I accuse (Neruda)

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I Accuse  (1948) 
by Pablo Neruda, translated by Wikisource
Speech known as "I Accuse," by Pablo Neruda, given during the debate on the passage of the defense of democracy law.

Session of Tuesday, January 6, 1948

The President asks the assembly if they accept or reject holding this special session to hear Neruda.

The Secretary: Results of the vote: 9 yeas, 9 nays, 1 abstention and 2 proxies.

Mr. Alessandri Palma (President): The results will be repeated, but first I want to return to the Assembly. I consider this vote to be a vote of no confidence, and render my resignation as President of the Senate.

Mr. Rodriguez de la Sotta: It has not been my intention to censure my honorable colleague. What's done is done and I tender my resignation from the Senate.

Mr. Neruda: This is what they wanted to happen! Totalitarianism! The orders of the Government!

Mr. Martinez Montt (President): Let the results be repeated.

Mr. Neruda: Mr. President, as the Senate well knows, for months I have been rigorously maintaining a proxy for Senator Maza, who is travelling abroad. The liberal Senators have not allowed me a chance to defend myself as deserves a colleague. In this case, authorized by my party, I dissolve the proxy.

Mr. Videla: He is breaking his word, Mr. President, and voting for what's expedient!

Mr. Contreras Labrarca: Mr. Neruda is not breaking any promise! You all want to silence the voice of Neruda!

Mr. Rodriguez de la Sotta: The words of Senator Neruda, that they wish to impede, obligate me to say two more things briefly.

I respect, as much as anyone, the sacred right of any citizen to defend himself, and all the more so a Senator before his judges, which we are not.

The judges of the Honorable Senator Neruda, in this case, are not in this chamber; they are in the building out front, in the Tribunal. There is where the Senator has to make his defense.

Mr. Laferette: There and here as well, Senator.

Mr. Guevara: And he will also defend himself in the streets.

Mr. Secretary: Results of the vote: 10 yeas, 9 nays, 1 abstention and 1 proxy.

Mr. Martinez Montt (President): The previous measure proposed by the honorable Senator Rodriguez de la Sotta is approved.

Mr. Neruda: In which case I will speak in this afternoon's session.

Mr. Martinez Montt (President): This session is ended.

Session of Tuesday, January 6, 1948

Mr. Neruda: I ask for the floor, Mr. President.

Mr. Videla (President): You have it, Senator.

Mr. Neruda: I again occupy the Senate's attention, in these dramtic moments our country is living, to deal with the document sent by me to many different American people in defense of Chile's prestige and which gives a brief history of our sombre political landscape.

The President of the Republic has taken another step in the unchecked political persecution that will make him noted in the sad history of the times, beginning a case before the Tribunals of Justice, seeking my removal so that my criticism of the means of repression that will form the only memory of his passage through the history of Chile will no longer be heard here.

Speaking before the Honorable Senate today, I feel accompanied by a memory of extraordinary magnitude.

Specifically, in a January 6th like this one, January 6, 1941, a titan of the fight for freedom, a monumental president, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, gave to the world a message in which he established the four freedoms, foundations of the future for which the world fought and bled.

They were:

1. The right to free speech;

2. The right to free worship;

3. The right to freedom from misery;

4. The right to freedom from fear;

This was the world promised by Roosevelt.

It is another world that President Truman as well as Presidents Trujillo, Morinigo, and Gonzales Videla desire.

In Chile there is no freedom of speech, people do not live free from fear. Hundreds of men that fight so that our homeland can live free from misery are persecuted, mistreated, insulted, and condemned.

In this 6th of January, 1948, just seven years after that Rooseveltian declaration, I am persecuted for remaining faithful to these high human aspirations and I must sit for the first time before a tribunal for denouncing to America the indignant violation of those liberties in the last place in the world that I would have wanted them to occur: Chile.

This accusation of which I have been made the object is ancient history. There is not a country, not an era in which my case does not have distinguished and well-known records. Should it be that in a country the phenomena of treason and antipatriotism repeat? I do not believe so. The names of those who were accused unjustly are names that the whole world now respects; they included, once past the persecution and treachery, even the highest leaders of their countries and their compatriots trusted their honorability and their intelligence in order to direct the destiny of their homelands, and they always carried like a badge of honor, the greatest badge of honor, the persecution they faced.

No, the cause should be something else. It was studied and expounded in lucid form by Guizor, a French royal historian, Minister to Luis Felipe de Orleans. This is what he says in his work On Conspiracies and Political Justice, page 166:

What should a government do that sees poorly administered society become agitated under its hand? Incapable of governing it, it will attempt to punish it. The government has not figured out how to achieve its functions or employ its strengths. In which case, it will ask other powers to complete a task that does not belong to them, they will give it their strength for a use for which it was not intended. And as judicial power finds itself bound much more intimately to society than any other, as anything ends or can end in judgments, that power will have to come out of its legitimate sphere in order to excercise itself in that area which the Government has not been able to manage itself.

In all of those places in which politics has been false, incapable, and evil, the judiciary has been required to act in its place, so that it behaves according to motives coming from the Government's sphere and not the laws', so that it abandons utterly its sublime seat and descends down to the arena of the parties. What does despotism become if it does not govern society absolutely, if it only tolerates resistence? Where would it end if it did not make the courts tolerate its politics and did not use us as instruments? If it does not reign in every part, it will not be secure in any. It is by nature so weak that the smallest attack puts it in danger. The presence of the smallest right disrupts it and threatens it.

I have here described using a Frenchman from the first half of the previous century the exact situation of the Chilean government in the year 1948. I have here explained why they have asked for my removal and slandered me, taking advantage of the censure from the south of the country to the north through reporters well-paid and not.

In accusing me of having damaged the reputation of my homeland through having published abroad the truth that in my country a regime of extraordinary abilities and censorship, does not insult me, but rather humanity's greatest men and the Father of the Homeland. It is curious to see oneself accused of antipatriotism for having done the same thing that was done abroad by those who gave us independence and established the bases of what should have always been a free and democratic nation. In branding me a trator and antipatriot, do they not direct the same accusation to me as Osorio, San Bruno, and Marco del Pont directed against O'Higgins, against Carrera, and against all the Chilean expatriates in Mendoza or Buenos Aires who, after having fought at Rancagua, fought with the pen the invaders that they would later vanquish with a sword?

The same accusation against me was made by the tyrannical government of Juan Manuel de Rosas, who called himself the Illustrious Restorer of the Law. This tyrant also asked the government of Chile to extradite Sarmiento to stand trial for treason and lack of patriotism. I have at hand a paragraph from the haughty letter that Sarmiento sent to the president of Chile. He said:

Conspiracy by word, by press, by studying the needs of our populace; conspiracy by example and persuasion; conspiracy by the principles and ideas disseminated by the press and education; this new conspiracy will be. Your Excellency, it will be on my side, ever steadfast, indefatigable, for all time, as long as a drop of blood boils in my veins, while a single moral feeling lives in my conscience, while the freedom to think and express one's thoughts exists in some part of the earth.

Juan Bautista Alberdi, who was also exiled from our homeland, wrote:

No more tyrants or tyrannies, be they Argentinian or foreign, all tyranny is abominable and sacreligious. If an Argentinian is a tyrant and has ideas that retard us, Argentina dies. If elsewhere is liberal and has progressive ideas, that place lives.

Rosas was unable to have Sarmiento or Alberdi in his hands, and once the tyranny had fallen, Sarmiento was president of his country.

It could be neverending, the quotes of all the free men who have found themselves compelled to judge the tyrannical regimes that subjugated their homes and sent accusations of treason and antipatriotism against them. Victor Hugo, implaccable critic of Napoleon III after his exile to Guernesey; Victor Hugo, the monumental poet and selfless patriot, was also accused of treason by Napoleon the Small and his cronies, who were preparing for France humiliation and the defeat at Sedan.

In Chile, in 1868, our very own Supreme Court and our President, don Manuel Mott, were brought, for political reasons, before Parliament. The accusation, accepted by the House of Deputies, did not survive in the Senate. Of this accusation the lawyer Mr. Larrain Zañartu says the following: "It's about prosecuting a man by bringing about the ruin of his party, for undermining a solid building to take advantage of its foundation, for destroying the Constitution in order to exact a futile personal vengeance." These last words seem like they could have been written as a prediction of what is now happening.

How should they classify those who insult me and prosecute the Peruvians that from Argentina, Chile, and the entire continent revealed the crimes of the governments of Misters Leguia, Sanchez Cerro, and Benavides? If they were logical, they should treat them like friends of traitors, but in their country they do not think the same way and one of them has been made vice-president of the Senate. By contrast, the dictators under attack do think the same way.

And what of Venezuela? The slander of treason that was applied to me was applied with equal reason by Juan Vicente Gomez and Juan Bisonte against others that fought it. And once more we find ourselves at a time when the populace there just anointed president-elect one of them, Romulo Gallegos, a personal friend of mine who suffered in his time the persecution that I now suffer. From these facts comes the lesson: the examples of Argentina, Peru, Venezuela and Chile herself indicate that, sooner or later, justice makes way for imperial justice. The men who were exiled during the time of the government of General Ibañez and who fought him from abroad with word and action and who were denegrated as traitors were afterwards esteemed leaders in their countries. One of them, re-elected President of the Republic, is now president of this High Body and, surely, it would infuriate him if someone claimed that, in fighting from abroad against a regime that he considered tyrannical, he committed a crime against the state.

Always, sooner or later, the noble cause triumphs.

This undisputed fact, this feeling that makes the persecuted feel, even in moments of torment, the infinite superiority that distinguishes him from his persecutor; that sensation of fighting for the right cause that made Giordano Bruno exclaim upon being condemned to the bonfire: "I am calmer in this dock than you," indicating the ecclesiatic judges, "that condemn me to death;" that conviction in a justice that separates good faith from the bad and the just cause from the unjust was expressed by our compatriot Francisco Bilbao in masterly form during his trial. He said:

Here are two titles: that of the accusor and that of the accused. Two titles linked by the fate of history and which will go on in the history of my homeland. Then we will see, Mr. Fiscal, which of the two will carry the blessing of posterity. Philosophy also is its code and this code is eternal. Philosophy appoints your name as reactionaries. And good, innovator, I have here what I am; reactionary, I have here what you are.

Jose Victorino Lastarria says this on this point: "The prediction could not fail to happen, as the irate explosions of hatred from the servants of the old regime have always carved the future glory of their victims and have contributed to the triumph of the truth and of freedom almost with more efficacy than the efforts of those who fought for them." Posterity honors and glorifies the author of the Chilean Sociability.

However, Francisco Bilbao was condemned as immoral, a blasphemer, to seeing his work burned by the hand of the tyrant.

I do not seek merit or compensation. But I have absolute certainty that, sooner or later, better sooner than later, the unjust political process to which I have been subjected will be judged as it deserves and its instigators and perpetrators will receive the title that is appropriate to them. But no one will be able to repair the damage that has been caused to the country by obligating the tribunals to abandon their task in order to free the Government from the results of the errors it has committed and that it does not know how to remedy.

I am going to take charge that my person, my work, and bearing in the present circumstances deserve the observations of the Honorable Senator Mr. Miguel Cruchaga Tocornal in the session of December 23rd of last year. The Honorable Mr. Cruchage is not only a distinguished member of this High Body, but also an illustrious son of Chile; his work as a scholar, a diplomat, and Chancellor have allowes him an outstanding situation abroad. His name is cited as an indisputable authority in international subjects and his judgments are used as arguments of great value and weight. Because of his prestige locally, it is pointless to refer to him, as he is known by everyone. It will suffice to remember that Mr. Cruchaga Tocornal, after having occupied with brilliance the various functions of Chancellor of the Republic, occupied, during difficult times, the presidency of this Body.

It is therefore with some alarm that I note that the observations that the Honorable Senator dedicated to me lack clarity not only in their judgments, but also in the strictly legal bases of his arguments, and would regret it should his spotless reputation as a lawyer, that will never be tarnished, suffer attacks from where they are least expected: from he himself, for he would have ended up in stark contrast not only to the generosity and equinimity that a compatriot and collegue should deserve, not only with Christian principles that would obligate him to study and analyze in depth an issue before pronouncing on his fellow man a judgment that the Bible would call rash; not only with the serenity and impartiality that should govern the action of any lawyer so that he not fall into brash statements, rather, what is most serious, with what he has maintained in his universally known treatise; in a word, that he becomes, overnight, the detractor and challenger of his own work, on which his fame as an internationalist rests.

I ask forgiveness from the Honorable Mr. Cruchaga and from this High Body for these irreverant doubts but, truthfully, I am unable to explain within the universally known rules of Civil Rights the serious statement against me, spoken by the Honorable Mr. Cruchaga, when he says, "The Senate has had the sad priviledge of witnessing one of the most unheard-of occurences in the history of Chile. Producing a diplomatic conflict between the Republic and a foreign government, a member of this Body did not flinch while turning against his own country, attacking the Executive and converting himself into an ardent defender not of Chile, rather only of said foreign government."

I do not wish, for the moment, to refer to the personal, empassioned, and subjective part of what I have quoted. The displeasure that it could cause me, above all for it having been impudent and unjust, is surpassed by the feeling of unease that is produced by thinking on the astonished and incredulous faces that the Chilean and foreign admirers of Mr. Cruchaga Tocornal must have worn and which they must still be wearing.

It is not possible, they must think, that the serene and circumspect scholar has abandoned the scrupulous use of technical-legal vocabulary to fall into such arbitrary confusion and layman's use of terms that each have a precise definition; and more, why? To come to a conclusion that does not honor a scholar.

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