Friday 19 November 2010

My Enemy's Enemy (II)

Introduction: Chile, Argentina and the Nazis

Initially, this blog was meant to provide a brief biographical profile of Walter Rauff.

However, the matter proved much more complex than expected. Even an schematic account of Rauff's life requires mentioning other names, general circumstances and historical episodes falling beyond the scope of a single blog.

For this reason, Rauff's still summary biographical profile will be split into several blogs, beginning with the present one, where a general historical setting is provided.

The previous blog in this series documented a tendency in Western bourgeoisie, “even in democratic cultures”, to find Marxism a greater abomination than Nazism. In the post-WWII era, an instance of this was the cooperation between American intelligence agencies and former Nazi Germany figures.

This is not to say that Nazi “expertise” was valuable only for American interests. It will be shown here that even the most unsuspected parties sympathized with and employed these “experts”.

What’s more, often this acceptance was not forced upon these “democratic cultures” out of an imminent fear of communism.

The journey starts in South America, making only passing references to Germany.

Argentina and Chile (*)

Chile and especially Argentina were developing along the lines of modern capitalism in the early XX century. Their economies, based on agricultural exports, attracted considerable foreign investment; additionally, Argentine capitals started light manufacturing, oil extraction and refining, while Chile had nitrate and copper mines.

Combined, increased tax revenue and a relative political stability allowed both countries to develop their capitalist class and its corresponding proletariat. 

The development of a proletariat marked the beginning of trade unions and left-wing movements, which paradoxically threatened to disturb the relative political stability needed for capitalist development.

To maintain that "political stability" a number of governments in Western democracies tended to apply a "carrot and stick" approach whenever indispensable, and an outright hard hand, when necessary.
In the US, for instance, the period immediately after the October Revolution in Russia and the end of WWI was known as the First Red Scare. It shared some significant characteristics with most cases in other countries: the fear justified or not that trade unionism in general and Marxist or social democratic movements were immediate precursors for social revolutions; the use of prejudices against foreign workers, who were supposedly specially involved in those movements; police repression against trade-unionists and left-wingers and social unrest and violence:

Step by step. New York Evening Telegram. 01/11/1919. [1]
Close the Gate. Chicago Tribune. [2]
In Argentina and Chile a similar scare manifested itself in ways perhaps more dramatic:

Some comments are in order.

That list is far from exhaustive, including only the best documented cases. (For details, see Reference, below).

In Argentina these massacres were carried out by the military/Police at one hand, and the Liga Patriótica Argentina (Argentine Patriotic League), a nationalist-Catholic vigilante militia supported by business interests. These actions were as much against the political left and trade unions, as against Jews (seen as crypto-Communists or Anarchist), foreigners, and Indians.

It is worth remarking that Marxism and Jews had been linked by right wing propaganda at least since the October Revolution in Russia. The following poster depicts the Jewish Leon Trotsky as a red demon, while at the bottom one can see the "Asian hordes of Marxism", leitmotifs that would be adopted by Nazism.
1919 Russian Civil War White propaganda poster. From Marxist Internet Archive. [3]

However, the Liga itself was never considered a strictly proto-fascist group, as they supported Presidential democracy. President Yrigoyen himself was a Radical: roughly a centre-centre left (liberal/social democrat), by current standards.

In Chile, however, President Alessandri could be considered centre-centre right (Conservative). As in Argentina, these actions were often anti-left/trade unions and anti-Indian/foreigner; but in the Seguro Obrero massacre the casualties were members of the far-right Movimiento Nacional Socialista de Chile (National Socialist Movement of Chile). In Chile the responsibility solely fell on the military.

As can be appreciated, there were groups in Government and in opposition, in both countries, with important, if partial, affinities to European Nazi-fascism. One of the clearest coincidences was their opposition to left wing ideas and trade unionism, which the Nazis themselves expressed immediately during their ascension to power with the opening of Dachau in 1933.

This, however, does not exclude the presence of groups opposing Nazi-fascism in both countries.

Politically, Marxist groups in both countries provide an example of opposition:

1938 Telegram. Hosted by Diario El Clarín. [4]

The telegram above, sent by 76 members of the lower chamber of the Chilean parliament in 26-11-1938 in protest for the Kristallnacht, reads:

"His Excellency, Mr. Adolf Hitler
Chancellor of the Reich,

"As members of different sectors of the Chilean Parliament and in the name of civilized life, we present our most vigorous protest for the tragic persecution of which the Jewish people in that country has been victim and we request that your Excellency make stop that state of things and re-establish the right to life and justice for the Israelites, as humanely and eloquently demanded by President Roosevelt."
Further, some Argentine researchers, without denying that sections of the Argentine dominant classes harbored sympathies for Nazi-Fascism, argue that these affinities were exaggerated by American authorities, due to their opposition to Peronism. [5]

Rauff will appear in the next blog in this series, treating with Chile and Argentina in WWII.

(*) The content of this section is largely based on Wikipedia and a range of other resources freely available; consequently no specific references will be given here, except those relating to the quantitative data contained in the table, which are detailed in the References section.

[1] Step by Step. Wikipedia.
[2] Close the Gate. Red Scare (1918-1921).
[3] Civil War poster: White Russian anti-Semitism. 1919. Hosted by Marxist Internet Archive in the Trotsky Photo Gallery.
[4] Telegrama de protesta al Fuhrer de Salvador Allende y otros (1938). Hosted by diario El Clarín (Chile). My translation.
[5] Estudios Interdisciplinarios de América Latina y el Caribe (EIAL) often publishes articles on related subjects:

Leonardo Senkman reviews:
Ronald Newton. The "Nazi" Menace in Argentina, 1931-1947.
Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1992.
EIAL. Vol. 5:1 January - June 1994.

Leonardo Senkman. El nacionalismo y el campo liberal argentinos ante el neutralismo: 1939-1943
EIAL. Vol. 6:1 January - June 1995
Hebrew University of Jerusalem

Mario Rapoport. Argentina y la Segunda Guerra Mundial: mitos y realidades
EIAL. Vol. 6:1 January - June 1995
Universidad de Buenos Aires

I believe those images to be in the public domain. However, if such is not the case and the reader holds the rights for these images, please let me know and they will be removed or credit will be duly given, at your discretion.

Tragic Week. Wikipedia.
Rural workers strike, Patagonia. Wikipedia in Spanish.
Napalpí Indian reservation massacre. Wikipedia.
Santa María School massacre. Wikipedia.
Marusia massacre. Wikipedia.
Ranquil Indian reservation massacre. Wikipedia
Seguro Obrero massacre. Wikipedia.

Reference [5] added.

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