Workers of the “Cordones Industriales” marching before the military coup of September 11, 1973
On September 5, 1973, the Coordinadora Provincial de Cordones Industriales (Provincial Coordinating Committee of the Industrial Cordons) sent a letter to Unidad Popular (UP – Popular Unity) President Salvador Allende. In this letter, the Coordinadora demands urgent measures to prevent a coup and a military dictatorship.
The Cordones Industriales were a grassroots organization formed by the workers who occupied and administered hundreds of companies, who responded to the reaction’s attacks (such as the employers’ strike of October 1972) in the factories and in the streets, and who constituted the first organs of workers’ power in Chile.
This letter to Allende highlights the government’s moderate and conciliatory attitude, which, instead of developing the power of self-organization and mobilizing the workers’ and popular movement, sought dialogue with the Christian Democracy and the Right, the reactionary parliament and the military, and accepted measures (such as the Millas Plan or the Law for the Control of Arms) that tended to weaken workers’ and popular power. The letter also points out the real threat that the capitalists, imperialism, and the military represented, and that of the coup they planned to establish.
The Cordones Industriales constituted the most advanced development within the revolutionary process of the 1970s and within the Chilean working class.
Letter from the Coordinadora de Cordones to Salvador Allende
To His Excellency, the President of the Republic
Compañero Salvador Allende:
The time has come when the organized working class in the embattled Coordinadora Provincial de Cordones Industriales (Provincial Coordinating Committee of Cordones Industriales), the Comando Provincial de Abastecimiento Directo (Provincial Command for Direct Control of Supply), and the Frente Único de Trabajadores (Workers’ United Front) consider it urgent to address you, as we are alarmed by the unleashing of a series of events that we believe will not only lead to the liquidation of the Chilean revolutionary process but to a most ruthless and criminal fascist regime in the near future.
Before, we were afraid that the process of moving towards socialism was being compromised by a centrist, reformist, bourgeois-democratic government that tended to demobilize the masses or lead them to take anarchic insurrectionary actions out of an instinct for self-preservation.
But now, looking at the most recent events, we are no longer afraid of this, for now we are sure that we are on a path that will inevitably lead to fascism.
That is why we will proceed to list the measures that, as representatives of the working class, we consider to be indispensable.
First of all, compañero, we demand that the program of the Unidad Popular (UP – Popular Unity) be implemented, for in 1970 we did not vote for a man — we voted for a program.
Curiously, the first chapter of the program of the Unidad Popular is titled “Popular Power.”
We quote page 14 of the program:
“The popular and revolutionary forces have not united to fight for the simple substitution of one President of the Republic for another, nor to replace one party for other parties of government, but instead to carry out the fundamental changes which the national situation demands, on the basis of the transfer of power from the old dominant groups to the workers, the peasantry and the progressive sectors of the middle class . . . To transform the current institutions of the State so that the workers and the people hold the real exercise of power . . .”
“The Popular Government will essentially base its strength and authority on the support that the organized people extend to it.”
“The new power structure will be constituted from the grassroots through the mobilization of the masses.”
It speaks of a program for a new Political Constitution, of a Single Chamber, of the Asamblea del Pueblo (People’s Assembly), of a Supreme Court with members assigned by the People’s Assembly. The program indicates that the use of the Armed Forces to oppress the people will be rejected (page 24).
Compañero Allende, if we did not tell you that these phrases are quotations from the Unidad Popular program, a minimum program for the class, we would at this point be told that this is the “ultra” language of the cordones industriales.
But we ask: Where is the new State? The new Political Constitution, the Single Chamber, the People’s Assembly, the Supreme Courts?
Three years have passed, compañero Allende, and you have not relied on the masses and now we workers have lost confidence.
The workers feel an intense frustration and despondency when their president, their government, their parties, their organizations, again and again give them the order to retreat instead of the word to advance. We demand that we not only be informed but also consulted about the decisions being made, which are ultimately defining our destiny.
We know that in the history of revolutions there have always been moments of retreat and moments of advance, but we know, we are absolutely certain, that in the last three years we could have not only won partial battles but the struggle in total.
Measures could have been taken that would have made the process irreversible, such as after the triumph of the Regidores (municipal) election in 1971, when the people clamored for a plebiscite and the dissolution of an antagonistic Congress.
In October (1972), it was the determination and organization of the working class that kept the country moving in the face of the bosses’ strike, and in the heat of this struggle the Cordones Industriales were born, which, thanks to the sacrifice of the workers, maintained production, supply, and transportation. A mortal blow could have been dealt to the bourgeoisie, but you have no confidence in us, even though no one can deny the tremendous revolutionary potential that the proletariat has demonstrated. Instead, the working class was given a slap in the face with the establishment of a civic-military cabinet, while having to include two leaders of the Central Única de Trabajadores (CUT – United Workers’ Central). Their integration into the ministries has made the working class lose confidence in its leading organization.
This organization, whatever the character of the government, must stand apart from it in order to defend workers against any weakness on the part of the government.
In spite of the demobilization that this produced, and the inflation, the queues and the thousand difficulties that the men and women of the proletariat live through every day, in the elections of March 1973, they showed their clarity and consciousness once more by giving 43% of their militant votes to the candidates of the Unidad Popular.
Here too, compañero, the measures that the people deserved and demanded should have been taken to protect them from the disaster we all now sense.
And already on June 29, when the seditious generals and officers allied with the National Party, Frei and Patria y Libertad (PyL – Fatherland and Liberty) openly placed themselves in a position of illegality, this sedition could have been beheaded. Relying on the people, giving responsibility to the loyal generals and the forces that then obeyed them, and going over to the offensive, this process could have been taken towards triumph. What was lacking on all these occasions was determination, revolutionary determination. What was lacking was confidence in the masses, knowledge of their organization and strength. What was missing was a determined and hegemonic vanguard.
Now the workers are not only distrustful; we are also alarmed.
The right has assembled a powerful and well-organized terrorist apparatus, which is without doubt financed and trained by the CIA. They kill workers; they blow up oil pipelines, buses, and rail lines.
They have manufactured blackouts in two provinces, made attempts on our leaders, our local supporters, and our trade unions.
Are they punished or arrested?
The leaders of the left are punished and arrested.
The Pablo Rodríguez’s, the Benjamin Matte’s, openly confess to taking part in the “Tanquetazo”.
Are they raided and humiliated?
The Austral de Magallanes wool plant is raided, a worker is murdered, and other workers are kept outside in the snow for hours and hours.
The transport sector paralyzes the country, leaving humble homes without paraffin, without food, without medication.
Are they being harassed, are they being repressed?
The workers of Cerrillos Copper, Indugas, Melón Cement, and Cervecerías Unidas (United Breweries) are being harassed.
Frei, Jarpa, and their ITT-funded groups openly call for sedition.
Are they prosecuted; are they sued?
A lawsuit is filed, a desafuero (application to remove immunity) is lodged for Palestro, Altamirano, Garretón, for those who defend the rights of the working class.
On June 29, generals and officers rose up against the government, strafing the Moneda Palace for hours and hours, killing 22 people.
Are they shot; are they tortured?
The sailors and non-commissioned officers who defend the Constitution, the will of the people, and you, compañero Allende, are tortured inhumanely.
Patria y Libertad incites a coup.
Are they arrested; are they punished?
No, compañero! They continue to hold press conferences; they are given safe passage to conspire abroad.
All the while SUMAR is raided, workers and residents are killed, and the peasants of Cautín, who defend the government, are subjected to the most unrelenting punishment, put in helicopters suspended from their feet and passed over the heads of their families until they are killed.
You are attacked, compañero, as are our leaders, and through them all workers are attacked in the most insolent and wanton way by the millionaire media outlets of the right.
Are they destroyed; are they silenced?
What is silenced and destroyed is the media outlets of the left, TV Channel 9, the last option for the voice of the workers.
And on September 4, on the third anniversary of the government of the workers, while the people, one million and four hundred thousand, went out to greet it, to show our determination and revolutionary consciousness, in one of the most insolent and unacceptable provocations, the FACH (Chilean Air Force) raided MADEMSA, MADECO and RITTIG, all without any visible response.
For all that has been raised, compañero, we workers agree with señor Frei on one point, that there are only two alternatives: the dictatorship of the proletariat or the military dictatorship.
Of course, señor Frei is also naive because he believes that such a military dictatorship would only be one of transition and will ultimately carry him to the Presidency.
We are absolutely convinced that historically, a reformism that seeks dialogue with those who have betrayed us time and again is the fastest way to fascism.
And the workers already know what fascism is.
Until recently, it was only a word that not all compañeros understood. We had to draw on distant or neighboring examples: Brazil, Spain, Uruguay, etc.
But we have already experienced it in the flesh, in the raids, in what is happening to sailors and non-commissioned officers, in what the compañeros of ASMAR, FAMAE, and the peasants of Cautín are suffering.
We already know that fascism means the termination of all the conquests achieved by the working class, the workers’ organizations, the unions, the right to strike, the petition demands.
The worker who demands their most minimal human rights is dismissed, imprisoned, tortured, or murdered.
We not only consider that we are being taken down the road that will lead us to fascism at a dizzying pace but also that we have been deprived of the means to defend ourselves.
Therefore we demand that you, compañero President, put yourself at the head of this genuine army that is without arms, but powerful in terms of consciousness and determination, and that the proletarian parties put their differences aside and become the real vanguard of this organized mass that now lacks leadership.
1) In the face of the transport strike, the immediate requisition of trucks by the mass organizations with no compensation, and the creation of a State Transport Company, so that the possibility of paralyzing the country is never again in the hands of these bandits.
2) In the face of the criminal Medical Association strike, we demand that the Ley de Seguridad Interior del Estado (State Security Law) be applied to them, so that the lives of our women and children are never again in the hands of these mercenaries of health. All support to the patriotic doctors!
3) In the face of the merchants’ strike, there should be no repeat of the error of October in which we made it clear that we did not need them as a union. An end must be brought to the possibility that these traffickers, in collusion with the transporters, intend to besiege the people with hunger. Direct distribution, popular stores, and the popular basket must be established once and for all. The food industries still in the hands of the people must be moved to the social sector.
4) In the social sector: Not only must no company where the majority will of the workers have “intervened” be returned, but they must become the predominant area of the economy. For the establishment of a new pricing policy! Production and distribution of industries in the social sector must be favoured. No more luxury production for the bourgeoisie. For genuine workers’ control!
5) We demand that the Law for the Control of Arms be repealed. This new “Ley Maldita” (Damned Law) has only served to abuse workers, with raids carried out in industries and neighborhoods, which serve as a general rehearsal for sectors (the reactionaries who are opposed) to the working class in an attempt to intimidate them and identify their leaders.
6) Faced with the inhuman repression of the sailors of Valparaíso and Talcahuano, we demand the immediate release of these heroic class brothers, whose names are already etched in the pages of the history of Chile. The guilty must be identified and punished.
7) Faced with the torture and death of our peasant brothers in Cautín, we demand a public trial and the appropriate punishment of those responsible.
8) The maximum penalty for all those implicated in attempts to overthrow the legitimate government.
9) In the face of the conflict at TV Channel 9, this workers’ media outlet must not be handed over or transferred for any reason.
10) We protest the removal of compañero Jaime Faivovic, Under Secretary of Transport.
11) We ask that you express all of our support to the Ambassador of Cuba, compañero Mario García Incháustegui, and to all the Cuban comrades persecuted by the most distinguished of the reaction and to offer him our proletarian barrios (neighborhoods) to establish his Embassy and residence there, as a way of thanking his people, which have even deprived themselves of their bread ration in order to help us in our struggle.
We demand that the United States Ambassador be expelled, who, through his representatives, the Pentagon, the CIA, and the ITT, have provided instructions and financing to the coup.
12) We demand the defense and protection of Carlos Altamirano, Mario Palestro, Miguel Henríquez, Oscar Garretón, persecuted by the right and the Naval Prosecutor’s Office for courageously defending the rights of the people, with or without a uniform.
Be advised, compañero, that with the respect and confidence that we still have in you, if you do not carry out the program of the Unidad Popular, if you do not have confidence in the masses, you will lose the only real support that you have as a person and governor, and you will be responsible for leading the country not to civil war, which is already well underway, but toward the cold, planned massacre of the most conscious and organized working class in Latin America.
And that will be the historic responsibility of this government, raised into power and kept there with so much sacrifice from workers, neighborhood residents, peasants, students, intellectuals, and professionals, as well as the destruction and beheading, perhaps in the long term, and at such bloody cost, of not only the Chilean revolutionary process, but also that of all the Latin American peoples who are fighting for socialism.
We make this urgent call, compañero President, because we believe that this is the last possibility of avoiding the loss of the lives of thousands and thousands of the best of the Chilean and Latin American working class.
Coordinadora Provincial de Cordones Industriales
(Provincial Coordinating Committee of the Cordones Industriales)
Translation: Sean Robertson