I can only regrad as offensive. First because of its clearly racist overtone, similar to saying that someone "worked like a coolie", if you understand what I mean? Secondly, because, given what I know (admittedly, not much) of the Sepoy Rebellion, it was an important anti-colonial struggle that united Muslim and Hindu Indians in struggle and put the British on notice that their Jewel in the Crown could prove to be very expensive. In this regard, as well, to use the word "sepoy" as a slur is an intolerable affront to the heritage which revolutionaries ought to embrace..

Juan Fajardo

Not at all, Juan.

I do not know where did Olaechea take the word from. But I can tell you what is the history of the political usage of that word in Argentina (and I suspect Olaechea has taken it from me, for I have never encountered it outside Argentine political jargon and, more exactly, Argentine national democratic or "national left" jargon).

It is somehow a technical term, just as when Trotsky defines fascism as the "terrorist dictatorship of great capital". It has nothing to do with the heroic rebellion of the Sepoys in India, nor does it have a racist meaning.

It was first used by Argentine national-democratic petty bourgeois revolutionaries during the thirties, to define everyone who, knowingly or most probably unknowingly, was working for imperialism, regardless of their avowed political leaning. It should be noted that by those years, Argentina had been defined in London (and by its own vice-president) as "technically, a part of the British Empire" on equal standing with India or East Africa. It was almost a matter of political logics that they resorted to the adjective sepoys to qualify any one who would support that policy, knowingly or not.

The people who coined this technical term were by no means racists, but they did not know too much of India. Many of them just knew that most of the British conquest and control of India had been done by resorting to local troops and not with British soldiers. Besides that, the arch-typal sepoy for these people were not the rebel sepoys, but the arch-colonized Gunga Din. Peter Sellers's good humour (British, so "ou") can't supersede this fact: In order to become a rebel sepoy, you must first be a soldier working for the invader against your own kin, that is, a sepoy. The Martin Fierro, a book full with social rebellion and the best of popular patriotic feeling, has as one of its central characters a "rebel sepoy": Sargeant Cruz. And these national-democratic petty bourgeois were keen readers of the Martin Fierro.

Finally, we Argentines had to confront today's sepoy troops in 1982: the Gurkha troops in the Malvinas. Whatever you may feel towards peoples so oppressed they have to sell themselves to a foreign power as mercenaries, the hard fact rests that sepoys were working for their oppressor against Argentine soldiers, and as ex-combatants have repeatedly told, they were brutally ferocious on battlefield. Gunga Din would not have spared Argie blood in the South. I have been told (no evidence to back this) that in many minor battles, the Gurkhas were keen not to leave Argies alive, they would take no prisoners. The guy who told me this fought in an area where Gurkha sepoy troops operated, and he says he lay motionless on the ground when he saw they were killing the wounded men, and that they thought him dead and passed him by. I found him trustworthy, and a few other stories he told me I could crosscheck.


There is evidence of atrocities committed by British troops is the Argentines as Nestor describes. Ben Brack wrote them up for Living Marxism a few years ago:

I think that some of the post-colonial literature theorists like Gayatray Chakkravorty Spivak (pardon my spelling) use Sepoy as a political concept, rather like 'subaltern'.

However, there is a less attractive prejudice amongst European leftists that Franco's use of African troops against the Republic was a betrayal of civilisation, because it armed blacks to fight White Europeans.

The Ghurkas are reputed for their aggressive and disciplined fighting. But they themselves are victims of a racial oppression. The Ghurka regiments are recruited in Nepal. Their rates of pay are different from those of British troops, serving in the same army. They are segregated from British troops and serve under white officers who do not speak their language.

The Ghurka regiments were all but wiped out in the current spending review, and some animosities did break out in the run up. In one famous case, one Ghurka troop beat up their officers, and then all refused to testify against each other, at which point the British army drew the conclusion that they were untrustworthy, and broke up the troop.

The Ghurkas were the subject of a documentary a while ago, and their commanding officers invited the television audience to smile at their backward ways, like not knowing how to use a cash-point machine. The attitude towards their troops was thoroughly patronising, referring at once to their fearless loyalty and childish ways.

-- Jim heartfield