Augusto Pinochet: Fascist or Not?
By Judas and Zoltanous
Whenever people try to discuss Post-WW2 fascism, it’s a given for some to proclaim that Chile was a victim of a brutal fascist Dictator; his name, Augusto Pinochet or as many Libertarians know him, the Helicopter Man.
We can see for this reason uneducated fascists, Libertarians, or your average Communist, calling him a fascist just because he was authoritarian and killed Communists without looking under the surface. In reality Pinochet’s extreme anti-communism was mixed up with anti-fascism too.
Pinochet was a liberal dictator that implemented free market capitalism and a mild social conservatism that banned parties and people trying to spread totalitarian ideologies. Unlike historical fascism that assumes power by democratic populism or violent revolution with a vanguard party, Historian Peter Winn found "extensive evidence" that the United States put Pinochet into power. Winn states that its covert support was crucial to engineering the coup, as well as for the consolidation of power by the Pinochet regime following the takeover. Winn documents an extensive CIA operation to fabricate a coup against Salvador Allende. Peter Kornbluh rightly pointed out that the CIA destabilized Chile and helped create the conditions for the coup, citing documents declassified by the Clinton administration. Including involvement from the Defense Intelligence Agency which secured the missiles used to bombard the La Moneda Palace.
After attaining power inside Chille, Pinochet's military government implemented radical economic liberalization, removing tariff protections for local industry, it banned trade unions, and privatized social security and hundreds of state-owned enterprises. Obviously just a overview of both Nazi and Italian Fascist economic policies would contradict this. Such as economic autarky, nationalization, state trade unions, public social security and state monopolies. For more information relating to this I would recommend Italian Fascism and Developmental Dictatorship by A James Gregor and Hitler's Revolution: Ideology, Social Programs, Foreign Affairs by Richard Tedor, as good examples explaining how fascist economics went counter to Pinochet’s policies.
Robert Packenham & William Ratliff, of Hoover Institute both observed in What Pinochet Did For Chile:
“The first country in the world to make that momentous break with the past—away from socialism and extreme state capitalism toward more market-oriented structures and policies—was not Deng Xiaoping's China or Margaret Thatcher's Britain in the late 1970s, Ronald Reagan's United States in 1981, or any other country in Latin America or elsewhere. It was Pinochet's Chile in 1975.”
Financial conglomerates became major beneficiaries of the liberalized economy with a flood of foreign bank loans. Large foreign banks reinstated the credit cycle, as debt obligations, such as resuming payment of principal and interest installments, were honored. International lending organizations such as the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, and the Inter-American Development Bank lent vast sums. Many foreign multinational corporations such as International Telephone and Telegraph (ITT), Dow Chemical, and Firestone returned to Chile.
A fascist holds that everything, including businesses, resources, property, money and vehicles, must be under the control of government and nothing must be allowed to exist outside of government. Fascism is violently opposed to the free-market and any International banking:
In essence Pinochet had nothing in common with historical fascist economic practices outside of Austria, during its brief economic remodeling. With Pinochet, we see a system that could be regarded analogous to the early stages of Austrofascism insofar as Ludwig von Mises served as an economic advisor to Dolfuss in the same capacity that Milton Friedman advised Pinochet.
As was the case in Austria, the economy of Chile experienced major setbacks as a consequence of libertarian economic policies and laissez-faire lending practices (especially in the banking sector) and, as a result, there were bankruptcies, bailouts, hyper-inflation, and mass-unemployment. The failures of the Chilean economy under Friedman’s neoliberalism has been noted by economists like Amartya Sen, who studied the failures of the Austrian economy and the Credistalten Crisis of 1931 has also been noted by countless scholars of the Great Depression.
Eventually, Austria would remedy this problem by removing Mises from his position in 1934 and cracking down on the Austrian school. Similarly Pinochet would kick out Friedman and his Chicago school in 1984. Both economies began to experience considerable growth: Austria through corporatism and Chile through protectionism. That being said, Chile could hardly be called fascist to the same extent that Austria was with its corporatist model.
Furthermore, one decisive move that was taken in Austria was to nationalize the bank in 1934, which happened around the same time Mises left his position.
The works of Pinochet were not that of a man with an actual ideological foundation. Even historians on fascism such as Robert Paxton (not even a good historian) acknowledges that had Pinochet tried to build an actual fascist regime, he would have been overthrown by the United States. Paxton instead characterized Pinochet as merely a client state leader who lacked popular acclaim and the ability to expand.
Some people will still claim he’s a fascist because Pinochet brought a few former Nazis to his government, nevertheless, this was the case in both Western NATO nations and Warsaw Pact nations. Regardless of integration, Pinochet's regime still arrested Chilean National Socialists such as Franz Pfeiffer and Luis Maluenda.
Pinochet even prevented the revival of the Chilean National Socialist Party. One can then see how figures such as Miguel Serrano (famous representative of Esoteric Hitlerism) would be an active opponent of Pinochet's military regime, due to Pinochet’s government actively opposing Nazism and Serrano’s Esoteric Hitlerism. Pinochet’s Government labeled National Socialists including other Chilean fascists as communists. Some were thrown out of helicopters while others were sent to concentration camps or executed by firing squad with communists and other dissidents.
It should also be mentioned that many fascists were intentionally and unintentionally antagonistic to the Jews, while some were just blatantly anti-semitic while Pinochet was not anti-semitic. In Pinochet and The Jews by Colin Shindler it says this:
"Unlike Argentina in the 1970s where the military junta killed a disproportionate number of Jews, Pinochet’s regime did not embrace antisemitism as state policy. Instead his underlings visited synagogues on Yom Kippur to express their goodwill and regularly met communal leaders."
"Many middle-class Jews who had left Allende’s Chile for mainly economic reasons now returned to appreciate a new-found stability."
"Pinochet admired Israel’s armed forces, but simultaneously was careful to cultivate the Arab states. Chile therefore opposed the Zionism is Racism resolution at the UN, but hosted the Pan-American Arab Congress in Santiago in 1978. The PLO attended Pinochet’s reception."
"Despite a US arms embargo, Israel trained personnel and provided equipment which could be used against Pinochet’s opponents. In 1989 Eitan Kalinsky and his wife were sent as Israeli emissaries to teach at the Jewish school in Santiago. They attended the now public protests against Pinochet’s regime and were amazed to note that the riot-control vehicles had been manufactured by Beit Alfa, a left-wing Hashomer Hatzair kibbutz."
In the end, fascism in South America was rare, and just a few countries can be partially categorized as proper Latin American manifestations of fascism (Peronism and Integralism). In the case of figures like Pinochet, fascist attitudes are nowhere to be found.
One of the main goals of Pinochet was to bring back the former liberal Republic of Chile. One man who Pinochet took specific inspiration from was Diego Portales, a minister of president Joaquín Prieto. Portales played a very pivotal role in 19th century Chilean politics, delivering with the liberal Constitution of 1833. Pinochet himself would say, on October 11th, 1973 that:
“[Democracy] will be born again purified from the vices and bad habits that ended up destroying our institutions.... [W]e are inspired by the Portalian spirit which has fused together the nation.”
In this way it’s easy to see why America backed Pinochet, as he simply wished to return to a former part of Chilean history that was liberal and took inspiration from former Chilean liberal politicians. Whereas fascism was distinctly anti-liberal:
Other historians such as Roger Griffin label Pinochet as being distinct from fascism because Pinochet lacked many characteristics of fascism proper like its radical disdain of capitalism. Even the expert historian on fascism A James Gregor excluded him from this label noting that he was authoritarian but his support of neoliberal economic policies distinguished him from fascism.
In conclusion supporting Pinochet for his anti-communism is just as childish as supporting Ronald Reagan for his anti-communism. Pinochet was nothing else than a US backed puppet with little to no ideological foundation. Another example of this phenomenon of liberal authoritarianism can be located in Ukraine after the coup in 2014, with its puppet president Volodymyr Zelenskyy. Like Pinochet he targets both communists and fascists who oppose him. Eventually Pinochet’s foundation got to be seen as a joke once he died, with how quickly Chile ditched his policies and failed ideas, as was the case in Spain with Franco and Portugal with Salazar.