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The Chile Solidarity Campaign and British Government Policy towards Chile, 1973-1990

Author(s): Michael D. Wilkinson

Source: European Review of Latin American and Caribbean Studies / Revista Europea de
Estudios Latinoamericanos y del Caribe, No. 52 (June 1992), pp. 57-74
Published by: Centrum voor Studie en Documentatie van Latijns Amerika (CEDLA)
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European Review of Latin American and Caribbean Studies 52, June 1992 | 57-74

The Chile Solidarity Campaign and

British Government Policy towards Chile,
Michael D. Wilkinson

On 11th September 1973 the democratic Popular Unity government of Dr

Salvador Allende was overthrown by a US-backed military coup, thus ending
160 years of almost unbroken democracy. The Junta embarked upon the neu
tralization of all opposition, a process involving the torture and murder of
thousands of people. Political parties were banned and trade unions crushed.
Thousands more were forced into exile. An initial return to economic stability,
due primarily to funding from international lending agencies, was eventually
supplanted by mass unemployment, widespread poverty and an escalating na
tional debt. The Junta maintained high levels of repression as the sole form of
political authority. The Chile Solidarity Campaign was established in 1973
with the objective of influencing British Government policy towards the Junta.
It worked in conjunction with growing protest movements within Chile.
There are few studies of the effectiveness of lobby groups, possibly because
there are few means to empirically measure such effectiveness. Nevertheless,
by consulting primary sources of contemporary and archive documentation
and conducting personal interviews with MP's and major actors in the lobby,
all of whom were frank and open about their role and experiences, it has been
possible to paint a reasonably clear picture of the efficacy of the Chile Solidar
ity Campaign.

The Chile Solidarity Campaign: Membership, Resources, Tactics

The Chile Solidarity Campaign was formed in September 1973 in the immedi
ate aftermath of the coup. The Executive Committee and that of its sister
organization, the Chile Campaign for Human Rights, set out to press their
objectives through the Labour and trade union movement - building on the
empathy felt there for Allende's socialist experiment. It was a two-pronged
approach, with the CSC being clearly political, focusing on activism within the
labour movement, whilst the CCHR became a registered charity, remained as
apolitical as possible, and was therefore able to work with a wider network of
church groups and human rights organizations. Both groups lobbied the gov
ernment directly, organized letter, post-card and telegram campaigns, pet
itions and delegations to the Foreign Office and both British and Chilean Em
bassies. Leading members of the Transport and General Workers' Union and
the Amalgamated Union of Engineering Workers joined the CSC and the Par
liamentary Labour Party formed a special working group on Chile.
The campaigns highlighted the plight of trade unionists, students, teachers

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58 | Michael D. Wilkinson

and academics within Chile. As early as October 1973 the 'Academics for
Chile' movement was founded, having, by February 1974, contacts in over 60
British institutions of higher education.
The first copy of Chile Lucha, the CSC quarterly magazine, was distributed
in October 1973, it was professional in appearance, highly informative and was
complimented by the equally professional and more detailed Chile Monitor.
By 1979 distribution of Chile Lucha was approximately 10,000 copies per year,
sufficient to disseminate information across the Labour Party and trade union
movement on a regular basis.
Local CSC Committees sprang up in every major city and many large towns,
a process helped by the eventual arrival of some 3000 refugees, who became
focal groups, maintaining pressure on the government by making their pres
ence felt at Constituency Labour Parties throughout the country. A plethora
of highly vocal cultural and arts support groups were established and major
cultural events and festivals were organized. Demonstrations and marches be
came annual events on the anniversary of the coup -10,000 attended a demon
stration in London on the 15th of September 1974, addressed by Madame
Hortensia Allende, who became a figurehead, returning to head demonstra
tions in September 1975,1976,1977 and 1979. National press coverage became
extensive after the 1975 demonstrations - most positions being critical of the
regime,1 a position far different from the original media response to the coup.
Pickets and human rights vigils, boycotts and demonstrations at both local
and national level, continued throughout the 1970s, nationwide hunger strikes
were organized, receiving widespread media coverage. Local trade union
branches carried out individual solidarity actions and motions on Chile flooded
individual trade union and the National Union of Students annual conferenc
es, the annual Trade Union Congress, and Labour Party Conferences. Stalls,
fringe meetings and cultural performances became standard events at all the
major conferences. Labour Party Conferences passed resolutions containing
most of the CSC demands and both Labour programmes and Labour National
Executive Committee statements tended to follow CSC policy documents al
most to the letter.
Individual trade unions formed strong links with their counterparts in Chile,
the NUM sent a secret delegation to Chile in 1977 and the same year members
of the Chilean CUT toured Britain.2 By 1977 some 30 national trade unions
were affiliated to the CSC, such was the support that Foreign Secretary Tony
Crosland told Madame Allende in September 1976 that 'even if the govern
ment wished to soften its policies on Chile, it would be unable to do so because
of the tremendous pressure of the Labour movement'.3 Dame Judith Hart
remembers: 'The NEC was absolutely unanimous on Chile, it was continuous
ly having to take a view on Chilean matters, which it would then urge on the
government'.4 Eight Labour MP's were on the CSC Executive Committee,
and she, herself, as the Minister for Overseas Development, was importantly
placed to raise awareness on Chilean issues.
As time went by it became difficult to maintain the campaign momentum -
by 1976 the September national demonstration had fallen to 6,500 and by 1979
it was down to 4,500. Similarly, there were constant shortages of funds and
human resources, and support began to tail off as many people became dis
illusioned at the prospects of toppling Pinochet, or became 'burnt-out' and

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Revista Europea de Estudios Latinoamericanos y del Caribe 52, junio de 1992 | 59

moved on to other fields at both national and local level. Nevertheless, pres
sure on the government was maintained throughout. Initial naivetes were
gradually overcome as the organizations became more expert in the art of
lobbying and built professional, even friendly relationships with the govern
ment departments concerned.5
Neither did the advent of a Conservative government cause a dramatic
downturn in support. There has been a remarkable durability in support, par
ticularly due to the inertia of the Labour movement - trade unions would carry
on affiliating year after year and continued to send representatives to the Exec
utive Committee. When some refugees returned to Chile later in the 1980s the
plight of those who faced renewed harassment gave added impetus to both
CSC and CCHR campaigns. The advent of the CSC Women's Section, formal
ly established in 1985, their Conferences and the visit of a Women's Dele
gation to Chile in 1986 played an important role in maintaining support and
putting new life into the Campaign.6
Intensive Parliamentary campaigns were organized and at times MP's of all
Parties were persuaded to take up human rights issues. Between 1983 and 1989
there were 333 questions raised in Parliament, together with 30 Early Day
Motions,7 all dealings between British Ministers and their Chilean counter
parts were the subject of questions, as were military, trade and human rights
policies and British government actions in international fora.8
The CSC was, then, an efficient lobbying machine with widespread and du
rable public support for its aims, reasonable access to the various government
Ministries and representation in Parliament. However, any attempt to analyze
the effectiveness of pressure groups must necessarily take into account the
social and political context in which they operate. The CSC operated within
two distinct and widely differing political periods of British political history.

Lobbying in a Positive Environment: The Labour Administrations


Labour constituted a minority government between February and October

1974 and a very slender majority for the remainder of its time in Office. This
may have made Labour ministers particularly vulnerable to claims that boy
cotts of Chilean goods and further trade restrictions would put British jobs at
risk. In the case of provision for refugees, with the surge in the support for the
National Front due to the influx of Ugandan Asians of 1972-4 in mind, minis
ters may have been vulnerable to the belief that too generous a provision may
bring a racist, electorally damaging backlash. Meanwhile, whilst the Labour
governments in the 1970s attempted to circumvent official obstruction and
take direct Ministerial control over many areas of policy, the specialist advisers
they hired to help do this found themselves 'frozen out' by the departments,
officials refusing them access to crucial documents.9 The pattern was one of
'limited success and frustration of radical expectations' as the Treasury and
IMF dictates became the centre of policy direction.10
The CSC, however, had good reason to expect more. Various members of
the Labour government, elected in 1974 held a natural affinity to the Popular
Unity government of Salvador Allende. Many saw it as a watershed for social

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60 | Michael D. Wilkinson

ist methods and ideology. Whilst Chile was still very much a minority theoret
ical interest within the Party, and whilst the number of people in Britain who
knew anything about Chile prior to 1973 was very small, the coup d'etat in
September 1973 saw many Labour politicians become automatically involved
with CSC and its sister organization, CCHR. There were personal, emotional
reasons for helping the solidarity movement, not only had the brave new ex
periment been undemocratically smashed, most of their Ministerial counter
parts and friends were either dead, missing or imprisoned. The CSC was seen
by the Labour Government as a legitimate organization and was welcomed
into key areas of the decision making process.
Practical support at Ministerial level however, was never a foregone conclu
sion. Political pragmatism often took precedence over internationalism and
socialist principles. There were various interest groups opposing the solidarity
viewpoint - the Canning House Economic Affairs Council was funded by the
Department of Trade and held 'insider status', advising the British Overseas
Trade Board on all aspects of trade with Latin America. The Council believed
fca commitment to human and political rights (was) incompatible with a suc
cessful export drive in Latin America' - a view accepted by Edmund Dell at the
Department of Trade.11 Meanwhile, the Chilean Embassy was producing Chile
Today, a glossy magazine expounding the virtues of the military junta, claim
ing it to be upholding tradition, democracy, and law and order. It stressed the
links between the Chilean and British 'establishments', together with business
and financial links. It also claimed the Junta to hold widespread popular sup
port within Chile and tried to give the country an appearance of stability and
normality. Copies were liberally distributed around Parliament. The Foreign
and Commonwealth Office also received copies. Graham believes that during
the Labour Administrations the FCO was the major actor in links with Latin
America and that it 'presented and represented the broad Establishment view
which incorporated the collective interests of the banks, business, government
and the services'.12 One could hardly expect the Home Office, Treasury and
MOD to differ much from these parameters.

(i) Diplomatic Relations

By 1974 the CSC had become the main liaison centre for relations between
distinguished Chilean exiles and the British government. Normal diplomatic
relations with Chile were, however, to continue until early in 1976 when the
arrest and torture of Dr Sheila Cassidy and the ensuing public outcry finally
forced the withdrawal of the British Ambassador from Santiago. Requests on
the floor of the House to break off diplomatic relations altogether were, never
theless, rejected. The Government also allowed 'private' visits to Britain by
Chilean Ministers and throughout Labour's time in Office Junta nominees and
supporters studied in Britain on British Council scholarships.

(ii) Trade

From the beginning British workers displayed solidarity with regards to most
Chilean trade. The CSC produced detailed lists of firms and their subsidiaries
gaining from paying low wages in Chile and boycotts and 'blackings' continued

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European Review of Latin American and Caribbean Studies 52, June 1992 | 61

throughout the period of Labour government. However, constant and wide

spread calls for an end to ECGD cover and for government sanctions against
trade with Chile went unheeded by Ministers (despite Chilean defaults on
ECGD). The Department of Trade maintained official contacts with Chile
throughout and the Board of Trade (advised by LATAG) actually advised the
Treasury to promote closer relationships with Chile.13
In a letter to Alex Kitson, of Labour's NEC and the T&GWU EC in July
1977, on the question of commercial relations, Foreign Minister David Owen
pointed out:

Restrictions or sanctions could only obstruct the efforts of our exporters

and disrupt our copper supplies and would be more damaging to our in
terests than effective as an instrument of pressure on the Junta.14

Britain continued to trade with Chile, as with other repressive regimes across
the region. On the positive side, despite a strong business lobby, ECGD medi
um term cover was not restored under Labour. Nevertheless, British exports
to Chile increased from ?36.2m in 1975 to ?45.6m in 1979, whilst imports rose
from ?62.Im to ?131.2m in the same period.

(Hi) Armaments Sales, Military Training and Cooperation

The Defence Sales Organization actively promoted arms sales across the re
gion often to the most brutal of regimes - Argentina, Peru, Brazil and Chile.
Both the Ministry of Defence and the Treasury saw arms sales as essential for
economies of scale to offset research costs and at a time when unemployment
was rising, an estimated 170,000 people were believed to be employed either
directly or indirectly in arms manufacture.15
The first major CSC successes came in March 1974 when Foreign Secretary
Callaghan announced here would be no new arms sales negotiated with Chile,
and all naval visits there were cancelled. In April, however, he announced that
the government would honour existing contracts for two frigates and two sub
marines. The government also continued, despite opposition both inside and
outside the House, to train Chilean sailors and provided spares for the military
equipment bought as both were tied to existing agreements. There followed a
storm of indignation within the Labour movement. Eric Heffer, Junior Minis
ter at the Department of Trade, fiercely criticised the decision, thus breaking
the hallowed tradition of 'collective responsibility'. All to no avail. Callaghan
referred to Chile's threat to cut off copper supplies (for which there were am
ple alternative sources), and claimed that to stop the sales would endanger
?200m worth of warship orders across Latin America.16
The CSC appealed to individual trade unions to stop work on the frigates
and submarines. The response was immediate. In May 1974 the AUEW Exec
utive Committee instructed its members not to work on them or any other
military equipment for Chile. Such acts of solidarity undoubtedly placed more
pressure on the government. Callaghan remained unmoved. With the business
and trade lobby lined up on one side and the Labour movement on the other,
he turned to the Attorney General who advised that contracts were binding
and should be fulfilled. Both frigates sailed for Chile in 1974.

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62 | Michael D. Wilkinson

The solidarity lobby succeeded in mobilising the entire Labour movement,

including Labour's own NEC, into a confrontation with the government. The
October 1976 Labour Party Conference ratified the Party Programme which
included an NEC-backed call to the government to reconsider its decision to
hand over the submarines and military equipment, it also condemned the
training of military personnel. The first submarine sailed for Chile in June
1976, the second left the following year. Spares for the vessels continued to be
sent and Chilean sailors continued to be trained.
In June 1978 the Junta began a sustained campaign for the recovery of the
Rolls Royce engines. The CSC were preoccupied with other issues at the time
and were slow to react, though they did initiate a letter writing campaign to
every Cabinet Minister. On 20th July the Trade Secretary Edmund Dell signed
export licenses for four of the engines for the Hawker Hunters and in August
1978 they were 'spirited away' from East Kilbride by management. The man
ner in which the aeroengines were removed, in vehicles with false number
plates and a police escort suggested 'government complicity'.17
There were nonetheless successes, the campaigns mounted raised aware
ness of the nature of the regime and, as the 1982 CSC 'Policy Document for a
Labour Government' stated: 'Without major pressure from the Labour move
ment it is clear that the supply of arms would be greater'.18

(iv) Bilateral and Multilateral Aid and Funding

In March 1973 Judith Hart stopped all bilateral aid to the Chilean government
excepting the conclusion of some small technical projects. Aid - some
?942,000 in 1976, was instead diverted to projects in support of progressive
forces within Chile, distributed via aid agencies such as the Catholic Fund for
Overseas Development, and to Chilean students via the World University Ser
However, in 1974 Britain attended a meeting of the Paris Club and agreed
generous terms on Chilean debt repayment - the rescheduling was not tied to
assurances of improvements of human rights. A protest motion was signed by
130 Labour MP's and the Socialist International criticised Labours' stance.
The November 1974 Labour Conference passed a unanimous NEC-backed
resolution condemning the agreement and calling for no further re-negotia
tion. In February 1975 after delegations from the Trades Union Congress and
the Parliamentary Labour Party met with Callaghan, the Government agreed
to refuse further renegotiation until human rights policies improved. The lob
by had scored a valuable success. From that moment the government main
tained a policy of either abstaining or voting against rescheduling or the grant
ing of new loans to Chile in the international lending agencies. This success
was, however, tempered by the fact that the Chilean response was to refuse to
pay the debts. Labour MP's then pressed for the seizure of Chilean assets to
secure the repayments, but to no avail.
Private bank loans to Chile were never restricted, Labour's official view was
that economic sanctions would only be effective if supported internationally,
yet there was never an attempt by British representatives to campaign for such
a policy in international fora. In June 1977 Lloyd's Bank International was the
leading partner in a loan of f 75m to Chile by a London-based consortium of

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British and American banks - this was way and above any amount Chile may
have lost through British government aid (never over ?2m per annum) being
cut off.
In replying to criticism of the consortium's loans, Junior Minister Evan
Luard wrote:

The question of how much control the government could or should exer
cise over what private individuals and organizations do with their own
resources is in any event one which has implications going far beyond the
issue of our relations with Chile.19

Private interests were, it seemed, sacrosanct. In September 1978 a further

?200m in loans were raised for Chile by the same consortium. These and other
funds were crucial in maintaining the monetarist economic model in Chile and
helped to consolidate the regime.20

(v) Human Rights

The British Embassy in Santiago was noticeably quiet on human rights issues
under the Heath government. It was given immediate instructions by the in
coming Labour administration to be more helpful to those seeking asylum and
to make more forceful representations to the Junta about individual human
rights cases. However, that did not extend to granting asylum within the Em
bassy as the Labour opposition had demanded and as other countries' Embas
sies had allowed. The Embassy did make representations about British citi
zens, the cases of Sheila Cassidy, William Beausire and others, as did the For
eign Office to the Chilean Embassy in London, but, as CSC EC member,
Diane Dixon, recalls: Tt was never good'.21 Although Dr Cassidy was eventu
ally released and the Ambassador was withdrawn on December 30th 1975 due
to her treatment in custody, the CSC and CCHR felt that much more could
have been done and much earlier.
Between 1975 and 1978 Britain voted annually for UN resolutions condemn
ing human rights abuses in Chile. In March 1977 and 1978 she co-sponsored
United Nations Human Rights Commission resolutions to establish and main
tain an ad-hoc working group to go to Chile to investigate human rights vio
Some of the demands of the solidarity movement were not met. For in
stance, Britain made no attempt to rally it's European partners to impose sanc
tions on Chile. There is also evidence to suggest that by 1979 British delegates
had played a moderating role in international fora, arguing that the UN Ad
Hoc Working Group on Human Rights in Chile be disbanded.22 Nevertheless,
in general Britain's stance on Human Rights in Chile was reasonably satis
factory, Ministers and MP's constantly criticised the Junta, in Parliament, in
the media, via the Embassy in Santiago and via international fora.

(vi) Refugees

In March 1974 Jim Callaghan announced in the House of Commons that the
Home Secretary would henceforth consider applications from Chileans 'sym

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64 | Michael D. Wilkinson

pathetically'. The CSC pressured for and succeeded in having the resettlement
programme placed in the hands of groups which were to a large degree inde
pendent of government and with close links to themselves. The World Uni
versity Service and Academics for Chile were prominent in the lobby, the
former going on to play a major role - just under half of all Chilean exiles in
Britain being sponsored by their programmes, utilising the bulk of government
funding, some ?llm.23 These programmes, however, dealt exclusively with
academics and resources for the resettlement of non-academic Chileans were
notably lacking. In July 1974, Judith Hart, the Minister of Overseas Devel
opment set up, against the advice of civil servants, the Joint Working Group
for Refugees from Chile, giving it direct responsibility for reception and reset
However, funding and therefore staffing was totally inadequate. By Decem
ber 1975 a mere ?70,000 had been received from government and voluntary
agencies to deal with the resettlement and cultural and linguistic problems of
the refugees, many of whom had been subjected to physical and psychological
torture. The uncertainty of funding (The Home Office Voluntary Service Unit
saw itself as a last resort' funding body and would not be committed for more
than 6 months in advance) made long term planning impossible. Local Author
ities were unsure of their housing responsibilities and some were openly hos
tile, as such housing found was usually in very poor condition. The JWG Inter
im Report of December 1975 stated that Tn general Local Authorities have
failed to move because of lack of instruction from Central government'.25
The JWG protested at the lengthy admissions process for applicants. Alex
Lyon gave a commitment to reduce the time taken from four to two months,
but the average time continued to be between three and four months.26 The
previous government's criteria of 'ties' with Britain was maintained, as was the
'personal acceptability clause', by which applicants were actually security vet
ted by, amongst others, the same CIA who had destabilized the Allende gov
ernment.27 Dame Judith Hart remembers that the Campaign succeeded as far
as Junior Minister level, but no further: 'Alex Lyon tried to cut through it but
he didn't succeed very well because you have to be Home Secretary to cut
through that network, not just a Minister of State'.28 Formal rights of appeal
were only available in practice for those already residing in the United King
dom, and those appeals were often rejected out of hand by the adjudicators.29
Such practices led the UNCHR to protest that the Home Office was breaching
the UN Convention and Protocol on Refugees.
The refugee lobby was vigorous and engendered wide support. MP's regu
larly requested the faster processing of visa applications, for more adequate
provision for resettlement, and even for the sacking of both the English and
Scottish Chief Adjudicators. All too often, though, those representations were
met in the negative.30 In 1978 delegations of MP's, trade unions and the volun
tary agencies finally prompted the Home Secretary to accept 'adoption' by a
British organization as constituting a tie. Even then the procedure was lengthy
and still ultimately down to executive discretion.
The treatment of refugees and Chilean visitors also left much to be desired.
On numerous occasions they were asked very direct, extremely pointed ques
tions of Chilean political realities which betrayed a high level of knowledge
and understanding on the part of immigration officers. No amount of lobbying

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could alter these activities, because there is virtually no political control over
In the overall, as a CSC policy brief for Labour's 1982 Programme pointed
out: The Labour government consistently tried to give the minimum response
to Labour movement demands for a full refugee programme... ."It was a long
fight' to get immigration rules relaxed. Whilst approximately 3000 refugees
were admitted by January 1979, this total was, 'considerably below that of
some other European countries' and 'the lack of funding for the Joint Working
Group for Refugees was a disgrace'.31
Labour policy, then, left much to be desired. Some things were, however,
achieved and there had at least been a feeling that the lobby groups operating
under a Labour government had real power. There was a sense of partnership
between groups and government and a feeling that their views were heeded.
There was to be no such partnership with the Conservatives.

Lobbying in a Negative Environment: The Conservative

Administrations 1979-90

In 1973 the Heath government recognised the Junta almost immediately and
many Conservatives welcomed the fall of Allende. A Labour motion con
demning the Junta was defeated in November by 280 votes to 262. During the
debate Julian Amery, the Minister of State at the Foreign Office revealed the
Conservatives' chief concern with regards to Chile: 'We have substantial eco
nomic interests in the country, both in trade and investments. One third of our
copper imports comes from Chile.' He believed it wrong to interfere in the
internal affairs of another country and claimed that to stop arms sales would
threaten British jobs. He refused to stop aid on the grounds that it would harm
the Chilean people, claimed the coup 'may or may not be regarded as illegal...'
and believed 'This is a quarrel of limited concern to the people of this coun
try' .32 Other Tories accused Allende of bringing Chile to the brink of economic
ruin, of undemocratic practices and a plot to allow the Communists to take
over the country by assassinating military leaders. They claimed the people of
Chile to be supportive of the Junta and accused labour of double-standards for
criticising Chilean repression but not that of Leftist regimes.33 Chilean refu
gees were considered 'subversives' who 'should go to Cuba'.34
The main non-governmental influences on Conservative policy were Can
ning House and, by 1979, the recently formed British Chilean Council - both
apologists for the Latin American military regimes. Because the British gov
ernment was largely ignorant or disinterested of the circumstances in Latin
America these so-called experts acquired an exaggerated air of truth.35 Above
all, from 1982, Chilean logistical support for the British forces in the Falklands/
Malvinas War over-rode all other considerations.
Not only did Thatcher ignore lobby groups on the political Centre and Left,
she also froze out peak organizations such as the TUC, a policy effecting many
smaller lobbying groups who saw the TUC as an avenue along which to trans
mit their views directly to government. In the confrontational style which be
came her hallmark, she announced her intention to scrap many aspects of the
consensus. She held little faith in the Foreign Office bureaucracy and took

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66 | Michael D. Wilkinson

personal control over direction of policy, drawing her ideas from her tradition
al allies in the business and financial sector, through the Conservative Central
Office and a select number of think tanks such as the Centre for Policy Studies,
the Institute for Economic Affairs, and the Adam Smith Institute. It was no
longer sufficient for lobby groups to hold the high moral and intellectual
ground, force of argument or even mass public support to alter government
policy - the potentiality to wield sanctions against the government became the
sole means of access to policy-making for those not brought into the inner
circle of advisers.

(i) Diplomatic Relations

Both solidarity groups, expecting the worst, vigorously lobbied the govern
ment to refrain from any restoration of diplomatic relations. The visit of Chi
lean Foreign Minister Cubillos in September 1979 led to such a wave of protest
from the Labour movement that the government held back for a few months.
Nevertheless full diplomatic relations were restored in January 1980. Nicholas
Ridley claimed this was to achieve a working relationship, not to indicate ap
proval or endorsement of the regime, but it was seen by many as a gesture of
goodwill - certainly the Pinochet regime interpreted it as such.36

(ii) Trade

Despite widespread boycott activity by the trade unions the lobby could not
persuade the government to refrain from promoting trade with Chile.
In June 1979, despite CSC protests, full ECGD cover was restored. In Janu
ary 1980 it underpinned two separate 5 million dollar lines of credit from Lon
don finance houses to help finance British capital goods and service contracts.
In August 1980, despite protests by church groups, the CCHR and trade
unions Trade Minister Cecil Parkinson took a trade delegation to both Chile
and Argentina and praised the Chilean economic model in a press interview
there. The pattern continued throughout. As with the previous Labour gov
ernment, there were few limits - in September 1982, despite protests, General
Herman Brady visited Britain and received 40 uranium rods for the nuclear
reactor at Lo Aguirre. Trade delegations involving Ministerial contact contin
ued in both directions throughout the decade.

(Hi) Armaments Sales, Military Training and Cooperation

The training of Chilean military personnel in Britain was resumed almost im

mediately and the British arms embargo was lifted. Armaments sales began
again and continued, despite large and vociferous protests, throughout the
In September 1981, following the visit of senior Chilean naval officers, a
destroyer and tanker were sold to Chile, despite protests that naval vessels had
been used as torture centres during the coup. During the 1982 Falklands war a
secret cooperation agreement was made in which Britain would supply mil
itary equipment and intelligence gathering facilities in return for the use of
Chilean bases during the conflict. Chile received 12 Hawker-Hunter aircraft
together with other aircraft and large amounts of military equipment.37

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There were occasional lobby victories, the refusal, for instance, to grant
export licenses for 40 AMAC1 riot control vehicles in 1984 due to accusations
that such sales would contravene their own stated international obligation re:
not selling equipment which could be used for internal repression. However
these were few and often arbitrary, as can be seen by the granting of export
licenses in January 1984 for armed Centaur military vehicles, which could pat
ently be used, despite Ministerial claims to the contrary, for internal repres
The government were, however, wary of the pressure brought to bear, and,
for instance, whilst maintaining ties with the more 'moderate' navy and air
force, they kept the Chilean army at a distance. Similarly, a visit by General
Matthei, the head of the Chilean air force, to the Farnborough Air Show was
cancelled in August 1982 due to a wave of protests from the Labour move
ment, Labour and Alliance MP's and widespread press criticism. He never
theless visited in March 1983 and similar visits continued thereafter.

(iv) Bilateral and Multilateral Aid and Funding

In November 1979 the Minister for Overseas Development announced the

ending of funds for poverty-directed projects in Chile. No limits were placed in
the area of private aid and loans indeed, the removal of exchange controls
made it easier for both trade and aid to flow. In November 1986 Britain voted
for the disbursal of a $250m World Bank loan to Chile, - 41% of the vote,
including the US, abstained, the British vote ensured the loan was approved
(by a mere 2%). This occurred during a period of severe repression in Chile
and was not conditional on human rights improvements.

(v) Human Rights

The restoration of diplomatic relations in January 1980 made it clear that hu

man rights were no longer paramount in British policy. Ridley had told a dele
gation from CCHR in August 1979 that the case of Sheila Cassidy was now
'water under the bridge'. In February 1980 he claimed she may have been
mistaken about her treatment at the hands of the Chilean Secret Police,38 re
tracting this only after a storm of protests from the lobby. Human and trade
union rights violations continued unabated in Chile, and Britain signed UN
condemnations in 1979,1981 and 1982. Yet Ridley and Foreign Secretary Car
rington periodically claimed that the Junta was making improvements and in
February 1981 Britain abstained in the UN vote against Chile on the grounds
that such condemnation was 'selective'.39
In the secret agreements during the Falklands war Britain agreed to try to
ease the human rights pressure on Chile in the international community.40 In
December 1982, despite a CCHR and CSC joint campaign to persuade the
government to condemn Chile, they instead lobbied for their own amendment
to a motion at the UN General Assembly which would end the Special Rappor
teur mandate and effectively take the airing of the Chilean human rights sit
uation out of the public glare of the Assembly itself. When this failed Britain
abstained in the vote, as they did the following year.
Whilst regular representations were made to visiting Junta Officials and the

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68 | Michael D. Wilkinson

Chilean Embassy about human rights abuses against Anglo-Chileans, no seri

ous attempt was made to threaten sanctions against Chile when those respon
sible were not brought to justice. Similarly, whilst Andy McEntee, National
Organizer for the CCHR, remembers that the Embassy in Chile 'was getting a
significant amount of mail over the years from the broad human rights/solidar
ity perspective',41 the British Embassy in Santiago, unlike other Western Eu
ropean legations, did not keep regular contacts with human rights groups,
follow up human rights cases or make statements about the situation.42
The repression became so bad during the 'state of siege' that there was little
choice but to vote in favour of condemning Chile in both UNCHR and General
Assembly resolutions between 1984 and 1988. The CCHR remained con
vinced, however, that for all their assertions of concern for human rights the
Conservatives displayed a singular disinterest in putting any effective pressure
on the Junta.

(vi) Refugees

On the 29th October 1979 Home Secretary William Whitelaw ended funding
for the Joint Working Group special programme for Latin America refugees.
Nicholas Ridley, Minister of State for Latin America, stated that the pro
gramme had been partisan and was no longer necessary, because numbers
being accepted were diminishing. He candidly wrote to a constituent in Janu
ary 1980 that 'there is no need, and never was, for a special programme', it had
been 'a public relations exercise of the last government which is better bur
ied'.43 This was despite a UNHCR report of August 1979 showing that such a
programme was still required. The CSC and CCHR mounted an urgent cam
paign to lobby against the decision, pointing out that although fewer had been
arriving, this was due to the Government's rejection of an increasing number
of applications. All to no avail.

Fighting against the Tide

The CSC achieved only limited success vis-a-vis British government policies.
As will be seen later, this was in part due to the nature of the political environs
in which they operated, but also, in part, to certain organizational and financial
weaknesses. Mike Gatehouse, explained:

T think we were in the dark and also very ignorant, very overworked,
understaffed and under-resourced, and comparatively inexperience -
d.. .you literally don't have the time to find out what's been done previous
ly by other groups....'

The main political campaigning was slow to get off the ground, campaigners
being, for the most part, young and relatively inexperienced people, operating
on a political-emotional level, via demonstrations and protests rather than
direct lobbying of Ministers and civil servants. Meanwhile the constant need to
raise funds drew time and energies away from direct lobbying. Initial naivetes
and lack of research facilities did not help. However, those naivetes were tern

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European Review of Latin American and Caribbean Studies 52, June 1992 | 69

pered by the number of trade unionists and MP's who 'must have seen cam
paigns before and presumably they communicated that experience to us'.44
For a new lobby there were also the inevitable tactical mistakes, both on
individual issues, such as the failure to react swiftly to Junta pressure for the
granting of export licenses for the Rolls Royce engines, or in general policy,
such as the initial failure to build a wider Latin American solidarity network.
Roper believes the lobby could have been and could still be much better coor
dinated: kthe present pattern of ill-funded, fragmented and often duplicated
operations is singularly ineffective'45 and Mike Gatehouse admits:

To its shame the CSC was rather tunnel-visioned about Chile and was
quite resistant to broadening itself out to other Latin American issues...
and I think we gave much less assistance to the wider Latin America
movement than we could and should have.46

On the other hand, there were notable successes, particularly under Labour,
when the support obtained from the Labour and trade union movement was
instrumental in influencing government policy:

It gave us tremendous strength and was also a factor in our political stabil
ity because with that level of trade union support and backing it was diffi
cult for any individual political group to use the Campaign for its own

Measuring their demands also helped them to maintain (as did CCHR) reason
able, often cordial relations with the Foreign Office.
The Campaign created the emotional environment and groundswell of sup
port necessary to legitimate Labour's initial actions against the Junta, and al
though Ministers were happy, due to their genuine loathing of the Chilean
regime, to take the measures they did they were always wary of going too far.
As Diane Dixon put it: T don't think it was a voluntary act on their part. We
always had to push'.48 Both the government's refusal to renegotiate the Chi
lean debt and their withdrawal of the Ambassador were directly resultant of
CSC pressure.
The failure to make greater progress was less to do with weaknesses in.the
organization or tactics of the CSC itself, it did, after all, win over the Labour
and trade union movement, at the grass-roots, at Conference level, at the TUC
General Council and Labour's NEC, where support was 'unanimous'.49 They
also won over Judith Hart and Junior Ministers such as Ted Rowlands and
Joan Lestor. As George Foulkes points out, 'the problem came higher up'.
There was little consultation between the PLP and the NEC, the Labour Cabi
net ignored Labour NEC statements and Conference Resolutions just as it
ignored Labour Party policy. As Geoff Bish reveals:

The status of the NEC vis-a-vis the Labour government was, in practice,
that of a mere pressure group, just one among many. The outcome of our
numerous delegations, representations, statements and resolutions was
thus little different from those of many other pressure groups: a few minor
successes, perhaps, but little of real substance in the way of changing the
direction of government policy.50

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70 | Michael D. Wilkinson

Mike Gatehouse says of Ministers:

they didn't have the courage to face what they were instructed by their
civil servants would be, perhaps, a legally difficult decision, or to face the
political cost in terms of criticism from the Tories and the media, and so

He believes that a Labour government runs across unwritten

dards, prevailing establishment norms and values which are p
rosanct, and that the political will to break through those norms d
the 1970s:

One of the things we found in general was that you don't disturb certain
patterns of government, you don't, for instance, interfere in existing trad
ing patterns for political reasons. The status quo was all pervading, it
came over again and again.51

Breaking arms contracts was perceived as bad business practice, therefore this
was not done even when Chile was defaulting on debt repayments. Judith Hart
confirmed this:

That was Healey and the Ministry of Defence, but it was mainly from the
lawyers, the Attorney General. The lobby came very strong on it and we
wanted to stop arms to Chile but it was a question of honouring contracts,
of government honourableness, you don't cancel contracts, like you don't
cancel treaties.52

As for the Conservatives, Diane Dixon recounts:

They closed the door on us. They closed the refugee programme down,
then all the other things were reopened - diplomatic relations and all that,
back on again overnight, no amount of lobbying could stop it. In that
respect the doors were closed. They've always listened to us, it's just that
they don't hear!53

Andy McEntee and the CCHR found the same problem:

In the early days we had little effect.. .it was always a case of us and them -
the way cases were raised and the way they were replied to, and so on, it
was very formal, very much a case of doing business with these groups
which come to visit us, and that's probably as far as a lot of it went.54

Many representations from constituents, human rights organizations, church

and solidarity groups or leaders of the Labour and trade union movement were
either ignored or met with written answers by Junior Ministers with either
standard replies, often originally written many months' previously and there
fore failing to address the questions asked. The government were fully aware
of the demands of the lobby and were simply not interested in them. For all its
support and resources, initiative and lobbying ability, then, it was very difficult

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Revista Europea de Estudios Latinoamericanos y del Caribe 52, junio de 1992 | 71

for the CSC to break through the dogmatism of the Conservative adminis
tration. Responses to the lobby ranged from indifference to hostility, they
were rarely helpful or accommodating.
In retrospect it could be suggested that the CSC miscalculated by concen
trating on obtaining the support of a Labour and trade union movement which
has been virtually frozen out of influence in the last decade. It could also be
maintained, though, that such an alliance was natural as it was amongst this
movement where support originated, and that the Tories' position was primar
ily ideological, and so attempting to forge better relations with them would not
have achieved much by the way of concrete gains. The CSC had no specific
sanctions to use against a government with a massive parliamentary majority
and so had to rely on the rationale and moral force of their arguments. That
meant that effectively it was very difficult for the lobby to succeed because, as
with many other areas of policy, the government proved itself to be not for
Perhaps their greatest success was to exist at all, a continual source of em
barrassment to the Pinochet Junta in Chile. Their influence has continued to
be instrumental. They have helped to open up Latin American in Britain, their
cultural and promotional work helping to improve the image of the region,
and, as Graham points out, 'Politicians, as a rule woefully ignorant of Latin
America, often have their first contact with the region through the pressure
As we enter the 1990s the CSC has suffered a lapse in support, primarily due
to factors beyond its control. Some of the places where they had large bases of
support - for example the trade union movement, collapsed, because industry
has collapsed. Seventeen years is a long time to maintain support and many
people have moved on. There are now a whole new generation who have no
recollection of Popular Unity whatsoever.
The return to limited democracy and the moving of Pinochet to the back
ground must also have effected support. It has, however, a firm base to work
from to fight for further gains. There is currently a more cohesive Latin Amer
ican lobby and there has been a lot of feed-in of people from the Chile Cam
paign to other agencies such as Oxfam, War on Want, The World University
Service, CAFOD and Christian Aid - graduates in one sense or another from
Chile Solidarity.56 The learning process involved in such cooperation has
helped the CSC become more streamlined and efficient.
The CSC was, then, brought directly into the decision-making process under
periods of Labour government. Although lobbying became more difficult un
der Conservative governments the campaigning momentum continued, parlia
mentary interest was maintained and lobbying techniques were adapted and
improved to meet the changing political environment. There were disappoint
ments, there were failures, but in the over-all the success of the Chilean lobby
should be measured by the fact that many other equally worthy potential For
eign Affairs parliamentary campaigns (there were human rights abuses across
the Third World throughout the period in question) did not get off the
If support is to be maintained into the 1990s it may well be that new focal
points must be identified, that, for instance, further efforts be made to link
domestic and international issues by linking monetarist failings in Latin Amer

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72 | Michael D. Wilkinson

ica to those in Britain and linking the free-flow of British capital to exploit
workers under Rightist regimes to the unemployment this causes through lack
of investment at home.58 Whichever way the CSC turns, however, the wider
and more cohesive nature of the Latin American solidarity lobby today gives
good cause for optimism for the future.

* * *

Michael D. Wilkinson is currently researching his M.

'Lobbying for Lesser Developed Countries in the Eur
the University of Hull, and is participating in the P
Studies Research Workshop in the Hull University Dep

1. Chile Lucha 15, October 1975: 4.
2. See the Report of the NUM Delegation to Chile and Bolivia, April-May 1977 (NUM-EC June
1977) CSC Archives.
3. CSC Annual Report 1976, p. 1.
4. Dame Judith Hart, Minister for Overseas Development, 1974-5, 1976-9: Personal interview,
5. Diane Dixon explained: 'We have always had access to government in the sense that we've
always been able to be seen by the Chile Desk at the ForeignvOffice and by Junior Ministers -
never by the man himself -, we've always had a fairly reasonable relationship with the people
on the Chile Desk'. Diane Dixon: Executive Committee Member, Chile Solidarity Campaign
1973-81, Personal interview, 21/6/90.
6. Diane Dixon remembers: 'It was tremendously successful and women found themselves mov
ing within their own campaign.... So we launched a new era at that point and it helped to
maintain the momentum". Diane Dixon, op cit. Also see Chile Lucha No 45, Summer 1984,
pp. 5-8; and Somos Mds: Chile Women's Delegation Report, CSC1985.
7. A motion for which no date has been set. Often used to draw attention to a specific issue
and/or test the opinions of Members (who may add their names), or in the hope of securing
time for a debate.
8. Chapter on Chile by Parliamentary Researcher Paul Silk, in: A Study of Parliament and For
eign Affairs by The Study of Parliament Group, 1990, CCHR Files, pp. 20-21.
9. Dearlove and Saunders, Introduction to British Politics: Analysing a Capitalist Democracy.
(London, Polity Press 1984), p. 122.
10. Dennis Kavanagh, Thatcherism and British Politics: The End of Consensus? (Oxford Uni
versity Press 1987) pp. 165-7.
11. See letter from Edmund Dell to Foreign Secretary David Owen cited by Christopher Roper.
Roper believed the Council 'to play a pre-eminent role in shaping the policies of the Labour
Government", in: Britain and Latin America: An Annual Review of British-Latin American
Relations 1979. (Latin America Bureau 1979) pp. 53-54.
12. Robert Graham, 'British Policy Towards Latin America', in: Victor Buhner-Thomas Britain
and Latin America: A Changing Relationship, (Cambridge University press 1989) p. 54.
13. Chile Lucha. Sept/October 1977, p. 4.
14. Owen to Alex Kitson, 5 July 1977, CSC Archives.
15. Esperanza Duran, European Interests in Latin America, Chatham House Papers 28, The Roy
al Institute of International Affairs (Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1985) p. 29. Also, Simon
Barrow, 'Europe, Latin America and the Arms Trade' in: The European Challenge: Europe's
New Role in Latin America, (LAB 1982) pp. 186-194.
16. Hansard Volume 892, 21/5/75, pp. 1389-1390.
17. See Chile Lucha 29, Oct/Nov 1978, p. 2. Also, CSC Policy Document for a Labour Govern
ment, 1982, CSC Archives.
18. CSC Policy Document for a Labour Government, 1982, CSC Archives.

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European Review of Latin American and Caribbean Studies 52, June 1992 | 73

19. Letter to CSC: 29/7/1977, CSC Archives.

20. The Thatcher Years: Britain and Latin America, (LAB 1988) p. 54.
21. 'During the Sheila Cassidy affair we had to push and push and push because what the Embassy
were saying was that they just didn't believe her. She was visited by the Consul and saying as
clearly as she could possibly say under the circumstances that she was being tortured and they
were just ignoring it, they weren't doing anything to try to get her out', Diane Dixon, op cit.
22. Christopher Roper, 'Political Relations between Britain and Latin America', in: Britain and
Latin America, An Annual Review of British-Latin American Relations 1979 (Latin America
Bureau, 1979) p. 4.
23. See A Study in Exile (World University Service, London 1986).
24. Dame Judith Hart relates, 'The Ministry had advised me that I couldn't do it and I found a
loophole'. Dame Judith Hart, op cit.
25. Joint Working Group Interim Report pp. 17-18.
26. Joint Working Group Interim Report p. 23.
27. Dame Hart remembers, 'We had to get CIA clearance - this was the MI5/CIA set. [It was]...
the basic reason for the lengthy delays in processing visa applications.' Dame Judith Hart, op
cit. See also Chile Lucha 23, Spring 1977, p. 2. Also, Ann Brown, 'Latin American Refugees:
British Government Policy and Practice', in: Britain and Latin America: An Annual Review of
British-Latin American Relations 1979 (LAB 1979) p. 30.
28. Dame Judith Hart, op cit.
29. Chief Adjudicator Peterson stating, 'I could see no marked compassionate circumstances
special to the Appellants' who were active supporters of the Allende government which 'had
not treated its political opponents with compassion'. (Immigration Act Appeal 9/11/1976).
Chief Adjudicator Aitcheson of Glasgow, meanwhile, stated that boycotts of Chilean trade
were threatening Scottish jobs, and that 'perhaps Cuba might be a country more receptive to
the political aspirations of the three Appellants'. See Ann Brown, op cit, p. 38.
30. See Roy Jenkins in Hansard Volume 877, 18/7/1974, p. 222w; Shirley Williams in Hansard
Volume 944, 14/2/1978, p. 194-5w; Dr Summerskill in Hansard Volume 925, 3/2/1977, p.
724-7, and Hansard Volume 931, 5 May 1977, pp. 633-4.
31. CSC Policy Brief for a Labour Government 1982: CSC Archives.
32. Hansard Vol 865, 28/11/73, pp.478-489.
33. ibid, pp. 506-8.
34. ibid, pp. 520-523.
35. Colin Henfrey and Liz Nash, 'Business as Usual: Britain's Tory Government and Latin Amer
ica', in: Europe and Latin America: An Annual Review of European-Latin American Rela
tions 1980 (LAB 1980) p.21.
36. See The Times 18/1/80, p. 15.
37. The Thatcher Years, op cit, p. 58. See also, Chile Lucha 48, Spring 1985, pp. 6-7, p. 59.
38. Minutes of delegation to see Sir Ian Gilmour and Ridley 6:2:80, CCHR Archives.
39. See CSC Archives plus Henf rey and Nash, op cit, p. 15.
40. The Thatcher Years, op cit, p. 58.
41. Andy McEntee: National Organizer CCHR: Personal interview, 22/8/90.
42. The Thatcher Years, op cit, pp. 60-61. See also, CSC Annual Report 1982, p. 8; CCHR Action
/ Information Document 1987, p. 3.
43. Henfrey and Nash, op cit, p. 10.
44. Mike Gatehouse, 'Secretary / Joint Secretary Chile Solidarity Campaign 1974-79', personal
interview, 21/8/90.
45. Christopher Roper, op cit, p. 56.
46. Mike Gatehouse, op cit.
47. ibid.
48. Diane Dixon, op cit.
49. Dame Judith Hart, op cit.
50. Geoff Bish, 'Working Relations between Government and Party', in: Ken Coates (ed.) What
Went Wrong, (Spokesman Books 1979) pp. 164-9.
51. Mike Gatehouse, op cit.
52. Dame Judith Hart, op cit.
53. Diane Dixon, op cit.
54. Andy McEntee, op cit.
55. Robert Graham in Bulmer-Thomas, op cit, p. 62.
56. Mike Gatehouse, op cit.

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74 | Michael D. Wilkinson

57. Paul Silk, op cit, p. 25.

58. See Henfrey and Nash, op cit, pp. 23-24.

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