Date: Sat, 18 Nov 1995 20:39:20 GMT
Reply-To: Rich Winkel <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Sender: Activists Mailing List <ACTIV-L@MIZZOU1.missouri.edu>
From: Rich Winkel <email@example.com>
Subject: CHILE: THE REEMERGENCE OF SOCIAL STRUGGLE
To: Multiple recipients of list ACTIV-L <ACTIV-L@MIZZOU1.missouri.edu>
/** reg.samerica: 872.0 **/
** Topic: CHILE: THE REEMERGENCE OF SOCIAL STR **
** Written 6:57 PM Nov 13, 1995 by afalsafi in cdp:reg.samerica **
The reemergence of social struggle
By Samuel Rojas
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.
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
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
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.
THE COAL MINERS' STRIKE
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
COMMUNISTS WIN THE TEACHERS ASSOCIATION LEADERSHIP
>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.
LESSONS FOR THE LEFT
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
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"
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
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.
HUMAN DIGNITY AND CONSTITUENT ASSEMBLY
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
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
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