The Chilean Road to Socialism



A View from Chile


Copper: Chile's Wages of Toil

The Copper Cueca

by Evaristo Lopez Almuna
From Puro Chile, July 11, 1971. The cueca is a folkloric Chilean rhythm and dance.

Friends and comrades,
here I begin to sing
the national joy
because now the copper is Chilean,
friends and comrades.

It's all Chilean yes,
everybody's content.
The gringos robbed us
of our sustent.

Our sustent yes,
with arrogance
they took the copper
for their company.

For their company yes,
the sweat
of the exploited miner.

Exploited yes,
for a century,
fattening the evil
blond guys.

Bad guys yes,
drinking whiskey,
they left us the holes
taking out the blister.

They took out the blister yes,
the Chilean is valiant,
never balking.

Never balking yes,
in El Teniente,
the copper has been won
for the people.


For the people yes,
of all Chile,
firmly carrying on
our compañero.

Our compañero yes,
in the Presidency,
with all its wealth
Chile remains.

Chile remains yes,
absolute owner,
the Yankees got
laid to rest.

Laid to rest yes,
El Salvador,
will fulfill its quota
of production.

Production yes,
as never before,
the corporations
got their due.

Got their due yes,
 right on,
Anaconda, Kennecott
and Andina too.

And Andina yes,
copper so fine,
it's your strength and life
Chilean worker.

Chilean worker yes,
making a true

Now the copper is Chilean,
putas, que güeno.


From an advertisement placed by the Chile Copper Corporation
in the New York Times, January 25, 1971

The working of Chilean copper mines by U.S. companies constitutes in fact a truly colonial hold on our country and on the Chilean economy. Chile is prevented from taking sovereign decisions regarding all basic aspects of this industry which forms the heart of our economic life. An exceptional system for the repatriation of the foreign currency has been imposed on Chile by the sale of the metal; modes of amortization have been fixed which involve a truly usurious process; our rate of exchange has been hurt by constant and periodic price rises, which explain to a large extent the chronic inflation that we suffer; the markets to which the metal must be sold have been designated and the prices at which it is to be sold. That is to say, the Chilean State cannot make any decision with regard to its basic natural resources: such decisions are made in New York.

The firms that have been working the copper mines in Chile are part of the financial groups that also own the processing companies. Hence, they are interested in taking the copper from our country at the lowest possible price. For this reason, they fixed the price of copper at 8 U.S. cents/lb in 1931 and lowered it to 5.5 cents in 1932. During World War II, they established it at 11.5 cents in spite of the fact that the world market price was considerably higher, resulting in a loss for our country of $500-million. During the Korean War, the U.S. Office of Economic Mobilization, jointly with Anaconda and Kennecott, determined unilaterally, without taking into account the public opinion in our country, the copper price at 24.5 cents. Morally speaking, Chile appeared to be financing a part of that war. In 1966, during the Vietnam war, they compelled us once again to sell 90,000 tons to the U.S. strategic reserve, at a price of 36 cents. In those years, copper was being quoted in the London market at 60 U.S. cents per lb.

For Chile, obviously, it is advantageous to get high prices for her raw materials. For the monopolies it is preferable to have low prices in order to reduce the cost of their processing plants. For Chile, it is advantageous to have more processing done in the country in order to enable her to integrate her national economy, to have more jobs, more industrial processing, more salaried positions, more taxes, more sales in the country, and more foreign currency. The foreign monopolies are not interested in industrializing Chile; their objective is to leave in their home country the great worth that adds the processing costs to the price of the metal and produces great industrial and commercial activity and high salaries. Chile is interested in safeguarding her reserves and in obtaining from them the maximum advantage, as the need arises. The foreign companies are interested in taking out the maximum amount of copper at the lowest price and within the shortest possible time. Chile is interested in doing business with all countries of the world and in such manner that our copper can contribute to a better life for all men. The monopolies are interested in keeping us restricted to their captive markets that totally serve their commercial convenience.

Large American companies have made fabulous, almost incredible profits with minimum investments in Chile. The original investment by U.S. companies in the copper industry represented only $3.5-million. All the rest was derived from the operation of that same industry.

A similar situation exists in the iron and nitrate industries. The four big U.S. companies that have been working these natural resources in Chile collected earnings of $10.8-billion in the course of the past 60 years.

This figure is of tremendous significance for Chile if one compares it with the fact that the G.N.P. achieved throughout the entire existence of the country, that is, approximately 400 years, amounts to $10.5-billion. The conclusion is clear: in a little over half a century these U.S. companies took out from our country an amount greater than that created by Chileans in terms of industries, highways, cities, ports, schools, hospitals, trade, etc., during our country's entire history.

This is the basic cause of our underdevelopment, the basic cause of our meager industrial growth, of our primitive agriculture, unemployment, low wages, our very low standard of life, the high rate of infant mortality, and it is the cause of our poverty and backwardness.

Worldwide Consensus

In point of fact, the United Nations, during its Seventeenth Session, formulated a declaration of principles, as follows:

"The right of peoples and nations to permanent sovereignty over their natural riches and resources is the one to be exercised by them in the interest of national development and the well-being of the people or the State, respectively.

"The exploration, the development and the making available of these resources, as well as the importation of foreign capital to carry them into effect must be in conformity with the rules and conditions which these peoples and nations deem necessary and desirable of their own, free will for authorizing or prohibiting such activities

"The free and advantageous exercise of the sovereignty of the peoples and nations regarding their natural resources must be developed through mutual respect among States on the basis of sovereign equality.

"The international cooperation in the economic development of the developing countries, the investment of public or private capital, exchange of goods and services, technical assistance or exchange of scientific information, shall be of such a nature as to promote the interests of the independent national development of those countries and shall be based on the respect of their sovereignty over their natural riches and resources.

"The violation of the sovereign rights of the peoples and nations over their national riches and resources is contrary to the spirit and the principles of the Charter of the United Nations and obstructs the development of international cooperation and the maintenance of peace."

In turn, the Encyclicals of Pope John XXIII and Paul VI, "Pacem in Terris" and "Populorum Progressio," respectively, do, besides recognizing it, establish the obligation of the States to expropriate those activities that constitute an impediment to the progress of the peoples and the needs of organized communities.

All of Chile in Favor of Nationalization

On the other hand, it is indicated to recall that the nationalization of the copper industry constituted a part of the electoral platform announced by the candidates of the Popular Unity Party (Unidad Popular) as well as by the Christian Democrats. Even the candidate of the right, Mr. Alessandri and notable members of that wing had considered the need for carrying out drastic reform measures in the mining field and, to that end, had submitted various drafts on nationalization in the past.

Finally it must be pointed out that the Draft of the Constitutional Reform affects neither directly nor indirectly the essential elements inherent in a Constitutional State, such as the basic freedoms of the human being: of free thought, belief, and expression in any form, nor those that govern the free functioning of the democratic and representative institutional system.



Excerpts from a speech given by Fidel Castro before the copper miners of Chuquicamata, Chile,
on November 14, 1971. Translation by the Cuban Government.

To have an idea of the work done by the Chilean copper workers all one needs is to look at this amphitheater nearly 1200 feet deep. This gives us an idea of how much sweat, how much effort, how much sacrifice, how much work—year after year, month after month, day after day —was required to extract an incalculable amount of copper from the deposits which nature so generously bestowed on the people of Chile.

And yet, there is a new circumstance which makes this effort a much more noble effort, which makes this work much more honorable, which makes the shedding of every drop of sweat infinitely more satisfactory. And this circumstance is that today this copper belongs to the Chilean nation.

These machines, these installations—whose cost was infinitely less than the vast quantities of copper which were obtained through the sweat of the Chilean workers and taken out of the country decade after decade—now belong to Chile.

And everything that is conceived and developed in this mining center from now on will be placed at the service of Chile.

Considering the production of this mine, one day lost in this mine means one million dollars less in foreign exchange for the Chilean economy. Each day's production in this mine means one million dollars for the Chilean economy. Ten tons less in 360 days means a difference of 3.6 million dollars less; 100 tons less means 36 million dollars less. Now, you can imagine how much a country can do with 36 million dollars in foreign exchange, no matter where they are invested.

Suffice it say, for example, that our country has a program for building high schools. . . . We expect to build, from now to 1980, around 1000 junior high schools in the countryside; excellent schools. These schools will have laboratories for the study of physics, chemistry and biology so the students will be given a top-flight education. The laboratories for these schools, with their film projectors, etc. will cost 15,000 dollars.

Now then, the laboratories for these 1000 schools with a capacity for half a million students, will cost us 15 million dollars. This means that 100 tons less produced here in a year's time—to mention one example—would mean the loss of the resources with which you could purchase the laboratories for approximately 2500 high schools; the technological equipment needed to give 1,250,000 young people a top-flight education. This will give you an idea.

In terms of cattle—to cite an example—36 million in foreign exchange would make it possible for you to acquire high-quality cows, capable of producing 15 quarts of milk a day, paying 360 dollars each in foreign exchange —they can be obtained for less—and bring them to the pasturelands in the valleys. . . . You could buy 100,000 cows with 36 million in foreign exchange. With 70,000 or 75,000 of these in production you could get one million quarts of milk per day out of the cows you can purchase with 36 million in foreign exchange. This would mean half a quart of milk a day for two million children. That's what the cows purchased with 36 million in foreign exchange—a difference of 100 tons a day—would produce.

By the time we got to the concentrate plant today, things were getting rough—you know what I mean? Turning a corner, I saw three workers holding bottles of milk in their hands. I didn't know it was milk then; all I saw was these white bottles and I asked, "What is it?" Well, right away, I found myself with one of those bottles in my hand, and I was so thirsty and a little hungry from all the driving around the pampa and all the altitude, that I had that bottle of milk for lunch. Good milk, too, but imported. How many millions do you spend on milk?

Now, wouldn't it be wonderful if it were possible to give two million workers every day—every day, mind you!—a bottle of milk like that which was offered us; like the ones those workers were drinking, with their noon or midnight snack?

That is why I was trying to explain to you what a difference of 100 tons in the production of copper can mean to the people of Chile. And, quite often, if we want to really understand the value of things we have to speak in terms of schools and hospitals. And this is only the difference in one year. I'm speaking of one year's time. If it were a case of 10 years, just multiply all these figures by 10. In terms of schools, it is no longer a matter of 2500 schools but rather 25,000 schools; no longer a matter of laboratories for five and a half million young people but rather for 25 million young people. It's no longer the case of 100,000 cows but rather of one million cows plus their daughters and granddaughters.

The nation needs many industrial plants. This is true of all of our countries. I'm telling you about the problems we also have and how we analyze these things. You have development programs now. These development programs weren't designed to enrich anyone in particular. These programs were designed to enrich the Chilean nation; to boost employment, to create wealth for the good of all Chileans.

Our peoples have nowhere near provided for all their needs. We still need many schools, school equipment and supplies, just to cite one example. We still need many hospitals, hospital equipment, medicines and pharmaceutical factories. Our peoples need housing by the hundreds of thousands if not by the millions. They need roads, irrigation systems and dams to boost food production and raise their standard of living. Our peoples need everything—all kinds of factories, synthetic goods factories, modern factories—in order to keep up with civilization and achieve the ideal for which they have sacrificed and struggled all through the generations: a better destiny for the human being.

I have mentioned all these things, all these viewpoints, because you are the principal producers of foreign exchange for the Chilean economy. You play a decisive role in Chile's economy. You play a decisive role in the future of Chile. What you produce, the product you turn out, is vital to the people of Chile. And we are convinced that the more the workers in this center realize its importance the greater effort they will put forth; that the more aware they become of the problem the harder they will work to consolidate their country's independence.

The former owners of these installations tried—for their own benefit, of course—to maintain a top-flight organization in the flow of production. They tried to obtain top-flight discipline. And they got it through various means: by paying higher wages, by putting on pressure, sometimes by using psychology, that is, by giving prizes, etc.—in other words, by employing all kinds of resources to obtain organization and discipline.

When the nation takes over for the foreign owners, when these mines and these resources pass into the hands of the nation, everything that is effective in organization must be maintained. The equipment must be maintained. Discipline must be maintained. Because if there was discipline in the past—not to benefit Chile, not to benefit the Chilean workers, nor for the well-being of the Chilean people but, instead, for the benefit of the outside—then all the more reason for the workers, aware of their duty, to maintain their discipline and improve their organization to maintain and increase work discipline.

If, in the past, all these things were done without any benefit to the country or the people, then all the more reason to make a great effort now, when all this copper is placed at the service of the Chilean people, of the Chilean nation.

We have always spoken in these terms to our compatriots. Always. And we've told them the following: it is easier to change the structure than to change the consciousness of man. Social structures are changed. Sometimes this takes a lot of work. But if it takes a lot of work to change structures, it often takes a lot of work, too, to change habits. A change, a new situation, comes about as a result of long years of struggle, of a conflict between the interests of the homeland and the interests of those abroad; a conflict between the interests of the working class and the interests of those who exploited the workers.

When the circumstances change, when this conflict disappears, when the interests of the nation and of the working class are the same as the interests of the workers of this center, the same as the interests of production and of the functioning of this work center, an effort must be made to see that these interests will always be the same.

We have infinite confidence in the workers. We know how they always come through; how they always take hold and do what they have to. Because, gentlemen, a worker is a worker!

And this worker, who knows what work is, who knows what sacrifice is, always responds to the interests of his homeland; always responds to the interests of his people, and he is always in the vanguard when his country needs him, when his class needs him!

Edición digital del Centro Documental Blest el 07feb02
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