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4. Industrial belts & people's power

In addition to continuing the important work of JAPs (the neighborhood price and supply control boards), Allende's grassroots supporters also undertook the challenge of ensuring that the strike wouldn't topplethe government. Allende's supporters in the private setor, including those who ran enterprises not nationalized by the government, decided to turn the strike into a referendum on Allende. They ordered a halt to production, causing shortages and exacerbating the crisis.

An excerpt from Patricio Guzman's “The Battle of Chile" showing debates at one of the "industrial belts."


Under these circumstances, the so-called "industrial belts" began to emerge. They were crucial in maintaining and reorienting production and distribution to serve the needs of Chile's essentially wartime economy during the strike. This ensured that Chile's industrial machine kept running, even when the owners sought to sabotage it. There were several dramatic examples of existing facilities being repurposed to perform entirely different functions.

For instance, many factories leveraged their transportation facilities to repair trucks that had been sabotaged, as part of the campaign of paralyzing the country. 

Workers at one of the largest "industrial belts" of that period

This idea of industrial belts, and this display of worker power - these quasi-autonomous and independent units within Chilean politics - certainly sent shivers down the spines of many in the military. It gave them the impression that Allende might be mobilizing the workers, and perhaps even plotting a coup of his own.

There were widespread fears and concerns that some of the industrial facilities producing cars, for example, might be repurposed to manufacture weapons.There was much talk of constructing so-called "people's tanks."

This notion of bottom-up, industrial-level support for Allende also proved to be a double-edged sword, likely inciting the military to move against him even more swiftly.

Workers at one of the industrial belts demanding more popular power.

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