Workers' Control in Latin America, 1930-1979

By Jonathan C. Brown | Go to book overview

most important mobilization of the working class to date," according to one historian 45--and inserted the nations' mine unions, as class organizations, into national political as well as economic affairs.

The involvement of the Centromín unions in class-based, national protests was hesitant and inconsistent. In 1977, the Centromín unions were virtually the only miners' group in Peru not to observe the national strike. But they were still willing to take militant actions to protest dangerous working conditions in their own mines, including a work stoppage when a mine elevator cable broke and killed six workers in mid-1979. They also launched a thirty- two-day marcha de sacrificio to Lima to protest severe economic policies imposed by new conservative leadership of the military government. In 1980, an elected civilian regime replaced the military junta, the undermining of which workers' opposition deserves credit.

The hesitance of the Centromín miners to collaborate in class-identified organizations and national political activities may well reflect the continuing incomplete proletarianization of the miners. Most recently, the miners of the central Andes have resisted the overtures of the Maoist guerrilla group Sendero Luminoso (the Shining Path). 46 Apparently, the ties to commercial agriculture and their petite bourgeois aspirations this author noticed in 1970 persist in leading miners away from class-based movements calling for the overthrow of the capitalist economy. The history of the central Peruvian miners' militance demonstrates an independence from narrow proletarian ideologies and class organizations and reflects socioeconomic interests and goals that were more complex than has been anticipated by urban revolutionaries and intellectuals. To these miners, workers' control has always signified the workers' freedom to pursue careers other than working for an industrial wage.


Notes

The author would like to thank Julian Laite for his comments on an earlier draft of this chapter. The field research for this chapter was supported with grants from the Doherty Charitable Foundation at Princeton University and the Department of Anthropology of Columbia University.

1.
That the miners would militantly demand government approval for higher wages and, through nationalization of the mines, greater control over the workplace was thus seen as a natural outcome of their employment as industrial workers, an interpretation of the strikes that has been since offered by some social scientists. See especially Alberto Flores Galindo, Los mineros de la Cerro de Pasco, 1900-1930 ( Lima, 1974); Dirk Kruijt and Menno Vellinga, Labor Relations and Multinational Corporations: The Cerro de Pasco Corporation in Peru ( 1902- 1974) (Assen, The Netherlands, 1979).

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