“And it was necessary to suffer from that peculiar disease which since 1848 has been ravaging the whole continent, parliamentary cretinism, a disease which imprisons those infected as if by enchantment in an imaginary world, depriving them of all sense, of all memory, of all understanding of the rough world outside”.
Karl Marx: ‘The 18th Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte’.
LEGACIES OF SOCIAL UPHEAVAL
If there is one legacy that we can recover from the great outburst of 18 October 2019, it is none other than that which teaches us the falsity of the following statement: the estates that make up the country’s ‘political scene’ – namely ‘left’ and ‘right’ – represent (the ‘left’) the dominated sectors and (the ‘right’) those who dominate.
Such a legacy, however, reminds us that both estates (‘left’ and ‘right’), thus considered, are consubstantial elements of the capitalist mode of production and, therefore, must be considered as a single structure, a compact unity, inseparable from each other, a quality that explains the profound contradiction that both present with respect to the social movements or, if you will, the population that gives rise to a social formation. The agreement of 15 November 2019 is the most eloquent expression of this spurious union between ‘left’ and ‘right’ against the national community: it made the population discover that the parties were not defending the interests they claimed to protect but rather their own. This explains why, after the outbreak, the term ‘independent’ gained such extraordinary importance and made the social movements adopt it as their own.
THE POWER OF DOMINATION
The ruling classes, however, – Gramsci reminds us – have a culture which is the antithesis of that possessed by the dominated sectors: one which is typical, homogeneous and conscious; moreover, it is easy for them to navigate successfully in the waters of the system, a task which is extremely difficult for the dominated sectors.
It should therefore come as no surprise that, after reflecting on whether or not it was appropriate to make a new attempt to subdue the fractious through the use of this term, it determined the ‘political scene’ of the nation, giving places on its lists to these ‘independents’. And it even created lists for them, with some of its former militants or sympathisers. It was necessary to take advantage of the term ‘independent’, which became a kind of nobility title that even former militants and sympathisers of the existing parties were quick to claim for themselves.
The opportunity for the ‘political elite’ to regain its dominion came when the method of voting for those who would draft the new constitution was determined: the method would be the same as that used for the election of parliamentarians, i.e. the D’Hondt system, the imposition of which the social movements would accept, a method that was to be largely favourable to the partycracy.
At the national level, two lists were able to organise themselves in the manner required by law; only one of them was able to achieve complete success. It was the People’s List. But this new success alerted the ‘political scene’. It was unacceptable that a list of “appearances” should win such a victory; the formation of lists of independents could not be repeated. The bill in Congress to accept this possibility was suddenly shelved. The idea of a possible threat from the ‘independents’ was thus completely eliminated. At the same time, the possibility of influencing the CC, despite having one of the highest quotas of members of the Constituent Assembly, was reduced to ‘negotiation’. And, with that, to accepting and practising the well-known ‘kitchen’ method. Meanwhile, the parties, repudiated and discredited, cornered and rejected, returned in glory and majesty to decide the future of the nation.
None of what has happened, then, is the work of chance or nature, but of sectors that know exactly what they want and where they are going. This is a circumstance that we must always bear in mind in our analysis.
THE DOMINANT SECTORS RESIST
The contradiction is thus determined. There is no opposing ‘left’ and ‘right’, as has been taught and continues to be taught, but a ‘political elite’ that is opposed to change and must therefore be eradicated. Such a task is not easy because it is one thing to put an end to a certain adversary; it is another to want to do so, a premise that limits the real possibilities for action.
To carry out an action and make it successful requires the will to carry it out, and to have the means to do so. But there is another aspect to consider: assuming that such premises exist, the power of the adversary must be considered, and whether or not he will accept to be defied with impunity. And therein lies the crux of the problem. For no social structure has a suicidal vocation. There is always a struggle to defend its own perpetuation. To suppose that a social sector, however repudiated it may be, is going to graciously abandon the privileges it has enjoyed up to that moment without offering resistance is simply to deny its class consciousness or to consider it tremendously naïve. A great friend of mine used to remind me of the two (what he called) ‘commandments of God’s Law’: never allow yourself to be thought stupid and never believe that the person you are dealing with is stupid.
It is true that the dominant sectors tend to assume the opposite and label the one they despise as a ‘loser’. Because they know that imposed chains are hard to shake. It should come as no surprise that this axiom was brutally stated by Richard Dawkins as follows:
“Individuals who are in a lower order tend to yield to those who are in a higher order. It is not necessary to suppose that individuals recognise each other. What happens is that individuals who are accustomed to winning tend to be even more likely to win, while those individuals who are accustomed to losing become at the same time more likely to lose”[i].
This is fatally the case within the capitalist system. Because the legal and cultural structures built within it have allowed it to happen that way.
STRATEGY OF THE DOMINANT SECTORS
The dominant sectors are dominant because they dominate. It is not difficult for them to devise a strategy to counteract the vagaries of the fractious. One of them is the use of the legal/political structure. For no other reason, armed with this brief compendium of the behaviour of the dominated classes and class fractions, the dominant sectors, aided by their political representation, imposed on the national community the way of voting and, consequently, the way of conducting the elections of the Constituent Assembly members. Nothing was to be altered. The parties would continue to rule. They had prepared themselves to govern and would continue to do so in the years to come. That was how they would all proceed. Even the new ones. Gabriel Boric summed it up with extraordinary clarity in 2017:
“The objective is to constitute a political movement that contests in all spaces”[ii].
Neither did Beatríz Sánchez, when she expressed, a short time later:
“[…] what is coming for the future is consolidation, we are beginning work to start projecting the Frente Amplio, to dispute in all spaces”[iii].
It was no different from the discourse of the other parties which, in very similar terms, had also formulated it in previous years. They were all preparing to govern. Therefore, the D’Hondt system, which had allowed the creation of a privileged ‘caste’, would not be altered in any way. Victory would not be handed to the independents. The dominated would be forced to accept this way of acting. The social contradiction of ‘left’ versus ‘right’ would be transformed into one in which the ‘political elite’ would appear in opposition to the social movements, as already indicated. Something very different from what had been believed up to that point. That was the first rung to climb on the ladder of the strategy of domination. The second would be to develop a veritable festival of elections simultaneous with the functioning of the Convention. Basically, the idea was to involve that body in the nation’s political events in such a way that its work would be nothing more than a reproduction of what would happen outside it: to presidentialise and parliamentarise its workings.
AN UNCOMFORTABLE CONCLUSION
We can therefore affirm that the independents did not win the May elections, as is supposed. On the contrary: it was the parties and, consequently, the ‘political elite’ who won. It was thus a miracle that two lists of independents could be organised at the national level, and one of them – the People’s List – managed to break the constant of defeat to emerge as an unprecedented event in the history of the Republic: the dominated sectors (the people) organised themselves. But the triumph would always belong to the dominant sectors.
The use of the D’Hondt system allowed the parties to offer some ‘independents’ certain quotas. Thus, the conditions were in place for the old politics, once again, to return in glory and majesty to take over the leadership of the nation, in the hands of young actors. Because the true independents did not win. The independents who participated in lists that were not very prone to change and those linked to certain and specific lists, and the independents who used the quotas of the party lists, won. If we add to this the constituent convention members who were party militants, we understand that the triumph was theirs. As a result, the ground was ripe for the old vices of politics to be reproduced.
Let us sum up, then: the first great triumph of the national ‘political scene’, as a consubstantial element of the State, was to get the dominated sectors to agree to submit to an election process governed by the D’Hondt system; the second was to accept that the normal election process would be carried out in parallel with the work of the Constitutional Convention, in the knowledge that the nation was not living through a normal period. The third would be Parliament’s refusal to accept that independents could organise lists in the way that political parties do.
THE EFFECTS OF THIS STRATEGY
The first symptom was the election of the presidency and vice-presidency of the Constitutional Convention. While it was true that Elisa’s candidacy came from the Mapuche List itself, behind it an alliance was formed between the FA and the PS that broke up the ‘I approve with Dignity’ alliance, previously organised by the PC and the FA, forcing the former to follow its own path and attempt to install Isabel Godoy in that position. Another fact came to sow more tares to the alliances: the vicissitudes of contingent politics that finally ended up ‘presidentialising’ the election of the board of the Constitutional Convention. Today, it is even possible to hear some representatives of the RD boast that they were the ones who raised Jaime Bassa to the vice-presidency of the body, which is not a lie. But to put it in these terms suggests that the old politics does not hesitate when it comes to regaining its dominance.
For a large part of the activities of the government and state institutions are geared towards protecting the nation’s legal/political structure or, in other words, the functioning of the national ‘political scene’. This is the direction of the work of the director of Internal Taxes Fernando Barraza and his refusal to bring charges against those who have accepted bribery and bribery as a way of acting in politics, figures which, euphemistically called ‘illegal financing of politics’, avoid the use of the others.
“From the very moment the scandal of illegal political financing exploded seven years ago, Operation Impunity began to develop with the aim of halting investigations against politicians, businessmen and senior executives related to the most emblematic aspect: SQM”[iv].
A large part of the Chilean ‘political elite’ is corrupt. It hurts to say it. But it is true. It is therefore more elegant to accuse them of illegal financing than to accuse them of paying bribes.
Political analyst Marco Moreno has pointed out that the work of the Public Prosecutor’s Office in abandoning the investigation against some thirty of the accused has been nothing more than
“…] to anticipate the pressure of the electoral cycle, since some of those who were questioned now want to be candidates, and registration closes in another 20 days”[v].
THE REPRODUCTION OF CULTURAL RELATIONS
Marx teaches us that whoever holds material power in a society also holds its spiritual power. Cultural relations are reproduced in all social strata and it is not by chance that the general population is engaged in Byzantine discussions to determine who is more or less ‘democratic’. And forget that democracy, as a form of government proper to the capitalist mode of production, has become an intrinsic noun. A truth.
So it should come as no surprise that such ideas also cause independents to reflect on whether or not to participate in the upcoming parliamentary elections. Because the election system is also accepted as an axiom that does not admit of proof to the contrary. Thus, the dominated sectors within the Constitutional Convention will proceed as every component of the capitalist mode of production does. There is no alternative. Therefore, they also start to prepare their forces on the basis of whether or not it would be convenient to participate in parliamentary and presidential elections and even to become a political party. The LDP, in a communiqué last June, had already expressed its intentions to run candidates for the next elections, including regional councillors, deputies, senators and also for the Presidency of the Republic. The system seeks to co-opt it in any way it can. This attempt at co-optation will become increasingly intense with the formation of parliamentary lists and the consequent updating of the pacts. Because, let’s be frank, none of the political parties are interested in whether or not the CC will decide in favour of a bicameral system, whether it will recognise the single chamber as the best parliament and whether or not it will maintain the parliamentary terms. They only want the quotas, that the party gets the most seats in order to dominate from the parliament and, if the parliament changes its form, to negotiate in a better position to keep the quotas it had. In the case of the People’s List, its advisor, Erick Palma, has said:
[…] I believe that what the candidates for the different parliamentary and presidential posts must be clear about is that it is a fact of the cause that their posts must be placed at the disposal of the decision taken by the people of Chile when the draft of the new constitution is put to a plebiscite. If the new constitution is approved, and a semi-presidential and unicameral regime is established, then those who are elected in November must place their offices at the disposal of the people of Chile. That must be absolutely clear to them, and that is regardless of whether or not The People’s List has a presidential candidate”[vi].
This sentence, which seems more like a ‘conditio sine qua non’ of any nomination within the People’s List, has not yet been made known in the case of Fabiola Campillai, who would be nominated as a senatorial candidate by this movement. Of course, this has not been said (and it is almost impossible for them to do so) by the other collectivities, so it can be presumed that candidacies can become an end in themselves, as has been the case so far, and not a service to the community. And, given the short time remaining for such definitions, this is a matter that should already be on the agenda, if not in the Constitutional Convention, then at least in each of the lists of candidates for the Constituent Convention.
And what about the presidential election?
It is clear that elections are not inconsequential. A president (and a parliament) that will support and facilitate the adaptation of the nation’s legal/political structure to the new constitution is not the same as one who will not do so and who, on the contrary, will put all kinds of obstacles in the way. But an option such as the LDP cannot deliver a viable alternative in such a short time. One of the conventional constituents of the same list, Cristóbal Andrade, has said in this regard:
“The People’s List is not prepared for a presidential candidacy, the objective was made to take convention members to the Constitutional Convention, now it is moving forward for the parliamentary elections and that is fine, but I think it is better to go little by little”[vii].
But this has not been the case. Candidates are already on the horizon. Those who represent them are impeccable people. But nothing has been said about how they will behave when the new constitution comes into force… There will be changes. And the trends, which we have observed, will, perhaps, change direction. We do not know. But we can believe that this will happen.
The President has shown brilliantly how a Convention is to be conducted, and we hope that from her hands will come not only the charter we long for, but, as the poem says, even ‘fragrant roses may spring forth’. The Constitutional Convention remains our primary task, and to it our efforts must be directed more than to an election.
- [i] Dawkins, Richard: “El gen egoísta”, Salvat Editores S.A., Barcelona, 2002, pp. 107/108.
- [ii] Bas, Daniela: “La profecía autocumplida del Frente Amplio: lideran la Convención, municipios, gremios y hasta las RRSS”, ‘El Líbero’, 26 July 2021. The bold is from the original.\
- [iii] Bas, Daniela: Art. cited in (2). Bold is from the original.
[iv] Editor: “La Semana Política: Operación Impunidad como mecanismo para favorecer candidaturas”, ‘El Mostrador’, 04 August 2021.
- [v] Editor: Id. (4).
- [vi] Parrini, Gianluca: “Erick Palma, asesor L. del Pueblo: ‘Un gobierno neoliberal no cabe en nuestro modelo constitucional'”, Radio Biobío, 25 July 2021.
- [vii] Editor: “LDP Constituent Cristóbal Andrade: ‘La Lista del Pueblo no está preparada para una candidatura presidencial'”, ‘El Mostrador’, 03 August 2021. Bold is from the original.