I generally skip George Marlin’s “On the Right” column since I get that point of view from News Max and Fox Noise or by listening to Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity.
But this week, (March 20) Marlin and I both wrote about Fidel Castro. The articles’ titles reveal our different points of view. His was called “Bernie Sanders loves leftist despots” and mine was titled “Actually, Bernie was right about Castro.”
Here are Marlin’s accusations. He (Bernie) was a member of the Young Socialist League, he honeymooned in the Soviet Union and he (Marlin) called Chilean’ president Salvadore Allende’s government a “repressive Marxist regime.”
Let us dispense with the honeymoon charge first. I have never been to the Soviet Union nor have I been to the Scandinavian countries, but I’d be curious to see how socialism works in these countries. Also, in the land of the free and the home of the brave, we should still have the right to choose where we’ll spend our honeymoon.
As to being a member of the Young Socialist League (I suspect Marlin means the Young People’s Socialist League or YPSL.) But on to the more significant question about Allende vs. Pinochet, I do admit that Allende was a Marxist, but we should also examine the role played by U.S. corporations in conjunction with the C.I.A. and the Navy.
On Sept. 11, 1973 troops loyal to Pinochet and with U.S. assistance staged a coup d’etat. Hundreds of those in opposition to Pinochet were thrown into the National Stadium.
This later became the subject of a film by Costa-Gavros called “Missing.” It starred Jack Lemon and Sissy Spacek and was the story of Charles Hormon who disappeared and his father’s attempt to find his son.
The fact of the matter was that his son was killed by right-wing forces. He was one of thousands slaughtered. I had a more personal encounter with this history since I spent that summer in the Hamptons and a professor friend of mine invited several Allende supporters to spend time with us. I was made aware of the military dictatorship that Pinochet established.
Here are some interesting facts from that era.
Pinochet remained in power until 1990 ending more than four decades of uninterrupted democratic governance.
Pinochet suspended the Constitution and dissolved the Congress of Chile. There were over 40,000 persons who were tortured and held prisoner.
In an article titled “The C.I.A.’s Campaign Against Salvador Allende,” it states that Henry Kissinger played a role in Pinochet’s overthrow.
In other words, any nationalization of U.S. corporations was anathema to the U.S. regardless of how these companies treated their workers.
Marlin also raises the question of why otherwise intelligent persons would join the Communist Party. The answer may be found in “The God That Failed.” It was written by six of the most important writers of the 20th century. They were:
Andre Gide (France), Richard Wright (U.S.), Ignazio Silone (Italy), Stephen Spender (England), Arthur Koestler (Germany), and Louis Fischer (an American foreign correspondent.)
Each of them converted to Communism and subsequently became disillusioned and dropped out of the Party.
But in order to address Marlin’s point, I need to discuss exactly what the attraction of the Communist Party was.
Although Communism has few adherents today, during the 1930s and ’40s, Communists were considered the “good guys.” The Party promised an egalitarian society and devotion to peace. It defended the rights of blacks, other minorities and strongly supported organized labor.
Paul Robeson, singer, activist and athlete was one African-American who traveled to the Soviet Union and reported his experience in glowing terms.
“Here, I am not a Negro but a human being for the first time in my life…I walk in full human dignity.”
And in 1931, the Communist Party sent Samuel Leibowitz to defend the Scottsboro Boys. There is much more evidence that the intelligentsia and persons who cared about social justice had nowhere else to turn but to the Communists.
So, by default, well-meaning Americans sided with the leftists.
As is my practice, I try to find lessons to be learned from history. In this case, we see that knowledge of history is indispensable in order to understand it.
Another lesson (one over which we have little control) is that if we can partake in historic events, we will have a clearer understanding of the issues.
My interest in the Allende struggle was enhanced by my first-hand encounter with escapees from the Pinochet regime.