Written By: - Date published: 10:40 am, January 22nd, 2018 - 7 comments
Categories: activism, boycott, capitalism, child welfare, class war, democratic participation, film, International, Politics, Social issues, the praiseworthy and the pitiful, Unions, war - Tags: ,

On September the 11th 1973, the Chilean air-force attacked the presidential palace of Chile with Hawker Hunter fighter jets. As most people are no doubt aware, that presaged the beginning of General Augusto Pinochet’s almost two decades long dictatorship. Pinochet died in 2006. During his life, he enjoyed the support and protection of western leaders. Margaret Thatcher, probably genuinely, said she was “greatly saddened” by his passing.

But what did ordinary people think of Pinochet, his murder of Allende, and his destruction of Allende’s democratically elected Chilean government? Well, some people, even a majority, probably didn’t give any of it a second thought. But others, well…

In 1974, engines from the Chilean air-force’s same Hawker Hunter jets mentioned above, were sent to the Rolls Royce factory in East Kilbride, Scotland for maintenance. And by the simple act of one man initiating action by writing the word “black”on the engines, those engines sat in the Rolls Royce factory for four years until “sneaked out” and away in the dead of night under police escort. (Glasgow Herald)

When asked why they had initiated the blacklisting of the maintenance of those engines, Stuart Barr says that while he was acting from a political standpoint, his workmate Bob Fulton was coming at things from a Christian angle. And when the 4 500 workers on the shop floor endorsed the black-listing, I’d reasonably guess a “shopping list” of reasons could have been scribbled up by anyone who might have asked. Solidarity isn’t about “one voice” of understanding or perspective – solidarity is in the act itself.

Unsurprisingly, according to Robert Sommerville, who went on to be involved in the Chile Solidarity movement, both management and John Boyd the head of the Amalgamated Engineering Union* applied pressure to have the blacklisting lifted.

Some stuff isn’t just forgotten.

In 2015, John Keenan, Bob Fulton and Robert Somerville were awarded the Order of Bernardo O’Higgins medal for their act of solidarity with the Chilean people – the highest civilian honor awarded to non-Chilean citizens.

Meanwhile Felipe Bustos Sierra, the son of a Chilean refugee in Belgium, has completed a documentary of the story called Nae Pasaran. 

Here’s the short 14min 2013 version of the final “kickstarter” funded 2017 film that includes interviews with three of the protagonists. Enjoy.


*the linked ‘Glasgow Herald’ article incorrectly states the union at the time as being the Amalgamated Engineering and Electrical Union. The AEEU wasn’t founded until 1991.

For anyone interested in further reading, this links to a 36 page pdf entitled “Pinochet’s Jets and Rolls Royce East Kilbride

7 comments on “Solidarity”

  1. ropata 1

    Great story, and a reminder that oppressive regimes fear the power of the people. It’s important to separate the actions of criminal despots from the ordinary people who suffer under their yoke.

  2. adam 2

    Well that was great watching.

  3. gsays 3

    Hey cheers Bill for that wee synopsis.
    I was blissfully unaware of this story.
    Will be watching tonight after work.

    Reminds me of the 2(?) grandmothers who broke into the UK airbase and attacked planes with hammers to prevent the jets from being used.

    Solidarity seems to be an old fashioned notion in these ‘me first, gimme gimme’ times.

    • mac1 3.1

      gsays, the Plowshares movement. They attacked an installation near Blenheim, too.

      Bill, this story is so inspiring. Thanks.

      What effect can one person have? Especially when joined by others in solidarity. It is the story of human progress.

      • gsays 3.1.1

        That’s it mac.

        I think provocation was the defence the Blenheim crew used.
        No longer on the statutes after Simon Power finished his work.

  4. tracey 4

    Thanks Bill… we are more powerful than some want us to believe

  5. Ed 5

    We also had a counter- revolution which took control for the neoliberal elite.
    It was bloodless and its leader was Roger Douglas.
    He and his co-conspirators have not been tried yet.

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