[Marxism] Fidel Castro: Salvador Allende: His example lives on

Walter Lippmann walterlx at earthlink.net
Fri Jun 27 23:39:10 MDT 2008

What a stunning tribute to Salvador Allende by the leader of
the Cuban Revolution this is! Ultra-leftist sectarians across
the globe and throughout the decades have assaulted Allende.
Yes, I, too, was affected by this infantile, though curable,
political virus, during a younger, know-it-all political day.

They blamed him and the coalition government he headed for the
September 11, 1973 coup which overthrow Chile's democratically-
elected government and installed the fascist dictatorship of
Augusto Pinochet. Fidel Castro puts Allende's life in both 
an appropriate historical and its social context, providing
a modern reader with a Marxist appreciation of the life and
struggles fought by this man, and by Chile's socialist and
working class movements.

Further reading:

Also, Nidia Diaz: Allende - The predecessor

Ulises Estrada: Allende's Death in Combat (2003)

Walter Lippmann

Reflections by comrade Fidel


He was born one hundred years ago in Valparaiso, in southern Chile,
on June 26, 1908. His father, a middle-class lawyer and notary, was a
member of Chile’s Radical Party. When I was born, Allende was already
18 years old. He was pursuing secondary studies in high school in his
native city.

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 Peru. He completed his service as
an Army reserve officer. By then, he was already a man of socialist
and Marxist ideas. He was not a weak or characterless young man. It
was as though he sensed that he would one day fight to the death in
defense of the convictions that were already taking shape in his

He decided to study for the noble profession of medicine at the
University of Chile. He organized meetings with a group of students
who met regularly to read and discuss Marxist literature. He founded
the Avance Group in 1929. He was elected vice-president of the
Federation of Chilean Students in 1930 and actively participated in
the struggle against Carlos Ibáñez’ dictatorship.

The Great Depression had already unleashed in the United States,
following the Stock Market Crash of 1929. In Cuba, the struggle
against Machado's dictatorship was underway. Mella had been murdered.
Cuban workers and students faced repression. Communists, led by
Martínez Villena, organized a general strike. "We need a charge to do
away with scoundrels, to complete the work of revolutions (...)",
Villena had written in a vibrant poem. Guiteras, a man of profound
anti-imperialist sentiments, attempted to overthrow the dictatorship
through an armed insurrection. Machado, who was unable to contain the
nationwide upheaval, was overthrown and there ensued a revolution
which the United States managed to crush, in a matter of months, with
kid gloves and iron fist, securing absolute control of the island
until 1959.

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 Chile's Socialist Party. By 1935, he was already a leader
at the Chilean Medical Association. He was imprisoned for nearly half
a year. He impelled efforts to create a Popular Front and was elected
sub-secretary general of the Socialist Party in 1936.

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 the United States. In 1942, he became Secretary
General of Chile's Socialist Party. In 1947, he voted in the Senate
against the Permanent Defense of Democracy Law, also known as the
"Cursed Law", due to its repressive nature. In 1949, he was promoted
to President of Chile's Medical School.

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 France, Italy, the Soviet Union and the 
People’s Republic of China.

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, Chile's Socialist Party and the
Communist Party. He lost the election to the conservative Jorge

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 to Havana and met with Che and me. In
1960, he gave his support to Chile’s coal miners, who went on strike
for more than three months.

In 1961, he and Che denounced the demagogic nature of the Alliance
for Progress at an OAS meeting held in Punta del Este, Uruguay.

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 Liberty", an ideological
response to the Cuban revolution. What it engendered were the
foundations of the fascist dictatorship. At that election, however,
Allende had secured more than one million votes.

In 1966, he headed the delegation that attended the Tri-Continental
Conference of Havana. He visited the Soviet Union for the 50th
Anniversary of the October Revolution. The following year, in 1968,
he visited the Democratic Republic of Korea and the Democratic
Republic of Vietnam, where he had the pleasure of meeting and
conversing with that country’s extraordinary leader, Ho Chi Minh. 
His itinerary included Cambodia and Laos, at a time when 
revolutionary sentiments were at their most effervescent.

Following Che’s death, he personally accompanied three Cuban members
of the Bolivia guerrilla to Tahiti, men who had survived the Heroic
Guerrilla and were already in Chilean territory.

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.

The US administration, headed by Richard Nixon, went immediately into
action following this electoral triumph. The Chilean Army’s Commander
in Chief, General René Schneider, was the victim of an assassination
plot on October 22 and died three days later. He had not kowtow to
the imperialist demand that he lead a coup d’état. The attempt to
keep the Popular Unity Party out of office had failed.

Allende legally took office on November 3, 1970 in a wholly dignified
manner. From office, he began his heroic battle for change, and
against fascism. He was already 62 years old. I had the honor of
having fought next to him against imperialism for 14 years, from the
time of the triumph of the Cuban revolution.

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, Mexico, Colombia and Cuba.

In 1973, at the March parliamentary elections, the Popular Unity
Party obtained 45 percent of the vote and expanded its parliamentary

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 1973. In them, I took
up issues of interest with the utmost discretion.

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

“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

"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

“Initially, considering that a direct flight in a Cubana airliner is
possible, we deemed it convenient to travel to Arica and to begin the
tour at the north. Two things then come up: the interest you and
Velazco Alvarado have expressed in a potential contact during my trip
there; the possibility of using a Soviet IL-62 plane with greater
capacity. If we opted for this, this would allow us to travel
directly to Santiago by air.

"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

"We were very pleased with the extraordinary success you had in your
trip to Ecuador, Colombia and Peru. When will we, in Cuba, have the
opportunity to share in the heartfelt emotion and the warmth with
which Ecuadorians, Colombians and Peruvians welcomed you?"

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
Chile with Venezuelan passports had a camera, supplied by a
Venezuelan television broadcaster, equipped with automatic weapons.
Ultimately, they were not brave enough, they who had only to pull the
trigger at any point during the lengthy interview, while the cameras
were on me. They did not want to risk death. What's more, they had
chased me down all around Chile, where they had not been able to have
me as close and vulnerable as at that moment. I was to learn of the
details of the cowardly action only years later. US Special Services
had gone further than what we had imagined.

On February 4, 1972, I wrote Salvador:

"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 Cuba, when we dined in your house 
in the early morning hours, having little time and in the haste of the
moment, it was reassuring for me to think that we would again meet in
Cuba, where we would have the opportunity to converse at length.
Nevertheless, I still harbor the hope that you can consider
scheduling your visit for some time before May. I mention this month
because, mid-May, at the latest, I must make a trip, which can no
longer be postponed, to Algiers, Guinea, Bulgaria, other countries
and the Soviet Union. This long tour will demand considerable time.

“I am immensely thankful for your impressions on the situation there.
Here, more familiarized with, interested in and very much moved by
the process Chile is experiencing each day, we are following the news
that reach us very attentively. Today, we can better understand the
affection and passion that the Cuban revolution must have inspired in
others at the beginning. You could say we are re-living our own
experience, from the outside.

"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 Chile. I took away with me a
very strong impression of the moral, cultural and human virtues of
the Chilean people and of its notable patriotic and revolutionary
sentiment. You have the singular privilege of being its guide at this
decisive point in the history of Chile and America, the culmination
of an entire life devoted to the struggle, as you said at the
stadium, devoted to the cause of the revolution and socialism. There
are no obstacles that cannot be surmounted. Someone once said that,
in a revolution, one moves forward 'with audacity, audacity and more
audacity’. I am convinced of the profound truth of that axiom."

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

“Work is already underway with respect to the points you made through
Beatriz (...)

“Though we are conscious of the current difficulties faced by Chile’s
revolutionary process, we are confident you will find the way to
overcome these.

“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 Cuba on that date. You can imagine what this would
mean in terms of joy, satisfaction and honor for Cubans. I know that
this depends, more than anything, on your work and the situation
there. We leave it, then, to your consideration.

“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, Cuba is
at your side and you can rely on your faithful friends of always."

On July 29, 1973, I wrote him my last letter:

“Dear Salvador:

“With the pretext of discussing matters concerning the meeting of
Non-Aligned Countries with you, Carlos and Piñeiro will travel to
Chile. The real objective is for you to inform them on the situation
and to offer you, as always, the assurance of our willingness to help
you face whatever difficulties and dangers stand in the way of the
revolutionary process. Their stay will be very brief, as they have
much pending work here and, not without sacrificing part of their
time, we decided they should make the trip.

“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, Chile's fate. The enemy must be conscious
of this fact; they must be on guard and ready to go into action. Its
strength and combativeness can tilt the balance of forces in your
favor, even when other conditions are not as favorable.

“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 Chile to your side. Your courage, serenity and audacity at
this historical time for your country and, above all, your firm,
resolved and heroic leadership, are crucial in this situation.

“Let Carlos and Manuel know how your loyal Cuban friends can help.

“Let me remind you of Cuba’s affection and unqualified confidence in

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

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 La Moneda. He fought like a tiger until his last breath.

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

Fidel Castro Ruz

June 26, 2008

6:34 p.m.



Los Angeles, California
"Cuba - Un Paraiso bajo el bloqueo"

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