By Gareth Stevens

Slanted propaganda would have us believe that the British Trade Union movement did little but “bring the country to its knees” during the 70s as it fought the Industrial Relations Act, Heath’s newly elected Tory government and even endured disagreements with Wilson and Callaghan.  A more balanced truth tells of a time when Trade Unions had a heightened awareness of the need for international solidarity and a huge commitment to pragmatic support for those suffering under oppressive regimes in other countries.

One such story that very much evidences this alternative narrative is that of the incredible impact made by Scottish factory workers 40 years ago against one of the most repressive dictatorships of the 20th century. It is one of many hitherto untold stories of unsung heroes – everyday people who drew a line and stood by it and in doing so had a real impact on an injustice unfolding on the other side of the world.

Felipe Bustos Sierra’s documentary film ‘Nae Pasaran’ tells of how the canny shop steward Bob Fulton realised that the Rolls-Royce engines his union’s workers in East Kilbride were expected to repair were destined to be returned to Chile and to be used by General Pinochet in his regime’s continued repression of the Chilean people following the recent violent coup. Pinochet’s air force had used British-built Hawker Hunter jets to attack the presidential palace during the coup itself a year earlier. Subsequently the engines from the very same aircraft were returned to Scotland to be serviced. Fulton immediately ‘blacked’ them, marking them as in dispute and not to be touched. Although for years those involved in this valiant refusal to be complicit with fascism were told that their action had had little effect – this film tells a different story. Unbeknownst to the protagonists at the time, news of their act of solidarity reached some of the political prisoners in Chile, where it gave them great strength and reminded them that they had not been forgotten by the outside world.  The film successfully compiles archive footage of the coup and its aftermath, current interviews and the continuing story that culminates in the surviving unionists being formally recognised and thanked by the Chilean government. 

At a time when globalised cinema preferences are for CGI fuelled escapism and caped superheroes, ‘Nae Pasaran’ celebrates the heroism of common people and convinces us of the need to stand up against injustice, even if it means risking our own livelihood. It also tells us that you don’t need superpowers to make a difference and perhaps most of all it shows that cinema in itself can be a medium for redemption and social justice.

• Nae Pasaran’ will be screened at Kino Teatr at 7.30pm on Friday 15th February and will be followed by a panel discussion involving Felicity Laurence – Hastings Community of Sanctuary, Felipe Bustos – Nae Pasaran Director, Rossana Leal – Founder of Hastings Refugee Buddy Project, Peter Chowney – Labour leader of Hastings Council, Cllr Antonia Berelson, Simon Finley SRP, David Arnold – UNISON Policy Officer.

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