Chile: From the indefinite to general strike in the copper industry

On June 25, miners from El Salvador, Andina, El Teniente and Ventana mines carried out a total strike, which was successful despite brutal police repression. Ever since, the tension at the mines and confrontations with the police have been increasing due to the aggressive and repressive attitude the company and the Bachelet government have adopted.

The working class faces the attacks of the bourgeoisie and the pro-capitalist policies of Bachelet

The indefinite strike taking place right now, in which 28,000 workers are taking part, including contractors and sub-contractors of CODELCO (the National Copper Corporation), is becoming a major turning point for the class struggle in Chile.

On June 25, miners from El Salvador, Andina, El Teniente and Ventana mines carried out a total strike, which was successful despite brutal police repression. Ever since, the tension at the mines and confrontations with the police have been increasing due to the aggressive and repressive attitude the company and the Bachelet government have adopted.

Bachelet's government betrays and represses the working class

According to the information published by different agencies and reproduced on www.aporrea.org on Saturday July 7, "in conversation with BBC World, Andres Leal, head of the Copper Workers’ Confederation, affirmed that ‘nothing has been achieved’. After more than one year of negotiations with CODELCO the differences have only become deeper and previous commitments have been ignored. Thousands of workers across the country are feeling deceived, betrayed and swindled by Madame President (Michelle Bachelet) as well as by CODELCO for not fulfilling their promises. We believe that the government is not capable of fulfilling our demands. Since we face such arrogance, and they refuse to listen to their workers, all we did was carry out our right to strike, embracing the agreements with the International Labour Organization."

Referring to the Tomic mine, Leal said: "It's not a peaceful strike, we do not deny the violence that has come with our actions, but we will also not deny the root cause either. The violence of the Bachelet goverment against human and labour rights will be reported to international courts of justice since the courts in Chile are in favour of the bosses. If there is no will on their part to do something, we will not call off the strike, but on the contrary it will become stronger."

Two out of three CODELCO workers are sub-contracted. These workers are trying hard to put an end to the differences between them and the plant workers, so that they will be able to enjoy the same rights and benefits, which they are supposed to be getting. According to Jorge Peña (president of sub-contracted workers of Rancagua), the workers are demanding basic health care, as well as a housing and education plan for the workers and their families.

30% of Chile's copper (which is the country's main source of income) is exploited by CODELCO. The rest is exploited by international companies that do not even pay taxes. This is a result of the concessions awarded by previous right-wing governments over the last few years. 81% of workers in Chile are sub-contracted, which means that they have no rights, allowing the capitalists to circumvent the rights of the workers.

Michelle Bachelet's government, which was elected by the workers and which promised to implement a programme to the benefit of the workers and the oppressed, is not only failing to do this, but is actively supporting imperialism and the bourgeoisie. The current class struggle is simply a consequence of their actions.

Workers' offensive: Strikes levels up 700% in the last 14 months

Mass mobilizations of students in defence of public education have awoken the support of most of the Chilean population. Strikes levels have gone up 700% in the last 14 months. As a result of this situation, the biggest Chilean union (the CUT), the leaders of which are members of the Communist and Socialist parties, have called for a general strike for August 29 against the 4 dollar rise in salaries decreed by Bachelet. This is a very important step, but still only a step. The Chilean working must continue mobilising for the struggle for a genuine socialist government. The primary goal of every revolutionary must be to organise and support the workers of CODELCO to guarantee their success, as well as that of the general strike called by the CUT.

In order to achieve a swing to the left in Chile, the struggle must not be limited to the trade unions, but must be extended into the political plane. The working class parties, the Communist and Socialist parties, face a deep crisis. Even though their ranks support all of these struggles, their leaders are not offering revolutionary action plans or programmes to support them.

Fight for a genuine socialist programme for the Communist and Socialist parties

Union activists in the Socialist and Communist parties must take the initiative and call upon the working class to launch a revolutionary Marxist current to fight the battle for a revolutionary program. The first step must be to demand that Bachelet's government break with the bourgeoisie and implement socialist policies in the interest of workers and youth. Revolutionary activists must fight to prevent the Socialist Party from uniting with any of the bourgeois parties and must struggle to build strong links between the Socialist and Communist Parties under a genuine socialist programme.

This is the English translation of Chile: De la huelga indefinida en el cobre a la huelga general by Miguel Campos (CMR), July 9, 2007