Chile's Road to Socialism


Participation and Mobilization

Speech opening the first trade-union summer school at the University of Valparaiso
Valparaiso, 13 January 1971

What we have accomplished is something that has historical significance, and which extends, comrades, beyond the sphere of the personal. I have always said that I am not a caudillo, nor a messianic figure, nor a man sent by Providence. I am a militant socialist who realized that only in unity lay a hope of victory for the people, and not victory for one man alone. I am a man who has used his energy to make this unity possible. This unity alone, I emphasize, will accomplish the transformations which Chile wants and needs, and accomplish it within the terms of a bourgeois legality which nonetheless it must change. The task is extraordinarily difficult, yet not, for that reason, any less compelling. That is why I repeat the importance, not just of technical training, but of the retraining of social attitudes, of the mental stance which working people must adopt in order to realize that they themselves are the protagonists in the great drama to which Chile is committed.

Therefore it would be useful if I could indicate, at least briefly, how important is this understanding of their historic role on the part of the Chilean masses. It is this which gives their leaders the strength to act.

In the private sector, for example, the workers are grouped into 1,300 unions, the clerical workers have 1,200 unions and the agricultural sector 440 unions. Altogether we have 600,000 organized workers and 130,000 clerical workers. In the public sector, base organizations number 55,000, with 300,000 affiliated members. This consists of the ANEF, [1] the ANES, [2] the State Bank, and independent organizations. The ANEF alone has 60,000 members. We would like to point out that in the Chilean agricultural industry the situation is as follows: there are here 722,000 farm workers, of which small farmers [3] comprise 15 per cent, small-holders 16 per cent, communes and Mapuches [4] 18 per cent, totalling about 219,000 people; tenant farmers with hired labour come to 7-1 per cent, part-owners [5] 3-9 per cent, voluntary workers 4-2 per cent, temporary hired labour 32 per cent, and these make a total of 232,000 workers.

There are two things here that I want to outline: firstly, that the organization of workers in our country has operated in a slow and cumbersome manner; secondly, I must stress the magnitude of the task that awaits us. This is, above all, the organization of the workers on the land.

We have insisted upon the overriding necessity for a drastic revision of this organization. At the same time we are proposing to the country that the workers and the Unidad Popular government should work together in close collaboration. The workers must show that they really are a part of the government, and can meet the responsibilities due from a people who control their own government.

That is why we have been prompt to sign an agreement between the CUT [6] and the government. This agreement was arrived at on the occasion of the Salaries Adjustments Act. The workers were not only able to share the responsibility for establishing the scale of the adjustments, but also, by signing an important document with the government, they showed their political awareness and the degree of their political strength. They pointed out that the Adjustments Act was only a part, though an important part, of a great process of economic development aimed at ending Chile's dependence - her economic dependence, her political dependence and her cultural dependence. The working class has to be the motor of the great revolutionary machine that our country is operating. The working man is the protagonist in a contest which is very different from what he has experienced in the past, and very different from what is experienced in other countries. Here in Chile at this moment, taking account of the realities we have to face, the history, the traditions and the particular characteristics of our country, we are setting off on a road which is genuinely our own. It is a revolutionary road, and, if it is to lead Chile to economic independence, and indeed to her full sovereignty, it must have its foundations laid in great political consciousness on the part of the working masses; a consciousness which is politically sophisticated as well as imbued with deep national and patriotic feeling.

Chilean workers must understand that they are part of this government, that they are the government, and that therefore they have a duty to tell those who have not yet acquired sufficient political understanding that nations advance only by working more and producing more. But working for a few people is very different from working and producing for the masses of the Chilean people. It is very different from work as work is understood under a capitalist system. Here we are working for a society which is beginning to cut a path towards socialism, a society where we do not want man to exploit man, and where we do not want the large countries to exploit the smaller ones. Where dignity is not allotted per capita income and where peace and the right to work are enjoyed by all.

We must understand that there is a twofold task awaiting us in the problems of organization. Rather, it is a threefold task. There must be organization certainly, but not merely the organization of the workers in commerce, business, industry or in hospitals, but organization so that in all activities, be they private, mixed or public, the aura of class should no longer cling to the concept of the worker as it does in the Chile of today. I am a doctor and am familiar with the rules of the College of Medicine. In the hospitals, for example, the hospital organization separates and segregates doctors and other professional people from the other health workers.

We have a totally different view of things. We think that in a hospital the organization of workers should extend from the humblest comrade working in the corridors to the director of the hospital himself. He does not inhabit a different world. He could accomplish nothing if there were not a sense of common responsibility among all the workers.

The most brilliant surgeon, I have often said, would not perform any better, nor be any more sure of the results, if he did not have to depend on a nurse, on a ward orderly, and eventually on the auxiliary who takes charge of the patient when the nurse, the orderly and the surgeon have departed. We live in a world where there are no rigid frontiers and where the interdependence of each one of us, regardless of work or activity, calls for much greater co-operation as a team.

What happens in hospitals happens on a larger scale in the working world as a whole. An engineer in a copper mine could do nothing if the copper workers themselves did not believe it was important to increase work and productivity.

Workers should not take the narrow view that because they work in industries essential to the country, it follows that they should have privileges and advantages over other workers. In that way we would distort our perspectives. A system like ours is intended neither to grant privileges to those with university degrees nor to give special advantages to those who work in enterprises which are essential to the country's economy.

It is important that both the trade-union leader and the worker should understand that the country is a single entity, from Arica to Magallanes, and from the Cordillera to the sea.

The work of the copper-miner is repeated by the coal-miner, deep in the heart of the mine, and echoed by the nursing orderly in the hospital and by the worker on the land. Most important of all is that beyond the limits of specialization and work there should be in the minds of all workers a vision of what it means to be a nation, what its economy should be, and what a non-capitalist economy really is.

When the workers understand, and they are already understanding, that this victory is a step which indicates how such understanding is maturing - and when I speak of workers I do not mean only labourers or peasants but many more - clerks, technicians, professional people - when workers fully understand that this country just as any other country in the process of development will not achieve a higher level of spiritual and material wealth unless we are able to put an end to economic dependence; if we are not able to destroy whatever holds up progress in a developing country; if we are not able to grasp the dialectic that imperialism exists because underdevelopment exists, and that underdevelopment exists because imperialism exists, then we shall not find the necessary strength of will to create a united people capable of supporting the measures taken by their own representatives. These measures will be to transform Chile into a country which is master of its own fate. For these reasons, then, our trade union leaders must keep this vision before them, and it is towards these ends that this Summer School must work. This is a view of responsibility derived not merely from your role as leaders on the workshop floor, but from your greater task as leaders of the masses who are the essential factor in the revolutionary process.

We must mobilize the masses of the Chilean people. We must mobilize the majority of the country. We must not mobilize them merely into acts of support for the government, or to counteract the reactionary attitudes of sectors which feel themselves injured by the measures we have taken in order to protect the majority; we must arouse in the mass of the people the will to make greater efforts and sacrifices, and to achieve greater understanding. Chile must be a country with a planned economy, where the essential factors he in production and in the efforts of every fellow worker. In the case of students this effort is to be shown by their being better students, by studying and learning more in order to be able to teach more. There is no justification if, by becoming involved in political action, they then cease to be good students. I have no sympathy with the student political leader who disregards the claim of ethical responsibility, for he must first of all distinguish himself as a sound student if he is to become a political leader.

In the same way I have little sympathy for the bureaucratized trade-union leader who keeps himself outside the hurly-burly of actual work. The time that leader spends at work alongside his comrades is utterly compatible with the time needed to protect his comrades in his capacity as union leader, and is also necessary to fulfil his responsibility as a worker on a national scale. We are experiencing a new stage in our development and the people need to understand that this process in Chile is a profoundly revolutionary process which will be carried into all aspects of Chilean life. I have always maintained that revolution takes place not just at a revolutionary focal point; revolution is not merely an armed section of the people in rebellion, nor does it he only within the electoral field. As a comrade once put it -I believe it was Almonacid - 'there are no formulae for Revolution'. Any one of several methods may be effective, depending on the nature of a country's circumstances.

Every country has its own particular features and it is on these that we must base the manoeuvres that will bring the majority to government and, through a government, to power. For we should understand that in these Latin American countries many men have reached government, but they have not all attained power. In a dependent country like ours, which, being poor, exports its own capital, power is obtained only when the country's natural wealth is restored to the people (wealth which was in the hands of foreign capital), when there are serious, far-reaching and drastic land reforms, when there is control of imports and of exports, and when banks are nationalized. In short, when the pillars of financial and economic power which have been in the hands of a minority class are delivered to the people to be used for the sake of the community and not for the privileged few. This is the task that awaits us, and which we shall fulfil because it lies in the programme of the Unidad Popular, and will become a reality, come what may and complain who might.

It might be helpful to think of Chile today as a kind of social laboratory. I declared in my presidential campaign not only that what was going to happen in this country would have internal relevance, but that its significance would extend beyond the frontiers of our country, and that, without the slightest exaggeration, it would extend beyond the limits of our continent. And that is a fact.

We are regarded in two ways. By a few people, with the hope of provoking an internal crisis whereby another few might resist the will of the majority. And by the many people abroad who understand what it is we want, what our struggle is about and where it is leading us. They know that, to reach the goals we have set ourselves, we shall inevitably have to offend powerful interests, held by foreign capital and by oligarchic groups in our country.

The stage we are entering must be analysed with the serious and informed approach which can and should be found in the schools of the university. There it is not possible to stumble into opportunism and demagogy, to risk adventure or to slide into the sluggard long-sufferance of those who urge us to keep on waiting. Not at all! We must stride forward as men who know where they want to go and who know the truth of Julius Caesar's advice to 'hasten slowly'. I have insisted too that every revolutionary process should reflect the truth of the slogan written on the walls of the Sorbonne: 'Revolutions are made first in people, then in things.'

We must all make changes within ourselves. We must all take intimate stock of ourselves and appreciate that this is much more difficult for the older ones among us. We must make a greater effort to become different, to understand the language of what is expressed in gestures of solidarity, fraternity and understanding. When we speak of the new man, we are not addressing the man we wish to reform in the present society. We must think rather of what can be done when we are capable of building a new society, and that means a new morality and a new concept of human relations.

So, comrades in the university, it is for that reason that we are here to learn, for example, what is the meaning of the presence in our land of the armed forces and of the Corps of Carabineros. It is a source of deep satisfaction to us that the Chilean armed forces are professionals who are not in the service of one man, but in the service of Chile. They carry the glory of wartime heroism and the dignity of work in peacetime. They must be involved in the great task of transforming Chile's economic processes, with all due regard to the special nature of their profession. If the Carabineros, and sometimes - fortunately only sometimes - the armed forces too, have in the past been used for repressive purposes, then I believe that it is time for them to understand that their role now is to stand by the people and thus protect the economic frontiers of Chile.

The government has already nominated - and it will continue to do so - members of the armed forces and of the Carabineros to positions in organizations, associations and businesses so that they may be shoulder to shoulder with you in creative discipline. We have appointed representatives of the armed forces to the copper industry. If in the past they came in a different role, today they come to protect, together with the workers, the economic boundaries of Chile.

Comrades, I have wanted to stress the decisive importance of the parts played by every woman and child, every adult, and every old man and woman in this great and magnificent struggle for a different and better country. We want to industrialize Chile, we want a Chile where the land, while producing the food, also becomes a factor in the progress and process of industrial development. We must create large agricultural - industrial combines.

When we visited the coal industry, we said to the miners: 'We have taken over this business together with its debts. This business has survived on state support. We have allowed it to retain some of its assets, certain particular assets, which are to become the basis of a tourist industry in which the state will participate.' But we also said: 'You are producing 3,800 tons of coal a day; we shall not be able to support this enterprise if that level of production continues. Each man must increase his productivity; he must work harder, make greater economies and help to raise production to 4,700 tons a day. Only that figure would represent financial viability for the enterprise, and would be a significant contribution to Chile's fuel resources in view of the reduction in oil supplies.'

We explained to the steel workers that our expansion programme requires an increase of from 600,000 to 700,000 tons of steel to 1,200,000 tons and in the near future to 2,000,000 tons. Steel is a dynamic factor in the economy, a vital necessity, as is oil.

We must make people understand that per capita income, the income of the individual, must be increased, and, since it is assessed in dollars, this means a rise of about 1,000 dollars a year per person. The development of the country's general economy must take place at a very rapid pace. This can only be brought about by producing more, working more and by becoming better equipped.

Chile must be converted into a laboratory, a university. This concept of a university has nothing in common with the groves of academe. It will be a university where technicians and labourers will have a place. Masters and apprentices will in turn pass on what they have learned, and learn from those whose experience of life at all social levels has equipped them to teach. It will not be necessary to have attended the university, or to have a degree, before one is able to teach. That was always our intention: to turn our country into a university, a country where every facet of men's lives can serve to teach, a country where men realize that, though they live in the century of technology and science, developing countries can never reach the standard of living of industrial capitalism, even if the process of industrial capitalism were to remain static.

An American economist has pointed out that, given the internal socio-political difficulties of Latin America, it would take five hundred years for this continent to reach the same level of development as the United States, and even then only provided that Latin America could accelerate the process and that the United States were to remain static. This cannot be allowed to be the case. We are not inclined to wait for five hundred years.

Hence the need to understand what is going on in the world, and what is going on in Chile. I welcome the professors from abroad and from other South American countries who have come here to instruct us, and I hope that they will return to their countries anxious to tell their own people what we are doing and what we intend to do. In this way the falsehoods spread by powerful international interests to confound Chile's ambitions and deflect us from our path will be dispelled. We must make our position clear to foreign eyes, and establish clarity of vision within our borders. This will only be achieved by raising the level of political consciousness and the capacities of the workers.

The shape of the society that we wish to establish lies still in the minds of the people. The task we are facing will be accomplished by nothing less than a great collective effort. The general attitude will reflect the attitude of each one of us. And each one of us must have the courage to recognize that he should be the first to set the example: worker, clerk, technician, professional and, above all, the student. For you, my young friends, are the most clear-sighted and have the greatest potential of us all. You are the least compromised both by what is past and by what is present. At the same time, you are destined to make the society of the future.


1. National Association of Fiscal Employees.

2. National Association of Semi-Fiscal Employees.

3. Farms of between 100 and 1,000 acres.

4.  Indigenous Indian tribe.

5. The owner of the freehold receives 50 per cent of the product in exchange for use of land and equipment.

6. Central Unica de Trabajadores, the Chilean Trades Union Congress.

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