Chile – after taking office, what to expect?

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By VLADIMIR SAFATLE*

The intersectionality of struggles in Chile is a challenge for the constitution of unity in a process with a multiplicity of actors

When he was about to commit suicide in the midst of resistance against an attempted coup d'état, Salvador Allende made a well-known speech to Radio Magallanes. It ended with the following words: “Follow you knowing that much sooner than later the great avenues will open through which free men will pass to build a better society”.

Recordings of this speech have come down to us. Amidst the metallic tone of the old broadcasts, the white noise of the old mono broadcasts is also heard, which involuntarily increases the solitary character of the voice. Issued directly from the Palace La Moneda under bombardment, this could well be the voice of a historical trauma, with its own force of producing melancholy capable of spanning decades. The Chilean road to socialism ended with bombs, suicide and lonely voices.

When taking office as President of Chile, Gabriel Boric ended his speech on the balcony of the same Palace La Moneda with the phrase: “We are again opening the great avenues through which free men and women will pass to build a better society”. The repetition brought the crowd in front of the Palace to tears. The gesture expressed a high stake, which no government until then, since the end of the Pinochet dictatorship, had had the courage to make. It was a bet on a suspension of the trauma and a resumption of the interrupted history. An even higher bet because it also consisted of saying that the 48 years that connect the two sentences uttered in the same place, by the same symbolic person (the president of Chile), were just an attempt to erase a historical process that was now returning.

That the first utterance was like a tragedy is certain. But would the second be a farce or a redemption? If the desire behind the repetition gesture was clear, the least that can be said is that it is not clear what concretely to expect from it, its performative force is not clear. There were many who, in the series of interviews carried out in the days before taking office, insisted on the profound difference between the two historical moments and on what the two governments represent: that of Allende and that of Boric. But it must be remembered that politics is crossed by the resurrection of specters, or even that no one appeals to specters with impunity. This necessarily puts us in front of an open process that, on top of that, will deal with the pressure of the dynamics of historical repetition.

In any case, historical differences also exist and they can already be felt, for example, in the government program. Allende believed in a kind of “gradual transformation” of Chile towards socialism. “Gradual transformation” does not exactly mean what is conventionally called “reformism”. In your case, the distinction reformisms e revolution loses much of its analytic distinction function. There is no news of a reformist who has nationalized the banking system, just to mention one more obvious case and one of the most structural, along with the nationalization of the copper industry, the basis of the entire Chilean economy.

Gabriel Boric's program is not even clearly committed to creating a completely free public education system in a country where families often have to choose which of their sons or daughters to study, since the costs and resulting debts are high. Something that, by the way, puts his program, at least on this point, even short of reformism.

In this context, it is noteworthy how in most of our interviews a clear dichotomy between “government” and “process” emerged: “I don't trust the government, but I trust the process” was a constant phrase. And by “process” one should not only understand the constituent process that Chile is going through. “Process” also indicates the field of struggles in action that they believe will gain an even greater field with the advances expected by the new Constitution or with the possibility of discussing social transformations based on real alternatives to the current political and economic models.

It is true that even the government understands itself more as a “guardian” of the processes of change than its fundamental actor. Gabriel Boric has said more than once that the government's job is to prevent the process of change from being blocked. Alejandra Bottinelli, professor and activist, expressed this situation well in one of our interviews when she said that she saw in this government the role of “protecting” the movement that brought her to power.

This raises open questions about what this government can and what it wants. Did it have the function of paralyzing the insurrectionary process that Chile was going through, offering a governability of 'agreements' necessary in the face of a National Congress divided in half and an enormously concentrated economic power? There are not few who believe this. Or would the government be a necessary commitment so that the transformation process is not lost due to the certain conflict with a Congress divided in half and a cornered business sector that was not afraid to support a proto-fascist candidate (José Kast) to try to win the presidential elections ? In this sense, would the commitments be a strategy to strengthen new, more favorable conditions for the gradual increase in pressure, as if this were, in fact, a “transitional” government?

Amid such issues, Daniel Jadue's opinion has a prominent place. Jadue is mayor of Recoleta, a poor municipality in the Santiago conglomerate. She was the natural frontrunner for the coalition. I appreciate the dignity to the presidency of Chile. His primary loss to Gabriel Boric came as a surprise. Today, he voices a tense position within the governing coalition. Given the current configuration, Daniel Jadue believes that even the most controversial points of the government's program must go through negotiations and reach Congress quite modified.

The Chilean Communist Party currently has 12 deputies in a Congress of 155, an extremely significant number. Daniel Jadue believes that "there are many comrades, fundamental to the victory of this government, who are not willing to pay the same cost". By “same cost” Jadue is referring to the participation of the Communist Party in the second government of Michele Bachelet, when, in the name of governance, the party was often forced to accept and support proposals that clashed head-on with its own program. Which justifies why he insists that "the communists are not willing to always pay the bill for unity".

Daniel Jadue recognizes that this will be a disputed government, as would have been the second Bachelet government: “but there is an important difference. In the Bachelet government, hegemony was on the side of conservative forces, while now hegemony is on the side of transforming forces”. This new hegemony makes the Communist Party bet mainly on two high-impact changes: the creation of a social protection system that does not exist in Chile capable of freeing human beings from the “salary dictatorship” and the end of the private pension and capitalization system. , the basis of banking profits in the country.

However, as paradoxical as this may initially seem, Daniel Jadue does not propose a greater capacity for negotiation on the left, but rather what he calls “deinstitutionalization”: “We went from a left that was always on the streets and institutions of power, for a left that is in all the institutions of power and no longer sets foot on the street”. In her case, stepping out onto the street means resuming what is meant by the “dispute of consciences”.

To describe this dispute process and its strategies, Daniel Jadue explains how the Communist Party went from 2000% of the votes in Recoleta to 2% in 65 in 2020: “People had an unconscious distrust of politics and it was necessary to initially displace them into the position of conscious trust. For that, we needed to change something in their lives before talking about politics”. The change in living conditions opened space for unity of organization and struggle for values. That is, the strategy consisted of withdrawing, for a moment, what would be the ideological consolidation so that it would come with force in a second moment. For the next step was to turn conscious trust into vanguard consciousness, in a clear adaptation of a Leninist model of strategy. This was done by taking citizens to occupy all existing political spaces: neighborhood councils, student centers, cultural centers, sports centers.

This may explain important elements of the local rooting process that the Chilean left was able to develop. Hence the insistence on understanding local powers as the basis for the struggles to come, especially within the clashes for the approval of the constitutional text in September 2022.

But at this point, a dichotomy again appears that also seems to mark the strategies of the Chilean experience. When asked about the differences between the two moments in Chilean history that initiated this text, moments embodied in the names of Allende and Boric, Daniel Jadue is adamant: the distinction would be structural because the current left lacks a notion of unity as a fundamental tool of struggles : “this is a serious problem that limits the transforming capacity of political processes”.

Jadue is bothered by a certain transversality of what he also calls “identity politics” that could even be accommodated to liberal positions. As much as we can read in university books about the intersectionality of struggles, it is certain that in Chile it is experienced in a dramatic way and seen as a challenge for the constitution of unity in a process with a multiplicity of actors ranging from historical communists to Mapuches, feminists, autonomists, trade unionists, among many others. This is perhaps the necessary moment of tension for the construction of what the present can understand by “popular unity”. look for ways to updating this tension will perhaps be one of the greatest innovations of the Chilean experience.

*Vladimir Safari He is a professor of philosophy at USP. Author, among other books, of Ways of transforming worlds: Lacan, politics and emancipation (Authentic).

Originally published in the magazineCult.

 

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