On 19 December, the Chilean people will go to the polls in the most polarized elections since the country’s re-democratization. Facing off against one another are the leftist candidate and former student leader Gabriel Boric from the Apruebo Dignidad (Approve Dignity) coalition, and the far-right, neofascist candidate Jose Antonio Kast.
These elections occur in the aftermath of the profound political and social crisis which began in 2019 and continued during the pandemic. It is the result of over thirty years of the radical implementation of the neoliberal program and attacks on the rights of workers and youth. This crisis led to a veritable popular rebellion that saw the people of Chile take to the streets in enormous demonstrations and face off against repression.
Under the bloody dictatorship of General Augusto Pinochet (1973-1990), Chile became the birthplace and laboratory of the neoliberal prescription that swept the world. Together with the economists known as the ‘Chicago Boys’, the dictatorship implemented a program of privatization, destruction of social rights, persecution and murder of opponents, a general lowering of workers’ living standards, and a complete submission to the dictates of US imperialism.
The end of the dictatorship led to a twenty-year period of center-left governments of the so-called Concertación coalition, and then from 2010 the rotation of center-left and liberal right governments. All the while, the neoliberal economic pillars and Constitution of the Pinochet regime remained intact.
In October 2019, an increase in the price of public transport became the spark for a major social explosion that rocked the country. Piñera’s right-wing government responded to the popular protests with harsh repression which left dozens dead and hundreds maimed, many blinded by the use of rubber bullets, as well as political prisoners.
However, this repression failed to stop the demonstrations that stemmed from the fury that had accumulated over decades of neoliberal policies, the lack of public education and pension systems, the non-recognition of the rights of indigenous people, social inequality, and the high cost of living.
The demonstrations by youth, women, the LGBTQIA+ community, workers, and indigenous peoples forced the holding of a victorious plebiscite, which imposed upon the government the creation of a Constitutional Convention for the repeal the Pinochet-era Constitution. Candidates identified with the demands arising from the streets won a considerable vote and make up the majority in the Constitutional Convention.
The first-round election results were both a defeat for the parties that have governed Chile in the last thirty years and a demonstration of the depth of the crisis. With Kast in first place on 27.91%, Gabriel Boric on 25.82%, and a high abstention rate of 53%, this result represented both the advance of neofascism in Chile, and the social and political contradictions that the street uprising opened up in 2019. These results are also a threat to democracy in Latin America. We do not want another Bolsonaro on the continent!
The first-round victory for Kast represents an enormous danger. His campaign was based on strong anti-communist rhetoric and the promise to impose order against the “delinquents” who took to the streets. Kast represents “Pinochetism”, nostalgia for the dictatorship, and has managed to lump together the most reactionary and conservative groups that opposed the mobilizations, in an expression of the clash between revolution and counterrevolution in Chile today.
Boric and his Apruebo Dignidad coalition, which includes both the Frente Amplio (Broad Front) and the Communist Party, are raising important demands that arose from the streets, such as the decommodification of social rights, public education and health, secure social housing, a wealth tax, and defense of the environment. But we cannot fail to criticize the role that Boric played in helping to pass the Anti-Barricade Law which strengthened the repression and imprisonment of activists, and in pushing the Peace Accord which helped to both save Piñera’s government and impose restrictions on the new Constituent Convention.
However, we are aware that a victory for Kast would represent a change in the balance of forces in favor of the bourgeoisie and imperialism and against the working class in both Chile and the continent. What we are facing in Chile’s second round is a reactionary far-right, anti-people project that wants to defeat the streets by force and not accept the progressive concessions and reforms embodied in the Boric candidacy.
We advocate a vote for Boric to defeat neofascism and fight to defend the independent mobilization of working men and women to demand that the new government meet the demands of the popular rebellion and continue moving forward. The struggles of 2019 will not be defeated by neofascism!
That is why we call for a vote for Boric and will fight to:
– Maintain and advance democratic freedoms, the first step being the immediate release of every political prisoner of 2019 and other struggles!
– Construct a new social pact that is manifested in an ecological, feminist Constituent Assembly, which guarantees the de facto right to education, health, and social security, and which ends the private pension fund system (AFPs)!
– Fight to advance towards the nationalization of the natural reserves of minerals, forests, and fisheries!
Translation: Bobby Sparks