Sunday, September 23, 2018

Santiago, Scotland

I'm pretty sure I don't need to inform any regular listeners of this show that a fascist military general named Augusto Pinochet launched a coup against the popular socialist government of Salvador Allende on September 11th, 1973. I probably don't need to remind you that many of the soldiers who took part in the coup were trained in torture techniques by the US military, or that the coup involved active CIA participation and had the support of the US government at the very highest level.

Many people may be aware of some of the things that happened next – the thousands killed, the many more thousands tortured and imprisoned, the hundreds of thousands of refugees who got asylum in Sweden, Germany, Mexico and elsewhere, the Allende official assassinated in Washington, DC, the close relationship between General Pinochet, Ronald Reagan, and The Other Leader of the Free World, Margaret Thatcher.

Among the people of the world, there was widespread opposition to the coup in Chile and its CIA sponsors. Opposition to the generals and support for the Chilean people took many forms in different places. One of the lesser-known forms that solidarity took occurred in the town of East Kilbride in Scotland.

East Kilbride

Jet fighters bombed the palace, we all watched it on TV
The 11th of September, 1973
All across the world people cried in vain
As we heard stories of the people being tortured and slain
Stories of the workers, shop stewards and the rest
Being slaughtered at the new dictator's behest
Labor groups condemned it, said we were on the workers' side
Including all the engineers of East Kilbride

People organized a boycott of General Pinochet
Who had overthrown Allende with a Hawker Hunter jet
Then a few months later, March of '74
Bob Fulton came to work at the Rolls Royce factory floor
He looked at the orders that had come in that day
And found crates with jet engines from Chile
Jet engines from the Air Force across the ocean wide
Sent to be repaired in East Kilbride

It didn't take a minute for Fulton and his mates
To come to the decision that they would not touch these crates
Soon four thousand Rolls Royce workers voted they agreed
To stand with the Chileans in their hour of need
Management decried them, the Tories screamed and cussed
But the Hawker Hunter engines were left to sit and rust
Nowhere else on Earth were workers qualified
To repair the engines sitting there in East Kilbride

It's often hard to know if you've changed anything a whit
But decades later a Chilean general would admit
For a time in Santiago there were no fighters in the sky
Because the whole Chilean Air Force had not one jet that could fly
They may not have changed the world, this group of union engineers
But these crates of metal sat corroding for four years
So here's to British labor, how for four years it tried
To do what could be done from East Kilbride

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