Salvador Allende reader


4

Inaugural Address in the National Stadium

Santiago, November 5, 1970

Allende calls the October 22 assassination of Army Commander-in-Chief Rene Schneider an unsuccessful attempt to start a civil war. He denounces "the criminal insanity of those who know that their cause is lost," saying that, "We Chileans reject fratricidal struggle." Allende quotes the motto on Chile's national coat of arms, "By Reason or Force" — and reminds his audience that Reason is placed first. He emphasizes that "Respect for others, tolerance for others, is one of the most important sources of our cultural wealth" and that Chileans must always maintain "the operation of and respect for democratic values, the recognition of the will of the majority." Allende attributes Chile's difficulties to the inherited problems of underdevelopment, unemployment, inflation, and social inequalities caused by "this dependent capitalist system." The great task of the new "People's Government" is "to build a new society." He speaks of putting an end to corruption; of implementing a "true land reform"; and of "reclaiming our natural resources." He concludes on a note of international solidarity, asking foreign dignitaries present to tell the world that Chile's people are "taking the helm of their destiny to embark on a democratic course toward socialism."

The people said: "We will win," and we have won, so, comrades, here we are today to celebrate the start of our victory...

This victory belongs to the workers, to those who suffered and endured for more than a century and a half, under the name of dependence, the exploitation of a ruling class which was unable to vide progress and wasn't even concerned about it.

We all know the truth, that the backwardness, ignorance and hunger f our people and of all the peoples of the Third World exist and persist because a few privileged people profit from them.

But the day has finally come to say enough — enough of economic exploitation, enough of social inequality, enough of political oppression.

Today, inspired by the heroes of our country, we gather here to celebrate our victory — Chile's victory — and to mark the start of the liberation of the people, who are at last in power and are taking over control of their national destiny.

But what kind of Chile are we inheriting?

Excuse me, comrades, that, on this happy day and before the delegations from so many countries that are honoring us with their presence, I should have to discuss such an unfortunate subject. It is our right and duty to denounce age-old sufferings, as Peruvian President Velasco Alvarado has said: "One of the great tasks facing the revolution is that of breaking out of the encirclement of deceit which has made all of us live with our faces turned away from reality."

We must say that we, the underdeveloped peoples, have failed in history.

We were colonies in the agrarian-mercantile civilization. We are barely neocolonial nations in the urban-industrial civilization, and, in the new civilization which threatens to continue our dependency, we have been the exploited peoples — those who existed not for themselves, but rather to contribute to the prosperity of others.

And what is the reason for our backwardness? Who is responsible for our underdevelopment?

After many deformations and deceptions, the people have understood. We know from our own experience that the real reasons for our backwardness are to be found in the system, in this dependent capitalist system which counterposes the rich minority to the needy majority internally and the powerful nations to the poor nations externally, a system in which the many make possible the prosperity of the few.

We have received a society torn by social inequality; a society divided into antagonistic classes of the exploited and exploiting; a society in which violence is part of the institutions themselves, which condemn man to a never-satisfied greed, the most inhuman form of cruelty and indifference in the face of the suffering of others.

We have inherited a society wracked by unemployment, which throws growing numbers of the citizenry into a situation of forced idleness and poverty. These masses are not, as some say, the result of overpopulation; rather, with their tragic destiny, they are living witnesses to the inability of the regime to guarantee everyone the elementary right to work.

We have received an economy plagued by inflation — which, month after month, eats up the miserable wages of the workers, leaving them with next to nothing to live on in the last years of their lives, when they reach the end of an existence of privation.

The working people of Chile are bleeding through this wound, and it will be difficult to heal. But we are confident we will be able to heal it, because the economic policy of the government will, from now on, be aimed at serving the interests of the people.

We have received a dependent society, one whose basic sources of income were alienated by the internal allies of the great international firms. We are dependent in the economic, cultural, technological and political fields.

We have inherited a society which has seen its most deeply felt desire of independent development frustrated, a divided society in which the majority of families are denied the right to work, education, health care, recreation and even the hope of a better future.

The people of Chile have risen up against all these forms of existence. Our victory was the result of their crystallized conviction that only a genuine revolutionary government could stand up to the power of the ruling classes and at the same time mobilize all Chileans to build a republic of the working people.

This is the great task which history has given us. To carry it out, I call on you, workers of Chile, today. The only way we who love this country and believe in it can overcome underdevelopment and build a new society is by putting all our shoulders to the wheel.

We are living at a historic time, that of a great transformation of the political institutions of Chile, a time in which the parties and movements which represent the most neglected social sectors are assuming power by a majority will.

Let us stop and think a moment and cast a glance back over our history. The people of Chile are proud of having made the political road prevail over the violent one. This is a noble tradition, a lasting achievement. Throughout our permanent battle for liberation, the slow and hard struggle for justice and equality, we have always preferred solving social conflicts by means of persuasion and political action.

From the bottom of our hearts, we Chileans reject fratricidal struggle — but without ever giving up the defense of the rights of the people. Our coat of arms says "By Reason or Force," but it puts Reason first.

This civic peace, this continuation of the political process, is no accident. It is the result of our socioeconomic structure, of a particular relationship of social forces which our country has been building in keeping with the reality of our development.

In our first steps as a sovereign country, the determination of the of Chile and the ability of its leaders helped us to avoid civil war.

In 1845, Francisco Antonio Pinto wrote to General San Martin, "I think we will solve the problem of knowing how to be republicans while continuing to speak Spanish."

From that moment on, the continuity and institutional stability of this country was one of the greatest in Europe and America.

This republican and democratic tradition thus became a part of our identity and the collective conscience of all Chileans.

Respect for others, tolerance for others, is one of the most important sources of our cultural wealth.

And when, amidst this institutional continuity and within the basic political norms, the class antagonisms and contradictions come forth, they do so in a political way. Our people have never broken this historical pattern; the few breaks with institutionalism were always caused by the ruling classes. The powerful were always the ones who unleashed the violence, shed the blood of Chileans and blocked the normal progress of the country.

This was what happened when Balmaceda, aware of his duties and a defender of national interests, acted with a dignity and patriotism that posterity has since recognized. [1]

The persecution of trade unions, students, intellectuals and workers' parties is the violent reply of those who are defending their privileges. However, the ceaseless struggle of the organized popular classes has, little by little, succeeded in its demands for recognition for civil, social, public and individual liberties.

This particular evolution of institutions in the context of our structures has made possible this historic moment, in which the people are taking political control of the country.

The masses, in their struggle to overcome the capitalist system, which exploits them, are arriving at the presidency of the republic, united in People's Unity and in what constitutes the most extraordinary demonstration in our history: the operation of and respect for democratic values, the recognition of the will of the majority.

Without renouncing the revolutionary goals, the popular forces have adjusted their tactics to the concrete reality of Chilean structures, viewing victories and setbacks not as definitive victories or defeats but rather as stepping stones on the long, hard road to emancipation.

Chile has just provided an indication of its political development, which is completely unprecedented anywhere in the world, making it possible for an anticapitalist movement to take power by virtue of the free exercise of the rights of all citizens. It takes power to guide the country toward a new, more humane society, one whose final goals are the rationalization of economic activity, the progressive socialization of the means of production and the end of class divisions.

As socialists, from the theoretical and doctrinal points of view we are well aware of what the forces and agents of historical change are. And I know very well, to quote Engels, that "We can conceive of peaceful evolution from the old society to the new in countries where the popular forces hold all power; where, in keeping with the constitution, it is possible to do everything one wants from the moment there is majority support."

And that is the case of Chile. Here, what Engels wrote is at last a reality.

However, we must point out that, in the 60 days that have followed the elections of September 4, the democratic vitality of our country has been put to the strongest test it has ever had to face. After a dramatic series of events, our dominant trait has once again prevailed: confrontation of differences through political channels. The Christian Democratic Party has recognized this historical moment and its duty toward the nation, and it is but right that we declare this here today.

Chile is beginning its march toward socialism without having had to undergo the tragic experience of a fratricidal war. And this fact, in all its grandeur, has an influence on the way in which this government will undertake the task of transformation.

The will of the people gives us legitimacy in our tasks. My administration will respond to this confidence, making the democratic traditions of our country real and concrete. But, in these 60 decisive days through which we have just passed, Chile and the rest of the world have witnessed admitted attempts to fraudulently alter the spirit of our constitution; mock the will of the people; attack the economy of the country; and, above all, effect cowardly acts of desperation designed to provoke a bloody clash between our citizens.

Personally, I am convinced that the heroic sacrifice of a soldier, General René Schneider, [2] the commander-in-chief of the army, was an unforeseen event that saved our homeland from civil war. Permit me, on this solemn occasion, by honoring him, to voice our people's thanks to the armed forces and to the Carabinero corps, which abide by the constitution and the rule of law. This amazing episode, which lasted barely a day and will go down in history as a civil war in the embryonic stage, has once more demonstrated the criminal insanity of those who know that their cause is lost.

They are the representatives, the mercenaries of the minorities who, ever since the time of Spanish rule, have borne the unenviable responsibility for having exploited our people for the sake of their own selfish benefit and for having handed our wealth over to foreign interests. These are the minorities who, in their wanton desire to perpetuate their own privileges, did not hesitate in 1891 and have not hesitated in 1970 to create a tragic situation for the nation.

But the law will be implacable with them and provide just punishment for them. They failed in their unpatriotic designs. They failed when they came up against the strength of the democratic institutions and the firmness of the will of the people, who were determined to confront and disarm them in order to secure tranquility, the nation's confidence and peace from now on, under the responsibility of people's power.

What is people's power?

People's power means that we will do away with the pillars on which the minorities have found support — those minorities that always condemned our nation to underdevelopment. We will do away with the monopolies, through which a handful of families control the economy. We will put an end to a fiscal system that serves those who seek lucre, a system which has always borne down hard on the people and touched but lightly on the rich, a system which has concentrated the nation's savings in the hands of the bankers in their greed for amassing greater riches. We will nationalize money lending and place it at the service of the prosperity of Chile and the people.

We will put an end to the latifundia, which condemn thousands of peasants to subjugation and poverty and keep the nation from getting from the land all the foodstuffs we need. A true agrarian reform will make it possible to do just what we are saying — feed the people. We will call a halt to the ever more massive process of denationalization of our industries and sources of work, a process which subjects us to foreign exploitation. We will reclaim Chile's basic wealth. We are going to reclaim the large copper, coal, iron and nitrate mines for the people.

It is in our power — the power of those who earn their living by their Work and who hold power today — to do these things. The rest of the world may sit back and observe the changes that are wrought in our country, but we Chileans cannot be satisfied with such a role for ourselves; we must play the leading role in the transformation of our society. Everyone must be fully aware of our common responsibility. It is the essential task of the People's Government — that is, of every one of us — to create a new, just state, one that can offer a maximum of opportunities to all of us who live in this land.

I know that the connotation of the word "state" causes a certain apprehension. The word has been much abused, and it is often used to discredit a just social system.

Don't fear the word "state," because you, all of us, form part of the state, of the People's Government. Working together, we should improve it and make it efficient, modern and revolutionary. But I wish to be understood correctly when I say "just," and this is precisely what I want to emphasize.

Much has been said about the people's participation, and this is the time to put it into practice. All Chileans, of any age, have a task to fulfill. In that task personal interest will merge with the generous conduct of collective work. No state in the world is rich enough to satisfy all the aspirations of all its citizens if these do not first wake up to the realization that rights go hand in hand with duties and that success has more merit when it stems from one's efforts and sacrifice.

The full development of the people's awareness will result in spontaneous voluntary work, which has already been proposed by the young people.

Those who wrote on the walls of Paris [1968] that the revolution had to be made first in the people and later in things were right.

Precisely on this solemn occasion I wish to speak to the young people, to those standing on the lawn, who have sung their songs for us.

A rebellious student in the past, I will not criticize their impatience, but it is my duty to ask them to think calmly.

Young people, yours is that beautiful age during which physical and mental vigor enable you to undertake practically any endeavor. For that reason you are duty-bound to help us advance. Turn your eagerness into more work, your hopes into more effort and your impulsiveness into concrete accomplishments. Use your drive and energy to be better — the best — students and workers.

Thousands upon thousands of young people have demanded a place in the social struggle. Now they have that place. The time has come for all young people to participate in the action.

To those who have not yet taken part in this process, I say, "Come on, there's a place for everyone in the construction of our new society."

Escapism, decadence, superficiality and the use of drugs are the last resort of young people who live in countries which are notoriously opulent but are devoid of any moral strength. That cannot be the case of the young people of Chile.

Follow the best examples, the examples set by those who leave everything behind to build a better future. That is why I've been deeply moved by the sight of portraits of the immortal Che Guevara.

What will be our path, our Chilean way of action, to defeat underdevelopment?

Our path will be that built on the basis of our experience; the path legitimized by the people in the elections; the path contained in the program of Popular Unity; the path toward socialism through democracy, pluralism and freedom.

The basic conditions which, used with prudence and flexibility, will enable us to build a new society, based on a new economy, are now to be found in Chile.

Popular Unity adopts this watchword, not as a simple slogan but as its natural way.

Chile has the unique virtue of having the social and political institutions necessary for carrying out the transition from backwardness and dependence to development and autonomy along the socialist path.

Popular Unity is, constitutionally, the exponent of such a reality. Let no one be deceived; the theoreticians of Marxism have never pretended, nor has history shown, that a single party is a prerequisite in the process of transition toward socialism.

Social circumstances and political vicissitudes — both internal and international — may lead to this situation. Civil war, when imposed upon the people as the only way toward emancipation, leads to political rigidity; foreign intervention, in its frenzy for maintaining domination at all costs, makes the exercise of power authoritarian; and poverty and generalized backwardness make it difficult for political institutions to act dynamically and the people's organizations to grow stronger.

To the extent that such situations do or do not arise in Chile, so will our country, on the basis of its traditions, organize and create the mechanism that, within the pluralism supported by the great majorities, will make possible the radical transformation of our political system.

This is the great legacy of our history. It is also a most generous promise for our future. It is up to us to see to it that it does, someday, become a reality.

This decisive fact is a challenge to all Chileans, regardless of their ideological orientation, to contribute to the autonomous development of our country. As president of the republic, I can affirm, recalling all those who have preceded us in the struggle, face to face with the future that will be our judge, that every one of my actions will constitute another effort at fulfilling the aspirations of the people in keeping with our traditions.

The people's victory marked the maturity of the awareness of a vast sector of our population. It is necessary that that awareness develop even more. It must flourish among thousands upon thousands of Chileans who, even though they were not with us in a part of the process, are now determined to join the great task of building a new life with a new morality.

Together with this new morality, patriotism and revolutionary feeling, will be present the behavior of the government officials. From the outset, I must point out that our administration will be characterized by absolute responsibility — to such an extent that, far from being prisoners of controlling institutions, we will demand that they operate as a permanent conscience, in order to correct mistakes and denounce all those who carry on abuses either within or outside the government. To each one of my countrymen who shares a part of the task to be carried out, I say that I am adopting Fidel Castro's statement that, "In this government anybody may make mistakes, but nobody will ever be allowed to be on the take."

As president of Chile, I shall be unflagging in my watchfulness over the morality of the regime.

Our program of government, endorsed by the people, is founded on the fact that the best guarantee of our democracy is the people's participation in our activities. Our democracy will contribute to increasingly strengthen all human liberties, in accord with the greater participation of the people.

The people are taking over the executive power in a presidential regime in order to start the progressive construction of socialism, through conscientious, organized struggle in free parties, in free labor unions.

Our road, our path, is that of liberty — liberty for the expansion of our productive forces, breaking the chains that have smothered our development thus far; liberty for each citizen, according to their conscience and beliefs, to collaborate in the collective task ahead; and liberty for all Chileans who work for a living to gain social control over and ownership of their work centers.

Simón Bolívar forecast for our country, "If there is one republic that will stand for a long time in America, I am inclined to believe that it is Chile. The spirit of liberty has never been extinguished there."

Let us remember the Liberator at this hour of our homeland.

Our road, our Chilean way, will also be that of equality — equality to overcome, progressively, the division existing between Chilean exploiters and Chileans who are exploited; equality so that everyone shares a part of the collective wealth, according to their work and at a level to meet their personal requirements; and equality for reducing the enormous wage differences that exist between similar jobs.

Equality is a sine qua non for investing all individuals with the dignity and respect they are due.

Within these directives, true to these principles, we will march onward toward the construction of a new system.

The new economy which we will build will seek to have the resources of Chile produce for the benefit of the people of Chile. The monopolies will be nationalized, because the interests of the nation require it, and, for the same reason, we will give full guarantees to the small and medium-sized firms, which will receive all possible assistance from the state to carry out their activities.

The People's Government has already worked out laws which will make it possible for it to fulfill its program.

The workers, employees, technicians, professionals and intellectuals will have economic and political control of the country.

For the first time in our history, four workers are a part of the government as ministers of state.

Only by advancing along this path of basic transformations in the political and economic fields will we be able to draw ever nearer to the ideals which are our objective:

To create a new society in which men can fulfill their material and spiritual needs without having to resort to the exploitation of other men.

To create a society which guarantees each family — every man, woman and child — rights, securities, freedom, hope and other basic guarantees. We aim to have all the people filled with a sense of their being called upon to build a new nation which will also mean the construction of more beautiful, more prosperous, more dignified and freer lives for all.

To create a new society capable of making continuous progress in the material, technical and scientific fields; capable of guaranteeing its artists and intellectuals the necessary conditions for reflecting a true cultural rebirth in their works.

To create a new society capable of getting along with all the other peoples, including those of the advanced nations, whose experience can help us greatly in our efforts toward self-improvement.

A society capable of living together with all the other independent nations everywhere, to whom we wish to extend our fraternal solidarity.

Our international policy today is based, as it was yesterday, on respect for international commitments freely assumed, self-determination and nonintervention.

We will collaborate resolutely in the strengthening of peace and coexistence among nations. Every nation has the right to develop freely, marching along the path it has chosen.

However, we are well aware of the fact that, unfortunately — as Indira Gandhi stated in the UN, "The right of the peoples to choose their own form of government is accepted only on paper. In reality," Indira Gandhi affirmed, "there is considerable interference in the internal affairs of many countries. The powerful make their influence felt in a thousand different ways."

Chile, a country which respects self-determination and practices nonintervention, has the legitimate right to demand that all countries treat her the same way. The people of Chile recognize only themselves as the controllers of their destiny.

And your government, comrades, the government of Popular Unity, will firmly see to it that this right is respected.

I wish to extend a special greeting to all the official delegations which are honoring us with their presence.

I also wish to greet the nonofficial delegations from those countries with which we still do not have diplomatic relations. Chile will do them justice by recognizing their governments.

Gentlemen, representatives of governments, peoples and institutions, this mass rally is a fraternal and deeply felt tribute to you.

As a Latin American, I consider the common problems, aspirations and interests of all the people in the continent to be my own. That is why, at this moment, I send my greeting, as a head of state, to our brothers in Latin America, hoping that one day the mandate of our process will be fulfilled and we will all have but one, great, single continental voice.

We also have here with us the representatives of workers' organizations from all over the world and intellectuals and artists of universal renown who wish to demonstrate their solidarity with the people of Chile and celebrate, together with us, a victory which, while ours, is considered as their own by all those who struggle for freedom and dignity.

To all those gathered here — ambassadors, artists, workers, intellectuals and soldiers — Chile extends the hand of friendship.

Distinguished guests, permit me to say that you are witnesses to the political maturity attained by Chile.

To you, who have seen with your own eyes the poverty in which many of our compatriots live; to you, who have visited our marginal towns, the callampas, and have seen to what depths of subhuman existence men can be sunk in a fertile land brimming with potential resources and who must have recalled Lincoln's words when he said of his country, as I say of mine, "This nation cannot endure permanently half slave and half free": to you, who have been informed of the way Popular Unity will carry through the program supported by our people — to you I wish to make a petition:

Take back to your respective countries this image of the Chile that is and of the Chile that will be.

Tell your people that here history will take a new course, that here the people have succeeded in taking the helm of their destiny to embark on a democratic course toward socialism.

This Chile in the process of renovation, this Chile in the springtime and an atmosphere of festivity wants, as one of its greatest aspirations, every man in the world to know that we are his brothers.


Notes:

1. José Manuel Balmaceda was a wealthy Liberal who became president in 1886 and\ instituted many reforms designed to help the impoverished of Chile. One of his proposed programs involved the purchase of the nitrate fields by the government from private owners, with the government to then use the nitrate income to pay for industrialization, public works, health services, schools and land reform — an early version of a socialist-type program. The British nitrate magnates, the Chilean land-owners and other capitalists who would be hurt by Balmaceda's nationalization plan opposed it. In 1891, a civil war between pro- and anti-Balmaceda forces broke out; 10,000 Chileans died in the conflict and Balmaceda was unseated. He took refuge in me Argentine embassy, where he committed suicide.

2. General Schneider, commander of the armed forces, was assassinated in a right-wing conspiracy to prevent Allende from taking office.


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