Chile: La Resistencia Va!

September 25, 2007

World reaction to the Chilean military junta that overthrew the Unidad Popular government on September 11, 1973, has been overwhelmingly negative. Unable to gain the international stature it needs to attain political and economic stability, the junta is becoming more repressive and desperate daily. The "good will ambassadors" dispatched by the junta have been prevented from speaking in public and have been forced out of one country after another, including Mexico, Venezuela, Spain, Bolivia and the United States. By exposing the fascist character of the junta,we can help to maintainthis international pressure against it. For that reason we have allotted one page of this issue to information about Chile. Our work is an expression of our solidarity with the heroic resistance struggle of the Chilean people. "Our federation will be absolutely apolitical, democratic and free, independent of both government and political parties," announced the newly selected president of the Chilean National Workers' Confederation (CNT). After outlawing all workers' organizations, dissolving the Central Labor Federation of industrial unions (CUT), and carrying on one of the most brutal offensives in history against the Chilean working class, the Chilean military junta has just given the go-ahead to the CNT. Whereas the CUT, founded in 1952, included all industrial unions and had more than one million members, the CNT has never represented more than a handful of workers. During the first week in January 1974, in a meeting arranged and approved by the junta, 26 paper associations declared themselves the "new alternative" to the CUT, claiming to be a confederation of "all workers" that will cooperate with, rather than challenge, the owners and directors of big business. The CNT, founded in the early 1960's, is directly funded by the U.S. American Institute for Free Labor Development (AIFLD). AIFLD was founded at the end of 1961, after the failure of the Bay of Pigs invasion, to "fight castroism in Latin America." This labor institute, like the Peace Corps and Food for Peace program, was designed as part of an overall strategy to undermine social protest movements in the Western hemisphere. The Institute was designed to propagate the values of the free enterprise system, offering seminars on "free trade unionism," how to fight com- munism in the trade unions, and methods of collective bargaining and the development of harmonious labor- management relations. The seminars are given in each Latin American country and a special advance course is offered quarterly at the Institute's headquarters in Washington, D.C., the Front Royal Institute. AIFLD is sponsored by George Meany in the name of the AFL-CIO despite the fact that most AFL-CIO rank-and-file groups have never been provided with information about the Institute's operations and purposes. Support for AIFLD also comes from the U.S. government and large U.S. cor- porations and banks. According to AIFLD's president, J. Peter Grace, "its objectives in Latin America are to promote democratic free trade unions; to prevent communist infiltration, and where it already exists to get rid of it. . . . It teaches workers to help increase their company's business. . . . The AIFLD urges cooperation between labor and management and an end to class struggle." Who funds AIFLD? George Meany, director of the In- stitute, brags that it receives support from the "largest corporations in the United States, and," he adds, "they're really big: Rockefeller, ITT, Kennecott, Standard Oil, Kop- pers, Gillette, Shell Petroleum, Crown Zellerbach, Anaconda, even Readers Digest. . . and although some of these companies have no connection whatsoever to U.S. trade unions, they are all agreed that it was really in the U.S. interest to help develop free trade unions in Latin America and that's why they contributed so much money." Meany does not mention here the benefits of cheap labor that attract these large corporations and, of course, their interest in keeping it cheap. It was this interest more than any other than brought AIFLD into Chile and that accounts for its role in supporting-technologically and financially- the right-wing opposition to the popular government of Salvador Allende. Now that the coup has taken place, AIFLD-backed unions are working hand-in-hand with the military to suppress workers' protests. The Chilean CNT was resurrected once before, in 1965, when the United States poured money into its key union, the Maritime Union (COMACH), to carry out a strategy aimed at breaking up the CUT and dividing the working class. The strategists planned to use the funds to form a series of paper organizations, register them in the CUT, infiltrate the national convention and then stage a walk-out. It failed. But the military coup has now accomplished the task that the United States and the Chilean right have projected since the formation of the CUT: destroy the organization of industrial workers, subordinate working class unions to white collar and professional leadership, and replace class consciousness with trade-unionism and economism. The recently chosen president of the CNT, Eduardo Rojas, is, by no coincidence, president of COMACH. COMACH has sent more of its members to study at AIFLD's Front Royal Institute than any other Chilean union. In return, it has been treated generously. AIFLD has called on COMACH to sponsor many of its in-country seminars where well over 10,000 Chileans have been taught "free trade unionism." In July 1968 COMACH received over $4,000 from AIFLD under the rubric of a social action project plus additional funds for radio equipment. In August 1968 money was given to install an elaborate ship-to-shore radio operation. (Precisely during these months, right wing sectors of the military were planning a coup against the Frei government.) In June 1971 money was again channeled through COMACH into the right-wing trade union movement; the following month, the AFL-CIO donated $2,500 directly to COMACH, supposedly for a special earthquake fund. Considering that coup operations on the morning of Sep- tember 11, 1973, began at the port of Valparaiso where COMACH is based, this union seems to have been a very convenient conduit for funds, and a useful go-between for the coordination of information between Chilean land and sea maneuvers as well as between the Chilean Navy and U.S. Naval operations--UNITAS--stationed off the coast of Chile on that day. The new vice-president of the CNT, Luis Villena, from the National Confederation of Copper Workers, is a graduate32 (33rd class) of the AIFLD's Front Royal Institute. Next to COMACH,the United States has favored this confederation in an effort to get a hold on the most crucial sector of Chile's labor force, that connected with the copper mining industry. Through the help of the U.S. copper companies-Anaconda and Kennecott (both financial backers of AIFLD)-AIFLD has offered more training seminars for copper workers than any other single group of workers. Like COMACH, the Copper Workers' Confederation has a good number of AIFLD graduates in its ranks, and it has received special funding under the guise of AIFLD projects. For example, in May 1970, the Institute presented $5,000 to the Con- federation. New officers have also been selected for the Chilean Confederation of Copper Workers, according to the latest reports in Ercilla, the Chilean equivalent of Time. President Guillermo Santana Salas is a Front Royal graduate (24th class) and the Secretary General is the above-mentioned Luis Villena of the CNT. Both are technical, white collar workers, not miners. In 1970 the U.S. government cut off all aid to Chile in an attempt to undermine the economic stability of the Allende government. Nonetheless, over a million dollars continued to flow into Chile through AID's technical assistance program. Money from this program is earmarked for AIFLD. Furthermore, the number of Chileans trained at the U.S. Front Royal Institute from October 1972 to February 1973, a period of growing seditious activity, increased by over 300 percent. The secretary of the right-wing coordinating committee (National Command for Free Trade Union Defense) for the October 1972 bosses' lock-out, Jorge Guerrero, has just completed the AIFLD's special advanced course in labor economics here in the United States. This course was given in October 1973, one month after the coup, and Guerrero was not the only Chilean present. AIFLD officers have bragged of their graduates' par- ticipation in other coups in Latin America: Guyana, Brazil, the Dominican Republic, and now in Chile. Yet it is clear that the AIFLD's strategy for Chile, while successful in the short run, is now failing completely. The high level of class consciousness achieved by the Chilean working class is not something that can be eliminated. About 95 percent of the working class will have nothing to do with CNT or AIFLD. More than ever, Chilean workers are aware of the true nature of ruling class ex- ploitation. Despite the ever-increasing military repression, workers continue to resist the junta. Presently, bakers are waging a wildcat strike for better salaries. And other strikes of industrial workers have been reported throughout Chile as wage freezes and rampant inflation make most essen- tials prohibitive to working people. AIFLD was a helpful partner in the conspiracy that overthrew Allende, but the behavior of the Chilean working class clearly indicates that it will not be bought off.

Tags: Chile, Augusto Pinochet, repression, resistance

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