Notes from Chile

Protest in Santiago, Chile

All of Chile’s political parties have signed up to the misnamed, “The Pact for social peace and a new constitution,” with the exception of the Communist Party, which has vacillated on the issue. The Chilean President, Pinera, suspended in mid-air like a deflating balloon, has said nothing about the  pact! In less than 24 hours since the pact for “social peace”, state forces murdered two more young people in protests called against the fraud proposed by the hated political parties.

The government hypocritically denounces the protesters and youth as “looters”, “delinquents” and “criminals”. Yet in this movement a new mood of solidarity and demands for a changed society are emerging. The formerly public square, Plaza Italia, has been renamed by the masses, “Plaza de Dignidad”, with the Mapuche flag flying over the statue of a military general.

While some looting has taken place, the attacks on supermarkets, chemists and even butchers shops have also included social solidarity. A butcher’s store which was forced open and meat was distributed to those with little or no resources. Migrant workers from Haiti, passing by, were called over by those who entered the shop and given chicken and meat for their families. Some youth organised the distribution of medicines to the sick, which was taken from the big pharmacy shop chains.

The Chilean football team was scheduled to play Peru but refused to do so in support of the revolt taking place in Chile. The most right-wing commentators on TV have disappeared and been replaced with more “acceptable” presenters.

Some youth have attacked and set alight churches and sprayed them with slogans. This is in the context that a few years ago all of Chile`s bishops were forced to resign due to sexual abuse scandals. In the face of brutal repression, with hundreds losing an eye after the police fired directly at their faces, the youth are building their own defence mechanisms. They have shields and use lasers to blind the drivers of police vehicles, which on one occasion brought down a police drone.

Con-trick

The “Pact” proposed by the political rulers enraged hundreds of thousands of Chilean workers and youth. They see the proposals as yet another con-trick by those who have ruled since the end of the Pinochet dictatorship. It involves setting up a “convention” comprising 50% parliamentarians, and all decisions requiring a two thirds majority for proposed changes to the constitution. A new constitution will then be subject to a referendum. This falls far short of the demands expressed by millions; for a constituent assembly to draft a new constitution and to resolve all of the social demands of the workers and the people.

Workers’ organisations and social movements are planning new protests against the government and its proposals. The Unidad Social, made up of trade unions, students and social movements, is discussing calling a 48-hour general strike, in preparation for an indefinite strike. These proposals are being discussed by all organisations.

It is necessary to take the steps to call an indefinite general strike to overthrow this government and replace it with a government of the workers and the poor. An appeal to the ranks of the armed forces to support the workers and join their struggle must be made and taken to the rank and file in the army and navy.

It is essential that concrete steps are taken to organise the movement and take the struggle forward. The local neighbourhood assemblies – Calbidos – which are being formed need to be strengthened, and to elect delegates to committees of struggle and defense. These need to be organised in all workplaces and educational institutions.

There can be no trust in the government or existing political parties to convene a genuine constituent assembly. Such an assembly can only be convened by the workers and the people. The Calbidos – in workplaces, communities, educational institutions and elsewhere – should link up on a city, regional and national basis and elect delegates to a genuine constituent assembly of the workers and the people. Such a revolutionary assembly should draft a new constitution and elect a government of the workers and the poor.

This is the answer that is needed to the fraudulent “Pact for social peace and assembly”. The need to build a mass political alternative of the workers and a party, with a revolutionary socialist programme, is an urgent task. The absence of such a leadership will inevitably mean this struggle will be protracted. This movement will pause and tire for a period, especially over the impending summer, but a new chapter in the struggle of the Chilean working class has been opened. “Chile will never be the same again; we have woken up!” is a common refrain heard on the streets.