Today I saw a tweet from Ed Miliband: “A day to remember the victims of 9/11 – including the 67 British people – who lost their lives in New York 12 years ago.”
Yes, we remember the victims of September 11 2001 but there is another September 11 which should be remembered as well by everyone in the Labour and Trade Union movement.
The ‘Other 9/11’ was the CIA backed coup in 1973 against the democratically elected Socialist Government of Salvador Allende.
Ed Miliband’s selective historical memory says a lot about the LP today.
As a Young Socialist in 1979 I met political refugees from Chile at Gateshead Tech. They told me of their lives and struggles and how their loved ones had been tortured and killed by the military.
They related that the working class had been on the verge of taking power. They could have won. It was not inevitable that the CIA organised and financed coup would succeed.
We discussed the lessons of Chile endlessly in the canteen. Our local LPYS and LP showed working class solidarity to these political refugees as did the whole Labour and Trade Union movement throughout the UK. Later I became involved in the Chile Socialist Defence Campaign set up by Militant and the LPYS and Chilean comrades. Through the dark days of the dictatorship the campaign gave practical solidarity and importantly kept passing on the lessons of Chile to the Labour movement and young people.
I remember the first time I saw ‘The Battle for Chile’ at a LPYS / Chile Socialist Defence Campaign event. The documentary graphically shows that the workers had the possibility to take power and transform society. The workers knew a coup was being prepared and instinctively started to defend themselves. They marched past the presidential palace and demanded arms but none were given by the Allende government.
Brave and idealistic as Allende was he lacked the correct policy and tactics to prevent the coup. These are the lessons which the working class movement must learn today.
The LP in the UK in the 1970s and 1980s was a place where such events could be and were discussed. Today the ‘leader’ of the ‘Labour’ Party cannot even remember there was a coup!
He cannot remember that the working class Liverpool MP Eric Heffer got up in Parliament and condemned the government for continuing with the arms contracts and for supplying Pinochet with tanks and aeroplanes before and after the coup.
As Dick Gaughan sang in the song ‘Victor Jara of Chile’ by Arlo Guthrie and Adrian Mitchell:
“Now the generals they rule Chile
And the British have their thanks
For they rule with Hawker Hunters
And they rule with Chieftain tanks
His hands were gentle, his hands were strong.”
Fast forward to the first Blair government. Pinochet was arrested in London on a Spanish warrant for his crimes against humanity. At last we thought, Pinochet will have to answer for his crimes against the working class!
But no….. after relaxing in the UK for over a year and taking tea with his good friend and supporter Thatcher he went back to Chile. Jack Straw, a LABOUR Home Secretary set the old mass murderer free to die in peace without prosecution in Chile.
Lest we forget. The memories of thousands of trade unionists, socialists and activists who were tortured and murdered in Chile and the fight for justice by their families was ignored by Blair and Jack Straw. ‘New’ Labour forgot the proud Internationalist traditions of working class representatives like Eric Heffer and the Labour movement and looked the other way and allowed a brutal dictator to walk free.
What a contrast between a working class leader like Eric Heffer, a joiner by trade and livelong socialist by conviction and Jack Straw, ex-student leader and careerist without a single working class principle in his bones. Today the public representatives in Parliament and leadership of the LP are in the main from or take the point of view of the Upper and Middle class. Their policies are 100% pro capitalist. How many joiners, health workers and unemployed are Labour MPs today?
The LP of Eric Heffer was the old LP which has gone forever and this reflection has not meant just to be a trip down memory lane. Rather an illustration that Ed Miliband’s lack of historical working class memory shows that the party is over. The LP today is neither Socialist, working class or Internationalist any more. Time for the working class and trade unions to start again and form their own party.