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Date: Sat, 18 Nov 1995 20:39:20 GMT
Reply-To: Rich Winkel <rich@pencil.math.missouri.edu>
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From: Rich Winkel <rich@pencil.math.missouri.edu>
Organization: PACH
To: Multiple recipients of list ACTIV-L <ACTIV-L@MIZZOU1.missouri.edu>

/** reg.samerica: 872.0 **/
** Written 6:57 PM Nov 13, 1995 by afalsafi in cdp:reg.samerica **

The reemergence of social struggle

By Samuel Rojas
November 1995


The article below was sent to me by a former Chilean political prisoner and exile, who has since returned to his homeland.

I hope you find it as informative as I did.

Aram Falsafi
TecsChange -- Technology for Social Change

The Chilean capitalist military dictatorship --which the ruling coalition "Concertacion" prefers to call the military regime-- announced many years ago that, "Class struggle, that communist invention, exists no more." The truth of what happened in Chile is that in the process of class struggle, the owners of the means of production terrorized the salaried producing class into subjection. Its union and political organization were outlawed. Its leaders were jailed or assassinated. Its property confiscated. All laws that favored workers even if minimally were changed. People's culture was also proscribed. Chilean people were then bombarded with consumerist propaganda while at the same time the victorious upper class obtained total control of the mass media.

Protected by this environment, the individuals who are really responsible for the 17 years of military dictatorship, the businessmen and their associates built the so called Chilean economic miracle. It wasn't until the whole system was conveniently restructured to serve their means that they permitted that a civilian administration take charge of the state. The arrival of the present capitalist democracy was possible due to the combination of three important elements: 1. The calendar set in 1980 by the dictatorship itself, when it forced approval of a new Constitution for Chile. 2. A sustained anti-dictatorship people's struggle, and 3. The compromise behind close doors between the "Concertacion" and the right-wing whereas the "Concertacion" would demobilize the people in exchange for their own access to the political administration of the state.

Once in office, the "Concertacion" continued to apply the economic policy inherited from the dictatorship. Truthful to its part in the social compromise signed with the right-wing, the "Concertacion" has made all that is in their power to neutralize social struggle. In 1989 they promised people that with democracy happiness would arrive. But, happiness for the poor and the workers have been more than elusive. Those who in the past raised their accusatory finger against the dictatorship and its economic policies, today are ardent defenders of the efficiency of private business. This treason to the Chilean people has so many perfectly identifiable actors that we could and should write many chapters about them.

Yet, from need, social consciousness emerges. There are no speeches nor writings that can force social consciousness. Social activists can only contribute to the organization of consciousness but we cannot generate it. The following social struggle events in Chile must be taken into consideration because they show us important lessons that will shape the future political confrontation in the country.


The bus drivers strike of June of this year was an important precedent in social struggle, in spite of the efforts made by mass media to lower its profile. It is also important to point to the way in which the mass media and the right-wing presented the labor conflict. According to them, the strike was "the works of the communists." The influential TV network owned by the Catholic Church even went as far as to identify with special camera effects the members of the Communist Party who were in the bus drivers union leadership.

Undoubtedly, the communist leaders played a major role in defending the interests of their union rank and file, and the workers ware fully aware of it. The anti-communist smear campaign did not prosper and the strike that was carried out with seriousness, in a responsible manner and tremendously well organized was successful throughout the country. The strike's main objective was to stop the passing of legislation that attempted against the bus drivers working conditions. And the bill was stopped.

This strike showed in practice that workers cannot wait for the politicians in Congress or the government to defend their interests. To achieve results, it is necessary to resort to the mobilization of workers themselves, stressing unity and good organization. This action, far from producing the rejection of other sectors of the population, found mostly sympathetic support. This also demonstrates that social consciousness is potentially active though still in embryo.


Once more in the history of Chile, workers consciousness emerged from Lota's coal mine pits. As it was perfectly described by an article in "Punto Final" No. 353, "There were one thousand seven hundred eighty seven miners on strike and fifty thousand people from Lota supporting them. An explosive picture indeed." This strike which begun on October 1 and ended 15 days later had many differences with the bus drivers' one.

While their union leaders negotiated the contract, the rank-and- file were mobilized in many different fronts: there were marches, seizure of government buildings and barricades on the main highway which completely paralyzed access to the city. These spectacular actions prevented the media from ignoring them, as they so often do with labor struggles. The miners even overwhelmed the limitation of dealing with the state agency, National Coal Corporation, to negotiate directly with the government. Finally, the strike ended with the acceptance of the majority of the workers demands.

The most important lesson of this labor action was the massive character of the conflict. It was extremely hopeful to observe the presence of students, women and others contributing not only the numbers for marches and rallies, but also their music, poetry and ideas.


>From another labor sector, a news item went the full length of Chile that made both right-wing reactionaries and "renewed" politicians in government tremble. The Chilean Communist Party (CP) assailed, denigrated, repressed, won the elections of the Teachers Association. Jorge Pavez, a communist, received 12,929 votes, while the socialist Carlos Vasquez who came in second secured only 3,326 votes. The list of the Communist Party as a whole obtained 32% of the vote. The "Concertacion," only 27%

This was a solid victory for the communists and reflects more than a simple rejection to the previous "Concertacion" leadership, a recognition of the role played by the communists in defense of the teachers' interests. It also shows that in Chile people are beginning to get rid of their fear to align themselves with and support the communists.


The revolutionary potential of the working class and the poor sectors of society continues to be alive in Chile. The current capitalist system designed by the military dictatorship does not quite convince the producing class. It could not be any other way since the success of the Chilean economic model depends on superexploitation of labor. A social sector that does support it though is the so-called middle class. It is no surprise then that middle-class politicians in the "Concertacion" are some of the most enthusiastic defenders of the model. The representatives of the working class in "Concertacion" are very few.

The lessons the Communist Party has taught us are significant. Putting aside policies and attitudes defined by the ideological background of the CP, the party has shown from the very beginning of the transition from a military dictatorship to a civilian administration a clearly defined policy of opposition to a regime which is only the continuity of the dictatorship. Furthermore, the CP has never resigned their socialist vision for Chile. With great courage, CP leaders and rank-and-file have confronted the anti-popular policies of the government and the military legacy they carry on. The party has taken on from the demands of justice for human rights violations performed under the dictatorship to the demands of labor for better salaries and improved working conditions.

The CP is increasingly gaining the support and sympathy of the social base. This and no other is the meaning of the results of the elections in the Teachers Association, a sector of workers left way behind in the economic priorities of Chilean liberalism.

At the bottom of the Chilean social ladder people have the perception that the only ones who can and will raise their voices to defend the rights of the poor are the communists. In contrast, the CP concentrates the deepest hatred of the Chilean right-wing. The only point of speculation here is whether the policies of the CP would change if they are they admitted in the "Concertacion" coalition.

Meanwhile, the efforts made by people critical and supposedly to the left of the CP, languish in an eternal debate about what path to follow. Within this effort there are even activists who officially belong to parties that are members of the "Concertacion". Ironically, the latter refuse to admit their own responsibility for these policies.

The last of these efforts has been denominated "Forum for Democracy", and counts with the support of important leaders of the old revolutionary left and other progressive leaders. Their intentions have always been good. But, their results have been extremely limited and have not produced in the end, a serious leftist alternative.

It is interesting to verify that many of the same leaders have walked from one organizational attempt to the next, without evaluating the reasons why these structures collapsed or learning the lessons of their demise. Some of these organization were the Committees for the Unity of the Left, the Allende Democratic Left Movement, and the Broad Front of the Left.

These efforts did not reach the popular sectors. In general, they are perceived as attempts from the top down, developed by leftist intellectuals. Likewise, we can verify that the Chilean right- wing does not loose any sleep by the existence of organizations like the Forum for Democracy. The "Concertacion" does not show much concern either by the documents and activities that the Forum carries out.


The last two documents distributed by the Forum for Democracy were called "A Manifest for Human Dignity" and "A Call for A Constituent Assembly." The manifest (which the author subscribed) is a moral accusation of the current state of affairs in Chile and encourages people not to accept it but rather confront it. However, it does not propose the organizational means to do it.

The second document which proposes the formation of a Constituent Assembly, is coherent with a conclusion reached early in the formation of the Forum, "the Constitution is the stumbling block." We can ask, "The stumbling block for what?" The document gives us the answer: for the transition to full democracy. But, What kind of democracy are we talking about? We well know there is no democracy without last name. We well know there is no Constitution that does not obey to the preservation of an specific economic system.

If what we want is a model capitalist democracy, we should say with clarity that we will be content with that. Under these circumstances we would be better off inside of the "Concertacion" than outside it. If our project is in turn the achievement of a participatory people's democracy, a workers democracy, this will correspond to a completely different economic order. Needless to say that such a democracy could have no meaning within the frame of capitalism.

We also know that historically the so-called constituent assemblies, particularly if they are not the result of a sustained process of mass struggle, are usually formed by a select group of "good men", distinguished legal experts from the bourgeoisie and petty-bourgeoisie.

What should interest people in the Forum for Democracy --whose name already imposes great limitations-- is the development of a long term proposal to radically change Chilean society. To do this we need to rescue the best of the past struggles for socialism, incorporating all the contemporary libertarian demands, and learning from the mistakes and degenerations that took place under the now collapsed societies of "real" socialism.

Reviewing the brief history of the Forum, we see that when it was formed many working groups were created. Each of these subcommittees was headed by respected leftists professionals and politicians. We can only ask, What happened to those subcommittees?

What is evident in this process is the weak influence of the revolutionary left within the Forum. Clearly, only people from the revolutionary left can play the energetic and visionary class orientation that is so needed. We cannot expect much from other progressives, who regardless of their good intentions are not ideologically linked to an anti-capitalist project.

This present writing, far from disqualifying the efforts made is an attempt to call the attention of people in the revolutionary left and other libertarian forces to the need for developing a solid project of new society. The past and present lessons the workers and the people teach us indicate that we cannot fall asleep ideologically. We must have the courage to raise political proposals in defense of the rights and interests of the people, overcome our present paralysis and advance decisively toward the future. Clearly, the current situation within the Forum for Democracy is not contributing to this objective and it needs to be reevaluated.

November 1995

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