Thu Feb 22, 2024
February 22, 2024

Chile: The Proposed New Constitution is a Major Attack on Workers

A few days ago, the Constitutional Council approved the new constitution with the votes in favor coming from the right-wing parties. This proposal will be submitted to the people on December 17, when the population will have to vote “for,” “against,” or abstention/null.

by the MIT Executive Committee

Those of us at MIT (International Workers’ Movement) want to say loud and clear to the workers and youth: we must vote against the new constitution. It will not only maintain all of Chile’s current problems, but it will also worsen the lives of working people for the benefit of the bosses and transnational companies.

Although the constitution is only a law and has no immediate effect on people’s lives, it is the highest law in the bosses’ democracy. This means that this legal tool will be the “road map” by which traditional politicians attack our living conditions even further in ways that benefit those who “own” Chile. Here are some reasons why we should vote against it.

It Continues the Privatization of Public Services  

The new constitution maintains the privatization of all so-called public services or social rights. Privatization is being maintained in health, education, and retirement pensions. The hated AFPs (pension system) will not only continue to exist but will be even better protected. In healthcare and education, the private sector will continue to exist, and even worse, it will continue to operate with public subsidies as it does today. In terms of housing, there is nothing new: real estate and landowners will continue to make loads of money by charging high rents and high prices for land.

Other rights, including the right to abortion, which is currently limited except under three exceptions, may be further restricted. This is due to new wording that protects the life of “the unborn.”

Regarding such basic rights as wages and working hours, the new constitution does not say a word about them. Clearly, those who wrote it are all representatives of the families who own the country, and they have no idea what it means to earn a minimum wage working 45 hours or more per week.

Attacks on Democratic Rights

In relation to democratic rights, which are already restricted for workers and youth today, these will be reduced even further.

The new constitution proposes limiting the right to strike solely to collective bargaining agreements (Article 27). While we know that “de facto” strikes will continue to exist, the new constitution proposes that the strike only be exercised every 2 or 3 years, and only in the context of collective bargaining. This marks a significant step backwards even in comparison to the current constitution and laws, which are already totally pro-business. Today the courts are obliged to recognize de facto strikes, but even this current situation is at risk of backsliding.

Another attack has to do with the composition of the National Congress. In addition to maintaining the privileges and millionaire salaries of parliamentarians, the new constitution will make it even more difficult for social, popular, and revolutionary leaders to enter  parliament. This is because the parties that do not get 5% of the national vote will not be able to elect any deputies or senators, even if they have the most votes in their district or constituency (Article 56). By enacting this limitation, they want to further restrict access to parliament to the elite and thus allow only parties financed by big business to have representation. Worse still is that this measure was approved by supposed leftist parties including the Communist Party of Chile (PC) and the Broad Front (Frente Amplio) [1].

Another important attack has to do with the persecution of alleged “terrorism.” Organizations characterized as “accomplices” or “instigators” of terrorist acts can be outlawed (Article 15). We know that the powerful characterize any action of self-defense against their interests as “terrorism,” this includes those who have fought to recover Mapuche lands and those who are on the front line at demonstrations. This new legislation intends to deepen the criminalization of organizations that support the right of self-defense for workers, the people, and the Mapuche people.

Another aspect of the new constitution that seeks to increase levels of repression is Article 100, letter R. It authorizes the president to use the armed forces to protect “critical infrastructure.” In other words, the president will be able to order the armed forces to put an end to strikes by workers in the energy sector, healthcare, and even dock workers (Article 113). The president will also be able to criminalize any action consisting of roadblocks or barricades, which are methods used by workers and youth in their demonstrations.

In other words, the new constitution not only fails to solve the people’s most pressing problems, but it will also strengthen the repressive bourgeois state. It marks a deepening at the constitutional level of the so-called “security agenda” which consists of laws passed in parliament between the Broad Front/Communist Party of Chile government and the opposition.

The Country will Remain in the Hands of 10 Families and Some Transnational Corporations

Last but not least, the new constitution will maintain the grip that the 10 billionaire families and some transnationals have on the whole country. It will keep in place the privatization of copper, lithium, and the private property of large economic groups that generate the enormous social inequality and poverty the majority of the population lives under.

Read also : Chile: A History of Plunder: A Contribution to Present Struggles

It is Not Enough to Vote, it is Necessary to Mobilize

It is fundamental that we explain to workers and to our families and friends that the proposed new constitution marks a significant attack on the majority of the population. This new constitution is at the service of big business. That is why we must vote “no” on December 17.

But just voting “no” will not solve our problems. It is essential that working class and youth organizations, including the CUT, the trade union federations and confederations, the CONFECH and the social movements, draw up a list of demands and a plan of action to fight for the improvement of our living conditions. This was the path of mobilization and organization that began on October 18, 2019, which opened the rift between the powerful and the possibilities for change. This opening up to different possibilities is what the new constitution is trying to bury.

Some of our historic and immediate demands should serve to mobilize the workers, including the increase of the minimum wage to 700,000 pesos, the end of the AFPs, the closing of business at 7 p.m., the end of the CAE and the cancellation of the debt, the nationalization of copper with workers’ control, and the right to abortion, among others. The CUT and the unions allied with the government must leave the negotiating tables with the ministers and prioritize the mobilization of the masses independently. This is the only way we will be able to get back on track to winning the demands we have been shouting in the streets since October 18, 2019.

Notes:

[1] https://www.emol.com/noticias/Nacional/2023/03/31/1091005/umbral-5-partidos-proceso-constituyente.html

Article first published at http://vozdelostrabajadores.cl 11/7/2023

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