Nae Parasan is the story of the 1974 boycott of Chilean engines in a Rolls Royce factory in East Kilbride. When Bob Fulton shouted across the factory to his colleagues that the engines they were working on were destined for Pinochet’s Chile, something amazing began. Film showing and panel discussion, Hastings, 15th Feb 2019
What’s not to love? The new generation may never have heard that story if Felipe Bustos Sierra (director) had not heard his Chilean exile father talking about all the actions around the world that had taken place in revolt against the horrendous injustice of the US-backed attack on Allende’s Chile, and he chose the Kilbride story to make a documentary about.
For me, there are several lessons to be learned from this story, and it was great to have a panel debate afterwards, to start the ball rolling.
One is that the structure was in place to support the solidarity between those Scottish engineers. One of the guys said in the film that he’d never wanted to be an engineer. Like all working class people, he knew that if he was to survive, he had to take what he was given and get on with it. He worked on those Rolls Royce engines all his life, like it or not. The reason those ‘take what you’re given’ working class guys could have an affect was that this was the era of Trades Union strength, of workers becoming accustomed to standing together and making things happen.
Bob Fulton’s colleagues did not hesitate, and when you listen to them – all old men now – talking and laughing about how they joined Bob scrambling around the racks in that huge warehouse, finding the Chilean engines and parts and applying ‘black’ labels, you really feel the joy of solidarity, of fighting back together.
That mood is beginning to rise again in our country in the shape of the anti-austerity movement, the extinction rebellion movement, and the resilience with which those who want to see a Corbyn/McDonnell government are fighting back against a storm of government propaganda. People can fight back at far less risk to themselves if they have a strong trade union at their backs. Join a union today!
Nations are not like football teams
Nae Parasan director Felipe Bustos Sierra spoke about the situation now developing in Venezeula. He said the Venezuelans he’s met who hate Maduro, and who support the idea of a US-backed military coup tend to be the very, very rich. Others in Venezuela, he said, feel very differently. Peter Chowney, Hastings Council Leader, spoke about the Hastings Syrian Resettlement program, how we’re taking 100 Syrians, and we’re willing to take more. They are the victims of similar attempts to do politics with fighter jets. To me, taking in refugees is not just important because we are rescuing destitute people (which we are) but because communities who are accustomed to mixed company are less likely to believe that all the people from one country are bad, and all the people from another are good. Mixed company makes support for violent regimes much more difficult to maintain – and as Bob Fulton and his colleagues show, where the people don’t support a violent regime, they really can give it a hard time.
Have a think about your own social circle. If you find you don’t know a healthy variety of people, who can give you different perspectives on those stories you see on the news, why not contact local refugee community organisers, Rossana Leal, Felicity Lawrence or Cllr Antonia Berelson and find out how you can get involved in one of Hastings’ schemes.
The Heroes amongst us
Most of us, most of the time, don’t feel like heroes, don’t feel like leaders – but many of us will have a moment, somewhere in our lives. There are many people in Hastings who have made a difference, one way or another. Some get famous and get medals, some don’t, but they are many. It’s important not to think such people are a rarity. As one of Bob’s colleagues pointed out, it’s quite simple. Some people step up for humanity when they see an opportunity, some don’t. Let’s choose to be the ones that do.
There are, for example, many people in Hastings who have made stands like the Kilbride men’s. Sometimes, they’re called activists, sometimes troublemakers. Sometimes, they work at little risk to themselves – activism can be quite boring – like standing outside the station, time and time again, talking to people, wearing down their willingness to put up with a train company that degrades and dumps staff, delays and strands passengers and persistently pushes fares beyond most people’s pockets.
Another disabled fighter jet
But there are also two women in Hastings who were part of a team that achieved a very similar act to Bob Fulton’s. They are Andrea Needham and Emily Johns. The jet they chose as their target was being prepared in the UK for Indonesia, where it was to be used in the massacre in East Timor. See John Pilger’s film Death of a Nation: The Timor Conspiracy for details of that particular US-inspired attack on humanity, and Andrea Needham’s book, The Hammer Blow for the story of their action. To go back to the trade unions point – these women had to do vast amounts of planning, had to have a support team in place, and went through far more hardship as a result of their action than the Kilbride men did. I wondered why – was it because they were women, because they weren’t part of a strong trade union, or because their action took place in the Thatcher era, when the powers that be were doing everything they could think of to break down the solidarity and humanity that resides within all communities, unless someone tries to kill it (“there’s no such thing as society,” said Margaret Thatcher – only individuals, who are easy to cow and bully.)
Who are the killers?
Well, obviously the men in uniforms with guns in their hands but worse because they are far more numerous are those who talk down people-power, belittle human allegiances, or put out clarion-calls for division, so that people feel alone and powerless. Those kinds of killers include our horrible, corporate newspapers. When Andrea and her colleagues successfully emerged from court, having finally persuaded a judge their action was justified, the Daily Mail carried an article by Richard Littlejohn with the headline We’re so Proud, say the Hawk wreckers. He wrote, “on the scale of faraway places of which we know little, East Timor wins the gold medal. What kind of life must you have to spend it worrying about East Timor?”
How do you put back lost humanity?
The sense of solidarity and community Bob Fulton’s colleagues had is never totally lost, and it can very easily be re-awoken. The love and the sense of kinship shone out of the people interviewed in Nae Parasan – and it was kindled by acts of humanity. As Andrea Needham put it, ‘by acting boldly for justice – whether by disarming a plane or by bringing in a brave and truthful verdict – we all become more human’. We can do it by acts such as joining a refugee buddy scheme, or standing on a picket line, talking to others about the problems being addressed – or by acts of community-building in our own streets.
To answer Richard Littlejohn’s question for yourself, you need to start breaking down the divides his newspaper creates. It could be as simple as making more effort to talk to your neighbours – or you can stand on picket lines where you’ll meet the junior doctors who fight the decline of our NHS or the teachers who are standing up for better schools, you could meet the railway workers who fought the bosses at Southern, or go to one of Rosanna Leal’s refugee suppers, and meet some of the people who have fled to our country to escape ‘politics by fighter plane’ in their own countries. It means you’d be concerning yourself with people from countries you know little about… “What kind of life…?” you’ll find the answer to Richard Littlejohn’s question is – it’s fun, it’s exciting, and it’s full of unexpected friendships, that’s what sort of life.
Here are some ways of getting involved…
(these links are my choices, based on my town and my chosen political party. If your preferences are different, get googling. There are masses of people taking action – you’ll find ones that suit you easily enough)