Salvador Allende reader


For Democracy and Revolution, Against Civil War

Third Annual Message to the National Congress, May 21, 1973

In the concluding section of this constitutionally required presidential address to the new legislative session of Congress, President Allende builds upon the unprecedented gains by the Popular Unity governing coalition in the mid-term elections of March 4,1973, caused in part by an incredibly huge voter turnout, a reflection of Chile's deepening democracy. "In such an unfavorable economic moment like the one we are facing, it is the popular decision to advance toward socialism," he observes. Allende calls for a nationwide discussion of reforms to the constitution in order to democratize the judiciary; overcome bureaucratization; broaden citizen rights and duties; increase local and regional grassroots democracy; democratize social security; develop culture and technology; and increase the armed forces' participation in the new socio-economic programs. He denounces those domestic and foreign elements who are trying to create economic chaos in order to generate a political crisis and "impose fascism." Calling once more on worker unity, Allende asserts that "lack of understanding and divisions over partisan motives have no place in our struggle against imperialism and reaction."

The March 4 elections hold a profound significance that I don't want to leave unmentioned. The new Congress emerges from an electoral consultation carried out in a lively and creative manner, showing the dynamic nature of our democracy. It puts to rest the claims of those who had anticipated the end of citizen participation in public matters and a suppression of political rights of the opposition once the workers were in power, and it also ridicules those who invented imaginary electoral frauds to hide their own historical dismissal. The Electoral Tribunal has ratified the clean nature of the process.

It makes me proud, and I am sure that the majority of Chileans share this pride, to see that since 1970 there is a new trend in our political environment: the vast increase of popular participation in public affairs. In less than three years, our countrymen have been called to exercise their right to vote on seven occasions. There have been two national elections. The number of citizens who have directly participated in the election of their political representatives has gone from 2,954,000 in 1970 to 3,660,000 in 1973.

But, in proving that civic rights are alive, it would be insufficient to only refer to its current massiveness. In this country, where each day there are dozens of elections — in trade unions, communities, professional groups, student unions, neighborhood groups, etc. — a phenomenon of qualitative significance is taking place which will mark in the country's history the efforts made during these years. For the first time, large sectors of the population can exercise their political rights, which had been previously denied, through having concrete means to guarantee them the right to expression and association. For the first time, economic democracy is a reality. For once, the decisions which most affect each person, influencing his creative dimension, his job and well-being, have ceased to be a privilege for the powerful or select minorities, and are adopted by the organized masses in their job centers or residences. A new era has begun for Chilean democracy.

The parliamentary elections of March 4 have demonstrated, equally, something which throws some of our adversaries into desperation and confusion: the regular functioning of the political-institutional mechanisms through which popular will is expressed. In contradicting the designs of those who have not ceased in their intent to destroy them, because they saw the elections as an "end without destiny," March 4 was a clear manifestation in defense of the democratic regime.

On the other hand, the significance of the electoral result is reflected in the historical context in which it took place. The government's policies have been vindicated by the massive support received by the political parties that sustain it, the highest that any government has received in the last 20 years after 27 months in office. On March 4, the Chilean road to socialism has been reaffirmed.

While the privileged sectors become exasperated by the deterioration of their hegemonic status and by the relative decrease in the comfort and well-being they enjoyed at the expense of the great mass, the latter perceives the revolutionary sense of the transformations being carried out.

This is why, in the national consultation of March 4, not only was the result supportive of the government but it also reaffirmed the revolutionary will. It's something more than a simple wish for change. In economic circumstances as unfavorable as the ones we are experiencing, the popular decision is to advance towards socialism.

At the same time, in the March 4 result the government notes the need to introduce some modifications in the current policies, which have not found support of certain groups of workers and middle class areas, despite our actions being oriented in their favor.

The constitutional regime must adapt to the new reality

The government aim that the state should serve the workers and the great majority of the country is powerfully counteracted by the rigidity of our legal and administrative structures. Each day their inadequacy in dealing with the urgent necessities of economic and political life becomes more apparent. For example, when speculation has acquired proportions never before seen, the state is practically devoid of any legal tools to sanction hoarding and black market practices. Now that the decision-making powers achieved by the workers are a reality, promising firm development, the state apparatus appears close-minded and resistant to recognize and organize it. The dynamic nature of a revolutionary process frees up repressed energies, hurts dominant interests, generates new social phenomena able to be guided and which the government has endeavored to control. But, for this to have a satisfactory outcome, it needs a flexible institutional regime.

In other words, the new situation taking shape in the last years requires legal and administrative measures, which cannot be delayed any longer. Both to improve its positive dimensions and also to correct its negative aspects. The delay in their adoption can only be detrimental. Only if the state apparatus acquires a popular character, can we avoid the progressive worsening of its inadequacies to the real Chile, a maladjustment that is behind many of the political and economic conflicts.

One year later, I cannot but reiterate with greater urgency what I stated at the beginning of the last term: "A whole regulatory system must be modified and a set of administrative measures must be put into practice in order to deal with the new needs. The banking system, financial system, the labor regime, social security, planning systems, the state's own administration structure, the political constitution itself, are not in tune with the demands created by the new changes. This program, which concerns and belongs to the whole of the people, must be debated by the people, and then acquire legal validity."

Today I reiterate once more that we do not see the road of the Chilean revolution in the violent collapse of the state apparatus. But the current legislation constitutes a confusing and inconsistent system of norms, lacking the necessary conditions to adapt to the new circumstances.

Chile requires a simple, clear, flexible and systematic legislation. Only by abolishing a considerable part of the current precepts, revising others and dictating new ones, will we achieve a legislative system reflective of an egalitarian, just and fluid organization, intent on resolving the current social contradictions.

A difficult task, impossible to tackle all at once or in the short term, only progressively and with the firm will to replace the current legislation, oblivious to the reality it is supposed to govern. The way this is done will depend, to a large extent, on this new Congress. It will require that we are conscious of the need to give the country a new political constitution and of the required laws.

The government has elaborated a draft of a constitution, which will be subject to a comprehensive national debate at every level to collect criticisms and suggestions before its presentation to Congress. I will now mention only some of its relevant aspects.

a. Democratization of the judicial body and precautions against bureaucracy

The justice administration must be democratized in its methods of generating its senior ranks and be in touch with the problems of coexistence of the people. It also requires modernization. It is necessary that a tribunal be established to deal with cases involving the administrative authorities and staff members or other private citizens. On the other hand, respect for the constitution and the strengthening of the principles of legalities call for an expansion of the faculties of the Constitutional Tribunal, assigning it the power to rule on jurisdiction disputes between the political-administrative authorities and the Justice Tribunals, and also the issue of laws being inapplicable due to their anti-constitutional character.

An increase in the functions of the state heightens the risk of increased bureaucracy and demands legal instruments able to avert it in time. The risk that a civil servant might distort his task of serving the community, and subject it to the interest of particular groups or, what's worse, for personal benefit, demands the adoption of a regime where the conduct of civil servants comes under supervision in order to impose sanctions where transgression of duties occur, and prevent the possibility of illicit enrichment.

The attorney general's office of the nation, from the highest institutional level, will guarantee compliance with the law and the correct performance of public duties, through its own initiative or at the request of the interested parties.

b. Broadening of rights and duties

The rights and guarantees accorded by the constitution must be expanded and others must be introduced that will acknowledge freedom, personal property and favorable conditions for one's integral personal development. There must be more strict protection for the dignity, reputation and honor of people, and also the safeguarding of privacy, personal life and the home.

A totally new area for our legal system must be confronted: that of duties. We must establish a social obligation to work in accordance to one's capacity. Nobody can claim the benefits of social life if they don't perform their work within their capabilities, providing a material, scientific or cultural contribution to the community. Active participation in social development must be an obligation for everyone. The safeguarding and protection of social and state property must also be implemented.

Our legal norms cannot continue to be bastions promoting individualism and the egotistical exaltation of those things that an alienated man would seek, but instead, must encourage citizens towards solidarity with others and to work towards the collective interests.

c. Democratization of territorial administration

The direct participation of the people in decision making should take place, predominantly, in their places of residence, where a person carries out most of their activities as a social member of a group. Democracy is so much more authentic when it is directly exercised in one's immediacy. This is why a profound reconsideration of local government is required.

Those organizations that can best contribute to people taking direct control of local affairs should be added to the traditional municipality institution. To this end, we propose the creation of a new organization, the Community Cells, to work together with the current trade union and community institutions.

Formed by representatives elected by the community and workers' organizations, they must be the exponents — before their local municipality — of their needs and problems, thus constituting the nucleus of the great pyramid of planning, inspired by the authentic and democratic presence of the people. In collaboration with public services, the Community Cells must be capable of facilitating popular control over administrative institutions, thus contributing to the combat against the bureaucratic burden.

The same organizational principles of popular participation must be put into practice at a provincial and regional level, so that they associate and coordinate the actions of state services, municipalities and popular and workers' organizations. The initiatives adopted by the government toward this aim, are the beginning of a long road.

The administrative and territorial divisions, whose roots date back to the last century, demand a profound modernization. The region must be the economic unit that facilitates the formulation and application of development plans and programs. We have to provide it with adequate mechanisms and provide the most efficient link with state administrative bodies.

d. Democratization of Social Security

Cultural and Technological Development

On other matters, the social security system needs to be truly democratic. It will provide the same service and it will establish equal rights for all people, regardless of their employment or income.

Our country has entered the historical cycle of radical changes in values, conscience and the perception of itself as a people. New guidelines for life, attitude and behaviour begin to take shape. In this way, for example, voluntary work has mobilised more than two million compatriots, youth and adults of all ideologies and beliefs, authorities, parliamentarians, military personnel, ecclesiastics, etc. with the aim of spontaneously contributing to the great task of national construction.

On the other hand, the progress of the revolution and the change in the economic structure demands that we acknowledge the heightened role that science and technology have, particularly in the construction of a socialist economy, no less significant than the conquest of power by the workers.

We conceive this scientific and technological development as being directly linked to the people and not in isolation from it. That is why educational reform is urgent, to ensure the improvement of the cultural and scientific capacity of our compatriots.

The education authorities proposed a harmonious educational system that was presented as the National Unified School. It is not a jump in the complex process of educational development, but rather a decisive step forward in its evolution.

During its formulation historical factors were considered, in order to relate the changes as closely as possible to educational development in Chile. We hope to achieve an integrationist national education — not to be interpreted as cultural insulation — but to strengthen the personality itself of the country.

There is a third aim: the desire to provide permanent education to citizens, given that the accelerated development of science and technology demand that education be uninterrupted.

The aims of the National Unified School were distorted by some and questioned by others with respectable arguments. Faced with the latter, the government adopted the decision of postponing its implementation with the purpose of ensuring a dialogue, which is always open.

It's also necessary to give a lot of attention to the working conditions of our technicians and professionals, in order to stimulate them to contribute their knowledge towards the progress of the country.

Chile needs the contribution of the whole creative capacity of its men and women. We must work hard to counteract the negative effects that the so-called "brain drain" has on us and the rest of the Third World, this being one of the worst burdens imposed by the hegemonic nations.

These are, succinctly put forward, some of the more urgent changes in the institutional system. As we have already said, they must find their way into a new constitution, without the legal order experimenting with solutions of continuity. The foundations of the new institutional norms will emanate from the collective experience and they will have to be directly discussed by all the people. The efficiency of the state apparatus, the democratization of political and economic power, the accelerated development of our country, depends to a great extent on its timely introduction.

This is how the government defines its position in the face of those who look to break down the democratic system by means of blocking Executive powers or through the annihilation of the state apparatus.

The role of the armed forces and order

In a modern society, like the one we envisage, the armed forces must be fully integrated. I wish to express the country's satisfaction with their performance, as well as the performance of police and investigations, in carrying out their patriotic tasks.

The armed forces, as well as fulfilling their usual role, have joined with representatives of popular parties and the workers confederation (CUT) to form part of the cabinet that I set up in order to put an end to the subversive October strike.

A soldier of the republic — the commander-in-chief of the army, General Carlos Prats González, in his role as minister of the interior, took on the vice-presidency of the nation while I was absent from the country. The citizens have appreciated his correct and efficient performance.

It has been a constant concern of the government to promote and bring to fruition the development plans for the three branches of the armed forces in order to consolidate, even further, the strict fulfillment of the specific tasks assigned to them by national defense. In accordance with this, during 1972, laws were enacted to increase the size of the army and the air force and a similar law for the navy is awaiting approval by Congress. To this we must add the financial support granted for improvements and expansion in infrastructure, as well as the renewal of logistic and military material.

All this is being achieved despite the various difficulties affecting the country during the past year, because the government is clearly aware that the military institutions, specially their professional and technical ranks, must have at their disposal the adequate means to fulfill their responsibilities of national defense.

This policy will be continued because security and development must be combined harmoniously since an imbalance can only bring negative consequences for the country. This is the reason why the government has placed special emphasis on the participation of the armed forces in the socio-economic programs.

Those who describe this participation as a political act not only ignore the institutional position of the armed forces but also deny them the right to a thorough knowledge of the country and its problems, essential for planning National defense. The government will continue to promote this participation, which will allow Chile to count on a source of human potential of high moral and intellectual background.

The Supreme National Security Council (CONSUSENA), will be revamped with a more agile and expedited structure, allowing easier and permanent coordination of its activities in the service of National Security.

The political project of the government

Citizen Parliamentarians: In these moments, more than in others, it is imperative that we clearly show to the country the direction in which the transforming actions of the Popular Government are heading. The mandate we gained in 1970, later ratified, was to establish a social order, which will open routes to socialism. In the current stage of the revolutionary process, we are obliged to specify, where possible, some of the manifestations of the social, political and economic aspects of the transitional period we are currently going through.

Our objective is to organize the elements of the present reality which will be the base for the subsequent stages in the construction of a new society, one in which the workers will assume full economic and political power. This requires an ordering of economical activity so that the great potential generated by structural changes can be exploited. The elimination of large-scale land ownership, financial monopolies and a large part of the industrial monopolies have cleared the way to a greater rationalization of the national economy. It is now a matter of having the necessary energy and clarity to establish the planning which, channeling the initiative and responsibility of the workers, will prevail over the capitalist forces.

The reactionary forces are vividly aware of their political failure. They are intent on provoking economic disorder. They know that an economic crisis would generate a political crisis, creating the conditions that would allow fascism to become a mass movement. As president, I will impose economic and political order. As a revolutionary, I will combat the development of fascism in any of its forms: economic, political, ideological or terrorist.

Our success in overcoming the supporters of chaos will be Chile's success. Their defeat consolidates the development of an active and pluralist democracy. I am emphatic in stressing that the political liberties of the political opposition must be effective. This is how I have always conceived the evolution towards socialism in our country.

Chileans must be very conscious that pluralist liberties depend on our capacity to prevent economic and political chaos.

As president, I call on all democratic and patriotic citizens to participate in this enterprise.

The more vigorous and authentic our democracy is, the more effective and real will be the mass participation of the population in the new society. Participation is not a handout. It is a right. It has been achieved thanks to the efforts and sacrifices of many generations. In the process of transition to socialism, participation is a material necessity. We vigorously condemn the enormous damage that sectarianism and intolerance is causing in our revolutionary process. Against imperialism and reactionary forces, there can be no place for party-driven misunderstandings or divisions.

The ideological debate in the hearts of the workers precedes this government and will remain afterwards. It cannot be allowed to weaken the unity built around the uppermost class interests. The struggle among the democrats who support the government and the opposition cannot reach such a point as to facilitate the work of those who want to impose fascism.

To establish the basis for the new economic structure and the Popular State, the government relies on the drive provided by the social force of the workers. Whether it is from within or outside the Popular Unity, they strive and make sacrifices to put an end to the capitalist system. This deep current bypasses ideological discrepancies and today unites the majority of our compatriots.

Faced with this revolutionary reality, Congress can organize a majority that will put itself at the service of the reordering of the economic-political system. It must not preserve the old structures. The government and Congress will be able to coincide in the critical dialogue about our most pressing needs. Otherwise, the present contradictions of the institutional regime will become more acute.

The Popular Government appeals to the conscience and class awareness of all the workers. Their social gains, their political liberties, their organizations, their power to challenge the forces of national and imperialist capitalism, their capacity to build a new society, these are great instruments. The national and international reactionary forces can destroy them. They aim to sweep away all the gains of the workers. Faced with a threat so real and present, the workers will not allow themselves to be used. Their economic demands cannot be utilized by the bourgeoisie against the government and the revolutionary process. Social discipline and conscious effort must be present at every workplace. Chile demands more production, more productivity.

The dreams, the creative capacity, artistic talent, revolutionary will, the experience of the process itself, all converge in the crucible of our homeland.

This great crucible fuses the commitment and dreams of the young, women and men. Chile and its future are held in their arms, the arms of the people.

We shall win!

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