Unite Statement on 40th Anniversary of Coup in Chile

 Arguably the 1973 coup in Chile marked the beginning of the end of the social progress experienced in many parts of the world since the end of the Second World War.

 For the Chilean people and especially the left in Chile the events of 1973 represented the start of a murderous period under General Augusto Pinochet. Socialists, communists and trade unionists were rounded up, tortured and murdered in the national football stadium. Perhaps the most famous of the dead was the singer/songwriter Victor Jara.

 Although military support for the coup can be laid at the door of the Pentagon, the ideological underpinning for the coup can be traced back directly to the Economics Department at Chicago University. Led by Prof Milton Freidman right wing thinkers had been preparing their counter revolution against post war social democratic advance.

 With the leadership of the left in Chile either dead or in exile, the “Chicago Boys” were given free rein for their free market experiments with a national economy.

 By the late 1970s, elsewhere in the world disciples of Friedman were coming to power, most notably Thatcher in Britain and Reagan in the US. Buoyed by the “success” of the experiments in Chile they began to dismantle social democracy in their own countries and then across most of the world. In the UK the first wave of this attack was to legally emasculate the trade union movement.

 The period between 1973 and 1979 however, showed the best of the British left. Many thousands of Chilean political refugees were given sanctuary in the UK, their passage and resettlement often organised by our trade unions and political activists.

 It is here that praise must be given to a predecessor union of Unite, the Transport & General Workers’ Union. The T&G was essential to both political support for the Chilean left and for work with the refugees; former T&G Deputy General Secretary the late Alex Kitson was Treasurer of Chile Solidarity Campaign.

 Forty years on Unite remains active in Latin American politics. We support the social progress being made in Cuba, Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador, Argentina, Nicaragua and elsewhere. We stand in solidarity with trade unionists and others on the left in Colombia, Honduras and Guatemala.

 In 2013 our thoughts are with the family and friends of those who died, our solidarity is with those working for social justice where ever in the world they are.


¡Hasta la Victoria Siempre!


Len McCluskey

General Secretary

Unite the union

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