Equivocal Forces: The Middle Strata and Women
The Popular Unity posits the working class as the motor force of Chilean socialism. Their strategy, however, is to win over, or at least neutralize, other important social classes and strata of Chilean society, especially the professional and technical, white-collar, and petty-bourgeois sectors. Salvador Allende speaks to this point in his address, here produced in abridged form, to the 1971 Convention of the Radical Party, a political grouping within the PU coalition that has its political base among these key strata.
The opposition also has its sights set upon these social strata and since the end of 1971 has engaged in an energetic campaign to win them over and mobilize them to bring Chilean socialism to an end.
The Right has made women a special target of propaganda and agitation. Historically, many Chilean women have been resistant to the long-established leftward trend in Chilean politics. While the majority of working-class women now vote for leftist candidates, they do so in smaller proportion than male workers, while the overwhelming majority of non-working-class women tend to be less open to change, and vote for Christian Democratic and rightist candidates. This situation is not necessarily a permanent one, as Fidel Castro pointed out during his 1971 visit to Chile.
On several occasions, Fidel spoke to and about women in the revolutionary process, often generalizing from the importance women have assumed in the Cuban Revolution. Fidel's themes were several: the exploitation, degradation, and oppression of women in capitalist society; the fact that women suffer most in existing societies and have the most to gain from liberation; the strategy of the reactionaries, who, faced with a revolutionary process, try to sow fear, insecurity, and terror, especially among women; the necessity for women to incorporate themselves fully into the struggle for the new society.
RADICALISM AND BOURGEOIS SECTORS
Abridged from President Allende's speech to the convention of the Radical Party,
July 1971, from the text printed in ElSiglo, July 31, 1971.
The presence of the Radical Party in the broad and turbulent Chilean people's movement is not accidental, nor can it be expressed as a temporary or occasional event. Radicalism is born with material and ideological arms in hand inexorably to combat the oligarchic and reactionary sectors of our country. Its men, who have pointed out its road like visionaries, have not done more than be consistent with the doctrinal principles of this body, which, although it certainly represents essentially the petty and middle bourgeoisie, has been and shall be together with the workers in the great and definitive battle to attain full liberty for our country. . . .
Consistent with its tradition, radicalism headed the people's movement of 1938, the Popular Front, which marked a very important stage for Chile at that time. We live today in a different stage, in which it is also possible to appreciate the presence of the parties that essentially formed that front; but it should unquestionably be said once again that the Popular Front is not the Popular Unity of today. The Popular Front of yesterday was the decision of the people's parties to be the Left within the capitalist system. The task of the Popular Unity of today is that of effecting a revolutionary transformation of the capitalist regime, of opening the road to socialism.
There is no ruling party within the Popular Unity; all the parties have the same responsibility, and the growth of one also accentuates the influence of the others. And I say to some people of a conventional radical approach who for lack of experience could feel discouraged by the results of the elections of last April,  that your president does not measure the parties by their votes but by their revolutionary will and consciousness.
Consequently, in this country, whose economy is not of a rural character and in which we have reached a higher industrial expression than other countries that have characteristics of underdevelopment, the presence of the Radical Party is logical and will be permanent in the building of socialism. Socialism is advancement, it is progress, it is humanistic content.
Socialism involves collectivizing the means of production; it is the definition of classes plus technology and expertise, and for this reason we require the presence of the sector represented by the Radical Party: that of the professionals, merchants, middlemen and small industrialists, small farm owners and peasants, technicians and scientists, because they are the great support that will make an efficient building of socialism possible. . . .
I ask you to think a little about the tasks accomplished so as to understand the unavoidable obligation that we have today and will have tomorrow. In our opinion, it is necessary to point out whom we are fighting, what we are struggling for, what social force we have to attract, and the means we consider indispensable to complete what we have achieved to date. No one can be deceived about whom we are fighting in this country; our struggle is against imperialism, the monopolies, and the oligarchy. Let no one call it deceit if, proceeding with responsibility, we advance at the rate we have established for ourselves. We considered this necessary. But you should know, and I so state due to my responsibility, that this struggle does not allow for truces; our enemies are and will be imperialism, the monopolistic bourgeoisie, and the monopolies.
We should also not forget that by nationalizing what has until now been retained by the power centers, the minority and privileged groups who have governed this country, we are strengthening the sectors of the middle and petty bourgeoisie. It is very important to remember this and not overlook it in order to oppose the mendacious campaign that attempts to distort our attitude. We shall not relinquish a single one of the programmed points. The Popular Unity Program is sufficiently clear so that all Chile can know what it is we are going to do, how we are going to do it, and how we shall accelerate this process, which is the responsibility not only of the government but of the people of Chile and their revolutionary consciousness.
I therefore wish to point out once again the higher responsibility of radicalism as the most qualified interpreter of the sectors of the petty and middle bourgeoisie, the employees, teachers, technicians, the small merchants, industrialists, and farmers. We require these social groups to understand that they have and shall have a decisive influence in the building of the new society. It is our obligation to understand and recognize the efforts of all Chilean professionals, technicians, and scientists so that their capacities and knowledge will be generously provided for in the great battle of Chile, the great road of the fatherland.
I want the people to know that our great concern is also that of securing the presence of the worker, the peasant, the student, and the woman in this struggle in which all must take part. I now call upon these sectors and even those which are not part of the Popular Unity, since our task is so great and has such historic content that we must understand that we cannot proceed with sectarianism or dogmatism and deny participation to those not in our ranks who want to be at our side in the great collective struggle. These sectors make up a part of the same social class; they are not owners of production property, but wage earners, and therefore they will have to understand that they too will be benefited in this emancipating and liberating struggle. Therefore, along with the essential tasks of carrying out the program, we have been concerned with pointing out that Chile must reduce the distance separating it from the scientific and cultural development processes of the metropolises of capitalism and the socialist countries. Thus, we have strengthened the Nuclear Power Commission; we vigorously support the presence of scientists and technicians in the Scientific Research Council; we are attempting to utilize all the human and technical value Chile has available, since the undertaking we are committed to requires this. . . .
Our road which has rightly been called the "Chilean Way," is unquestionably of profound significance beyond these frontiers, beyond even the Latin American continent. It is with satisfaction that I can say to you as partners representing the people's movements who have lent the prestige of your presence to the solidary support of your popular bodies: in this country, compañeros, there are no political prisoners; in this country, where the press sometimes goes beyond limits, not a single daily has been closed; in this country, we respect the social rights the people themselves have conquered. We should also understand that if we work for the workers and the peasants, we do so with the same passionate interest for the technicians, professionals, middlemen, and small merchants and industrialists. We do so, with passion, with tenderness, for youth, since it will live fully in the new society, and we shall fight without rest because the Chilean woman, the proletarian mother, the mother of the people understands that our struggle benefits her more than anyone else. And whenever I see, as in the case of Valparaiso, that in an occasional election, in an emotionally charged atmosphere, it is the woman who decides a battle against us, even though on a tiny scale, I want to appeal to the conscience of the members of the Popular Unity parties and their directors. Our great task, our great obligation is to make it possible for the Chilean woman, our sister, daughter, mother, and friend, to understand that we need her and will fight for her, because she is the seed of the future in the son of the people.
Every peasant, every employee, every man from our own class, whether or not he is a member of the Popular Unity, should understand that he is a friend and brother in this great combat. How good it is to point out this exemplary unity among parties of different doctrinal and philosophical concepts. There is plenty of room for an authentic Christian Left, which is a basic factor in this revolutionary task. I am sure that this sector, which incorporates the truth and doctrine of Christ, will join the Marxists and laymen to make the Popular Unity stronger and more powerful.
As a compañero, I propose to this radical convention a great campaign, a public campaign to reach the sectors I have named, whose presence the Popular Unity government considers essential for the building of socialism.
FIDEL CASTRO ON WOMEN AND REVOLUTION
Abridged version of Fidel Castro's speech to women gathered at Santa Laura Stadium,
Santiago, November 29, 1971. Translation by the Cuban Government.
Dear Chilean Comrades:
With your cooperation we can converse for a few minutes. In the first place, I would like to say something: we have been to many rallies in this country, we have been to many meetings, but with all frankness I can say that this is one of the most important of all, this is one of the most warmhearted, one of the most moving.
If I am to speak here, after the efforts you have made to organize this rally, I will try to talk of questions which in my opinion are essential.
In the first place, Chile is in the middle of a revolutionary process, and this has a special importance. Chile is not living through an ordinary moment of its history. Chile is living through a special moment of its history. This was indicated here in the words of Mireya and María Elena [Mireya Baltra and María Elena Carrera, deputy and senator of the People's Unity coalition, respectively]. They stated they were ready to defend this process and to resist any attempt to crush it. They said that the "momios" (mummies) shall not pass which is the same as saying that the reactionaries shall not pass, the same as saying that the fascists shall not pass.
In This Struggle Women Have a Decisive Role, a Very Decisive One!
Now, then, in this struggle women have a decisive role, a very decisive one! We should bear in mind the efforts of the reactionaries in this country to deceive women, to confuse women. We should bear in mind all the tricks, the lies and the methods they have used to keep women from joining the revolutionary process. Why? Because they know that women are a force, a real and a potential force of the Revolution. They also know that revolutionary social change will most benefit, will most dignify, will most elevate the woman.
This has been the history of our country. . . .
If women are on the side of the Revolution, the "momios" shall not pass, the reactionaries shall not pass, the fascists shall not pass.
What role do women play in the old society?
(A WOMAN: "THAT OF A DOLL!")
A comrade gave the answer: that of a doll! In the old society what consideration and respect do women have? In the old society what does woman have as a woman, as a citizen, as a worker, as a mother? Nothing! The Revolution begins by giving woman the place she should have within human society.
In our own country—and in our country the Revolution has tremendous support from the women, the women are a decisive force—we explained things this way: we liberated women twice, as workers and as discriminated and mistreated members of society.
What do the exploiters do with women? What fate do they reserve for women? A role in society as a worker? No! A role in society as a mother? No! A role in society as a human being? No!
You have seen how the reactionaries hypocritically and pharisaically talk of human rights. But what role have they given women in society? For the reactionaries, the exploiters, the fascists, woman is simply an instrument of pleasure, a decoration, an object to abuse, to humiliate, to offend and many times to degrade.
We should not confuse the apparent respect given to women. In no sense is it human respect, or social respect, or revolutionary respect.
What role do they reserve for working mothers, for peasant mothers, for poor mothers? What role do they reserve for their children? They are given the role of poverty, the role of ignorance, of disease, of misery and even the more painful role of corruption.
The reactionary capitalist society which never takes human values into account does not care about the morals of children, or the dignity of children; it does not care about the morals of women, or the dignity of women. The whole system is based on profit, on private interest, on exploitation.
If they can do business with a movie that is poisonous or harmful for children, they don't care, they throw it on the market. What they're interested in is to make money! If they can make money, they don't care if they prostitute women.
One of the most painful things in a capitalist society is the woman who has no work, the discriminated and humiliated woman who is many times driven to prostitution. We remember how in our country thousands and thousands of women went through these painful situations. If a mother had a child and was abandoned by the man, if she had to give food to her child and had no job or somebody to help her or a scholarship for her child, she had to take the horrible road of prostitution.
The Revolution Offers Women a Human Role
Social prejudices, discrimination of women, feudal concepts, led women to the worst roads; gave them the worst jobs—jobs in brothels, jobs in bars or casinos, jobs in amusement centers—with the most vulgar concept of mercantilism, with the most inhuman of concepts. And then the reactionaries speak of human rights!
Women were discriminated against in technical careers and in terms of employment. Woman is the one who suffers most; as a mother, when there is no work, no job, when the children get sick, when there is exploitation. Woman suffers in silence and abnegation. Woman suffers the most from poverty.
In our societies women have historically played a subordinate role, a relegated role. And that is why we ask: what do the reactionaries offer women?
What does fascism offer women?
What does capitalism offer women?
Nothing! Nothing! Nothing!
The Revolution offers women a human role. It offers them all the possibilities of developing themselves; all the possibilities of their energy, their enthusiasm, their spirit, their most noble feelings. The Revolution dignifies women. The Revolution gives women genuine human treatment. The Revolution works for the future, works for the children, works for the youth; for a dignified and happier future.
The reactionary capitalist society corrupts not only women but also men, children and youth. It has no moral principles. Do you know what its moral—if we can use the word moral—principle is? Do you know what the principle of that society is? Interest, egoism, profit. You all know that, right?
Today We Have Struggle and Effort. A Revolution Is Made for the Future
We can never forget what they did at the beginning of our Revolution.
With what lack of scruples, with what cynicism did they launch and propagate one of the most shameless, the lowest and most infamous of lies. They thought up something diabolical. They started the stupid, absurd, ridiculous, inconceivable rumor that the Revolution was going to deprive mothers of their rights over their children. With what total absence of scruples did they appeal to maternal sentiment! And the worst thing that happened is that they succeeded in deceiving some women.
In our country some women began to send their children to the United States—possibly several thousand women sent their children to the United States because of that base rumor. You can imagine what fate awaited those children. In Cuba the young people, the children, study, work, develop themselves and develop a sense of duty, and a sense of morality. But what happened to those children who were sent to the United States? What happened to them when they fell into that monstrous, egotistical society? Many of them became drug addicts. Others became delinquents and gangsters. Many girls, still children, became prostitutes.
In our country the Revolution has devoted all its attention to the children, and what hurts the Revolution is that it still doesn't have enough resources, enough good schools for all of them. It will take us at least ten more years—listen well, ten more years—to build enough installations for all our children of primary and secondary school age.
In our country today all children have teachers. But many times the classes must be given in a straw-thatched hut or in a rundown building, which does not have all the conditions, all the resources, all the laboratories, all the teaching aids, all the recreational facilities necessary.
We can really say that the quality of our young people is impressive today. A Revolution is not made to give immediate results. No! Today we have struggle and effort. A Revolution is made for the future.
Our Revolution works to take care of the children and to give women facilities to join the labor force.
In our country today women are constantly asking for more schools, more day-care centers, more facilities for obtaining employment. In our country there is no drug addiction, there is no gambling. In our country there has been no prostitution for many years. In our country all those horrible things, those painful things of an exploiting society have disappeared.
In our country we protect mothers. In our country we protect children.
The Revolution has eradicated many diseases. For example, in our country every year hundreds of children died or were crippled from poliomyelitis. However, we have not had a single case of polio in Cuba for years. Hundreds of children used to die of tetanus because there were no preventive medical campaigns. However, we have implanted a program of vaccinations against tetanus and we have practically reduced the effects of this disease to a minimum. In our country thousands of children died of gastrointestinal diseases every year. The Revolution has reduced these diseases to minimum levels. We have wiped out typhus and malaria. Moreover, when the Revolution triumphed in our country we had dozens of tuberculosis hospitals, thousands of men, women and children who suffered from tuberculosis. Today we can say that happily our country has virtually wiped out tuberculosis and that we expect to eradicate it completely. Many tuberculosis hospitals are now being used as clinics and for other purposes.
We Think It Magnificent That the Leftist Women of Chile Are Uniting in One Organization
In our country the majority of women used to bear their children in their homes, without any medical attention. Many of them died, many of their infants died or contracted infections, problems of all types. Today almost 100 percent of the Cuban women bear their children in hospitals, in conditions of maximum security for themselves and their infants.
The job possibilities for women were minimal. Their possibilities for a higher education were also minimal. Today, we can say that in the School of Medicine, for example, there are just as many women students as there are men students. The same is true in the School of Engineering and in many others.
The organized women in our country are participating more and more in the solution of social problems, of the problems of the Revolution. They are interested in everything that has to do with the family, with children, with everything that has to do with ... in short: education, public health, the campaigns for hygiene, campaigns against diseases, in all aspects. That is why the women in our country are a great force of the Revolution.
We think it very correct, we think it magnificent that the leftist women of Chile are uniting in one organization, putting aside sectarianism, and organizing Chilean revolutionary women's committees.
In Cuba more than one million women belong to the Federation of Cuban Women. They have thousands and thousands of committees. They organize educational courses, courses to prepare women. Tens of thousands of young people have been taught in institutions and centers organized by the women. The Federation is an organization that is developing more and more; an organization that services numerous social institutions. The children's day-care centers are tended by women, the Institute of Child Care is tended by women. And women are participating more and more in the economic, social and political life of our country.
In this country we have come across great quality. You have chosen the road of change. This road is not easy. It is difficult, it is a hard road. You must organize. You must increase consciousness. You must call upon the women. You must win over the women of Chile to the cause of Revolution. You must wage an ideological battle, a political battle.
You must show up the demagogues, the liars, the deceivers, those who have been deceiving the women and attracting them with their little tricks, their little lies, their little favors. Tell them: we don't need favors. What we need is the liberation of women. What we need is the vindication of women.
We don't need charity!
We're not asking for alms!
They have to be told: what we need is dignity!
What we need is to be considered like human beings! What we need is our rightful place in society! What we need is the future of our children, the future of our children!
You must show up the lies, the tricks of the fascists and reactionaries. You must struggle, as Mireya and Maria Elena said. You must organize yourselves. You must develop an awareness. You must accumulate forces.
If the reactionaries think that the people are disunited or weak or ignorant, then they feel brave and daring; they will attack, organize and deceive. They will try to use all the difficulties; any difficulty. But the women should be firm. Never allow yourselves to be confused! Never allow yourselves to be deceived!
We are in the definitive stage, in the stage of attaining definitive independence, a just society, a human society. We will unite our flags in brotherhood! We will continue forward and will reach definitive freedom! And on this road we are certain that in Chile, as in Cuba, the women will take up their role; the women will contribute their energy, their strength and passion to the revolutionary cause; that in Chile, as in Cuba, the women, united, will also be in the first line of battle for the revolution.
1. Votes for Radical Party candidates in the municipal elections of April 1971 fell, while\ the Socialist Party, to which Allende belongs, sharply increased its votes.
Edición digital del Centro Documental Blest el 07feb02