On the morning of September 11, 1973, a little before 9:00 am, US-manufactured air force planes attacked the presidential palace of the democratically elected president of Chile, Salvador Allende. This was part of the CIA-sponsored coup d’état led by the Chilean general Augusto Pinochet. In the face of a massive attack using tanks, infantry and air force planes, Salvador Allende refused to surrender or run away, defending the presidential palace and Chilean democracy with a gun in his hand. Surrounded and with no chance of defeating the enemy, Allende preferred death rather than be taken prisoner by the usurper generals in the pay of US imperialism.
When Salvador Allende and his alliance of communists and socialists won elections in Chile in 1970, US President Richard Nixon ordered Richard Helms, then CIA director, “Make the economy scream [in Chile to] prevent Allende from coming to power or to unseat him.” For the next three years, the entire might of US imperialism was directed towards ejecting a government that had won the popular mandate in free and fair elections. Despite all attempts by the US and its secret services, the popularity of Allende’s government only increased as was indicated by subsequent elections. His election also gave a new hope to people all over the world that they could use democracy to gain power and implement policies for the benefit of the exploited, poor and destitute. That the promise of a government for, of, and by the people would not remain an empty slogan, but could indeed be made a reality.
But then it is folly to expect the US to merely stand by and watch the citizens of their neo-colony take actual control of their destiny and throw off the imperialist yoke. That infamous war criminal, Henry Kissinger, neatly summed up US policy towards Chile when he said, “I do not see why we need to stand by and watch a country go communist due to the irresponsibility of its own people. The issues are much too important for the Chilean voters to be left to decide for themselves.”
Finally, on the morning of September 11, 1973, the Chilean military, fed and fattened by US aid and arms, attacked the elected president and his government under CIA directions. Despite offers of safe passage to exile, President Salvador Allende refused to leave his official residence. Fighting till the last, he died with the gun gifted to him by Fidel Castro in his hands.
At 9:03 am Allende made his last radio broadcast to the Chilean people through the communist party-controlled Radio Magallanes. His message to his fellow citizens is relevant even today.
My friends, surely this will be the last opportunity for me to address you. The air force has bombed the antennas of Radio Magallanes.
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 [paramilitary police].
Given these facts, the only thing left for me is to say to the 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 seeds, which we have planted in the good conscience of thousands and thousands of Chileans, will not be shriveled forever.
They have force and will be able to dominate us, but social processes can be arrested by neither 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 who today are hoping, with foreign assistance, to reconquer the power to continue defending their profits and their privileges.
I address you, above all, the modest woman of our land, the campesina who believed in us, the mother who knew our concern for children. I address the professionals of Chile, patriotic professionals who continued working against the sedition that was supported by professional associations, classist associations that also defended the advantages of capitalist society. 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 act. 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 his country.
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 and free men will walk through them to construct 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.
Thus spoke the hero of September 11, Salvador Allende.
The killing of the elected president of a sovereign country on the orders of the US President by traitors, who were charged with protecting their country, is the tragedy of September 11. The courage and sacrifice of Salvador Allende and the Chileans, including the 5,000 who ‘disappeared’ forever under the atrocities of the military junta is the heroism of September 11.
September 11 has taught us, yet again, the necessity of arming the Revolution if it has to protect its democratic mandate. September 11 also taught us, yet again, that the US is not the ally but rather the enemy of democracy. But it also taught us that despite all its might, US imperialism can only kill people, it cannot defeat them. The people united shall always be victorious, even if for the moment the oppressor triumphs. As Pablo Neruda, Chile’s famous poet, put it as only he could, “You can crush all the flowers, but you cannot stop the spring.”
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This article was published in my weekly column in The Post, on 05 September, 2007. A good internet resource on the entire set of events is to be found here. It has also been published on Pragoti on 11 September 2007.