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50th anniversary of the military coup in Chile

September 11 marked the 50th anniversary of the 1973 military coup in Chile that overthrew Salvador Allende, a socialist president backed by the broad leftist Popular Unity coalition. One of the key members of the coalition was the United Trade Union Center of Workers of Chile, the largest trade union in the country, which included unions of railroad workers, miners, construction workers, civil servants, and medical workers, among others.

Chilean workers were (and still are) quite politicized. Representatives of the socialist and communist parties played a leading role in labor unions during that period. Historically, the influence of anarcho-syndicalists was also strong. At the same time, other political movements, such as the Christian Democrats, were also influential. In the governing body of the United Workers' Trade Union Center, elected in 1972, the Communists, Socialists, and Christian Democrats received roughly equal representation (about one-third each).

As researcher Francisco Zapata notes (in a 1976 article, "The Chilean Labor Movement under Salvador Allende: 1970-1973"), "the Chilean labor movement naturally combined bargaining and collective bargaining tactics with strikes and political protests." Speaking of strike activity between 1951 and 1970, the researcher notes that it was concentrated in key segments of the economy - copper, coal and manufacturing. As Zapata notes, strikes were also accompanied by other forms of collective action. In particular, 1969 and 1970 saw an increase in land seizures by peasants, occupations of educational institutions and industrial plants.

The United Workers' Trade Union Center actively used such an instrument of struggle as the general strike. Between 1954 and 1970, the trade union center initiated 12 general strikes. These actions were related, among other things, to wage issues, pressure on labor unions, and the rising cost of living. In 1970, a general strike was held to demand the defense of the democratic process against the actions of right-wing groups.

During Salvador Allende's rule, the United Workers' Trade Union Center was actively involved in government reforms, including a reform aimed at involving workers in the management of state and public-private enterprises. The strengthening of ties between the trade union center and the government during this period, as Francisco Zapata notes, seriously challenged the unions to maintain their own "traditional autonomy and independence from the state."

In any case, the period of Allende's rule was marked by both political freedom and freedom of trade union activity, seriously expanding labor participation in the country. The military coup of September 11, 1973, completely destroyed the possibilities for trade union activity. The unified trade union center of the workers of Chile was soon dissolved.

The following year, 1974, an overseas committee of the trade union center was set up in Paris to maintain links with the workers' resistance in Chile and conduct solidarity campaigns.

(Posters from that period // pic -

The Netherlands Confederation of Trade Unions (NVV) and then the (largely) united Federation of Dutch Trade Unions (FNV), based on it, were active in solidarity campaigns with Chilean unions and workers.

The re-establishment of the trade union center in Chile did not occur until the late 1980s, during the final, "transitional" period of the military dictatorship.

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