The following was adopted by the Central Committee of the League for the Revolutionary Party.

April 1, 1999

Theses-Statement on Pinochet Extradition Question

  1. The demand by a Spanish judge for the extradition of former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet has posed serious questions for all those who seek justice for the victims of Pinochet’s coup and dictatorship. Marxists understand that the courts are not neutral dispensaries of justice, but organs of capitalist rule which seek to defend the ruling class against the masses. Justice for the oppressed will only be secured when the workers seize power by smashing the capitalists’ state power. Thus Marxists must seek to expose any illusions in the possibility of obtaining justice through the courts, encourage the masses to rely on their own strength and organization in the pursuit of justice, and oppose any extension of the power of the courts.

    Under certain conditions when the masses have illusions in the possibility of gaining justice through the courts, or when the masses have little idea of the power they have to extract justice in any other way, revolutionaries can consider raising the demand on the courts for justice in order to put the courts to the test of mass pressure and expose them before the masses. One such instance was the raising of the demand for the prosecution of the police who beat Rodney King in Los Angeles.

    However under no circumstances could we support the demand to extradite Pinochet to Spain to stand trial, for this is an instance of an imperialist state demanding the right to arrest political “third world” nationals. Such extradition would represent an assertion of imperialist dominance over the neo-colonial world, and would act as a precedent for the arrest of others, from Cuba’s Fidel Castro to Serbia’s Slobodan Milosevic. Thus we oppose the demand for Pinochet’s extradition to Spain. In counterposition to slogans favoring Pinochet’s extradition, raised by certain Chilean left exiles and British leftists, we raise the slogans of “Death to Pinochet!“ and “Workers Must Bring Butcher Pinochet to Justice!“

  2. In counterposition to rallies demanding extradition which were held at the House of Lords in London, we favored demonstrations first at the hospital where he was confined and later at the mansion where he is being kept. The purpose of such demonstrations would be to attempt a confrontation with this butcher. Our aim would be similar to that of demos we participate in here in the U.S. against Nazis and the KKK, where we raise similar slogans such as “Death to the Nazis!“ and “Death to the Klan!“

  3. It would have been utterly sectarian to abstain from participating in the anti-Pinochet/pro-extradition rallies that occurred in London and on the European continent, even though we could not have appeared as official sponsors or endorsers. We would have gone under our two chief slogans and with our own propaganda.

  4. Our propaganda would of course stress Pinochet’s crimes against the Chilean people and the working class in particular. It would emphasize the responsibility of imperialism–mainly American imperialism–for his murderous reign of terror. It would go on to explain the attitude of authentic Marxists toward the bourgeois state(s), especially the imperialist states and why we need to expose such entities and their claims to dispense justice. We would attack the supposed right of imperialist states and judiciaries to act as overlords for Chileans. We would warn against having any faith in the British state, Blair’s Labour government or the House of Lords. We would further point out that it is a utopian illusion to expect justice from the Spanish courts in the less than likely case that extradition is approved. Even if a maverick judge were to convict, it is impossible that the Spanish judiciary system/state power would mete out anything like proper justice for the crimes committed during Pinochet’s reign. Of course any serious punishment of Pinochet would represent a modicum of justice for the victims of his dictatorship. However, punishment of Pinochet alone would leave the imperialist sponsors of his coup and dictatorship unpunished. Justice demands that not only Pinochet and all his henchmen be sentenced to death, but also all those members of the US, British and other imperialist ruling classes and their state operatives who supported Pinochet. No court will ever do this. It is a task of the international socialist revolution.

    We would warn that any token slaps on the wrist given to the right by bourgeois, especially imperialist, courts will only serve as precedents and justifications for murderous attacks on the left. Extradition of a Pinochet would lay the basis for extraditions and assured judicial lynchings of left figures and those imperialism declares as its enemies. Yesterday, it would have meant that Trotsky would have been delivered into Stalin’s hands. In today’s world it would mean that, for starters, Castro and Saddam would be fools to ever leave their countries.

    Our propaganda would explain why revolutionaries counterpose action of the masses in terms of developing class consciousness, as opposed to demands for bourgeois legal “justice.” We would point to modern capitalism as being incompatible with even genuine and lasting bourgeois democracy and, therefore, why the necessity for the vanguard party and the re-created Fourth International. This would be a consistent international application of our overall general strike/mass action orientation in the U.S. As we have always stressed, Trotsky taught us that mass action slogans are most useful in conjunctures and places where proletarian leadership is weak. The U.S. is hardly alone in this respect.

    In order to make the slogans more concrete in a propagandistic sense, we would point to the fact that a number of British unions and left organizations, with sizable working class followings, endorsed the demos for extradition. Instead, we argue that they should have mobilized their members and peripheries for direct mass action with the aim of dealing out justice by confronting Pinochet. The absence of international working class solidarity is not a “fact of life,” it is a failure of leadership. At a minimum, left and union workers from Britain and even from the continent could have staged an effectively threatening display. Pinochet could have also been correctly made into a surrogate, in minds of many “third world” emigres and exiles in Europe, for their own particular murderous bourgeois misleaders at home. They too could have swelled the ranks of genuine protest rallies.

  5. To take a position of opposition to extradition does not mean, as has been claimed, that we must demonstrate against it or argue for Pinochet’s release by the British government. This “logic” is the same logic that says that opposition to the Democrats means support to the Republicans, merely because we have no immediate “practical” alternative. And, in this particular case, there is actually a better chance - although not a likely one - for a seemingly “practical” alternative. Given the differences in scale of what size a mass alternative would have to be in each case, a credibly large confrontation with Pinochet is far more of a possibility, as opposed to an immediately credible mass action alternative to the Democrats.

  6. The whole idea that since there is no practicable working class way to mete out justice to Pinochet now, some sort of interim approximation of justice could be the product of an imperialist deal for extradition, is an illusion. The methodology behind the notion is related to the various stagist conceptions of revolutionary struggle. The first “preparatory” or interim stage is actually a barrier and not a conveyor belt to the second stage of truly proletarian solutions.