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historical snapshot
Interview with Salvador Allende

Photo of Roberto Rossellini at Tavern on the Green, Central Park. June 2, 1971. Scanned from 16mm film. Courtesy Jonas Mekas.

Transcript of filmed interview

(Santiago, Chile, May 1971)

In the 1960s and early ’70s, very often, when Rossellini stopped in New York, he used to call me. He was very interested in what was happening in the New York independent film scene. I used to screen him some films and we used to have some wine and talk. He was especially interested in our film distribution methods, in the Film-Makers Cooperative. 

On one such stop, my notes tell me it was June 2, l971, as we were having some wine in Central Park, at the Tavern on the Green, Rossellini happened to mention that he had just taped a film interview with Salvador Allende. Since I was collecting material for a new issue of Film Culture magazine, I asked him if I could publish a transcript of the conversation, when he has one. He said yes, he’d send me one as soon as it was ready. 

Some time passed, maybe a year, and, my life being very busy during that period, I forgot about the piece. But one day I received another call from Rossellini, inviting me for a drink at Algonquin hotel, where I think he usually stayed.  As we were talking about the problems of the distribution of the independently produced films—I think Andrew Sarris was at that little session also—he passed me the transcript of the Allende conversation. I was happy to have it, planning to publish it in one of the coming issues of Film Culture. But that never happened. I was going through a hard period. Film Culture was always broke, but this was an especially hard period; I was reduced to publishing one issue a year. As a result, Rossellini’s manuscript—along with many other good pieces—was never published.

A month or so ago, while going through the boxes of old stuff from the ’60s and ’70s, I came up upon Rossellini’s manuscript. I remembered telling Phong Bui about it, some years ago, and he had expressed a wish to publish it, but I had no idea where it was. But now suddenly here it was, in this dusty old box full of other Film Culture stuff! And as I was holding it in my hands, I remembered  Phong’s request. So here it is!

—Jonas Mekas
September 2016

Salvador Allende: I’d like to tell you, Mr. Roberto Rossellini, how happy I am to be here and having this chat with you. I want to thank you for coming to Chile and thank your son Renzo too—I had the chance to talk to him a few days ago. The presence of a man like you, here, give us great satisfaction because you, with your experience, are in a position to realize the usefulness of the struggle we’re engaged in, and the reasons for this battle of ours.

Roberto Rossellini: Thank you. I can assure you that I’m here with the real desire to take part in what you’re aiming to do. I have an immense sympathy for your ideals and for all of you. We can begin the interview now if you are ready. Your policy is known, at least a general outline of it, and I’d like to know in the role of “man in the street,” what is the goal of the man Allende who is the President of Chile, who has himself created a political policy.

Allende: I come from a family that has been in the public life for many years. For example, my father and my uncles were active members of the Radical Party when it was the foremost part of the avant-gardists. We must remember that this part was born “with a gun in its clenched fist,” struggling against the conservative reaction. My grandfather, Dr. Allende Padín, was a Radical Senator, Vice President of the Senate and he founded the first lay school in Chile last century. At that time we had in Chile a Serene Grand Master of the Masons who was more dangerous then than an active member of the Communist Party is today. It wasn’t long before I left my small hometown—although I belonged to an average middle-class family—and I came to study medicine in Santiago. The medical students of that time were intellectually more advanced than I was but that didn’t stop me from being a good student. We used to meet to discuss social problems, to read Marx, Engels, Marxist theories. When I got my degree, I was capable of assessing exactly what really was the position of a doctor faced by a vast host of people in need of his aid. First, I’d like to point out that I didn’t go to University aiming at getting a degree as soon as possible in order to earn a living. I was always an active member of student reform movements, struggling to better social conditions. I was expelled from University, arrested, brought to trial before I became a doctor, by three Court Martials. I was set free, sent as a delegate to the north of Chile, and as I told you previously, I began my professional career at Valparaíso. And I was faced with a lot of difficulties although I’d been a good student and took a First Grade Degree with full marks. I’ll give you an example: I went in for four government competitions for a professional post and I was the only entrant; hence I was the natural and only choice, but the post offered by the competitions was never filled. And why? Because of my student activities. I worked hard at Valparaíso in the only medical post there was for me to choose: assistant doctor in pathological anatomy. These hands of mine have carried out fifteen hundred autopsies so I know what it is to love life as well as knowing the cause of death. When my job as doctor at Valparaíso ended, I dedicated myself to organizing the Socialist Party. And I am the founder of the Valparaíso Socialist Party. In other words, I mean that it seems to me to have maintained a general course, and consistency of policy as it was from a student up till today. No one could be a Socialist and have any other goals than mine, then and now.

Rossellini: What strikes me here in Chile is to see what a margin of freedom you leave to the opposition. It’s enough to take a look at the Press to realize this. Almost all methods of informing public opinion, I mean not only the Press but the radio too, are in the hands of the so-called “establishment.” You never made use directly of even the television during your electoral campaign. What systems did you use then and are you using now to have your voice heard and influence your electors? You mean to tell me you can win elections without political publicity?

Allende: I’d like to remind you in the first place, Mr. Rossellini, that I, as an active member of the People’s Party, have always had the people’s struggle at heart—and their struggle here in Chile has been hard, very hard, for many years. We can’t just take into consideration this last campaign: I have been a candidate on four different occasions: in 1951, in order to throw light on the fact and make the idea that there existed a different road from the one chosen by the Socialist Party too, become a reality—you see, I was expelled from the party because I was unable to accept their policy. From there I got into contact with a Communist Party which was at that time illegal, and thus the seed was sown of what today is Popular Unity: a Communist-Socialist mutual understanding. It was a small group, socialists and “illegal” communists and I represented it. During 1951, I went all over the country, not with any electoral hopes, but with the aim of telling the people about the great possibilities that lay ahead if the parties of the working class united with the parties of the lower middle classes. The force of this idea that was born in 1951, cropped up with even more weight behind it in 1958. That year I lost the election by thirty thousand votes. We could have won in 1964 if there had been three candidates. But the Right Wing candidate who was a Radical practically withdrew and that left Mr. Frei and me—the Right supported Frei. Here I want to emphasize the fact that for many years I have been ceaselessly in contact with the people through the People’s parties. During my last campaign, I organized the committees of Popular Unity in ever factory, in the suburbs, in the streets, and we set up committees in the primary schools, the high schools, in all industries and the hospitals. These committees have been the “radio” that broadcast the ever-widening waves of thought surging from Popular Unity and rushing towards the people. That is why, as you pointed out, although our means of information are somewhat restricted, we managed to pull off today’s victory. Let’s use an expression that may not be a political one, but it’s clear: the crop reaped by the victory was sown many years ago. As the government in power today, we are thinking of using more progressive methods such as the radio and the television, but we intend to keep up that “man-to-man” contact with the people. I can give you an example to explain what I mean: on Monday last week I spoke to the Young People at the First Convention of Popular Unity Youth; on Tuesday I spoke at CEPAL where I talked about Chile’s position, emphasizing once again the difference between the industrial areas and those in the process of being developed. That same day I had to speak to the new doctors, the ones who have got their degree this year; the next day I gave a lesson in technical training shall we say—this is the nearest term that applies—at that State Technical University; the day after—a reunion at the Santiago garrison with my two thousand Army supporters and the Commander in Chief of the Barracks’ Delegations; there were high officers, officers, non-commissioned officers and troops. And the day after that—the first of May—I spoke from the grandstand. Were you here?

Rossellini: I read about it in the papers.

Allende: In any case, you can see that I really kept in close contact with great sections of the public. This week I have met up with leaders of peasant groups and with Trade Union leaders of one of the companies that has been nationalized. Of course, the Popular Unity committees are in operation as well. Some of them work with purpose but others have come almost to a standstill. Our big chances of success lie in giving a new lease of life to those committees so that the parties do not get out of touch with the masses. I don’t think I’ll ever lose. For example, I’m going to the copper mines next week. I have to speak to our comrades there for a while to make sure they understand their responsibilities—workers, office staff, and technicians in Chile have the right to know that their country’s basic salary is copper and thus they must produce more, work harder, suit their capabilities and the reality of life in Chile to technology. There is no doubt that if we do not increase our production, if we are unable to reach the objectives we have laid down for an increase more or less of twenty-six percent in respect to last year, our entire budget will be upset. Mr. Rossellini, I know you well understand the importance of educating public opinion, of creating a political conscience, and making the workers understand that the revolution depends on them, that they themselves are the foundation stone of the revolution.

Rossellini: In 1958—that is, twelve years before the last elections—you lost by a narrow margin. At that time, hundreds of thousands of workers made spontaneous demonstrations in the streets, convinced that there had been corruption and bribery going on during the Elections. Under this pressure of public opinion as well, the possibility arose, constitutionally, of your being elected instead of Alessandri. They said, if I have been correctly informed, that the retiring President Carlos Ibáñez was prepared if requested to oppose his candidature to Alessandri’s. You yourself and all you Socialists and Communists who form the Government today, opted for absolute legality, accepted the results of the Elections with tact, and calmed down the masses in revolt.

Allende: Before responding to the points you make here, I’d like to make a correction I think is interesting. In 1958, FRAP, that’s what it was called then—Popular Action Front—gained the majority of male votes. I won the majority with the men and lost with the women. In 1964, notwithstanding the fact that Frei was backed by sections of the Right, we were equal in winning the male vote. But he beat me by a high percentage where the women were concerned. Now, in 1970, the truth is that Alessandri and Tomic won more votes than me in the female ranks. I was far and away the winner with male votes. In 1958, however, conditions were different. Popular Unity at that time was represented above all by Socialists and Communists. And although we won thanks to the male vote, the Congress was differently composed from the way it is today. Conservatives, Liberals and Radicals had the majority. There was no chance, even with the support of the Christian Democrats, of my winning in Congress. Everything, absolutely everything in Chile, was pre-arranged so that the victory would go to Alessandri. Furthermore, there is a tradition here that Congress always respects the victor in the Elections. You can image how difficult it was to suppose that a Congress in which we did not have a majority, would break this tradition to re-elect—in 1958—a Socialist candidate exclusively supported by the Communist Party. If we had thrown people into the struggle, there would have been violent repression. It is true, although, that President Ibáñez personally expressed his sympathy for my candidature but he never intervened, nor gave me any decisive support. I did not ask him, of course. And there existed absolutely no concrete possibilities. Then, yes, I think we displayed political conscience. The same evening, I told the workers we had lost a battle but not the war. We had to keep on preparing. I think this precedent, amongst others, is the one that gives me my “moral authority,” that authority which makes the people believe me to be a realistic politician and one that maintains his promises.

Rossellini: This is an absolutely indisputable proof, of course. You are trying to bring about a revolution fully respecting the laws of the land and those democratic rules that so many other revolutionary movements despise. In general, for public opinion, for the man in the street, when we say Marxism, we mean any dictatorship of the proletariat as well. Why are you different?

Allende: I think what you say is common opinion. But anyone who has read even brief tracts of Marxist theories (and I am not a Marxist theorist only. I am a politician who has taken up arms in the struggle without leaving off reading—I believe there can be no revolutionary action without revolutionary theory)—knows very well that every country possesses its own “reality.” When faced with this reality, tactics with a well-defined strategic goal must be adopted. To be clearer: what does the revolution mean from a sociological point of view? One social class in the minority relinquishes the control and exercise of power which then passes into the hands of another social class that is in the majority and which has been politically oppressed and economically exploited. I feel bound to tell you that this is what happened in Chile: the traditional sections of Chilean plutocracy were defeated by the Christian Democrats in 1964. We cannot compare a Christian Democrat government with a traditional right-wing government, but we have declared to the country that we will bring about our revolution by legal ways and means. We have never said that we will change the capitalist regime in order to leave the road open for Socialism—we know perfectly well that Socialism cannot be imposed by decrees. Hence, on the basis of this Chilean “reality”—in a country that is, where civil conscience has determinate strength, by tradition, where the Armed Forces have a precise professional sense of their obligations, where the “institution” concept carries weight and is well-defined in its content (for example: the Chilean Congress has been functioning for over one hundred and twenty years—can you tell me any other country of Latin America or even, we might say, in Europe, that can offer such an example?). Now we are in the heart of this “reality,” surrounded by the laws of middle-class democracy or of the liberal republic, and we are able to alter the “institutions.” The constitution itself establishes this factor. For example: if serious difficulties with Congress should arise, always within the limits of the regulations of the constitution, I am empowered to present a project for the dissolving of the Congress. Of course, Congress would reject it. When I have the right to make an appeal to the people, by means of a plebiscite, a referendum. If the people approve the terms of the referendum, it means that Congress is dissolved. I would then prepare the elections for a new Congress, and most certainly if we had already won the referendum, we would win a majority in Congress. That means, to sum up, that this Congress would draw up the laws desired by the popular government.

Rossellini: In your May 1 speech, you made an appeal to popular conscience to try and fully realize that the road that leads to the goals you have in mind is long and difficult. You said that you did not want to admit of a “working aristocracy.” Would you be kind enough to explain this concept?

Allende: I said in effect that in order to guarantee the successful fulfillment of the revolution in Chile, it is fundamental that the workers intensify their activities: workers at all levels, but essentially manual workers and peasants. You know, Mr. Rossellini, that we have created a national council: local, sectional and provincial councils have been created, based on this national counsel. So it is the peasants (I refer to the workers of the land) together with the small proprietors and state technical experts, who draw up production plans as well as establishing the exact agricultural areas to be taken over by the state. To be clearer—the peasants participate directly—they are the ones to make the soil produce, to plough the furrows, to sow the seeds. Lastly, they are the ones who, although not having completed the first year of elementary schooling, possess what we might class real “affection” and bond with the land—they know what soil means. As regards the industrial workers—we have stated that in the nationalized sectors that we call social capital, the workers take part themselves in the management of the various industrial enterprises, shoulder to shoulder with state representatives. The managing body to represent the workers will be elected by an assembly of the workers themselves. Now, for example, we are preparing for the nationalization of the copper industry—we are quite certain to bring this about. And the workers must be made to realize that the copper belongs to them, the “copper workers.” But since they are also part of the people as a whole, they must also understand that economic profits gained by the working of the copper mines cannot be exclusively used to increase salaries or wages of either workmen, office staff, or technical experts in the copper industry. Simply, we must hand a part over to them—in the case of copper, this is minimal. The remainder must be utilized to ensure economic development until—together with the profits from other monopolized enterprises—we can build up the resources needed to raise the material conditions of life of the people. If the copper workers fail to understand this point, the situation is grave. If a button factory goes on strike, the country has nothing to worry about; the same for a textile factory—but if there is a strike in the copper industry—or in the steel, the coal industries—the consequences are serious for the country. The workers’ conscience is then needed. We must tell them that since they are workers who can exercise a strong pressure on the government, they must not take advantage of this prerogative because this is their government, they are themselves the government. This is the reason why we cannot classify them as privileged workers, or as I have told you, a “working aristocracy,” in the sense that they receive higher recompense or special treatment. And so I have talked to the workers: I have told them that the future of the revolution depends on them. Fundamentally, this is what I stated in my speech of the First of May and my response to the points you raised in your previous question.

Rossellini: Thank you for your explanation. You have been absolutely clear and have opened up horizons that are completely new to the present day manner of thinking. And now I’d like to ask you one more question: I recall that following the First World War, that is during the 1920s, both North and South America were regarded as continents offering vast possibilities of material gain to European workers and everyone with initiatives. This was particularly important for we Italians who lived in a poor country. We sent you luxury goods in the forms of opera companies, light opera and grand opera, theatrical productions that came over here to collect applause and large sums of money. Then, in a few years, these last thirty or forty years, all has changed—South America become seriously impoverished, while we Italians, for example, after the last World War, have become much richer. If this observation of mine is correct, how can this phenomenon of impoverishment be explained?

Allende: I think what has happened in South America is directly linked to the concentration of capital, basically in industrial countries. We define imperialism as the extreme of capitalism. The financial capital of industrialized countries seeks to invest in those countries where greater profits may be obtained or better rates of interest. During the initial phase of our political semi-independence, England made investments—in the case of Chile, in potassium nitrate. Then the United States began to compete with England and North American money was invested. The countries in the process of being developed sell raw materials: we sell at a low price and buy at a high price. When we import, we must pay the salaries and wages of the North American workman and technician. This form of “exchange” has always been to the detriment of Latin America and to Chile. Inflation means that we are obliged to supply more and more raw materialism in order to import the same quantity of finished products. Here is one of the simplest examples: if at one time we had to give, for example, half a ton of copper to obtain in exchange four Jeeps, today we must give two tons for those same four Jeeps. These figures are not exact but it is the example that counts. And this is the “reality” of our country. The distance separating the industrial countries, that is, capitalist countries, from those in process of being developed, is ever-widening. This is our great drama, apart from the fact that from the point of view of the financial-economic relationship, the situation as regards these countries could not be more difficult. In the last ten years, more has gone out of Latin America than has come in. And it has been to pay bank credits, profits, long-terms debts, as well as contributions made by South America for loans to state and semi-state bodies and private company investments. This is the drama that has gradually been impoverishing Latin America, while foreign capital, basically international capital, has been consolidated, capital that draws immense profits from these countries when compared to their own national income rates.

Rossellini: The expiry date for your nationalization program is approaching. The copper industry affects mainly North American interests. What do you think your relationship with the United States will be in the future? What do you forecast?

Allende: Mr. Rossellini, you have touched on one of the most complicated of our problems. In reality we have said and we repeat constantly that when we intend—and we shall do as we say—to nationalize the fundamental wealth of Chile at present in the hands of foreign capital, we have no intention of acting out against the United States. We feel affection and respect for the people of the United States and for the history of that country. I think that the political leaders of Chile and Latin America well know the thoughts of Washington and Jefferson and, above all, Lincoln. Furthermore, we know their writers, their artists—but the reality is another: above all we need that economic surplus that is pouring out across our frontiers, ourselves. I must tell you, for example, that in sixty years, nine thousand, eight hundred million dollars have gone out of Chile; the entire social capital of Chile has been estimated at ten thousand million—thus, practically the whole of Chile we might say has flowed over our frontiers to reinforce big enterprises. It means, in other words, incredible though it may sound, that countries which go begging a certain amount of millions as a loan, are in reality exporters of capital. Well, we think that the people and the North American government will have to understand that we intend to deal with them in the same way as we would if they were Russians or Japanese, French or Italians. We have nothing against the United States, nor her people. For example, we are agreeable to signing a contract to sell to the United States, one hundred or two hundred thousand tons of copper, if they need it. But the copper must “belong to us.” This fact is basic for Chile. What is the root of our problem? It is that logically we must pay compensation because we have no intention of merely confiscating this wealth. But we intend to pay what is in effect due to be paid. We must examine each case separately in order to establish the amount of the initial investments, the effective contributions of capital, the interest re-investments, how increases have been brought about by means of credit loans charged to the companies. At the present moment the companies are in debt to a sum of six hundred and seventy million dollars. So we are not proceeding a priori in an aggressive attitude. The North American State Department must understand this. There is a problem and this is that companies are covered by insurance taken out with a North American state organization. Logically, the Americans think that, if by chance not sufficient recompense is paid to correspond with the value—in their opinion—of their enterprises, the insurance company must step in and pay for it. And in order to pay this insurance, if the amount is very high, they must ask Congress to issue new taxes on North American citizens. I really consider that we must come to an agreement. We have come to other agreement with North American firms, here in Chile. We reached an agreement with the Bethlehem Company and we bought the iron mine we were interested in. There was no conflict, no problem. We want to negotiate with the Telephone Company and we shall do so in order to create either a mixed enterprise or a nationalized company. But we are proceeding within the limits of the law and supremacy of Chile. We merely ask for respect for the concepts of self-determination and supremacy of the people. There will be no conflict because we have no intention of arousing any. Neither do we intend to appear submissive or create the impression that we are begging. We are exercising the right of a sovereign country and we will proceed on the basis of the laws of Chile. Furthermore, we give our guarantee to the companies that there must be an assessor the sums to be paid out, a court where the representatives of the Magistrature pre-dominate, that is a special court with judicial powers. What greater guarantees can we give than these? I don’t think anyone could ask nor give more.

Rossellini: I think not. The program of the Christian Democrat government that preceeded you, if I recall rightly, emphasized the necessity of brining about a revolution in liberty, of recovering for the country Chile’s natural resources, and hence removing copper from foreign control. They talked about the dignity of the poor, agrarian reform, the dispossessing of lands, of the participation of everyone in the reconstruction of Chilean society, and of vast reforms. You, if I’m not mistaken, emphasize these same themes. But in what way do you differ?

Allende: The difference lies between words and deeds. The Christian Democrats spoke of a “community regime” that has never been defined. We maintain that there is nothing else but either capitalism or socialism. I have said furthermore, rather than talk about revolution, we must bring it about. I think this is the fundamental difference between us and the Christian Democrats.

Rossellini: What is your relationship with the Catholics?

Allende: The relationship of the popular movement of Chile with the Catholic Church is excellent. But I would like to lay emphasis on the reasons that enable me to make this statement. For example, let me give you proof of not only the tolerance of the Church, but of the new attitude and the new criterions. In Chile, when a president takes over the government, we have a Te Deum. Traditionally, this Te Deum is given as is natural, in the metropolitan cathedral. When the Cardinal of the Church of Chile, Raúl Silva Henríguez, came to speak to me, I told him that I wanted the Te Deum, but I requested the ecumenical Te Deum. Not only did he accept, but the delegations that came to witness the handing over of presidential powers were able to witness an outstanding event as well: dignitaries of all the Churches were present in the Metropolitan Catholic Cathedral, and each one took part in the Te Deum, reading a passage from a prayer or from the Bible. I believe that this is one of the most significant facts proving the broadmindedness and profound comprehension that exists in the Catholic Church of Chile. It shows us that the Church fully adheres to the new trend of thought that has broken down antique barriers of tradition. You must also remember that the bishops of Chile and the Latin American bishops gathered together at Medellín also issued a declaration in which they laid stress on the fact that the Church is working side by side with the exploited sections of the public and is fighting to better the conditions of life and the existence of the great masses of the Latin American peoples. This is another “reality” that has been born in Chile, and you, Mr. Rossellini, can understand its great importance. Lastly, I would like to point out that the event I have just mentioned has great repricussions on the national and international plan when we add the important fact that a Cardinal of the Chilean Catholic Church was also present at the First of May demonstrations. His presence was already sufficient but what was even ore important still was the message he read. He said—and his meaning was extremely clear—that the only thing that the Church desired was that the people did not forget that the Church of Christ was the Church of the son of a carpenter. To sum it up: now you can understand that these events, together with the new attitude of the Church in general, inspires us to keep alive the profound and limitless respect we have always nourished for our religious life here in Chile. And here is a further fact: I can assure you with deep gladness, my joy is heartfelt—there has also been a direct contact between the Church, the people, and the government of Chile!—eighty priests have made a public declaration that they have come to a decision to make a contribution towards building up Socialism in our country.

Rossellini: From what you tell me I can see that the traditional tendency of Latin American countries has always been to create stronger ties with the United States of America, the foundation stone on which your independence was laid. History tells us that the Colonial era for you ended after the North-American revolution, and thanks to it. On the eighth of March, 1822, Monroe, President of the United States, made a proposal for the formal recognition of the independence of the Argentine, Columbia, Chile, and Peru. At that time, Jefferson felt that if Europe was becoming the territory of despots—the Holy Alliance, colonialism, etc.—American must in its turn become the territory of liberty. The Monroe Doctrine proposed to Congress in the United States on the December 2, 1823, stated, amongst other items, that the entire American continent, that is North, Central and South America—thanks to the conditions of freedom and independence that had been created and would continue to exist from that moment onwards, must nevermore be considered by anyone as the goal of future colonization. Am I correct in assuming that you people of Chile, as free men, basing your policy on the above-mentioned premise as is your desire—are beginning to pave the way to the creation of new and free relationships with the whole world?

Allende: In reality this is a theoretical conception of the Monroe doctrine. In effect, in the struggle of the Latin American peoples for freedom from Spanish colonialism, we obtained a political semi-independence. But in point of fact, the economic struggle began immediately on seeing the opposition between English colonialists and North American colonialism. There has always been a discrepancy of interest between foreign capital and our incipient development. I don’t want to harp on those solemn declarations so often cited by advocates of freedom when speaking of the North American policy of imposing its might on weaker peoples. But Bolívar said, for example: “The United States wants to plunge us into misery and submission in the name of liberty.” Martí spoke even more harshly. I do not wish to repeat what he said because in reality I can distinguish between the North American people, their intellectuals, some of their statesmen—their attitude at times transitory towards the State Department—and those private interests that have unfortunately been able to count on North American support. The Monroe Doctrine did sanction one principle, however: “America for the Americans.” This, of course, has not been observed in matter of fact. North America has an economic development that has been denied to both Central and South America. Hence the problem cannot be resolved on the basis of equality of interests, of a community of interests. Defending the principle “America for the Americans” laid down by the Monroe Doctrine, has always meant defending America for the North Americans. We do not accept merely the concept of reciprocal recognition of dignity, or quality of possibilities with North America. I assure you that we have nothing against the people. But we well know the drama of South America, a continent potentially rich, but in reality poor, and this poverty is due to the exploitation on the part of private North American capital.

Rossellini: Do you want to take part in that idealist movement not yet clearly drawn up, that the Church calls ecumenism, that China has tried to promote with ping-pong and that, previously, the Conference of Bandung had sought to facilitate by offering the mediating of the countries of the Third World to the two great opposition blocks?

Allende: Our basic struggle is for understanding and integration between the Latin American countries. We maintain that the road is just, the road indicated by the fathers of our homeland who dreamed of Latin American unity in order to raise a firm vote in the face of the world. This does not hinder us, Mr. Rossellini, from regarding with cordiality and also with a more profound understanding, the meaning of the trend of thought in the countries of the Third World. I can therefore summarize my own opinions and ideals with regard to your question by telling you that we are fighting first and foremost to make an authentic continent of American in all its achievements, and to continue to build a stronger bond with the countries of the Third World. It is quite clear that these principles are fundamental—people like us are fighting for peace and not for war. For economic cooperation and not for exploitation. For the social welfare of all the people and not for injustice.

Rossellini: From all these ideas, before they were given substance and clarity, the ideal of a peaceful co-existence was born—and from this idea we have created new confusion, new dramas; these new obstacles must now be overcome and this is felt by all. The exploration of the moon has shown us what we are—our earth is a ship sailing through the universe, bound for vast, limitless stretches of space. We men are the crew and we are bound to the destiny of our earth ship. What is our future to be then?

Allende: According to me, you are asking, in other words, what is man’s intelligence capable of? If the men of the industrialized countries have reached the moon, as you point out, it is because they are capable of dominating nature. The problem is whether is it just for man to have a foot on the moon or whether it is more just for the great countries (I am speaking symbolically) to have their feet on the earth and realize that there are millions of human beings suffering from starvation, unemployment, illiterate. This is why my opinion is this: is it just to hope with all our hearts that the man of the twenty-first century will be a man with a different conception of the universe, with a just sense of values, a man who does not think and act basically in terms of money, a man who is fortunate enough to realize that there are wider dimensions to concentrate his intelligence on, that his intelligence is his great creative strength. I have faith in man but as a real human being with the accent on his humanitarian qualities—a man who lives in a world where we are all brothers, not merely individuals seeking to live by exploiting others.


Jonas Mekas

JONAS MEKAS has often been called "the godfather of American avant-garde cinema."


The Brooklyn Rail

OCT 2016

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