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Our Country Is a Silent Vietnam'


OPPOSITION to Salvador Allende and his Popular Unity government began to form even before he took office in November 1970. Rich businessmen began to send capital out of the country and wealthy landowners began to gird themselves for the expected expropriations.

This sort of opposition was naturally to be expected, but resistance arose from other, somewhat unexpected, quarters. A great many of Chile's middle-class professionals joined in the protest against the Popular Unity government. In President Allende's last days, the Chilean Medical Association endorsed the middle-class work stoppage which was crippling his government. One wonders what Allende, himself a doctor, thought as his fellow doctors helped strangle socialism in Chile.

In this, the concluding section of President Allende's speech to Mexican students in December 1972, he encourages the students not to abandon their duty to their fellow citizens. He explains that it is difficult to retain socialist beliefs amid the corrosive effect of capitalist society, but he expresses his confidence that they will be able to shun the status-seeking temptations of middle-class life.

President Allende's own life was proof that the tasks he sets before the Mexican students in this speech can be accomplished. This belief, that educated people need not and should not abandon those upon whose bent and broken lives their successes are built, appears even stronger in retrospect, after Allende's tragic death. He remained loyal to his convictions until the end. One only wishes his fellow Chilean doctors had shared his sense of compassion and understanding.

This is Part III of three parts of President Allende's speech. It was translated by Juan G. Duran, assistant professor of Romance Languages and Literatures, and Daniel Swanson.

ONE FINDS SOMETIMES with young people, those who have read the Communist Manifesto, or those who have merely carried it under their arms for a long time, they think that they have assimilated it and then they lecture us and demand from us what they call a pure Marxist attitude and are quick to criticize. And to be young and not to be a revolutionary is a contradiction--but to go forward as your life changes and to stay a revolutionary in a bourgeois society--it is difficult.

A personal example: I was the college leader of a group called Forward; it was the most vigorous group on the Left. One day it was proposed that the group Forward sign a manifesto--I am speaking of the year 1931--calling for the creation in Chile of soviets of workers, peasants, soldiers and students. I said then it was madness, that there was not any possibility, that this was a great mistake and that I didn't want, as a student, to sign something that tomorrow, as a professional, I could not accept.

We were 400 young men in the university in the group Forward. Three hundred ninety-five voted for my expulsion; of those 400 of us, only two remain now in the social struggle. Some have money in Chilean banks, others have money abroad; some have big rural estates--we expropriate them--some have bank stock, we also nationalize them; and the same thing happens to those who control industrial monopolies. But the fact is that only two of us remain on the Left. And I was expelled for being a reactionary; but today the workers in my country call me "el companero presidente."

For this reason, dogmatism and sectarianism should be fought; ideological struggle must be taken to superior levels, and that is very important. Dialogue and discussion are needed--but the discussion should make things clear, not impose specific positions. Besides, the university student with a political position cannot forget that the revolution needs professionals.

LENIN HAS already said it--and I have increased the figure to mean more for my country--Lenin said that a professional, a technician, was worth 10 communists; I say 50, or 80 socialists. I am a socialist. It hurts my companeros that I say this, so why do I say it? Because I have lived during the politicization of a university, which can be carried to such an extreme that a student forgets his first responsibility. But a contemporary society requires a high technical capability from the revolutionaries--both to perform and to teach. In this way, the university political leader will have more moral authority if he is also a good university student.

I have never accepted the excuse from a young companero who has justified his failure because he has to do political work; he must give himself the time needed to do the political work, but the first priorities are the obligations he must fulfill as a student of the university. To be a university agitator and a bad student is easy, to be a revolutionary leader and a good student is more difficult. And the university professor respects the good student, and he will respect his ideas, whatever they are.

Contemporary youth, and above all the Latin American young person, has contracted a responsibility with history, with his people, with the past of his country. Youth cannot be sectarian; youth must understand. We in Chile have taken an important step: the political base of my government is formed by marxists, non-religious people and Christians, and we respect Christian thought; it interprets the word of Christ that expelled the money-lenders from the temple.

OF COURSE we know of the past history of the Church, linked as it was to the formation of the powerful capitalist countries and, being influential--in past centuries and in the first part of this one--not in favor of the humble people taught by the master of Galilee. But the times have changed and the Christian conscience is following the change with honest thinking and with honest action. Marxists can join in programmatic actions with Christians and religious people. And we have done this in our country--and we are doing it well--and we share the same attitude and the same language in the face of the essential problems of our people. A worker without a job, it doesn't matter if he is or he isn't a Marxist, it doesn't matter if he is or isn't a Christian, it doesn't matter if he lacks political ideology, he is a man who has the right to work, and we should give him work.

Sectarianism, dogmatism and bureaucracy freeze revolutions, and revolution is a process of increasing consciousness, a process which is very profound and must begin with youth. But youth is facing problems that are not only economical, but problems that unfortunately appear with even more destructive violence in the contemporary world.

Escapism, drug use, alcoholism. How many of the young people in our young countries have fallen victim to marijuana--which is cheaper than cocaine and easier to get? But how many more have succumbed in the industrialized countries? The percentage, not only due to the population density, but also due to the better economic situation, is much higher.

What is this, what does it mean, why do youths come to this? Is there frustration? How is it possible that a young person cannot see that his life should have a very different goal and that he should not escape responsibility?

HOW CAN A young person look, in the case of Mexico, at Hidalgo, at Juarez, at Zapata, at Villa, or at Lazaro Cardenas? How not to understand that these men were also young but that they made of their lives a constant and permanent struggle?

How can the young person not know that his future is limited by the economic reality which characterizes the dependent countries? Because if there is something that should worry us, the ones who govern, it is the growth in the number of unemployed college people in our societies.

How many thousands of young people that graduate from the technical schools and the universities cannot find work? I read a little while ago a study by an important international organization that said that in Latin America by the end of this decade we will need, in theory, close to six million new professional people, this in a continent where the unemployment has reached the level that I have mentioned. Young people must understand, then, that they are facing these facts and they must contribute to the modifying of material conditions in order not to have joblessness among the educated. We cannot have professionals with the degree of architect who do not build housing, or physicians who cannot attend the sick because the sick have no money with which to pay them. What we need are more physicians to defend human capital, which is worth more in our countries.

I repeat--in order to finish my speech--please excuse me for its length--I am a man who went to a university, but I have learned much more in the university of life. I have learned about the proletarian mothers in the shantytowns; I have learned about the peasant, who, without speaking to me, told me about the more than hundred years of exploitation experienced by his father, his grandfather, and his great-grandfather; I have learned about the worker, who in the factory is a number, or used to be a number and meant nothing as a human being; and I have learned of the great multitudes who have had the patience to wait.

BUT INJUSTICE cannot continue to be in the way, closing the possibilities for the future to the small nations of this and other continents. For us in Latin America the borders should be abolished and solidarity grow with respect to self-determination and the end of foreign intervention. We accept the fact that there can be different philisophical conceptions and forms of government but there is a mandate which is born out of our own reality and which obliges us--in the case of this continent--to unify. And looking farther away, beyond Latin America, we understand that in Africa there are still millions and millions of human beings whose lives are inferior to the most poor and backward people on our continent.

It is necessary to understand that the struggle is a unified one on a world scale; that in the face of imperialist insolence the exploited nations can only give an aggressive, united answer.

THE MOMENT has come to realize clearly that those who died fighting in other places to make their lands independent countries, as is happening in Vietnam, died for us also.

Without saying that youth will be the revolutionary spark and the essential factor of revolutions, youth will be crucial. Youth is crucial because youth has a clearer conception of life, youth has not surrendered to the vices caused by years of bourgeois prosperity, youths must understand that they must be studious and hard-working. The young person must go to the factory or to the land. You have to do voluntary work; it is good that the medical student learn how much weight the peasant must carry on his back and the long distances he must carry it. It is good that the one who is going to be an engineer learn about the heat of the machine where the worker often spends long long years of his obscure existence in an unhealthy atmosphere. Youth must study and work because voluntary work links, ties and closes the bonds between the one who is going to be a professional and the one who by heritage has calloused hands because he has worked the earth for generations.

Thank you, president and friend, for giving me the opportunity to strengthen my own convictions, and giving these students the opportunity to strengthen their convictions with relationship to the tasks before them in Mexico.

Thank you for understanding the drama of my country which is, as Pablo Neruda said, a silent Vietnam. There are no occupation troops nor powerful war planes clouding the open skies of my country, but we are economically blockaded, we have no international credit, we cannot buy machinery, we don't have enough to buy food, and we lack medicine. And in order to be able to defeat those who do these things to us, it is crucial that people understand who are their friends and who are their enemies.

I know by what I have lived, that Mexico has been and will be--thank you for this--a friend of my country.

"My country is, as Pablo Neruda said, a silent Vietnam. There are no occupation troops nor powerful warplanes clouding the open skies of my country, but we are economically blockaded, we have no international credit, we cannot buy machinery, we don't have enough to buy food, and we lack medicine."

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