Chile | We Defeated Kast at the Ballot Box! What Should We Expect from Boric’s Government?

December 23, 2021
Many workers, youth, and fighters are breathing a sigh of relief at the results of the second round of voting in Chile. Kast’s defeat (44.13%) is encouraging for the thousands who have taken the streets over the last couple of years. On the other hand, Gabriel Boric’s victory, with over 4.6 million votes (55.87%), is the result of over a decade of mass mobilizations in the streets and the revolution that begin on October 18, 2019.
By the National Leadership of MIT-Chile (the Chilean section of the IWL-FI)
Originally published in Spanish on the MIT website
Translated to English by Dolores Underwood
Boric’s trajectory, from student leader of protests in 2011 to President of the Republic, demonstrates the tumultuous social struggle in Chile. From the student protests in 2006 (called “los pinguinos”) that continued with university students in 2011, to the struggle of women in 2018, to the working-class fight over pensions, and labor rights uprisings in Punta Arenas, Aysén, and Chiloé: the United Front emerged as a new political force through these struggles, particularly with the youth. The Communist Party was rejuvenated through student struggles with the emergence of new figures such as Camila Vallejos and Karol Cariola.
The social uprisings in 2019 meant a leap in these struggles and threatened the entire political regime. Governing parties over the past thirty years were punished and in agony, although still with important political weight, principally in the most reactionary arm of power, the National Congress. The United Front and Community Party survived the uprisings and have been fundamental, up until this point, to channel the enormous social crisis towards a “pacific” and “institutional” end. Now the people have put them in power and will be expecting important social change.
Will Boric and his coalition respond to the social demands and change the reality of the country?
A brief analysis of the electoral results
Boric won with almost 12 points over Kast, more than one million more votes. The victory was definitive but demonstrated that the country remains polarized. Kast wasn’t just any other candidate on the right. Kast represented a political project that continues to this day: the bourgeois Chilean and transnational project to maintain the status quo and to respond to social demands with repression.
Boric, on the other hand, was brought to power with the expectations and struggles of thousands of people. The huge celebrations in various cities in the country show that the process initiated on October 18, 2019, continues and that there are large expectations from the masses for the social changes they want to see implemented.
The votes for Boric and Kast once again show the divisions of class in the country. The conservative-bourgeois project won with an ample margin in the most privileged areas of the country (Kast won 73% in Las Condes, 83% in Vitacura, and 78% in Lo Barnechea), while Boric’s reformist project won an ample margin in the more working-class areas (70% in Puente Alto, 67% in Quilicura, 64% in La Florida). The Maipú community, one of the most combative in the country, showed a great polarization, which was reflected in the votes: 55% for Boric and 44% for Kast. In the largest cities in the country, Boric won with ample margins: Antofagasta, Concepción, Valparaíso, San Antonio, etc. Kast maintained his support in the smaller cities and where his anti-immigrant and anti-Mapuche rhetoric had more buy-in.
What interests will the future Boric government defend?
Kast was the main candidate supported by the 10 richest families in Chile and the transnationals. However, it is important that we have clarity on how the most powerful dominate in order to understand what is coming.
During the last decades, big business financed both the right-wing and the former Concertación. Therefore, the right and the “left” governed for the property-owners of the country and maintained Chile’s neoliberal capitalism. The most neoliberal governments in Chile were those of the former Concertación. Just look at the huge wave of privatizations in the 1990s (mining, sanitary, telecommunications, etc.) when they were in power.
Now, with the defeat of the traditional parties, the big bourgeoisie repositioned itself and began to support and negotiate with the new political forces. Although its main candidate was Kast, Boric also received the support of important figures of the former Concertación and incorporated them to his campaign leadership. It is still not clear what will be the composition of the future government, but we cannot rule out the formation of a government with the presence of the parties of the former Concertación, or a sector of it. After the first round, Boric and Apruebo Dignidad quickly privileged agreements with those parties, moderating their programs to look for “center” votes. If at the beginning of his campaign, Boric promised to raise 8% of the GDP to finance social rights, this value has already dropped to 5% in the last months and we do not know if it will decrease more.
But it is not only the former Concertación that directly represents the interests of the big bourgeoisie. The Frente Amplio itself has been increasingly adapting in recent years to gain the confidence and support of national and international bourgeois sectors. Proof of this is that one of Boric’s main campaign advisors, Diego Pardow, comes from a think tank (Espacio Público [1]) directly financed by big mining companies such as BHP Billiton and by the American Embassy.
The main strategy of the Frente Amplio/Apruebo Dignidad is to seek to carry out some reforms in a peaceful and gradual way, without “scaring” investors. They want to convince the owners of the country to give “the rings” in order not to lose “their fingers”. They know that in order to close the process that began on October 18, they must seek to carry out some reforms so that the country does not explode again.
The reforms proposed by the Frente Amplio are quite limited, even if there are great expectations in them, due to the precarious living conditions of most working families. Its proposal to increase pensions to a minimum of 250 thousand pesos is an example of this. No one can live on 250 thousand pesos, but surely 250 thousand is better than what exists today. The same logic will apply to everything.
Although the reforms proposed by Apruebo Dignidad are very limited, they will still be difficult to implement, since the country’s most powerful families (who dominate Congress and the judiciary) do not want to make any more concessions than they have already done. Proof of this was the Parliament’s rejection of pension reform. There is also great resistance to the increase in taxes for the richest. Thus, Boric’s strategy of carrying out gradual reforms negotiating with big business will probably have the same result as the reforms of the former Concertación: they will end in nothing.
The only factor that can be decisive so that this equation does not end badly is the mass movement. If the working masses and the youth once again take to the streets and put pressure, the government and big business will be forced to go beyond their plans.
However, the central strategy of Boric/FA/PC is not to mobilize the masses to fight against the privileges of big business. Their strategy is to negotiate with those at the top and calm the mass movement, because they know that the people in the streets are very dangerous and uncontrollable, since they can take the struggle to change their living conditions beyond parliamentary mechanisms. Proof of this strategy was the negotiation of the Peace Accord itself, which gave rise to the current Constituent Process. This Agreement saved Piñera’s neck, guaranteeing impunity to those responsible for the war against the people when it was about to fall and put important obstacles to the Constitutional Convention, as we have already discussed in several texts [2].
Thus, everything points to the fact that Boric’s future government will be a defender of the interests of big business in the country, although it will try to pressure it to make reforms and slightly improve the living conditions of the working class. This will have important consequences. The character of the government will be evident when it begins to repress popular protests and the Mapuche people in the Wallmapu.
The Constitutional Convention in the new scenario
In the last days, a “new” narrative started to emerge, promoted by the “frenteamplistas,” or the United-Fronters. This narrative attributes the conquest of the Constitutional Convention to Boric’s genius and the signing of the Peace Agreement. Nothing could be less from the truth.
First, Boric was not responsible for the existence of the Constitutional Convention. The possibility of drafting a New Constitution and overthrowing the Jaime Guzmán/Lagos/Bachelet Constitution exists due to the enormous social mobilization that broke out on October 18 and had its peak on November 12, 2019, when the popular mobilizations combined with a powerful stoppage in productive sectors of the country. The entry of the working class into the struggle was crucial. What Boric did was to quickly sign an Agreement to try to stop the mass mobilizations, sustain the government of Piñera and open a Constituent Process with important limits, which were set by the right-wing and the former Concertación (the quorum of the ⅔, the impossibility of the Convention to dismiss authorities, the impossibility of suspending Free Trade Agreements, etc.).
Thus, to attribute to Boric or the Frente Amplio the conquest of the Constitutional Convention is a total distortion of reality. The Frente Amplio was also questioned in the streets, although today Boric comes to power due to the lack of an alternative that could thoroughly represent the interests of the working class and the people (the failure of the Lista del Pueblo, or the People’s List, contributed to that).
Boric’s new narrative has one objective: to tell the millions of us who have struggled that now we must wait in our homes that Boric and the Constitutional Convention will solve all the popular demands in a peaceful and gradual way. It is no longer necessary for us to take to the streets, they say, it is no longer necessary for us to go on strike, it is no longer necessary for us to confront big business and the state. That narrative is false and will lead to the defeat of our movement. First, because Boric will not be able to make reforms through this Congress, which is totally hostile to the people. Second, because the Constitutional Convention with the current obstacles will not solve the problems of the people either if it limits itself to writing a nice Constitution on paper, but without guaranteeing how those rights will be transformed into reality.
From the MIT and with our constituent comrade María Rivera we propose a different road: the road of mobilization and organization of the working class and the youth to carry the struggle against Chilean neoliberal capitalism and the power of big business to its end. That organization must be independent of the Boric government. It would be a huge mistake to believe that the government will solve the problems of the people and that we should wait quietly in our homes.
We still have not won anything. The AFPs (pension system) still exist, public health is still chaotic, salaries are still precarious, our natural assets are still in private hands. The working class cannot give a blank check to Boric. If Boric, the Frente Amplio and the PC really want to solve the problems of the country, they must break their agreements and negotiations with big business and stimulate the mobilizations of the working class and the youth to confront the owners of the country.
The underlying problem: imperialist capitalism
Boric promises to improve the lives of the people by making reforms to better distribute the wealth accumulated by big business. However, Boric’s proposals do not touch the root of the problem. The root of the problem is large private property and the subordination of our country to international capitalist relations. Chile is a great producer and exporter of copper, fruits, cellulose, and fish. This model, called by many “extractivist”, has enormous social (low wages, precarious jobs, lack of technological and scientific development) and environmental (destruction of ecosystems, drought generated by monoculture and large-scale mining, etc.) consequences. The Chilean capitalist model benefits the owners of large mining, salmon, forestry, import and export companies, banks, and the private pension system. Without touching the big private property and putting it at the service of the population, it is impossible to solve the problems we have. We can put patches, but those patches will not heal the wounds, which are much deeper.
Therefore, we propose that the only way to solve the problems of the people and combat the environmental disaster is to recover the natural assets and strategic enterprises of the country and put them under the control of the organized working class.
Therefore, we have no doubt that the structural problems of the country will not be solved by Boric’s government. Boric is not in favor of returning the lands to the Mapuche people and confronting the interests of the forestry businessmen. Boric is not in favor of renationalizing copper so that this wealth can be invested in social rights and so that the environmental damage caused by big mining can be repaired. Although Boric talks about protecting nature, he will not be able to do so, because he does not go to the root of the problem: large private property oriented towards profit and not towards the welfare of the majority of the population.
It is time to end the looting!
The defeat of Kast and the consequent victory of Boric is a distorted victory of the mass movement. Now more than ever we must recover the organization in our workplaces, unions, towns, schools, and universities. We can win victories with our mobilization: better rights, better health, better pensions, and education. However, these gains must be only one step in a struggle against the capitalist plunder of our natural resources and our labor, or they will be rolled back in a short time.
If the Boric/PC government wants to carry forward a great social change, it must question the bases of Chilean capitalism and promote the organization and permanent mobilization of the working class and the people.
To go in that direction, the government must:
1) Immediately demilitarize the Wallmapu and initiate a process of return of ancestral lands to the Mapuche people.
2) Guarantee the trial and punishment of Piñera and those politically and militarily responsible for the repression against the people. Initiate reparations for all those affected by state repression.
3) Amnesty to all Chilean and Mapuche political prisoners, demonstrating that it is on the side of the people and not on the side of those who have plundered the country in the last 50 years;
4) Initiate the revision of all Free Trade Agreements that threaten the sovereignty of the people of Chile;
5) End the circuitous meanderings of the Constitutional Convention so that the Convention can take the measures that the people need immediately;
6) Immediately implement the end of the AFPs and a general increase in salaries and pensions;
7) Renationalize the companies privatized during the dictatorship and democracy, starting with the large copper and lithium mining;
If the government takes these measures, we have no doubt that the people will defend it from all the attacks of big business. If Boric does not advance quickly in this sense, he will begin to be questioned by the mass movement and could generate great disillusionment, which could open the road to the extreme right. We call on all the working class, the people, and the youth to organize and mobilize. We call on everyone to build a project for the overcoming of capitalism and the construction of a society where all the wealth produced is at the service of the working class and the recovery of nature.
Notes:
[1] https://espaciopublico.cl/quienes-somos/transparencia/
[2] https://litci.org/en/chile-in-defense-of-the-manifesto-for-the-sovereignty-of-the-constitutional-convention/

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