Article by Vera Polycarpou, Head of the International Relations and European Affairs Bureau of AKEL and member of the Central Committee of AKEL
Sunday 3rd November 2019, “Haravgi” newspaper
“Workers of my country, I have faith in Chile and its destiny. Other men will overcome this dark and bitter moment when treason seeks to prevail. Go forward knowing that, sooner rather than later, the great avenues will open again where free men will walk to build a better society." - Salvador Allende, 11th September 1973.
That’showthe message to the Chilean people transmitted by the socialist President of the “Popular Unity” coalition government ended before he fellin the presidential palacethat was being bombed by the US-instigated putchists.
A brutal bloody military dictatorship followed. In 1988, Pinochet the dictator loses the referendum and in 1990 executive power passes to an elected president. But the Constitution has since 1980 remained, albeit with some amendments the one that was imposed by Pinochet. In addition, the neoliberal model remains enshrined in the constitution.
We know from our own bitter and harsh experiencenow what neoliberalism means. It means less staterole and intervention, the selling off of public wealth and property, the privatization of education and health, as well as of every public sector source. In Chile, even water has been privatised. The gap between the many who live on very little and the very few who live in luxury has widened so much that the model has been shaken to its roots in the very country where the first attempt to apply it was made.
“It’s Not About the 30 Pesos (increase in subway fares) - It’s About 30 Years”shouted the more than 2 million demonstrators across the whole country who participated in the mass general strike. The demonstratorscould no longer tolerate the exploitation and marginalization. The price increases and mobilizations of the students were simply the spark. The cauldron was already ready to explode. And the song of the "Prisioneros" rock band, of the “prisoners”, entitled "The dance of those leftover", has been transformed 33 years after its release, into the anthem of the protesters, precisely because there are so many people "left over" that have been drivento the margins of society, as if basic things haven't changed since then.
This was not the first time school pupils and students took to the streets. For years now they have been demandingthrough the organisation of mass mobilisations the establishment of free quality education instead of one of the most expensive education systems throughout the world. The young generationdidn’t live through the dictatorship and are not afraid to take to the streets. It was the awakening for Chilean society.
Accompanying these demands were also those demandingan increase in themeagre pensions, a dropin the price of electricity and a reduction in the 45-hour week. It was also the mobilizations, but also the violent repression of the indigenous Mapuche people’s struggles against the theft of their land by the monopolies. The army operating as a businessman and the control it continues to exercise, the corruption scandals at all levels of government, but also the scandals that have shaken the Catholic Church angered society.
That is precisely why the mass general strike and mobilizations did not break out spontaneously out of nowhere. They were founded on all the mobilizations organised by small and big movements that were coming together converging on the demand for the right to a dignified life. Seventy movements, organizations and political parties came together and rallied their forces under the coordination of the CUT –the Workers' United Trade Union Centre of Chile - which is headed by Barbara Figueroa, a militant of the Communist Party of Chile.
This “Social Unity” Platform has projected and put forth its specific demands both through theorganisation of mass strikes and mobilizations, as well as through parliament, knowing that as many forces as possible had to come together in order for the mobilizations to yield results. It is a movement, in my opinion, that has reached a political maturity, given that it has taken a clearstand supporting the demand for the convening of a Constitutional Convention with the goal of drawing up a new Constitution, for a new Chile. For a Constitution that will liberate the country from all the remnants of the dictatorship and pave the way for the free peopleto march towards a better society.
Piniera, his government and the armed forces, imposed a state of emergency in the country, banned the movement of people, and once again showed the barbaric face of the dictatorship with the torture, murders and rapes that have been committed.
However, this people remains on the streets singing the songs of Victor Jara, listening to symphonic music in the squares, making street theatre and reciting the poems of Pablo Neruda, declaring that it will not tolerate military rule, repression and injustice again.
It declares that it is not "at war" as Piniera had stated, but demands "the right to live in peace". We declare our solidarity with their just struggle.