At last some measure of justice may be done, even though the Spanish courts will only be able to address crimes committed against a relatively small number of the Pinochet regime's victims.
The full horror that took place in Chile over two decades ago -- the unspeakable tortures, the slaughter in the Santiago Stadium, the mass killings and the state-backed terror carried out against the Chilean working class and anyone else the military government decided to persecute, imprison or kill -- still begs for justice.
Among the exiled Chileans gathered outside the London Clinic are survivors of Pinochet's prisons and torture chambers as well as the relatives of some of the thousands of Chileans and others who disappeared without trace during those terrible years.
They are demanding that Pinochet is made to reveal what happened to these people. The Chilean community believe he knows and that his silence is itself a final act of cruelty towards the still-suffering relatives. Their demand for information and the Chilean people's demand for justice is rightly echoed by progressive people everywhere.
But while we welcome Pinochet's arrest we should not forget the political and economic interests his regime served -- chiefly those of United States-based transnational corporations and big business.
The Pinochet-led military junta seized power in September 1973 and brought down the progressive Marxist government of Salvador Allende. The United States was openly hostile to the Allende government which had introduced a far-reaching programme of reforms including the nationalisation of monopolies such as the copper industry, the domestic banking system and other sectors.
It had also enacted exchange and commodity controls and raised the wages of the country's poorest paid workers. In foreign affairs it offered the hand of friendship to Cuba and other socialist countries.
The hostility of capitalism abroad led to various forms of economic sabotage including a catastrophic fall in the price of copper on the world markets and to a dramatic cut in overseas aid to Chile -- factors which contributed to bringing the Allende government down.
Pinochet's dictatorship set about crushing the Chilean left, the trade unions, progressives, anyone who spoke out and anyone who tried to protect others suspected of opposing the regime. The repression was so brutal that it became a by-word for torture and murder. The junta aimed to sweep Marxism out of Chile. It also became a torch-bearer for a tide of repression in other parts of South America.
But all of this was not done for cruelty's sake -- it was a preparation for a thorough-going turn-around of the Chilean economy. The reforms of Allende were scrapped and the economic anti-working class policies of neo-liberalism were brought in. Pinochet was one of the first leaders to implement the ideas of the guru of monetarism -- Milton Friedman. Chile began its programme of privatisations as early as 1973 and became a model for other countries to follow in the 1980s.
There are many lessons in this history. The fall of the Allende government demonstrated the correctness of the Marxist-Leninist analysis of the nature of the state and of the vital necessity for the working class to seize state power, if it is to be able to bring about fundamental social change and defend the revolutionary changes it has won.
It showed that socialism cannot be attained by parliamentary roads and bourgeois elections -- indeed far from being easier roads to revolution, they are pathways to tyranny and bloodshed when the revolution cannot be upheld.
Now it seems the world's puppet rulers and other imperialist cats-paws can also learn a lesson from Pinochet -- don't expect any long-term loyalty -when it suits your masters they will wash their hands of you.
Outside the clinic, protesters, many of them former victims of his regime, are calling on the British government to extradite him to Spain where two judges are waiting to charge him with the murders of many Spanish citizens during his rule in Chile.
Home Secretary Jack Straw put the general under arrest last Friday, after he had arrived in Britain for surgery on his back, at the request of the Spanish judges.
Now those judges have 40 days to convince their own government to call for his extradition to face charges in the Spanish courts.
If Spanish premier Jose Maria Aznar decides to go ahead, Jack Straw will then have seven days to decide whether to send the ageing dictator to Madrid.
If the Spanish government decides not to go ahead, then there are people in Britain who want to see Pinochet appear in our courts charged with the murders of a number of British citizens who died under his regime.
They include William Beausire who tried to flee through Argentina after the Pinochet coup on 11 September 1973.
Pinochet's coup brought down the three-year-old elected socialist government of Salvador Allende, which had made many progressive reforms.
Living standards for Chilean workers and peasants rose under Allende in spite of American attempts to wreck the economy and destabilise the country.
The CIA played a big role in bringing Pinochet to power. Henry Kissinger, at that time president Nixon's national security adviser, had said of Chile: "I don't see why we need to stand by and watch a country go communist because of the irresponsibility of its own people.
The CIA policy, dictated by President Nixon, was to "make the economy scream" and it used $8 million and 400 "special advisers" to do this.
When Pinochet seized power, US Navy ships appeared off the Chilean coast to give him support.
Allende died defending his government. Pinochet then began a bloodbath,
arresting all leftwingers, trade unionists, Liberals and progressives and
imprisoning them in the national football stadium in Santiago as a makeshift
Congress, the trade unions and the press were destroyed and progressive books burned.
Thousands were arrested, tortured and around 3,000 murdered. There are thousands who simply disappeared.
Pinochet then ruled the economy of Chile in accordance with the policies of the Chicago School which preached totally unfettered free enterprise.
They described this as new policy but in fact it aped the teachings of Victorian economist John Stuart Mill.
In Chile these policies meant breaking up the whole country and selling it off to privateers, with big subsidies. Most made as much money as they could as quickly as they could and then ran, leaving the economy behind them in ruins and the people impoverished.
In economic matters Pinochet was Margaret Thatcher's role model and she followed his lead by introducing the concept of privatisation.
The two are still friends and the baroness entertained him to tea at her home last week before he entered the clinic.
Amnesty International is supporting the family of William Beausire in calling for Pinochet to appear before a British Court. The Chilean secret police, the DINA, caught up with Beausire in Argentina. His crime was to have a sister who lived with the nephew of Salvador Allende.
He was taken back to Chile, tortured and has not been seen since
The Chilean human rights group Chile Democratico has a list of at least 24 British citizens who died or disappeared in similar circumstances in Chile under Pinochet's regime.
The group says: "All our efforts to bring these criminal charges against Pinochet and his accomplices in the Chilean courts have been blocked by the Chilean authorities.
"Now that Pinochet is in custody in London, we for the first time have the opportunity to lay these charges before a British court."
The group says it would prefer him to face a Spanish court first but if that falls through, he should be charged here.
If Pinochet does face justice here or in Spain, it will set a significant precedent and it won't be just Pinochet that is on trial.
The whole dirty imperialist system that made it possible for him to seize power will also be under the world's scrutiny, so will his economic policies and their apologists everywhere.
It will be an important victory for the international working
class if this happens.
A spokesperson from the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries (Maff), Nick Brown, last week said the agency would still be set up, even if legislation to give it the necessary teeth does not appear in next month's Queen's Speech.
"It might take a little longer than expected to get it, but we will get it," he said.
He claims the only reason for the legislation being dropped is an overcrowded parliamentary agenda. But speculation is growing that another factor is growing pressure from food producers against a background of crisis in Britain's agriculture.
One food scare after another, including the BSE crisis, the strong pound and changes to the European Union Common Agricultural Policy have seen the prices of British livestock crash over the last few months.
Now farmers are finding it costs more to keep their animals alive than they can get for them in the market. We have seen the spectacle of lambs being offered in the market for a few pence each and farmers just killing off their sheep and cattle because there is no market for them.
The crisis is real and deep but compromising on food safety is not the way to restore confidence in the industry.
Mr Brown admitted there is now enormous pressure from farmers to lift the ban on beef on the bone immediately. He said it is likely to be lifted next March -- when all the cattle which could possibly be affected by BSE should have been destroyed.
And the farming lobby is likely to want to restrict the powers of the Food Standards Agency, meaning that the legislation will be fought over in detail and take a long time to pass through Parliament.
Another reason for the delay is a developing row over who should pay for the FSA. Originally Labour said it would be funded by the food industry but Maff has been insisting that taxpayers should foot some of the bill.
Tories have accused Labour of dropping the measure because of the growing links between the Labour Party and senior figures in the food industry like Lord Haskins of Northern Foods and Lord Sainsbury who have both donated to Labour Party funds.
Food safety expert Professor Hugh Pennington expressed deep dissatisfaction at the decision to postpone the setting up of the FSA.
He previously led a government-appointed team giving advice on the implications of food safety arising from the outbreak of E-coli poisoning in Lanarkshire, Scotland, which cost 21 Lives.
He said: "I hope it's not true that the plans for the FSA have been put on the backburner. I would be very annoyed and disappointed if that were the case.
"It's difficult to understand why there would be a delay as it seemed no one was against the setting up of the FSA.
"Any backtracking on a manifesto commitment would be a major disappointment."
And Sheila McKechnie of the Consumers' Association said: "With cases of food poisoning at record levels, we cannot afford to wait for a strong independent body to address the rising tide of problems."
Evidence emerging at the BSE inquiry is revealing how public safety has been continually compromised to protect food industry interests.
Ms McKechnie added: "Without an agency, we have no guarantee that the same relationship will not compromise public health yet again."
The current farming crisis has fallen unevenly on British farmers. The giant agri-business cereal producers, who fill the land and water streams with nitrates, pesticides and other chemicals have been protected by measures taken by former Tory agriculture minister John Gummer.
He negotiated to block a European Union measure which would have withdrawn subsidy from these giants and directed it more towards smaller farmers.
He argued that this would be making the "efficient" subsidise the "inefficient". Britain's farms are on average large because of the domination of these giant agri-business enterprises.
The current crisis, which is blamed on the high value of the pound, the world recession, poor weather and BSE has hit the big farms. They have lost an average of 42 per cent of their profits.
And their land prices have remained stable.
But the small farmers, the bottom 25 per cent, who mostly rent their land, have been devastated. They have made losses averaging £47 an acre.
Many are being blamed by capitalism's top economists for not heeding advice to quit two years ago.
Many will have problems surviving for the next four or five years until an expected upturn. If it was not for Mr Gummer, they would be getting EU help now.
Many of them are now looking at the possibility of following the
example of many European small farmers and combining into partnerships
and co-operatives to share costs of machinery and so on.
Sixty-six Israelis, half of them soldiers, were wounded when a Palestinian hurled two hand-grenades at a bus stop during the moming rush-hour in Beersheba, the hub of the Israeli Negev desert. The attacker, who was captured, is believed to be a member of the Hamas Islamic Palestinian resistance movement.
Palestinian President Yasser Arafat locked in talks with the Israelis and Americans at a secluded residence in Maryland, hastened to condemn the attack. But it only served to stiffen the resistance of the Israeli team led by hard-line Zionist premier Benyamin Netanyahu, from budging from demands which Arafat simply cannot accept.
The Israelis, with the tacit support of their American mentors, want the Palestinian police to operate more or less as Israeli auxiliaries to crack down on the Islamic resistance. The Palestinians argue with some justification that they are doing their best -- filling the jails in the "autonomous" zone with known Islamic leaders and regularly co-operating with Israeli security.
But Netanyahu wants more and Arafat's camp believe that he will use any excuse to avoid making a deal. The Israeli leader's latest ploy is to demand a billion dollars from the United States to pay for the proposed third-stage 13 per cent pull-back and finance the construction of new military roads to criss-cross the Palestinian enclaves which make up the Palestinian Authority.
The Americans, led by President Bill Clinton, are posing as "honest brokers" in the talks though they have shown scant sign of any willingness to twist Netanyahu's arm during the week's talks. While there now seems to be agreement on the areas covered by the proposed 13 per cent hand-back, which includes the notorious three per cent of desert designated as a "nature reserve". there's been no progress in meeting Israel's "security" demands.
King Hussein of Jordan, who is recovering from cancer, was wheeled in to try and break the deadlock. But all the pressure is on President Arafat to cave-in.
Arafat, who still retains mass support in the occupied territories, can only go so far and he is clearly praying for the Americans to reveal their hand to restore the momentum for peace.
The United States has never declared its views on a final settlement of the Palestinian question, preferring negotiations to go through Israeli hands. Clinton wants a deal to use as a trophy to boost his Democrat Party in the Congressional elections, but until now his interventions have been focused on squeezing Arafat.
Israel Army Radio in Tel Aviv said last weekend that the US President
had told Netanyahu that the United States would recognise a Palestinian
state next year if the Israelis failed to reach agreement in Maryland.
The report was dismissed as "baseless" by Netanyahu's office. True or false?
Only time will tell.
But as the deadline for the next stage of the Belfast Agreement nears on 31 October -- when north-south bodies and at least six cross-border agencies should be setup, some serious decisions will have to be made if the Assembly is to carry out the wishes of the 71 per cent of people who voted for the agreement.
Ireland's Taoiseach Bertie Ahern and Prime Minister Tony Blair
are expected to conduct offstage discussions during the European Union
(EU) summit in Austria this weekend to address the continuing impasse.
The key issue has been clearly laid out by Sinn Fein leader Martin McGuinness MP. At last Monday's Downing Street meeting with Tony Blair, he said that the shadow executive and north-south ministerial council must be up and running before north-south co-operation and the various attendant bodies are created.
Given that David Trimble now had become a joint recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize with Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) leader John Hume, McGuinness said Trimble is " in a very strong position, particularly in the aftermath of the Omagh bomb".
He said: "I think there is an expectation now that those people within unionism who are opposed to the Good Friday Agreement must be told that the game is up and that we are pressing on decisively to implement the fun agreement."
An estimated rump of seven or so anti-Agreement UUP Assembly members are pressing Trimble to maintain the line on decommissioning. And Bertie Ahern has suggested that Trimble has less room to manoeuvre than Sinn Fein. But Martin McGuinness said Trimble "must tell them that they have had their day."
He said the peace process was "unstoppable" and he was sure that if Trimble "gives good, positive, decisive leadership, he will enjoy the support of the majority of unionists and the gratitude of nationalists."
And the bridges have to be built through the next generation. A fact recognised by Sinn Fein Youth (SFY) who held their first successful annual congress in Dublin last weekend.
Predictably, it focused especially on the peace process. Sinn Fein chairperson Mitchell McLaughlin told the conference that the position of SFY in the process "could not be underestimated".
He said: "It will be the leadership of young people that will bring about the fundamental political, social and economic change which Republicans have been struggling for over generations."
The Gardai took exception to the SEY's high profile conference and attacked 80 young republican activists who were demonstrating outside the police station in Store Street central Dublin just before the conference. The unprovoked assault was condemned by the 200-plus activists' congress and served to reinforce the SFY's campaign against the "Special Branch" Gardai's terror tactics of detention, arrest and beatings aimed at undermining young republican political activism.
The conference endorsed key principles: to establish a socialist
Irish Republic, end partition, remove the British military and political
occupation. participate in and direct the political process, and to work
with all sections of Irish society to achieve peace and democracy.
Outgoing SFY national organiser Eoin O'Broin said the aim was to "make SFY the most radical, effective, powerful youth organisation in Ireland."
* Three Irish National Liberation Army (INLA) members were given Life sentences last Tuesday for the murder of Loyalist LVF leader Billy 'King Rat' Wright in the Maze prison last December.
* The Bloody Sunday inquiry headed by Lord Saville, has been postponed
a second time. It was due originally to have begun last month. No new date
has been fixed yet because the MoD have finally discovered a list of the
3,000 soldiers who were in Derry when 14 people were shot dead during the
civil rights march. They are being given time to trace them.