BY FIDEL CASTRO
Twenty-five years ago a U.S.-sponsored right-wing coup in Chile overthrew the Popular Unity (UP) government of Salvador Allende on Sept. 11, 1973. Thousands of workers, political activists, and others were massacred. Allende himself was killed as he fought (with a rifle given to him by Cuban president Fidel Castro) to defend the national palace against attacking troops. "We were right in our premonition in giving the president that rifle," said Castro at a mass rally in Havana, Cuba, two weeks after the coup. "And, if every worker and every farmer had had a rifle like it in his hands, there wouldn't have been a fascist coup!"
Below we reprint excerpts from the speech by Castro that appears in the Education for Socialists publication entitled Fidel Castro on Chile. The booklet is copyright (c) 1982 by Pathfinder Press, reprinted by permission.
President Allende and the Chilean revolutionary process awakened great interest and solidarity throughout the world. For the first time in history, a new experience was developed in Chile: the attempt to bring about the revolution by peaceful means, by legal means. And he was given the understanding and support of all the world in his effort - not only of the international Communist movement, but of very different political inclinations as well. We may say that that effort was appreciated even by those who weren't Marxist-Leninists.
And our party and people - in spite of the fact that we had made the revolution by other means - and all the other revolutionary peoples in the world supported him. We didn't hesitate a minute, because we understood that there was a possibility in Chile of winning an electoral victory, in spite of all the resources of imperialism and the ruling classes, in spite of all the adverse circumstances. We didn't hesitate in 1970 to publicly state our understanding and our support of the efforts which the Chilean left was making to win the elections that year.
And, sure enough, there was an electoral victory. The left, People's Unity, with its social and political program, won at the polls.
Of course, that didn't mean the triumph of a revolution; it meant access to very important positions of power by peaceful, legal means.
However, it wasn't an easy task that President Allende was faced with. There were conspiracies right from the beginning. An attempt was made to keep him from being inaugurated after the elections. Imperialism and its agencies - the CIA and the multinational companies - conspired to keep Salvador Allende from becoming president of the republic. They even murdered the commander of the army of Chile in an attempt to prevent it....
But what problems confronted him? In the first place there was an intact bourgeois state apparatus. There were armed forces that called themselves apolitical, institutional -that is, apparently neutral in the revolutionary process. There was that bourgeois parliament, where a majority of members jumped to the tune of the ruling classes. There was a judicial system that was completely subservient to the reactionaries. And it was in those circumstances that he had to carry out his governmental duties. There was also the fact that the country's economy was completely bankrupt, that the Chilean state was four billion dollars in debt.
That huge debt was the product of the imperialist policy, the product of the engineering of the United States, which was trying to create a showcase of the Christian Democratic government so as to confront and stop the advance of the social movement....
President Allende found himself with a country burdened down by debt; a country in which imperialism had introduced its customs, its consumer habits; a country in which the mass media - the press, television, and radio - was in the hands of the oligarchy and reaction. And at a time when the price of copper plummeted from 75 cents to 48 cents a pound.
Moreover, the people had crying needs that simply had to be met. There was large-scale unemployment, and a solution had to be found for this problem. The most crying needs of the people, the demands most felt by the population, had to be attended to, and the government of People's Unity found enormous economic obstacles in its path.
When the agrarian reform began to be put into effect, the large landowners and agrarian bourgeoisie started sabotaging agricultural production. The bourgeoisie, owners of the distribution centers, warehouses, and stores, started cornering the market and sabotaging the People's Unity government.
As soon as the nationalization of the copper enterprises that had extracted thousands upon thousands of millions from the labor and sweat of the Chilean people - as soon as the nationalization of those enterprises was approved, imperialism froze all the loans granted by all the international organizations to the Chilean government and went about stifling the economy of Chile.
Those were the enormous difficulties which President Allende faced on taking office.
The bourgeois political parties - essentially the National Party and the Christian Democratic Party - oriented by a reactionary leadership, took it upon themselves, in complicity with imperialism and the reactionary classes and with the reactionary press, to put obstacles in the way of everything President Allende tried to do. They made it practically impossible for him to rule; they virtually tied the hands of the government to keep it from doing anything.
Those three years of the People's Unity government were really three years of struggle, of difficulties, of agony for its attempts to carry out its program. And, on top of all this, there were armed forces that, I repeat, called themselves apolitical and institutional.
They were three years of one plot after another, of conspiracy after conspiracy. The ruling classes and their parties reacted as was to be expected. The societies of owners, merchants, and even professionals - the kind of professional we knew here -most of them at the service of the ruling classes, sabotaged the government's tasks: they called work stoppages and strikes and completely paralyzed the country on more than one occasion.
And this wasn't all. They also called on the armed forces continually to overthrow the People's Unity government.
And President Allende kept on working in the midst of all those tremendous difficulties. And, in the midst of those difficulties, he tried to do - and did do - many things for the Chilean people. And at least in those three years the Chilean people - especially the workers and farmers - understood that there in the presidency of the republic was a representative not of the oligarchs, large landowners, and bourgeoisie, but of the poor, of the workers - a true representative of the people, for whom he was fighting, in spite of the enormous difficulties with which he was faced. (Applause)
President Allende realized the difficulties and foresaw the dangers; he was witnessing the birth of fascism. He witnessed the hatching of plots one after another. All that he had to oppose those forces that had been created and spurred on by imperialism was his fighting spirit and determination to defend the process at the cost of his very life. (Applause)
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