• The Left Chapter

"We shall overcome": Allende speaks after his election

Excerpt from Allende's first speech to the Chilean parliament after his election


September 4, 2020 marks the 50th anniversary of the election of Salvador Allende, candidate of the leftist Unidad Popular ("Popular Unity") coalition, as President of Chile in 1970. The first democratically elected Marxist government, Allende's administration pursued a radical socialist program of nationalizations and democratization to build a more just, fair and equal Chile.


From the very start the Chilean right, aided by the United States, worked to delegitimize, destabilize and undermine the Allende government using a playbook we see at work in countries like Venezuela and Bolivia today.


On September 11, 1973 the government was violently overthrown by the military leading to many years of brutal military dictatorship. Allende died defending the Presidential Palace.


This is an excerpt from the first speech he gave to the Chilean parliament after his election:


I stand here, members of the National Congress, to urge you to take up the task of reconstructing the Chilean nation according to our dreams, a Chile in which all children begin life equally, with equal medical care, education, and nutrition. A Chile in which the creative ability of each man and woman is allowed to develop, not in competition with others, but in order to contribute to a better life for all.


To achieve these aspirations means a long road and a great effort on the part of all Chileans. It also implies, as a basic prerequisite, that we are able to establish the institutional apparatus of a new form of pluralistic, free socialist order. The task is one of extraordinary complexity because there are no precedents for us to follow. We are treading a new path. We are advancing without guides across unknown territory, but our compass is our faith in the humanism of all ages and particularly in Marxist humanism. Our aim is the establishment of the society that we want, the society which answers the deep-rooted desires of the Chilean people.


For a long time, science and technology have made it possible to assure that everybody enjoys those basic necessities which today are enjoyed only by a minority. The difficulties are not technical, and - in our case at least - they are not due to a lack of national resources. What prevents the realisation of our ideals is the organisation of society, the nature of the interests which have so far dominated, the obstacles which dependent nations face. We must concentrate our attention on these structures and on these institutional requirements.


Speaking frankly, our task is to define and put into practice, as the Chilean road to socialism, a new model of the State, of the economy and of society which revolves around man's needs and aspirations. For this we need the determination of those who have dared to reconsider the world in terms of a project designed for the service of man. There are no previous experiments that we can use as models - we shall have to develop the theory and practice of new forms of social, political and economic organisation, both in order to break with under-development and create socialism.


We can achieve this only on condition that we do not overshoot or depart from our objective. If we should forget that our mission is to establish a social plan for man, the whole struggle of our people for socialism will become simply one more reformist experiment. If we should forget the concrete conditions from which we start in order to try and create immediately something which surpasses our possibilities, then we shall also fail.


We are moving towards socialism, not from an academic love for a doctrinaire system, but encouraged by the strength of our people, who know that it is an inescapable demand if we are to overcome backwardness and who feel that a socialist regime is the only way available to modern nations who want to build rationally in freedom, independence and dignity. We are moving towards socialism because the people, through their vote, have freely rejected capitalism as a system which has resulted in a crudely unequal society, a society deformed by social injustice and degraded by the deterioration of the very foundations of human solidarity.


In the name of the socialist reconstruction of Chilean society, we have won the presidential elections, a victory that was confirmed by the election of municipal councillors. This is the flag behind which we are mobilising the people politically both as the object of our plans and as the justification for our actions. Our Government plans are those of the Popular Unity platform on which we fought the election. In putting them into effect, we shall not sacrifice attention to the present needs of the Chilean people in favour of gigantic schemes. Our objective in none other than the progressive establishment of a new structure of power, founded on the will of the majority and designed to satisfy in the shortest possible time the most urgent needs of the present generation...


...The great achievements that lie before us will depend on the responsible and determined identification of the worker with his own real interests, which are more far-reaching than the small or big problems of this day, this month or this year. In the solidarity of the workers and their political representative, the Popular Government, we have an invincible instrument.


Those who live by their work have in their hands today the political direction of the State. It is a supreme responsibility. The building of the new social regime is based on the people, who are its protagonist and its judge. It is up to the State to guide, organise, and direct, but never to replace the will of the workers. In the economic as well as in the political field, the workers must retain the right to decide. To attain this means the triumph of the Revolution.


The people are fighting for this goal. They are fighting with the legitimacy that comes from respecting democratic values - with the assurance given by our programme - with the strength of being the majority - with the passion of the revolutionary.


We shall overcome.