Tag Archives: Pinochet

The death of Moon and the eerie silence of Nile Gardiner

Moon: he thought he ruled the world

So the founder and leader of the Unification Church – otherwise known as the Moonies – has died. Believing himself to have divine appointment, Sun Myung Moon was born in 1920 in what is now North Korea. He founded his business empire  (because that’s what it is) in 1954 after allegedly speaking to Christ on a hillside in 1936. The religious philosophy of the movement he founded is a mish-mash of Christianity, Confuscism, shamanism and anti-communism, the latter perhaps being the most crucial tenet in the Moonies ideology.  As a committed anti-communist, Moon, or the True Father as he styled himself, was comfortable with many of the world’s most repressive regimes.

Of course, that isn’t something that the Moonies like to talk about.  The Washington Times , which was founded with Moon’s money, was St Ronnie’s favourite newspaper and is 100% dedicated to the cause. It offers us this panegyric,

The legacy of the late Rev. Sun Myung Moon will forever be tied to the fight to defeat communism, a cause to which he devoted much of his life’s work and, in the process, earned a place in history as a contributor to the end of the Cold War.

It’s as gushing and fawning as a good panegyric ought to be. Ben Wolfgang, for it is he who penned this tripe, quoteth the True Father,

“Finally, in 1989, the Berlin Wall was torn down and on Christmas Eve 1991, the Soviet empire collapsed after having held the world in fear for 74 years. I thank God that the free world prevailed in this historic struggle, which truly was an ideological battle over acknowledging God or not,” he said in 2002, speaking at a banquet celebrating the 20th anniversary of The Washington Times, which he founded.

For Moon, the Cold War was simply a war between good and evil, which was echoed in Reagan’s infamous phrase the “Evil Empire”, perhaps indicating the close proximity of Moon to the White House. Wolfgang tells us that the leaders of the ‘free’ world sought guidance from Moon and paid tribute to his contributions to the collapse of the USSR. Reagan, Thatcher, Pinochet (yes) and Brazil’s exceptionally dodgy Carlos Menem were counted as his friends.

The tendrils of the Unification Church run very deep and are spread very wide. They have global business interests that manufactures a range of goods and are adept, or so they think, at avoiding tax. In 1982, Moon’s magic couldn’t prevent him from being locked up for 18 months for tax evasion. 18 months and it wasn’t in some horrible penetentiary that you see on programmes on Channel 5 either. Still, you can’t keep a good man down and the great and the good of the American Right and a variety of religious groups rallied and fought to free Moon. Once released, he was back up on his feet, jet-setting around the globe and being photographed with all the right people. While the numbers of followers fell, his political influence never waned.

In the mid-1990s Moon moved his base to a remote location in the no man’s land between Paraguay and Bolivia, having purchased land there some time in the early 1980s. Paraguay was once ruled by the bloodthirsty Alfredo Strößner, Pinochet’s pal in Operation Condor . Strößner was overthrown in a coup in 1989. He died in Brazil in 2006 having been Menem’s  guest for most of that time. I found this interesting article in The Tablet, a Catholic organ no less! The writer talks of a visit to Puerto Casado in northwest Paraguay.

I asked many questions about that fascinating moment in the Reverend Moon?s history. It was one of six imprisonments, they told me, in various countries, and the excuse for this pure political persecution, they told me, had been that Mr Kamiyama had brought $2 million into the United States and opened an account in the name of Reverend Moon. I should have put in the name of the Church. It was a small mistake, he said. As a result Reverend Moon was accused of evading $7,000 in taxes. Mr Kamiyama confided: I don?t like politicians. They are very complicated. They change their minds very quickly.

What do you believe the real reason was? I asked them. Mr Sano had no doubt: the Moonies had been trying to urge President Carter to be strong in standing up against Communism, so the Democratic Party did not like their movement. Carter had not been supporting the South American governments that had been most determined in making a stand against the influx of Communism in countries like Nicaragua, Chile and Paraguay. Carter had dithered, talking about human rights abuses, but, said Mr Sano, if we have to attack it is the Communist governments we must attack, for they are violating far more human rights.

It was the only moment my blood almost froze amid all that warmth. It confirmed the reports I had received that the Moonies had been linked with the most repressive of the South American dictatorships. A book they gave me to read,The Fruits of True Love: the lifework of Revd Sun Myung Moon, provided further corroboration. God chose the United States to stand up to Communism, I read, and to this end the Moonies founded Causa International, which visited such like-minded campaigners as Pinochet in Chile, Rios Montt in Guatemala and Stroessner in Paraguay.

Moon handed over control of the Unification Church to his son, Hyung Jin Moon in 2009.  Moon Jr has reportedly made a visit to North Korea in the last couple of days.

Nile Gardiner: he’s a bit like Gen. Jack D. Ripper

The Moonie that is best known to The Cat is Nile Gardiner, the deeply paranoid, anti-Europe, anti-communist, anti-equality Director of the Margaret Thatcher Center for Freedom and member of Mitt ‘The Mannequin’ Romney’s foreign policy team (heaven help us!). The baby-faced one’s been noticeably tight-lipped on the subject of the True Father’s passing and, indeed, his membership of the church. Maybe he’s in mourning  but then he found the time to write this typically Dagenham (it’s beyond Barking) piece in Wednesday’s Telegraph that linked to his article in the, er, Washington Times.

Without Communism (because it is big ‘C’ communism we’re talking about here) as the big evil, Gardiner’s focus has turned to the European Union and all its ‘liberal’ values. He hates effete and ‘socialist’ Europe and he hates the suave and metropolitan Obama. Well, you have to someone to hate? Don’t you?

Moon was a delusional man whose religion was a front for a multitude of business and political interests and in that sense, he was more the CEO and chairman of a multinational corporation than a religious leader. Perhaps this is what the likes of Reagan and Thatcher loved about him: his entrepreneurship.  The televangelists loved him too. “Jesus” they would argue, “was a capitalist”. I’m only surprised their Jesus industries haven’t started producing posters of a gun-toting, cigar-munching Christ. Maybe I shouldn’t be giving them ideas?

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The Chilean equality protests

There have been ongoing protests against the two tier education system in Chile for the last year or so but these have quickly turned into protests against economic inequality as much as anything else. The media in the UK has been largely silent about these large-scale demonstrations, for reasons that are best known to themselves. I have written about Chile’s economic and political systems several times on this blog and I have also alluded to the relationship between what the Tories are doing to state education here, and what happened to state education under Pinochet.

Here’s an interesting article from The Council for Hemispheric Affairs, from which I will quote a couple of excerpts. This one tells us,

By establishing market competition, the privatization policy was intended to “weed out” inefficient and disorganized schools as students, aided by readily-available voucher subsidies, gravitated toward institutions that would provide a better education.

Sounds familiar. No? There’s more…

Despite the government’s ostensible goal in equalizing the quality of education for students across economic lines, three discernible types of inequalities have emerged in its wake: stratification and inequality in access to private education, substantial differences in the quality of education received, and unequal opportunities for students pursuing higher education.

We already have a deeply-rooted class system in this country but the Tory-led government wants more. Let’s read on,

The introduction of education vouchers has produced an increasingly stratified school system in Chile on the basis of socioeconomic status. Unrestricted school choice in Chile has exacerbated stratification within the Chilean school system rather than provide more opportunities for low-income students to access better schools. Although such students now have the ability to apply to private institutions, two factors have prevented them from gaining equitable access to these schools. Low-income students suffer from a lack of information concerning school choice. They also rarely have the necessary means of transportation to attend private schools in urban areas.

Choice and equality are in conflict with one another.

As a result of these educational vouchers, the school system has become increasingly stratified due to “creaming,” in which private institutions have enacted selective admission policies designed to accept only the “cream of the crop.” These discriminatory policies have resulted in a sorting effect, in which higher income students have migrated in large numbers to subsidized fee-based private schools, while lower-income students remain entrapped in municipal public schools.

Presently, the Tories and their associates in the press have conducted a concerted campaign against the state education system. This has taken the form of op-ed pieces by journalists who are sympathetic to Gove’s ‘reforms’ as well as the usual drip feed of comments and articles that complain about “Marxist” teachers who have “corrupted the minds of our youths”, who all seem “unable to recognize” elements of a by-rote history syllabus: dates, names, places and so on. Such a history syllabus teaches pupils nothing other than the recall of information. The Tories see the teaching of critical thinking in subjects such as history as fundamentally dangerous, because those who can think for themselves represent a threat to the neoliberal project because they possess the ability to analyze and criticize. This isn’t something our leaders want. They want consumers. In the collective mind of the Right, free schools offer the perfect means to correct this tendency by inculcating the values of classical liberalism (sic), religious dogma and superstition in the young. Kill their cognitive abilities at an early age and they will be putty in their hands.

The two-tier education system that began under Pinochet has been left to operate intact since the dictator lost the plebiscite in 1988 and the country was returned to ‘democracy’. But this democracy is a fatally flawed one; the institutions and legal mechanisms that were put in place under El Caudillo, were never dismantled, repealed or modified. Instead, successive Chilean governments have turned a blind eye to the building tensions. Now matters have come to a head.

An article on the BBC website opens with this characteristic establishment view,

Chile is usually regarded as one of the most orderly and stable countries in South America, so the images that have come out of the capital, Santiago, in recent days have been especially shocking.

The presumption that Chile is “orderly and stable” is predicated on the myth of the Chilean ‘miracle’ and all the repression that came with it. The repression, like the wheat’s chaff, is simply discarded by apologists for the sake of getting to the narrative grain that supports the notion of the mythological ‘miracle’.

However this article tells us something else: that 45% of students go to state schools, 50% go to voucher schools, which are subsidized by the state and the rest go to elite private schools. The state system has been allowed to decay, while those schools that receive state subsidies through the voucher/tax credit scheme flourish. These voucher schools have done a great deal to create a system of educational haves and have-nots. We can see the potential danger of this in Gove’s  divisive free school system.

The rationale behind the voucher schools and free schools is predicated on the slippery Hayekian notion of consumer choice in an education ‘marketplace’, in which all social relations are magically transformed into relationships between consumers and vendors. We have witnessed, with our own eyes in this country, what the effect of forced marketization has had on, for example, the NHS. It’s a cancer that eats away at the very patient that the plan was intended to cure.

What is revealing about the current situation in Chile is that the former Education Minister, Joaquín Lavín, was a prominent supporter of Pinochet and wrote a book titled  Una revolución silenciosa (A Silent Revolution), which praised The Caudillo’s  economic policies. This also tells us something about the direction and tenor of the  Piñera government: it tried to reclaim the fragments of the glorious Pinochet years. Indeed, there were no less than three of the original Chicago Boys in  Piñera’s first cabinet. Although Lavín was replaced in a reshuffle last year by Felipe Bulnes (who left the role six months later to take up his post as Ambassador to the United States) nothing has been done on the part of the government to address the fundamental issues. Indeed, the reshuffles are cosmetic and amount to little more than window-dressing.

Desperate and with the president’s approval ratings in decline, there are signs that the Piñera government is resorting to even more extreme measures to crush dissent. This article from Al-Jazeera is particularly illuminating.

This article from Huffington Post says,

President Sebastian Pinera said Wednesday a tax overhaul he is sending to congress will raise $700 million that will be enough to bring real changes to Chile’s education system. He spoke as thousands of students marched in the streets to denounce the plan as insufficient.

“This is a very profound change. It seeks quality and equal education. It establishes a system of credit that favors 90 percent of the students, and the state will provide the resources,” Pinera said in national television broadcast. “Businesses will have to pay more taxes.”

Here Piñera offered a sop to the protesters and nothing more. The state education system remains in tatters.

Watch as Milton Friedman, who argued for education vouchers, defends his ideas in this clip.

It’s interesting how no one challenges his ideas. The word of Friedman, the principal architect of neoliberal economics, is holy writ. Notionally axiomatic, the Right clings to his theories like a heavy person adrift at sea holding onto a tiny piece of driftwood for comfort.

As if to rub salt into the wounds of those who suffered at the hands of the DINA and the rest of Pinochet’s security apparatuses, Pinochetistas have recently released a documentary praising the dictator. This prompted another series of protests.

Here’s an edition of Faultlines that was shown on Al-Jazeera in January 2012.

Part of the blame for the current situation must lay with the centre-right La Concertacion electoral front, which did nothing to reverse Pinochet’s policies. They failed to dig deep into the soil and pull out the weeds, roots and all. But did they have the power to do so without repercussions?

Each demonstration in Chile tends to end with the gendarmerie using water cannon, tear gas and plastic bullets to disperse the protesters. This shouldn’t surprise us because the biggest threat to Chilean democracy is, of course, the military, who still enjoy a great deal of political influence. The armed forces have never left the political stage and wait in the wings for their moment.

Today has seen more protests with buses set on fire.

Piñera has another two years to run on his presidency and at this rate, he won’t be getting a third term unless…let’s hope that doesn’t happen.

POSTSCRIPT

Here’s Camila Vallejo’s blog. Vallejo is the Vice President of the Chilean Federation of University Students.

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Cheap tricks and smears. Welcome to the world of Dan Hannan

Hannan’s repeating the lie that the BNP is a ‘left wing’ party again in his blog. Only this time, he is involved in a spat with fellow Telegraph blogger, Damian Thompson. who says,

I really am bored of Right-wing Tories like my old mate Dan Hannan insisting that the British National Party is “far Left”. It isn’t. It’s on the far Right. Sure, the BNP’s economic policies reflect a version of socialism; it would create a monstrously intrusive, high-spending state not unlike those on the totalitarian Left. But, for crying out loud, let’s use some common sense here. Political parties are defined not just by their economic manifestos but also by their culture. And the culture of the BNP expresses a nationalist racism that is almost identical to that of European parties that everyone identifies as far Right, even if they are less statist and protectionist. This culture is a long way removed from Dan’s free market Whiggery; but then Dan is not on the far Right, just as (say) Will Hutton is not on the far Left and has almost nothing in common with the Socialist Workers’ Party. Calling the BNP Left-wing is like calling the Soviet apparatus Right-wing, as so many libertarian Lefties did in the 1970s. It’s a debating society trick, nothing more.

Quite right, Damian, quite right….it’s not only a debating society trick, it’s a cheap trick; a cheap and nasty trick.

Mad Dan’s headline reads “There’s nothing Right-wing about the BNP – except in the BBC sense of baddie”. I think that title reveals more about the man than he cares to admit.

Here, he falls back on a rather shaky piece of logic

The BNP, like all fascist movements, emerged from the revolutionary Left. It dislikes free enterprise, hates the rich and resents the monarchy. It markets itself as “the Labour Party your parents voted for” and its last manifesto promised “to give workers a stake in the success and prosperity of the enterprises whose profits their labour creates by encouraging worker shareholder and co-operative schemes”. Its support comes overwhelmingly from ex-Labour voters.

Wrong. The BNP was formed as a splinter group from the National Front whose precursor was Mosley’s British Union of Fascists. So what does this prove? Nothing whatsoever. Did Mussolini’s fascists emerge from the revolutionary left? No,  they did not. Mussolini may have, at one time, been a socialist but he was soon expelled for supporting WWI. he soon followed the lead of irredentist,  Gabriele d’Annunzio (who was a darling of the Futurists). Being expelled from a socialist party doesn’t necessarily mean that you will have taken socialism with you to forge into a new dynamic party of fascists. Yet, this is what Mad Dan assumes. Quite frankly, I don’t know what history this man has been reading but it is all wrong. Appealing to the working classes is pretty common for fashos, but actively incorporating them into the party’s leadership structure is something quite different. No far-right party has ever done this. In this way, the far-right shares something in common with the Tories. Remember the Primrose League? It was an attempt by the Tories to attract working class support in the 1880’s. But the working class never found themselves actually leading the League’s  local branches; they remained at the bottom of the hierarchy.

Then there are the Nazis:  Hitler was not and never was, a socialist.  While some of the Nazis may have, at one time, been socialists, they were either expelled or left the party of their own accord. Hitler was totally opposed to socialism from the outset. How on earth could he and his party be ‘left-wing’ when they were opposed to trade unions?

Hannan then quotes FA Hayek. This is a very bad move because Hayek isn’t exactly neutral in his ‘analysis’ of socialism; he wants to tie it to fascism and in so doing ignores the corporatist nature of fascism/Nazism in order to score a political point. The defence of Hayek appears to rest on a single premise: Hayek lived in Austria during the Dolfuss regime.  For Hannan, it is as if Hayek exists in some kind of ideological vacuum.

Read Hayek’s chapter on “The Socialist Roots of Nazism” in The Road to Serfdom,

No thanks, I tried Hayek and he made me sick….and he made the rest of the country sick when Thatcher adopted his philosophy.

This is pure gold,

In what sense, then, is the BNP Right-wing? Some argue that it is Right-wing to discriminate on the basis of race and nationality rather than class and income, but this would surely make Stalin, Gerry Adams, Pol Pot and Robert Mugabe very Right-wing indeed. A true Rightist believes that, other things being equal, the individual should be as free as possible from state coercion: a position equally abhorrent to socialists of the National or Leninist varieties.

When did Gerry Adams discriminate on the basis of race or even religion? You’re going to have to find some pretty solid examples, Dan; because your case is looking shakier by the minute. You do realise that there have been Protestant members of the IRA or did you think that the ‘Troubles’ was all about religion? Your take on the Right as ‘defenders of freedom’ is so risible that I can only say one thing by way of reply: Pinochet. Of course I could have said Franco or Salazar, but Pinochet was alleged to have presided over an ‘economic miracle’  that was, in part, informed by the theories of Hayek (as well as those of Friedman who was also influenced by the Austrian School).

As the blog nears its end, it becomes ever more batty. He shrieks,

No, there is only one sense in which the BNP is Right-wing, and that is the BBC sense. Our state broadcaster uses the epithet “Right-wing” to mean “disagreeable”

Do they? Is that like when “lefties” allegedly use the word “hate” when they mean “disagree”?  To be honest, I think you’re spending far too much time around Teabaggers, Dan.

One thing is clear from this blog and your blog of a couple of days ago: you don’t know your right from your left.

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