Chile: A New Allende?

Adam Smith, the ISL/RCIT in Israel/Occupied Palestine, 19.01.2022

Boric, a left wing candidate has been elected to the presidency of Chile. He is more reformist than his rhetoric suggests.

According to Al Jazeera:

“A native of Punta Arenas, in Chile’s far south, Boric as a student led the Federation of Students at the University of Chile in Santiago. He rose to prominence leading protests in 2011 demanding improved and cheaper education.

By 2014, still in his 20s, he had joined the national Congress as a lower-house legislator, representing Chile’s vast and sparsely populated southernmost region of Magallanes.

Analysts say Boric’s victory is likely to be tempered by a divided Congress.

Boris Van Der Spek, editor-in-chief of Chile Today, said he expected to see a standoff between the right and the left in Chile.

“The fact that Kast has lost does not mean he’s completely gone from the political stage. The fact is his right wing party has gained a tremendous presence in the parliamentary elections, his front has 50 seats in the parliament. And also in the Senate, they are a force to reckon with. And while Kast lost the election, turnout was so high that he became the sixth-most voted for candidate in Chile,” Van Der Spek told Al Jazeera.

“Boric will have to seek dialogue with the right wing opposition as of March to be able to complete his political programme, and it is unlikely that he will be able to fulfill his entire programme. It is too ambitious and his leftist programme will be a moderate one in the end.” [1]

“But since narrowly losing the presidential first round to José Antonio Kast, a far-right supporter of General Pinochet, he has moderated his programme markedly, appealing to the centrist voters who have now propelled him into La Moneda.” [2]

Besides the local right wing opposition, any left wing politician has to be prepared to combat capital flights and other imperialist sanctions. Allende wasn’t prepared to and he was killed.

“The markets reacted less enthusiastically, with Chile’s peso falling and its dollar-denominated stock index slumping 10% on Monday. The peso’s 2% fall left it down nearly 20% since Chileans elected a constitutional assembly dominated by leftwing and independent representatives in May to redraft the country’s market-oriented constitution.” [3]

We believe it is appropriate to call for a new constitution and a revolutionary constituent assembly to draft it, because of the history of the Pinochet era constitution not reaching even the bourgeois democratic level, and it is another opportunity to expose the left-wing reformists, because even if the worst and most overreaching articles in the constitution will be cleaned up, it will still be a bourgeois-democratic one.

From the right-wing Times of Israel:

“We are of course willing to accept reasonable criticism about Israel, but what we hear from Boric is that Israel is a ‘genocidal’ and ‘murderous’ state,” Gabriel Zaliasnik, a prominent member of Chile’s Jewish community, told Israel’s Haaretz daily last week. “To make matters worse, he blames our Jewish community for Israel’s actions.” [4]

Yet, they had to admit that:

“Some Chilean Jews fear Boric intends to promote his supporter, Daniel Jadue, a member of Chile’s Communist Party of Palestinian descent, who has declined to explain why his high school yearbook lists him as “an antisemite” who will “clean the city of Jews.” He has called the Jewish Community of Chile the “Zionist Community of Chile,” and Chilean Jews have called him an antisemite. Jadue has denied the charge, arguing that he himself is a Semite, as he is Arab.” [5]

We also call for the expropriation of the mining firms in Chile, something Boric falls short of.

“SANTIAGO, Dec 19 (Reuters) – Chile’s mining sector congratulated leftist Gabriel Boric on Sunday after he secured victory in the country’s presidential election and called for moderation and dialogue to safeguard the industry in the world’s largest copper producing nation.

Boric comfortably beat right-wing rival José Antonio Kast, who conceded defeat on Sunday evening after a divisive election race. Both candidates were from outside the mainstream political parties, though mining firms had been more wary of Boric.

The National Mining Society (Sonami) said in a statement that voters have “sent a clear message” about the need to maintain Chile’s economic and social development.

“We trust that the spirit of programmatic convergence, moderation and openness to dialogue shown during the last week of the campaign will prevail,” it added.” [6]

In the Americas Quarterly:

“There is indeed a view in my generation,” he said in 2017, “that history began in 2011 … the Frente Amplio must be careful to keep politics in the realm of the political and not the moral.”

As a result, Boric has frequently opposed positions that the Communist Party supports (or vice versa) – from his opposition to the Venezuelan, Cuban and Nicaraguan regimes, to his support for the November 2019 cross-party agreement that set in motion Chile’s current constitutional process.

Still, as recently as July of last year, Boric made a point of visiting a group of protesters, imprisoned – unfairly according to Boric –  after the October 2019 protests. Similarly, in 2018, although he insisted that “we cannot accept murder or violence against those who think differently from us, nor out of revenge,” during a trip to Paris Boric paid a visit to one of the killers of former Senator Jaime Guzmán, assassinated in 1991.

These gestures, together with the raised fist and calling his supporters “comrades,” make it clear that Boric seeks to place himself firmly in the epistemic community of a romantic, revolutionary left.

And yet a look at Boric’s election platform shows there is little that seems all that radical. To be sure, there are all the expected nods one might find in any progressive agenda: an emphasis on feminism, a green economy, recognition of groups from the LGBT community to indigenous peoples. But there is also regulation, not nationalization; fiscal responsibility, not profligacy; a commitment to Central Bank independence. He proposes to lower the working week from 44 hours to 40, pretty much the standard throughout Western Europe. The more extravagant proposals – expanded public health care and pension systems, the reconstruction of a national rail network – may be economically unfeasible in the short term, but they hardly seem revolutionary. What they do seek to do is to change the nature of the Chilean development model, from a neoliberal one to a social democratic one. Indeed, “Boric the revolutionary” has made no bones about identifying as social democrat.”

The lessons from the days of Allende(which also suppressed the workers and peasants movements, before he was ousted from power) are clear – no faith in the reformist left. The reformist left has no answers to deal with the pressures that the forces of capital will start applying sooner or later.

For a new democratic constitution in Chile!

For a new revolutionary workers and poor peasants constituent assembly!

For the expropriation of the mining sector!

For a boycott of Israel!









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