The struggle on the streets must be continued! For socialism, down with the murderous Piñera!
On Sunday 25 October a referendum was held in Chile to ratify the start of the process that will culminate in the approval of a new Constitution. The aim of the consultation was to establish whether the current constitution, which was approved under Pinochet's dictatorship, should be replaced and, if so, to decide which body should be responsible for drafting the new text: a Constitutional Convention (CC) made up of independent citizens or a Joint Commission (CM) made up of equal numbers of independent citizens and parliamentarians.
The result of the vote was absolutely astounding. There were 78.27 percent (5,884,076 votes) in favour of ending the Pinochet constitution and an almost identical percentage (78.99 percent, 5,644,418 votes) in favour of it being carried out by a Constitutional Convention independent of Parliament, where the right now has a majority.
As soon as the vote was over, tens of thousands again took to Plaza Dignidad (Dignity Square) in order to make it clear that the forces that raised the Chilean revolution are still active and that the battle against Piñera's criminal government continues on the streets.
The “Approval” receives massive support from the workers' communes
The analyses made by the bourgeois press have to recognize that the results make clear that this vote is not limited to achieving a mere constitutional renewal, but reflects something much deeper: the enormous anxiety of the masses to get rid once and for all of the heritage of the dictatorship and for a radical change of the society, by putting an end to the scourge of cutbacks and privatizations, the privileges of an oligarchy that has become rich thanks to neoliberal recipes, and the repression of a state apparatus that has still not purged the fascists and torturers.
This thesis is confirmed when we check the votes in the country's poorest communes. Where the economic crisis and capitalist policies have had a more catastrophic effect, the blow to the right has been even greater. Approval in these localities is higher than the national average, whilst Rejection only triumphs in the areas with the highest income: only in 5 of the 346 communes that exist in the whole country.
In Santiago, the capital, we find a very illustrative example of this division of the vote along class lines. In Las Condes - one of the three communes where the Rejection won - the average monthly income per inhabitant is 900,000 pesos, while in Puente Alto, to the south of the city and where the Approval won with 88%, it is 136,000, almost eight times less.
In spite of the fact that this referendum was a compromise between the murderous regime of Piñera and the reformist leaders of the left, and that it was aimed at diverting the revolutionary process initiated with the popular uprising of October 2019, the vote represented an unmitigated defeat for the forces of the right and showed the enormous strength of the Chilean working class. That is why the ruling class has decided to make a move to try to ensure that the constituent process does not get out of their hands.
The bourgeoisie "shields" its control over the future Constitution
After the election results were announced, Piñera held a press conference surrounded by all his ministers in an attempt to give an image of strength . In a crude attempt to turn the situation around, he took the success of the Approval as if it were a victory for his own government, even claiming that it is "a triumph for all those Chileans who love democracy, unity and peace".
What great hypocrisy! The chief leader of the repression, torture, and assassination of demonstrators, the same one who imposed the state of emergency to try to stop the mobilizations, is now presented as the champion of democracy.
But if this plan fails and the constituent process threatens to get out of control, the right has several mechanisms to boycott it. The first of these forms of veto is the qualified majority of 2/3 of Parliament required to approve the Constitution. That is, if just over one-third of the elected chamber is represented by the right, it will have full legitimacy to thwart approval.
And even if this parliament approves the Constitution, there is another major obstacle: the very deadlines set for the adoption of the Constitution. In the best case scenario, it will be drafted and ready for adoption by May 2022!
The aim of this delay is that, in the meantime, Piñera and the capitalists will be free to continue enacting their repressive agenda, recompose their forces and prepare a new coup -when they find the opportunity- in order to fulminate the process.
But being clear and going to the heart of the matter, even if all this tortuous path culminates in a new constitutional text, will it really mean a real change for the Chilean working class?
A new constitution will not change the living conditions of the oppressed
The reformist and parliamentary left - the Socialist Party, the Communist Party and the official trade unions (headed by the Central Unica de Trabajadores, CUT) - have legitimised this manoeuvre of the Chilean oligarchy by proposing that a bourgeois Constituent Assembly will be able to put an end to privatisation, repression and even social inequalities. In a shameful exercise of parliamentary cretinism, trying at all times to get the masses off the streets, they have turned the CA into the panacea to end the great problems suffered by the working class.
Thus, the reformist leaders have presented the drafting of a new Constitution and the formation of a new Constituent Assembly as the only alternative. This is the main reason why there has been a massive vote in the proletarian neighbourhoods, reflecting the deep desire for change amongst the Chilean working class and the oppressed in general.
Piñera, cornered by the determined, forceful and massive mobilization of the working class, responded at first with harsh and indiscriminate repression. The police charges, widespread arrests, beatings of demonstrators, etc., far from weakening the movement, breathed energy and radicalism into it.
The alarm lights went on in the offices of the big Chilean capitalists and bankers, who are the ones who really exercise power in the southern country.
It was then that the Chilean president, following the directives of the oligarchs, put on the table (without abandoning the repressive measures) the constitutional referendum and the Constituent Assembly, as a way of deactivating a movement that was taking on an increasingly revolutionary nature. The aim was to channel it into the calmer and more harmless waters of parliamentarianism.
To achieve this he needed the collaboration of the workers' leaders, who did not hesitate to give him their full support just at the time when hatred for him was most intense amongst ever-widening layers, and the possibility of toppling his government was clearest.
For its part, the Chilean left that claims to be revolutionary has counterposed he fight for a Constituent Assembly that is really “free and sovereign” as an alternative to the constitutional process agreed between the reformist leaders and the Piñera government.
It is necessary to say loud and clear that no bourgeois parliament, and that is waht the Constituent Assembly is, no matter how "free and sovereign" it proclaims itself to be, will solve the problems of the Chilean masses.
Down with Piñera! For a government of the workers and for socialism!
We are not sectarian, we assess the referendum result as a tremendous blow to the right and as a show of strength of the working class. But to raise the transformation of the society without revolutionary struggle is a complete chimera that will only lead to the frustration of millions after a bitter experience.
If historical experience shows anything, it is that even the most democratic of constitutions and the most progressive of parliaments always come up against an insurmountable obstacle: the class character of the capitalist state. The bourgeois state and all its institutional expressions - such as parliament and its laws - are not neutral. They respond to the interests of the ruling class, of those who have the economic and political control of society.
This is the ABC for any Marxist, but the Chilean left seems to have forgotten it completely. The clearest example of how better living conditions can be achieved has been put on the table by the Chilean masses themselves. In one year of struggle they have achieved more changes and improvements than the entire parliamentary left in the last thirty years.
Do you really believe that these historic social conquests - including the holding of the referendum itself - have been produced by your skilful parliamentary tactics and have not been the result of the most spectacular strike movement since the 1970s?
If the CUT, the CP and the whole left had proposed to continue the strike process by accompanying it with the occupation of the factories, the creation of action committees in the workplaces, in the study centres and in the neighbourhoods... In short, if they had provided the working class with a programme that would allow them to build an alternative model of society to banish capitalist oppression from their lives, the situation in Chile right now would be radically different.
The Chilean events have once again pointed out the need to raise a class, revolutionary and socialist strategy to advance the revolution, and not to derail or strangle it. This programme must be concrete, consistent and practical. It must put forward solutions that respond to the most pressing needs of the population and that can be achieved through the direct action of the youth and labourers:
In the face of hunger and misery, nationalization of the banks, the monopolies and the land, without compensation and under the democratic control of the workers and their organizations; decent wages and stable employment; the right to affordable public housing; decent pensions that are one hundred percent public, and the end of the AFPs.
The catastrophe of the pandemic must be stopped, by declaring total quarantines, maintaining 100% of the income for the families. At the same time, private healthcare must be expropriated and a public hospital network that is dignified, free and universal must be strengthened. In the same way, 100% free education must be established at all levels.
Down with Piñera's repression! Freedom for all political prisoners and immediate purge of fascists from the army, the police and the judiciary; trial and punishment of those responsible for the repression and crimes of the dictatorship; all rights for the Mapuche people.
Instead of a capitalist parliament, controlled by the regime, the cabildos (working-class neighborhood assemblies) and people's assemblies must be extended. These bodies must be coordinated nationally, through eligible and revocable delegates, into a Revolutionary Assembly that elects a workers' government to break the capitalist regime.
The experience of this constituent process, which will not solve any of the main problems suffered by the workers and their families, will create the conditions for the working-cöass struggle to be again at the forefront.
Piñera's manoeuvres, supported and endorsed by the reformist leaders of the workers' movement, will not bring about a lasting period of stability. Capitalism has nothing to offer to the poor and labouring masses who, sooner rather than later, will return to the offensive against capitalism, putting the struggle for socialism in the foreground.