Chile Awakened: From Social Outburst to Popular Rebellion popular revolt provoked by the rise in public transport fares is not a new event in our history: the “Chaucha Revolt” in August 1949 and the “Battle of Santiago”, April 2, 1957[1] are two of the most remembered similar milestones. On both occasions, the revolts lasted two days, in which buses were burned and different buildings in the cities, especially Santiago, were destroyed and burned.

The mobilizations that began on October 18, 2019, however, have a different component. Although they emerged as a revolt against the rise of public transport, they quickly acquired the characteristics of a national rebellion – the regions playing a fundamental role – that challenged the sealed transitional pact between the Concertación and the coup right, at the end of the military dictatorship. However, the political leadership of this outburst is still lacking so that it can be considered as a rebellion itself that effectively achieves regime change.

The slogan: IT IS NOT 30 PESOS, IT IS 30 YEARS! reveals the weariness of a people in the face of a pact established by blood and fire, and administered for the benefit of the ruling class in the years that followed. In this way, a new political period is opened in the country in which a crisis of hegemony is configured, which is expressed in an open manner at this juncture. The capacity to keep this juncture open is in sight and depends on the capacity of the people and the revolutionary organizations to deploy, but the new political period has no turning back.

The transitional pact meant the constitution of a dominant bloc made up of the Armed Forces, the business class and the political parties of the Concertación and the right wing, who have been governing to date, deepening the neoliberal policies that were imposed 46 years ago, after the overthrow of the Popular Government. The businessmen, represented by the Concertación and the Right, at the mercy of their interests, have privatized every corner of the lives of Chilean men and women to the point of their most complete misery. Each one of those corners, today, is the driving force of an unprecedented mobilization in post-dictatorship Chilean democracy.

The privatization of basic services such as electricity and water; the accelerated decrease in the State’s production capacity (Codelco has stopped producing 60% in the last 30 years); the transfer of public funds to private hands in housing, education, health, pensions and work; the privatization of our natural resources, to the detriment of the working class; and the increase in the levels of exploitation derived from the growing indebtedness in order to continue living, have generated intolerable levels of precarization in our class.

In this scenario, the present conflict calls for decisive action by the revolutionary organization. The growing levels of consciousness of which the people have given sufficient proof with their mobilization and organization in the streets, putting in check the Government and the protection of private property, must be led towards a solution to the conflict that allows the accumulation of social force and perspective a new cycle of social and popular struggle, characterized by the constituent spirit, passing from a mere dismissal phase. Moving from revolt to popular rebellion will require the construction of a political subject that will lead to the current mobilization.

The dominant block: two bets.

In the Government and in the dominant bloc, which includes the Armed Forces and the business class, there are two bets at the moment, which shows the crisis situation in which they find themselves. The first of them is headed by the most reactionary and pinochetist sectors, where José Antonio Kast, a large part of the UDI and the National Renewal sectors are located. This sector pressured Piñera to declare a state of emergency on the first day of the revolt and they state that all of this will be resolved through the repression and criminalization of the “violentistas” who protest: “if the military were taken out into the street, they must be used. This position was the one that triumphed during the first 5 days, in which all the government’s discourse focused on denouncing the looting, provoking fear, installing a de facto state of siege, and having as a corollary Sebastián Piñera’s statement on Sunday night, October 20: “We are at war. Despite the expression, Piñera continues to be considered a coward by this sector. This sector bets on deepening the situation of instability in the country, proposing as a way out a neo-fascist government in the style of Bolsonaro in Brazil, for which they want to position the figure of a “savior” in the face of chaos. This expression seems to find support in sectors of the Armed Forces, mainly the Navy, who have a much more reactionary culture than the Army and that has been seen in the form of repression deployed in the regions of Valparaíso and Biobío, where two of their own have been appointed National Defense Chiefs of the corresponding positions. It could even lead to a coup d’état if they were overwhelmed by popular mobilization.

The second sector is made up of those who understand that the crisis can only be solved by “giving in” and establishing a series of reforms that allow the neoliberal model to be maintained, even when that means greater indebtedness on the part of the State. In discursive terms, this sector will promote “reforms”, even if they are mere vindicative measures centered mainly in the transfer of resources from the State to millions of Chileans, with the objective of diminishing the price of life. In the government this sector is represented by Sebastián Piñera himself, a large part of Renovación Nacional, Evópoli and we can also include the Christian Democrats as part of this bloc. None of the measures that promote will question the model and will be of a redistributive nature, as evidenced in Sebastián Piñera’s speech on Tuesday night, October 22: increase in the minimum wage subsidized with state funds, universal nursery, drug insurance and an increase of $20,000 in the basic solidarity pension. This is nothing more than his government program, trying to complete it with a verbiage that makes it compatible with popular demands.

Supporting this line are also business sectors, such as Andrónico Luksic, who is promoting a minimum wage increase of up to $500,000, which will be implemented in their companies.

In short, the right wing has two political stakes: the one that fosters chaos for a neo-fascist solution and the “reformist” who is willing to take low-intensity distributive measures in order to maintain the transitional pact. It is worth mentioning that both have an authoritarian line, where they support the state of emergency and the military in the street and seek to promote the bosses offensive that has been frustrated in these first two years of government.

The institutional opposition

The central nucleus of the Concertación (PS-DC-PPD-PR) maintains a position similar to the reformist sector on the right. Non-substantive, distributive reforms of resources to contain the rise in life: an increase in the minimum wage and the basic solidarity pension, and the elimination of some taxes, among others that will imply more social spending. Other measures are of a symbolic nature, such as reductions in parliamentary allowances. These sectors are willing to negotiate with the government even though a state of emergency has been decreed.

In this same line, there are sectors of the Frente Amplio such as Comunes, Revolución Democrática and sectors of Convergencia Social, who are willing to negotiate with the government – even when the state of exception is maintained – in order to obtain some measures such as the increase in the minimum wage, a reduction in the parliamentary diet and No+AFP. In these two sectors the Constituent Assembly can be promoted, however, they will be unable to carry out actions that allow it. They became accustomed to reacting politically according to the criteria established in the transitional policy.

On the other hand, there is the line of the Communist Party and the “more left” sectors of Social Convergence (nucleus of former ND and IL), who refuse to converse with the Government while the constitutional state of exception is maintained, but want to assume the interlocution from the institutionality playing a role of “representation” of the movement, which is dangerous for the social explosion.

The rebellious left, the working class and social organizations

The possibilities of a pre-revolutionary process would have been possible if there had been a constituted and organized people. Our slogan about building the feet of the people demonstrated the need for that in order to have a deeper process in revolutionary terms. However, one does not choose the conditions under which one has to develop tactics and strategy, so in spite of that, one has to play the best cards.

Before the social outburst occurred, several organizations conducted AGP campaigns making visible the criminalization of students by the government for mass evasion, while celebrating tax evasion by themselves and their business friends, as well as legitimizing mass evasion as a mechanism of struggle. In view of the situation, on Friday morning, October 21, CONFECH called for a day of national protest for the increase in the number of passengers and the nationalization of national public transportation, without waiting for the elections that would take place on Friday, October 18. However, this early summons allowed us to quickly articulate with union organizations, especially with the port workers, who were the only ones who paralyzed October 21.

On the same Saturday, different organizations called for the General Strike and the National Protest from Monday, October 21, especially the Port Union. In the regions, on Saturday we also mobilized and convened ourselves in the main cities of the country, generating mobilizations that put forward their own demands and carried out large mobilizations that caused the Government to decree a state of emergency in the regions of Biobío and Valparaíso, to then extend to a large part of the regions and regional capital cities of the country.

This call did not have a major impact on the trade union organizations, so on Monday there was not a great level of adherence to the strike, however, due to the fear generated by the problems related to transportation, a de facto strike took place, since most of the workers did not come to work. The most important thing of the day were the rallies at different points that ended in a rally with tens of thousands of people in Plaza Italia, generating an important day of protest to project the mobilization and strike of the port workers, which paralyzed 20 ports.

That same afternoon, the Social Unity space led by the CUT, No+AFP and Confusam, called for a General Strike on October 23 and 24. The call for a General Strike is important, since the nomenclature used on previous occasions on the National Strike never resulted in an effective paralysis. This General Strike was able to add key strategic unions of Mining and Metro. It also resulted in a massive march that took the Alameda gathering hundreds of thousands of people and keeping the Alameda cut off for hours.

This caused the government to call on the port workers, miners, the ANEF and the CUT to dialogue, however, these sectors already made it clear that they will not dialogue as long as the state of exception is maintained.

The first task was accomplished: the political moment changed and the social outburst began to acquire political content and leadership, in the hands of sectors in which we cannot trust, but which appear as the only ones that have the necessary leadership.

What to do in the current scenario?

The social explosion is still going on, but there are tasks to be done. There are three scenarios that we visualize as political solutions to the crisis.

The first way out comes from the authoritarian sectors of the government, which extinguish the rebellion with blood and fire as they are doing it, making the mobilization go backwards. This could lead to a strengthening of the figure of José Antonio Kast so that he can triumph in the next elections, or else, less probable, but having to be considered, he could end up in a coup d’état headed by the Armed Forces and the Pinochet right wing.

A second way out could be a new pact between the business class and the institutionalized political parties – including the FA and the PC – under which they would push through a series of redistributive reforms in Congress that would demobilize. This will slow down the popular movement, postponing the outbreak, because it is impossible to improve the quality of life of millions of people by maintaining the neoliberal capitalist system. This solution can also be “clothed” with a dialogue with trade union, territorial, student and social organizations in general, which is why it is important to distrust the bureaucratic leaderships as we have been doing. If we dialogue with them, it is to prevent this from happening.

The third probable solution, which we are betting on, is a solution that benefits the people and creates the conditions to promote a change of regime and period in the short term. In order to do this, we will play to keep the mobilization open, to generate spaces of encounter and popular deliberation that bet for a Constituent Popular Assembly, in which the people’s specifications and the platform of struggle will be constructed in order to later achieve a Constituent National Assembly that allows to channel this new political moment. To this end, it is important that the constituted social organizations can be a dynamizer in this process and can lead it, while generating spaces of representation throughout the territory. In that framework, where the correlation of forces at the leadership level, that is, of our political force against the rest, and at the level of correlation of force at the mass level, indicates to us that our bet for these moments is in the accumulation of force through the People’s Assemblies, which allow us to increase the levels of organization of the people and the growth of the revolutionary political forces.

Consequently, we propose the following as a “task” by virtue of the analysis we carry out:

The first element that we highlight is that the Popular Rebellion overflowed the concrete demand by which it began, posing a critique of the neoliberal capitalist system perpetuated in the last 30 years by the transitional pact. For this reason, it is important to channel the demands of the people through a People’s Statement that is elaborated from a Constituent Popular Assembly, that allows to put an end to the Transitional Pact propitiating a change of regime and political period, deriving in a Constituent National Assembly. To this end, it is essential that Sebastián Piñera and his entire Government resign.

The Popular Rebellion must be able to generate “concrete gains” for the people, demonstrating that the only way to transform society is through direct struggle against the Government and its measures. Among these gains is a petition to solve some immediate problems of the working class. Among these points the organization will promote the following:

(I) minimum wage and 40-hour working day;

(II) nationalization of public transport and free of charge for students and senior citizens;

(III) cancellation of educational debts;

(IV) nationalization of energy and immediate freezing of electricity tariffs;

(V) an end to the AFPs and a new, tripartite and solidarity-based pay-as-you-go system, with minimum pensions equivalent to the minimum wage;

(VI) free public health care, with a drop in the price of medicines and a national system of care;

(VII) repeal of the Water Code, nationalization of sanitation companies to reduce the collection of drinking water;

(VIII) Withdrawal of the tax reform and an end to VAT on family basket services.

(IX) Legal, safe and free abortion.

In order to do this, we must promote mobilization, because it is the only thing that guarantees us to keep the conflict open and to obtain concrete gains. In order to do so, we must agitate the mobilization; deploy ourselves in actions with all forms of struggle through pots and pans, barricades and protest actions in general. We must maintain the situation of ungovernability and be able to alter the normal functioning of the cities, a question that has been achieved until this sixth day of rebellion. In order to do this, it is essential to raise the slogan “Renuncia Piñera”, in terms of the deepening of the political crisis in which your government finds itself today and, in general, the traditional parties that have administered our misery, but also because it allows us to denounce your criminal policy against social organization and mobilization.

In order to build and accumulate social strength, we must be able to raise Territorial Assemblies that will allow us to advance towards the Constituent Popular Assembly. These Assemblies, in addition to the programmatic deepening, must be able to raise spaces of territorial self-defense and be constituted as spaces to solve problems of the neighborhood, mainly, of lack of supply if the mobilization is maintained. Likewise, these spaces are projected as spaces of popular control and power in the territories, with the objective of determining spaces of life.

In short, we will have Territorial Assemblies; then Communal Assemblies; later, Provincial and Regional Assemblies that raise the people’s specifications and the Plan of Struggle; to end in a Constituent Popular Assembly. All this should be done in the coming weeks according to our capabilities, because it should be done while the mobilization is latent.

In the immediate term, it seems central to us to be clear in our complete refusal to negotiate by maintaining the state of emergency. We are not prepared to promote any dialogue table as long as the military remains in the streets. It seems central to us to denounce the repression, torture and assassinations, especially sexual political violence, to which we are being subjected today by this criminal government. Finally, it is central to denounce the selective repression of social leaders, which shows a policy directed by this criminal government towards certain organized sectors, among which is the rebellious left.

Our subject of questioning must be constructed in the Popular Constituent Assembly, as a space of articulation of the different organizations of the people. Nevertheless, for the moment we will promote the multisectorial articulations that exist in our localities, in which union, student, territorial and feminist organizations, among others, converge.

In conclusion, we are before the possibility that the revolt or social outburst transforms into a popular rebellion, for which it is necessary to give direction and political content to the mobilization. In order to bring about regime change, it will be necessary to keep the mobilization open, while People’s Assemblies are developed in different spaces and territorial levels, with a view to advancing to a Constituent People’s Assembly that is capable of referring to a driving subject that can be a hegemonic part in a Constituent National Assembly. For this to happen, the government of Sebastián Piñera must resign.

In the short term, we must be able to position a “minimum sheet” of heartfelt popular demands that can be obtained while we mobilize, with the objective of legitimizing the popular struggle of the masses as an effective mechanism to obtain profits for our people.

In both the short and medium term, we must be able to accumulate the social force that will allow us to resist the wave of repression in the event that the conflict is closed by the block in power. The revolutionary struggle is far-reaching and this 2019 may be our 1905. Nevertheless, we will leave all our forces in the streets where our people are fighting today so that the deaths of those who fought these days are not in vain.

With all the forces of history: the struggle continues until dignity becomes custom!





1] The name of our organization is a tribute to the revolts of the people, because 60 years after that revolt, we converged 3 revolutionary organizations: on April 2, 2017.

Convergencia 2 de Abril