The liberal idealism of the Chilean left

Image: Coke Águila


The great defect that marks the Gabriel Boric government and major sectors of the Chilean left is the surrender to electoralism and liberal democracy

Gabriel Boric faces several problems that are beyond his control, such as the resistance and blockade of the Chilean Parliament to his initiatives, whose main expression was the rejection of the tax reform that would allow him to provide a more comfortable fiscal basis for his proposals for health and social security reform. In this rejection, the Ecologist Party broke with the government, the day before the vote, which suppressed three votes, due to a minor episode: the heated discussion between the Minister of Education, Marco Antônio Avila, and the deputy Viviana Delgado on the reopening of a school in Maipú, used as a pretext for not voting on the progressive State policy intended to be implemented in favor of the vast majority of the population.

Such an event shows that if emancipatory agendas, such as feminist ones, must advance, they are also the object of dispute, colonization and usurpation by the right to preserve their anti-popular privileges and power structures.

However, Gabriel Boric has no reason to surrender to neoliberal fiscalism and condition his reforms to fiscal balance: the unemployment rate is very high in Chile, around 8%, and the public debt is very low, around 40% of GDP. The expansion of public spending on health, social security and education must precede tax reform. This would mobilize popular support and ensure its approval in Parliament with pressure from the organized masses and public opinion, which proved to be effective for the convening of the Constituent Assembly in 2021.

However, the great defect that marks the Gabriel Boric government and major sectors of the Chilean left is the surrender to electoralism and liberal democracy. Having achieved an overwhelming majority in an electoral system without compulsory voting, they risked this favorable position by dedicating themselves to the imposition of compulsory voting, which greatly increased electoral participation and included in the political system the disorganized and depoliticized masses over whom the left had no hegemony. .

In the 2020 National Plebiscite on the holding of a Constituent Assembly, the “Yes” vote reached 5,9 million voters, 78% of those who exercised their right to vote, overwhelmingly defeating the Pinochet positions. In the elections for the 2021 Constitutional Convention, the right obtained less than 1/3 of the votes, but the scenario changed drastically after the plebiscite to ratify it, when heavy fines were introduced to punish abstention, reducing it significantly.

The contingent of participants increased from 7,5 million voters in 2020, 6,1 million in the elections for the 2021 Constitutional Convention and 8,3 million in the second round of the 2022 presidential election; to 13 million voters in the plebiscite on the approval of the new Constitution in 2022 and 12,8 million in the 2023 Constitutional Council elections. in 50,9 and 2020% in the 41,3 presidential elections; to 2021% in the 55,6 plebiscite and 2022% in the 85,9 Constitutional Council elections.

Instead of guaranteeing the expansion of public policies on the disorganized popular masses that disbelieved in the electoral system, vulnerable to the ideological offensive of the right, to later change it, the Chilean lefts preferred the opposite path: to prioritize the canons of an abstract liberal idealism to the political realism, wasting the historic opportunity to carry out major transformations in the Chilean State, which would have a strong impact on Latin America.

The poorest and most disorganized communities such as Huara, Cunco, Carahue, Fresia and Quilleco – accentuated their rejection of the approval of the 2022 Constitution proposal, joining the richest – such as Los Condes and Vitacura – to occupy the rearguard position of the constituted bloc by the extreme right and the right in an expanded political system. In the ten poorest communes, rejection in 2022 reached 77%, well above the national average of 61%.

Neutralizing the turn of history since 2022 in favor of the right will not be an easy task for the new Chilean left, which is showing itself to be immature, inexperienced and a prisoner of liberal traditions reinforced by the long hegemony of neoliberalism in the Chilean state. A left without strategic and tactical capacity and without political realism will be easy prey for the articulations of imperialism and the dependent bourgeoisie that accumulate immense economic strength, great capacity to corrupt and a long history of exercising power.

*Carlos Eduardo Martins is a professor at the Institute of International Relations and Defense (IRID) at UFRJ. Author, among other books, of Globalization, dependence and neoliberalism in Latin America (Boitempo).

Originally published on Boitempo's blog.

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