Saturday, January 28, 2017

Salvador Allende - the could have been Gottwald, could have been Hitler

I've just re-read Robin Harris' A Tale of Two Chileans - Pinochet and Allende (1999) - a book I haven't touched for ten years. The book was written as agitprop for Pinochet during the time of Pinochet's internment in Britain (by then Home Secretary, Jack Straw) for the alleged torture of a Spanish national. At the time, Pinochet became a sort of Julian Assange of the Right, held under house arrest in Surrey (on charges that his many supporters thought were trumped up) and unable to return to his home country. Harris - a Tory and a sympathiser with Croatian nationalism - thought the situation dire enough to swing into action and write the small volume (published by 'Chilean Supporters Abroad') in defence of Pinochet and his record. 

I'm not interested in Harris' justification for Pinochet's regime here (although I did find it interesting that about half of deaths under Pinochet occurred in gun battles with the Left in the months after the September 1973 coup - they weren't all deaths by helicopter); it's the far more intriguing figure of Salvadore Allende who deserves our attention. I've always thought that parallels existed between Allende and Hitler, especially in the manner of their respective deaths;  here I was amused to read that Allende enjoyed the protection of his own hand-picked Schutz-Staffel:

Already in 1971 Allende had created his own praetorian guard, known euphemistically as the Groups of Personal Friends (GAP - Grupos de Amigos Personales). These increasingly heavily armed thugs effectively took over the President’s protection from the state authorities. The decision was strongly attacked by the Christian Democrats. [Chapter Two, 'Allende's Programme - "Total, Scientific, Marxist Socialism"']

To judge by their activities in the lead-up to the September coup, Allende and his fellow Marxist-Leninists were practitioners of the 'Bolshevist strategy and tactics' outlined in Philip Selznick's Organizational Weapon (1952).

As we know, Selznick looks at the revolutions (or coup d'états, depending on your perspective) in Germany in 1933 and Czechoslovakia in 1948. Hitler and Gottwald conquered their respective states using 'organizational weapon' tactics, and Allende must have been inspired by their example or something like it. Here is Harris:

The whole notion of a "coup against oneself" or "self-coup" (autogolpe) seems on the face of it bizarre: after all, why should those in charge of the government themselves wish to overthrow the state? In fact, though, this is a revolutionary tactic with a well established pedigree. It was, after all, what the Nazis under Hitler perpetrated in Germany in the years after 1932 (when they received a slightly higher vote than did Allende in 1970), and - a still more appropriate model - it was precisely the same approach as that used by the Communists under Gottwald in Czechoslovakia after 1946. In all three cases - Germany, Czechoslovakia and Chile - the revolutionaries gained a limited, temporary, hold on power which they then used in order to make their power unlimited and permanent. Subversion, terror, violence and intimidation were employed, both from within and from outside the apparatus of the state, in order to take total control of all institutions and thus of society itself. The difference between Chile on the one hand and Germany and Czechoslovakia on the other was that in the nick of time the Chilean armed forces acted to prevent this revolutionary plan succeeding. [Chapter Five, 'The Background to the Marxist "Self-Coup"']

The tragedy of today's Venezuela - which has descended into the same conditions as Chile in 1973 - is that no Pinochet, no caudillo, is waiting in the wings to boot Maduro out; Chavez, before his death, ensured that the Venezuelan military was thoroughly politicised and purged of 'reactionary' elements.

As to why Allende failed and Hitler and Gottwald didn't... It's a matter that merits serious examination. Students of 'extremist' politics ought to make case studies out of Hitler in 1933, Gottwald in 1948 and Allende in 1970-73. We on the Far Right have much to learn from the three.

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