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!“
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.