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Two Polish Reactions to Pinochet's death

by MarekNYC Mon Dec 11th, 2006 at 01:51:29 AM EST

Two Polish commentaries, from Poland's top two newspapers. The first, Gazeta Wyborcza, represents the ex-dissident social/left liberals - moderately neo-liberal in economics, was hard liberal hawkish in foreign affairs, more recently turned a bit softer, left wing in other matters. GW is also rabidly opposed to the current government.  The second used to represent the ex-dissident right liberals and moderate cultural conservatives - i.e. sympathetic to the PO  - hardcore neo-liberal, hardcore neo-con, centrist on other matters.  Recently the government forced its Norwegian owners to sell, fired its top staff and it now represents the views of the more culturally moderate, neoliberal elements in PiS (the execrable Nasz Dziennik, part of the Father Rydzyk media empire represents the more hardcore ones, as well as the LPR). Both of course routinely publish dissenting views but the general tone is clear.

The commentary on his death from Rzeczpospolita: Augusto and Fidel

Augusto Pinochet was a bloody and merciless ruler. His men tortured political opponents with the most inventive methods before throwing them alive into the Pacific

For seventeen years Chileans were smothered under the weight of a dark dictatorship. But this was an unusual dictatorship. Pinochet persecuted the opposition, but allowed his countrymen to found businesses and stores. He strangled freedom of speech, but promoted the free market. Historians have, and will continue to have plenty of difficulties with the general: in spite of unforgivable crimes it is difficult to place him in the same category with the former leaders of the socialist regimes of Eastern Europe, with the Chinese tyrant Mao Zedong or the African mass murderer Idi Amin. And above all one cannot compare Pinochet to Fidel Castro.  Did Pinochet save his country from a Cuban scenario when he overthrew the left wing president Salvador Allende? Maybe, though today it is difficult to know what Chile would have looked like after thirty years of communist rule. We know, however, what the two countries look like today. Cuba is a contemporary Orwellian dystopia. An island-prison with an archaic economy and starving citizens. A state which indoctrinates and spies on its subjects at every step. What's more there is no hope for Cuba today - so completely has that country been destroyed by the crazed bearded one. Chile on the other hand is a model of political stability and economic success for all of Latin America. Whereas in many of the region's country's successive left wing adventurers are coming to power, attacking private property and foreign investors, Chile is growing at an astounding rate. And that's because even  the ruling socialists, most of them victims of Pinochet's regime, understand that there's no turning back from capitalism. And that prosperity can only be built by energetic and talented entrepreneurs. If only one gives them the opportunity. Pinochet gave them that opportunity. Fidel took it away.

Extracts from the bitter GW article, Pinochet, the lonely dictator:

Blurb: Augusto Pinochet, general, former dictator of Chile, devout Catholic; had time to receive extreme unction before his death and hopes to reconcile himself with God. He never did, and never wanted to reconcile himself with the people, for the majority of his own nation, for whom he was their executioner. [kat - carries connotations of torture and criminality]

Three weeks ago General Pinochet wasted his last opportunity not to go down in history as an unrepentant criminal, guilty of the death of thousands, the exile of hundreds of thousands. On his birthday he ceremoniously stated that although he takes personal responsibility for what happened under his rule from 1973-1990, but neither called the crimes for what they were, nor did he express any repentance. To say nothing of actually asking the families and descendants of the victims for forgiveness.

On the contrary, he generously forgave his accusers for "all the insults, persecutions, and injustices suffered by me and my family. At the end of my days I harbor no resentment to anyone, I love my country above all."

The healthy self esteem of the man who fulfilled his soldierly and patriotic duty in overthrowing the socialist president Salvador Allende and violently seizing power in the name of a military junta, made Pinochet an increasingly lonely man in recent years. To the end he was surrounded by his numerous family, a fistful of his most faithful retired generals, and a group of radical right wing politicians and businessmen from the UDI party, founded by his chief ideological advisor, Jaime Guzman. However, and ever growing number of his former followers distanced themselves from him.

When a week ago Pinochet lay critically ill in Santiago's military hospital, his most rabid followers changed "UDI, where are you!"

An annoyed UDI deputy, Alberto Cardemil, a well known devotee of the dictator, responded in sentence that until recently would have been unthinkable "We are not in Cuba where the Communist Party has to constantly pay homage to Fidel Castro."

This was because ever since the sensational arrest of the general in London in 1998, and his subsequent deportation to Chile eighteen months later, the unwritten pact of the invulnerability of the general was shattered. When Augusto Pinochet returned home, the floodgates opened on the charges of the crimes of the military and the DINA, the secret police. In the following years the families of the murdered, the disappeared, and the tortured initiated hundreds of criminal cases [...] None of the crimes of the dictatorship was taboo any more, the testimonies multiplied, every new mass graves of the victims were uncovered.

But a talented and very generously paid staff of tireless lawyers did all it could to keep the general from standing trial.

During those years following the return of the English patient from his London arrest, no one even tried any longer to deny the crimes, nor to claim that they occurred, but committed by overly enthusiastic subordinates without his knowledge or permission. His followers limited themselves to a defense of his political and economic legacy. Pinochet, they claimed, guaranteed his country political stability and a healthy market economy; true he did it trampling over corpses, but what can you do - communism was on the march, civil war was raging. As they say - you can't make an omelet without breaking some eggs.

It was probably that same respect for the warrior in the struggle against communism that inclined Margaret Thatcher to have him as her personal guest and to visit him in his London house arrest. The same adulation motivated a delegation of the Polish right  who traveled to London in 1999 to present Pinochet with knightly arms.

Somehow none of them bothered to ask themselves, if the only proper response to the excessive revolutionary zeal of the Chilean socialists was the overthrow of democracy, the destruction of the state, and mass murder.

But even the ranks of defenders of the dictator whose most devoted followers called him `daddy' were crumbling. Two years ago the commander of the army, Juan Emilio Cheyre, finally declared: "The army is responsible for systematic crimes against humanity, which cannot be justified by any ideology or policy." Fifteen years after the end of the dictatorship, the army, the institution which had overthrown the legal authorities and created a regime of bestial violence, was once and for all cutting its ties with the man who for years had been its greatest hero.


In the summer of 1973, when the country was boiling over in a left wing fever of strikes, occupation of landed estates, spontaneous expropriations, and street demonstrations, and Santiago de Chile was filled with coup rumors, Pinochet seemed like the least likely rebel. He had just become commander of the army, the remaining generals couldn't get him to promise his support for the conspiracy until the last moment.

As a cadet, and then as a steadily advancing officer, Pinochet distinguished himself only by his obedience and discipline. [...] His military colleagues did not have a high opinion of him, but he probably didn't agree, as he gave his sons Roman names .... Augusto, Marco Antonio... and he presumably dreamed of greatness. But even President Allende, warned of coup rumors by his terrified advisors, calmed them saying he could always count on the loyal Gen. Pinochet.

Pinochet betrayed Allende and was the last to join the conspiracy when everything was set in stone. And as the head of the most powerful military force, he quickly too command. From that moment the model graduate of the Prussian inspired Santiago military academy was unwavering, obsessed with an anti-communism grown in American academies.

To hunt down his real and imagined opponents, Pinochet personally created the DINA - the secret police, whose chief, Manuel Contreras personally reported on his progress every morning at 10 AM. Its harvest were at least three thousand killed, tortured to death, or disappeared without a trace. Hundreds of thousands fled the country. [...] At the height of his power the dictator boasted "Not even a leaf trembles in this country without my knowledge"

Pinochet was a man of greater horizons than his fellow military dictators in Latin America, whose gaze didn't extend beyond the ends of their rifles. When the main resistance of the left was broken, the general decided to take care of the economy. He named a government of graduates of the ultraliberal University of Chicago. Under the protection of the draconian junta, which banned trade unions and abolished the modern labor law, they took care of the economic oligarchy of the country -  the owners of businesses and landed estates.

This radical reform therapy of protecting private property at all costs created an enormous economic crash in 1982. The great liberal experiment was saved by the all-powerful military state. Many private bankers and hundreds of companies were saved from economic ruin by the quite unliberal intervention of the state treasury.


Today the dictator's legacy lies in ruins, and dictator in his grave. [...] But Pinochet has not said his final word. He is to make a declaration from beyond the grave. Supposedly he left his notary his political will, which is to be opened and published after his death.

It is the last chance for the repentance of the man who crushed his nation.

I expected something hostile from GW, but the stuff on the economy was surprisingly left wing given their general Blairite/Friedmanesque line.  Rz was what you could have expected from them. The first brief comment in Nasz Dziennik which has a long lead time (not translated here) is also what you'd expect - not a dictator, didn't overthrow a democratic government, wasn't repressive, but rather carried out the urgent surgery needed to save Chile from the deadly communist disease that was in the midst of destroying the country. Those who were killed deserved it.  Spent the last years of his life bravely withstanding the persecution by the Spanish, British, and Chilean socialists who couldn't forgive him for destroying their communist experiment.  All reports to the contrary are just godless commie lies propagated by the left wing media and their lackeys.

Gazeta Wyborcza : Pinochet, Samotny dyktator

Rzeczpospolita: Augusto i Fidel

Nasz Dziennik: Odszedł generał Pinochet

Gosh, I must run out and get myself a subscription to Nasz Dziennik. Sounds like fun ...

I guess I should start worrying if I see it on sale here.

Nice to see you around, Marek.

by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Mon Dec 11th, 2006 at 03:45:47 AM EST
I can nto wait th emoment it hits our stands...

Willt here be an english version... it is priceless.

A pleasure

I therefore claim to show, not how men think in myths, but how myths operate in men's minds without their being aware of the fact. Levi-Strauss, Claude

by kcurie on Mon Dec 11th, 2006 at 05:39:11 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Thanks Marek for the two translations!

"Once in awhile we get shown the light, in the strangest of places, if we look at it right" - Hunter/Garcia
by whataboutbob on Mon Dec 11th, 2006 at 04:52:14 AM EST

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Mon Dec 11th, 2006 at 05:17:18 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Dang, I haven't heard of the takeover of Rzeczpospolita. (A local liberal weekly I read more often in the past years regularly had translated articles from Rzeczpospolita.)

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Mon Dec 11th, 2006 at 05:02:44 AM EST
Correction: while I haven't heard of the takeover, I did hear of its prelude, from you.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Mon Dec 11th, 2006 at 07:48:19 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I have no patience for people who argue that Pinochet was OK after all because of his economic record.

It's the same with Franco: apologists will point out how much Spain progressed in the 1960's, conveniently forgetting

  1. A ravaged Spain had to wait out for 6 years while WWII unfolded before there was any hope that trade would help rebiuld the economy.
  2. Spain was then shunned by the international community for 10 years after WWII - while Western Europe was enjoying the Marshall Plan and Germany had its miracle, Spain languished in "autarchy" and outside the UN.
  3. In 1955 Eisenhower decided Franco was anti-communist enough to be useful as a friendly dictator. Isolation ended. At this point, with a 10-year delay with respect to the rest of Western Europe, Spain's economy started to pick up. Spaniards became Guest workers in Germany, Belgium, France... Spain opened up to tourism and its beaches filled up with Nordic beauties with hard currency.
  4. When the 1970's oil shock hit, the Spanish government simply inflated its way out of it and undertood no other policies (unlike the rest of "The West", with disastrous consequences in the 1970's and 80's in terms of inflation and unemployment. Democratic Spain inherited double-digit inflation and 20% official unemployment rate.
How exactly is, then, Franco better than what a Democratic Spain would have been, economically?

So, yeah, as soon as Pinochet took power the US flooded Chile with economic aid (material, and also the Chicago Boys) to help the economy get back on its feet as quickly as possible. After all, the Allende years had seen a sort of economic civil war as the business owners brought the economy to a halt (in a sort of reverse general strike) in an attempt to topple Allende. Apparently it was OK for Reagan to use the power of the State to bust unions and break worker strikes, but it was evil for Allende to use the power of the state to break an owner strike.

Pinochet ended the longest-running democracy in Latin America. Many other Latin American countries have gone through a succession of dictatorships. So that puts Pinochet in a special category of illiberal dictator.

I have also seen Pinoched praised because, in comparison with Franco, his coup didn't lead to a drawn-out and bloody war. Franco didn't expect to have to wage a war either, and it boggles the mind that anyone would argue that it's the better dictator that gets to power more easily.

Those whom the Gods wish to destroy They first make mad. -- Euripides

by Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Dec 11th, 2006 at 05:20:51 AM EST
Cuba is a contemporary Orwellian dystopia. An island-prison with an archaic economy and starving citizens.

Heh. Not to excuse Castro's geriatric dictatorship and police, but Cuba is at present actually in the state of an economic boom.

They had "respectable" growth since 1996 that didn't turn negative even in the post-9/11 global downturn. And this time, the boom is not mono-culture but involves infrastructure construction, and diversifying agriculture (and energy savings -- they too started a lightbulb replacement programme). As for undernourishment, this was really bad in the wake of the post-Soviet-collapse economic crisis (which some say was primarily due to lack of oil), but the writer of the article forgot to check out more recent data: it has fallen back dramatically to less than 2.5% -- less than the average of either the Carribean or Latin America... including Chile (with a rate of 4%).

Whereas in many of the region's country's successive left wing adventurers are coming to power, attacking private property and foreign investors, Chile is growing at an astounding rate.

LOL, not even the WSJ would put out this gross a spin. Those lambasted economies, primarily Venezuela and Argentina, are growing even faster... As for Pinochet's supposed economic wonderland, this is rightly demolished by WB thusly (and I'm surprised about that too):

This radical reform therapy of protecting private property at all costs created an enormous economic crash in 1982. The great liberal experiment was saved by the all-powerful military state. Many private bankers and hundreds of companies were saved from economic ruin by the quite unliberal intervention of the state treasury.

By the way, how do PiS neolibs reconcile their beliefs with the AFAIK state-paternalistic, populistic mainstream of their party?

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Mon Dec 11th, 2006 at 05:45:38 AM EST
By the way, how do PiS neolibs reconcile their beliefs with the AFAIK state-paternalistic, populistic mainstream of their party?

Roughly the way the Republican fiscal conservatives deal with the spend and borrow mainstream of their own party - a mix of denial, complaining, and a trade off mentality - at least they're going after the commies and the left-libs (even worse than the post-communists in the PiS mindset) while standing up for the Polish nation and it's Catholic values.

by MarekNYC on Mon Dec 11th, 2006 at 02:09:28 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I thought political commentary in the US was glibly one-sided; I had no idea it could actually be significantly worse elsewhere.

Thanks for translating these, which I assume were reproduced to relay the political environment in Poland today. Message received.

The Hun is always either at your throat or at your feet. Winston Churchill

by r------ on Mon Dec 11th, 2006 at 10:54:20 AM EST
Which of these three takes will get the most play in Poland? According to this site --


(if it's accurate and current) GW has the highest circulation of the three, but Nasz Dziennek, which seems to have the lowest, is also connected with the infamous Radio Maryja, so I would imagine it's fairly influential.

One thing I will say for Polish media: At least on this topic, it's a whole lot more diverse than what I've been reading in the English-language press. From left to right, Anglo-American media are playing it safe, with "From tears to cheers" headlines and non-committal "History will be his judge" summaries. I actually think it's healthy that the Nasz Dziennik point of view is openly expressed and published. It's absolutely what "Western" wingnuts believe to be true; they just don't have the balls to say it outright.

by Matt in NYC on Mon Dec 11th, 2006 at 01:41:41 PM EST

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