Allende’s last speech
The last true mystery of September 11, 1973, more esoteric than historical, is Salvador Allende’s final speech. About the rest we know almost everything it is possible to know: in 2011 a process established to determine whether the president was assassinated or a suicide eliminated a myriad of details pending clarification; Even the names of the officers who entered La Moneda that day are known in advance.
Some still do not accept the idea that the president committed suicide. To simplify the story one murder would have been better; Above all, to turn it into a military defeat and not a political failure. The originator of this line is Fidel Castro; Later endorsed by García Márquez. The family maintains an obscure and long silence, perhaps because of its many ties to Castroism at the time. Years later, Castro would tell Hugo Chávez, besieged in the Miraflores palace, not to imitate Allende’s gesture, not to surrender, not to sacrifice himself in vain. Of course, he tells it to someone who will never imitate him, to the commander who will die praying for another hour of life. We already have a confession to each other: for Castro, Allende’s suicide is a useless sacrifice. It is curious: Allende, who only once exposed himself in a ridiculous pistol duel, knew that politics could cost you his life; Castro, who exposed it further in the Sierra Maestra, seems to have forgotten it.
After the facts, there remains speech. Accusatory, lyrical, with dramatic volume, changes in tone, mood, breath of life and mournful at the same time. Improvised, but one of those improvisations “that are rehearsed many times in the shower,” as one witness told me at the time he uttered it. We know that Allende was a great orator, the virtuoso of that 60s Senate that was populated by swordsmen of the word. But this is something else. This is the voice of death. Death and Eternity. These two things come together only in religious thinking.
in his book Salvador Allende. Chilean Left and Popular Unity (Taurus, 2023) Political scientist Daniel Mansuy writes that Allende’s speech left “a poison and an enigma”. Poison, I suspect, is political in nature: that day comes Chilean Road to Socialism, electoral route, majority occupation and respect for the law. More than the Chilean way, it is the Allende way. Has not been successful anywhere. He refutes the entire revolutionary line prevailing in Popular Unity and in his own party Socialist. It moves away from the images of Marxist theory, from the simplest Soviet and the most elaborate, Folkista, rebel or Trotskyist. And he opposes, above all, the protagonist of the Latin American left, once again Fidel Castro, who is about to show his own thread. The year Allende took office, we must remember, a 10 million ton crop failure in Cuba left Cubans exhausted and Castro angry.
As George Edwards wrote, Castro saw history as nature and nature as history, both susceptible to being shaped by force. For Allende, on the other hand, there is something ineffable in two things: the doctor knows that nature is unfathomable and the senator, that history is enigmatic: “people make it.” People, not heroes. History in its final moments becomes only the future; He has renounced the present.
Salvador Allende invents his own ghost at that point, and sends it roaming around the country: “You will keep hearing me,” he says, “I will always be with you.” The ghost “morally” punishes those who outwit it. And he uses “la pateria”, a term that has never been comfortable in Marxist culture. There is not a word for the Left, nor for Popular Unity, nor for his party. You’ve certainly considered that omission. To define himself, he does not say “socialist”, but only “interpreter of the noble will for justice”. Years later, in the comfort of Paris, Regis Debre would write: “Revolution is not a homeland.”
Poison expanded its reach: why did it fail? Chili way, Because it was never possible or because many people prevented it from happening? What was more weighty: the actions of the enemies or the lack of conviction of the allies themselves?
I return to Mansui’s idiom: poison and riddle. We are left with the puzzle. Here we enter the stormy terrain of political ethics. Why kill a surrounded man, but not condemn him to an inevitable death? why their press officers are sarcastic Dog Olivares, who shoots himself in the head in the corridor? Agreed, a political act need not be mass suicide. But it is that popular unity is neither in La Moneda nor in its surroundings; La Moneda is defended only by those who work at La Moneda. The Secretary General of the Socialist Party, Carlos Altamirano, flees to seek asylum and will put himself at incredible risks to go into exile. Altamirano doesn’t even like Allende’s actions, let alone his speech. It is not a social worker, it does not call for resistance, it does not look at the ground beneath its feet: it only looks at history. What does “people must protect themselves, but not sacrifice” mean? Nothing This is not a guide!
From that moment on every socialist will have his own opinion and almost no one will be able to express it honestly. Discourse turns everything into lore. The left began an analysis of popular unity and the president’s leadership for that position; starts the process we’ll know as socialist renewal, unexpectedly led by Carlos Altamirano abroad. Inside, the harsh self-criticism of Tomas Moulion and Manuel Antonio Garretón emphasizes the inconsistency Chilli Road Key With their position as a minority, or at least with insufficient accumulation of forces. Both sociologists note that the left has disdained the middle classes, without whom no majority can be achieved, and has ignored the development of the Chilean state during the 20th century, which ceased to be an oligarchy and Has become mesocratic. The revolutionary Pole, and especially MIR, has not even studied these things because he is obsessed with determining what stage of revolution we are in.
Allende hasn’t done the theoretical homework. It’s not your thing. He has simply tried to convince his teammates, but his teammates have repeatedly closed the doors for him. Till the last day Allende has no choice but to break with Popular Unity, but it is almost more painful for him than the other end. This is another illiterate rarity: why does mere discrepancy on the left always seem like treason, why do so many surrender what is leftist’s stamp, even if it is monstrous?
Removing Popular Unity from his speech, with his oratorical finesse, Allende also invented a ukrania: things should not be the way they were. And once they are as they were, there is no other way than the final act, the shot. Does it sound like a lot? Sure, it’s a lot. It is not a gesture that invites restraint; This is not a call to calm down.
Ukronia has tremendous potential: if Castro fails, Allende succeeds, what will happen to the whole of Latin America, what will happen to the world of Montoneros, Tupamaros, ERP, Tupac Amaru, ALN, Che? And in Europe, Africa, Asia? What about ETA, IRA, Red Brigades, Lotta Continua, Baader-Meinhof…? No one had even imagined that turn of time. At least no one wrote.
Mansui notes that even the sharpest analysts, including Moulian and Garreton, run out of political language when they come for a shot. They can’t find a way to analyze it. Language, tired, suddenly becomes Christian, religious, savior. Sacrifice, holocaust, sacrifice: words that are found in the Bible, not in the capital.
But there is a problem with this explanatory flaw: Allende has declared it many times, publicly and privately, in speeches and in talks. It is not a last minute decision. That’s what he tries to say while his allies refuse to talk to him. Not only do they not listen to him: they don’t even believe in him. Three days earlier, Eric Schnake speculated that the president “exaggerates the dangers.” PS, Mapu, MIR, generals and admirals are considered “certain informers” … who will later be the leaders of the coup! Later, no one would be able to swallow this scam, this mockery in his own nose.
Allende no longer exaggerates or threatens: he begs, pleads. His pride as a doctor, minister, senator, mason, republican, president prevents him from saying that he sees the rock. He insists that he controls the situation, that he has everything in his pocket… He does not accept that no one pays attention to him. “You have to choose, President,” Patricio Elwin told him. “You can’t be with God and the devil.” Allende pretended not to hear and changed the subject. That selective deafness is a sign of his political paralysis. Aylwin interprets this as stubbornness. Both things are true, but more so than the first.
Popular unity looms large in the repertoire of responsibilities for the coup. But Allende is not exempt, he cannot, no matter how much he is the first victim. It is very difficult for the Left to accept these things, but until it does, as Mansuy writes, “it will not be a history of popular unity worthy of the name.” She will be bound by an incomprehensible myth and connect new generations to it. President Boric, for example, often cites the Allende of myth, the fragmented Allende, already a ghost in a burning palace, an abstraction that repeats the inspired phrases of his last speech, empty of historical legibility, devoid of volumetrics. ,
This is the conundrum: is the sacrifice an excessive act or is it the only answer to their political isolation when Chile is on the brink of civil war? We know this idea is regressive to the President; He has also said this many times. And he knows some of his supporters are very excited about it; He considered them “irresponsible and cowards”. But then, does Allende represent a martyr of social justice with peaceful means or is he the scarecrow of a program that was never viable?
Mansui has done the work of an intellectual and made the Left – to which he does not belong – see that he has another intellectual work pending. word that derives, as we know, from to understand: Catch. Is it possible to remember without understanding?
so that it is not mere praise, I will only say that in addendum to his comments on other books, I would have preferred to dedicate Manso to those whom I find best, most perceptive: Salvador Allende, a Time in black and white, almost untraceable and extremely sharp text by Alejandra Rojas; Allende and the Chilean Experience, by lawyer Joan Garces, perhaps the most rigorous Marxist analysis; And Salvador Allende, a sentimental biography of journalist Eduardo Labarca, is commonly misread as a gossip chronicle, despite the fact that it is the book that brings us closest to the living Allende.
Mansui’s books are added to those books that one would always call essential.