Pedro Albornoz and Patricio Guzman, Socialismo revolucionario, CWI in Chile
A month has passed since the installation of the new government in Chile and the new president, Gabriel Boric. Yet political, economic and social instability continues. There has been no honeymoon.
Boric and his coalition came to power with high expectations from the mass of the population. People hoped that the new government would respond to social demands for profound change in society, and put an end to the institutions inherited from the Pinochet dictatorship that ended in 1990.
The October 2019 mass rebellion, and the massive social movements which followed, not only checked the previous right-wing Sebastián Piñera government, but also the entire former regime. Without a political leadership that would give a revolutionary way out of the crisis, the movement declined, and the energy was channelled into electoral channels.
Boric and the Broad Front (Frente Amplio) were the main advocates of this, and the so-called “agreement for social peace and the new constitution” that was signed by the political class in November 2019. Following that same line, the new government continues to advocate agreements with the business sector and the old regime, increasingly watering down its reform programme, so as not to ‘scare the markets or investors.’
From the time of the appointment of the new cabinet, we pointed out that this should be an alarm for workers and young people. The incorporation of the parties of the former coalition (except for the Christian Democratic Party) into the government in key positions was clearly a response to pressure from the business elite, which was afraid of possible radical changes that would affect their profits.
Beyond the expectations that many had, and still have, in the symbolic gestures or announcements of the new government, it must be judged by the facts. In practice, the government coalition has become a rebranding of the former coalition. Back again are the old politicians and parties – the Party for Democracy, the Socialist Party and the Radicals – all parties that legitimised Pinochet’s constitution for years, that attacked the interests of the workers, and that were corrupted by the corporate financing of politics.
Boric has rightly criticised the Catholic Church for covering up child abuse but he keeps conveniently silent about the corrupt past of his new government allies, simply to get more votes in Congress. It is a return to the old political practices that were criticised at the time by him.
In terms of public security and respect for human rights, no progress has been made in the alleged restructuring of the Carabineros (the police). The proposals for profound changes in these militarised institutions have remained as announcements, with a few cosmetic changes. That is why we continue to see the brutal actions of the police at mobilisations and protests.
In relation to the historic demands of the indigenous Mapuche people, the government repeats the same mistakes of the past. Without coordinating with Mapuche communities, and lacking any serious proposals on which to advance, a meeting to discuss these issues in Temucuicui failed.
The political and social crisis that opened in October 2019 continues on its course. None of the fundamental demands raised by the population have been answered. We are in the middle of a deep global crisis of capitalism, exacerbated by war and ecological catastrophe. In this context, a massive part of the population continues to be impoverished, while a small group of families continues to obtain multimillion-dollar profits. So any government that plans to make profound changes for the benefit of the vast majority cannot at the same time protect big business and the rich.
An example has been the appointment of Máximo Pacheco as Chairman of the Codelco oil company board of directors. The government disregarded the complaints made by the National Federation of Oil Workers trade union in relation to the irregular bids and corruption that occurred while Pacheco was president of Enap, the state-owned oil company.
On the other hand, the Minister of Mining, Marcela Hernando (Radical Party), in relation to the discussion of the mining royalties, has said: “We are not interested in raising the tax burden much and losing the possibility of investment from other countries and even from companies that are ours.” In addition, she stressed that “it is not in President Boric’s programme to nationalise, expropriate or scare away investment.”
It is quite clear that if the million-dollar profits of the transnationals are not touched and the nationalisation of natural resources is not fought for, it will be impossible to respond to the needs of the population.
Tensions and divisions
The government is already under enormous tension, both within the coalition and from opposition attacks. These tensions can lead to ruptures and divisions in the future.
The government proposals on the demand for a fifth withdrawal from the pension funds, which workers have paid into, is a total fraud and are aimed at preventing people withdrawing large amounts. In most cases it only allows people to withdraw a fifth of what they previously withdrew. It also only allows withdrawals for specific issues like payments of debts. It is aimed at protecting the finance system. This issue has already caused a lot of discontent with protests organised, including among the dock workers in Valparíso.
There have also been tensions within the Constitutional Convention (Chilean constituent assembly), where sections related to the former agreement and the current government have combined to stop the most radical reforms proposed by the commissions.
Undoubtedly, there are high expectations from broad sections of the population about what this government can do. But these will decline, along with support for the government, if people do not see concrete measures that improve their standard of living.
The same can happen with the Convention and the new constitution when it emerges. This will be fuelled by the campaign of attacks by the most conservative sections of the country.
If there is no response and no way out, the crisis that opened in October will inevitably deepen. The alternative we have as workers and youth is to build our own independent working-class organisations and parties of struggle. The need for a genuine programme of revolutionary socialist transformation in the interest of the great majority, and not of a few, is essential to resolve the continuing crisis.