The Exit (Constitutional) Referendum will take place on the 4th of September. In the last weeks, social networks, radios and TV channels have been flooded with information about the articles of the New Constitution.
By MIT (International Workers’ Movement) – Chile
Those who defend the Rejection of the New Constitution have spread a lot of false and lying news, a real “terror campaign” so that the working class and the people reject the New Constitution without even knowing its real content. Thus, they have spread that nobody will have the right to their own house anymore; that the funds saved in the AFPs1 will be expropriated; that the indigenous peoples will have privileges and so on and so forth. Campaigns of lies like this are typical of the owners of power. The working class cannot fall for this deception. It is essential that workers distrust the mass media and right-wing showbiz characters. We must seek to understand the true content of the New Constitution and analyse the social process we are living through.
On the other hand, the Approve campaign has also started. In addition to thousands of honest activists who are for the Approve and really want to change the country, there are also some parties responsible for all the social problems we have today, such as the Socialist Party, the Christian Democracy and even the governing parties Frente Amplio (Broad Front) and CP. These parties and many independent ex-constituents are also starting a campaign of lies because they say that the New Constitution will resolve the problems of the people. They do not talk about the “small print” nor about the central aspects of the New Constitution, which maintain the dominance of the billionaires over the country as a whole. Thus, we must also be wary of the Approve campaign and question all the information we receive from them.
The New Constitution is at the service of imperialism and the 10 richest Chilean families
One year after the Constitutional Convention, we can now take stock of this process. From the beginning, we were critical of the Peace Agreement that originated the Constituent Process, since that agreement imposed enormous limits on the Constituent, which was born totally subordinated to the current state institutions, without sovereignty, with political prisoners in jails and with an undemocratic quorum that gave enormous veto power to the minority of the constituents, direct representatives of big business.
Thus, the outcome of the Convention is not surprising. The New Constitution maintains the essence of Chilean neoliberal capitalism. The private property of the big economic groups over the whole of the country’s economy is maintained. The big monopolies in mining, fishing, lithium, and the concentration of land in the hands of forestry companies remain untouched. The large-scale private property continues to be protected and remains almost inviolable in the New Constitution, since the state – if it wants to nationalise copper mines or expropriate land for the Mapuche people -, for example, will have to pay multimillion-dollar compensation (and in advance) to the country’s landowners. In this great agreement in defence of capitalist private property were the vast majority of the constituents, from the right-wing to the Frente Amplio, to the Communist Party (which has nothing of Communist beyond its name) and even “left” independents such as feminists or native peoples.
In the case of social rights, so longed for by the population and which gave rise to the mobilisations of the last three decades, the private sector will continue to exist and do business with our health, pensions and education. The New Constitution does not question the power of owners of private clinics and laboratories, of private schools and universities, nor of the AFPs and insurance companies, which have sequestered our pensions. All proposals against these lines were rejected by the majority of the constituents. Several Popular Norm Initiatives that proposed to limit corporate power over these social rights were rejected, as part of the proposals of the health organisations, the NO + AFP Movement, the housing movement, etc. Our comrade María Rivera defended the proposals of the social movements and also made proposals to end corporate control over social rights, such as prohibiting public financing of the private education sector or allowing all workers to withdraw all of their funds from the AFPs and insurance companies, but these were also rejected.
While social rights such as housing, health, education and pensions are now recognised as obligations of the state, the Constitutional Convention rejected the most important proposal that would finance these social rights: the nationalisation of the large copper and lithium mining companies under workers’ and communities’ control. The nationalisation of copper would allow the people to have the right to decide what to do with the main wealth produced by the country, which today is given away to transnationals and a few Chilean families, such as the Luksic family. Thus, the Convention closed the door to the working people having access to the main source that could finance the construction of thousands of houses, guarantee a free health system for the entire population, public quality education, and also invest in new technologies to reduce the impact of big mining and other industries on nature and human life. All Chilean copper will continue to be given away to imperialism.
In order to maintain the defence of private property and the control of the big monopolies over the whole country, the Convention kept the Chilean state and its repressive apparatus almost intact. The hated Senate was maintained, but now with a new name (Chamber of Regions) and with fewer powers. The entire structure of the Armed Forces and its corrupt and repressive leadership was maintained. The hated institution of the Carabineros is maintained, which supposedly will now be a civilian police force, but which has no civilian police powers whatsoever, since the right of the troops to organise, to strike, freedom of expression or mechanisms of control of the population over the police is not recognised. Nor the high commanders of these institutions, responsible for repression and corruption, were punished. The State of Siege is also maintained, which is supposed to be used “in case of war” but we know that it is only used against the Chilean and Mapuche peoples themselves when they mobilise.
On top of that, the whole New Constitution, if approved, will have to pass through the current Congress, which will be able to reform it and will have to legislate in the coming years so that the rights become a reality, a Congress practically controlled by the right wing and by the coalition that today governs the country to favour the owners of the country.
Therefore, the working class, the elderly, the popular youth, the activists and militants of social movements must know that the New Constitution is not the Constitution that the people need and will be used as a tool against the Mapuche people, against the working class and the youth that mobilises, in the service of maintaining the looting of the country.
Vote for Approve against the Constitution of Pinochet, Lagos and Bachelet. Defend what has been won and advance with struggle and organisation.
Although the New Constitution as a whole maintains the domination of the country, the struggle of the workers, the people, the women’s movement and the youth have won some gains. All these gains are partial and so far only on paper. Among them are the creation of a Public Social Security System, the right to health, the right to housing, free public education at all levels, the extension of the right to strike, the right to collective labour negotiation, the right to abortion, the end of the Water Development Rights that allow capitalist speculation on water, the recognition of the native peoples and their right to land restitution, the protection of glaciers and wetlands, etc. All these rights were won in spite of the traditional political parties, who were forced to surrender something in order to maintain the essence of Chilean neoliberal capitalism. But all these gains are threatened in the referendum on September 4.
On September 4 we will not vote on whether we like or dislike the New Constitution. On September 4 we will vote whether to keep the current Constitution or to change it for a Constitution that recognises some of the gains of the social, workers’ and people’s movement.
The MIT (International Movement of Workers) National Conference, which gathered delegates from different regions of the country after an internal debate of more than 2 months, decided to call for the Approve vote on September 4. We believe that, at this moment, we must vote for Approve in order to put an end to the current Constitution, defend the gains we have achieved and close the door to the most reactionary attacks that will undoubtedly come from Congress and the current institutions if the Rejection vote wins. Our vote is not a vote of confidence in the New Constitution, it is a critical vote, to continue the dialogue with the millions of workers who have expectations that the New Constitution will solve their problems or will transform Chile into a more democratic country.
At this moment, we cannot leave the banners of the struggle of millions of people in the hands of parties and organisations that only want to deceive and demobilise the struggle of the workers and youth, like the Socialist Party, the Frente Amplio, the Communist Party and even many independent ex-constituents.
We respect the position of the comrades in social struggle who are voting for Rejection or null, criticising the New Constitution for its bourgeois character, like many comrades who were involved in the struggle for the nationalisation of big copper mining. However, we believe that, at this moment, to vote null is to subtract votes from the Approve vote, favouring the victory of the Rejection vote, which would mean a major setback for the struggle of the working class and the youth. Therefore, we invite these comrades to reflect and change their position.
On the other hand, we want to be emphatic about something. While we must go and vote for Approve on September 4, it is not enough to go and vote. None of the rights won will come out of the paper without struggle and organisation, since everything was left in the hands of Congress. Nor can we trust the government of Gabriel Boric, since his priority is not to solve the problems of the workers but to maintain Chilean neoliberal capitalism by giving a few crumbs to the working people. Gabriel Boric has already shown that he is willing to negotiate with the right-wing another Constituent Process if the Rejection vote wins. Such a stance is typical of the petty bourgeoisie, which cannot take even the smallest struggles for the democratic rights of the people to the end without capitulating to the big bourgeoisie and its representatives.
When we talk about fighting and organising we want to be very clear. The trade unions must take the right to labour negotiation into their own hands, demanding that Congress recognise it and make it effective, seeking the unity of the trade union movement in its struggle for the rights of the working class against the bosses. The settlers must continue to occupy land and strengthen the struggle for the realisation of the right to decent housing. The communities that suffer from the lack of water supply must take the struggle for the end of the monopoly of water by the big agricultural, forestry and mining companies into their own hands. The Mapuche people must continue to take back the territory stolen by the forestry companies. We cannot sit back and wait for this Congress or future institutions to solve our problems.
It is necessary to rebuild the path of struggle for socialism and the liberation of the working class
The working class, the youth and the social movements can only rely on their own forces, their own organisation and mobilisation, independent of the bosses and the government in power. We must seek the unification of the different movements under one program of struggle, which combines the immediate demands of the working people, the struggle for the implementation of the rights won in the New Constitution and the struggle for our strategic demands. Many of our demands were not recognised in the New Constitution, such as the revision of the Free Trade Agreements that hold the country hostage to the transnationals, the nationalisation of big mining, the end of the millionaire salaries of the politicians, the end of subcontracting and precarious employment and many more.
The MIT and María Rivera, our ex-constituent, are convinced that the social movement already possesses many elements of a programme for the radical transformation of society, which can liberate our country from the clutches of imperialism and the Chilean big bourgeoisie. However, we do not believe that this is possible without the working class and the people moving toward a workers’ government, based on territorial, workers’, youth and native peoples’ organisations.
The most important proposals that we defended in the Constitutional Convention point in this direction. The nationalisation of large-scale copper mining and the country’s main strategic companies, under the control of the workers and communities, would allow the country’s wealth to be used to solve social problems and halt environmental destruction, pointing to another path of development for the country. To administer this new economic model, based on collective ownership of the means of production, we proposed the creation of a Plurinational Assembly of workers and peoples, which would allow for a new form of government, based on rank-and-file democracy, the right to recall elected officials and without millionaire salaries.
Although these proposals were rejected by the Constitutional Convention, we believe that they should be part of the strategic programme of the Chilean working class in search of the total liberation of the vast majority of the population from the yoke of capitalism. We are convinced that no Constituent Assembly, however democratic it may be, will solve the problems of the working class, because they are bodies controlled by the big bourgeoisie and its representatives, just like the Parliament and the other institutions of this state. Several neighbouring countries such as Ecuador, Venezuela and Brazil have Constitutions full of social rights, but they never got off the paper. Therefore, it is the task of the working class to build its independent path towards the building of real workers’ and people’s power on the road to a socialist society.
1 – AFP – Administradores de Fondos de Pensión (Managers of Pension Funds)