Chile: Coalition government defends capitalist system

Sixteen years of neo-liberal policies

We have now had sixteen years of the politics of the Concertación [the governing coalition – the Coalition of Parties for Democracy – made up of the Christian Democratic Party (PDC), Party for Democracy (PPD), Social Democrat Radical Party (PRSD) and the Socialist Party (PS)] and three supposedly ‘different’ presidents.

Yet all of those presidents have defended the policies of the old Pinochet dictatorship. In particular, they have all forced the same economic system onto the working class of our country. And, just like under the dictatorship, the only ones to benefit from the country’s economic growth are the businessmen and the richest 10% of the population.

The government coalition and the right are to blame for our poor conditions, our low wages and the fact that our children are poorly educated. They are also responsible for the appalling medical attention in the surgeries and hospitals, which don’t have the necessary resources to provide better health care for workers and their children.

The political leaders of the UDI, RN [the two parties of the far right coalition called the Alliance for Chile, made up of Independent Democratic Union (UDI) National Renewal (RN)] and those of the Concertación (the PDC, PS, PPD and PRSD) completely collude with big business, nationally and internationally, so that they can maintain their privileged salaries and positions, be it by exploitation or by corruption. An MP earns, on average, a salary which is 70 times the monthly minimum wage, and that’s for working a two-day week!

We should not expect anything from these people. As workers we have to rely on our own strength and our ability to organise ourselves and defend our rights. We are the only ones who are genuinely interested in carrying through the changes that are needed. The politicians only speak about our problems in order to win votes. Once elected, they use their positions as MPs and senators to crush us while they look after their own interests.

As workers we need our own political representatives and we need to create a mass workers’ party. We cannot continue to put our trust in these corrupt politicians who simply protect their own class interests.

At present, we are in the run up to new elections which we are told offer us a ‘new’ political constitution. This is the greatest con yet that President Ricardo Lagos has tried to pull off. It’s about as true as saying that Lagos is a socialist!

Election system devised by dictator Pinochet

These elections will take place within the same electoral system that existed under the former military dictator Pinochet. In each constituency, there are two seats. Coalitions of parties can provide a list of two candidates for each constituency. As result of this system, the gerrymandering of election districts under the Pinochet dictatorship, and because these the districts cover very large areas, the parties of the Alliance for Chile (the extreme right’s election coalition) and the Concertación, win all the seats. This effectively rules out the possibility of left candidates winning a seat. This system was designed by the ruling class and the outgoing military dictatorship to ensure that no one list or coalition of parties could get a two thirds majority in parliament which would open the way to changing the constitution. The constitution ensures that the head of the military can never be dismissed by the President and that many senators (who sit in the upper houses of Parliament), appointed at the time of the dictatorship still have their seats, never face election. This method of election lies at the root of our inherently anti-democratic and unrepresentative parliament.

To participate in these elections under the prevailing system, is to participate in a totally unequal struggle against the two major political groupings which defend the capitalist system and this so-called democracy.

They use, as their main argument, the fact that they are ‘representative’. However, they fail to say how they manage to be so, given that they quite clearly do not represent those who aren’t able to vote, who don’t vote or who spoil their ballot papers in protest.

Despite all of this, Socialismo Revolucionario (CWI) calls for a vote for PODEMOS. This is a coalition of different left parties dominated by the Communist Party of Chile. But our main aim should be to expose the system for what it is, declare that we have no confidence in it and make clear that what we seek to do is to abolish it. Unless we do this, we will fail to differentiate ourselves from those who defend the current system.

But voting alone is not enough. We need to build organisations wherever we are. We mustn’t just say this, we have to actually do it or else nothing will ever change. Even if we manage to elect one or two MPs, we will arrive at the next elections and nothing will have changed. It will be the same old farce.

Our objective cannot only be to only elect MPs or senators. We must aim to abolish the capitalist system, which is the root of all the problems faced by humanity, and to build a democratic socialist society.

This article was first carried on on 7 October 2005. It was translated by Elizabeth O’Hara

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October 2005