Fascism in Chile

Jorge Molina

“Fascism is cured by reading and racism is cured by travelling”.

Miguel de Unamuno

The “Freedom Bus”, travelling through the streets of several Chilean cities with phrases such as “Boys have penises. Girls have vulvas. Don’t be fooled”, against the “gender ideology”, rejecting abortion and the laws in favour of gender identity and LGTBI rights; the groups beating with Nazi swastikas and “the spider” of the paramilitaries of Patria y Libertad who acted in the “Rejection” marches; the ultra-conservative harangues of the leaders of the Republican Party and the National Force group, which have spokespersons in Parliament; the demonstrations of ultra-conservative evangelicals in towns and churches; the violent acts against the Mapuche in La Araucanía; the vindications of the civil-military dictatorship and the imposition of denialism in human rights.

Fascism has taken hold in the most reactionary sectors of the classist and racist right. It has mutated for years, hidden in a non-evolutionary democracy like Chile’s, to be reborn under different masks. It took advantage of the tolerance of the Concertación governments, which allowed its seed to begin to germinate after the discourse of Pinochet’s odious heirs. Intolerant people should not be tolerated, Karl Popper told us in what has been called the paradox of tolerance, and now we can see this toxic oligarchy full of fear of losing their privileges granted by the illegitimate fraudulent Constitution of the dictatorship and wallowing in expressions of greater hatred towards those they consider socially and racially inferior.

There are certain characteristics that allow us to identify fascism and its actions in the current social situation.

1- Exaltation of patriotism: where the vision of nation is manipulated to manipulate the masses, connecting them to a sense of belonging based on distrust of all that is foreign. It manipulates all xenophobia against immigrants, seeing them as the cause of the problem of the current systemic crisis. The foreigner has been made the culprit for the loss of jobs.

2- Disdain for the defence of human rights: it perceives human rights as an enemy to be eradicated. For fascism and people who defend positions such as anti-immigrant laws, discrimination against homosexuals, racism and support for extermination actions carried out by dictators.

3-Religion: the use of religion as a weapon of domination and control of less educated social groups. This extremely dangerous form of fascist manoeuvre uses freedom of expression and religion to sow the seeds of intolerance towards other diverse realities. The positions against homosexuals, Muslims and Jews are marked by strong arguments of intolerance and interpretation of biblical texts at their whim and convenience. In Chile this can be seen in the alliance of evangelical religious groups with the Pinochet dictatorship and the Opus Dei sectors with the extreme right-wing social castes.

4- Intellectuals and culture are enemies of the state: they are sectors, which in the political aspect, are activated as a reaction of societies tired of the system, and their social support are the remnants less interested in knowledge and education. For them, culture is an enemy.

5-Elimination of social benefits and mistrust in trade union organisations: it eliminates benefits for the most unprotected majorities, the dehumanised capacity of this ideology goes against human dignity and solidarity. They define people with fewer resources as failures of the system, mediocre, failures, lacking in competitiveness and inferior, as they cannot function in a system based on excessive profit.

6- Classism: they always defend themselves by imposing fear and are totally classist towards what they consider inferior to their class consciousness. They segment people by colour or income, and their leaders know this and use the ignorant masses who serve as their followers as reproducers of this hatred. In Chile it is clear that classism is based on the surname and the area in which one lives. This ends up marking the future of millions of people who, because they were born in a “broken” or “lumpen” neighbourhood, are seen as inferior. It is worth remembering the public outrage made by extreme right-wing groups when Joaquín Lavín talked about setting up social housing in the area of the Atenas roundabout. This is a clear example of the problem of classism in Chile, something that is not touched upon in the discussions for a change of vision of the country.

7- Militarism: Fascism is directly connected to a society as if it were a military organisation. For them, the armed forces are their armed support in order to maintain the structures of control. They use military intelligence and spying on citizens to dominate them through fear.

What else has fascism meant for Chile and its people?

Fascism in Chile was the seizure of power through the violence of arms. The bombing and storming of La Moneda while the democratically elected President of the Republic was there.

Fascism in Chile was cynicism. Pinochet said on 11 September 1973: “This is not a coup d’état, but a military movement that intends to recover the country along the path of legality and constitutionality, maintaining the people’s rights and freedoms. Today a new Chile is being born, in which there are neither winners nor losers”.

Fascism in Chile was a genocide in our homeland, the brutal violation of human rights. Five official bodies studied the human rights abuses under the dictatorship: the National Commission on Truth and Reconciliation or Rettig Commission, the Rettig II Commission, the National Corporation for Reparation and Reconciliation (1992), the National Commission on Political Prisoners and Torture or Valech Commission (2004) and the Valech II Commission (2010). From the sum of all these reports, the official figures give a final total of 3,227 victims: 2,125 murdered and 1,102 detained-disappeared.

In addition, the agents of the dictatorship detained and tortured 31,831 people. More than 200,000 people were thrown into exile, spread over 50 countries.

Fascism in Chile was the violence against dissident women imprisoned and tortured during the dictatorship. This was oriented towards gender-based violence, ranging from psychological violence – with respect to their status as women – to the use of sexual violence as an initial or repeated method of torture, which added another consideration to the political violence, and which was highlighted by the sexual and gender-based punishment in their interrogation and torture sessions, which operated with a type of socio-cultural ideology based on the relational inequalities between genders, and which led to specific patterns of punishment marked by their status as women. At least ten of the detained-disappeared women were pregnant.

Fascism in Chile physically and psychologically harmed children and young people, and the Valech Commission revealed the ways in which children were detained in three situations:

“-Detainees for themselves: minors under 18 years of age detained for political militancy activities and/or social participation. There are 978 of them, which represents 90.5% of the universe of minors accredited as victims by this Commission.

-Detention and imprisonment together with the mother and/or both parents: of the 91 minors who qualified, 87 were detained together with one or both parents imprisoned in similar conditions, remaining in the premises where their parents were detained and tortured. The other 4 children were pregnant when their mothers were detained and tortured.

-Born in prison: the mother was detained while pregnant and the birth took place while she was in prison. Most of the time the child remained with her during the time of imprisonment. Of the qualified cases, 11 people experienced this situation”.

Fascism in Chile was to sweep away all democratic elements: burn the Electoral Registers, prohibit and persecute political parties and trade union organisations, dissolve the National Congress, to be replaced by a new legislative power…The commanders-in-chief of the three branches of the Armed Forces and the General Director of the Carabineros.

This ideology declared itself the enemy of the workers.

Decree-Law No. 12 of 17 September 1973 outlawed the CUT; Decree-Law 198 banned trade union elections, placing trade unions under military control and eliminated trade union privileges; Decree-Law 43 suspended collective bargaining and the right to strike.

On the other hand, wages were greatly reduced. It is estimated that in the period between 1974 and 1980 real wages were barely three quarters of those of 1970.

Unemployment rose sharply. Lower tariffs and other factors led to unemployment reaching 30% between 1982 and 1983.

In 1978, the Labour Plan, drafted by José Piñera, then Minister of Labour, against Chilean workers, contained two decree laws that included four fundamental axes:

a) Collective bargaining reduced to each company, with no possibility of coordination between unions in different companies.

b) Strikes in which work was not paralysed and which considered the replacement of workers.

c) Trade union freedom that provided the possibility of forming several unions with few members in order to strip them of their unique character.

d) Union depoliticisation by forcing unions to be concerned only with their workplace, thus preventing them from being agents of social change.

There was also a steady decline in health spending. In 1975 public expenditure on health was 4% and in 1976 it was 14% lower than in 1969, while health expenditure per capita was 14% and 24% lower in the same years. Despite a recovery, in 1979 health expenditure per capita was still below the level of 1969-1970, when the dismantling of public health was already underway, with economic and professional resources being diverted to the incipient private health sector. All of this was under the wing of the new regulations that would culminate in the 1980 Political Constitution.

One of the main changes was the creation of the Isapres, legal entities that replaced the role of the National Health Fund (Fonasa) in the administration of funds, and that of the Health Services in the provision of medical benefits, and which were a consequence of the dissolution of the old forms of social security (Seguro Obrero, Cajas de Previsión, Servicio de Seguro Social) and their separation from health.

A profound process of agrarian counter-reform was also imposed, which overturned the agreements and achievements made up to that time and unleashed state terrorism against the peasants.

The army took over thousands of hectares of land that the Agrarian Reform of the Frei and Allende governments had handed over to farming families. Some peasants had to work for the military and pay them to feed their animals, such as those of the Hacienda Río Colorado (San José de Maipo). Part of this huge piece of land was sold in 1996 at a derisory price to Cementos Biobío, owned by the then president of the Pinochet Foundation, Hernán Briones. 28% of the reformed sector was returned by the dictatorship to the former owners and between 20% and 30% was auctioned off at very low prices, specifically land in judicial conflict or in the possession of peasants persecuted by state terrorism.

Approximately half of the applications for plots made by peasants were rejected by the dictatorship, which corresponded to 33,000 rural families excluded from the right to land because they did not achieve sufficient points.

As a result of the agrarian counter-reform, in the communes of Lautaro, Ercilla, Collipulli, Lumaco, Lonquimay, Carahue and Nueva Imperial, 98 plots of land were returned to the former owners, with a total of 100,392.3 hectares, of the 155,113.8 hectares that corresponded to the former owners. 113.8 hectares corresponding to the 164 plots expropriated between 1972 and 1973, three plots occupied by Mapuches were auctioned off, with a surface area of 1,478.2 hectares, and 63 plots were parceled out, with a total of 53,204.88 hectares.

The process of agrarian counter-reform was accompanied by strong repression, especially violent on those lands where the Agrarian Reform had benefited the Mapuche. Mapuche leaders and settlers were shot and made to disappear, imprisoned and tortured, while most of the lands where the Mapuche had recovered land were revoked. The Rettig Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission states that 136 Mapuche were killed or disappeared during the dictatorship.

As for the offensive against public education, in 1973 the Ministry of Education and school institutions were placed under the control of the Navy and the Ministry of the Interior, which began a profoundity revision of the National School Curriculum, incorporating a logic focused on nationalist principles, thus initiating a strong ideologizing process of the entire education system. These structural changes were accompanied by a notable reduction in the fiscal budget for the area in question.

The municipalisation of education was decreed. In addition, shortly after the end of his dictatorship, on 10 March 1990, Pinochet issued the Constitutional Organic Law on Education (LOCE), which established an uncontrolled trade in education. In the name of so-called freedom of education, education, which should be the direct responsibility of the state, was handed over to businessmen who were only concerned with maximising their profits.

Actions were taken against teachers and all education workers. At least 115 of them were killed or are on the list of disappeared detainees. About 10,000 were exonerated. Hundreds of them suffered the loss of part of their salaries. The latter is the so-called historical debt that arose from the dictatorship’s disregard for the salary readjustment that teachers should have received since 1981 under Decree-Law 3.551, which established a rise of up to 90% of the basic salary for all civil servants.

After the transfer of public schools and high schools to the municipalities, the agreed readjustment was not recognised by the new employers and teachers did not receive this benefit, damaging their monthly income and later their pensions.

As for the imposition of the 1980 Constitution, it was conceived as a straightjacket for democracy, with a series of locks to restrict political intervention on the legacy of the dictatorship.

Jaime Guzmán, its main ideologue, pointed out that the Constitution should ensure:

“That if the adversaries come to govern, they are constrained to follow an action not so different from the one they would wish for themselves, because the margin of an alternative that the field imposes de facto on those who play in it, is sufficiently reduced to make the contrary extremely difficult”.

On the other hand, 725 companies and assets belonging to CORFO were privatised. Of these, 343 were returned to their owners because they had been requisitioned or intervened. 35 were privatised twice. They were called the rare area, because they were privatised, and went bankrupt, so the dictatorship nationalised them, gave them solvency, and privatised them again. Most of them were banks affected by the 1982 crisis and the unpaid loans and the newly constituted AFPs.

Income taxes were reduced and value-added taxes were raised to cover budgetary needs. This benefited high incomes and companies over workers.

There was a systematic attack on culture. The dictatorship withdrew the right to publish from a large part of the press, excluding only the newspapers El Mercurio and La Tercera de la Hora, which were under the control of the coup leaders, in order to control the handling of information.

Books and other publications associated with Popular Unity or communist ideology were burned symbolically and in public, events which from time to time were even broadcast on television.

However, these events highlighted the ignorance of the military, as books were also burned by mistake, as was the case, for example, with books on Cubism, which were sometimes burned because those in charge thought they were books on Cuba.

The army also machine-gunned important cultural institutions in the country, such as the Museum of Fine Arts and the School of Fine Arts. Galleries were closed and political murals that had flourished under the Allende government were repainted in order to erase Popular Unity from Chilean historical memory.

In synthesis, the pseudo-patriots are a non-thinking, pedestrian and violent mass that validate illegitimate and illegal methods of street and governmental action to make the vast majority of the people succumb… People who for almost all of Chile’s history have been continually sidelined by the most privileged brotherhoods… That is what, finally, the “patriots” defend.

Chile: The Unfinished Revolution

International Summit Against Fascism: Chilean Sociologist and Mayor Daniel Jadue