Chile: Post plebeiscite assessment. A new moment of debates, struggles and definitions

The result of the exit plebiscite where the rejection of the New Constitution was imposed opens multiple debates and interpretations, not only in our country but at regional level. Those of us who maintain that the rebellion of October 2019 opened a new stage want to contribute with our perspective and proposals with the aim of dialogue and reflection, not only on what happened, but also on the tasks and challenges that lie ahead. 

By Joaquín Araneda and Martín C., Movimiento Anticapitalista

The rebellion: scope, limits and betrayals

We believe that it is fundamental to begin this text by referring to the rebellion that shook the country in October 2019, since we understand that it was the fundamental driving force of the process of constitutional change and of inaugurating a new political moment that has not yet been resolved.

The increase in public transport was just a catalyst for a series of demands that had been growing in an uncoordinated, focused way, although with massive street expressions: educational struggles, the construction of the No + AFP movement and the feminist movement as the most advanced expressions, combined economic and democratic demands such as the end of repression, of the precarization of life, looting and destruction of the common goods. While semi-insurrections were also manifested in localities such as Aysén or Freirina in previous years.

The rebellion highlighted the “system” as responsible for denying rights to the majorities in service of a small concentrated minority, the slogan “it is not 30 pesos, it is 30 years” is the expression of this conclusion and the permanent occupation of the streets, the national extension of the process and the questioning of all institutions, with the clear identification of Piñera’s government as criminal, murderer and main responsible together with its dogs of prey: carabineros and the army.

The outbreak was disorganized, meaning that it did not have political leaderships with a determined orientation, most of the political forces of the regime suffered a collapse of several days until they managed to recover the initiative. The non-existence of mass forces in the revolutionary field was also a factor that contributed to this and if we add the extreme weakness of the trade union or social leaderships in the different instances a picture is completed where a kind of “radicalized social initiative” prevailed, pushed fundamentally by the youth, sectors of working men and women and popular sectors. In the first place then, the anti-systemic expression of the outbreak was given by its radicalism, by the confrontation to repression and the battle in the streets, by the questioning of the exchange between the right wing and the former Concertación for, basically, sustaining the inheritance of the Pinochet dictatorship. This expression of refusal had a response in the slogan of the New Constitution, clearly stating the intention of ending with the “30 years” and its representatives and building a new Chile based on the response to popular demands.

New agreement for the constitutional process of the regime’s parliamentary political arc

The rebellion broke the political matrix built by the regime’s parties, even those that presented themselves as the most radical, such as the Communist Party or the more novel Frente Amplio, and when the process was advancing to question the economic and social structure defended by those sectors, the decisive intervention of these parties took place to close the process and give it an institutional way out. Far from what Boric says today that the problem would have been “to go faster in the transformations than what the people understand”, the role played by this space, with him at the head, was decidedly and radically against the interests of the majorities that were driving the changes, they agreed with the government to save it and thus prevent the popular initiative from demolishing everything. November, like the old French “thermidor”, was the month of the unified reaction of the FA and the whole regime against the driving forces of the revolutionary transformations, a joint action with the parties of the bloc in power after the general strike imposed by the social force on November 12, 2019, which marked the highest moment of the process by the entry of the organized working class, thus preventing its collapse.

While hundreds of eyes were extinguished by bullets, while thousands of young people were populating the jails, while in the streets they were demanding Piñera’s resignation and the trial of his ministers and of the murderous pacos, Boric signed the Agreement for Peace and the New Constitution on November 15, beginning to build the Trojan Horse that on Sunday, July 4, burst into the election. 

This determined betrayal acted on the limits of the process that we have already mentioned and however were not enough to close the mobilization process that found with the beginning of the pandemic in the first days of March 2020 an objective limit that facilitated the task that the regime had not been able to guarantee by emptying the streets for months.

Imposing a project of the 1% on the mobilized majorities

The constituent timetable, set by the Agreement, moved the center of the debate to the Congress where for weeks the path towards the construction of a new Constitution was cooked with the participation without exclusions of any party of the regime. It is worth saying that, evidently, these parties really want the constitutional process to go ahead and have a result that “closes” the stage of the “30 years” and initiates a new cycle of accumulation and a capitalist reorganization of the country after the explosion, on those bases the “Kitchen” was developed.

It is in this process, with its contradictions between what the regime was seeking and the thrust of the mobilized social forces, that our organization proposed and raised a Command for a free, sovereign, plurinational and democratic Constituent Assembly, without Piñera or any pact. This independent action was able to unite different political and social organizations throughout the country, and was even able to guide sectarian political currents that joined the initiative.

The new stage opened with the outbreak did not disappear and was expressed again with force at the first opportunity that the small chinks of activity allowed it, first in the massive vote in the plebiscite on the need for a New Constitution and in the same space also massively for it to be a Constitutional Convention, that is, without the participation of the existing institutions in the process. This distorted expression had its continuity in the registration of thousands of independent candidacies throughout the country, most of which were referenced in some way or another to the demands of the outbreak and it was the most radical expressions of this spectrum that collected the largest number of votes, in many cases surpassing the traditional parties, placing in the Convention a strong presence of “independents” and with the right wing very diminished, as was the former Concertación.

Agreement for Peace and the New Constitution, signed from the FA to the pinochetist right during 2019.

As the Anticapitalist Movement we participated in that process with a program that raised the fundamental points of the rebellion and also sustained the need for the streets to set the pace as the only way to violate the tacit institutional pact established between the parties of the regime, even the most radical. At that time, in the same way as when we relentlessly denounced the Peace Pact, we insisted on the key role of mobilization and popular participation, with the need to reorganize the anti-capitalist and anti-system left in order for it to become a weighty reference.

This election was a real political earthquake and questioned the limits imposed by the Pact, limits that again the Frente Amplio, the CP and the parties of the regime were in charge of reestablishing. The PC in particular, which played a demobilizing role from the CUT in the outbreak but abstained from signing the Pact, joined with all its energy to the pro-order and consensus line, of dialogue with the right wing and saving the fundamental institutions, also building an electoral alliance that would end up depositing them in La Moneda a few months later.

Once again, far from what Boric declares today and we will not tire of repeating, the people were ready for more and so expressed it, while the leaderships that postulated themselves as the standard bearers of the transformation, that of the young leaders emerging from the struggles, did the impossible to channel that energy in the narrow margins of the institutions of the old Chile of the 30 years.

Slowly advancing towards deep transformations or changing something so that nothing changes?

To dwell on each of the debates in the CC would take us an endless amount of pages, a project that we will probably face to discuss in depth the conclusions of this rich period, however for the purposes of this text we simply want to point out some aspects that exemplify the leading role of the FA and the PC in the sense of building a Constitution in the margins of what is possible, that is to say, in the margins of capitalism. 

In the first place, in the election of the CC authorities, they actively played for a leadership far from the independent and more radicalized sectors of the precinct, prioritizing “good relations”. They acted permanently on the sectors that entered as independent of both the People’s List (which facilitated the process with an incredible mismanagement that at times bordered on the bizarre and imploded in a few weeks) and the space of the Constituent Social Movements to adapt them to the parliamentary activity and lobbying, detaching them from their territorial anchors.

Mass mobilization in the rebellion of 2019

Thirdly, they imposed the functioning of the CC with the permanence of political prisoners, repression in full operation and the progress of cases against social fighters. Fourth and most important, they completely shifted the axis of action to their own precinct, openly campaigning for the end of the mobilization, the dismantling of the experiences of independent organization outside the state or statizing instances and assumed the total “representation” of the process, stripping it of its program and reducing it to a series of general declarations devoid of real social structure, without participation, with no other instance than watching on TV the actions of a handful of intellectuals who supposedly understood or interpreted the will of multiple and complex social sectors, this became more than clear when the popular initiatives supported by thousands of signatures were thrown overboard.

On this path they built an ideologized identity anchored in serious and responsible “progressivism”, concerned with plurinationality and egalitarian gender representations, but without answers to the economic and social demands that are at the base of those representations that make plurinationality and feminist perspectives effective and of course without incorporating instances where women, workers, native peoples, youth among other dynamic sectors could be protagonists of the process and not just a diffuse shadow, a social “type” described by some petty bourgeois politician.

Popular representation is not a “gift” that one has, but an exercise that, infected by the virus of parliamentarism, little by little was annulled under the command of the political apparatuses of the Communist Party and the Frente Amplio with the support of the parties of the 30 years.

The old reformism of the last century demonstrated this by incorporating itself into the management of the bourgeois State never to transform it, this unstructured “neo reformism” with an essentially electoral organization repeats history at a higher speed and with the basis of a century of experience on the impossibility of reforming capitalism peacefully and through dialogue in its decadent stage. It also drags into this quagmire the expressions genuinely arising from the mobilization processes.

From opposition to power: the leap in the quality of the management of the State

The presidential and parliamentary elections raised a first alert as to what the demobilizing action was producing in the mass movement. Social polarization operated strongly and Jose Antonio Kast emerged victorious in the first round. It was not a “turn to the right” as some sectors of the left claimed, trying to build from fear and concern instead of putting at the center the program demanded from the grassroots. Without going any further, the post-pandemic economic crisis was already strongly felt, however, the center of the Front’s speeches was focused on security and the programmatic moderation took a leap after that first election.

Another key fact of that election was the blow and the bad election of the sectors most clearly identified with the government of Piñera and with the former Concertación, clearly punished as the visible faces of the “30 years”.

However, far from polarizing with the violent right wing represented by Kast, Apruebo Dignidad assumed part of its agenda, incorporated the ex-concertacionist sectors and thus began to show what we would see in the first months of government, that far from coming to transform, the objective of this space was still framed in the need to stabilize the country from the capitalist point of view.

The campaign, far beyond the will of the leaders themselves, overflowed with popular initiative, commands were formed from north to south and from the sea to the mountain range, in which the official discourse was “not to discuss now the limitations of the project, first win”, a classic resource of those who interpret their social base as personnel at the service of their orientation.

Secondary schools taking up, once again, the evasion of public transport, September 2022

From the Anticapitalist Movement we again assume the fight against the right wing as the center, calling to defeat Kast at the ballot box and in the streets, always putting at the forefront a program for that purpose with the objective that it be an incentive to mass mobilization, responding to the economic and social demands that every day were more felt and necessary. We also denounced the orientation towards the center of those who presented themselves as the “left” and we also pointed out that this path, which had been followed in other experiences in the continent, sooner or later ended up opening the way to the right.

Kast was defeated, broad sectors experienced it as a triumph and an impulse to open the way to the “transformations” for which they were fighting.

Far from that, Boric’s cabinet and his first measures confirmed that his orientation was not a “brilliant electoral tactic” but the implementation of a Concertación 3.0. The state of exception was extended in the Wallmapu, the lawsuits against political prisoners were maintained, a miserable increase of 500 pesos was granted to strengthen the student food scholarships, General Yañez, responsible for a good part of the repression during Piñera’s government was maintained and with him the violent practices to the extreme against social mobilization were maintained, at the same time that social benefits were taken away, the IFE disappeared and the withdrawals of the AFP were blocked. Of course, not a millimeter of profit in education and health has been touched, and progress has been made with the handing over of lands and the plundering of the territories. In short, the government’s agenda had nothing to envy to previous more conservative moments. The thread of continuity, together with Yañez in the field of repression, is marked by Marcel at the head of the Ministry of Finance, a declaration of principles. This continuity was disguised with the parity of women in the cabinet, a mask that fails to disguise the fact that the greatest weight of the crisis in the country continues to be unloaded on women and pregnant women.

This tour we have traced of the situation in Chile in the last months clearly shows that the fundamental social phenomenon was given by wide sectors of the popular layers, with a clear youth vanguard, pushing in the sense of provoking transformations and a leadership acting decisively to close the way to that initiative in order to manage some formal changes. As history shows once again, those fights that are all or nothing are never won by the timorous and the conservatives, history is made of ruptures and the development of social transformations find their creative energy in these.

The right wing is strengthened by this policy

Unlike other countries, the right wing in Chile has a more solid structure and social base with a longer tradition, the process of coming out of the dictatorship was marked by continuity pacts and it is, among other things, because of this that Pinochet’s Constitution is still in place today. The deep blow to Piñera’s government and the “liberal” sectors of Chile Vamos opened the way to the strengthening of radicalized expressions such as Kast’s, who launched himself with full force to explore the limits of social polarization, managing to rearticulate a social force dispersed and confronted with the disaster of Piñera’s government.

On that first battle and occupying the political space, he deployed an aggressive campaign against the New Constitution using all kinds of maneuvers. But the question is, is it possible to expect anything else from a donkey but a kick? The right wing is radicalizing in the face of the situation, trying more and more extreme options, it is the representation of the desperation of sectors facing the development of the economic crisis, the social mobilization and the “misgovernment” in bourgeois terms, the crisis of the neoliberal paradigm in the face of the outbreak and the disorientation about the possible exits are fuel to this political movement.

This is not a purely local phenomenon, although as we have already pointed out it has its particularities, Bolsonaro in Brazil, Trump in the US, among others show that polarization acts, promoting the emergence of tendencies with these characteristics.

The disappointment of the masses with the “results” of the social outburst, the betrayal of the leaderships that facilitated that course and the worsening of the economic crisis have undoubtedly pushed them to reject the situation as a whole and the government in particular through the rejection of the New Constitution (which at the same time, as we have already said, did not respond globally to that situation). Fake News, lies and confrontations in the streets, amalgamations and all kinds of maneuvers managed to weld that situation towards the option of rejection.

Some leftist forces and of course government analysts, the same ones who blame the people for not understanding or not being prepared, maintain that this is a turn to the right, a conservative turn in the situation, we do not share this definition. This electoral expression has not managed, at least up to this moment, to express an adhesion in the streets and a certain defeat of the stage opened with the outbreak.

Of course, the contradictions have been toned up, the right is relatively strengthened and the central blow is taken by the government that responds by turning even more to the right, putting and renewing the cabinet a few months after taking office, incorporating new components in what is already consolidated as a Concertación 3.0 with a “new” orientation, as Boric himself announced at the swearing in of the new ministers.

But these are superstructural expressions, which we should not underestimate, but it is important to see also a strong resurgence of the student mobilization with the secondary movement at the head, showing that polarization as a social phenomenon is still prevailing and that we are going to convulsive times where there is an extended space to twist the course.

The day after the Plebiscite, what is coming and what is needed

It is clear that the result of the plebiscite represents a very powerful wake-up call and at the same time it is also clear that not all sectors interpret it in the same way. While for the government it has been one more push towards the right wing agenda by modifying the cabinet to incorporate a greater number of people from the former Concertación (only Bachelet was missing for Boric was one of the most repeated comments in the networks) for a sector of the vanguard, again with the youth at the forefront, it has become a call to action and that is why the demonstrations have marked the week.

In many other sectors it is undoubtedly a blow that is still important to process so that the conclusions do not lead to skepticism or to blame the people for their vote, a question on which the political responsible for this issue, the government scribes, are mainly focused.

Finally, the right wing will try to take advantage of the opportunity presented to it although still without clear leaderships and with a program that is far from being possible to concretize relying on a broad and diffuse base that rejected the new constitution but does not necessarily adhere to this political space. The situation has become more complex, the impulse of the explosion is still present but an experience has already been made with the political forces that tried to hegemonize the representation of that process to close it and have proved to be more continuity than change. The beginning of a new constituent process clearly responds to the need to fix the new bases of the exploitation model of the country and due to the characteristics presented in the Parliament it incorporates even more controls and limitations than the initial CC, for example a team of “technicians” that will elaborate the regulations, which will also have to report to the parliament.

Secondary school students marching in Santiago, September 2022

This demonstration of unity of the regime’s representatives to “normalize” the country in a new cycle of capitalist-neoliberal accumulation is accompanied by the September IPOM of the Central Bank, which together with expressing that in addition to inflation “the economy will grow below its potential for several more quarters, in other words, the recession will continue to have an impact on the country and, therefore, it recommends not only not to generate social support, but also to cut and adjust any expenditure, in the words of the Central Bank: “to lower inflation it is important that the economy continues to reduce excessive spending in 2021”.  A key orientation of the capitalists to sustain their profits, which at the social level means more precariousness and more cost of living.

In this context a constituent spectacle is coming that will finish consolidating the institutionality at the service of sustaining the capitalist bases of the country. The proposal presented by the FA and which functions as the basis for the beginning of the new project also proposes a direct intervention of the government in the new convention and also that the intermediate instances of consultation on specific issues be channeled through the municipalities.

If the result of the plebiscite could be named as “the tragedy”, undoubtedly this new institutionalized process, strongly controlled and with the objective of “patching up” the conditions of exploitation to recover the post-coup path presented by the Frente Amplio and endorsed by the political regime is “the farce” of a democracy that continues to function on the basis of the carabinieri rifle, the skunk and the guanaco. 49 years of the coup d’état have passed and the assassins are still there, thanks to the moderate delicacy of the office democrats, who will try again to convince that the words stamped in a book are more important than the forgotten and repressed demands in the streets.

However that is not the whole scenario, the youth has demonstrated a strong will to fight and is willing and deeply in need of sustaining their historical demands, life no longer allows the luxury of letting the matter pass until professionals and technicians regulate the procedures, the ticket, the tuition, the food and everything else is necessary to obtain it now and there is an important base to work for a reorganization of the forces that allows to build a political alternative that makes flesh these demands and fights to conquer them, we believe that this element has not been able to be built even throughout the process and its importance takes on greater meaning every day.

Those who saw with regret the result of the vote, who feel disappointed by the course of events and by the actions of the political forces that promised a new Chile and are granting low intensity bacheletism, we propose to discuss together the conclusions, the doubts, the proposals on how to continue. The option of skepticism will only strengthen the inequalities and miseries of our people, it is not the end of the road, there is still a long way to go and a lot to build in order to transform Chile.

Movimiento Anticapitalista, October 18, 2021

Just as a parenthesis, the world is also going through a moment of deep crisis and contradictions, the exit of the pandemic far from promoting a solid growth has shown again the systemic limits of capital, therefore, sooner or later the peoples will overflow in front of the governments and their criminal repressive forces, sooner or later the Fridays of Plaza Dignity will return and the pots and pans will resound, the challenge is that we are prepared when that moment arrives.

That is why it is fundamental to set up a new broad and united political reference, that beyond our differences, puts forward the central points that the streets have put on the agenda, so that we can propose ourselves as an alternative to the thousands of people disappointed with the current government and the result of the NC and who expect profound changes in the country. This perspective is a conclusion of the process, making it possible could be a reality in a joint call between the anti-capitalist left, the social movements, independents and those who are disenchanted with the PC and the FA, let us not let the strength of the new stage end under the leadership of those who agree, let us add unity, program and mobilization. From our organization we are at the disposal of this task and we will be promoting initiatives that seek this confluence.

In this sense and to make these ideas strong from the Anticapitalist Movement we have a perspective: to build organization on the basis of teamwork, of political debate, from a solid program that brings us together without room for yellow cards and betrayals, a program that starts from the demands that others abandoned, from the needs of the majorities and that puts the center in recovering what the rich and powerful steal from us, a program that has at its core the construction of a grassroots democracy, where the carabineros are dismantled, the repression ended and never again will arms be raised against the students and the people.

We propose to discuss the conclusions of these last months and how to act in an organized way in the coming months, without false bosses who are only after a position, without the only possible action being that of throwing a stone without any program other than the struggle. We say fight, but organize ourselves and build a new political reference, anti-capitalist, feminist, ecosocialist, revolutionary and internationalist, without pacts or kitchens, that fights to the end to transform everything and also do it in common with comrades of America and the world. Following the path of what is “possible” brought us to this point, it is time to encourage us to make possible what is necessary. With these horizons we built the Anticapitalist Movement in Chile and the International Socialist League in more than 30 countries in the 5 continents.