The multiple Gabriel Boric

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By MÁRIO MAESTRI*

Commentary on the article by Carlos Ominami.

In memory of Alfonso Chanfreau and Mario Caballero

Tarso Genro translated the article “The Triumph of Gabriel Boric” authored by former Chilean senator Carlos Ominami, published on the website the earth is round, on December 23, 2021. I confess that I was scared when I read the “eye” of the article: “Boric embodies the proposal of the most profound structural transformations of the last 30 years in Chile.” Even more. Ominami compares the neo-president's program to that of UP! To give you an idea, the reformist agenda of 1970 is almost frightening, due to its advanced and radical character. In addition to copper, among other little things, the UP nationalized the banking system! All of it.

Could it be that the Terrestrial Globe had gone off the rails? Boric would be promising to finally burst the mouth of the balloon! Or the columnist would be delusional. But I soon calmed down. They were just rhetorical statements. Ominami presents Boric as an expression of “governance” — what a terrible word — and describes the programmatic axes of the new government as watered down objectives in the traditional style of changing something to leave everything as it was before. A successful politician.

From the same generation and from Rio Grande do Sul, I've known Tarso Genro for a long time, without ever having been close, personally or politically. I have known him since the days when he was leader of the Communist Revolutionary Party (1980-1989), with a Marxist-Leninist (Maoist) bias. In the context of the implosion of that party, in which José Genuíno also militated, Tarso Genro joined the PT, becoming one of the most prestigious and active leaders of the conservative PT movement in Rio Grande do Sul and, soon, in Brazil. He was mayor, governor, minister.

 

Ominami, the “Chino”

Due to these bad luck, I met Carlos Ominami even longer ago. And we were friends and comrades in militancy, very close. In the years 1971-73, he studied Economics and I studied History at the Pedagogical University of Chile, one of the most combative university centers in Chile. I was active, for a few months, with “Chino” — in reality, he was of Japanese descent —, in the same cell of “residents” of the Revolutionary Left Movement — MIR. And previously, we were in opposition to the policy of our organization's leadership, which we thought was incapable of expressing the enormous radicalization of Chilean workers. Assessment turned out to be correct.

After the September 11, 1973 coup, he took refuge in the Belgian Embassy and ended up in France, where he completed his university studies in Economics. I escaped through the Mexican embassy and ended up in Belgium, where I majored and post-graduated in History. In Belgium, with several comrades, among them the Chilean historian Jorge Magasich, the nurse Maria Isabel Aguirre, the psychologist Dário Paez and the sociologist Ramon Letelier, we remain linked to the Chilean resistance, seeking to support the very difficult political and organic recomposition of workers in Chile. Jorge Magasich has just published the first two volumes of a monumental history of Popular Unity, which we hope will be translated into Portuguese. Especially now, it is fundamental that the Chilean reality is better known in Brazil.

 

Down hill

In the following years, we followed the very strong movement of fellow Miristas “laying down their weapons”. Ominami, with some other former comrades of ours, converged in the Socialist Party, adapting to the new times of collaboration with big capital. With them were our dear comrade Ramon Letelier, a prestigious socialist leader and administrator in Talca, for many years, during the governments of concertation. I remember Carlos Ominami as a singularly intelligent militant, charismatic, friendly, he would even say affectionate with his companions. A gentleman. He quickly prospered in the socialist ranks, achieving singular political and social success, becoming a senator and minister of state. But let's leave the particular for later and move on now to the general.

Shortening the story. With the Pinochet dictatorship making water, politically and economically, everything had to change in Chile so that the fundamentals remained the same. With the due relativizations, something that happens today with Bolsonarism. And it's not me who says that, but Gabriel Salazar, my brilliant history teacher at Pedagogical and militancy comrade in the MIR, from “Chino” and mine. Gabriel Salazar, now 85 years old, is recognized as perhaps one of the most outstanding historians of the 20th and 21st centuries, having received, in 2006, the National Prize for Historia de Chile.

 

Changing the admin

“In Chile,” Salazar proposes—, national days of protest began in 1983, one after the other until 1987. What did this mean for international financial capital and risk rating agencies? That Chile was not a safe country, that it had no governance. Pinochet was very much a dictator, but he had not been able to discipline his society, his population, and there was no security to invest. The Coup would be absurd and useless if there was no development. It implied that Pinochet had to leave, and if he left, he would take full blame for the crimes and clean up the neoliberal model.” (La Tercera, April 20, 2016).

In 1990, Patricio Aylwin (1918-2016) headed the “wide front” that governed from that year until 2010. The candidate could not be more toxic, but the important thing was, they said, to get rid of the fascist Ogre — any resemblance is mere coincidence! They were part of the so-called Concertación, in addition to other smaller parties, the powerful Christian Democracy, which, under the leadership of the same Patricio Aylwin, had supported the 1973 coup, and the Socialist Party. (Don't complain, comrades, it could be Alkmin-Lula!) Patricio Aylwin was followed in the presidency by Eduardo Frei Ruiz-Tagle (DC), Ricardo Lagos (PS), Michelle Bachelet (PS). The duration of the presidential term varied between six and four years.

 

Consolidation of neoliberalism

The twenty years of consecutive governments of the concertation promoted the consolidation of neoliberalism in Chile. They did not recover what was confiscated by the dictatorship, they did not grant anything substantial and took a lot from the population and workers. with changes apps in the political, neoliberal socioeconomic destruction continued. Gabriel Salazar proposes: “So, they (imperialism, capital) had to look for politicians willing to administer the neoliberal model without changing it too much. There it is clear: the Christian Democratic Party, the Socialist Party, the Radical Party … all those who had been center-left now accepted to administer the neoliberal model.” And he concludes, without mercy:concertation was the guarantor of neoliberalism in Chile”, “whether you like it or not”.

Well, what does my former dear comrade and friend Carlos Ominami have to do with this story? Much, much more. He was none other than Minister of the Economy, Fomento y Reconstrucción, from 1990-92, under 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. He served in prominent and prestigious positions without flinching, the enemies he had sworn to fight in his youth. Among other little things, he actively implemented the privatization of new Chilean copper mines. And, like a good bourgeois politician, he sought electoral funding where he shouldn't have. But this is another story. (El Dínamo. July 24, 2018.)

 

It wasn't just in Brazil

We can say that the governments of concertation prepared the ground for the return of the right, with the victory of Sabastian Piñera, in 2010, who won the presidency twice, in 2018, after the new government of Michelle Bachelet, another slap in the face. Many Brazilians, even on the left, are unaware that the current catastrophic situation in Chile was born out of the long Pinochet period, from 1973 to 1990, which lasted for seventeen years. A reality continued, essentially, by the governments of concertation, who ruled for three more than the dictatorship! To each his own responsibility. Just for comparison, the concertation ruled six years longer than PT. Apart from Bachelet's last government (2014-2018).

In Chile, the defeat of the right in the recent elections was the result of a titanic effort by the Chilean population and workers, who surprised the world with their creativity, courage, determination and perseverance. They paved the way for the victory of 2021 in very tough battles in the streets, across the country, with an emphasis on Santiago. The repression was very harsh, with dozens of demonstrators killed and hundreds seriously injured. Currently, a few thousand political prisoners are in prison, awaiting amnesty. These mobilizations were even stronger than those of 1990, 1994, 1998, 2002, 2006, 2014, which resulted in victories confiscated by the opposition and collaborationist governments, now heavily discredited. Boric stood out during the student mobilizations and kept his distance from the old parties of the concertation.

The Chilean population and workers are like Phoenix birds, which, even when devastated, rise from the ashes, powerful, in search of their destiny. Today, once again, they find themselves facing the impasse of 1970-73 and after the multiple confiscated electoral victories. On the “triumph of Boric”, they must necessarily build the triumph of the popular will, creating autonomous and classist leaderships that point to a structural break with the capitalist order. Rupture that they were "two fingers away" from accomplishing, in mid-1973. Under penalty of sinking again. And I'm not the one who says that. It's the story.

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

 

References


SALAZAR, Gabriel: “The legacy of Patricio Aylwin to Chile is the neoliberal model”. Natalia Olivares, 20 APR 2016, La Tercera. https://www.latercera.com/pulso/gabriel-salazar-el-legado-de-patricio-aylwin-a-chile-es-el-modelo-neoliberal/

OMINAMI, Carlos: “It was a big mistake to receive money from SQM”. El Dinamo. July 24, 2018. https://www.eldinamo.cl/nacional/2018/07/24/carlos-ominami-fue-un-gran-error-recibir-dinero-de-sqm/

MAGASICH, Jorge. History of Popular Unity – I: Times of Preparation: From Los Orígenes on September 3, 1970. Santiago de Chile: LON., 2020. https://lom.cl/products/historia-de-la-unidad-popular-volumen-i-tiempos-de-preparacion-de-los-origenes-al-3-de-septiembre-de-1970

MAGASICH, Jorge. History of the Popular Unity – II. : From Elección to Asunción: Los Álgidos 60 Días del 4 de Septiembre al 3 de Noviembre de 1970. Santiago de Chile: LON., 2020. https://lom.cl/products/historia-de-la-unidad-popular-volumen-i-tiempos-de-preparacion-de-los-origenes-al-3-de-septiembre-de-1970

 

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