This moving film shown at the Arts Centre on 13 November
The film is about a group of workers at the Rolls Royce factory in East Kilbride who in 1972, having seen footage of the brutal coup in Chile and its aftermath, decided to ‘black’ the engines which were being repaired for the Chilean Airforce. The engines were fitted into the Hunter Hawker jets which were used to bomb the presidential palace in Santiago in which President Allende died. Some witnesses say the president killed himself.
The coup against Allende was inspired by the USA who were concerned about a socialist government successfully establishing itself in South America which they regarded as their backyard. Copper was the country’s main export and American firms were said to be extracting excessive profits. Allende’s predecessor had started the process of nationalisation which angered the American companies concerned.
The film – documentary by Filipe Bustos Sierra – plots the story of the Scottish shop stewards and the arguments and repercussions which followed the blacking. The three key players who were quite elderly by the time the film was made never really knew the effects of their actions. They knew of course that the engines were sitting in crates at the back of the factory but they did not know that they were the planes which actually bombed the palace. The engines quickly became useless because of deterioration.
The Pinochet regime became notorious for the scale of its atrocities against its own people. Thousands were simply shot, others were thrown from helicopters into the Pacific, torture was practised extensively. Eventually, Pinochet was arrested in London under a Spanish warrant which caused enormous political upset. He had many supporters in the UK and a YouTube video of a speech by Mrs Thatcher is quite shocking in the light of this film.
The director quite amazingly, managed to track down the engines which are lying in a field about an hour from Santiago. The particular engine was shipped back to East Kilbride.
We were pleased to see that Amnesty had several mentions during the film for their part in documenting the outrages perpetrated by the regime. We are grateful for the Arts Centre in showing it and to enable us to give a short presentation and collect signatures afterwards.
The question of course is what about today? We have for several years now described the horrors of the war in Yemen and in particular, the role of British companies in supplying weaponry to the Saudis. Not only do we supply the weapons, but British and RAF personnel are involved in the bombing by helping the Saudis. British weapons are used to bomb schools, mosques and medical facilities. So are the workers at BAE Systems and other arms companies ‘blacking’ their products destined for the Saudi Air Force. It seems not. One reason is the trade union laws are such that actions of this nature are illegal. Arms sales have become so normalised now that the idea of protesting at the effects of their use seems pointless.
This was an absorbing film and a moving story of a handful of shop stewards in Scotland who felt they had to do something and even risk the sack, to help stop the terrible events in Chile.