(via libcom,org) Article by Chilean anarchists which details the history of the anarchist and workers’ movements over the previous 130 years.
We begin in 1872, when the Chilean Section of the International Working Men’s Association was established in Valparaiso, a major coastal city. Tragically, this was also the year of the anarchists’ expulsion from the International, and the section was not destined to last for long. However, it planted the seeds among the workers, for the growth of a strong and developing movement, spreading libertarian ideas throughout syndicates and work-places. Libertarian ideas were becoming particularly strong amongst the Nitrate miners in the North of the country.
But this process was interrupted by the outbreak in 1879 of the Pacific war. Chile had occupied Antofagasta in the North (then Bolivian territory, and rich in Nitrate deposits) and declared war on both Bolivia and Peru. However English Capital also held major stakes in the conflict – having bought up huge amounts of mining land cheap during the war. The eventual victory of the Chilean State brought prosperity to the English enslavers, Chilean bosses, and the State (via Nitrate taxes) but spelt misery and death to the people. As ever – it was the exploited who paid the price; and the rich, who enjoyed the benefits of the spoils of war. Unfortunately for them, the war wasn’t enough to stop the social struggle or to tame the people.
In 1887 the Union Republicana del Pueblo (People’s Republican Union) was formed, with a clear anarchist platform.. There followed, shortly afterwards, a series of largescale strikes by railworkers, miners and others, culminating finally in the first national general strike in 1890. The strike was joined by workers stretching the whole of the country and was the first of its sort in Latin America. The strike was brutally put down with the violence we have come to expect from all governments.
In 1891 another conflict took its toll on the working class: President Balmaceda, who was rapidly losing control of Congress, nevertheless continued to assert his presidential authority – attempting to press through reforms against the wishes of both Congress, and – more significantly – the interests of English Capital in Chile. This lead to a civil war of quite unexpected dimensions that finally deposed Balmaceda from government. History, or rather, official history, tries to hide from us the actual genesis of the conflict, citing violations to the constitution, but we’re not stupid and we won’t be deceived by these lying so-called ‘intellectuals’ who fill the schoolbooks with crap and crummy arguments. Constitution is not a strong argument: after all constitutions are brandished and used by all governments for their own purposes.