Latin American Network Information Center - LANIC


Addresses Mine Workers

Santiago Chile in Spanish to Havana 1310 GMT 18 Nov 71 C--FOR OFFICIAL USE

[Speech by Fidel Castro to Lota and Coronel mine workers--live, transmitted
on special communications channel]

[Text] Workers and residents of Lota and Coronel: you will excuse my being
brief, due to the weather, my program, and above all, my voice. [Castro is
hoarse] I shall speak informally. I want to say a few words to express our
feelings toward the workers of Lota and Coronel.

In the first place, when you invited us to this ceremony we were also
invited to visit the mines, but our times was much too limited. We tried,
however, to contact the work center before the ceremony. We did not think
it proper to meet here with the workers of these mines--[Castro pauses,
then says "A train?" An announcer reports the arrival of a train from
Curanilahue, Lota, and Coronel, explaining that this is interrupting
Castro's speech. After a 4-minute interruption the announcer reports that
Castro has been holding a short press conference during the interruption.]

Can I proceed? Can I start now? During this interesting spectacle, while
the train was arriving... [Castro does not complete thought] This looks
like a fiesta. [announcer interrupts to say that a group is climbing the
platform to play a tune for Castro. Music is heard. He goes to the end of
the platform and chats with the crowd. Interruption lasts about four

We are not sure if more entertainment groups are coming, or what is going
to happen here. At any rate, as we were saying, we can stay only briefly
because of lack of time and also my hoarseness. I began to say that a visit
to the mines had been scheduled, but because of lack of time, the climate,
and who knows how many other things, we had difficulties. We insisted,
however, on visiting the mines because we felt that to speak to the miners
without having the slightest idea of the conditions under which they
operate would be absurd.

One of our reasons for coming to this beach was to [pauses to correct
himself] the visit to the mines was, of course, short. No. No one can beat
us to the title of miner apprentice. I was given a uniform, which I wore
with humor but which was undeserved. I was given the helmet, lantern, and
all those things. Still, I have not yet produced my first pound of coal.
[applause] This proves that with me as a miner these mines would be an
economic failure. [someone addresses Castro from the audience. He answers;
"They say it was very pure." Someone is heard in background saying
something about a holiday. Castro answers: "I was about to mention that."]

I have been told that the mine workers are planning to pay back the time
lost today by working on a holiday. We are happy to have this meeting with
the workers of these mines. The workers are the backbone of the income of
any country. They are the backbone of any country's economy. They are the
basis of any nation's history, and they will be the backbone of this
country's future.

We have heard many things about these mines--of the struggles of their
workers, the pages of sacrifice written over decades and decades. Someone
has explained the long tunnels dug under the sea. These tunnels, now
traversed by locomotives, used to be traveled on foot.

The workers had to walk 4 or 5 hours--time not taken into account on
payday. We have heard about these workers' struggles, about the abuses and
injustices against them. We have been told also that in recent months many
workers who had been fired returned to work in the mines. We have been told
that some have been working in these mines for as long as 45 years.

The mine official who accompanied us today told us he has been working for
36 years. Imagine, 40 years working underground in this climate,
temperature, and conditions. This can really be called heroism. A man may
risk his life in one day's battle--he is called a hero. A workman who has
worked under these conditions for 40 years has been risking his life
virtually every year, month, and day for 40 years. This is the history of
the worker. This is why the working class is the vanguard of society, and
why it is called on to write the revolutionary history of the present.

The workers know what toil is. They know what sacrifice is. They know what
work discipline is. These sacrifices and this discipline were imposed on
them by life, by the need to live in the most difficult, unbelievable, and
exploited conditions. This is why workers rapidly develop class awareness
and revolutionary spirit. We have read about all this, but we have also
seen it for ourselves in real life.

It moves us very deeply to recall that when our fatherland on that 17
April, when mercenaries--armed, directed, and supported by the
imperialists--invaded our land; the miners of these two mines, from 8,000
kilometers away, who only knew the name of Cuba, who only had
fragmentary--possibly distorted--reports of the Cuban revolution, went on a
48-hour strike to support the Cuban revolution in that critical moment when
Cuba was criminally attacked.

What does this mean? It means internationalism, it means proletarian
internationalism. It was not the aristocrats or the millionaires of the
world who were capable of expressing, or did they ever express, unity with
the Cuban people, No, it was precisely the laborer working under the most
abject conditions at the bottom of the earth. It was they who expressed
their solidarity, and how inspiring it is for us on a day like this, now
that these mines belong entirely to the Chilean people, to be able to come
here and meet with you, and in the name of our people, to thank you.

We also know that it was right here that the Lota miners met with
Recabarren for the first time in 1920. We know that the coal workers have
been a bulwark of the revolutionary movement, the labor movement, and the
Chilean people's movement. We also know about the magnificent attitude of
the workers here. We have heard from other Chileans of your willingness to
struggle, work, and forge ahead with these mines; that you have been
increasing production and that thus far this year you have produced as much
coal as during the whole of last year; that you have increased productivity
by 1 percent; that you have an attitude of determination to make the
Chilean process march onward and the nationalized mines progress, no matter
what the difficulties. This is what it means to have a proletarian
conscience, a revolutionary conscience, for this is the hour when the
workers are no longer producing for the exploiters, for an owner, for the
Americans who lived in those fabulous palaces, but for the Chilean nation,
which is now the Chilean people.

Therefore, make the maximum effort in production, in extracting the
(?coal). The road of progress is difficult. Well-being is not just around
the corner, and man struggles not only for material goods--of course, he
does struggle for these, too, for they are indispensable for life--but also
for spiritual goods, for moral goods.

Would you like an example of what a moral good is? There you have it: what
is happening to our country. We are still poor, and still have many
difficulties. We lack certain things, but we no longer work for the
exploiters, or to enrich foreign monopolies. We work for ourselves, our own
nation, our own future, and this means being a truly free worker.

The imperialists have used the term "free workers" and by this they mean
those who work for the exploiters, for the millionaires; workers who get
nothing except their salary; who, when they protest are fired or
mistreated, or punished or have the doors closed in their face. The
imperialists also speak about the free world. How can one call a world free
where the workers produce under the whip, hunger, and all sorts of
pressures? That is why our workers view this as a moral good.

Revolution does not mean being rich tomorrow, or the day after tomorrow, or
next year, because what was not done for scores of years the people cannot
do in a day or a year, no matter how much they want to. The poverty they
left us, the low productivity to which they reduced us, the lack of
technicians--our productivity cannot be compared to the so-called rich
nations. This we saw yesterday at the Huachipato factory. How much does it
produce per man, per year? Ah, 108 tons, but there are Yankee industries
which produce 300 tons: very big, very modern, very mechanized, very
specialized, while Huachipato--a relatively small plant in a country which
depends on it for nearly all its steel articles--cannot have today that
type of production. The same goes for many other industries, in
construction, in the mines, in general. Of course, you do have certain
highly productive centers in the country. "Certainly the copper mines are
highly technical centers with a high production level, but a country's
economy is made up of everyone's effort; the effort of the workers with a
high productivity as well as of those with low productivity.

Without the steel which comes from Huachipato construction could perhaps
not continue, and many industries could perhaps not operate. Without the
coal you extract from the earth, underwater, sometimes 1,000 meters down,
the steel factory could not operate-- or would have to operate with
imported products. For example, certain thermoelectric units which might
use that coal--and this is an assumption--could not operate. The industries
which use the raw material you extract from this mine would not operate.
There is no such thing as an independent economy or industry, because
practically all industries depend on other industries. The coal industry is
one of the country's basic industries. The 1.6 million, or 1.8 million, or
2 million tons of coal which you produce are indispensable to Chile's
economy. They are indispensable for Chile's development.

Unfortunately, our country does not have--does not produce--a single ton of
coal. There has never been a coal mine in our country. All the coal we use
in any workshop furnace, or forge must be imported, brought from abroad.
This costs money. That is why, although you have to extract the coal at
those depths and under hard and difficult conditions, the Chilean people
and the economy are still lucky to have these resources and not to have to
import at least part of the coal you need for the iron and steel industry
and for other uses in the national economy.

We have seen these mines. We have seen how hard the work is. We have seen
what great effort the men have to make (?to) extract nature's wealth, to
earn their bread, help their families, and support the country.

At least--how said it would have been to visit those mines knowing that
they belonged to Mr so-and-so, or to such-and-such a company, and knowing
that thousands of men were working there for the enrichment of so-and-so
and Mr such-and-such. A Chilean comrade was telling us a few minutes ago
that those mines had been exploited for 200 years-- that some of the
greatest fortunates in the world came out of those coal mines. In those 200
years, how many workers must have lost their health in these mines, lost
their lives, left their bones--or shortened their lives, or died
prematurely. How many women were left widowed, how many children were left
orphaned to create these fortunates--to amass and create some of the
greatest fortunes in the world.

That is why our revolution--the modern revolution, the socialist
revolution--is regarded historically as man's most noble, his highest hope.
It is aimed at putting an end to those incredible things, absurd things,
things which seem increasingly inconceivable to human masses, to entire
peoples, the working to enrich a few. In the traditional society of
exploiters, it is not only the coal industry in which the worker is
exploited--everything is exploited. Trafficking is done in everything, even
children are exploited. The story of industrial development in England is
well known--how great fortunates were amassed by exploiting 8, 9, 10, and
12-year-old children, making them work up to 15 hours a day in the mines or
in the textile mills. That pitiless society cared only about profits. It
did not care about the man, or about men's souls. It did not care about
men's health, or about educating them.

That is why Karl Marx said that the capitalist regime dripped blood from
head to toe. Great fortunes were amassed by exploiting men and women, by
committing the greatest injustices. Oh, how different it is when a popular
regime's fundamental goal is to insure the future, to insure the education
of the children and the youth, to see to it that conditions are such that
no child will be left without instruction, to create conditions so that no
young person will be left without due opportunity to develop his physical
and mental capabilities to the maximum. That society used to traffic in
everything, even in man's most basic values. It used to traffic in man's
sweat, in the sweat of the human being--because as you know, those
societies brought with them a whole series of vices such as begging and
illiteracy--and on occasion even more painful things, as was the case in
our country. Tens of thousands of women, because they had no jobs, had to
take up prostitution--and what a terrible, sorrowful thing it is for a
woman to have to sell herself every day and at all hours of the day to
survive. It is precisely all those terrible wounds, all those great human
woes, that revolutions are trying to do away with.

Our country is a few years ahead of you. It was not able to solve all those
problems on the first day, or in the first year, or the second or the third
year. It has been doing away with them during the course of all these
years. For example, prostitution no longer exists in our country. It dies
not exist. If you spoke to someone about it, he would find it monstrous,
(?absurb). Children are no longer seen begging in our country. Such things
have disappeared. No, there is no opulence. No, it is not a consumer
society, but there is not a single forgotten human being. There is not a
single derelict human being. There is absolutely no one who has been
abandoned to his fate. What we have is used to help everyone, to give
everyone security, to assist everyone. We are poor, but we are brothers. We
are poor, but what we have belongs to everyone in our country. [applause]

Our situaiton is not exactly like Chile's because our revolution is older,
many years older. Every time the natural resources become the property of
the nation, every time a great industry becomes the property of the people,
we consider it a victory and our workers become happy, and everything has
worked out well. In our country, the revolutionary conscience has fully
developed, the conscience of our workers has fully developed. You can see
this in the harvest. Since we have no unemployment in our country, tens of
thousands of workers join the brigades to cut sugarcane. Very often, they
are able to join the brigades because other workers in the factories take
over their tasks.

They have an extraordinary desire to help and support the economy because
now it is not the economy of the exploiters, it is the people's economy. It
is not to make anyone rich, it is with all certainty to improve the
people's living conditions. When countries overcome those problems they
have a real opportunity to progress. Socialism has been slandered, has been
defamed. Historically, however, what have the imperialists done? They have
blockaded the socialist countries, suppressed trade. They initially
coexisted with the first socialist state, the Soviet Union, but after a
devastating war the Soviet Union was attacked. More than 10 countries took
part. It was attacked in 15 or 16 different places which caused a civil war
in that country lasting years. Later, when the Soviet Union finally
achieved peace, when it devoted itself to work for 12 or 15 years, it was
again invaded. A terrible war was unleashed against that country costing
the lives of 18 million. They did the same thing with our country--blockade
measures, isolation, creation of all kinds of difficulties--because the
imperialists have a great interest in seeing a socialist regime fall. They
have done all that is possible and impossible to make it fail.

The imperialists are determined to show that exploitation of man by man is
better. The imperialists are determined to show that man has the soul of a
slave, that there is no difference between a flock of sheep and a human
society. Man is only capable of working when he is being beaten by the
owner, manager. The people do not have enough intelligence to organize
their economy and direct their industries; that is the privilege of a
superintelligent minority. That is the mentality, the philosophy of the
imperialists and that is why the do their best to make socialist
institutions fail. In addition, the imperialists left us with a series of
moral problems. They tried to instill discontent, differences, bad habits.

Aside from all ignorance, how could the imperialists be concerned with
children's education? They needed a mass of ignorance, a mass of
illiterates, so that any time they needed a labor force they went to the
market and bought it. What interest could they have in educating the
youth--in creating technically trained youth as has been accomplished in
our country? They needed 300,000 cane cutters. If they had established
schools in Cuba, the cane cutter could not have been recruited. If they had
established primary and secondary schools, if the youth had been granted
educational facilities to become technicians, no youth would have had to
work in the cane fields.

They thought it better to keep people ignorant so they would have a reserve
of unemployed. They always ignored the people. That is why it is so
decisive, so important, so essential, that when the workers at any center
which becomes the property of the nation assume the responsibilities of
production, they do not forget they are engaged in a historical battle for
their country and their class.

Let us not forget that revolutionary ideas are being tested, that man's
ideals are being tested--man's best ideals, humanity's best ideals--and
those who have the duty to defend this, those who have the duty to do their
best, and from whom the country expects such efforts, are not the
bourgeoisie, the reactionaries. What interest can an old exploiter have?
What interest can a reactionary have in seeing people progress, in seeing
new social systems progress. Their interest is in seeing them fail. Who
should be interested in these centers which have become the country's
property? The workers.

The future is not for the bourgeoisie, the future is not for the
reactionaries, the future is for the people. The future is of the workers,
and if thousands of workers gave up their lives when they worked to make
others rich, now, work is being done for the country in those nationalized
centers. The worker is respected, has security, receives humane treatment,
and is not the victim of exploitation because problems concerning his
health, the number of hours he should work in the mines, and his physical
injuries are now the first subjects of attention for the nationalized
industries. That is what we have done in our country. Some Chileans who are
studying have told us about the maximum amount of time that a worker should
work in the mines. What is the maximum number of years, considering health

When the social system changes, the objective is not profit, the objective
is not accumulation of wealth--the objective is man, man's welfare. We work
precisely for man's welfare. That is why in our system man is not
sacrificed to achieve wealth. Man's health is not sacrificed to obtain
wealth because our view is that the objective of work and production is
precisely man. The conditions change completely that is why, in view of the
new production conditions, we say that the future is for the workers and
for their children and that it is precisely the workers who will benefit
from the future--not the reactionaries, not the bourgeoisie. Our people
have understood this perfectly and we are very pleased to see that the mine
workers here have exactly the same reaction, the same thought. That is why
we are so pleased to hear that the workers in this nationalized enterprise
have increased production by 15 percent.

The workers in this nationalized center have produced in 10 months what
they produced during all last year. This pleases us, not only for what it
means for the welfare of the Chilean nation, but for what it means for the
morale of the workers--as an example for the workers--and for what it means
for the victory of the revolutionary ideas and of socialist cause. We can
truly say from what we have heard from the workers of this mine that you
are highly thought of by the Chilean working class. It is well known that
this mine's workers were not only willing to be the vanguard in the past in
struggling for their demands and their rights, but also today continue to
set an example, continue to be one of the vanguard centers of the working
class in helping to consolidate the popular government, helping to
consolidate the revolutionary process which has begun in Chile.

That is why when we return to our country and meet with our workers, and
meet with our mine workers, we will be pleased to tell them about you; to
tell them about the conditions under which you have worked, to tell them
the history of these centers and the magnificent support, revolutionary
spirit, and revolutionary conscientiousness you have just manifested. We
will also tell them about the beautiful scenery, the sea, the trees, the
woods, everything covered with revolutionary flags--and above all about
this ceremony attended by revolutionaries.

We will tell them that in Lota and Coronel we had the great honor of
meeting the thousands of workers here in this coal mine. We had the great
honor of meeting those who on 17 April 1961 started a 48-hour strike and
who--more than 500 of them--offered themselves as volunteers, not only to
go on strike, but to fight and give their blood to defend the Cuban
revolution. [applause]

We will tell them, we will tell our people what a beautiful day it was when
we, after more than 10 years, had the opportunity to come and express our
recognition, our solidarity, and our gratitude for this beautiful
proletarian act. [applause]