Chile: Democracy and Dictatorship Face Off

Large banner at mass demonstrations reads, "General Strike!" Smaller banner reads, "Free and Sovereign Constituent Assembly!"

(reprinted from IWC Newsletter No. 219 – Dec. 21, 2019)

On 11 December, the Chilean Senate passed a “constitutional accusation” against the former Minister of the Interior, Andrés Chadwick, following strong pressure to end impunity for murders, torture and imprisonment of demonstrators in recent months (some 30 dead, more than 300 seriously injured in the eyes, two of whom became blind, thousands of detainees). All members of the government ran to comfort Chadwick who, at the press conference, highlighted his “innocence”, claiming to be the victim of a “political trial”.

On 12 December, in the Chamber of Deputies, a “constitutional accusation” against President Piñera was rejected by 76 votes to 70, thanks to the votes of the Christian Democracy, the Radical Party and the “independents”. That said, this initiative launched by the Frente Amplio [1] and the Communist Party aimed above all to give the illusion that it was possible to get rid of Piñera “democratically”… within the framework of an anti-democratic Constitution [2], since such a procedure, if adopted by the Chamber, would then have to be validated by the Senate, where Piñera’s supporters control the majority of the votes.

What is the significance of these two events from the point of view of the interests of the vast majority of the population, mobilised since mid-October?

Chile 2 Pinochet

Chile 2 Chadwick

TOP: Dictator Pinochet, with young Andrés Chadwick at his side. BOTTOM: (Right, in back) Current Minister of the Interior Andrés Chadwick. Like so many other current politicians, like the Constitution itself, Chadwick is a holdover of the Pinochet regime.

It is the clash between democracy, on the one hand, represented by the mobilisation of millions for their demands, for their rights, and who are the true people of Chile … and the dictatorship, on the other hand. This is a dictatorship that represents the 140 large families that rule the country and concentrate 30% of GDP in their hands, backed by mercenaries who are ready to do anything to keep Piñera in power, despite the fact that he is credited with a mere 4% support in the polls.

It’s a dictatorship which, after Pinochet’s disappearance, donned a “democratic” mask, under the protection of 60,000 special riot police armed to the teeth. A police force whose only mission has been to repress all social mobilisation for past thirty years, and which, in the face of the revolutionary mobilisation of recent weeks, behaves no differently than the repressive force of the old dictatorship.

In these conditions, the struggle of the people, students, workers, women and pensioners is making its way and drawing lessons. One of the first lessons is the need to move towards the establishment of an organisation that is independent of all parties that have served in Congress.

This need is expressed in the accelerated crisis that is affecting all parties. The Frente Amplio is the most affected: four organisations that were members have left it, and others, under pressure from their own activists, are likely to follow them. This is because the Frente Amplio was the main salvation for Piñera by signing the “Agreement for Peace and a New Constitution” [3] while the traditional parties were cornered.

Another lesson that is reinforced every day in the course of mobilisation is the need for a government that is able to implement the population’s demands. On this path, a discussion is taking place in popular organisations to move towards a Constituent Assembly. Of course, there are many obstacles, but to bring down the regime at the service of the 140 families, based on the repression and servility of the existing parties, it is necessary to impose the Constituent Assembly now, so that a government responsible to this Assembly is formed, composed of representatives of the exploited population.

To do this, it is essential that workers’ committees be organised for the Constituent Assembly immediately. The fight for a government that breaks with the current economic, social and political regime is a necessary condition for establishing a true democracy.


(1) The Frente Amplio (FA, Broad Front) is a coalition of groups formed in 2017 that presents itself as a left-wing alternative to the Socialist Part and the Communist Party.

(2) The current Chilean Constitution is that of 1980, that is, that of the Pinochet dictatorship.

(3) This is an agreement signed on 16 November by the Frente Amplio, the PS and others, making a hypothetical cosmetic amendment to the Constitution conditional on a referendum in April 2020.

Chile 2 Asamblea Constituyente

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OCRFI Newsletter No. 7 — Dec. 13, 2019

Unidad Social Denounces New Law Criminalizing Social Protest

A few weeks ago, our comrades of the Chilean Trotskyist group took the important decision, within the framework of the Alliance of Workers and Students (ATE), to publish a printed bulletin, Emancipación, to express in an organized way, and submit to discussion by workers and young people around them, their independent policy. In a recent letter, and while after 50 days of opening the revolutionary crisis, none of the successive manoeuvres deployed by the apparatuses have succeeded in driving the masses back, the comrades write:

On 4 December, the Chamber of Deputies approved, with the votes of a majority of the members of the Frente Amplio and the abstention of a majority of the CP deputies, a law criminalizing socialprotest. It’s a law that criminalizes strikes, and any act of self-defence in the face of police repression, and authorizes the arrest of persons or vehicles, the seizure of land, with penalties of up to five years in prison. This law was approved by seventeen deputies of the Frente Amplio on the pretext that it is necessary to “facilitate the work of the fire brigade against looting“.

This vote of the members of the Frente Amplio and the abstention of the PC deputies was condemned on 5 December by Unidad Social as an act of high treason against the people. Unidad Social declared: ‘We call for the rejection of these repressive measures (…), for continued mobilization,for not yielding to the government’s policy of terror and for the popular initiative of the Sovereign, Egalitarian and Multinational Constituent Assembly, as well as the social platform for urgent transformations that we have put on the table’ (Unidad Social, 5 December).’

These facts show that, after 50 days of mobilizing millions of Chileans, the political parties, including the PS, the Frente Amplio and the PC, are doing everything they can togive oxygen to a government that represents only 4.6% of the population, according to official surveys.”

It should be recalled that in Chile, the Socialist Party and the Communist Party were at the heart of the “Popular Unity” government’s mechanism — the Chilean version of the popular front — which paved the way for Pinochet’s coup d’état in September 1973. It should also be recalled that, when the dictatorship ran out of breath in 1989-1990 and organized its “democratic transition”, the apparatuses of the SP and the Chilean CP were the backbone of the “Concertación/Partnership” and of its governments. This arrangement, for the past 30 years, preserved most of the institutions of the dictatorship (starting with the 1980 constitution, which the revolutionary masses now want to defeat) and the whole policy of subordination to U.S. imperialism.

And today, these same apparatuses (as well as that of the Frente amplio, a coalition of so-called “radical left” and “alternative” groups formed in the wake of Podemos in Spain and France’s rebellious France) are at the forefront of preserving the institutions inherited from the dictatorship and ensuring the continued implementation of IMF plans.

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OCRFI Newsletter No. 6 (New Series) — November 29, 2019

“Only the working Class Is Capable of Leading the Fight for Democracy and Sovereignty to the End!”

This week [Nov. 25 to 29], the OCRFI Secretariat received the first issue of Emancipación, the newspaper published by the Alliance of Workers and Students of Chile. In this first issue, the editorial article is titled “What is the meaning of the Propuesta Soberana Chile Decide” (the “Sovereign Proposal Chile Decides”)? This is the declaration published on November 25 at the initiative of the Communist Party and other minor political organizations.

Emancipación‘s editorial points out that this declaration comes at the same time as Unidad Social, a broad coalition of the main trade union organizations, is calling for a national strike in accordance with its published resolution titled “Declaration towards a free, sovereign, plurinational and equal Constituent Assembly”. Comparing the two documents, Emancipación asks the question: Why have the initiators of the Propuesta Soberana Chile decided NOT to support the Unidad Social’s initiative? This is of special concern, notes Emancipación, given that the Unidad Social platform includes the most important demands put forward by millions of workers, women and men, in the movement launched several weeks ago. Moreover, the strictly social and economic demands put forward in the appeal supported by the Communist Party do not differ much from those put forward by Unidad Social. So why divide instead of bring together?

Emancipación answers the question by analyzing the statement supported by the Communist Party in relation to the specific issue of the Constituent Assembly. And here, it is clear that, like the regime’s maneuver a few weeks earlier, and then the “Agreement for Social Peace and a New Constitution” (signed by the Socialist Party and the Frente Amplio [Broad Front], among others), the aim is, under the guise of a Constituent Assembly, to propose window- dressing measures to preserve the institutions inherited from the dictatorship, following a timetable that postpones by several months any change, even hypothetical, to the current institutional framework.

Emancipación returns to the difference between this call, supported by the Chilean CP, and the demand for a Constituent Assembly as it is taken up by the workers’ organizations, in particular, which call for a strike and question the objectives of the divisive operation. Is it something other than a proposal for a dialogue with the government of Piňera?

We will have the opportunity to come back to this letter. As we were finalizing the writing of this OCRFI newsletter, the comrades from Chile sent us a document from Unidad Social, titled “Una nueva constitucion via Asamblea constituyente” (A new constitution by way of the Constituent Assembly). We will also come back to this next week based on the assessment of our comrades. This fundamental question of the Sovereign Constituent Assembly, which is being raised in Chile and, in other forms, in Algeria and many other countries, brings us back to the role of the Fourth International in helping the fight to ensure that this democratic demand prevails — both in terms of the form of its institutions and its social content.

This question will be at the heart of the necessary elaboration leading up to the the 3rd OCRFI International Conference (November 2020). Only the working class is capable of leading the fight for democracy and sovereignty to the end, only a revolutionary party strictly grounded in class independence has the capacity to take charge of this program to the end.

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(Background Articles from IWC Newsletter — November 22, 2019)

(1) “It’s Not About 30 Pesos, It’s About 30 years”

The eruption of the workers and young people has opened a revolutionary crisis. “It’s not about 30 pesos” [the increase in the price of an underground ticket – editor’s note], say the millions of workers and youth, “it’s 30 years that we reject.” Thirty years is the period during which, after the end of Pinochet’s dictatorship, all the political parties in Chile, including those on the “left”, have continued to accept and maintain the dictatorship’s institutions, beginning with the 1980 Constitution — institutions that enabled the implementation of IMF plans. Our correspondents for the Alliance of Workers and Students write: 

High School Students Erupt

When President Piñera announced the increase in the price of an underground ticket, the high school students in Santiago (the capital of Chile) entered the fray. They called on underground users not to pay. The management of the underground called on the army to stop the fare-evaders. Students then massively descended upon the underground stations, outflanking the forces of repression. The underground workers’ trade union called on its members to stop work. A large percentage of underground users followed the instructions to refuse to pay. On 17 October, the underground workers’ union backed the call by the students and demanded withdrawal of the forces of repression. The mobilisation is expanding, and yet no organisation had decided it; the students have led the population into the fray.

The Call for General Strike

On 18 October, the mobilisation spread. The government decreed a state of emergency. Repression resulted in twenty deaths and hundreds of injured. Finally, on 22 October, several organisations formed the Unidad Social (Social Unity) coalition and called for a general strike on 22 and 23 October. Among them was the CUT/Workers’ United Central, led jointly by the Communist Party and Christian Democracy, the Colegio de Profesores, CONFUSAM (Autonomous Trade Union Federation of Healthcare) and the Coordination Committee “NO AFP” (against the pension funds system inherited from the dictatorship). The call demands President Piñera’s resignation, lifting of the state of emergency, and the return of soldiers to their barracks, as well as the immediate convening of National Constituent Assembly. Hundreds of thousands answered this call, while the government reinforced the state of emergency. The mass mobilisation — in obedience to no one’s instructions — has grown, reaching even the most remote villages of the country.

Popular Sovereignty or “Dialogue” with Piñera? 

The leadership of the Socialist Party has proposed to call on the U.N. Commission on Human Rights, without even asking for the lifting of the state of emergency. The Communist Party and Frente Amplio [formed several years ago on the model of Podemos in Spain – editor’s note] have agreed on the need for “dialogue” with the government. All the parliamentary groups in the Senate are calling for a “way out of the crisis” by means of a referendum such as provided in the Constitution … which is a holdover from Pinochet. It’s a Constitution that millions of people have rejected!

The Workers Enter the Movement

In spite of a divided trade union movement, shipyard workers were among the first to mobilise, imposing unity on the organisations and a united march on the capital. While the unions in the copper mines — a key sector of the economy — are calling to join the mobilisation, the president of the federation has launched a call, side by side with government officials, to refrain from mobilising. The Colegio de Profesores (educators’ trade union) has already embarked in the struggle in defence of public education, which has attracted genuine goodwill from large layers of the population.

Popular Assemblies 

Popular Assemblies are being formed in neighbourhoods and districts. Activists of the Alliance of Workers and Students participate in them in their neighbourhoods; there are also workplace assemblies in some companies. They bring broad layers of the population together, although at times a bit chaotically, as everyone wants to speak. The demands are being expressed: to do away with the Constitution, to call for a Constituent Assembly, for the departure of the government, etc. For our part, we affirm that no social or democratic demands can be met under the present government. Therefore we raise the need for the organisation of these assemblies and their coordination at the local, regional and national levels.

“General Strike! Sovereign Constituent Assembly Now!”

Over the past 48 hours, neither the leaders of the United Social coalition nor those of the Communist Party and Frente Amplio have demanded that Piñera must leave. In a leaflet that was distributed on November 4, the Alliance of Workers and Students concluded:

Our demands in the interest of the majority of the people can only be met on the condition that another type of government is established, a government for the people, represented by a SOVEREIGN CONSTITUENT ASSEMBLY (…) The young people have had the honour of initiating the fight on behalf of all of us, showing their courage and their conscience. The time has come for the workers to enter the scene, with all the power that their ability to block the means of production and services gives them. From the mines and all the way to the smallest of ports, everything must be paralysed. The United Social coalition must call for an UNLIMITED GENERAL STRIKE up to and until POPULAR SOVEREIGNTY is established. The people who are independently rich, the economic and financial groups, the speculators, the thieves and parasites that live off of our work do not create the wealth, THE WORKERS DO! Unity of action! Sovereign Constituent Assembly now!

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(2) What Is the AFP Pension System?

The Alliance of Workers and Students (AET) explains:

“Since 1981, the majority of the population has been forced to accept the AFP pension system, which promised them an ‘oasis’ at the end of their working lives. For thirty years — which followed the end of Pinochet’s dictatorship in 1989 —all the political parties did everything they could to ensure that this AFP pension system was ever overturned. But the AFP system has never had any other objective than to steal part of the workers’ wages in order to line the pockets of the capitalists and speculators,, and has therefore never been anything other than a form of privatization of Social Security.”



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