Chile's Road to Socialism


The Purpose of Our Victory

Inaugural address in the National Stadium
Santiago, 5 November 1970

This is a triumph for the workers, for our long-suffering people who, for a century and a half, in the name of Independence, have been exploited by a ruling class incapable of ensuring progress. The truth, as we all know, is that backwardness, ignorance, the hunger of our people, and that of all the peoples of the Third World exist and persist because they are profitable for a few privileged groups.

But at last the day has come when we can say: Basta ! Enough ! No more! No more economic exploitation. No more social inequality. No more political oppression.

Today, inspired by our national heroes, we come together here to celebrate our victory in Chile and to mark the beginning of our liberation. The people have at last become the government. It is they who now take control of the destiny of the nation.

But what is the Chile that we inherit?

Forgive me, comrades, that on an afternoon of celebration and in front of the representatives of so many countries honouring us by their presence, I have to recall such sad affairs. But it is our duty and our right to denounce these centuries of suffering. As the President of Peru, Velasco Alvarado, has said: 'One of the great tasks of the Revolution is to break that circle of deception which has caused us all to live with our backs turned against reality.' [1]

It is time now to declare that we, the underdeveloped countries, were historically misconceived. In the time of the agrarian-mercantile civilizations, we were but colonies. Today, in urban industrial society, we are but neo-colonies. And, in the new civilization which is emerging, the threat remains that our dependence will continue.

We have been an exploited people; a people who do not exist for themselves but who exist to contribute to the prosperity of others.

What is the reason for our backwardness? Who is responsible for this underdevelopment which weighs us down?

Despite much misrepresentation and much deception the people have understood. We know well through our own experience that the real causes of our backwardness lie in the system - in this dependent capitalist system which, on the national plane, sets-up needy majorities against rich minorities, and, on the international plane, sets powerful nations against the weak, where the many pay the price for prosperity for the few.

We inherit a society torn apart by social inequality; a society deeply divided into hostile classes of exploiters and exploited; a society where violence is built into the institutions themselves, condemning men to insatiable greed, to the most inhuman forms of cruelty and to indifference to the suffering of others.

We inherit a society crucified by unemployment, which forces increasing numbers of its citizens into redundancy and into the marginal existence of large groups. This is not a phenomenon of overpopulation, as some would have it, but, as these people testify by their tragic situation, of the power-lessness of the system to ensure for everyone the elementary right to work.

We inherit an economy crippled by inflation. Month by month it continues to lower the miserable wages of the workers. When they reach the last years of their lives, it reduces them almost to nothing. Such are the returns of a life full of privations.

Through such wounds the life of the working people of Chile bleeds away. To heal them will be a far from easy task, but we are certain to succeed. From now on the economic policy of the government will be dictated by the interests of the people.

We inherit a dependent society whose basic sources of wealth were appropriated by the internal allies of great international enterprises. The forms of our dependence are economic, technological, cultural and political.

We inherit a society whose hopes of autonomous development have been frustrated. A divided society in which the majority of families are denied the fundamental right to work, to education, to health, to recreation and even to hope for a better future.

The Chilean people have risen up against this form of existence. Our victory was gained through the conviction that only a genuinely revolutionary government could confront the might of the ruling classes and, at the same time, mobilize all Chileans for the construction of the Republic of Working People.

This is the great task which history entrusts to us. It is in order to accomplish it, workers of Chile, that I call upon you today. Only united, shoulder to shoulder, with all who love and believe in this country will we be able to overcome underdevelopment and build a new society.

We live at a historic moment: the great transformation of the political institutions of Chile; a time when, by the will of the majority, the parties and movements representing the most underprivileged sectors of the people are coming to power.

If we pause to think for a while and look back over our history, we Chileans may be proud that we were able to impose a political solution, rather than one of violence. This is a noble tradition. It is a lasting triumph. Indeed, throughout our long fight for liberation, throughout the slow and hard struggle for equality and justice, we have always preferred to resolve social conflicts by recourse to persuasion, by political action.

We Chileans abhor fratricidal struggles, but we shall never refrain from demanding the rights of the people. Our shield declares it: 'By reason or by force'. [2] But first comes reason.

This civil peace, this continuity in political processes, does not come about by chance. It is the result of our socioeconomic structure, of a peculiar arrangement of social forces which our country has maintained in accordance with the nature of our development.

Already in our early days as a sovereign state, the determination of the men of Chile and the skill of their leaders enabled us to avoid civil wars. In 1845, Francisco Antonio Pinto wrote to General San Martin: T think that we are going to solve the problem of knowing how to be republicans and still continue to speak the Spanish language.' Since then the institutional stability of our Republic has been one of the most outstanding in Europe and America.

This republican and democratic tradition has become part of our total identity. It has taken root in the way of life of the Chilean people. Respect and tolerance for other people are among the most important cultural values that we possess.

When, within this institutional continuity and these fundamental political norms, hostility and conflict between classes arise, these are expressed in essentially political terms. Our people have never broken this pattern in our history. Only the ruling class have provoked our rare civil disturbances.

It was always those in power who unleashed violence, who spilt the blood of Chilean people and diverted the natural course of the country's evolution. That is what happened when Balmaceda, [3] conscious of his duties and protecting the national interest, acted with the dignity and patriotism which posterity has accorded him. Persecution of the unions, students, intellectuals and labour groups is the violent reply of those who are protecting privilege.

Nevertheless the constant struggle of the organized popular classes has succeeded in gradually imposing the recognition of civil and social liberties, both public and individual.

This peculiar evolution of our institutions is our structural context; it is what has brought about this historic situation, where the people take over the political direction of the country.

After their struggle to overcome the capitalist system which exploits them, the masses have reached the Presidency of the Republic. They are supported by Unidad Popular and by the most precious possession our history has granted us - the preservation and respect for democratic values, the acceptance of the will of the majority.

"Without abandoning their revolutionary goals, the forces of the people adapted their activities to the concrete realities of the Chilean structures, regarding setbacks and gains not as a final defeat or victory, but as a stage in the long road towards emancipation.

Without a single precedent in the world, Chile has just given extraordinary proof of its political development. It has made it possible for an anti-capitalist movement to come to power through the free exercise of citizens' rights.

It comes to power to guide the country towards a new society, a more humane society, whose ultimate goals are the nationalization of economic activities, the progressive nationalization of the means of production and the abolition of class divisions.

From the theoretical point of view, being socialists we are very conscious of the forces and agents of historical change. I know personally, to use Engels's terms, that 'it is possible to conceive of peaceful evolution from the old society to the new in countries where the representatives of the people have concentrated in their hands all the power, where, in accordance with the constitution, anything may be done that is desired, from the moment when the majority of the people are behind one'.

So it is with Chile. Here at last Engels's vision is to be fulfilled. It is important to remember that, during the seventy days following the ballot of 4 September, the democratic strength of our country has been subjected to the most stringent tests it has ever experienced. [4] Throughout a dramatic series of events our dominant characteristic has again prevailed : differences have been resolved politically.

It must be stressed that the Christian Democrat party, too, has been aware of the historic situation and of its duty to the country.

Chile is beginning the march towards socialism without having undergone the tragic experience of a fratricidal war. It is this fact, in all its grandeur, which determines the manner in which this government will set about its task of transformation.

We are commissioned to this by the will of the people.

My government will respond to this trust by bringing the democratic tradition of our country alive.

During these seventy decisive days which have just ended, Chile and the whole world have witnessed unmistakable attempts to violate the spirit of our Constitution; to mock the will of the people; to disrupt the country's economy; and, above all, by cowardly acts of desperation, to provoke a bloody and violent conflict among our fellow citizens.

Personally I am convinced that the sacrifice of one soldier, the Commander-in-Chief of the Army, General René Schneider, has proved to be the unforseen event which has saved our country from civil war. [5]

Allow me on this solemn occasion, and hi his name, to express the appreciation of our people to the armed forces, and to the Corps of Carabineros, [6] who have remained loyal to the Constitution and to the rule of law.

This outrageous event, which will be registered in history as a civil war in disguise, lasted only a day, but it demonstrated once more the criminal madness of desperate men.

They are the representatives, the mercenaries, of that minority which, since colonial days, has been overwhelmingly responsible for exploiting our country to its own selfish advantage, which has handed over our riches to the foreigner. It is this minority which, in its blind zeal to preserve its privileges, did not hesitate in 1891 [7] and again in 1970 to thrust the nation into a tragic dilemma.

They have failed in their anti-patriotic designs. They failed when confronted by our own sound democratic institutions, by the firmness of the popular will, determined to stand up to them and disarm them, in order to ensure tranquillity, trust and peace for the nation, which from now on will be governed through the power of the people.

But what is the power of the people?

People's power means that we shall abolish the pillars propping up that minority that has always condemned our country to underdevelopment.

We shall abolish the monopolies which grant control of the economy to a few dozen families.

We shall abolish a fiscal system which favours profiteering and which has always put a greater burden on the poor than the rich; a system which has concentrated the national savings in the hands of the bankers, greedy for profit. We are going to nationalize credit in order to make prosperity available to all the people and to the entire nation. We shall abolish the large estates which condemn thousands of peasants to serfdom and misery and prevent the country from obtaining the food it needs from its own land, A genuine agrarian reform will make this possible.

We shall put an end to the denationalization of our industry and our sources of employment, which has subjected us to foreign exploitation. We shall restore to Chile its basic wealth. We shall restore to our people the major copper, coal, iron and saltpetre mines.

It lies in our own hands to achieve all this - in the hands of those who earn their living by their work and who today are in the seat of power.

The rest of the world may be spectators to the changes which will take place in our country, but we Chileans cannot be content to remain so. We must be the protagonists in the struggle to transform our society.

It is important for each one of us to accept his share of the common responsibility.

It is the essential task of the Unidad Popular government, indeed of each one of us, to create a just state, capable of giving the greatest opportunities to all who five in our territory.

I know that this word 'state' may arouse misgivings. It has been much abused, and in many cases it is used merely to disparage a just social system. Do not be afraid of the word 'state'. The state of die Unidad Popular government means all of you and all of us. Together we must work to perfect it, to make it run efficiently, to make it a modern, revolutionary state. But let it be understood that above all it is to be a just state. That is what I want to stress.

Much has been said about the participation of the people. Now is the time for it to be put into practice. Every inhabitant of Chile, no matter what his age, has a task to fulfil. In it he will combine both personal interest and the noble commitment to the collective task.

There is not enough money in any state in the world to meet all the needs of its organizations, if these do not first realize that rights are bound up with duties and that success is the more precious if it is the result of one's own efforts.

When the consciousness of the people reaches maturity, their wish to do voluntary work will follow as a matter of course. Such work has already been proposed by our young people.

What was written on the walls of Paris is very true: 'Revolutions are made first in people, then in things.' [8] Very specially, on this solemn occasion, I want to address myself to young people. It is not for me, a rebel student of the past, to criticize your impatience, but it is my duty to ask you to take time, and to reflect. You are at that splendid age when physical strength and mental energy make almost any undertaking a success. For that very reason you must give impetus to our advance.

Transform your enthusiasm into yet more work. Turn hope into greater effort. Turn impulse into concrete reality. Thousands and thousands of young people have clamoured for a place in the social struggle. Now they have it. The moment has come for all young people to unite. To those who are still on the fringe of these events, I ask you to come forward; there is a place for each person in the construction of a new society. Escapism, decadence, nihilism, drugs - these are the last resort of young people who live in lands which are unquestionably prosperous but lack moral strength. That is not our situation. Follow the better example of those who abandon everything to build a better future.

What will be the way, the path of action that Chile takes to conquer its underdevelopment? Our road will be one marked out by our own experience, it will be the one approved by the people in the elections, the one outlined in the programme of Unidad Popular.

The road to socialism lies through democracy, pluralism and freedom.

Chile possesses the basic conditions. Used with caution and flexibility, these will allow us to build a new society based on a new economy. Unidad Popular makes this theme its own, not as a command but as its natural way of doing things.

Because of its particular conditions, the social and political institutions are available in Chile to realize the transition from backwardness and dependence to development and autonomy in the socialist way.

Unidad Popular is constitutionally the agent of this reality - let no one imagine that Marxist theory has ever claimed, nor has history ever shown, that a single party is necessary in the process of the transition towards socialism.

What leads to that situation are certain social conditions and political vicissitudes, both internal and international.

Civil war, when imposed as the sole means of emancipation, condemns a people to a rigid political system.

Foreign intervention, in its anxiety to maintain its domination at no matter what price, imposes the authoritarian use of power.

Generalized poverty and backwardness sap the vigour of political institutions. They lessen the opportunity to establish and strengthen popular organizations.

According to the presence or absence of these factors in Chile, it will be possible to exercise or create the mechanisms which will bring about the radical transformation of our political system in a manner worthy of our traditions, maintaining the pluralism which the great majority of our people support.

This is the principal legacy of our history. It is also the noble promise for our future. It all depends on us to make it a reality.

This decisive fact is a challenge to all Chileans, whatever their ideological orientation, to contribute their efforts to the autonomous development of our country. In the name of those who went before us in the struggle, and before posterity which will judge us, I can assure you - as President of the Republic - that all my actions will be directed to fulfilling the hopes of our people.

Our victory showed the maturity of consciousness in a section of our citizens. This consciousness must spread further. It must develop in the minds of thousands and thousands of Chileans who, even if they have not been in agreement with us all the time, are now resolved to dedicate themselves to the great task of building a new nation with a new morality.

This new morality, with patriotism and the spirit of revolution, will govern the acts of the men in government. At the start of this campaign, we declare that our administration shall be known for its complete trustworthiness to the point where, far from feeling ourselves to be victims of a rigidly controlled system, we shall ask them to act as its living conscience, to correct mistakes and to denounce those guilty of abuse both in and outside the government. To each of my compatriots, whose duty it is to participate in this great task, I can say that, in Fidel Castro's words, 'this government requires total commitment but is offering no commission'.

I shall never relax my watch over the moral qualities of this government. Our programme, approved by the people, makes it quite explicit that our form of democracy will be the more real the more it is of the people. The more it is governed by the people themselves, the more it is likely to strengthen human liberties. The people have taken control of executive power in a presidential regime to initiate the construction of socialism in a progressive form, by means of a struggle undertaken with political understanding, organized in parties and free unions.

Our method and our path is that of freedom.

Freedom for the growth of productive forces, breaking the chains which have shackled our development.

Freedom for each citizen, according to his conscience and belief, to add his share to the collective task.

Freedom for all Chileans who live by their labour to have control and collective ownership of their centres of work.

Simon Bolivar prophesied for our country: 'If any republic endures for any length of time in America, I rather think it will be Chile. Never has the spirit of freedom been quenched there.'

Our road, the one Chile will take, will also be that of equality. Equality so that every one of us may share the general wealth according to his labour and his needs.

Equality - to reduce the enormous differences of remuneration for the same kinds of work.

Equality is indispensable if each man is to be accorded the dignity and respect to which he has the right.

According to these strictures and these principles we shall go forward and construct a new system.

The aim of the new economy which we shall set up is to restore the resources of Chile to the people of Chile. Although monopolies will be abolished, because that is in the greater interest of the country, for this same reason we guarantee that middle- and small-scale businesses may rely on the close collaboration of the state to ensure the sound development of their activities.

The Unidad Popular government has already worked out the legal terms which will allow the programme to be carried out. Manual workers, clerical workers, technicians, professional people and intellectuals will have control both of the country's economy and of its political life. For the first time in our history, four workers are included in the government as Ministers of State.

Only by moving along this path of essential change both in the economic and political system will we approach the ideal which governs our activities:

- To create a new society in which men can satisfy their material and spiritual needs, without causing the exploitation of others.

- To create a new society which safeguards for each family, each man and each woman, each young person and each child their right to security, liberty and hope. Which allows each one to feel that he is being called on to build a new land and to build a life that is finer, richer, more dignified and more free.

- To create a society capable of making continuing progress in material, technical and scientific fields, yet ensuring for its intellectuals and artists conditions in which their works will express a true cultural renaissance.

- To create a new society able to co-exist with all peoples; to live alongside advanced nations, whose experience can be of great use in our effort to transcend ourselves; a society able to live with all dependent nations throughout the world, and to these we express our solidarity and send our fraternal greetings.

Our international policy is based, as it has been in the past, on respect for international agreements freely undertaken, for self-determination and for non-intervention.

We shall work together for peace and for the peaceful co-existence of all nations. Each country has the right to free self-development and to proceed along the path it has chosen.

But we well know, as Indira Gandhi so clearly put it at the United Nations, that unfortunately 'The right of a people to select its own form of government is accepted only on paper. In fact' - declares Indira Gandhi - 'there exists considerable interference in the internal events of many countries. Those who have power make their influence felt in a thousand different ways.'

In Chile we respect self-determination and we practise non-intervention, and so we legitimately demand that all governments should relate to us in the same manner. The people of Chile recognize only themselves as masters of their fate. And the government of Unidad Popular will be rigidly on guard to protect this right.

I wish especially to greet all the official delegations which have honoured us by their presence. Likewise I wish to greet delegations from countries with which we have not yet established diplomatic relations. Chile will be prompt to recognize their governments.

Gentlemen, representatives of governments, peoples and institutions, I am a Latin American and so share the problems, the desires and the general anxieties of the rest of the inhabitants of this continent. Because of this I send my greetings as Head of State to my Latin American brothers, in the hope that some day the dream of our great leaders will be fulfilled and our continent may speak as one man.

We also have here representatives of labour organizations from all parts of the world; intellectuals and artists of international fame, who have wanted to show their solidarity with the people of Chile and to celebrate with them a victory which, being our own, is also felt by all men who struggle for freedom and dignity as their own too.

To all those who have assembled here - ambassadors, artists, workers, intellectuals and soldiers - Chile reaches out the hand of friendship. Allow me, illustrious guests, to say that you are the witnesses of Chile's political maturity. You have seen with your own eyes the wretchedness in which many of our fellow countrymen live.

You have visited our marginal populations, the Callampas; you have been able to see how life can be degraded to a subhuman level in a land which is fertile and full of potential wealth; you will have recalled Lincoln's remark: 'This land cannot be half slave and half free.'

You, who have heard how Unidad Popular intend to accomplish the programme endorsed by our own people, to all of you I make a request.

Take back to your countries that image of Chile as it is and this sure hope of the Chile that will be.

Say that here history is experiencing something new; that here a whole people has succeeded in taking into its hands the control of its own destiny in order to march by democratic means towards socialism.

As Chile begins to build itself anew, enjoying springtime and carnival, our deepest wish is that each man in the world shall look to us and find brotherly friendship.


1. Juan Velasco Alvarado took power in Peru in 1968 after a coup d'etat. His military government adopted an unexpectedly progressive and nationalist policy.

2. The national emblem of Chile, adopted in 1834, is a shield with the legend inscribed on it: Por la razón o la fuerza.

3. José Manuel Balmaceda, President of Chile 1886-91, committed suicide after being defeated in a civil war unleashed by conservative and aristocratic elements in the country.

4. The presidential elections took place on 4 September 1970, and since Allende secured only a small number of votes more than the right wing candidate, Jorge Alessandri, he had to be confirmed as President by Congress in October. He took office on 4 November.

5. On 22 October 1970, General Schneider was shot by right-wingers in an unsuccessful kidnapping attempt.

6. The Chilean police force.

7. The date of the overthrow of the nationalist regime of President José Manuel Balmaceda.

8. Slogan on the walls of the Sorbonne, May 1968.

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