Chilean Right: Foundations and Important Features

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Latino-American political culture was influenced by the North-American, European, Soviet systems. Different Latin countries also obviously influenced one another. Argentina may set an example of a country where national-populist approach to the right wing prevailed. That led to the seizing of power by military forces and, eventually, to the formation of Peronism. Peruvian junta led by Juan Velasco Alvarado could have come out of the old-school Bolsheviks’ wet dreams, had they had any. Rigid dictatorship of Alfredo Stroessner of Paraguay comprised a mix of the German approach to order and the American-borrowed spirit of openness of economical and political relations with the outer world.

The Chilean way of forming the right-wing political movement was rather different. Military and civilian statesmen, technical specialists and ideologically driven sociologists — all made their contribution in creating the Chilean right.

In the pre-Pinochet era the extent of the rightist ideology was anticommunist Resistance movements, style Patria y Libertad. Their slogans were, basically, no to leftist federal center with its taxes and expropriations. Groups like these were good in fighting back the leftists on their lands and in the streets, but the clear political concept was generally absent and this, in its turn, hindered the introduction of the rightist ideas into the people. Anyway, the Chilean right was born during the time of the military governance.

The Government Junta of Chile had no single approach to the country’s future. Augusto Pinochet, the Commander-in-Chief of the Chilean Army, together with Cesar Mendoza Duran, the Police General, and Jose Toribio Merino, the Admiral of the Navy, envisioned the role of the government in enforcement of the public order but claimed that the economics should be free and regulated only by the civil administration. Admiral Merino was the most devoted adept of the economical freedom. He always closely cooperated with the civil economists in the establishment of the new Chilean economy and took an active part in the foundation of the pensions system. On the other hand, Gustavo Leigh, a General of the Air Force, proposed a tight state control and militarization of the economy in order to be prepared to the total war with communists, cryptocommunists and Peruvian Army, whose invasion of Chile deemed to General Leigh almost imminent. He was an admirer of the European Fascism, and planned to build a sort of militarized state-capitalist Third Way economy in Chile. Right after the 1973 Chilean coup d’etat, he started to implement this policy, proclaiming total war to Marxists. Subsequently, the lion share of bloodshed was on Air Forces’ hands. Eventually he was dismissed and retired.

The man who became a doctrinal founder for the Government Junta of Chile, was a rightist intellectual Jaime Guzman Errazuriz.

795900_300He called his political concept «gremialismo» or «guildism». In a few words it may be described as follows. The political parties in their current form are regarded as evil and redundant issue. The political activity in the form of the parties’ clashes deters the people from the self-realization in their family, economical and professional life. Instead of directly involving the people in their political fights, the parties will become a sort of intellectual clubs, creating the state’s doctrines and concepts. The power must be substantially decentralized in favor of guild-like structures of workers, entrepreneurs and students. The state cannot interfere in such structures or their relations, its mission is the defense of its integrity and the enforcement of its laws. The state must support this guild structure, hereby preventing the citizens’ involvement in what was called by Pinochet «politiqueria» — a derogatory term for political intrigues. Guzman regarded the proper place of the trade unions to be an interface between the state and the individuals, instead of being corrupted into half-parasitic half-criminal organizations. His point of view was strongly supported by the fact that the Chilean left trade union activists en masse became members of terrorist organizations, like The Revolutionary Left Movement (MIR), and continued to kill and demolish infrastructural objects during all the time of the junta’s rule. Eventually, Jaime Guzman himself was assassinated by MIR in 1991, when nothing threatened the democracy in Chile. The gremialists insisted that the intermediary societies between the persons and the state should serve the purposes for which they were created and no other. They believed in an organic, grass-root congregation of the guilds into the civil unions, which would then be able to deter the state from any abuse of authority. Corruption and nepotism were regarded as the most serious enemies of the people and the society.

Similar political views may be found in the ideology of the Spanish Falange. Both Franco and Primo de Rivera became disgusted political quarrels and put into action the strategy of national pacification, where there was no place for the traditional political parties. But the Spanish economy has never been released under the control of government. The final «leap to the right» hasn’t been accomplished and Falange, predictably, became a political party. Spanish economy, despite showing some growth, hasn’t been able to achieve anything close to the Chilean «economical miracle».

The principal difference between the gremialism and the totalitarian leftist and rightist populist conceptions is the decentralization and removal of state, with its persistent ideologies, from the spheres it isn’t supposed to represent. Moreover, Guzman, since the very beginning of his cooperation with the Chilean junta, proclaimed that the transition of the power to the civil administration is only a matter of time. In economics, the gremialists’ concepts, ranging from right to ultra right, may be viewed as a combination of the free entrepreneurship doctrines, with minimum of state intervention, social autonomy and economics available to everyone.

General Pinochet sympathized to the ideas of gremialism — in his book «Politics, intrigues and demagogy» he criticized the political parties from the positions similar to Guzman’s, regarded their approach to power as unfair, and called to reconsider the place of an individual and of non government organizations in a society from practical, not politicians’ point of view.

796146_300There were other pragmatic politicians in Pinochet’s government who competed with the gremialists, the most influential among them was Sergio Jarpa. Devoted anticommunist, experienced politician and diplomat, he was a rational person. Gremialists’ ideology, which paid a lot of attention to not only political but also existential and religious issues, didn’t make much impression on him. In 80’s, in his role of a Minister of Interior, he carried out a liberalization of political activity, what eventually was called «la primavera de Jarpa» — Jarpa’s spring. As a result, political dissidents returned to Chile, and it became possible to organize political parties. Open criticism of military junta and Pinochet wasn’t persecuted, as may be witnessed by lots of caricatures on Pinochet. Jarpa’s envisioned the political rightist movement in Chile as less elitist than gremialists did. He often expressed his sympathies to the Spanish Falange and considered that «everyone has a right to politics».

Guzman tried to save the unity of the right by establishing the Independent Democratic Union (UDI) — one of the largest political parties in Chile till the present. But the plan to limit the political struggle to intellectual clubs discussions under governmental aegis turned out to be a failure, and UDI was divided.

796259_300UDI continues to stand for noninterference of the state in the functioning of the lesser economical subjects; the party also remains fiercely anticommunist, which is especially important for the modern Chile – the primary target for the left political technologists of all kinds. On the other hand, exaggerated religiousness of many party members pushes many younger voters away from UDI.

Another prominent right group were the economists and the technocrats – those illustrious «Chicago boys», now demonized beyond belief by the leftists. It is considered by many that they were American economists who came to Chile. This was obviously not true. Pinochet regime was, to a great extent, nationally orientated and the Chileans won’t put up with foreigners on crucial positions in their state. Moreover, when reacting to various criticisms from Washington, Pinochet didn’t hesitate to base his propaganda on the traditional contempt for the «gringo». No, the «Chicago boys» were Chilean economists, followers of the doctrine of Chicago Economical School. Beside the realm of macroeconomics, they took part in the introduction of the modern advertising, the development of retail chains and so on. More details can be found in «A Quiet Revolution» by Joaquin Lavin, one of «Chicago boys» and a member of UDI. Other members of the group were gremialists, some of them preferred to be politically neutral, and to attend to economical matters only.

To sum up, the peculiarities of development of Chilean right idea are as follows:

1. Populist «national-fascist» approach was nipped in the bud. This prevented the onset of a real dictatorship, similar to the Uruguayan scenario, and allowed instead the rise of a comparatively mild and liberal regime of a Chilean military junta.
2. From the very beginning, the military government abstained from the introduction of military orders into a civil society and always remained open to professional council. The reorganization of the society was always the function of sociologists and economists, graduated from civil universities, and participated in civil initiatives.
3. There was ethical but continuous competition of different groups inside the government, which, in its turn, led to rapid liberalization of social life. Compare this to a negative example of Paraguay may where Stroessner’s regime, though exhibiting many positive characteristics, could not abandon the strive to compulsive dictatorship. This eventually led to overwhelming exhaustion, even among Stroessner’s supporters, and to the overthrow of his regime.
4. Chilean junta always realized that a military rule is only a temporary measure. Since 80’s Guzman developed a concept of a new civil government, more open and liberal but inheriting all the positive achievements of the junta. Unlike the countries where dictatorships were forcefully overturned, the Chilean junta abdicated its power in favor of a civil government right after it became obvious that Chilean people didn’t want the military government anymore.
5. Chilean rights were rights till the end — in economics also. An effectively functioning economy with minimum of state intervention, an avoidance of both socialism and national populism, resulted in what is now known as the «Chilean economical miracle».

Kitty Sanders
Eug. Wolodarsky

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