Sun Feb 05, 2023
February 05, 2023

One year of the Constitutional Convention

On this occasion, I will make the first assessment of my participation in the Constitutional Convention.

By María Rivera, MIT leader and former constituent for District 8.

First of all, we must remember that 27 members elected of the List of the People, plus the ones of the People’s Voice, totalling 34 Convention members, signed a declaration that essentially embodied the demands of the Revolution opened on October 18 and created expectations in an important sector of the people.

Thus, on 4 July 2021, we broke into a bourgeois institution that was forced to accept different expressions of the Chilean people who had filled the squares, streets and avenues full of rage against those who had held power for 30 years.

Early that day we gathered in Plaza de la Dignidad, the same square that had seen brave young people fight on the front line and organised health, self-defence and food brigades, as well as Abel Acuña, Cristian Valdebenito and Mauricio Fredes, who had given their lives in the struggle. Several hundred people accompanied us to the old Congress premises, where the Convention awaited us to be open with the usual formality of the elite, that was quickly frustrated because we were forced to take to the streets to confront the repression unleashed.

That first day, when for the first time native peoples, independents, and traditional politicians met in a bourgeois institution, the majority of the Convention members occupied their seats as authorities puffing out their chests in a tent without good sound and a place to feed us, confirming that this Constitutional Convention, achieved by the force of the mobilisation, would not be what many had dreamed of.

Convention members of the List of the People walking towards the Constitutional Convention
List of the People representatives in the march towards the Constitutional Convention

There I was, without any hope or expectations and proudly raising the demands of October 18 and of the International Workers’ Movement (MIT), with the firm conviction to use every minute to defend the struggle for socialism.

It is not easy for anyone to be on permanent alert not to fall under pressure. The teachings of our masters, the study, the elaboration and the support of our International, the International Workers’ League – Fourth International, allowed us to stand tall from start to end.

From the very first moment, I could see that being independent is no guarantee of anything and that the difference would be made from that very moment by the programmes that each of the 155 carried under their arms. It was not difficult to know who was who. For example, the bombastic declaration of the People’s Voice, which caught the attention of the press, was soon diluted, because the flamboyant leaders of the Voice, feminists, 8M and other independents, only issued this declaration, who knows, to gain press headings. They quickly succumbed to the pressures and instead of relying on the people’s mobilisation, they occupied halls and corridors, even interviews in the press, to “negotiate” with the parties, relegating the demands of the people to the benefit of the goals of the establishment politicians and above all of the Frente Amplio. Thus, urgent demands such as opposing the FTAs, demanding free and public education without private participation, an end to the AFP and the struggle to release political prisoners were dropped by the wayside.

On the day of the vote on the property law, one of the most important of the new Constitution, I witnessed the pressure exerted by the parties of the most diverse colours on the independent and native peoples’ representatives. Patricio Fernández (PS), Ignacio Achurra (FA), and Javier Fuschlocher of the Independientes No Neutrales pushed the Mapuche Convention members to vote that the state, in the case of expropriating property, should compensate the ex-owners. This blackmail was clearly aimed at defending the country’s large economic groups. They also put pressure on me, but as I did not believe them, I did not fall for their manoeuvre, which left the owners of forestry companies, big mining companies and all big businesses happy, as the Chilean state will never have enough money to compensate for what they have taken from us.

I was a member of the Provisional Commission for Human Rights in the first period of the process when I faced the accomplice of the dictatorship, Admiral Jorge Arancibia, whom I confronted and pushed to say where the detained and missing protesters were. He’s an arrogant man with a cynical attitude, to whom the pandemic lockdown was functional to help him stay at home and diminish the permanent repudiation from those who neither forgive nor forget. This dictatorship’s accomplice, always protected by bodyguards, was part of the group made up of the 37 representatives of the most conservative sector of the country, those who have a gigantic facility for lying, do not get nervous, and rely on large teams of disinfectant-smelling advisors.

Admiral Jorge Arancibia Reyes, an accomplice of the Pinochet dictatorship, in the Human Rights Provisional Commission

They boast of their lineage, they humiliate, they despair when they hear us and fear us, and they are terrified of the mobilised people. Individually they are kind… “María [Rivera], how honest you are, you are the most consistent, you are very brave! We respect you,” and when Secretary Smock announced my speech, a complete silence preceded me, everyone knew that there was a possibility that I would denounce them, that I would confront them as corrupt, as responsible for the poverty of the country. Today, after meeting them, I say out loud and with greater certainty that we must never trust their words as the “good cop” because when they consider it necessary they will act as they really think and apply all their power against us.

On the other side of the coin, I shared the Commission with the mythical Machi Francisca Linconao, with whom I started a great friendship and was able to get to know more closely this ancestral authority and brave Mapuche woman, distrustful of everyone; but how could she not be after spending a year in prison due to a frame-up? I have no doubt that Machi will continue to defend her land and express her impotence and anger at so much discrimination and mistreatment of her people. That’s why I told her privately and publicly that “I vindicate the Mapuche struggle for the recovery of their lands and I do not question the violence they use in that struggle.”

The settling of positions did not take long. The traditional right-wing parties, all the former Concertación parties – the INN, PS and FA -, now the ruling Bloc, took the lead and dragged along the independents, who at first seemed determined to put up a fight, showing that electoral campaigns “can take anything.” The feminists organised a collective headed by the 8M, the “Eco-constituentes” also organised themselves, collectives that were packed with ex-independents who soon succumbed or directly surrendered to the coveted established power.

While the usual politicians, clearly compromised to protect the privileges of the powerful, made and unmade rules, the List of the People had to explain the little show by “Pelao Vade,” [1] making efforts not to be contaminated, an effort that would soon vanish with the nomination of Diego Ancalao as the presidential candidate of the List of the People, who resurrected the dead, bought notaries and ended up destroying its original programme.

Thus the 27 of us who were elected with a proposal were diluted. We joined various collectives or benches and continued, at least me, to defend the programme that allowed me to provoke the hysteria of the powerful, the fear of the Frente Amplio, the shame of several independents, the emotion of some who call themselves Communists and the pride to learn that an important sector of workers listened to me.

Today, after the end of the Constitutional Convention, I can say without fear of being wrong: our balance sheet is positive, we managed to raise a revolutionary programme, speaking the truth, showing the road to socialism, the only way to end corruption in all state institutions, confronting bourgeois power, demonstrating the purpose of the revolutionaries in parliament. We did not compromise, we did not participate in any spurious negotiation behind the backs of the people, we did not surrender to institutional power and today we can take to the streets to harvest what we have sown there.

Now we must work hard and, with the experience we have gained, say with total certainty that we will not find a way out by means of the bourgeois institutions. We must continue the fight for a programme to unite the working class and to revive the trade unions, the territorial assemblies, the organisations of women, youth and the elderly, oppressed peoples and sexual diversity groups and, with an uncrompomising class independence, to retake the banners that flew in October and completely change Chile. For this, the MIT puts itself at the service of the urgent task of building a revolutionary party, so that the best of our class can carry out this task. We invite you to get to know our proposal.

Notes:

[1] – Rodrigo Ernesto Rojas Vade, nicknamed Pelao Vade (Bald Vade), was one of he founders of the List of the People. During his campaign for the Constitutional Convention, Vade lied about having cancer. The news, broken by the Chilean newspaper La Tercera in September 2021, led to his resignation as Adjunct Vice President of the Constitutional Convention.

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