The meaning of historical repetitions



Boric's election in Chile represents the deepening of the same Chilean path of fifty years ago

The potentiality of an event is necessarily linked to its ability to make historical dynamics resound which, even cut off, always remain in latency. Freud used to say that the voice of reason may be quiet, but it never shuts up. This goes for historical dynamics of structural transformation that were, for a period, paralyzed.

It is necessary to say this because nothing that has happened in Chile in recent years is understandable without going back to the experience of Salvador Allende's government, between 1970 and 1973. intervenes and influences the action of the living.

While the rest of the continent sought to open its progressive horizon through pacts and alliances typical of left-wing populism, believing in possible associations between sectors of the national bourgeoisies and popular demands, integrating popular layers into the political process through the paradoxical preservation of the interests of discontented oligarchies, Chile was looking for another way, something that was known at the time as “the Chilean way to socialism”. This path had three main characteristics and it broke the dichotomy that had been established, since the end of the XNUMXth century, between revolutionary dynamics and reformist pact.

First, the Chilean path was based on the clear refusal to militarize revolutionary processes. The conquest of power will take place through electoral processes and the organization that would articulate such a victory, the Popular Unit, was unaware of democratic centralism, the convergent tendency of a single party and leadership at the top. It was a front, but a front made up of leftist structures (socialists, communists, radicals, social democrats, dissident Christian democrats, MIR, MAPU) and popular movements. The XNUMXth century had seen many revolutionary processes that were degraded in militarized societies, processes that recomposed social logic based on the theme of infinite wars. The Chilean route was the most significant demand for trying another route.

Second, it was about operating progressively with clear changes in the economic order. We are talking about a government that nationalized the banking system, nationalized the main sector of the Chilean economy at the time, the copper mines, which boosted the self-management of factories through the creation of 61 “industrial cordons”. In other words, the logic at work was not the one we are familiar with in left-wing populist coalitions, which consists of “gaining time”, seeking to economically integrate poor sections of the population without changing production relations. It was a question, on the contrary, of implanting a clear Marxist economic program through a dynamic of gradual conquest.

Finally, this process was driven by an effective combat culture. For no other reason, one of the most emblematic figures of counter-revolutionary violence was the murder of singer Victor Jara, who had his hands cut off at the National Stadium while soldiers placed a guitar in front of him and said: “Now, play”.

This story, as much as it was silenced, never really passed. In each revolt that Chile has known since 2006 (and there have been many) the slogans, the images, the songs have returned. This was not simply a quote, but the clear awareness that every dynamic of transformation is a repetition.

It may seem paradoxical to associate transformation and repetition, but the paradox does not exist. For transformations to be possible, it is necessary, initially, to free the past from its exile, to free the bodies from melancholy. This means re-enacting defeats and making them victories. It has already been said that historical time is not a succession of instants. Understanding this is fundamental to understanding where this indescribable force comes from when populations decide not to leave the streets even when they are under fire and tanks. Strength comes from the incorporation of past struggles, from incarnation in a political body with a wide temporal spectrum. The strength comes from the understanding that we are, once again, re-enacting battles that have taken place and have opened up again.

This projection into the future even at the moment of defeat is not simple “messianism”. It is the last cunning of political intelligence that uses temporal projection to shake a present that is closing. The same intelligence that Allende showed when he ended his last speech, in full stroke, remembering that: “sooner than later the great boulevards will open again”.


an open process

There is a documentary about Chile called chicago boys (Carola Fuentes and Rafael Valdeavellano, 2015). In it, we see the formation of the group of economists that, for the first time, will implement neoliberalism in the world. At one point, when interviewers ask Pinochet's future economy minister, Mr. Sergio de Castro, on what he felt when he saw the Palace of La Moneda bombed by military planes until Allende's death, he says, without hiding his true emotions: “an immense joy. He knew this was what had to be done.”

This image returns when, in 2019, the same Mr. de Castro is interviewed by the newspaper La Tercera. Faced with a popular uprising against the consequences of the model he had helped to implement, the journalist asks him: “You, who are known as one of the fathers of the Chilean economic model, what do you call it?”. Answer: "I would say it was the rational application of economic theory." The response was actually very good. She reminded us that the so-called rational application of economic theory was inseparable from the violent destruction of politics and its conflict dynamics. It was inseparable from the absolute callousness to the social suffering that angry populations witnessed.

Which posed a larger political equation: “no social happiness would be possible without the destruction of this 'economic rationality'”. And destroying such rationality would not be done through adjustments, promises of integration and open doors for some representatives of massacred populations who now find a place at the table of blessings. It would be done through the structural modification of the legal order. As if it were a case of setting in motion a singular “insurrectional institutionalism”.

Something of this nature had already been tried in another country that had known a popular uprising against “economic rationality”, namely Iceland. This glacial island was the first country to go bankrupt in the 2008 crisis and the only one to understand that exiting the crisis meant putting bankers in jail and changing the constitutional order. However, his attempt to create a popular constitution turned out to be blocked. The same path would now be tried in Chile.

In that case, the process is more likely to be successful because it is a repeat. It is the deepening of the same Chilean path of fifty years ago. But instead of producing gradual changes in the institutional framework, it is a question of operating for a national refoundation. This process, with new social actors, was one of the main axes of Gabriel Boric's electoral victory.

Of course, risks exist. The capacity for social transformation of the Frente Ampla is not clear. These years will be extremely hard. For, as in the early 1970s, if the Chilean experience is successful, it will have opened a path that will set the world's political imagination in motion. However, it is the first experience, in the XNUMXst century, of a popular insurrection that conquers power with a surprising electoral vote (the largest vote in Chilean history), which conquers it in the midst of a process of national refoundation. It also has the strength of historical repetitions in its favour. A configuration of forces like this is something we've never seen before.

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

Originally published on the website of cult magazine .


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