Film Preview: Nae Pasaran

In cinemas now. Review by David Pratt.

Watch the trailer here.

La Pasionaria – or “passionflower” – was the name given to Dolores Ibárruri, a communist politician of Basque origin and Spanish Republican heroine of the fight against fascism during the civil war in the country in the 1930s. “No Pasaran!” – they shall not pass! – was Ibárruri’s famous rallying cry during the battle for Madrid.

This story is the stuff of legend in the annals of Scottish Labour movement history and international solidarity. It is the remarkable and moving account of those Scottish workers and trade unionists at the Rolls-Royce factory in East Kilbride, who refused to carry out repairs on the engines of Hawker Hunter warplanes in an act of solidarity against the violent military coup d’etat in Chile in 1973.

Scotland received a message of support from Chile after taking a stand against the brutal dictatorship of General Augusto Pinochet. It is 45 years since that coup with the backing of the CIA was staged against Salvador Allende, Chile’s first democratically elected president, bringing to power the brutal dictatorship and the horrors inflicted by the junta of General Augusto Pinochet.

Four Scottish trade unionists are at the centre of the story in 1973 – John Keenan, Stuart Barrie, Robert Somerville and Bob Fulton.

Watching Nae Pasaran is to be reminded of a world then – just like now – rife with the shadowy collusion and dirty deeds of government, a world plagued by the pursuit of naked profit and political gain. The rise of dictatorship and the far-right, the violent suppression of democracy and total disregard for human rights in Chile in 1973 mirrors so much of the “Trumpian” world in which we now find ourselves. Archive images in the film of those Hawker Hunter warplane parts sitting at the Rolls-Royce plant in East Kilbride also brought to mind the pernicious and cynical nature of the current arms trade.

The Rolls-Royce workers knew all about the coup in Chile and as trade unionists they had condemned it on the day it happened. By the end of that day after Bob’s declaration that he was “blacking” the engines, they’d inventoried all the equipment from Chile, passing it on to other sections in the East Kilbride plant before they all voted to say nobody would work on it.

While the Rolls-Royce men might not have taken up arms, they helped silence some of those used to crush a people’s hopes of democracy. Their act of International solidarity is something Scotland can be proud of.

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