Chile: Biggest protests for more than 30 years

Over 500,000 march on 30 June

The massive students and teacher protests and occupations which have rocked Chile during the last month are continuing. Now important sections of workers are also beginning to join the struggle. On 30 June, more than 120,000 students and teachers were joined by many workers who took to the streets of Santiago. Throughout the country more than 500,000 joined protests. On 11 July, the Chilean copper workers have called for a national strike in protest against Sebastian Pinera’s right-wing government’s plans for further privatisation. Symbolically, it was on 11 July 1971 that the Popular Unity government of Salvador Allende announced the nationalisation of Chilean copper. Students and teachers are planning mass protests for 11 July and the copper workers are urging other s to join the protests. Three days later the dock workers have called for a national strike. There is an urgent need to unify all these struggles in the calling of a 24 hour general strike as is demanded by Socialismo Revolucionario, the Chilean section of the CWI. Scandalously, the trade union centre (CUT) has called a one-day general strike, but not until 24 August!

This mass movement is the largest to rock Chile for more than thirty years. For years Chile has been held up as the “neo-liberal model” throughout Latin America with little protest or struggle by workers and youth. This battle comes only one year following the election victory of Pinera who tried to bask in ‘national glory’ following the rescue of the Chilean miners. Today he has an approval rating of just under 30% – less than the hated former dictator Augusto Pinochet! 67% are opposed to the government. The ruling class is now terrified that the right-wing government will not be able to hold the line. Decades of betrayal by the former parties of the Chilean workers – Socialist Party (PSCh) and Communist Party (PCC) have re-enforced a hatred of the existing parties giving rise to a strong anti-party mood. The main slogan of the education movement has been “el pueblo unido se advanza sin partido” (The people united advance without a parties). The need for a programme of struggle and the building of democratic committees linking together workers and students in a struggle against the government will show however the need for the youth and the workers to build a new party that represents their interests. The SR/CWI has succeeded through a joint committee “Consejo por derechos democraticos y humanos” made up of the SR/CWI; FPMR (former armed wing of the CP) and ex-MIR activists, which has convinced the student leaders to take up the demand for nationalisation of the copper industry to pay for a genuinely free education system. This struggle has already transformed the situation in Chile and begun a new chapter for the Chilean working class and youth.

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July 2011