On Sunday, 19 December, the second round of the presidential election was held in Chile. Gabriel Boric, of the Frente Amplio electoral coalition, obtained an overwhelming victory, winning more than four and a half million votes (55.87%). This compared with the ultra-right candidate, José Antonio Kast of the Christian Social Front, who won just over three and a half million votes (44.13% of the votes cast).
Hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets across the country to celebrate Boric’s triumph. For now, there are high expectations about what he will do. The ruling class are putting mass pressure on Boric and he has already tried to reassure them. However, under pressure from the mass movement and the demand for change, Boric could be pressured to go further than he wants to.
This vote has left many people puzzled. It has demoralised adherents of the ultra-right who thought that the election would be very close and counted vote by vote. What they did not expect was that 1,200,000 and more people would vote in the second round than in the first round. These were mainly young people who felt a deep repulsion at the ultra-right candidate. Kast promised to carry out a series of extremely reactionary measures, which would see society thrown back.
Some argue that this election was much more than a simple election, that basically it was a plebiscite on the last remnants of the rule of the former dictator, Pinochet, and anti-worker and anti-poor policies. Many also say that the election shows that hopes for change beat the fear that the ultra-right tried to whip up to oppose any changes.
Many of those who voted for Boric did so to oppose Kast and his deeply reactionary policies. The youth, in particular, clearly opposed Kast’s ultra-right programme which justifies the Pinochet dictatorship, that would see the acquittal of violators of human rights who are currently imprisoned for the atrocities they committed. The masses voted against a candidate from the ultra-right who wants to remove the few social benefits that the capitalist state gives to the most oppressed sectors of our society.
Young people voted against a misogynistic candidate who promised to remove support for single mothers (benefits would only be given to women who were married) and who wanted to end the government ministry of women and to prohibit some abortions. If implemented, these policies would have represented a huge setback for society and the removal of social gains that took years of struggles to win.
Kast also wanted to raise the retirement age to 75 years and maintain the AFP – a private pension system that large sectors of the population have been demanding an end to for years. Millions of workers and their families have mobilised in the streets throughout the country to demand an end to the AFP system that only serves employers but not workers who are facing retirement.
Kast promoted greater repression against the Mapuche people and a generalised militarization of their territory. He is a racist who finds it difficult to hide his hatred of the indigenous peoples, especially the Mapuche people.
Kast was also a homophobic candidate, who was unable to hide his hatred of the LGBTQ+ community.
In the election campaign, Kast tried to use in his favour the concerns that exist between sectors of the population about immigrants, encouraging xenophobic policies against foreigners. He proposed to build a massive trench in the north of the country, to prevent migrants from entering Chile. It was a ridiculous plan but one that serves to win the support of some racist and xenophobic sections of the Chilean population, which, at the moment, are a minority.
Not a vote for Boric but against Kast
For all these reasons, many sectors on the left, despite not being fully convinced or having trust in Boric, called to vote against Kast, A significant percentage of the vote Boric won was a rejection of the retrograde right that intended to take Chile back to the times of the infamous Pinochet dictatorship.
The comrades of Revolutionary Socialism (Chilean section of the CWI), were among those who called to vote against Kast, which, in fact, meant calling for Boric to be marked on the ballot. This did it mean signing a blank cheque for his policies. It meant calling to vote critically for Boric, which put us on the same side as the young people who want to confront and reject the ultra-right. We could not be neutral in this election. Our duty was to stand on the side of the workers’, women, young people, the Mapuches, the LGBTQ+ community who hated Kast and all those who wanted to confront this ultra-right candidate. It was young people who decided the outcome of this election.
First-round – “the left has no candidate”
Our position in the first round was that the left had no candidate. This was because we did not identify at all with the Boric candidacy and other supposedly “progressive” candidates who did not offer a real alternative. We opposed some of the policies of Boric. Amongst other things, we differed with him on his criticism, as a parliamentarian, of the most critical period of the mass struggles of 2019. He signed the November 2019 pact for “social peace and a new constitution“. This was a political move, to save the current President, Piñera, to save him from resigning, as millions of protesters demanded, and mobilised on the streets to enforce.
Boric was also one of those responsible for passing repressive laws against young people who took to the streets to fight, such as the ‘anti-barricade law’. As a result, to this day, there are still political prisoners in Chile. Without the struggles of these young people, who are now in prison, who encouraged the popular revolt, nothing of what we are seeing today would be possible.
The major contradiction is still between capitalism and socialism
As we raised in the second round, notwithstanding the genuine widespread fears of Kast’s ultra-right ideas, the two candidates, although with different policies, are representatives of the elite of this country. Neither of them represents the interests of the working class. It is clear that we cannot trust either of the two, although the candidate with fascistic ideas was the most dangerous in the second round.
All those who took to the streets to fight for substantive changes in October 2019, including those who were killed, maimed and imprisoned, were unfortunately not represented by any of the candidates or the future president.
We workers need our own political representation. We need a national assembly of delegates from the unions, social and popular movements, the Mapuche people and the students, to plan a struggle and discuss the need to build a workers’ party.
The next government headed by Boric will inevitably be under great pressure from the businessmen and the elite of this country to continue preventing the changes that the majority of the population is demanding and that for now, we continue to wait to be implemented.
We have to insist that only a workers’ government that clearly considers taking radical measures; nationalisation of the banks, the monopolies, the large landowners and forestry companies and the renationalization of copper, lithium, water and all the natural resources that belong to all the inhabitants of this country and not just the richest 1% of Chile that appropriated them. These must be under the democratic control and management of the workers and the general population.
Only with these measures can we ensure decent jobs, decent pensions, quality health and education and housing for workers and their families. In other words, dignity for all working people and not just for the elite.
We also demand the immediate release of all political prisoners.
If none of this is carried out, the enormous expectations that have been created with Boric’s victory can quickly be reversed. If once again the promises that were made during the election campaign are not fulfilled, as has been the case in the last thirty years in Chile, the masses will take to the streets again.