Here is the report on our trip to the coal mines where the miners are on strike and have occupied the mine of LOTA..
On June 6th., in the morning, I arrived in LOTA together with the comrades, of the Group of Unionist Unrest "Solidaridad Obrera " (AIT- International Workers Association - international anarcho-syndicalist organisation - section of Concepcion) and we went straight away to the miners on hunger strike to express our solidarity. Among them were some of the 97 dismissed workers whose reinstatement is the main objective of this strike.Then we went down to the mine to talk to the miners who welcomed us very warmly, as it is usual in this land which is so cold and at the same time so warm thanks to its people.We informed them of the communication sent to the AIT (International Workers Association), and also of the solidarity messages received up till then. Those were read in the Assembly both inside the mine and outside it.
These greetings and messages of support have gone straight to the heart of the miners who have seen how their fight is followed with interest beyond the borders of their country. Later on,the same messages were, read outside the mines, to the many visitors and comrades who had come from the whole country to support the coal miners in their rightful struggle.
We visited the 25 communal canteens where we talked and listened to the people. These communal canteens are,we must insist are the most powerful means of support. They feed not only the miners but also their families.That is why it is vital in, our view to keep them running, and the comrades of the group of Social Unrest "Solidaridad Obrera" have collected food and money in the centre of Concepcion.
As we talked to the miners, we heard their positions and possible,solutions to the conflict were pointed out.The most popular one was that of self-managenient of the mines. We exchanged viewpoints and enriched each other mutually. When talking about revolutionary self-manngement, the miners admitted the progress made since the occupation of the mineral stock. We also used the occasion to answer some of the miners' questions about anarcho-syndicalism, although these words are somehow present in their historical memories (their gand parents were anarcho-syndicalists, for example) they did not know much about our ideas and praxis. Some comrades from the popular radios of Santiago, and particularly Radio Popular La Granja (where some libertarian comrades are presently working) were transmiting from a radio installed on the surface of the occupied mine that reached as far as the towns of LOTA and CORONEL. This initiative got the immediate support of the miners. On this radio,tbe messages are live: the miners children, as well as their girfriends and mothers sent messages to their relatives in the mines, asking them to continue with their struggle, interviews with the workers on hunger strike inside the church of Lota, although they have been threatened with expulsion by the Opus Dei archbishop of Concepcion, Antonio Moreno We can say that the whole town is in the hands of the miners. The "pacos" keep outside the town since last Wednesday when they had a clash with the miners and realized how costly any intervention could turn out to be. There are interviews with the interviews who informed about their situation and their aims.The music that is played is popular music, Victor Jara, Violeta Parra, Illapu, Rebecca Godoy. In short that very music which is not played on the other national radios. None of the other commercial radios are heard in the mine. There was a programme of an historical character called "Let's get back our historical memory" of around one hour and a half, very important indeed, since the history of the workers' movement is unknown. After a while, the authorities, alerted by the commercial radios, started taping ourprogramme and accused us of issuing subversive propaganda only because we talked aboutwas happening and referred to the self management of the mine!
On Friday, June 7th, before we went back to Santiago, there were some demonstrations in Concepcion to support the strikers. One of these was particularly important: that of the high school students where an open letter addressed to the President of the Republic was read out.In this letter, the students said how dramatic the situation of their school mates whose fathers who had been sacked was, since,now,they would have to stop studying and would have no other choice than to resort to mendicity or prostitution in order to survive. In the evening,the CUT (coalition of workers's associations, with political pary involvement eg PS,FC,DC) held an assembly where, they tried to minimize what is happening in Lota. Protests immediately arose from all quarters and the comrades of the Committee of Solidarity with the miners of Lota displayed a sign that said: For the right to work- Reinstatement of the miners now and shouted slogans in favour of the General Strike. At this moment the mood in the assembly changed sensibly and the leaders of the CUT had to allow the miners' leaders to intervene. The first one to talk was the leader of the union No.1, who exposed briefly the the problems and called for the regional strike for the next day, which was precisely what the Committee was calling for, and announced the march towards Santiago, that will start on on Tuesday the 11th at 18hrs, to demand a prompt solution from the Government and also to demand that the CUT calls for a national strike.
(We remind everyone that that the coal mines belong to ENACAR, which is state owned.)The assembly was adjourned with a call for a march from the CUT offices to the main square of Concepcion. The police tried to stop the march and some CUT leaders tried to negotiate but the workers went on. The CUT decided to participate in the Tuesday march and to convene a regional strike for the next days (Tuesday or Wednesday).
BALANCE SHEET OF INVOLVEMENT IN THE CONFLICT
Up till now (June 8th.)we can say the work that has been done in Concepcion and in the mines is very positive.
We constituted the Committee of solidarity with the miners of Lota which participated actively in support of the miners' struggle. Many unionist, political and social organisations of different ideologies are present in this Committee. The comrades have exposed their propaganda at several levels : at the unionist one with the Group of Solidarid Obrera -at the social one, with groups of youth and students. The impact of said mobilisations and especially the mutual aid among, the miners is really impressive. We have supported all forms of discussion and the decisions taken at the grass roots, as well as the workers solidarity and the direct actions, besides overcoming the fear of repression. On our side we have broken with our passivity and estrangefrom social actions, we have followed the way opened by the miners, strengthening both in them and in us our anarcho-syndicalist convictions. Seen from this side, we have won the friendship and respect of a large part of the local working class,and especially in the coal mines. We are trying to co-ordinate the different strikes in the area (for example with that of the Pasteur Laboratories, in their 7th day of strike action and we are thinking of expanding their struggle towards a national strike in support of the miners of Lota). There is also an anarcho-syndicalist co-ordination with the comrades of Chillan, Conception and Tennco are going to create the Regional Sur of the AIT within a short time.
As to the weak points:
The biggest problem for the expansion of our ideas is the very poor conditions in which the comrades of Concepcion and Santiago, and in general all the comrades within the anarchosyndicalist field, have to work. For example, we have no means of publication for our propaganda, no printing equipement, no photocopier, only our voices! This total lack of means is so extreme that it is difficult to communicate, with other AIT members, both inside and outside the country (in fact, thanks to this very couflict we have got to know that we had a comrade in the CUT-Chillan). The comrades have no telephone and they can use one only occasionaly and also illegally. We cannot travel to bring support where it is needed (and in our case, for example, the trip to Concepion has be a real adventure.) This point is particularly,important in a country where, for example, to travel from Santiago to Concepcion you need 12 hours.
The transport costs are very expensive, besides. -This shows clearly that we need to have our own means of propaganda.Right now,we solve the problems as soon as we can put some money together. In short, we urgently need a printer or photocopier to takewhere it is most needed: now, for example, to Concepcion. A FM radio transmiter of 100 metres(?). That would be more than enough for information and propaganda. For any deeper and thourhhgood books and we don't have many here. The Centre for Social Studies Magno Espinoza is too small for what is needed.
- Premises: We don't have enough and we are using now those of other social organisationsor private houses. which are often in the outskirts of the cities and therefore not reachable for lots of people.
Comrades our task is to spread anarcho-syndicalist ideas (and also anarchy) and is carried out in these kinds of conditions. It is alright, but it could be much better. There is a good atmosphere among the comrades, only we aresometimes discouraged by the enormous gap that stands between our aims and our possibilities.
We remind you right now, that solidarity with the miners of Lota is essential.
Any demo in front of Chilean consulates or embassies would be appreciated, or notes of support from the AIT sections to fax number : (5641) 247860, addressed to Eduardo Torres (member of The Solidaridad Obrera - AIT of Concepcion) who can take them to the area of the conflict (there is no direct communication with the mine) or to the Sindicato de Oficios Varios of Santiago . AIT . fax number: ( 56 -2 ) 7413173.
Means to support the communal canteens must be sent to Hector Pavelic Sanhueza, IdentityCard Number 6732776-4 Calle 7 de Octubre no. 399, Comuna Estacion Central, Santiago, Chile or money to Savings account no. 349605851161 of the Banco de Estado Account holder: Evelyn Moremo T.)
For more information about the miners (have you seen the end of "La Estrategia del Caracol") and our support actions,what is said in the bourgeois media about the issue, the positions of the left parties in the Government, the extra-parliamentary ones, the rightwing parties and anything else that may interest you please, contact us.
According to the latest news, this conflict is going to last a very long time. We have agreed to stay by the miners as long as need be, and in whatever case. We are not going to use the conflict in order to convince anyone: we are not feeding on heroism and we are not going to teach them a lesson on how to win the battle against capital, but we have the firm intention to put our convictions into practice and those who want to see shall see. We won't hide either what we are and we won't pretend to be what we are not, that is to say: we will go on doing what we have been doing so far and get the respect of, at least, some more people.
We have managed to minimise the attempts of Trotskyist groups to direct miners' strike support committees,particularly in the case of Concepcion, although we did not exclude their participation. Whilst the social organisations which are inside the committee have gained self confidence as to their capacity to organise, and to develop their classs solidarity more efficiently than any that is conditioned to political gains.
So far we have received the sum of 300.353 Chilean pesos for support work amongst the miners. These funds will be used to buy medicines and also for propaganda in the conflict.
SINDICATO DE OFICIOS VARIOS DE SANTIAGO IWA SECTION
Hector Pavelic Sanhueza.