The September 11, 1973 overthrow of Chile’s Salvadore Allende offers lessons to Haiti, and the radical world.
Henry Kissinger is 99 years old and alive. Salvadore Allende never had the opportunity to live that long. The democratically-elected socialist president of Chile, Allende was toppled in a US/CIA-sponsored coup d’etat on September 11, 1973. A Marxist and member of Chile’s Socialist Party, Allende came to power despite a years-long effort by the CIA to prevent his election. Allende pushed for nationalization of the country’s natural resources, especially its copper mines, arguing that the country’s economic sovereignty was the ultimate independence from colonialism. But the U.S. - then in the midst of the Cold War - did not want a legitimate socialist government to create a bad example. “The example of a successful elected Marxist government in Chile would surely have an impact on,” Kissinger argued, “other parts of the world…similar phenomena elsewhere would in turn significantly affect the world balance and our own position in it.” Nixon’s government then planned to destroy the Allende government - through funding media campaigns, labor protests, and economic policies to, in Nixon’s words, “make [Chile’s] economy scream.” But they also worked directly with the Chilean military to push for the overthrow of Allende’s government.
At 9:10 am, on September 11, 1973, as the Chilean military was bombing the presidential palace, La Moneda, Allende delivered his last speech to his nation. Bold and defiant, but also angry and somber, Allende addressed the speech to the campesina (the “woman of the land”), the “worker, the farmer, the intellectual” - all those who had supported and would have benefited from the democratic socialist project to benefit the masses. He castigated the cowardly move of the traitors to the nation, and promised that his death would be avenged: “I am certain that my sacrifice will not be in vain, I am certain that, at the very least, it will be a moral lesson that will punish felony, cowardice, and treason.”
It is important to point here to Kissinger’s singular role in destroying democracy in Chile and helping to set up the country with a 17-year brutal dictatorship under the ruthless Augusto Pinochet. Pinochet’s regime is responsible for the execution, torture, and disappearance of thousands of people. Kissinger was the one to help consolidate Pinochet’s regime. "We want to help, not undermine you,” Kissinger told Pinochet, “You did a great service to the West in overthrowing Allende."
What happened to Allende, and to Chile, should serve as a lesson for those of us who seek revolutionary change. The Chilean model - the varied tactics used to destabilize governments with people-centered policies that challenge western economic and political hegemony - has been replicated many times. We can only look to Haiti as a clear example where the US employed similar tactics to try to prevent Jean Bertrand Aristide from coming to power; when that didn’t work, they used economic warfare, funded opposition groups, and funded a successful coup d’etat.
We should all remember September 11, 1973. We should remember Allende’s sacrifice, and Kissenger’s and the U.S. government’s obscene criminal acts against the people of Chile. We should remember the US empire’s tactics against peoples’ self-determination. That Kissinger is still breathing should both infuriate and invigorate us into action to help destroy all vestiges of US (and western) imperialism.
“Long live Chile! Long live the people! Long live the workers!”
We reprint Allende’s final speech below.
Last Words to the Nation
Santiago de Chile, September 11, 1973
Surely this will be the last opportunity for me to address you. The Air Force has bombed the towers of Radio Portales and Radio Corporación.
My words do not have bitterness but disappointment. May they be a moral punishment for those who have betrayed their oath: soldiers of Chile, titular commanders in chief, Admiral Merino, who has designated himself Commander of the Navy, and Mr. Mendoza, the despicable general who only yesterday pledged his fidelity and loyalty to the Government, and who also has appointed himself Chief of the Carabineros [national police].
Given these facts, the only thing left for me is to say to workers: I am not going to resign!
Placed in a historic transition, I will pay for loyalty to the people with my life. And I say to them that I am certain that the seed which we have planted in the good conscience of thousands and thousands of Chileans will not be shriveled forever.
They have strength and will be able to dominate us, but social processes can be arrested neither by crime nor force. History is ours, and people make history.
Workers of my country: I want to thank you for the loyalty that you always had, the confidence that you deposited in a man who was only an interpreter of great yearnings for justice, who gave his word that he would respect the Constitution and the law and did just that. At this definitive moment, the last moment when I can address you, I wish you to take advantage of the lesson: foreign capital, imperialism, together with the reaction, created the climate in which the Armed Forces broke their tradition, the tradition taught by General Schneider and reaffirmed by Commander Araya, victims of the same social sector which will today be in their homes hoping, with foreign assistance, to retake power to continue defending their profits and their privileges.
I address, above all, the modest woman of our land, the campesina who believed in us, the worker who labored more, the mother who knew our concern for children. I address professionals of Chile, patriotic professionals, those who days ago continued working against the sedition sponsored by professional associations, class-based associations that also defended the advantages which a capitalist society grants to a few.
I address the youth, those who sang and gave us their joy and their spirit of struggle. I address the man of Chile, the worker, the farmer, the intellectual, those who will be persecuted, because in our country fascism has been already present for many hours -- in terrorist attacks, blowing up the bridges, cutting the railroad tracks, destroying the oil and gas pipelines, in the face of the silence of those who had the obligation to protect them. They were committed. History will judge them.
Surely Radio Magallanes will be silenced, and the calm metal instrument of my voice will no longer reach you. It does not matter. You will continue hearing it. I will always be next to you. At least my memory will be that of a man of dignity who was loyal to [inaudible] the workers.
The people must defend themselves, but they must not sacrifice themselves. The people must not let themselves be destroyed or riddled with bullets, but they cannot be humiliated either.
Workers of my country, I have faith in Chile and its destiny. Other men will overcome this dark and bitter moment when treason seeks to prevail. Go forward knowing that, sooner rather than later, the great avenues will open again where free men will walk to build a better society.
Long live Chile! Long live the people! Long live the workers!
These are my last words, and I am certain that my sacrifice will not be in vain, I am certain that, at the very least, it will be a moral lesson that will punish felony, cowardice, and treason.