The Chilean people's uprising that began in mid-October has reached a critical point. Piñera's murderous government is on the ropes thanks to the action of the masses. Neither the savage repression, nor the fraudulent promises and dilatory manoeuvres of the oligarchy, nor the conciliatory policy of the Social Unity Table have taken away momentum, massiveness, and extension from an insurrectionary movement unprecedented in the last thirty years.
The working class and youth have from the beginning overwhelmed the reformist leaders of the left, both the Socialist Party (PS) and the Communist Party (CCP) and the CUT, and have imposed from below every step forward in the mobilization, including already three general strikes and the most massive marches in living memory. Millions in the streets and an organization that extends through action committees, town councils and popular assemblies, feel the conditions to take the battle to the socialist transformation of Chile and end capitalism once and for all. The central question is at stake: who holds the power. And the correlation of forces is clearly favourable to the working class and the oppressed.
Chile is experiencing a truly revolutionary situation. What began almost a month ago as a protest against the rise in public transport fares has turned into a rebellion to confront the savage repression of the army and the Carabineros and, finally, into a mass movement of a formidable scale: a historic 48-hour general strike that paralyzed the country on October 23 and 24, followed by massive marches that on Friday, October 25, in Santiago alone, brought together 1.5 million people.
A movement that has not ceased for an instant and has promoted with one resounding success another national strike on October 30, and two other massive marches, especially that of November 9, which gathered again in the capital around one million people. The strikes in the different productive sectors continue and a new general strike is called for November 12. The situation is so out of control that the government has no choice but to suspend two important international events: the Asia-Pacific Economic Forum and the World Climate Summit.
"It's not 30 pesos, it's 30 years"
This slogan, chanted massively at the barricades and demonstrations, sums up very well what is happening in Chile. The whole institutional framework built after the fall of the Pinochet dictatorship, which left the crimes of the Military Junta unblemished, secured the foundations of predatory capitalism, the suppression of public services and mass privatization, and gave wings to the continent's greatest inequality, has been called into question by an astonishing popular uprising. An uprising that directly points to all those parties on the left that have actively collaborated in underpinning this regime, especially the Socialist Party and the Communist Party.
The power of the masses, when determined to go all the way, "works miracles". What the traditional parties of the left — with their reformist leaderships all day mired in parliamentary throws and dialogue tables — have never been able to achieve, has been wrenched from the ruling class by the heroic youth and the Chilean working class fighting against repression and the capitalist order. What an extraordinary inspiration for all the oppressed of the world!
Revolutionary events have completely taken the bourgeoisie by surprise. Until just a few weeks ago, Chile was described by the big businessmen and by the IMF itself as the model to be followed by the rest of Latin American countries, as a paradigmatic example of capitalist order and stability. But it is also a lesson for all those who, from the left, even from organizations that claim to be "revolutionary," only lament remembering supposedly better past times, and constantly blame the working class and youth for "their low level of consciousness". These organizations full of sceptical and demoralized "leaders," who give lessons to the working class and youth from their teaching desks, have also been unable to foresee anything.
The responsibility of the parliamentary left
The current explosion has been incubating for years, especially because of the frustration provoked under the governments of the Socialist Party and the Concertación, and the complicity that the Communist Party and the CUT have maintained with them.
Following the model of the Spanish Transition, the crimes of Pinochet's dictatorship went unpunished. The state apparatus was not purged of fascists, as demonstrated by the brutal action of the military in the streets, and the leadership of the Socialist and Communist Party shamefully gave in to the mass struggle that defeated the dictatorship, agreeing with their heirs a "democratic transition" that would safeguard the capitalist system.
Pinochet's dictatorship imposed a model of wild capitalism, following in the footsteps of Thatcher and Reagan, privatizing all public services and turning Chile into a true tax haven for the benefit of billionaires. Subsequently, the socialist governments of Ricardo Lagos and Michelle Bachelet gave continuity to those same policies, opening the doors to the new right-wing government presided over by one of Chile's main fortunes. A situation that has provoked a generalized impoverishment and an inevitable disaffection towards the entire political regime.
However, instead of learning from mistakes and rectifying, the CP leaders try to vindicate their failed policy of class collaboration with the bourgeoisie, which has done nothing to help the masses but has perpetuated inequality, misery and repression.
Mass struggle tears down the state of emergency and puts the Government's back against the wall
From the outset, the government has responded to the popular uprising with savage repression, attempting to cut through the protests with terror.
There is official talk of at least 20 people killed by the brutal action of the military and police forces, although other sources indicate that there are more. There are hundreds of denunciations of torture and rape in police stations. According to the National Institute of Human Rights, 1,915 people have been recorded injured, more than half by shots fired by militia and police (rubber bullets, bullets or unidentified weapons), about 600 by pellets, causing eye losses to 182 people. The director of this institution, Sergio Micco, denounced that human rights violations are "very serious and repeated" and "that in demonstrations where there is no violence, the people have been shot at repeatedly". The Ministry of Justice itself recognizes the detention of 9,203 people, hundreds of them minors, only until October 28.
Dozens of videos that recall the images of the bloody repression during Pinochet's dictatorship are circulating on social networks, with soldiers shooting and indiscriminately beating anyone they meet in the streets, taking advantage of the impunity granted to them by Piñera when he declared a state of emergency. However, the repression has not only been incapable of curbing mass mobilization, but has quickly turned it into a genuine revolutionary insurrection.
The permanent mobilization in the streets defeated the curfew and the militarized state. Finally, Piñera certified this reality by pathetically announcing the official lifting of the state of emergency and the withdrawal of the military from the streets. A very valuable lesson about the limits of the bourgeois state, no matter how much weaponry it has, in front of the masses who decide to march and lose their fear.
The strength of the mobilizations has been such that not only have they withdrawn the military to their barracks, Piñera's government has had no choice but to withdraw the rise in transport and propose a "Social Plan" of improvements in pensions, in the minimum wage, in the price of medicines or in electricity tariffs... even Congress, dominated by right-wing parties, approved the 40-hour workday.
Piñera had to go from pointing out that "the country was at war" against young people and workers in struggle, to asking for forgiveness. These statements reflect, in themselves, the authentic correlation of forces between the classes and what the Chilean bourgeoisie thinks about it.
Yes, for the economic elites, for the military high command, for those who for decades have fattened their privileges with a democracy watched over and tutored by the heirs of the Pinochet dictatorship, the situation is appalling: people in insurrection have said enough to their obscene fortunes, to corruption, and to an endemic inequality that keeps the vast majority of the people in poverty and precariousness.
However, the bourgeoisie will never give up the trump card of violence against the popular uprising. In fact, while the murderous government claims to have "listened to the people," the reality is that last November 7 Piñera announced the implementation of a new "security agenda" to harden the repression against the movement. This package of measures includes strengthening the "effectiveness of the forces of order" against "barricades and the obstruction of free circulation"; giving legal facilities to criminalize and prosecute "public disorders"; creating a special body of espionage and infiltration ("intelligence") for the prevention of "crimes"; increasing the impunity of the repressive bodies ("protection status for the forces of order and security"), etc.
All this is not a symptom of strength, but of tremendous weakness. But it is also a very serious warning: either this government is overthrown by the movement in the streets or the ruling class will try, when the occasion is more favourable, to crush it in any way. That is why the appeals by the leaders of the PS, CCP, the CUT and the Frente Amplio to this government to "sit down and negotiate," legitimizing it and giving it a democratic veneer in practice, allowing it to recover the initiative instead of throwing it out, is completely criminal.
Organize the indefinite general strike until Piñera is overthrown. No to the National Dialogue with the repressors!
A turning point, no doubt, was the 48-hour general strike in October promoted by the most combative sectors of the working class and youth, dozens of social movements and organizations of the left and which, despite its numerous vacillations, finally had to convene the leadership of the Central Unica de Trabajadores because of pressure from below.
But the CUT leadership, instead of relying on the triumph achieved by the movement and continuing the struggle with a forceful plan that includes an indefinite general strike until Piñera's resignation, limit themselves to calling for a "national dialogue" asking the government to "restore democracy to the State of Chile". To the government that has declared a state of emergency? To the government responsible for more than 20 deaths, thousands of wounded and detained, tortured and raped? To the government that starves the people?
In the same way, the leadership and parliamentarians of the Communist Party of Chile have become the champions of the social pact, demanding a dialogue table that includes the government and, above all, that includes them! They complain that "the Government has excluded and marginalized the social and popular world". No, comrades, the Government has not excluded the people, Piñera's Government has massacred and is massacring the people. And what the communist claimant has to do is not to desperately seek dialogue with the repressors, but to organize the struggle so that it triumphs and avoids more deaths and abuses.
At a time when the masses are advancing at a steady pace, the CCP leaders are focusing their hopes on launching a cumbersome constitutional indictment against Piñera... for illegally using the state of emergency! This type of approach only gives oxygen and time to Piñera. No constitutional accusation is required: Piñera and his government have to leave now, and there are enough strength and determination in the masses to do so.
The Constituent Assembly will not end the power of the oligarchy. The only alternative is to overthrow capitalism
Chile is at a turning point. The conditions to put an end to Piñera and his government, to break with the capitalist system and its legacy of inequality and repression, and to begin to truly transform the lives of millions of young people and workers, are in place.
This slogan of a Constituent Assembly defended by the CCP and the social, trade union and political organizations that make up the Social Unity Table — and which some organizations that consider themselves revolutionary repeat, but adding that it be "free and sovereign" —, maintains that the serious problems of the masses, highlighted by this uprising, can be resolved within the framework of capitalism.
It is a thousand times false to propose that in today's Chile a Constituent Assembly that would draw up a constitution within capitalist legality could confront the problem of mass unemployment, precariousness, the privatization of public services or the complete purging of the fascists of the state apparatus. There is no possibility of a "more advanced democracy" in the framework of capitalism in the crisis of the 21st century. This slogan, and its different variants, is a shameful renunciation to openly raise the need to fight for socialism, for workers power, raising a consequent revolutionary program.
This great uprising has not only demonstrated a favourable correlation of forces, but it has also revealed a great advance in the consciousness of the masses who do not want to endure the present state of things for another minute. And it is the task of revolutionaries to translate all this into a strategy and program capable of achieving victory and transforming society.
It is very symptomatic that Piñera's government agreed to reform the Constitution — in an interview with the Chilean daily El Mercurio on November 9 he stated: "The changes to the Constitution need to be deeper and more intense than he thought a few years ago. I don't want to commit myself to deadlines, but I am clear that there is a sense of urgency. This is for now"— and, more significantly, that they have finally assumed even the very slogan of the Constituent Assembly. The Minister of the Interior announced on the night of November 10 that the Executive "is committed to a constituent Congress, broad citizen participation and a ratifying plebiscite.
Situated on the edge of the abyss, besieged by the mass movement and with a ridiculous 13% of popularity, Piñera thus tries to gain time, to cool down the movement, divide it and prepare new, more selective repressive measures against the most advanced and organized sectors.
For this delaying manoeuvre, the attitude of the leaders of the Social Unity Table is being key. It allows Piñera to appear as a leader who listens and responds to the people, instead of denouncing him and pointing out that focusing the expectations of change on the Constituent implies removing the protagonism of the street (the only real engine of any real transformation for the masses) and returning it to properly disguised bourgeois institutions, without modifying the real power of the oligarchy, based on the control of the army and the private ownership of the means of production. As long as all economic and political power is in the hands of the usual oligarchs, no constitution will solve the pressing problems of the workers and oppressed. It will be nothing but paper.
The task of the moment is to deepen and give revolutionary consistency to the powerful movement that has been unleashed: to promote the formation of action committees in all factories, workplaces, schools, neighbourhoods... and to coordinate them nationally through elected and revocable delegates. The basis for this is given. In the last few days, citizen councils and popular assemblies have expanded. More than two hundred have gathered 10,000 people the first weekend of November, gathering their demands and, above all, insisting on not abandoning the mobilization in the streets. This has been decisive for the November 12 general strike to take place. Once again the leaders have been overtaken by the rank and file, only the strength and determination of the workers has made this new call possible.
This is the way, to build the indefinite general strike — with occupations of the work and study centers — and to organize the self-defense of the workers and youth, making a strong appeal to the soldiers not to repress the people, to organize committees inside the barracks, to paralyze the orders of the commanders and to joining the popular mobilizations. This would have an immediate effect. In fact, the depth of the social rebellion that is being experienced has already had an effect on this sector. The 21-year-old soldier David Veloso Codocedo, who refused to repress the population by throwing his weapon on the ground and supported "all the people of Chile who are fighting". This courageous attitude was followed by similar statements by Army reservists, who have refused to participate in the repressive actions for which they were summoned.
The plan of struggle must be accompanied by a clear program: Piñera out! For a government of the workers for the benefit of the people! Nationalization of the banks, monopolies and land, without compensation and under the democratic control of the workers and their organizations. Public, dignified, free and universal education and health care. Dignified wages and stable employment. The right to affordable public housing. Dignified retirements one hundred per cent public. Immediate purging 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 to the Mapuche people. For workers' democracy, down with capitalists' democracy!
The people of Chile are not alone. A new wave of revolutionary insurrections and uprisings is sweeping Latin America, from Mexico to Argentina, through Ecuador, Honduras, Haiti or Costa Rica, and they have their replica in Lebanon, Iraq, Algeria or Sudan. A wave that is the fruit of the misery and endemic inequality that the whole continent has been living for decades, and that will have no solution under the capitalist system. The Chilean working class and youth are tying a new knot on the broken thread of history, once again revealing their revolutionary traditions. Their triumph will be the triumph of all the workers and oppressed of the world, opening the way for the victory of international socialism.