Chile

The rise of the left in Chile: historical background

Over the last decade Chile, the birthplace of neoliberalism under the military dictatorship which smashed the labour movement in the 1970s, has seen a dramatic rise of the left and major social struggles. This is a brief historical overview. For more on Chile including the recent elections, see here. 1970: Socialist Party candidate Salvador Allende elected president in a close three-way race. His government has mass working-class support, in the context of rising workers’ struggles, and carries out radical reforms; but relies on the capitalist state machine. 1973: June – attempted military...

Chile: how to build on two years of left-wing revolt to defeat the far right?

Boric and Kast In the days after the first round of Chile’s presidential election (21 November), the mood amongst left activists in Santiago is bleak. José Antonio Kast, candidate for the far-right Christian Social Front received the largest share of the vote on Sunday, with almost 28%, while Gabriel Boric, candidate for the left coalition Apruebro Dignidad, received almost 26%. They will face each other in a second round run-off on 19 December. Polls predict a knife-edge result. It’s not 30 pesos, it’s 30 years Arriving in Santiago a fortnight ago, one thing quickly became clear. This is a...

Covid lessons from Chile

So far the news in Britain from the vaccine roll-out and the gradual lockdown-easing is good. News from Chile reminds us that battles for isolation pay and for workers’ control of workplace safety (as in the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency) remain urgent. Chile has done more vaccinations per population than Britain, 58 per 100 population vs 56 here. Yet on 25 March it imposed a new lockdown in its major population centre, around Santiago, because of soaring Covid infection and death figures. The new lockdown is stricter than anything we’ve had in Britain, with borders closed, a night-time...

Letters: Cronyism and capitalism; Chilean democracy and political parties

Cronyism and capitalism Jim Denham’s criticisms in Solidarity 572 of the No Holding Back report produced by Ian Lavery, Laura Smith and Jon Trickett were on point, particularly in terms of its nationalism and lack of a coherent understanding of what the working class is. There’s one aspect which I think deserves to be drawn out further. The report proposes a “cronyism watchdog” as a way of “challenging the Tories’ economic priorities”. It fails to define what they mean by cronyism or what this “watchdog” would do. It’s hard to see how it would have the significance and cutting edge even plenty...

Chile votes for new constitution

On 25 October in Chile, around 7.5 million people voted in a historic referendum on whether to write a new constitution to replace the current one — enacted in 1980 during the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet — and on the democratic mechanism to write this new constitution. The option of crafting a new constitution won, with an overwhelming majority of nearly 80%. A similar percentage supported a constitutional convention — a group completely composed of citizens democratically elected for this purpose — as the mechanism to write the new constitution. This new scenario brings chances to change...

Candlelit solidarity with the Chilean uprising

Photos: Rocío Almuna Morales On Wednesday October 30, "Chilean students, academics and workers in Bristol" held a "Candelight gathering" in support of the general strike in Chile, on the same day. Around fifty people, mostly left-wingers of Chilean origin, gathered and chanted to show support for the strike's demands. This followed a similar sized demo a week prior. Three demands that the Bristol demo was raising of the Chilean government were: 1. Against the military on the streets, the "state of constitutional exception" (martial law) and the restriction of civil, political and social...

Chile: 29 years on from Pinochet

In Chile, heavily armed troops and police are out on streets again, exerting brutal repression against those demonstrating peacefully against one of the more brutal neoliberal policies, similar to those of Margaret Thatcher. Chile is the richest country in Latin America, but equally suffers from one of the worst income distributions in the region or beyond. However, carrying out these brutal economic measures forcing the population into a continuing impoverishment, has been only possible under the current Political Constitution, drafted – in a hurry, in 1980 – by two individuals, ideological...

Lessons from the seventies: British workers' action against Pinochet

When Avon jet engines being refurbished for use by the Chilean air force came into the workshop at the Rolls-Royce factory in East Kilbride, Scotland, from 1974, workers there decided to refuse work on them. The Chile solidarity movement in Britain celebrated this action as exemplary, and it is the subject of the 2018 documentary Nae Pasaran. Eventually, due to downwards pressure, not only from their bosses, but also the Labour government and the trade union bureaucracy, the workers were forced to end the boycott. But even then they loosely fitted together the bolts in the engines loosely, and...

Chile: how the army killed reform

On 11 September 1973, a bloody military coup in Chile ousted the Popular Unity government of President Salvador Allende. Allende was killed defending the Presidential Palace during the coup. Workers in the factories attempted to defend themselves against the military attacks — but they were not sufficiently organised or sufficiently armed, to stop the onslaught. The military regime of General Pinochet which followed tortured and killed hundreds of thousands of working-class militants and political activists. Allende’s Popular Unity (UP) coalition government was elected in 1970. The two main...

Allende and the church

David Broder reviews Machuca Machuca is a Chilean film, on limited release in the UK, therefore I’ll depart with convention and tell you what happens at the end. But you know already, because this film depicts the 1973 downfall of Salvador Allende’s leftist government. Told from the perspective of an upper-middle class boy, Gonzalo, who attends a Catholic school in Santiago, it portrays a society riven by a class division, between those who live in the capital’s shanty towns and the middle class who fiercely resist Allende’s social reforms. The film begins with the introduction of working...

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