After postponement, a referendum was finally held on the Chilean constitution on 25 October and resulted in a crushing majority in favour of change. After 90.78% of the vote was counted, 78.24% cast to change the constitution that was bequeathed by the Pinochet dictatorship, with 21.76% voting against. This represents a crushing defeat for the far-right and the supporters of the previous military dictatorship.
In a hypocritical volt face, all of the political parties and leaders, including President Sabastian Pinera, ended up supporting the vote to change the constitution. This is despite the fact that for thirty years, including under the so-called “left” Socialist governments of Michel Bachellet and Ricardo Lagos, they did nothing to propose getting rid of the Pinochet constitution. Lagos, having introduced a few cosmetic amendments, proclaimed that Chile then had a “democratic Constitution which closed the period of transition”. The Chilean Socialist Party senator publicly declared that those who want a constituent assembly are ‘smoking opium’.
As millions took to the streets last October demanding an end to student debt, low wages, and the economic model, and for a constituent assembly, Pinera and his government opposed any change to the constitution. Brutal repression was unleashed against the protests. Hundreds of youth lost the sight of one eye after police fired guns directly at their faces.
Today the bourgeois politicians all sing a different song. They called for a ‘yes’ vote for change in the recent referendum and proclaimed the result a victory for them and the political parties and process. Incredibly they now refer to last Octobers protests as peaceful as opposed to the “violence on the current protests”. Yet during October, the protesting youth were denounced as violent criminals. Over two and a half thousand of them are still jailed for participating in the protests.
The referendum vote was a victory of the mass protests and demonstrations held last year. It is a victory for the street, not the political institutions. Without the mass mobilisations change would not have taken place.
For the resignation of Pinera and his criminal government!
However, a vote for a new constitution is one thing. The system whereby a new constitution will be drafted is little more than a trap. Two options were also put to the vote. One proposal was for a mixed convention of elected representatives of the political institutions and other “citizens”. The second was a Constitutional Convention of 150, elected directly, which would then draft a new constitution to be put to another referendum. If this proposed new constitution is rejected then the Pinochet constitution is re-introduced. This second proposal was overwhelmingly endorsed.
In reality, the existing political parties will determine the candidates for the Constitutional Convention. Through this, they will aim to maintain control of the process. Some efforts are being made to present lists in the elections to the Convention which exposes the fraud taking place. The intention is to campaign for a genuine constituent assembly, elected by local assemblies of the workers, poor, and all sections of society that are exploited by capitalism. This would form a government of the workers and the poor.
It is crucial now to continue the struggle to fight for the immediate release of all the 2,500 youth held in jails. Popular tribunals are needed to put on trial those responsible for the killings of more than 30 people during the protests and for state torture, sexual abuse, and violence.
Following this victory, the struggle needs to continue, to build mass assemblies to convene a genuine constituent assembly to act in the interests of the workers and all those exploited by capitalism.