Chile on fire: the anti-neoliberal revolt

Kazimir Severinovich Malevich, Suprematsimo (Supreme 58)


Preface to the newly published book by lemon ink

“What opened on October 18, 2019 is of such intensity that it is difficult to think that in the short or medium term it could close.” This is how the young mayor of Valparaiso, Jorge Sharp, assesses the depth of the changes that are taking place in Chile. “This explosion is strongly territorial,” he explains. A broad “popular historical judgment” arose in it, says Javiera Manzi, from Coordinadora Feminista 8M, whose “dismissing dimension is key”, adds Alondra Carrillo. For both, the Chilean social uprising of 2019 opened the way for a new “radical political imagination”.

“People are tired of representative democracy and demand participation”, sums up Luís Mesina, spokesperson for the No+AFP movement, which fights against pension fund associations, the expression of privatized pensions in Chile. “It is the Chilean neoliberal paradigm that can be shattered by citizenship”, he bets. The collective Vitrina Dystópica complements: “There is a transversal component in the struggles and discomfort […]. The triggering element of this transversality is the movement made by secondary students” to denounce the “fragile framework of indebtedness”.

Feminists, students, retirees, workers, unemployed, indigenous, outraged, impoverished, indebted… Between October 2019 and March 2020, Chilean streets were occupied by a gigantic “dance of those who are left” [dance of the excluded], as the song by Los Prisioneros in 1986 said. In the dangerous “first line”, young people with colored stones and shields, audacious, trained during a decade and a half of confrontations with the carabineros, the Chilean police. For the first time, melee “radicals” were applauded as unsung heroes of a mass rebellion against the neoliberal system.

The Chilean revolt “politicized the malaise”. Its most visible consequence was the historical possibility of burying the neoliberalism of Augusto Pinochet, Sérgio de Castro [1] and Jaime Guzman [2], abolishing the current Constitution of the country created in 1980 by the dictatorship and throwing the concept of “state subsidiarity” into the trash, refounding the country on deeply popular and truly democratic foundations.

In this book, all the voices come from the streets, bringing with them the political power of real combat. From peripheries, from plundered territories, from precarious lives, from the homeless and without retirement. They are the voices of the transgressors, of those who consciously want to escape neoliberal control and, for that, create a new solidary historicity that feeds the collective struggle. They are the creators of a “poetics of rebellion”, artificers of the struggle for power that is expressed with symbolism in the words on the walls, in the feminist performances, in the murals, in the demolition of monuments, in every inch of the territories converted to the utilitarianism of capital.

This work offers the Brazilian reader sixteen chapters of individual authorship and two of collective authorship, which point out the multiple dimensions of a great transformation. A polyphony oriented to the same historical horizon of the recomposition of the common. That's why, chile in flames it is a representative portrait of the diversity and plural intelligence of the new popular subject that was formed in the country.

For at least thirty years, the “Chilean model” has been treated by Latin American neoliberal elites as an outstanding example of development and freedom of capital. The “tiger” of the continent, a stable paradise within a chaotic region, the successful neighbor. At least since 2006, when the revolt of high school students against neoliberal education and indebtedness broke out – the so-called Revolt of the Penguins, in reference to the pantsuit used as a school uniform –, Chileans have lit a strident warning signal about the farce of the normalization of the “Pinochetism without Pinochet”. In 2019, this farce has lost any logical basis of support.

The “model” is based on the radical desocialization of work, on the disintegration of any solidary associations, on individualistic sociability, on the capitalization of social security and, above all, on generalized indebtedness as a device of social control. In Chile, social rights are unconstitutional, as the mechanisms of gratuity and the guarantees of rights by the State violate the “freedoms of the market”. The subsidiary state hinders the use of public funds for the common welfare. The working class was converted to the status of impoverished and helpless consumers.

It's not just thirty years, it's 47 (or maybe more than five hundred, as indigenous peoples teach). In the worsening of the Chilean malaise, “merit masochism” reigned, the spoliation of territories, the normalized delinquency of the rich. Part of the package is the cynicism of individualist promises, the triumph of selfishness, popular dismay.

One must never forget that, to create the “Chilean model”, the Pinochet dictatorship killed at least 3.216 people, tortured 38.254, stole more than seven million hectares from peasants and indigenous people, fired 230 workers and exiled 1991 compatriots. This is what the Truth Commissions reports of 2001, 2004, 2011 and XNUMX say.

Between October 2019 and January 2020, to protect the “model”, the government of President Sebastián Piñera arrested 22 people, injured 282 (including 460 children), tortured 183 citizens (or more, as this number refers to those who had the courage to denounce it), caused ocular trauma in 27 Chileans, sexually assaulted XNUMX victims and killed XNUMX lives. All this in four months, within a “protected democracy”, shielded against popular experiments of the Allendist type.[3]

Much more than narrating political perspectives and sharing radical imaginations, the voices of the streets that speak in this book show that Chile can be the frontier of an epistemological revolution of anti-capitalist paradigms in Latin America. There, the left plays a leading role, exchanging the centralism and statism of the XNUMXth century for diversity, for the economies of care and for the recreation of the community; who dispense with horizontal forms for hierarchical ones; who bet on the plurality of anonymous voices and distrust excessively individual powers; who dispute the State as a destituent popular power, never to make pacts with the soft nuances of the system.

But dismissal is not enough. The Chilean revolt was also constituent. I'm not just talking about the new Constitution, which will be conceived by the anti-neoliberal majority of the Constituent Convention — whose presidency will be occupied by Elisa Loncón, a Mapuche woman. I am also talking about the “constitution” of new meanings of everyday solidarity in peripheral neighborhoods impacted by the coronavirus crisis, hunger and unemployment; the “constitution” of new social and historical ties between the defeated of many generations; of the “constitution” of perspectives, practices, values ​​and affections of the humanity that one wants to be, collectively constructed from now on. There is an epistemological turn of the lefts in Chile, driven by alternative feminisms (ecological, indigenous, plural, caring and combative). Feminisms and indigenous perspectives play a pedagogical role in reinventing the infrastructures of community well-being.

The destituent power of the streets points to a dialectic of revolutionary struggles, in which destroying the current power of neoliberalism in its cradle demands simultaneously forging new solidary meanings for popular life and recreating the anti-capitalist strategy in the heat of the struggle: to dismiss and constitute, as part of of the same political gestures.

The Chilean model is turning inside out. Now it is we, the precarious people of Brazil and Latin America, who can learn from Chile. Chile on fire: the anti-neoliberal revolt it is a small step towards this long apprenticeship.

* Joana Salem Vasconcelos she holds a PhD in history from USP. Author of Agrarian history of the Cuban revolution: dilemmas of socialism in the periphery (Avenue).


Lemon ink. Chile on fire: the anti-neoliberal revolt. Translation: Igor Peres. São Paulo. Elephant Publisher, 2021, 384 pages.

Originally published on the website Other words []


[1] Minister of Finance of Chile between 1976 and 1982.

[2] Senator, founder of the conservative party Unión Demócrata Independiente, legal collaborator of Augusto Pinochet and one of the main architects of the 1980 Constitution.

[3] Reference to Salvador Allende, president of Chile between 1970 and 1973, when he committed suicide inside La Moneda Palace as a victim of the coup d'état led by Augusto Pinochet.


See this link for all articles


  • About artificial ignoranceEugenio Bucci 15/06/2024 By EUGÊNIO BUCCI: Today, ignorance is not an uninhabited house, devoid of ideas, but a building full of disjointed nonsense, a goo of heavy density that occupies every space
  • Franz Kafka, libertarian spiritFranz Kafka, libertarian spirit 13/06/2024 By MICHAEL LÖWY: Notes on the occasion of the centenary of the death of the Czech writer
  • The society of dead historyclassroom similar to the one in usp history 16/06/2024 By ANTONIO SIMPLICIO DE ALMEIDA NETO: The subject of history was inserted into a generic area called Applied Human and Social Sciences and, finally, disappeared into the curricular drain
  • Impasses and solutions for the political momentjose dirceu 12/06/2024 By JOSÉ DIRCEU: The development program must be the basis of a political commitment from the democratic front
  • Strengthen PROIFESclassroom 54mf 15/06/2024 By GIL VICENTE REIS DE FIGUEIREDO: The attempt to cancel PROIFES and, at the same time, turn a blind eye to the errors of ANDES management is a disservice to the construction of a new representation scenario
  • Introduction to “Capital” by Karl Marxred triangular culture 02/06/2024 By ELEUTÉRIO FS PRADO: Commentary on the book by Michael Heinrich
  • Hélio Pellegrino, 100 years oldHelio Pellegrino 14/06/2024 By FERNANDA CANAVÊZ & FERNANDA PACHECO-FERREIRA: In the vast elaboration of the psychoanalyst and writer, there is still an aspect little explored: the class struggle in psychoanalysis
  • Volodymyr Zelensky's trapstar wars 15/06/2024 By HUGO DIONÍSIO: Whether Zelensky gets his glass full – the US entry into the war – or his glass half full – Europe’s entry into the war – either solution is devastating for our lives
  • The strike at federal Universities and Institutescorridor glazing 01/06/2024 By ROBERTO LEHER: The government disconnects from its effective social base by removing those who fought against Jair Bolsonaro from the political table
  • PEC-65: independence or patrimonialism in the Central Bank?Campos Neto Trojan Horse 17/06/2024 By PEDRO PAULO ZAHLUTH BASTOS: What Roberto Campos Neto proposes is the constitutional amendment of free lunch for the future elite of the Central Bank