Welcome to European Tribune. It's gone a bit quiet around here these days, but it's still going.
I have some personal experience with this, given my own connections with present day Ecuador, where the current government is pretty much exactly like Allende's and following the same policies that Allende ran on and briefly started implementing after being elected president, including land confiscations of any farms over 80 hectares in size (which is not really a very big, oligarch-sized farm at all).

The subsequent, 21st century success in Ecuador, Bolivia, and Venezuela of equally radical, socialist policy objectives to confiscate property, eliminate freedom of the press, and through constitutional changes cement institutions systems in place through which which ruling socialist parties retain extreme advantages in winning re-elections through control of courts, legislatures, election commissions, and even the media, were also all publicly part of Allende's vision for Chile decades earlier.

The fact that such policy objectives through non-violent, majoritarian politics were all eventually successfully implemented in Venezuela, Bolivia, and Ecuador a few decades later, explicitly following Allende's model and learning from his mistakes, shows that the threat perceived by people of moderate or higher wealth in Chile at the  time was perfectly rational.

Without excusing the horrendous, criminal mistake that Pinochet turned out to be, if you were at least moderately wealthy at the time in Chile, you had a very good reason to be asking the US Embassy for help in getting rid of the mobs of goons with the power of the state who were taking away your life's savings and work, as happened to many people in Chile after Allende was elected.

Likewise, for those of us who have farms of that size in Ecuador, Bolivia, or Venezuela today, it makes perfect sense, moral or not, to want overthrow the "21st Century Socialism" governments by any means necessary as our property gets confiscated and our advocates are jailed for speaking out against government corruption and things like that. Or, for those of us living in the US today, we have an equally rational reason, regardless of morality or legitimacy, to want to overthrow Trump's fascist administration before anything worse happens. Many people in Chile felt the same back then about Allende, and with perfectly good reason.

by santiago on Thu Feb 23rd, 2017 at 10:30:44 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I agree that it is rational for you and others with similar sized possessions to object, but, surely, it is just as rational for those with nothing to object to the preexisting situation. It is not like it was ever ordained by God, even if there was long great pretense that this was so. So some solution is required.

Land reform is popular in Latin America because it is practical for the people. 80 hectares is not a tiny farm. It is about 200 acres. The problem is that a lot of people, freshly given such a plot of land, would not immediately be able to make productive use of it. That would cause a drop in agricultural productivity in the country which would hurt everyone. And there will always be economies of scale for some types of agricultural endeavors.

The problem with a gradual approach is that it would likely be overturned before it bore fruit by the large land owners who would naturally be opposed. That is a recipe for bloodshed. It would seem that an alternative should be found - one superior to a repeat of the events of '72 except with a different set of victims.

It is quite reasonable to consider land as something that is a public common good and that the right to exclusive use should be a privilege obtained at a cost. That cost, in the form of a tax, could finance a gradual approach that included education and training before being able to undertake running your own farm, which, after all, would then also be paying the same tax, perhaps phased in over five or ten years. And, with good education, many more opportunities should open for young adults in non-agricultural occupations. But such a probaram would also be opposed by the beneficiaries of the existing system.

The great sin in Chile was the slaughter of such a large portion of the intelligentsia of the country in the stadium. The chief US interest served by that action was the protection of profit flows to US corporations and to a tiny number of very wealthy individuals who profited from the existing situation. Those mid-sized land owners should be preserved and/or indemnified.

The types of regimes Allende had and that Equator, Bolivia and Venezuela have do not pose a threat to any US interest other than the economic interests of a few wealthy individuals and the maintenance of the appearance that There Is No Alternative to the current world order. That might be more justifiable were the existing world order functioning a bit more effectively and better serving the interests of all, not just those who can afford to gather in Davos or attend a Bilderberg event. But it manifestly is not.    

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."

by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Thu Feb 23rd, 2017 at 04:48:39 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I have no real disagreement with you on any of your points about land reform here.  However, on this issue of US interests it is important to note the different geopolitical contexts between the 1970's when Allende was elected and the 2000's when the 21st Century Socialism wave occurred in Latin America.

In the 1970's the US was weaker politically, in still in a real contest for power over the world it conquered in WWII, due to certain rebellious Communist powers armed with nuclear weapons. A wave of anti-US, democratically elected governments throughout Latin America of the kind that occurred in the mid-2000's would have been very precarious for a US that was still struggling for supremacy with the USSR at the peak of its power.

By 2005, the US was supreme again in the world by any objective measure, with its own military expenditures being more at the time then those of the entire rest of the world combined, while still being a very low percentage of total US GDP historically and compared to other countries. There was no threat from communism, so if some Latin American countries wanted to experiment with it on their own, so be it, was the US foreign policy at the time.  President Obama would subsequently make statements to that effect when criticized why he wasn't more harsh with people like Hugo Chavez. But this was not the world in 1970 for a US seeing communism on a winning streak everywhere.


by santiago on Fri Feb 24th, 2017 at 05:04:42 PM EST
[ Parent ]
eliminate freedom of the press.

Because of course having five families own all the local language TV stations and newspapers is the very definition of a free press...

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Thu Feb 23rd, 2017 at 09:26:01 PM EST
[ Parent ]


Occasional Series