Chile: the historic teachers strike continues

The mobilization carried out by the teachers union is moving towards its 6th week, a decision that came after a proposal from the government that the leader of the College of Teachers, Mario Aguilar, accepted as a moment of withdrawal. This makes the strike one of the most extensive the union has carried out in its history, a characteristic that responds, in the first place, to the overwhelming adherence showcased in the images of teachers and professors from all over Chile gathered in Santiago with 50 thousand people in the streets, and 30 thousand in Valparaíso marching towards the Congress. A robust environment with diverse creative expressions in protest and great social support.

Teachers strike, an x-ray of the market education crisis.

The phenomena of the recent history of our country have been based on the massive insurgency of social sectors linked to education, including students during 2006 – 2011, teachers in 2015 and the university and high school students that took on the educational establishments against sexism in education amid last year´s feminist wave. This whole panorama has a common denominator: the market education model. On the one hand, it has created a lucrative business drowning students in debt, while from the dictatorship to the present there is a systematic process of deterioration of the working conditions of teachers. It is at this point that the current strike has certain particularities in its demands that are not merely limited to salary: a statement that ascribes double evaluation, the teaching career, the labor burden and the historical debt, accompanied by the preschool educators and differentials who demand recognition.

The mobilization broke out at a time when Piñera tried to advance with a series of measures on education: repressive policies towards high schools, institutionalization of preschools and a curricular change that makes history and physical education not mandatory in high school. A situation that left little room for agreements with teachers, therefore the government’s policy was to bet on attrition. Having failed with this policy, the government had to sit down after 4 weeks of paralysis, with its proposal being rejected in a national referendum. In parallel, high schools students reacted by occupying schools against the repressive policies of the State. All this led to Piñera having more than 70% disapproval.

Possibilities, limits and proposals.

The social diagram of the last month was marked by teachers mobilizations and the presence of high school students in the streets, reactions that confront the offensive to reaffirm the government´s model. This situation has points that are necessary to highlight. On the one hand, the main university federations are led by the Frente Amplio, the same sector that leads the College of Teachers, which did not bet on motorizing a great movement in defense of public education that would guarantee the teachers´ success. In tune with this, the leadership of the College of Teachers proposes to retract the mobilization, but contrary to this position, the majority votes to continue mobilized.

Some conclusions in the middle of the process, are that although the petition expresses demands felt by the teachers, the leadership did not prioritize measures to bring teachers together, giving space to the government. The counterpoint on this notion was the will to mobilize that expressed the possibility of amplifying a voice that once again questioned the educational model, both by increasing opposition to the government in its measures and by the centrality of the demands and the social effervescence that the country is going through. A dilemma that will undoubtedly bring a great debate in the mobilized vanguard, for the moment, about the need for the creation of alternatives within the union as at the political level will be the engine for a new generation that disputes in the streets.

From the Anticapitalist Movement, section of the International Socialist League, we will continue to promote the need for a great educational unity to confront the government and for the teachers’ struggle to triumph.

J.A. – Anticapitalist Movement