We have entered the third week of mass popular rebellion in Chile and this historical social movement of the Chilean people, the youth, the working poor, and unions does not have an end in sight.
This process began when young people protested against a public transportation fare, which grew into a general strike on October 24th and 25th coalescing all the accumulated grievances against the government, and later into periods of generalized insurrection. There have been record mobilizations bringing out more than one million people in the streets of Santiago and thousands more across the country.
These historic massive protests have been qualified as “violent” because of the destruction of private property and have been used as reasons for the unprecedented state repression. We see these acts of property destruction as a visibilization and materialization of the daily violence the capitalist system exerts on the bodies and lives of working people, the violence of deprivation of healthcare, reproductive rights, pensions, and food, among others, that has become unsustainable. The real violence against human beings, including the multiple allegations of human rights violations, has been exercised by the Piñera government and the economic order he defends.
The Piñera government has met these growing protests with utter repression that is reminiscent of the Pinochet military dictatorship. These methods include the Declaration of State of emergency and mobilizing the army in the streets for the first time in 30 years. Many working class families have witnessed the military busting into their homes to drag and arrest young protest organizers. 4,500 protesters have been arrested, and the police has fired on students.
It is a victory that this working class movement has managed to stop and reverse the fair hikes and austerity measures. However, when compared to the degree of contestation and the demands of the people, these changes are completely insufficient and only superficially addresses the grievances of the Chilean people.
This is a mass rebellion that goes beyond the opposition to particular reforms and beyond the rejection of the Piñera government. As the protesters are saying “It’s not about 30 pesos, it’s about 30 years.” First, this is mass rebellion against the legacy of the Pinochet dictatorship (1973-1990) and the political “Concertación” regime which followed it. Second, against the neoliberal regime of austerity, privatizations, free market deregulations, union busting, ramping poverty and opening up the country to foreign investments that came with the dictatorship. There are two sides of the same regime which was imposed in Chile by the Pinochet coup backed by the US Government. Pinochet’s main economic policy advisers were coming from U.S. universities (the “Chicago Boys”) and serve to advance the U.S. interests in the region at the expense of the Chilean people. These neoliberal attacks could only be imposed by brute force and it is proven that the US government has blood on its hands and U.S. corporations have directly benefited from them.
The demand for Piñera to step down and for the revocation of the 1980 Constitution, which was drafted during the dictatorship, is growing among the people. There is, however, a tacit agreement of not letting Piñera fall among the establishment parties (UDI, RN, PS, PDC) who have been taking turns in advancing the neoliberal experiment in the past 40 years. They defend the legitimacy of the institutionalized representative democracy from above and state institutions against the emerging legitimacy of the organized democracy in action from the people from below. The question posed today is no longer which established party or coalition of parties should take over to restore order. The question is who should rule the country, it is the question of power: should the established political and economic elite continue in charge, or should the organized working people in action form a new government? We believe, as millions of Chileans are saying, that Piñera must go, but also, as many are claiming, all of the corporate leaders in power should go as well.
We want to express, as revolutionary socialists in the United States, our strong support for this anti-neoliberal fight back and all our solidarity with this struggle.
We also want to express our support to all the efforts of the Chilean workers to set up a radically new form of government, a government by and for the workers and oppressed people and we will mobilize our own class organizations to support that effort and to oppose any form of intervention of the U.S. government.
Finally, we demand an absolute end to all political repression, the freeing of all political prisoners, and the prosecution of police and military who have engaged in killings, violence, and torture of protesters.
Revolutionary Socialist Network
La Voz de l@s Trabajadores / Worker’s Voice (IWL/LIT)