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The Dawn of Social Revolution in Chile
by Luis Emilio Recabarren
1921
Estimated Reading Time: 7 min


A typographer and self-taught man, Luis Emilio Recabarren (1876- 1924) very early entered into the workers' struggles, writing and organizing labor unions in northern Chile. He was elected Representative to the Chamber of Deputies and in 1908 was a prisoner for eight months. Recabarren founded the socialist Labor Party in 1912 and in 1922 was the prime mover in its transformation into the Communist Party. Elected Deputy (also in the Chamber) in 1921, he openly defended his socialist convictions, as can be seen in this portion of a speech that he gave in the Chamber of Deputies in 1921.

fromMarxism in Latin America
edited by Luis E. Aguilar

In the Chilean congress a persistent effort has been made in recent years to prove that any disturbances that occur in this country are the work of professional agitators, the products of theories imported from abroad—as if the working-class sector of the Chilean population had no capacity for such actions.

What agitators there are in this country are authentic Chileans—we are workingmen and not intellectuals. All the agitational movements that have taken place in this country during the last twenty years have actually been the work of the Chilean proletariat. The assertion that we in Chile have copied Communist and Soviet doctrines from Russia is grossly untrue. A study of those doctrines was started in Chile as early as fifteen or twenty years ago.

I have here an article published in 1903 in El Trabajo [Work], a periodical put out by the Tocopilla Workers’ Union. One worker writes: “The revolution will continue on its course without fear; peacefully, if sheltered by liberty; with violence and terror, if someone tries to stop its march. It is evident that the twentieth century will be one of profound social transformation, and all your efforts to avoid it will be useless.” Take note, gentlemen, of the date and of the writer's social condition.

In 1912, the workers in the north were already speaking of taking over industry—an action that we customarily describe as “socialization.” The Socialist Party was founded that same year in Iquique.

Some years later we developed the concept further, and before long the workers in the various towns of the republic were already professing Communist ideas and clearly conceiving of Socialism, as is evident from the program of the Socialist Party in 1912.

I wish to make it known that we believe we also have the right to seize political power, And it is not true that no one, as has been said here, is denying us that right. What, then, is the object of politica) fraud? of corruption? What are the dominant vices of the bourgeois regime for? If we see fraudulence and deceit being used against our rise to political power what shall we do? Remain idle?

On the contrary, in the face of such illegal meang we must fight staunchly until we come to possess all our rights—first, by legal means; but then, if that course is closed to us, we will resort, you may be sure, to revolution.

1. Revolution against President Jseé Manuel Balmaceda, which brought into being the Parliamentary Republic in Chile (1891-1925)

And no one in this legislature can deny us the right to revolt! You yourselves have done it! For the liberation of this country from Spain a revolution was effected; in 1891 you resorted to revolution1 in order to change the political regime in this country! If you do not accept our thesis, does that not mean that the right to revolution belongs to only one sector of our population?

I say with all sincerity that I do not want revolution, at least not as you understand it—with guns and bloodshed. . . . I see that you are smiling, wondering, perhaps, where we would be able to obtain weapons.

I have always maintained that our revolution must be a revolution of folded arms, a general strike to force the powerful classes to be moral and just in all aspects of social life, but principally in their dealings with the workinygmen, with those who desire to better themselves culturally, with those who want to become more useful, better citizens, an integral part of society.

We have witnessed the misery of the workers, as well as the brutal oppression to which they are subjected. This condition is what has developed their capacity and has made them ask: Is this life? Is this what we live for? To be slaves unto eternity?

Capitalist society blames us for the fomentation of these ideas, when the truth is just the contrary. It is you of the capitalist regime who have nourished revolutionary thoughts in the minds of the workers.

No capitalist can criticize our internationalist sentiments, since nothing is more international than capital. Capital has no homeland, no flag—none, that is, aside from the pound sterling.

You who are so patriotic, you should be proud of the fact that there is within this country an intellectual development among workers that is genuinely Chilean, not provoked by foreign theories, except to the extent that such doctrines normally affect our thinking.

Since life is so short, why shouldn’t we live well? Why should you, who represent the people, want to hinder the aspirations of the people, who only want to live well?

I shall close by saying that I will speak of the Russian Revolution at some other time, if the honorable legislature so permits. ... Have you not defended the French Revolution, the fight for independence, and all the revolutions that have taken place in this country? Be logical then; permit a worker to defend what other workers have achieved in other parts of the world.

 
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