After mass protests, the Chilean government calls plebiscite to try to put breaks on demands for real change 

This article was originally written for, the website of the Committee for a Workers’ International.

In relation to the plebiscite that has been called for the 26 April 2020, it is necessary to make clear some issues before marking a Yes or No on the ballot paper.

The result of the process initiated by the government as a result of mass protests, called the “Constituent Convention”, is an agreement put together by the political caste – the government and the “opposition”. It is an attempt to put the breaks on the demand for change expressed by the people in order to try and maintain control of the political situation.

It is clear that it all points in the direction of preventing a real process to convene a genuine Constituent Assembly, in which the people genuinely participate rather than just put a mark on a ballot paper. As it has already been made very clear in the massive mobilisations, which we saw in October, November and December, last year, the majority of the population are demanding a ‘constituent assembly’ and a new constitution.

In the next period, we will see the bourgeoisie and the entire ruling political caste, government and “opposition” playing around and trying to validate the process towards their ‘Constitutional Convention’. They will be able to count on the all of the institutional apparatuses they have, including the press and media, to try and convince the population that there is a real difference between a Yes and a No for their proposals to introduce a new constitution. In reality, it will only serve their interests.

It is clear that the April plebiscite is not a proposal for any fundamental changes. There is an agreement amongst the ruling political caste to try and contain everything within the official institutions that they control.

The far-right, led by Kast, and the hardline right, represented by UDI (Union Democratico Independiente – a right-wing party with close ties to Opus Dei) and some of RN (Renovacion Nacional – another right-wing party of which Prime Minister, Pinera, is a member) have already made clear they will support No to any changes in the constitution. 

The Yes is supported by the official “opposition” and more “progressive” forces of the political elite.

They are not looking for a real change in the country. As usual, they want “change so that everything remains the same” and they can continue their domination of a system with a thin varnish of democracy.

Alternative needed

We need to bring forward an alternative to that which the ruling political caste is offering us. It is necessary for each locality and commune to build assemblies convened by the local Cabildos that have been formed. These assemblies need to be convened in all communes, workplaces and centres of education. From these bodies, representatives should be elected to a genuine Constituent Assembly, which should establish a new constitution that is really representative of the people and not a minority of society.

If such a Constituent Assembly is going to solve the problems and demands made by the workers and the people, it is necessary that is adopts measures to break with neoliberalism and capitalism. It will be necessary to form a government of the workers’ and the oppressed with a programme to break with capitalism and introduce a democratically planned economy – a revolutionary socialist programme.

For now, the mass protests have declined in intensity but they have not ended. The most radical youth continue in the struggle. Every Friday, there is a mass demonstration called in the Plaza de la Dignidad, which end, as usual, with confrontations with the riot police over control of the Plaza.

At the same time, the secondary school students organized a mass protest on 6th and 7th of January against the PSU (University entrance exams). As a result of this mobilization in many schools – although not the majority – the PSUs were not taken. This has caused major problems for the beginning of the university terms, which theoretically begin in March.

All things point to March 2020 being very explosive and full of struggles. It will begin on 8th March with International Women’s Day, which is promising to be a massive mobilization.

The whole situation puts in doubt whether the plebiscite will be organized in April given the massive social mobilization that we are likely to face and the extremely uncertain situation in the coming months. The bourgeoisie and the political caste is a long way from having everything under control.