Salvador Allende reader


14

Here are Assembled the People of Chile

Speech to citizens' rally in the streets of Santiago, March 18, 1972

Allende sums up how democracy is being carried out fully in revolutionary Chile despite the opposition's attempts to overthrow it. The tens of thousands of people rallying that day shout "No!" to Allende's question if they want the opposition to succeed in its planned constitutional reform to privatize the nationalized sectors of the economy. He counters that the constitutional reforms he is recommending will "consecrate the authentic rights of workers." Allende says there will be no civil war, no repeat of Balmaceda, the reformist president overthrown during a civil war in 1891 at great cost of life. "The people will go on governing," he says, to which the crowd responds with shouts of "Allende! Allende! Allende!" He discusses the interventionist conduct of ITT, a major U.S. corporation and economic power in Chile, and says he will send a bill to Congress expropriating ITT. He reminds people that the year 1972 is focusing on women and youth and that the whole world is watching the Chilean experiment of "constructing a new society in pluralism, democracy and freedom."

Comrades:

Here are assembled the people of Santiago, who represent the people of Chile. Here is the history of our country which has been constructed in these long years with the pain, the suffering, the hope and the revolutionary conviction of thousands and thousands and thousands of Chileans. Never in our lifetime have we witnessed an act of this magnitude, in this context and with such importance.

Here we find men, women, young and old, from all corners of Santiago, bringing their invincible faith and their confidence in the Popular Unity. Here we have gathered without hatred, with the serene faith of those who know their own strength. Here we are gathered those who triumphed yesterday and who will triumph tomorrow.

Today we have not a formal democracy but an authentic democracy, a democracy in which our opposition can march, scream and protest, they can lie; a democracy steeled and sustained by the unity of the people of Chile. [Applause]

We have consolidated this democracy because we have reduced by half the unemployment we inherited, because we have redistributed income for the benefit of the workers, increasing the percentage received by salaried workers from 53 to 59.6 percent; because we have provided extraordinary benefits to thousands and thousands of pensioners, widows and orphans; more than 54,000 new pensions have been granted by your government; because we have increased the purchasing power of the masses, reactivating the industries that were semi-paralyzed at the start of our term; we have consolidated democracy. We have done this, and the proof is the greater demand which encouraged, in a manner never seen before, a growth of 13 percent in industrial production in 1971.

Today the country produces more cement, more steel, more coal than before. More consumer goods are produced. This Chilean economy is breaking records which had never before been reached. However, and this must be said, there are still social needs that must be met, because the economy that we have inherited, and in particular its capacity of production, is that of an underdeveloped country, where the economic structure is clearly deformed and oriented towards the satisfaction of the needs of only 40 percent of the Chilean population; this is why for some products there are symptoms of partial shortages. Because even though production has increased — despite being in the middle of an expansion program, despite industry working to its full capacity — it is still not enough to satisfy the extra demand which has arisen in this last year. To correct this imbalance means to face this challenge, to exceed the goals set for production, improve the efficiency and allocate resources to expand the capacity of the worker and productivity.

To work and produce more

This is why we have said that only an organized, disciplined and conscious people, who will work and produce more, will make this democracy stronger and consolidate its own revolution.

Past regimes would respond to the challenge of production and demand by increasing prices and containing the purchasing power of the masses, increasing unemployment, keeping salary rises below that of the cost of living, in other words, adapting the weak capacity of production to the necessities of a small privileged group.

The Popular Government has chosen another path, preferring a delay in the supply of some products and not leave hundreds of thousands of workers without work, more than half a million of Chileans without an income, and millions of our compatriots with miserable salaries.

This is why we have redistributed incomes and defended those sectors with less economic means. We have organized the people to consolidate democracy and to avoid speculation. We have formed the People's Supply Committees (JAP's), we have increased the delivery of protein at low cost. People are eating hake (fish) instead of meat, which is so expensive. There you have a type of fish that reaches the working-class suburbs for the first time. There you have an example of international technical cooperation. There you have an example of what hurts the reactionary sectors so much, that they were never willing to provide the people with seafood to consume. [Applause].

To consolidate democracy, we have organized a most ambitious housing plan. We have increased wages to compensate for the rise in the price of essentials. We have restricted the chronic process of inflation, if you consider the last growth index of our economy, which was more than 8 percent in 1971.

Democracy is being strengthened because is the people who are exercising power, from the government to the Supply Committees; the peasants participate in national, as well as local councils, in the agrarian reform process, cooperating in the expropriations and discussing plans for production.

We consolidate democracy, because we have created 3000 new Women's Centers and 1257 new Neighborhood Committees. The youth has been organized into a General Secretariat linked to the government and they have been able to plan their actions in voluntary work brigades, cultural activities and sports. There are 226,000 new places in primary and secondary education, we have strengthened democracy, and now, in some tertiary careers, we have established afternoon and evening courses for the workers for the first time in our history. [Applause]

We have consolidated democracy, and that is why, the workers' union movement has grown by 20 percent. The CUT [Unitary Workers Central] now has legal status; its representatives are elected in a national poll with secret, direct and proportional voting. Seven hundred thousand Chileans have been granted access to welfare services for the first time; now the office workers, the factory workers choose their representatives to their pension funds boards in a direct vote.

We have broadened and consolidated democracy: here in Chile there are elections every day, parliamentary, municipal, of students, of professional colleges, of workers, union delegates, in the workplace, in the industries, in hospitals and in schools. Every day people directly elect their representatives and delegates; this is what the people experience, learn and live: an authentic democracy with its own strength and vitality. [Applause]

We have respected the selection processes and the career paths of public servants.

The national television station reaches almost the whole country and the university stations have expanded. Our old culture, and also a new one, reach millions of Chileans for the first time, making this an authentic democracy.

The struggle for wage increases is expressed in the list of demands and the right to strike; take note, don't forget: in this country, and for the first time in its history, we have not had a strike in strategic areas. Not in the coal mines, steel, nitrate, copper, petrol, the courts, the doctors; this is the great new conscience put at the service of the country. [Applause]

More authentic democracy

In this country we live a most authentic political democracy, a pluralist democracy, in government and opposition; to deny this is to lie blatantly.

Today the people have united to defend this authentic freedom, because we have reaffirmed, expanded and deepened the individual, political, collective and social freedoms. Let this be heard and not forgotten: in this country there is not one political prisoner, in this country there is not one journalist jailed for his ideas. In this country, we have taken to court some so-called journalists, who are really delinquents, but not for their ideas but for the crimes they have committed.

In this country there is total freedom of the press and information and we have the utmost tolerance and respect for all creeds.

These liberties are greater than ever in the history of Chile, they apply to thousands and thousands of Chileans who previously had no notion of their existence. But these liberties, though fundamental, are not sufficient. We also want economic freedom for Chile and each Chilean; in order for our own culture to flourish it is necessary to liberate ourselves from that which is foreign and comes prepackaged and prefabricated.

We must develop our own technological capacity and shake ourselves from this dependency.

Here, freedom to work exists because we have more jobs. Chileans will be truly free when we are rid of ignorance, unemployment, exploitation, hunger and moral and physiological misery. [Applause]

But is necessary that this is clear for everyone: with the government of the workers, the freedom to become rich through the exploitation of man by man has ended. The freedom to acquire wealth at the expense of another's work has ended.

The workers of Chile are determined to be truly free. They have assumed the power to resolve by themselves the problems at their workplaces, the regional problems, the national problems. They already manage the nationalized companies. We have not replaced yesterday's boss with insensitive bureaucrats. It is the workers who freely elect their management councils. It is the workers who freely elect their production councils or committees.

We are liberating man: he must cease to see money as the only basis for his well-being. The man free from alienation has other parameters by which to measure life, other values to be considered, and the people sense this, they learn it, they feel it.

We struggle to liberate man from the vices of the consumer society; to liberate women from the additional discrimination imposed on her by the capitalist regime; we struggle to free our youth from escapism, from drugs, from vandalism; women and youth are our central preoccupation and we want true freedom for her and the government of the people will give it to her. [Applause]

Today in Chile, not only do we maintain the traditional independence of the three state powers, but it has also become a real independence. Those who deny this atmosphere of freedom that we breathe in our land, should not forget the words of the bishops of Chile. A few hours ago they said, and those that lie should not forget it: "We are happy that, despite the difficulties, tensions and incidents, we still preserve the necessary freedoms of expression, thought, criticism, dissent, and especially the freedom to follow one's own conscience and to live and act in accordance to one's faith; freedom of spirit is the salt which, according to the Gospel, gives the world its flavor and without which everything would be insipid and colorless." Thus have spoken the bishops of Chile, refuting the attitude of those who deny the reality they are living in: the freedom that is respected and will be respected by your government, the government of the people, the government of Chile. [Applause]

Respect towards the government of the workers

The people must be aware that to bring into effect democracy and freedom, we have destroyed the power bases of the oligarchy; we have recovered the basic wealth from the hands of foreign capital, we have nationalized banks and numerous national monopolies, we have reduced interest of money, democratized credit; we have ended or will eventually end the practice of big-scale land ownership; we have brought import and export commerce under the control of the state; we have established for the first time in history a budget for foreign currency. All this, though important, is not yet sufficient, so we have added to the constitutional reforms the 91 companies that must move into the social area of the economic plan, and we will fight to make this important, definitive, necessary step towards the economic development of our country. [Applause]

They have tried to undermine the constitution with political accusations against government ministers, who are only answerable to the president of the republic, in an attempt to block the Budget Law and include anti-constitutional articles. In both cases, the Constitutional Tribunal ruled in our favor and that is why the courts dismissed the accusations against the Defense Minister José Tohá.

They tried to prevent the president, who has co-legislative powers by constitutional mandate, from exercising his duties. However, the Constitutional Tribunal agreed with us when we presented our legal opinion with regard to the vetoing of the Rental Property Law.

This is why, and it may seem paradoxical, this revolutionary government has endeavored and will endeavor to ensure that the constitution is respected, because I have said it to the people and will go on saying it: Chile's institutionality is open, it allows transformation and change, and as I said, we will proceed in a revolutionary manner, without hesitation, within the framework of the bourgeois constitution; we commit to making changes in Chile respecting pluralism, democracy and freedom.

This we are doing and will continue doing! [Applause]

However, they have gone so far as presenting a constitutional reform. This constitutional reform is intended to make the state incompetent, disabled; it aims to eradicate prerogatives of the president of the republic and state bodies. This constitutional reform aims to establish the so-called worker enterprises, in an attempt to coax the workers into becoming make-believe capitalists, pretending it to be a revolutionary reform and transform the regime, making some companies appear to be autonomous. We have expressed, and I will reassert later on, what our views are on this matter.

This constitutional reform aims at maintaining the capitalist regime; it aims at allowing Congress to bypass the presidential veto and push resolutions through a simple majority, which is an extremely grave situation which I denounce to the people; this constitutional reform is sought in order to return the nationalized industries and banks to their previous owners, and I ask the people whether they are going to accept this. Yes or No? [The people respond: No!] Yes or No? [The people respond: No!] Besides, we don't accept it because we did it within legal and constitutional norms respecting our prior commitment. [Ovation]

This constitutional reform, which they aim to approve by rejecting the presidential veto through a simple majority, has a further goal beyond what I have already denounced and which some loudmouths have already voiced. Eventually, their intention is to remove the president of the republic; they have already once changed the constitution through a deliberate misinterpretation; they have already once shown anti-patriotic courage to provoke a civil war and the suicide of President Balmaceda. In this country there will be no civil war; we will not tolerate any attempt to cover Chile with blood. In this country, the unity of the people and the conscious obedience of the armed forces to the constitution and the law will crush any seditious activity. We will defend Chile, there will be no civil war and the people will continue to govern! [Applause] [Ovation] [Allende! Allende! Allende!]

For the first time in our history we are trying to insert into the constitution the concept of the Social Area of the Economy, and for the first time in our history the genuine rights of the workers will be enshrined into the Chilean Constitution. [Applause]

Their attitude — and the people have to know — has been to refuse to recognize the powers of the Constitutional Tribunal, a tribunal installed during the previous government, and which has already dictated its judgment five times, four of which have favored the position of the Executive. We maintain that it is not up to parliament or the Executive to rule on the competence of the Constitutional Tribunal. Only the Constitutional Tribunal itself can determine its own competence and I declare that my government will respect the resolutions dictated by the Constitutional Tribunal, this being the only way to settle the discrepancies between Congress and the Executive. [Applause]

This is why, what we do is strengthened by our patriotism and a national sense free of chauvinisms in the combats against forces within and outside the country. From outside, because we have nationalized copper and, even though we have done it within the constitution and the law, they ignore this and still combat us. Embargoes, suspension of credits, suspension of technical aid, suspension of credit operations by banks backed by multinationals, the United Nations or by the Organization of American States.

We have suffered other aggressions. We have respected the law; we have not confiscated or expropriated, choosing to negotiate with many foreign-owned enterprises and companies. We negotiated with Bethlehem Steel, with Dupont, with international banks, with RCA, to name only a few. We negotiated with French investors in the Disputada de las Condes creating a mixed venture. Hear this well, people of Chile: I had talks on two or three occasions with the top representative of ITT [whistles] in order to reach a compromise. The people must listen and learn. The minister for the interior, yours truly, expert delegates from Popular Unity, experts from Telecommunications and Technical Services, proposed that a Technical Tribunal, backed by an international body, carry out a technical study in order to fix a compensation amount to be paid to ITT. They flatly rejected our proposal, mainly because they have an insurance policy in the United States which they expect to claim. This company, 111, is a typical example of a capitalist company; the people must remember the details I am about to provide: in 1930, Congress approved, in its second meeting, 12 votes against two, a 50-year concession to ITT, listen well, from 1930 to 1980 ITT was guaranteed a monopoly. ITT was the only company granted golden status and was granted a fixed guaranteed profit margin of 10 percent. A foreign company was handed responsibility for a key area, compromising national security, and which left our own economy in a vulnerable position. What did ITT leave us? Barely 33,000 telephones for nine million Chileans. There are thousands and thousands of Chileans and hundreds of thousands of localities without telephones. Hear this well: ITT invested $28 million and collected $360 million and have left us with a debt of 1 billion escudos. This is the imperialist penetration and this is the morality of the large transnational corporations. Do you want another statistic? In the world, for every 100 inhabitants there are 7.1 telephones, while in Chile there are only 3.7 telephones.

Well, we have had discussions with ITT, not knowing about the secret documents that a U.S. journalist has since released to the world. We did know and we revealed the events that occurred between September 4 and November 3, 1970. It's important to compare, remember and not forget what occurred during those days and what those secret documents reveal; the conspiracy of foreign and national interests that led to treason, aiming at unleashing political and economic chaos. They intended, without success, to foster conspiracy and sedition and dreamt of a coup d'etat. I ordered the publication of the ITT documents, translated by a highly qualified and impartial commission consisting of members of the armed forces. I made sure that our military institutions were involved as a sign of respect and because the documents contained many references to them.

The Mercurio newspaper got in before us, but only partially because — and hear this well — they did not publish the full documents and omitted some fundamental points. Once again, this organization, itself named in the ITT documents, hides from Chileans and its people the reality of its own responsibilities.

This afternoon I announce that we will hand over to the courts the records of those named in the ITT conspiracy. I announce that I will send to Congress a project of expropriation of ITT. [Applause]

I announce this afternoon, and not in retaliation but because enough time has passed, that we will take administrative measures within the legal powers of the Banks Administration Act, to end the situation created by some members of a powerful financial clan, specifically the issues revolving around the Edwards Bank. This has been damaging to us. What has happened there has done extraordinary damage to Chile's credit rating and has been used as a pretext for the closure of several lines of credit, bringing, as a consequence, difficulties in the supply of consumables, raw materials and spare parts. We will end this situation, within legal and administrative norms, but we will do so in a clear and definite manner, saving the depositors and also guarding the job opportunities of the workers of these institutions, who bear no responsibility in what has occurred. [Applause]

Comrades, I have already said it at the National Stadium: this year must be the year of care for the women and youth of Chile.

We have to care for the daughter, the mother, the sister and the partner. There is no revolution without participation of women in this process. Each day, her presence alongside the revolutionary man becomes more necessary. This is why, this year we will sign a public commitment, a formal letter of agreement, with legal, economic and social content, with the women of Chile, and even beyond the women of the Popular Unity. Similarly, we will sign a commitment with the youth of our country. The Popular Unity youth, or those that don't belong to the Popular Unity, who need opportunities for work, sport and education, must understand that this time it is true, that the workers' strength will open a different horizon. The preoccupation for this year will be our women and our youth, the seeds for the progress of the Chile of tomorrow. [Applause]

I would also like to tell you that we are aware of the hardships that affect the everyday life of the people and that we intend to deal with them. Bad public transport; I have said it once before, we can divide the people into those that have drinkable water and those that don't; those that have access to transport and those that don't. The government is about to finish in a few months the first stretch of the underground railway system. We have already imported 1,000 chassis, 1,000 buses and 1,000 taxis. It is not enough! We need to and will bring more chassis, more buses, because when I drive my car, it hurts to see my compatriots standing on corners waiting endlessly for public transport. We have allocated 50 buses to ensure that children in small towns can go to school but we need 100 more. [Applause]

We need to mobilize the specialists in the public administration areas to install drinking water in all the suburbs. We need to develop the most audacious plan to bring electricity to the darkened shantytowns, for the distribution of essential articles, mainly food. We need people to understand, and I have partly explained this, that shortages occur when there is a breakdown in the relationship between produce and need, between offer and demand.

I have pointed out how absurd it is to have money and use it to push prices or foster the black market and trafficking.

Finally, I tell you: we have halted in our task in order to meet today, in the most dense, combative and massive rally, not to sow hate but to sow faith and hope, faith in Chile, in its people, the peasant and the university professor, faith in the teacher and the doctor, faith in the worker, the craftsman and the bricklayer, faith in the old, who stimulate us with their hope despite so many years of misery and pain, faith in the young who strengthen with new vitality the endless chain of our joint endeavors.

Comrades of Santiago, people of Chile: return to your humble homes and illuminate our tomorrow with the faith of your revolutionary convictions. What Chile has done and is doing attracts the attention of the world because we are constructing a new society based on pluralism, democracy and freedom.

Let us be people with a sense of history and the responsibility to write it. We will say that we are our homeland's past, Chile's patriotic tradition; let's raise the Chilean flag in our hands, let our people be the flagpole and our flag the emblem for victory, emblem for progress, emblem for a socialist future.


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