John Keenan in the 1970s

Friends and comrades were saddened to hear of the death of John Keenan last week.

A lifelong socialist and union activist, John was a former president of the Scottish TUC. But he was best known for his role in the solidarity shown at Rolls Royce East Kilbride immediately following the military coup in Chile 50 years ago.

The events are portrayed in Felipe Bustos Sierra’s documentary, Nae Pasaran.

It tells how John and his workmates at the East Kilbride engine plant refused to inspect and repair the engines of the Hawker Hunter fighter jets that had been used by Pinochet’s junta to strafe and bomb the people of Chile and overthrow their elected government.

The East Kilbride boycott endured for four years but the workforce never knew the full impact of their solidarity action until the making of the film.

Unknown to them, they had grounded half of Pinochet’s air force and brought inspiration to many trade unionists being held and tortured in Pinochet’s jails.

As a teenager John served his engineering apprenticeship at the factory and worked there for most of his life. He was a prominent member of the International Socialists, forerunners of the Socialist Workers Party, throughout the 1970s. He helped to build a strong IS branch in East Kilbride.

John remained a principled, active trade unionist and campaigner until he died. Condolences to his family.

Messages of condolence can be sent to the STUC, 8 Landressy Street, Bridgeton, G40 1BP and they will be forwarded to John’s family
For an interview with John about the East Kilbride boycott, go here.

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