“You Are Just Talking”

“Acacia tree on the grassland,” © autan under Creative Commons http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/

on the cover of the Vol. 28 | No. 2 | Spring 2012 edition of  Inquiring Mind:

Until you dig a hole, plant a tree, water it and make it survive, you haven’t done a thing. You are just talking.

—Wangari Maathai (1940-2011)
Speech at Goldman Awards, San Francisco, April 24, 2006

powerful to read this while learning about the cordones that emerged under Allende in Chile.

when the bourgeoisie launched a “bosses’ strike” (there’s a new one for me!) as a kind of pressuring – slash – refusal to cooperate with Allende’s lefty government, they planned to withhold the means of production (their own property) in order to force concessions. but instead, the wage-slave folks intimately familiar with those means of production — in factories, in agriculture, even in schools and shantytowns — combined forces to take over and run things themselves.

For the workers the situation was [clear]. The immediate problem was to maintain the transport system, keep the factories open and ensure the supply of food and necessities. Groups of workers took to the streets on the first morning; every available form of transport was commandeered and driven by volunteers. In the factories, vigilance committees were formed to guard against sabotage [by bosses or their accomplices] and production was maintained. In the working-class areas, long patient queues formed outside the stores and supermarkets; either the owners were then persuaded to open them or, if not, the stores were opened and kept open by the local people themselves, who mounted permanent guard.

At the Cristalerias Chile glass factory … the management froze the company bank account. The workers responded by evolving a system of direct distribution. As one explained, “now we sell direct to the co-ops and small businesses and they pay us in cash, so that we can pay wages without having to use the banks at all.”

“…the 600,000 people for whom this hospital is responsible will see that we can provide better and more efficient services by working together with the local health committees which include people from the working-class districts.”

Workers at Alusa, a packaging plant in Santiago, echoed this:

“Management called out the office workers and they did stop work. But we couldn’t let ourselves be part of these manoeuvres. The bosses aren’t going to tell us what to do … So we opened the stores, took out the raw materials, and just kept on producing — production didn’t stop for a single moment. And we won’t stop now or ever. You can see people working with real joy. I think we’ve realised in these last few days that what we’re defending is something more than just a plate of beans.”

No one was exempt from the possibility of attack. The workers at the Bata shoe chain, for example, formed defence committees at every one of its 113 outlets:

“We’ve formed self-defence committees at every outlet to repel attacks. We’ve already had to face a number, particularly [at shops] in upper and middle-class neighborhoods. But we haven’t closed even for one day. We’re against this strike and when it comes to the crunch we’re not going to give in to anyone. Enough is enough.”

A worker from the Ready-Mix concrete plant succinctly summarizes the experience:

“We’ve got to thank the fascists for that anyway, for showing us that you can’t make a revolution by playing marbles. When there’s a problem, we workers have got to be in the front line. We’ve learned more in these few days than in all the previous two years.”

lessons from Maathai; lessons from cordones and Chilean people. where do they resonate? where might there be dissonance?

yes, we need to know how to do things. how to build and create, not only destroy, in the service of revolution.

and yet, how to “make it survive”?

are there some creative processes that we can do in periods of tumult — like running and defending factories, hospitals, and shoe stores — and others that require some amount of stability and spaciousness — like planting and tending to a tree, or healing from trauma?

6 thoughts on ““You Are Just Talking”

  1. Did you know that NIxon’s government covertly funded the strikers – especially the truckers – as a way of undermining stability under Allende’s government? I wrote my university dissertation on the subject.

  2. equayona June 10, 2012 / 4:21 pm

    Since Allende was assassinated ubder Nixon’s orders or at least with US complicity, the strike support is no surorise. Very interesting about the worker’s response though, no wonder he had to be killed and a fascist installed.

  3. equayona June 10, 2012 / 4:22 pm

    Why o why do I always proof AFTER posting??

  4. kloncke June 11, 2012 / 5:29 pm

    Right — I had always heard only the US-supported-coup part, but not the deeper history of class struggle in Chile in the early 70’s! It’s sad that there were so many amazing gains by rural, urban, and shantytown Chileans, which were never supported or advanced by Allende’s government, and instead repressed under the UP party’s orders. In other words, the workers were actually acting independent of Allende’s party’s leadership, at least according to the history that I read.

  5. kloncke June 11, 2012 / 5:30 pm

    and lol i feel you on proofreading post-post. :) it’s all good here, tho.

  6. finluiniel June 12, 2012 / 4:37 pm

    hey there. this article is especially interesting. did you hear about the internal take over of the walpole prison in MA? FYI i switched my blog over to “finny’s fun fish emporium”…the content is slightly different from that in my old blog.

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