Commemorating 40 years since Chile’s coup

Keith Jackson previews a series of events that demonstrate the cultural vitality and political significance of a distinctive socialist movement

July 7, 2013
3 min read

El Sueño Existe festival 30 Aug – 1 Sep 2013

On 11 September it is the 40th anniversary of the event in Chile which marked a historical turning point in the 20th century. The violent and tragic overthrow of Salvador Allende’s government with the first explicitly socialist elected head of state, seemed at the time, and even more in retrospect, to mark the end of a period when socialists could see possibilities of real advances across the world. General Pinochet’s coup and subsequent regime, both strongly supported by the US, reflected very faithfully the ruthless nature and the neoliberal policies of international capital as it fought to eliminate such challenges to its ascendancy.

Some Chileans who came to Britain as refugees from imprisonment and torture in the 1970s have been mindful of the possibility that they may not live to see the 50th anniversary of the coup, so they decided to make to make the 40th anniversary a significant commemorative year. A national Chile40Years On committee was formed to support and facilitate as many activities as possible during 2013 to mark the 40th anniversary of the coup. The events will include the mixture of music, poetry, political analysis and discussion which was brought to Britain by those refugees.

The original initiative came from Sheffield where the exiled Chilean community has maintained a high level of organisation. Very soon a network of groups across the country became evident as can be seen from the website www.chile40yearson.org. and one of the early aims was quickly achieved as the next generation have vigorously picked up the baton of organisation in many instances. The network also aims to encourage solidarity with socialist movements in Latin America today by reminding us of what was possible to do in the 1970s.

Events across the country include a film about the Rolls Royce workers refusing to repair Chilean aero engines following the coup at the Edinburgh International Film Festival, a presentation at the Welsh National Eisteddfod, a display of photographs and patchworks in Sheffield, produced by the wives of Chilean prisoners, a picket of the Chilean Embassy on 11th September, and a programme at the biennial El Sueno Existe Victor Jara festival of music and political debate, which focuses this year on the commemoration of Allende and the coup.

The El Sueno Existe Victo Jara festival from 30 August to 1 September in Machynlleth, Wales, will demonstrate vividly the combination of cultural creativity and political purpose which so characterised Chile in the 1960s and 1970s. Contributors to the political discussions include: Victor Figueroa Clarke, author of a fothcoming book on Salvador Allende; Adam Feinstein biographer of Neruda; Jeremy Corbin MP; Chris Searle, compiler of Classrooms of Resistance; Andy Croft, poet and publisher of ‘His Hands were Gentle’, an anthology of Victor Jara’s songs; and Mike Gatehouse, secretary of the Chile Solidarity Committee in the 1970s.

There will be film footage of interviews with Chilean student leaders, and it is hoped that a representative of the Mapuche people will contribute. Music and performance include Chilean musician Osvaldo Torres, a founder member of the band Illapu, Silvia Balducci with Chilean poet Alfredo Cordal presenting the music of Violeta Parra Chilean dance troupe Grupo Del Sur and international band Amigo Artista with revolutionary rhythms for the Saturday night pachanga.


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