Which is the lesser of two evils…

This is a tough one. For many on the left the most indelible mark left by the date 9/11 is undoubtedly that date in 1973, when General Pinochet took over the reigns of government in Chile. In the years that followed, according to the Rettig Commission, approximately 3,000 people are known to have been executed, 27,000 were imprisoned and, in an unknown number of cases, tortured. And yet, as the Washington Post points out:

It’s hard not to notice, however, that the evil dictator leaves behind the most successful country in Latin America. In the past 15 years, Chile’s economy has grown at twice the regional average, and its poverty rate has been halved. It’s leaving behind the developing world, where all of its neighbors remain mired. It also has a vibrant democracy. Earlier this year it elected another socialist president, Michelle Bachelet, who suffered persecution during the Pinochet years.

Like it or not, Mr. Pinochet had something to do with this success. To the dismay of every economic minister in Latin America, he introduced the free-market policies that produced the Chilean economic miracle — and that not even Allende’s socialist successors have dared reverse. He also accepted a transition to democracy, stepping down peacefully in 1990 after losing a referendum.

By way of contrast, Fidel Castro — Mr. Pinochet’s nemesis and a hero to many in Latin America and beyond — will leave behind an economically ruined and freedomless country with his approaching death. Mr. Castro also killed and exiled thousands. But even when it became obvious that his communist economic system had impoverished his country, he refused to abandon that system: He spent the last years of his rule reversing a partial liberalization. To the end he also imprisoned or persecuted anyone who suggested Cubans could benefit from freedom of speech or the right to vote.

Leaving aside the undoubted burden of punative US sanctions on the latter, the prolonged and severe curtailment of human rights in Cuba provokes questions about which regime was the more destructive of political and personal freedom within their own respective countries.

Hat tip to the Instapundit!

  • Glensman

    “Leaving aside the undoubted burden of punative US sanctions on the latter.”

    Not really a fair comparison is it? One dictator funed and supported to the hilt by US/Britain and the other economically crippled by trade sanctions.

    I’m no communist but Cuba hasn’t been given a chance, the US/British alliance has more blood on its hands than just in the middle east.

  • Poor economy is one thing, but surely the curtailment of rights is quite another?

  • pith

    Oh well that’s alright then.

    2006 and we are still getting Mussolini train-type yarns. Hideous.

  • Dec

    Poor economy is one thing, but surely the curtailment of rights is quite another?

    And the latter surely has nothing to do with the estimated 600 assassination attempts on Castro’s life by the CIA.

  • foreign correspondent

    Sorry but I don´t think it´s a tough one at all, Mick. There is NO excuse whatsoever for the Pinochet regime and their murder and torturing. The Nazi regime lowered unemployment levels in Germany in the 1930s but that in no way excuses anything they did.
    It´s true, many on the left turn a blind eye to injustice under the Castro regime in Cuba and that is inexcusable too. Does anyone know how many have been killed under Castro though? One person would be one too many of course – I am just wondering as I have never seen any figures for deaths and torture in Cuba.
    The Washington Post must be a foul neocon rag to publish this article, inmho

  • Quaysider

    The comparison is certainly odious (and the economic argument is no argument at all) but it is no more odious than condemnation of Pinochet from people who happily fawn all over Castro.

  • Mick Fealty

    I am not taking the Norman Lamont line here. But what intrigues me is the problem of unintended outcomes.

    I guess another unfair aspect of the comparison is that Pinochet is a long time out of the job. Castro is still in situ. It took Spain some time to shake off the effects of its dictatorship, but once gone there is no doubt that, over a considerable period of time, it was able to recover a largely healthy democracy.

  • I Wonder

    Not true, Mick.

    He formally relinquished the Presidency in 1990 but remained Army C-in-C until 1998.

    His continuing informal authority did not exactly create much space for civilianisation of government. I should doubt that his historical contribution will be based on economics – not as long as there is a moral compass independent of the mores of US foreign policy.

  • Mick Fealty

    Washington Post a right wing neo con rag… some of us need to get out more.

    IW. Good point on the CiC job. Although the contrived epithet of “Senator for life” did not save him from being arrested in London.

    None of these issues are as simple as the editorial would at first glance make it seem. Here’s an interesting abstracted look at the economic problem faced by Cuba. Though if you scroll down, the writer seems constrained in recounting the nature of current human rights issues there.

    Without allowing myself to get pushed into a position of underwriting the long term recovery of Chile (Argentina was once lauded as an economic miracle, and has spent the last decade wandering an economic desert), the economic question is not as entirely irrelevant as some here seem to think.

  • “He may have been a son of a bitch, but he sure was our son of a bitch”

    This echo’s around the Washington Beltway !!

  • joeCanuck

    Mick

    Don’t forget that Castro went to Washington after the revolution seeking friendship and cooperation.
    He was kept waiting in an anteroom at the State Department for hours, then a junior official came out and told him to take a hike.
    That’s when he went home and called the Kremlin.
    You simply can’t say that one dictator’s human rights violations are somehow less odious than another’s.

  • Ho Chi Minn had the same problem.

    After helping the Allies during WWII, Ho Chi Minn went to Trueman and asked for help, Dien Bien Phu later, Ho Chi Minn gets on the horn to the Kremlin.

    Ho Chi Minn was a nationalist and would have become a true capitalist, if that meant Vietnam was granted Independence.

  • Greenflag

    PInochet was the lesser of two evils will I believe be the judgement of history .
    Nobody knows how many Cubans have been executed under Castro’s regime. The hundreds of thousands of Cubans who have fled the Cuban regime since Castro took power had a reason for leaving .

    I tend to agree with Art Hostage & Joe Canuck re the record of the USA foreign relations crowd re Vietnam & Cuba . How to turn victory into defeat seems or to create a bigger mess than the one you wanted to fix seems to be the American way at least in the field of foreign policy .

  • Mickhall

    Mick
    I found the article the usual Wall St promo crap, but it was your post which really disappointed me, not least because you ignored the fact that the main beneficiaries of the Chilean economy, even today, are the middle classes who where Pinochet core support base, [do you come from that class Mick?] and that over a third of the Chilean people still live below the poverty line, but hey, as long as the shops have ipods etc for sale.

    Not only was Pinochet responsible for mass murder, but what you seem to be overlooking he all but destroyed the system of health care, state funded education and good employment practices for the Chilean working classes and peasantry that the Allende government was instigating. Plus he sold off the natural resource of the Chilean people and their State assets at knock down prices to US multi Nationals. You also seem to have overlooked the Chicago bunch of economist the US government sent down there to oversee this theft; and thus reduce the working classes to serfdom, whilst they stuffed cash into the pockets of the wealthy in chile and back home. Now one would have to be pretty dumb not to to kick start an economy under such circumstance, especially with the blank cheque the US and world bank gave the obscene brute. The more so when the purpose of that economy under Pinochet was to serve only one section of the Chilian people.

    However when the USA placed Pinochet in power they set something else in motion which had disastrous consequences around the world, some of which we are still experiencing today. For the Allende government was the first marxist/socialist government to be elected by a democratic mandate. Hence it posed a real danger to greedy capitalists and their gofers the word over. For if workers and their allies in the middle classes could elect governments that put their, and the nation as a whole’s interest first; and if they could manage to stay in power without being overthrown by the forces of reaction. There would be no need for violent revolution like that which brought Lenin and Castro to power.

    Hence with Pinochet rise to power, almost its first effect was that Mr Castro battened down the hatches, called out his security service etc, whilst Pinochet main financiers the CIA turned the economic screw on Cuba, as Castro was not prepared to liberalize and risk going the same way as his friend Allende, who had incidentally been pressing on him the merits of the democratic way just prior to being overthrown.

    Please do not compare the Chilean economy with Spain as it is simply not comparable, not least as shortly after the fall/death of Franco, a socialist government was elected, who introduced the welfare state, legalized TU’s etc. Plus Spain had a very helpful EU to edge it towards a social democratic society, whereas when Pinochet left office the US all but demanded he remain in control of the military to police the nation and enforce the will of its most reactionary forces.

    Mick, unlike you it seems, I believe the sign of a successful economy is one which puts the needs of those at the bottom of the economic pile first and by so doing brings more equality not less. A successful economy is one that looks after the most vulnerable people within the nation, not adds to their misery.
    Thus in my judgement not only is Chile a failed economy, but so to in many ways is the UK and RoI. It seems to me you have brought into the whole exploitative neo-con nonsense that it is impossible to have a decent economy and a social democratic society. I hope I am mistaken in this.

  • joeCanuck

    That’s my reading of the Vietnam situation too, Art Hostage, based on a couple of history books I read.
    Immediately after the Japanese surrender, the USA rearmed the Japanese occupying forces as auxiliaries to hold down the Vietnamese until the French could scurry back.

  • Godot

    Relying on the Washington Post for a fair assessment of the value of deregulation, privatization, union busting and Thatcherism run amok (i.e. the so-called “Miracle in Chile”) is akin to using the Telegraph for balanced insights into Republicanism.

    Aside from a few ideologues, most informed assessments of Pinochet’s (read Milton Friedman’s) economic experiments in Chile conclude that it was a unmitigated disaster. For starters, in real terms, unemployment rose nearly 500%, real wages declined by 40%, and the poverty rate doubled from 20 to 40% of the population.

    In fact, in 1983 Pinochet, having bankrupted the country and created a depression, was forced to reverse himself and started nationalizing segments of the society he had previously let go for a pittance.

    It is, in fact, that the socialist government of Allende — which Pinochet and the American government violently overthrew — had nationalised the Chilean copper industry (something Pinochet didn’t get around to selling to his friends) that accounts for most of Chile’s economic well being today. This point is always conveniently left out when the Right discusses the bogus miracle in Chile.

    For anyone interested, here’s a link to a more balanced assessment of Pinochet’s economic experiments on Chile
    Tinker Bell and Pinochet

  • Mick Hall,

    thank you for eloquently and cogently rebutting the Washington Times piece.

    In 1979 when Somoza fled from Nicaragua with what remained of the country’s wealth both the World Bank and IMF declared that the Nicaraguan economy was unavoidably heading for total economic meltdown.

    Under the economic polices of the Sandinistas not only did this unavoidable economic catastrophe not occur but every single developmental indice rose – literacy, health, standard of living, etc. All this despite US funded Contra-terrorism, the mining of harbours by the US, a US sponsored economic blockade and a devastating earthquake in Managua.

    If the Washington Consensus free market enterprise solution pushed by the WB & IMF for the last 30 years is such a panacea why didn’t Argentina, Brazil, Peru or Russia benefit from it?

    The abhorrent moral decree of the WT piece that creating a successful (for the wealthy) economy expunges murder, torture, dictatorship, loss of civil & human rights seems only to apply to allies of the US. That the Cuban economy has been more successful than it’s counterparts in Latin and Central America, despite a 50 year economic blockade with the US, would surely argue that Castro has been the lesser of two evils? Of course given the choice between a Cuban Pinochet and Castro, Castro would be the lesser of two evils.

  • Dread Cthulhu

    joeCanuck: “Immediately after the Japanese surrender, the USA rearmed the Japanese occupying forces as auxiliaries to hold down the Vietnamese until the French could scurry back. ”

    My understanding is that it was theBritish and French that re-armed the Japanese, but hey, hwy let fact get in your way…

    From the History place…

    July 1945 – Following the defeat of Nazi Germany, World War II Allies including the U.S., Britain, and Soviet Union, hold the Potsdam Conference in Germany to plan the post-war world. Vietnam is considered a minor item on the agenda.

    In order to disarm the Japanese in Vietnam, the Allies divide the country in half at the 16th parallel. Chinese Nationalists will move in and disarm the Japanese north of the parallel while the British will move in and do the same in the south

    September 13, 1945 – British forces arrive in Saigon, South Vietnam.

    September 22, 1945 – In South Vietnam, 1400 French soldiers released by the British from former Japanese internment camps enter Saigon and go on a deadly rampage, attacking Viet Minh and killing innocent civilians including children, aided by French civilians who joined the rampage. An estimated 20,000 French civilians live in Saigon.
    September 24, 1945 – In Saigon, Viet Minh successfully organize a general strike shutting down all commerce along with electricity and water supplies. In a suburb of Saigon, members of Binh Xuyen, a Vietnamese criminal organization, massacre 150 French and Eurasian civilians, including children.

    September 26, 1945 – The first American death in Vietnam occurs, during the unrest in Saigon, as OSS officer Lt. Col. A. Peter Dewey is killed by Viet Minh guerrillas who mistook him for a French officer. Before his death, Dewey had filed a report on the deepening crisis in Vietnam, stating his opinion that the U.S. “ought to clear out of Southeast Asia.”

    October 1945 – 35,000 French soldiers under the command of World War II General Jacques Philippe Leclerc arrive in South Vietnam to restore French rule. Viet Minh immediately begin a guerrilla campaign to harass them. The French then succeed in expelling the Viet Minh from Saigon.

  • nothere

    I wish people would stop using “but hey” in their posts. It’s condescending and snide as ***k.

  • Dread Cthulhu

    nothere: “I wish people would stop using “but hey” in their posts. It’s condescending and snide as ***k. ”

    Any worse than disseminating false and misleading information as “history?”

  • Cato

    In order for there to be real progress on human rights, the left needs to get away from the concept of right-wing violations = monstrous and left-wing violations = a mere bagatelle in comparison.
    Amnesty International, which could hardly be considered a mouthpiece of the State Department, records in its 2006 annual report that:

    On 13 July around 20 people were detained while participating in a peaceful event in Havana. They were commemorating the “13 de Marzo” tugboat disaster of 1994, in which some 35 people were killed while attempting to flee Cuba when their boat was reportedly rammed by the Cuban authorities. Six remained in detention without charge and one was sentenced to one year’s imprisonment for “peligrosidad predelictiva” defined as “a person’s special proclivity to commit offences as demonstrated by conduct that is manifestly contrary to the norms of socialist morality”.

    Reporters Sans Frontieres also judge Cuba the 165th best country in the world for protecting press freedom. Only Eritrea, Turkmenistan and North Korea are judged worse.

  • joeCanuck

    Dread

    I’m willing to stand corrected but I think you’re being too harsh on me. I was (stupid at my age) relying on my memory of those two books I read maybe 30 years ago. So the British rearmed them
    The fact remains that Ho Chi Minh was a true friend of the USA when they needed him and they immediately turned their backs, not only abandoned the Vietnamese, but returned a few years later to subject them when the French went down to an embarrassing defeat.
    Thankfully, The USA got its comeuppance too.
    And now they’re at it again and are about to suffer another embarrassing defeat.
    You could hardly make this up.

  • joeCanuck

    BTW
    As I live in Canada, I have travelled widely in the USA and they are a wonderful people no matter where you go. I admire greatly what they have achieved as individuals and as a nation, and I’ll be ever grateful for their efforts in both theatres in WW11. Uunfortunately, however, they just don’t seem to be able to master the art of foreign relations.

  • Dread Cthulhu

    joeCanuck: “The fact remains that Ho Chi Minh was a true friend of the USA when they needed him and they immediately turned their backs, not only abandoned the Vietnamese, but returned a few years later to subject them when the French went down to an embarrassing defeat. ”

    Actually, there was something of a civil war inside the State Department — Asian bureau wanted to support Ho Chi Minh, whilst the European bureau thought that supporting France was the preferred solution — something about appeasing the Gallic ego or some such. In their never-ceasing brilliance, the State Department decided French “friendship” was the better of two options.

    As for subsequent developments, the US was not defeated in Vietnam, they were defeated on the home-front, or, more aptly, by the home front. The Viet Cong, post Tet, were almost a non-entity for all practical purposes. things were not lost until a Democratic congress lost their nerve, voting to even prevent the sale of arms to Vietnam, leaving the South Vietnamese high and dry. Similarly, the Cambodians suffered for their faith in the United States under LBJ and a Democratic congress.

    joeCanuck: “Thankfully, The USA got its comeuppance too. ”

    And you wonder why the harshness of my tone… you don’t appreciate my sarcasm, I find your reflexive anti-Americanism to be distasteful. Something bad happened in Vietnam so you ASSUMED it *must* have been the United State’s fault.

    joeCanuck: “And now they’re at it again and are about to suffer another embarrassing defeat.
    You could hardly make this up. ”

    As opposed to the UN / European / Canadian tendency to weep and whine at problems, such as Darfur, Rwanda, Bosnia, Kosovo and hope they’ll go away? I would have thought that you couldn’t make up something like the Sudan after Rwanda, but there you go.

  • Dread Cthulhu

    joeCanuck: “As I live in Canada, I have travelled widely in the USA and they are a wonderful people no matter where you go. I admire greatly what they have achieved as individuals and as a nation, and I’ll be ever grateful for their efforts in both theatres in WW11. Uunfortunately, however, they just don’t seem to be able to master the art of foreign relations. ”

    As opposed to, say, France, who routinely go back to Africa and kick the squittle out of swarthy folk so they can feel militarily superior to someone? Or, say, the EU, who are willing to weep crocodile tears over bad things in the world, but have to stomach for doing anything about it? Bang up job they’ve done with Iran, all but falling over themselves to appease the theocrats in Tehran.

  • joeCanuck

    Dread,
    I’m not quite sure what point you’re trying to make. America hasn’t made mistakes because France, Britain, the E.U. etc have been showing moral cowardness for many years?
    You can find my comments on Rwanda and Bosnia elsewhere on this site.
    I well remember Tony Blair saying that there would never be another Rwanda under his watch. I guess nobody in the Foreign Office has mentioned Darfur to him.

  • Dread Cthulhu

    joeCanuck: “I’m not quite sure what point you’re trying to make. America hasn’t made mistakes because France, Britain, the E.U. etc have been showing moral cowardness for many years? ”

    Its intended as a “compare and contrast” — is it better to try and fail or not to try at all? Is there anyting morally superior sitting on one’s thumbs and whinging for someone else to do the heavy lifting.

    Apparently, your idea of foreign relations success is making the odd squeek in the wilderness and not interefering, or else appeasing the noisy, threatening third-world dictator, both hallmarks of the the foreign policy masters in the EU.

    joeCanuck: “You can find my comments on Rwanda and Bosnia elsewhere on this site.
    I well remember Tony Blair saying that there would never be another Rwanda under his watch. I guess nobody in the Foreign Office has mentioned Darfur to him.”

    Damned if you do, damned if you don’t…

  • joeCanuck

    Well what can I say Dread.
    I think we’ve reached the end of our discussion on this.
    Even though we got somewhat off topic, it has been interesting.
    regards,
    Joe

  • Dread Cthulhu

    Before you scuttle off — what do *YOU* consider to be a competant foreign policy, now that we have eliminated American activism and European appeasement / inactivism?

  • foreign correspondent

    I think if anyone of us here was ever in the slightest danger of ending up in a torture-chamber. I never have, hope I never will, but if I was in that situation I guess the pain induced by the electrodes attached to my body would be just as unbearable if attached to me by someone on behalf of a leftwing or a rightwing regime. And the thought that years down the line the economy would be improved because of my screams of pain wouldn´t be much comfort.

  • foreign correspondent

    Sorry, left out part of the first sentence:
    I think if anyone of us here was ever in the slightest danger of ending up in a torture-chamber, this would be a far less abstract left-right debate.

  • joeCanuck

    I bow my head in shame Dread.
    I would love to have said the U.N. but they as a body are an utter disgrace.
    Nato has proven to be useless too.
    So, I don’t know. Some middle road?
    No idea how we would get there.

  • joeCanuck

    I wouldn’t have a problem with US activism rather than European appeasement if their activism was directed towards what’s good for the world rather than their narrow self-centred interest.
    I mean, a president who still is in denial about global warming lest it might adversely affect his oil backers, is a disaster staring us in the face.
    Luckily, quite a few states are taking their own actions to try to stave off a possible worldwide catastrophe.

  • joeCanuck

    Nw I’m really straying off topic. Sorry everyone.

  • Mick Fealty

    Mick,

    I spent too many pointless nights in my twenties trying to figure out which class I was a member of. But it’s a bit like trying to figure the answer to the question of why property prices have gone through the roof in Britain and Ireland and remain relatively pedestrian in France and Germany: there’s about five or six plausible explanations you might reasonably hit upon.

    As for my post, well it’s fairly clear from the focus of my commentary that human rights abuses, in both places have top billing. Check out the current AI report on Chile and compare it to the one I linked for Cuba?

    I accept that the Cuban state has produced an excellent universal healthcare service second to none in South America. And that the gap separating rich and poor is much smaller in Cuba, and is widening in Chile. These may be desirable outcomes, but the sacrifice of freedom is far from trivial!

    But there is no comparison on any freedom index. Pinochet is gone and a socialist woman president has considerable executive power at her disposal. Chile is 49th in the RSF index. (Ireland is joint number one, btw). Yet according to their Americas report, “Cuba (165th) remains the world’s second biggest prison for journalists, with 24 in jail, and still does not allow an independent media”.

  • Pete Baker

    Mick

    Additionally, Cuba has been listed as one of 13 Internet Enemies of 2006 by RSF

    Along with Belarus, Burma, China, Egypt, Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Tunisia, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Vietnam.

  • joeCanuck

    Mick and Pete,

    That’s all very well but is it reasonable to have a heirarchy of human rights abuser dictators?
    Is a body count of, let’s say, 2000 any less odious than a body count of 3000?

  • Pete Baker

    Joe

    That list is arranged alphabetically. And it’s specific to those states’ attitude to the internet.

  • joeCanuck

    OK Pete.
    I was referring to Mick’s initial post.
    Shouldn’t have included you in my address.

  • This is an extract from the Guardian’s obituary of Pinochet:

    Meanwhile, in laboratory conditions, with political parties and trade unions banned, the “Chicago Boys” set about radically remaking the heavily state-dependent economy. This was achieved through wholesale privatisation, a complete opening to the international economy, fixing the exchange rate artificially low, and pumping in foreign loans during the petro-dollar glut of the late 1970s. The result was the destruction of national industry and much of agriculture, then near-collapse in the early 1980s amid a frenzy of speculation, consumer imports and debt crisis. The state bailed out most of the country’s banking sector and unemployment rose to an official level of over 30 per cent.
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/pinochet/Story/0,,1968952,00.html

    As in the United States the favoured model of an economy is prosperity for the rich; impoverishment for the rest. Since the coming to power of the Reagan-Bush gang the US has become more unequal, but by Boiling Frog syndrome it hasn’t provoked people very much (enough). How far Chileans as a whole are better off is not easy to find out. Things are probably not as bad as during the height of the Pinochet terror, but it takes a long time rebuild social institutions, as we can see in Britain (where Blair and Brown don’t seem too bothered).

  • Rhodey

    I have to say im a pinochet fan, he cracked a few head for the greater good, i would say that is pretty couragous, to know that people would run there mouths but to stick with your ideas and get the job done inspite of it, to know that the road you are going down is a hard one but still one that must be walked, true leader makeing the hard choices, what else can you ask for.

  • >> what else can you ask for.<

  • Dread Cthulhu

    joeCanuck: “I wouldn’t have a problem with US activism rather than European appeasement if their activism was directed towards what’s good for the world rather than their narrow self-centred interest. ”

    The problem is is that every state should have a right to act intheir own interest from time to time.

    joeCanuck: “I mean, a president who still is in denial about global warming lest it might adversely affect his oil backers, is a disaster staring us in the face. ”

    comme ci, comme ca — I would be more inclined to agree if the United States, despite being a non-signatory to Kyoto, weren’t a lot closer to its treaty benchmark than a goodly chunk of the signatories. As I guy who pays the premium for wind-power, heats with gas vs oil and drives a 4 cylinder car, I prefer Bush’s sharing of Pacific Rim strategy of sharing clean coal technology over the UN’s “let’s screw America while India and China burn coal like its going out of style” plan.

    As for foreign policy — not sure where to go, either… was hoping you had an idea. I agree the UN is useless. Wouldn’t mind an “Anglo-sphere” treaty or a Treaty of “real” democratic state , as opposed to the UN, where the inmates run the asylum. Ah, well… hot chocolate and sleep are good things.

  • Rhodey

    Yea George Mathews and Chile is still a fecking mess…. sometimes you need to change the rules and take the reins and get shit done the old fashion way

  • darth rumsfeld

    “Washington Post a right wing neo con rag… some of us need to get out more.”

    tut tut distinguished moderator.No marks for general knowledge. The Post is a Dem supporting pissweak liberal toilet paper. You’re mixing it up with the Washington Times, an excellent paper, albeit owned by the Moonies.

    Old Augusto may have been a tad overenthusiastic in his governance, but he was light years better than socialist-saint Allende. While I certainly wouldn’t share a snifter with him in the Reform Club, Pinochet would be better company than Fidel ( though he wouldn’t have as good a stock of cigars)

  • Well Darth, it’s the first time those two words have been used together on this site for quite some time, if ever. Thank goodness for good old fashioned Presbyterian civility.

    You may also wish to note that I was admonishing another poster for suggesting that the WaPo was “a right wing neo con rag”… And that he should get out more…

    Whilst I would dispute the exact terms that you’re using, the fact that the comparison came from a doyen of the liberal media establishment should have given some people pause for thought before lamming into in the man, yet again.

    I’m not sure he was getting it mixed up with the WT (and since I’ve also written for them in past, it’s unlikely I would). The commenter in question seemed not to be using any frame of reference other than that one editorial.

    Lazy, shoddy, throughother, and sadly too regular amongst some of our barfly regulars..

  • Valenciano

    MickHall: “A successful economy is one that looks after the most vulnerable people within the nation, not adds to their misery.
    Thus in my judgement not only is Chile a failed economy, but so to in many ways is the UK and RoI. It seems to me you have brought into the whole exploitative neo-con nonsense that it is impossible to have a decent economy and a social democratic society. I hope I am mistaken in this.”

    5 years ago I’d probably have agreed with you as in my pre-Slugger days I was a regular on UKLeft Network and the old Redaction board. I wouldn’t describe myself as leftist now as I think the problem with the left is that you have become fixated on equality as an end in itself rather than as a means to an end – improving the living standards of everyone. Socialists spectacularly miss that fact. Given the choice between earning the same but having income equality and earning more money even if it means greater income gaps, people will always chose the latter.

    Currently I reside most of the year in Latvia a country which was the third richest country in Europe in the late 1930s but is now the poorest EU member. Why? 50 years of being a Soviet Socialist Republic didn’t really help.

    Latvia illustrates my point perfectly – the gaps in income are not really that great. A waiter/shop assistant will earn 100-150 quid a month. An office worker, 200-250 and an accountant 500-600 a month with prices about 50/60% of what they are in the UK and fast rising.

    So do Latvians pat themselves on the back and congratulate themselves on their equality? No they jump on the first RyanAir flights to the UK and Ireland.

    The fact that you even describe the latter two countries as ‘failed economies’ in comparison to places like Cuba illustrates just how much the left has totally lost the plot. Pick any pensioner in any socialist or socialist affected state (ie ex Soviet bloc) and give them the option of their home countries pension or those of UK/ROI/USA and they will vote with their feet. (Pensioners in Latvia get 100 quid a month : nice to see people at the bottom looked after so well huh?)

    Add to all the above the lefts petty anti-Americanism, one sidedness on the Middle East question and an overall platform which is closer to a BNP manifesto than reality and its not a cause that I’d really want to associate with frankly.

  • Mick Fealty

    V,

    The reason that story caught my eye was that it came almost immediately after a long conversation with a friend from South Yorkshire about how badly things went for many of mining communities after Scargill and what seems in retrospect to have been a politically suicidal confrontation with the Thatcher government. Even today they largely remain economic disaster areas, and their populations highly demoralised.

    Whilst it is not fair to assert that all leftist projects are similarly fixated on ‘equality as means’, there is often a determined unwillingness to contemplate the long term unintended outcomes of state policy. Perhaps it is this (as much as the behaviour of the CIA) that has led to the quashing of individual rights in Cuba.

  • CincinnatiDave

    I have really enjoyed this thread with great debating points backed up with historical references. Joe, Dread & the rest of you, thanks for making my day on Slugger!

    I had to laugh at the person mistaking the “WaPo” for a right wing rag… like confusing the Guardian & The Telegraph.

    Seriously you all bring up some great points especially the detailed information from not only Chile but Vietnam that I was not aware of. There are valid arguments from the left & right alike.

    For a half century the global chess game between the USA & USSR involved many kicks below the table. Both sides supported horrendous regimes because they were their kid on the block. Along with Pinochet are the likes of Batista, Samoza & Marcos to name a few. The Soviets also had their puppets on a string as well as “liberation” movements springing up throughout the developing & developed world. Both sides have innocent blood on their hands & history will be the judge of them. Pinochet oversaw a murderous, torturing regime & it is to Americas shame that they were involved in its creation.

    As for Castro & Cuba I am always amazed by the lefts ongoing love affair.
    Yes “he stood up to the Yankee interference.” Woohoo!
    Meanwhile he was interfering in Africa, Latin America & the Caribbean.
    Yes there is universal health care. Sign me up Fidel – must be better than my health insurance plan…
    There is not the same “poverty-gap” as the US. Thats correct! Everyone is poor & the stores half empty.

    If his Island nation is the citidel of human civilzation that the left infers then why are there so many Cubans risking life & limb trying to escape. Why are the Haitians not simply sailing across the short distance to freedom in Cuba?

    I have friends who have gone there to do volunteer service who were appalled by the poverty. What appalled them even more was the absolute fear of Castro’s regime that their Cuban acquaintances had.

    The only good thing in Cuba is all those classic 1950’s cars. Maybe they will trade them for a Skoda when Castro & his goons finally die off. One day that nation will be free & communism will be a museum exhibit along with some of the cars.

  • joeCanuck

    I don’t think that day is too far away CincinnatiDave.
    I have never visited Cuba but my wife and I are thinking of going to Havana in the new year.
    We love cities with lots of history.
    When Castro dies there will certainly be an outpouring of grief from some of the population, but when the regime collapses, there’s going to be one hell of a party.
    Maybe we should hold off on our visit until then.

  • Mickhall

    v,

    Which leftists claim that the Cuban economy is better than the UK or RoI, not me for sure, have you been spending to much time at harrys place. We leftist being human beings make many mistakes, but at least get those we make correct.

    Without meaning to be insulting, you are correct in that you are not a leftist, you seem like many ex-leftist, having become demoralized when the text book left wing politics failed to work out. You simply go with the flow of powerful forces. Today they are on the right, I am sure if they were on the left, you would flow along with them. That is no way for an intelligent individual like you to live.

    Mick F wrote,
    he reason that story caught my eye was that it came almost immediately after a long conversation with a friend from South Yorkshire about how badly things went for many of mining communities after Scargill and what seems in retrospect to have been a politically suicidal confrontation with the Thatcher government.”

    Mick

    What you are saying here is that when Thatcher came along and said she was to close 200 plus Pits, the miners should have rolled over and accepted it, instead of fighting for their jobs and their families living. That the fought and sadly lost is to there credit, as the pits would have closed anyway, but for you to blame the miners for there closure is outrageous.

    20 million Russians died in WW2 and hundreds of thousand of English, Irish, Scots and Welsh people, by your criteria they should not have fought the nazis, for by doing so they are responsible for the deaths I mention.

    Thatcher shut the pits and thus is responsible for the desolation of the coal mining areas. To suggest otherwise is to turn morality on its head.

    However this is increasingly becoming a common occurrence in todays world, where the media and the politicians portray the victims as the villains and the perpetrators become the heros.
    all the best.

  • Mick Fealty

    Mick,

    As I recall there were two schools of thought in Labour at the time. I happened to be working with a particularly bright Politics MA student in Liverpool, who predicted six months before the strike began that taking on the Conservatives in a full frontal attack could and would only end in disaster. He was serially dismissed by most of his companions at the time.

    I have no idea how the Thatcher administration would have reacted if the miners had gone for a settlement rather than a strike. Certainly the lack of an open ballot, proved an easy target for them and later was the cause of seeping morale amongst the strikers.

    What I do know is that the polarising effects of the strike, its sudden and absolute defeat, and the loss of jobs afterwards are still being felt to this day by those communities in South Yorkshire that supported it through thick and thin.

    Take Thorne and Eddlington for instance. The former lost its pit in the mid fifties, and the latter in 1985. Thorne is not particularly prosperous, but it had time to diversify and its miners got jobs in other parts of the industry. Eddlington was snuffed out like a light. Importantly the union had no hand it scoping out how the inevitable shock could be handled or ameliorated.

    Certainly you can blame Thatcher for precipitating the sudden closure, but surely you also have to question the confrontational actions of the NUM, which as a consequence of losing a single ‘big play’ barely existed afterwards to protect either jobs or communities. For many in the leadership it was simply a class war, and the workers lost!

  • joeCanuck

    That strike happened shortly after I emigrated.
    Just out of curiosity, what eventually happened to “King” Scargill?

  • Valenciano

    Mickhall: “Which leftists claim that the Cuban economy is better than the UK or RoI, not me for sure, have you been spending to much time at harrys place. We leftist being human beings make many mistakes, but at least get those we make correct.”

    Mick, you may not have said that but you did say that the UK and ROI were failed economies while pointedly acting as an apologist for Castro. I also note that you conveniently ignored my point about the damage done to Latvia and many other ex-Soviet countries by socialist *practice* rather than theory. It’s seeing that – hard life experiences rather than any disillusionment that turns many away from socialism. It just doesn’t work!

    So the question does stand – if the UK and ROI are ‘failed economies’ can you name one single socialist state today or within living memory that are successful economies. For me, the proof is in actions rather than words and the flood of people to capitalist first world countries and away from failed socialist models is telling.

    By the way your point about Spain is dubious – 7 years elapsed between Franco’s death and the election of the first Gonzalez government and that government ended in a tidal wave of corruption and unemployment above the 20% mark, while the Aznar government left with a buoyant economy and 8% unemployment.

    Until the left can unenciate workable alternatives, socialism will retain the appeal of the flat earth society and no amount of patronising babble about “people going with the flow” will ever change that.

  • Valenciano

    JoeCanuck,

    Arturo quit Labour in 1996 and set up his own vanity project the Socialist Labour Party which quickly burned itself out. He still stands in elections under that label but attracts derisory support. See

    http://www.minersadvice.co.uk/yourview21_scargill_fantasy.htm

  • joeCanuck

    Thanks for that link , Valenciano.
    Hubris in full flight of fantasy, I guess.

  • kensei

    V

    The thing is, inequality matters. It has already been proven that inequality can damage a society on a economic basis, without even considering the social cost and potential negative impact associated with it.

    No one is suggesting complete equality of outcome. But ensuring that no one gets left too far behind and that an underclass doesn’t develop is no bad thing. We have a target for inflation, I fail to see why a target for inequality that’s not too hot, not too cold can’t be met.

    Moreover, the Left and “Socialism” do not necessarily mean Cuba. It could mean the Nordic Countries, where it is working, or the rest of South America where democratically elected Left Wing governments are improving living standards by taking a cut of some of their mineral wealth.

    Mick

    The loss of freedoms are no trivial thing indeed. But Cuba supports excellent numbers on almost all quality of life measures; certainly more than other comparable US supported countries in the region. On an intellectual level it is easy for me to say that you would trade freedom for all else. If you were living in the country however, surely that is a terrible choice?

  • Secur O’Crat

    Pinochet took power in different days. A lot was happening then: the end of the Portuguese empire, the Yanks getting their imperialist butts kicked, Arab Israeli tensions, Christy Moore, the loony left holding upo Albania, Cuba, Yugoslavia and North Krea as models to follow. Pinochet, like most fascists, was a good friend of perfidious Albion. Whoever follows Castro will sell out the same way Adams and Ortega did. Social climbers with bombs.

  • Mickhall

    Mick F

    Hindsight is a wonderful thing and of course not holding a ballot was a major mistake, because it allowed both the media and the Kinnockites to pour excreta on the NUM leadership throughout the strike. Many of us within the TU movement at the start of the strike argued for a ballot, but what you have to understand there was a massive build up within the NUM for a strike and many within the NUM leadership were swept along in this. Plus Scargill being a Stalinist would not listen as his own politics were not based on democratic accountability, in this he had a lot in common with Thatcher.

    There really was no other option but a strike, and the longer the leadership postponed it the more coal stocks etc the government would get in. The fact was thatcher was determined to destroy the NUM and her strategy included ruining the lives of millions of people and their communities by closing the Pits down. Scargill understood this and all he said on this subject proved correct. Thatcher would only have accepted sackcloth and ashes and the miners were just not that type of people.

    V
    As someone who has opposed Stalinism all their political lives, I do not need you to remind be of the tragedy of the USSR, although instead of crying crocodile tears for its former citizens you might gain more respect if you were to argue against the outrageous way the new Russia has been governed and condemn the criminals who run it.

    There was a great article in yesterdays Guardian by Stephen Cohen about how the Stalinist Nomenclature, low life’s like the current owner of Chelsea FC and countless other villains
    stole the nations assets and made dam sure the new Russia would not be a democracy as we understand the word.

    As Kensei has already said, we have the Nordic example of socialism, whilst not perfect, imo it should be the starting point which the left today should aim at, then hopefully we could move forward from there, if the people at the ballot box wish it. What you and to a degree mick f are doing is accepting that the type of society we currently life in is all human kind can hope for.

    perhaps you do so because you fit reasonable comfortably within todays world, you may have a different opinion if you were at the bottom of the heap, or at the very least you made an attempt to place yourself into the shoes of those whose shoes pinch dreadfully in today’s world.

    Under unregulated capitalism it is not possible to live well without others feeling the lash, that is how the system works, this does not have to be so, even under the capitalist system. By your acceptance of today’s world, you are supporting the fact that most of the world population live in poverty and ignorance and appox one third of the nation you live in exists below the poverty line.

    if you are comfortable with that fact fine, but if not, well do I really have to quote Bobby Sands at you?

    Happy christmas.

  • Rory

    Mick,

    While I never thought I would find myself defending Arthur Scargill (except during the miners’strike when solidarity demanded it). He was hardly responsible for the impoverishment of South Yorkshire and other former mining areas.

    I temped at the Morning Star during the strike and while privately Scargill was considered a pompous, vainglorious disaster being led by the nose into a trap of his own making, it was important to stick together against the common enemy. Mick McGahey the Scottish leader was a towering and inspiring figure hide bound by Scargill’s foolishness. Scargill had been advised not to call the strike until coal stocks had run low. Scargill had been advised to call a ballot which would have been won easily thus confirming the strike’s union wide mandate and heading off the threat that the breakaway, boss-funded UDM later became but he would not listen. Despite the heroic resistance and huge public support Scargill’s tactics lost the strike.

    But that does not make him guilty of closing down the mines or of the planned industrial decay set in place by Thatcher and her backers. That would be like blaming a rape victim because she wore too much make-up and dressed in too short skirts. The credit for laying waste to the industrial north of England and Wales and Scotland and condemning all those generations to continued unemployment must instead lie, if in any one individual, with his arch-nemesis, Thatcher.

    And on the Castro/Pinochet question it is simple for me really – Castro and his small band set sail for Cuba on the Granma prepared to sacrifice and die in order to bring freedom from want for the downtrodden masses of their beautiful country. Pinochet ordered his troops to bring down the elected government of his country in order to sacrifice the downtrodden masses and increase their state of want for the material benefit of himself and his friends. The Pinochet apologia proffered by the Washington Post reeks of the type of thinking behind the statement of the US commander in Vietnam who (in)famously said after a bloody destruction, “We destroyed the village in order to save it”.

  • Mickhall

    Rory,

    Well said.

  • Dread Cthulhu

    Rory: “I temped at the Morning Star during the strike and while privately Scargill was considered a pompous, vainglorious disaster being led by the nose into a trap of his own making, it was important to stick together against the common enemy. ”

    If you follow the lead of a man you know isn;t going anywhere, you have little standing to complain if you get lost…

    Rory: “But that does not make him guilty of closing down the mines or of the planned industrial decay set in place by Thatcher and her backers. That would be like blaming a rape victim because she wore too much make-up and dressed in too short skirts.”

    No, it would be like blaming a robbery victim for getting drunk and walking down dark alleys with 5 pound notes hanging out of his pockets. As you said, he walked into a trap of his own making. You have already conceded he greatly contributed to his (and the union’s) downfall.

    Rory: “Castro and his small band set sail for Cuba on the Granma prepared to sacrifice and die in order to bring freedom from want for the downtrodden masses of their beautiful country. ”

    So, your thesis runs that if your initial intentions are pure, you are absolved of all subsequent crimes and abuses, no matter how badly matter get cocked-up?? Interesting set of ethics you’re playing with there, Rory…

  • darth rumsfeld

    “Well Darth, it’s the first time those two words have been used together on this site for quite some time, if ever. Thank goodness for good old fashioned Presbyterian civility.

    You may also wish to note that I was admonishing another poster for suggesting that the WaPo was “a right wing neo con rag”… And that he should get out more… ”

    All hail mick. Faster than Richard Dunn in the six yard box. Braver than that greek bloke City thought was a centre forward but turned out to be a male model. More diplomatic than Joey Barton at Goodison.Quicker to strike back than Ben Thatcher And indupitably better at defending than the City back 4 at the theatre of the damned on Saturday past. Er.. that’s all, no more digs at City’s tragic defeat

  • Mickhall

    Dread posted,
    No, it would be like blaming a robbery victim for getting drunk and walking down dark alleys with 5 pound notes hanging out of his pockets.”

    Nonsense, in fact the miners did the opposite, rather than accepting their fate and and bending the knee to Thatchers totally unnecessary pit closures, which incidentally have probably cost the UK far more than if the pits had remained opened. [ MickF is correct about the desolation the closures caused. but the miners new this, that is why they felt they had no alternative but to Strike]

    They fought against the closures as best they could in the hope that the Labour Party and TUC leadership and those within the Tories who opposed this policy would find some backbone and help put a stop to the closures. That these spineless gits crawled under a rock for much of the strike and only came out condemning Scargill when they realized the strike was lost tells all.

    Thatcher used every thing within the UK state arsenal to defeat what was an industrial despite which according to that woman herself had nothing to do with the government. Scargill and the NUM were up against the media, the TU bureaucrats, LP leaders, the police, army and intelligence services, who had planted with in the NUM a large number of agents and informers.[thats how far in advance these closures were planned. thus in truth they did not do to bad, now did them.

    I find it very revealing that many of the same people who condemn those working class nationalist who joined the IRA in the 1970s to defend the homes etc, today are badmouthing Scargill. All I can say is thank christ none of you lot were about in 1939-40, for you may well have joined those Tories, business people and aristos who wanted to hatch a deal with Hitler so as not to lose their property etc.

    What not one of you who have condemned Scargil have done, is offered an alternative to striking, not unreasonable, because there was not one. In my eyes when decent people are put in such a position as the miners were in 84, you stand alongside them, and you certainly do not start throwing brickbats at them years latter because the failed to win their strike.

  • joeCanuck

    Mickhall,
    I had already emigrated when the strike began so i can’t give any reasonable comment on the issue (Canadian newspapers are somewhat parochial).
    I had and still have (to a lesser extent) left wing sympathies.
    But aside from brickbats, I seem to recall actual bricks being thrown from a motorway overpass resulting in death.

  • Mickhall

    joe,

    Sadly this did happen and a man lost his life if my memory is correct, which was crass stupidity and wrong on the part of those who carried out this act. There were also deaths and injury on the picket line, striking miners died. [not murdered thankfully] For anyone who did not visit the mining communities during the Strike it is difficult to describe the intensity of feelings and solidarity the community showed to one any another.

    Mick Fealty in his post and i am in no way implying he did this for malicious reasons because he is not that type of man, mentioned the desolation in many of the mining areas up until this day due to they pit closures, however he failed to mention back in 1984 the majority of the miners understood only to well what would happen to them and their communities if they lost the strike and the pits close.

    Mineworkers since nationalization had through solidarity gained via their unions good wages and working conditions, not only did they understand that these wages and conditions were unlikely to be replicated in other industries, but also, due to the geographical position of many of the mining communities, once the Pits closed there would be no industry within their areas that could take up the slack.Thus it would not only be their jobs going, but also that of future generations. Micks posts have proved these worries true.

    Thus the miners fought ferociously to save their livelihoods and acts like that which was mentioned occurred.

    I could go on Joe, but i fear my pen would get away from me with anger. I would just add this, many of the communities Mick mentioned are full of Heroin today, whereas imo this would not have happened to the same extent if the pits had not closed and there was still good payed work for the young lads and a solid community to help those who fell victim to that narcotic.

    May that woman rot in hell.

  • Valenciano

    MickHall,

    That’s a bit better and thank you for the clarification. For my part I’m no anarcho-capitalist either. What I would say is that defining the Nordic states as Socialist in any way is patent nonsense – they’re free market capitalist states with a human edge and where we would agree is that that is the best model to follow however it’s very far removed from what socialism is about.

    Emotive talk about the poverty line illustrates my point. It’s all a relative thing. The average working class person in the UK lives a lifestyle that middle class people in Socialist or Socialist affected societies can only dream of. My brother who’s been fiddling the sick for some time lives a much better lifestyle than many office workers I know in Latvia.

    As for Latvia/Russia – you’ll certainly not hear me defending *any* Russian leader unlike certain leftist polemicists I could name. It is also highly ironic that you condemn Russian leaders, most of whom got where they are today as a result of the misrule and misdeeds of socialism!! I also have a very valid interest in the wellbeing of Latvia’s citizens – I do have my business there and live there with a local after all!

    I doubt that either me or MickF would defend the status quo but where we would difer is how to improve the lot of those at the bottom and the record of left wing states on that issue is really unenviable compared to those following a capitalist model. Left wing states have generally retarded living standards, suppressed human freedom and engaged in genocide and mass murder. Apologists for that cause are always happy to say that that wasn’t what socialism was about but most of the states which have tried that route have ended up that way. You say that you want to make a start with the (Capitalist) Nordic model. Well that’s great, but until you and the rest of the left can elaborate on that and produce workable ideas rather than well meaning but utterly pointless platitudes your influence on the political scene is likely to be mediocre to non-existent.

    Hope you have a great Christmas as well by the way…

  • Dread Cthulhu

    mickhall: “Nonsense, in fact the miners did the opposite, rather than accepting their fate and and bending the knee to Thatchers totally unnecessary pit closures, which incidentally have probably cost the UK far more than if the pits had remained opened.”

    Do you have any real basis for this, beyond wishful thinking?

    As for my point, the miners and Scargill made the job that much easier, just like the drunk in my metaphor, by going about things in a foolish fashion. You admit as much by pointing out that NUM’s errors made it easier for Thatcher and company to achieve their goals.

    mickhall: “They fought against the closures as best they could in the hope that the Labour Party and TUC leadership and those within the Tories who opposed this policy would find some backbone and help put a stop to the closures. That these spineless gits crawled under a rock for much of the strike and only came out condemning Scargill when they realized the strike was lost tells all. ”

    That was their plan?? Cross their fingers and hope for the politicians to grow a spine? Politicians, particularly those in weak positions, do not grow spines. They sit on the fence and wait for the opportunity to bayonet the loser’s dead. Scargill submarined the effort out of the blocks, why risk what little capital they had on a doomed effort?

    mickhall: “What not one of you who have condemned Scargil have done, is offered an alternative to striking, not unreasonable, because there was not one. In my eyes when decent people are put in such a position as the miners were in 84, you stand alongside them, and you certainly do not start throwing brickbats at them years latter because the failed to win their strike. ”

    Except, of course, they were the sort to throw bricks from overpasses. You can’t help those who don’t have the mother-wit to make their best case, mickhall. Scargill poisoned the well from the first, creating a scenario that undermined his own cause. The killing of the driver was not the first nail in the coffin, but the lack of discipline and self-interest that allowed such a callous and wrong-headed act to occur was probably worth several nails.

  • Dread Cthulhu

    mickhall: “I find it very revealing that many of the same people who condemn those working class nationalist who joined the IRA in the 1970s to defend the homes etc, today are badmouthing Scargill. All I can say is thank christ none of you lot were about in 1939-40, for you may well have joined those Tories, business people and aristos who wanted to hatch a deal with Hitler so as not to lose their property etc. ”

    As opposed to the trade unionists and communists who were disinterested in Nazi agression until after the Austrian paper-hanger invaded Russia?