Only a few days to go: We’re raising £25,000 to keep TheyWorkForYou running and make sure people across the UK can hold their elected representatives to account.

Donate to our crowdfunder

Orders of the Day — Chile

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 28th November 1973.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Mrs Judith Hart Mrs Judith Hart , Lanark 12:00 am, 28th November 1973

With permission, I should like to make a brief reply to the debate.

I have been a Member of the House for 14 years and I have never heard such Fascism crawling out from under the stones of this place as I have heard tonight. If I were in the Minister's position, I should not welcome the support from his hon. Friends. We have had the Portuguese lobby and the Rhodesian lobby. Now we have a new lobby—the Chilean Embassy lobby, the new Chilean Embassy lobby.

It is remarkable—the right hon. Gentleman should consider his attitude in this light—that not one of his right hon. or hon. Friends has in any way represented even part of the point of view he presented earlier. We have not heard condemnations of the coup. We have not heard condemnations of the murders and brutalities. There has not been even a word of regret that a country with a 140-year tradition of democracy has been destroyed. Therefore, I sympathise with the right hon. Gentleman over the support he has had from his right hon. and hon. Friends.

We have heard a unanimity of briefing from Miss Lucia Santa Cruz before she returned to Chile, a unanimity of briefing provided by El Mercurio, which has a managing director who is now the Minister of Economics in the junta.

I know perfectly well that when the Minister gives us his analysis of what led up to the coup in July we shall have from him also the El Mercurio representation we heard all the time in the embassy drawing rooms in Santiago. Those drawing rooms, certainly in the British Embassy, hardly knew a single Socialist of the Allende Government. When I was there and our former ambassador, for whom I have no word of disrespect, came with me to meet Ministers and officials in the Allende Government, he expressed his gratitude because it was the first time, after a year, that he had been able to meet members of the Popular Unity Government.

That is the background of the kind of information we have. There is a terrible polarisation now represented in what is being said in Britain. It is not that there are or have been in Chile two sets of judgments on the same facts ; it is that there have always been two sets of facts, the real ones and those of the Right wing, which is what we have heard poured out tonight.

When Conservative Members talk of the letters they have received from friends in Chile giving them the true position, do they know that the junta has asked its friends in Chile—this is reported in most of the foreign Press—to write to their friends in Britain, and has given them the material to do it. That was why we have had unanimity of facts. It was remarkable. There was no variation in the so-called facts. We saw the usual Fascist propaganda machine begin to operate. Unfortunately, we are now hearing it represented in this House.

Unless the Minister has something new to say to us, it will not seem that the Government have taken one step forward. So far the Government have merely confirmed the attitudes which we deplore and condemn. On the future extension of credit the Minister justifies the Government's attitude. On refugees he seeks justification. On precedent he talks of the different interpretations of the Vienna Convention.

Of all the countries concerned, including Sweden, Norway, the Netherlands, Belgium and France, I take it that we are to assume that Britain is the only country with the correct interpretation. Are we to understand that Britain is the only country which is right and that our fellow members of the EEC and the other countries of Western Europe are wrong? Are only we right in denying refuge, humanity and decency to those in Chile who face death, torture and brutality?

We have heard about the "Z plan" and about constitutionality. Conservative Members may not be aware of one of the latest acts of the military regime—namely, the abandonment of the last vestige of democracy in Chile. It has abandoned the constitutional council. Is that an act of constitutionality? Is it an act of constitutionality to suspend the constitution and to say that it cannot be restored in less than eight months?

If Conservative Members are right and the Allende Government represented a minority vote, like many Governments elsewhere which have been democratically elected, does that mean that Allende was unpopular and that the Right-wing friends of Conservative Members were the popular leaders? Can they explain why the junta does not dare to return to constitutionality and democracy? If that was the position, they have nothing to fear and no need to murder people or lock them up and torture them.

We have heard tonight that the coup is justified, that murders are justified and that brutality, torture and the overthrow of democracy are justified. I am not talking about the Minister's speech. We were shocked enough by what the right hon. Gentleman had to say, but by comparison with his right hon. and hon. Friends he shines out like an angel of virtue. When I make my criticisms I am not talking about the Minister.

We have heard some Conservative Members express views that would justify at any time the overthrow of democracy in this country. They have said that, if Governments get into economic difficulty and if Governments do not do what they believe is right, it is right and justifiable to overthrow them by military force and to commit acts of depravity such as those which have been committed in Chile. That is the view of some Conservative hon. Members. [HON. MEMBERS : "Where are the Liberals?"] It is remarkable that no Liberal Members have been present during the whole of the debate.

I remind the House of what Salvador Allende believed that he and his Government stood for. I quote from the last speech he made when the bombs were dropping on the Monade Palace from, of course, Hawker Siddeley aircraft. [HON. MEMBERS : "HOW many?"] Enough to destroy it. Salvador Allende said : History is ours. It is the people who make it … I am speaking first to the modest woman of our land, to the peasant woman who believed in us, to the work-woman who was working more, to the mother who knew that we cared about her children. I am speaking to the members of the liberal professions who behaved as patriots … I am speaking to the young people, to those who sang, to those who gave their joy and their spirit of struggle. I am speaking to the man of Chile, to the worker, to the peasant, to the intellectual, to those who will be persecuted… Workers of my country : I have faith in Chile and its destiny. Other Chileans will come. In these dark and bitter moments, where treachery claims to impose itself, you must know that sooner or later, and very soon, large avenues will open again for men worthy of building a new society. We on this side believe in democracy. We happen to be Socialists who believe in democracy. We are prepared to ally ourselves in our faith in democracy with Conservatives who believe in democracy. But we are not prepared to ally ourselves with those Conservatives who have spoken for their party tonight.