By International Workers’ Movement (MIT) – Chile
Last Sunday’s election day was very important, despite the majority of people’s lack of enthusiasm about the vote. Its results reflect, in part, the reality of the country, but they should not surprise us either. For the thousands of workers, young people, and activists who are worried about the growth of the far right, the most important thing is to analyze in depth what is happening in the country and what happened on Sunday, May 7.
In the last four years, the country has experienced more than a dozen electoral races. However, the lives of the majority of the population have not improved. Since the Peace Agreement of November 15, 2019, which opened the first constituent process, there was a broad social pact made between all the main political parties (including the Communist Party, which did not sign the Agreement but later recognized it) to channel social discontent into bourgeois democracy and get millions of protesters off the streets. The Partido Republicano (Republican Party) stayed out of that agreement since it always defended the position that the revolutionary unrest that began in 2019 should have been crushed with even more violence.
The strategy of channeling social discontent towards bourgeois institutions (elections, Parliament, Constituent) has so far been achieved. The people have been dispersed and the cruel Chilean neoliberal capitalism has remained intact. Those who used to propose reforms, like the Frente Amplio (FA – Broad Front) and the CP, today manage the country for the big capitalists. They have been completely tamed by the owners of the country. In this context, it’s become clearer and clearer for the big bourgeoisie and its most reactionary faction that they do not need to make any more concessions. This is true of the people and parties that call themselves reformists, like the FA and the CP. The far right and the right wing have managed to capitalize on an important part of the social discontent and intend to crush once and for all the possibilities for social change and popular mobilization. On the other hand, the enormous number of spoiled ballots shows that the political regime still lacks legitimacy for a large sector of the population and that social discontent is still alive. This is the general context of which we want to take stock.
Big business and their parties completely controlled the election
In the first place, it is necessary to make clear that the election of Constitutional Councilors was totally controlled by big business, which funds politics, and by the parties of the regime. The so-called “Agreement for Chile” left out the possibility for independent candidates to participate, and for the registration of new parties several months before the electoral race. As a result, only the parties already registered were able to participate. The second fundamental element is campaign funding. As always, big business donated an immense amount of money to several candidates of different parties, which lead to enormous inequality in spending among candidates. For example, the Hurtado Vicuña family from the Chilean high bourgeoisie, funded the UDI (more than 35 million pesos), the RN (14 million pesos) and the Republicanos at the same time. With respect to each candidate, those who received the most money from this family were Daniela Castro of the RN and Luis Silva (elected) of the Republicanos. The Von Appen shipping-business family also made huge contributions, the main beneficiary being the Partido Republicano with 26.5 million pesos, in addition they funded the UDI, RN, and Evópoli.
Of the funding analyzed a few days ago by Fundación Sol (360 million pesos coming from a couple of bourgeois families), the parties that had received the most were UDI (170 million), RN (84 million), and the Republicanos (34.5 million). As always, the big bourgeoisie does not put all its eggs in one basket and funded candidates from different parties. Other parties such as the Socialist Party, Christian Democracy, etc., surely received large amounts of money from bourgeois sectors as well.
Therefore, in the first place, we cannot say that elections are really democratic and that everyone has the same rights. The big bourgeoisie, besides funding its candidates with enormous sums, also controls the mass media, offering them a permanent platform on television, radio, etc.
The growth of the far right
Undoubtedly the most relevant result was the landslide victory of the Republicanos, the party of the Pinochet follower José Antonio Kast. The speeches of the Republicano candidates had two main points: fighting crime and irregular migration. The growth of the far right in Chile is not an exception or a particular case. In many countries, the increase of social contradictions resulting from capitalism has made more and more bourgeoisie sectors choose to support far-right parties. This has happened in Europe (Germany, Italy, Greece, Poland) and also in America (United States, Brazil, El Salvador, Argentina).
The Republicano ballot means that the big bourgeoisie has been advancing in ideologically conquering a sector of the working class and middle classes, who attribute the increase of inequalities, poverty, and violence to migrants, drug traffickers, leftist activists, and the Mapuche fighting for their lands with direct-action methods, etc.
The growth of the far right is directly related to the failure of “leftist” or “progressive” governments. In Brazil, 14 years of the PT government (Lula and Dilma) led to the rise of Bolsonaro. The same is happening in Chile. Progressive governments pave the way for the far right by not solving the problems of the masses and making permanent pacts that favor big business. Boric is not an exception. While the working-class cost of living has worsened by price hikes, low wages, the crisis in health and education, etc., the profits of big businesses have skyrocketed. At the same time, the government has assumed all the agenda and discourse of the right wing, it has militarized Mapuche territory again; decreed a State of Emergency in the north of the country against migrants, and passed the Nain-Retamal Act to give a blank check to the Carabineros. However, in spite of turning more and more to the right, Boric will never be a substitute for the traditional and new far-right parties, which are the real class representatives of the big bourgeoisie.
With respect to the numbers, the vote of the far right has increased considerably compared to the last presidential and parliamentary elections. Kast obtained 1.9 million votes in the first round (the other right-wing candidate Sichel obtained 900, 000) and 3.6 million in the second round of the 2021 presidential election. In the parliamentary election, the Partido Republicano got 666,000 votes. In the election of the councilors, the Republicanos alone won 3.4 million and the traditional right-wing 2 million, or 5.3 million votes in total, 2 million more than in the presidential runoff. This shows that the right and far-right have managed to capitalize on part of the feeling of discontent that is growing in the country, now under Gabriel Boric’s government. Undoubtedly the debacle of the People’s Party on the eve of the election, after the scandal of its drug trafficker candidate, drove a part of its votes to the right-wingers.
The growth of the right-wing is not only electoral. In the last months, mainly after the assassination of Carabinera Rita Olivares and Carabinero Daniel Palma (police officers), the right-wing has managed to carry out large demonstrations of thousands of people, mainly supported by relatives of Carabineros, military, and sectors of the petty and big bourgeoisie.
A blow to the government
Gabriel Boric’s government has been losing support since he took office, for the reasons we have written about above, and this election is another blow to the government. In the presidential election, Boric and the former Concertación (an alliance between reformist parties) won more than 4.6 million votes. For the current councilors election, the Unidad Para Chile, an alliance of the pro-government parties CP, FA and SP, had 2.8 million votes and the Todo Por Chile bloc, formed by the Partido Radical, PPD – right-wing parties in government — and Christian Democracy, obtained 877,000 votes. Together, they got around 3.7 million, almost 2 million less than in the 2021 presidential runoff. These data show a significant loss of support for the government.
The failure of the government and of the previous Constitutional Convention are directly related to the growth of the far right. The path traced by the new Concertación (Socialists, Frente Amplio, and Communists) failed completely after the rejection of the new Constitution in the last Plebiscite. It was demonstrated that its path of making a pact with the right wing and big business in order to “achieve social change” was nothing more than a smokescreen. Even if the approval of the new Constitution had won, which was practically impossible due to the discontent with the government and the right-wing campaign, it would have been a failure in the medium term, since its main articles maintained the control of the big families over the country’s economy and the state. What is actually failing every day is the reformist strategy of the new Concertación to change the country and solve the problems of the working masses and the youth.
How to interpret the spoiled ballots?
One of the great surprises of these elections was the magnitude of spoiled ballots. Added to the blank votes, they reach almost 2.7 million, or 21.54 percent. Abstentions (people who did not vote) reached another 2.7 million. The MIT was part of the campaign for the Spoiled Vote, as we exposed the process for its lack of legitimacy, and there was no voting option that did not represent the maintenance of Chilean neoliberal capitalism.
The enormous magnitude of the spoiled vote expresses the fact that a considerable part of the population does not believe in the parties and politicians that have run or were not sufficiently informed to vote. In our opinion, it is a mistake of some leftist organizations to attribute the invalid votes as a renewal of the discontent that was the basis of the “estallido social” (the social revolt beginning in October 2019). The spoiled vote is not necessarily a leftist or revolutionary vote. Of course, a part of the null vote comes from a more conscious sector of the working class and the youth that were the vanguard in the protests in recent years. Many of us voted against Kast in the second round and did not vote for the government coalition now. However, how much does this sector represent? It is almost impossible to measure. It is possible that a part of the 2 million who voted for Boric in the presidential election and did not vote for the governing coalition have now voted null. However, it is also possible that a part of those who were going to vote for the People’s Party voted null. To get a deeper understanding of the spoiled vote, it is necessary to investigate the data more closely (in constituencies and communes) and to listen to workers in every corner of the country.
What we did identify is that there is a large part of the population that does not believe in the current parties and has no expectations of change from these elections.
It is necessary to build an alternative and revolutionary political project
The failure of the government coalition and the growth of the far right show that so far the thousands of workers, activists, and youth who are left-wing and critical of Boric’s government have not managed to build an alternative project to fight for the space those parties occupy today.
Among different leftist groups, such as the Coordinadora de Movimientos Sociales (Social Movements Coordination), the Referente Político Social (Social-Political Reference) and others, discussions are taking place on how to build an alternative to the New Concertación. However, we see that so far all these groupings repeat the formulas of the Communist Party and the Frente Amplio: the struggle for rights, within the limits of the current capitalist state, by a “real” Constituent Assembly or some kind of Constitutional change. We believe that this project leads exactly to what is happening with the Boric government.
In our opinion, it is not possible to solve the problems of the working people if we do not break with the country’s domination by the big bourgeois families, and if we do not destroy the present state, which is totally at the service of the capitalists. It is necessary to build a new workers’ party, whose program focus on the expropriation of the 10 richest families and of the multinationals, to put the wealth of the country at the service of solving the needs of the people. And on the need for the organized working class to take power into its own hands and leave no stone unturned in the current bourgeois state. This project can only be built from the grassroots, from the youth and workers in every neighborhood, factory, mine, supermarket, high school, etc. There is no way to change Chile except by a revolution that sweeps away the traditional politicians and parties and questions the domination of the big bourgeoisie. This is more evident every day after the failure of the Constitutional Convention and the growth of the far right. MIT is ready to go down that road and to build a real working-class and youth revolutionary party.
We need to prepare ourselves against the government’s offensive and the far right
The advance of the far right in the Constitutional Council brings enormous dangers. In the first place, the new Constitution could be even worse than Pinochet’s Constitution, since the right-wing gained the majority of seats in the current Council. This poses to workers the task of not allowing these setbacks, organizing protests, and also the vote against the approval of the new Constitution in the Exit Plebiscite.
We must also keep an eye on the possibility that the exit plebiscite could not take place, since it is possible that the right-wing (including the Republicanos) and the government can reach a new agreement to change the Constitution without the danger of suffering a new Rejection at the end of the year. We cannot be naïve and believe that these parties will not change their own rules of the game established by them.
On the other hand, we cannot expect anything from Gabriel Boric’s government, which will turn even more to the right after this new electoral defeat. The government parties will try to call the “democratic forces” to unite against the alleged fascism of the Partido Republicano. They will try to cheat us to defend their government and bourgeois democracy, yet it is the government itself and the Parliament that maintain the militarization of the Araucanía, reinforce the Carabineros, deny the right of the workers to withdraw their money from the AFPs, etc. Secondly, it is necessary for the working class and the youth to reorganize themselves to fight in defense of their living conditions, which are worsening day by day. The CUT, the workers’ federations and unions throughout the country, and the youth organizations, like the Confech, must put themselves at the head of a set of demands to mobilize the working class independently of the government of Gabriel Boric. MIT has proposals in relation to this set of demands that you can read on its website (in Spanish). Only with street mobilization and organization is it possible to confront the far right and demand from the government measures that benefit the working people.
Photo: Election poster for far-right candidate José Antonio Kast.