Reflections by comrade Fidel
He was born one hundred years
In his senior years, an old Italian anarchist, Juan Demarchi, introduced him to the works of Marx.
He graduated with top grades.
He liked and practiced sports. He enlisted for military service voluntarily,
joining the Cuirassiers of Viña del Mar Regiment. He asked to be transferred to
the Lancers Regiment of Tacna, a Chilean enclave in the dry and semi-deserted
north, a region later returned to
He decided to study for the
noble profession of medicine at the
The Great Depression had
already unleashed in the
In a country where imperialist domination was brutally exercised over its workers, culture and natural resources, Salvador Allende remained true to his ideals in a struggle where he showed an unwavering revolutionary conduct.
In 1933, he graduated as a
medical doctor. He took part in the founding of
In September 1939, he was
appointed head of the Department of Health of the Popular Front government. He
published a book on social medicine. He organized the first Housing Fair. In
1941, he participated in the annual meeting of the American Medical Association
In 1952, the Popular Front
put him forth as presidential candidate. He was then 44 years old. He was not
elected. He presented the Senate with a draft law for the nationalization of
the copper industry. In 1954, he traveled to
Four years later, in 1958, he
was proclaimed candidate to the presidency of the republic by the Popular
Action Front, made up of the Popular Socialist Union Party,
In 1959, he attended the inauguration ceremony of Venezuelan President Rómulo Betancourt, who until then had been considered a leftist revolutionary figure.
That same year, he traveled
In 1961, he and Che denounced
the demagogic nature of the
Appointed candidate to the
presidency once again, he was defeated in 1964 by Eduardo Frei Montalva, a
Christian Democrat who enjoyed the full support of the dominant classes and
who, according to declassified US Senate documents, received campaign money
from the CIA. During his time in office, imperialism attempted to craft what
came to be known as the "Revolution in
In 1966, he headed the
delegation that attended the Tri-Continental Conference of Havana. He visited
Following Che’s death, he
personally accompanied three Cuban members of the
The Popular Unity Party, --a political coalition made up of communists, socialists, radicals, the MAPU, PADENA and Independent Popular Action parties-- proclaimed him its candidate on January 22, 1970. On September 4 of that year, he won the elections.
Allende is a truly classical example of the peaceful struggle for the establishment of socialism.
Allende legally took office
on November 3,
At the municipal elections of March 1971, the Popular Unity Party secured an absolute majority of votes (50.86 percent). On July 11, President Allende promulgated the Copper Nationalization Law, an idea he had presented before the Senate 19 years before. It was unanimously passed by Congress. No-one dared oppose it.
In 1972, before the UN
General Assembly, Allende denounced the international aggression of which his
country was victim. He received a standing ovation which lasted several
minutes. That same year, he visited the Soviet Union,
In 1973, at the March parliamentary elections, the Popular Unity Party obtained 45 percent of the vote and expanded its parliamentary representation.
The measures impelled by the Yankees in the two Houses to have the president dismissed met with failure. Imperialism and the Right intensified their all-out war against the Popular Unity government and unleashed acts of terrorism around the country.
I wrote Allende six
confidential letters —I handwrote them in small print using a fine-point
pen—between 1971 and
In May 21, I wrote him:
“(…) We’re amazed at your extraordinary efforts and the limitless energies you've poured into maintaining and consolidating your victory.
“Here, we can appreciate that the people are gaining ground, in spite of the difficult and complex mission they shoulder.
“The April 4 elections were a splendid and encouraging victory.
“Your courage and resolve, your mental and physical energy and ability to carry the revolutionary process forward, have been of the essence.
"Great and different challenges are surely in store for you, and you must face these in conditions which are not precisely ideal, but a just policy, with the support of the people and applied with determination, cannot be defeated (...)"
On September 11, 1971, I wrote:
“The carrier will travel to discuss the details of the visit with you.
“Initially, considering that
a direct flight in a Cubana airliner is possible, we deemed it convenient to
"I am including an itinerary for the tour and activities. You may add, remove or introduce whatever modifications you deem appropriate.
"I have focused exclusively on what might prove of political interest and have not concerned myself much about the pace or intensity of the work, but we await your opinions and considerations on absolutely everything.
"We were very pleased
with the extraordinary success you had in your trip to
During that trip, whose
itinerary I had conveyed to President Allende, my life was miraculously spared.
I walked dozens of miles before an immense crowd, standing by the side of the
road. The Central Intelligence Agency had organized three actions to ensure my
assassination during the trip. At an interview for the press which had been
previously coordinated, Cuban mercenaries, who had entered
On February 4, 1972, I wrote
"The greatest care was put into receiving the military delegation here. The Revolutionary Armed Forces devoted practically all of their time during those days to look after it. The gatherings were cordial and fraternal. The program was intense and varied. My impression is that the trip has been positive and useful, that it is possible and convenient to continue organizing such exchanges.
"I spoke with Ariel
about the idea of your trip. I can understand perfectly well that the intense
work ahead of you and the tone of the political struggle in recent weeks have
not allowed you to schedule the trip for the approximate date we mentioned on
that occasion. It is clear we had not taken these eventualities into account.
That day, on the eve of my return to
“I am immensely thankful for
your impressions on the situation there. Here, more familiarized with,
interested in and very much moved by the process
"In your letter, I can
appreciate the magnificent state of mind, serenity and courage with which you
are determined to confront the challenges ahead. And that is of the essence in
any revolutionary process, particularly one undertaken in the highly complex
and difficult conditions of a country like
I wrote President Allende again on September 6, 1972:
“I sent you a message on different matters with Beatriz. After she left and, in response to the news that reached us all last week, we decided to send comrade Osmany to reiterate our willingness to help in any way, and so that you can convey to us, through him, your impression of the situation and your ideas about the scheduled trip to this and other countries. The pretext for Osmany's trip will be the inspection of the Cuban embassy, but this will not be publicly announced. We want his stay there to be as brief and discrete as possible.
“Work is already underway with respect to the points you made through Beatriz (...)
“Though we are conscious of
the current difficulties faced by
“You can rely on our full cooperation. A fraternal and revolutionary salute from all of us goes out to you."
On June 30, 1973, we sent President Salvador Allende and the Popular Unity parties an official invitation to participate at the ceremonies organized to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the attack on the Moncada Garrison.
In another letter, I wrote him:
“The above is the official,
formal invitation to the ceremonies in commemoration of the 20th anniversary.
It would be formidable if you could hop over to
“We are still under the impact of the great revolutionary victory of the 29th and your brilliant, personal role in the events. It is natural for many difficulties and obstacles to subsist, but I am certain that this first trial, where you have come out successful, will encourage you and consolidate the people's confidence in you. These events have been attached special importance internationally and are considered a great triumph.
“With actions like those of
the 29th, the Chilean revolution shall come out victorious of any test, no
matter how hard. Again,
On July 29, 1973, I wrote him my last letter:
“With the pretext of
discussing matters concerning the meeting of Non-Aligned Countries with you,
Carlos and Piñeiro will travel to
“I see that you are now
facing the delicate question of a dialogue with the Christian Democrats, in the
midst of serious developments, such as the brutal murder of your naval
aide-de-camp and the new truck-drivers strike. I can therefore imagine the
great tension and your interest in winning time, improving the balance of
forces in case the struggle should break out and, if possible, find a path that
will allow you to carry the revolutionary process forward without a civil war,
as well as assuming your historical responsibility for what could happen. Those
are commendable aims. But, should the other side, whose real intentions we are
not in a position to assess from here, pursue a treacherous and irresponsible
policy and demand a price that the Popular Unity Party and the revolution
cannot pay, something which, in fact, is quite likely, do not for a minute
forget the formidable strength of Chile's working class and the vigorous
support they've shown you at all difficult moments. They can, at your call,
defend the revolution in a moment of danger, paralyze the coup officers, impose
their conditions on them and decide, once and for all, if it were necessary,
“Your decision to defend the
process steadily and honor, at the cost of your own life, which everyone knows
you are willing to sacrifice, shall bring all forces capable of fighting and
all men and women of honor in
“Let Carlos and Manuel know how your loyal Cuban friends can help.
“Let me remind you of
I wrote this a month and a half before the coup. The emissaries were Carlos Rafael Rodríguez and Manuel Piñeiro.
Pinochet had talked with Carlos Rafael. He had feigned the kind of loyalty and firmness sworn by Carlos Prats, Army Commander in Chief for a time under the Popular Unity government, a dignified military man, who the oligarchy and imperialism brought to a total crisis, obliging him to resign, later murdered in Argentina by two DINA henchmen, following the fascist coup of 1973.
I had been mistrustful of Pinochet from the time I read the books on geopolitics he gave me as a gift during my visit to Chile and had the opportunity to observe his style up close, his declarations and the methods, as Army Chief, that he used when the provocations from the Right obliged President Allende to decree a state of siege in Santiago de Chile. I recalled what Marx had forewarned in the 18th Brumaire.
Many Army chiefs in the different regions and their general staffs wanted to converse with me wherever I was and showed considerable interest in issues related to our war of liberation and the experience of the Missile Crisis in 1962. The meetings, which lasted hours, would be held in the early morning, which was the only time I had available. I would agree to these to help Allende, to familiarize them with the idea that socialism was not an enemy of armed institutions. Pinochet, as a military leader, was not an exception. Allende considered those meetings useful.
On September 11, 1973, he
died heroically, defending the Presidential Palace of
The revolutionaries who stood up to the fascist onslaught there would later recount incredible stories about those last moments. Their versions didn’t always agree, for they fought at different parts of the Palace. Also, some of their closest collaborators perished or were later assassinated during the intense and unequal battle.
The difference in the testimonies consisted in the fact that some affirmed he had fired his last shots at himself to avoid being taken prisoner and others that his death was brought about by enemy fire. The Palace was up in flames as a result of an attack perpetrated by tanks and planes which sought to consummate a coup they had considered an easy task that would meet with no resistance. There is no contradiction whatsoever between these two ways of answering the call of duty. In our wars of independence, there is more than one example of illustrious combatants who, when defeat was imminent, took their own lives to avoid falling prisoners.
Much remains to be said about what we were willing to do for Allende. Some have written about this, but it is not the aim of these lines.
Allende was born one hundred years ago today. His example shall live on.
Fidel Castro Ruz
June 26, 2008