aristocrats and commoners

Image: Paulo Durandetto


Rejoinder to the article by Carlos Ominani

Dear Mr Ominani,[I]

I faltered in the protocol address of the present. However, his response reaffirmed the sad certainty that my dear comrade Chino, from the years 1973, he had become the traditional politician Carlos Ominami, from the 1980s, who was completely the opposite of what we were when we were part of the Popular Unit. The reason you give for your metamorphosis explains, not justifies. With the “fall of the Soviet regime”, he would have just proceeded “like so many others around the world”. Which is correct. In Brazil it was the same.

In 1989-91, that historic tsunami and the announcement of the “end of history”, the death of “socialism”, the “obsolescence of Marxism”, the eternity of capitalism gave rise to an unbridled “everyone can save”. Crowds of activists, trade unionists, intellectuals, etc. on the left reconverted to social democracy and social liberalism. It is sweet to sit at the table of the victors, while the defeated are thrown to the lions. When changing trenches, some took off their old shirt, others continued to call themselves “men of the left”, to better provide their services.

The characterization of concertation like the continuity soft of Pinochet neoliberalism was not mine, but that of our former comrade, the magnificent historian Gabriel Salazar. I repeat what he proposed. “So they had to look for politicians willing to manage the neoliberal model without changing it too much. (…) the Christian Democratic Party, the Socialist Party, the Radical Party … all those who had been center-left now accepted to administer the neoliberal model.” His response should have challenged the proposed neoliberal character of the concertation and your performance as minister of Patricio Aylwin, supporter of the 1973 coup. But perhaps, “in these last 48 years”, you forgot or did not read “absolutely nothing” by Gabriel Salazar.


Did I overdo it?

But we come to the formulation, now mine, which caused him “surprise and perplexity”. I stated. “Well, what does my former dear comrade and friend Carlos Ominami have to do with this story. Much, much more. He was nothing less than the Minister of Economy, Development and Reconstruction, from 1990-92, by Patricio Aylwin. Mutatis mutandis, and exaggerating a bit, he was the Chilean Guedes! He was one of the great articulators of the continuation of the neoliberal scorched earth policy in Chile. (…) Among other little things, he actively implemented the privatization of the new Chilean copper mines. And, like a good bourgeois politician, he looked for electoral financing where he shouldn't have”.

As these are different historical moments and two distinct nations, Brazil and Chile, with their essential similarities and national, temporal and other particularities, I surrounded my comparison with precautionary caveats: “mutatis mutandis” and “exaggerating a little”. Honestly, I don't know if they are fully due. In any case, you should have left aside the explanatory comparison, intended for the Brazilian reader, and have firmly contested the paragraph's statements about your political trajectory, as a minister, as a candidate, as a citizen, registering my mistake. But you were silent about them, rehearsing mere rhetorical indignation. And you couldn't read what I actually said.

The wonderful recent Chilean electoral victory, like all the others to which I have referred, was essentially not due to the candidate, who, as I also recalled, in the past, when elected, miserably betrayed them, with the usual excuses, with emphasis on governance. They were all due to the titanic and tireless effort of the Chilean population and workers, from whom I learned so much, and I made an effort to contribute even microscopically to their struggles.


The Aristocrat and the Commoner

Yes, Mr. Ominami, I am “alive”. Yet. If the situation changes, I'll let you know. And I never felt “brave”. Only, like countless companions, we don't abandon the fight, even when we feel fear, which is human. And, above all, we tried to stay in our trench, even when it was razed. As for the “petulance” in criticizing the class enemies, these are the bones of the trade of those who try to remain faithful to the world of work and socialism. The search for coherence pays for endless problems of all kinds. In my particular case, my profession, as a historian, also requires me to analyze and pronounce. Not to do so would be like a tenor who keeps his mouth shut.

Initially, it surprised me that there had been no news from me since 1973. As I escaped repression, my first concern, in the weeks, months and years that followed, was to know the fate of our comrades, whether they were alive or dead. Among them, knowing what had happened with Comrade Chino, with Pelado, with Lucho, with Flacos... But I thought better of it: a bourgeois politician with high boots wants to forget about his fellow leftists, now opponents, albeit Lilliputians, of neoliberal collaborationism. But then, with his permission, I began to doubt his formulation.

Didn't you know, in France, what we were doing, in Belgium, a group beyond nourished by your former Mirist comrades, many militants of Pedagógico? He never found Marco Aurélio Garcia, also from Rio Grande do Sul, our former comrade in the MIR, well informed about what we were doing. And he could go that way. But "let's not take away the luck among gitanos” – as we used to say in Santiago. The meaning of the message is clear, albeit shallow.

You, from a student cadre of the revolutionary left, rebuilt yourself into an outstanding “aristocrat” of Chilean bourgeois politics. Known to everyone! And I continued to be what we were when we were young at the Universidad de Chile in the early 1970s: mere revolutionary grassroots militants. Plebeian militant, lost among so many, of those who, thank you, they never looked for a mouthful in the governments that contributed to the neoliberal destruction of Latin America! So we were like that, each monkey happy on its branch! Each with their tribe. Without mixing.

* Mario Maestri is a historian. Author, among other books, of Revolution and counter-revolution in Brazil: 1500-2019 (FCM Publisher).



[I] Response to the article published on the website the earth is round, on January 31, 2021.

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