A book that has failed to go anywhere internationally, contrary to the author’s expectation, is a recent study by a Chilean Jewish academic who teaches philosophy at the University of Berlin, Victor Farías. His work deals with the youthful thought and career of Salvador Allende, who, between 1970 and 1973, headed the Marxist Government of Popular Unity in Chile. This volume, which appeared in Chile and Spain in separate editions this year, should have received widespread critical attention. Farías, in 1987, brought out Heidegger y el nazismo, a work that immediately went into translation in French and other languages, as the definitive exposé of Heidegger’s putative lifelong infatuation with Nazi thinking. Although the arguments offered in that démontage are less than persuasive, and have largely to do with unproved sinister Catholic influence, the book made a splash and helped establish Farías’s reputation as an antifascist critic.
Then Farías began pushing the envelope. Although indisputably a leftist, he had severely criticized the failure of the Chilean labor movement to respond to the antisemitic politics of the Third Reich. Both labor leaders and socialist publications in Santiago in the 30’s, Farías explained in a book that came out in 2000, had opposed granting asylum to Jewish refugees and even contributed to stereotyping Jews as bloodsucking capitalists. The author had also worked closely with Simon Wiesenthal to extradite former Nazis involved in mass murder from Chile and learned, to his dismay, that the Allende regime had doggedly protected an SS officer, Walther Rauff, who had overseen the murders of about 100,000 Jews during World War II. Allende had refused repeated requests to give Rauff over for trial to either the Israelis or an international tribunal.
Farías’s new book, Salvador Allende: contra los judíos, los homosexuals, y otros degenerados, represents a further phase in his disenchantment with the Chilean far left. The reader discovers that Allende’s dissertation in medicine, Higiene Mental y Delincuencia, submitted at the University of Chile in 1933, abounds in eugenic, antihomosexual, and antisemitic passages. A then-leading Chilean eugenicist, and a cofounder of the Liga de Higiene Mental, Hugo Lea-Plaza, has his fingerprints smudged all over this study. As minister of health in the government of the Chilean Popular Front between 1939 and 1941, moreover, Allende had advocated sterilization measures to deal with the mentally diseased. As Farías shows, these proposed measures seem to have been based on a German law of July 1933, to prevent “hereditary defects from affecting the race.” And despite his formal identification with the left, Allende had persistently described revolutionaries as psychopaths in desperate need of psychiatric treatment. In his most visionary statements as a health official, he looked toward a future in which geneticists and psychiatrists would collaborate to control the spread of mental and birth defects, by any possible legal means.
One can dismiss these charges, from the right, as coming from the realization that the left has not always been p.c. After all, the communists in power, unlike American liberals and postcommunist European leftists, imprisoned and sometimes killed homosexuals instead of coddling them. Nor did they go around praising Jews as virtuous victims. In fact, they often diverted attention from their own failures by whipping up anti-Jewish feelings. If Jewish leftists had imagined that the situation was different, as Farías had, then clearly they must have been fools. It is also the case that Allende, in 1933, was working to finish an academic assignment. He did so while relying on conventional opinions, and he received a satisfactory grade that did not bring honors. Although his editorializing against Jews, gypsies, and homosexuals may seem disconcerting now, these may have been the kinds of statements that, at the time they were produced, an indifferent student might pull together as the precondition for practicing psychiatric medicine.
But there is something about Farías’s brief that is noteworthy, which is how little attention it has received compared to the insubstantial case mounted against Heidegger as a perpetual Nazi. Unlike the evidence marshaled against the German existentialist, the material found in Allende’s writings should be sending shock waves through the p.c. left.
French commentator Arnaud Imatz has observed in his essay “Salvador Allende: le scandale refoulé” that journalists are strikingly indulgent when it comes to Allende’s tirades against Jews and gypsies, which approximate those of Hitler. And the comments from the dissertation reproduced on the dust jacket of Farías’s book, about swindling, lying, and dishonesty being endemic to Jews, was certainly more than a boilerplate genetic judgment even in 1934, outside of pro-Nazi circles. Those who have noticed the embarrassment have tried to relativize it, the way other leftists used to explain Stalin’s mass murder by pointing to Russia’s geography or economic backwardness. Imatz notes the very different manner in which the p.c. media have responded to the information (which had long been known) that the French recipient of the Nobel Prize for medicine in 1912, Alexis Carrel, had played footsie with the Vichy regime before his death in 1944. As a belated punishment, the usual French crowd of Stalinists in drag and multiculturalists launched a successful campaign to have Carrel’s once-prestigious name removed from lycées and other public institutions. Nothing of this sort has happened to Allende, despite the fact that his statements about eugenics are far more shocking than those that the left has dug up and used against Carrel. The work documenting Allende’s political incorrectness has been studiously ignored or else dismissed (in the New York Times) for dwelling excessively on the fact that a later Marxist had once been a man of his time. Meanwhile, the foundation that bears Allende’s name in Chile has questioned Farías’s integrity for bringing on the scandal that never was.