Chile: Is the new Michelle Bachelet government ‘socialist’?

‘Tell me who your friends are and I will tell you who you are’

We have had less than one month of the new government of Michelle Bachelet and already we can get a clear idea of what the next four years of this Concertación (coalition) government will be like. It will be a repeat of the policies of the governments of the last twenty years – neo-liberalism.

Workers often say, “Tell me who your friends are and I will tell you who you are”. This very clearly applies to the new coalition government of ‘socialist’ President, Michellet Bachelet. Her team will be dominated by three leading figures. Firstly, the Minister of Works, Andrés Velasco. He is an open defender of the neo-liberal policies implemented during the last 16 years. In fact, he is one of the main ideological proponents of these ideas. Secondly, is the pernicious person of Andrés Zaldivar. Not only during the last 16 years, but all his political life, Zaldivar has defended policies harmful to the working class. It is sufficient to remember that under Allende’s Popular Unity, government, in the early 1970s, Zaldivar was one of the primary promoters within the Christian Democracy (DC) of the Pinochet military coup Together with Patricio Alywin, he represented one of the most reactionary wings of Christian Democracy.

The third person is Alejandro Foxley, who was previously Minister of Works and responsible for policies harmful to the working class. Now he has been proposed as Minister for External Affairs. Foxley is very pro-imperialist and a fervent defender of the Free Trade Agreement of the Americas (NAFTA) with the US. His nomination is clearly done to try and satisfy the US administration, and the national and multi-national companies, which want to export the raw material of the country for the price of an egg.

These three people drive and determine the rhythm of the Bachelet government. If anybody on the left still believes that with these people a “turn to the left” or even more radical policies will taken place, they clearly fail to understand, or don’t want to understand, what is happening.

To continue to put hopes in Bachelet government is a big mistake and doing so will give no assistance to building a real, left alternative.

To continue feeding expectations amongst workers and the poor – that this government will be different to the previous government – is to lie to the people. The integration by the members of the Concertación within the capitalist system is too great to hope that the new government ministers will break from their. People like Foxley and Velasco will carry out neo-liberal policies first carried out by the Pinochet dictatorship and later carried on by ministers of former Concertación governments, like Michelle Bachelet.

Has too little time passed to pass judgement?

It is enough to look at the make-up of the cabinet to see that nothing can be expected from them by the masses from Bachelet’s government. It is the same as before. All the ministers are pro-business and the Concertación has demonstrated this during the last 16 years. As a Senator and shareholder of fishing companies Andrés Zaldivar is a clear example of this. He has defended the interests of his class. Why should he change now he is a cabinet minister?

Under the Bachalet government we see a deepening alliance of interests between the Concertación and the large national and multi-national economic groups. To hope for something different is to stretch hope much too far, despite some leaders at the top to the ruling party claiming they are on the ‘left’ or even on the ‘extra-parliamentary left’.

What have been the first signals from the new government?

The shanty town dwellers of Penalolen recently organised a land occupation to demand a solution of their housing crisis. They received the response they did not expect. They were brutally repressed by the state and accused of being “hooligans”! When they went to the La Moneda Presidential Palace, to see the new President, she refused to meet them. On the same day, the leaders of UDI held a meeting with Michelle Bachelet. UDI is the most reactionary of the right-wing, pro-business defenders of the former dictatorship and its leader, Augusto Pinochet. The doors of La Moneda are open to the UDI but not to the workers and poor who want to be listened to by the new government.

Where are the “changes” that the new President spoke about when she was a candidate? Where is her promise never to have confidence in the right-wing? Or should we accept that Bachelet’s Concertación government is the so-called “lesser evil”, as some on the left, including leaders of the Communist Party, claim?

It is clear that we will have a government which, in the next four years, will introduce polices under which we have already suffered. Unfortunately, the working class does not have a party that represents it, and determinedly fights for its interests. It is clear that the working class cannot be represented in the present government, which like previous Concertación governments continues to be pro-big business, like. This is why we can have no confidence in this government and the parties which support it.

The main task of workers and the poor is to defend our interests and to link this struggle to building a workers’ party. Such policies would reject false expectations in the so-called “progressive wing” of the government. Under capitalism it is a utopian dream to think that the conditions of life for the working class can be fundamentally changed. Workers need to resolve to struggle to end this system, and to build a democratic socialist society.

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March 2006