After the so-called Social Outburst of 18 October 2019, a set of expressions and possibilities of organisation emerged from the interests of the oppressed, independently of the state, the political system and the propertied classes.
By Andrés Figueroa Cornejo
It is a question of efforts and indications that pre-existed the Social Outburst and that managed to manifest themselves in visible and shared terrain with other more or less similar wills, above all, through the local assemblies of ordinary people. It was there, in this social and communal territory, that the subjective and political meeting took place to begin to debate and practice social relations that, consciously or unconsciously, are part of the tradition of popular insubordination in the country’s history.
The Referente Político Social (RPS) is a grouping of initiatives “from below and outside”, initiated in February 2021, which presents itself as a tactical moment to confront the specific Chilean capitalist regime, its ongoing multidimensional crisis, and the struggle for the conquest of social rights. And at this juncture, as a response of a fringe of the popular classes to the readjustment of power through the so-called Pact for Peace and the Constitution (social containment agreement of the dominant political party system) and its ongoing Constitutional Convention.
In order to get to know the RPS, three of its participants were interviewed: Fernando Cortés, member of the political collective Resistencia y Libertad; Nadia Poblete, who is part of an assembly in the commune of Maipú in Santiago and declares herself an autonomous feminist; and Reinaldo Pay, participant in groups and assemblies in Hualpén, Concepción.
-What is the RPS?
FC: It is an effort by various popular groups that are similar in that they have a perspective of revolutionary transformation and that, reading that there is an absence in the country of any reference that brings the popular sectors closer to politics, proposes to build an instrument that brings together all the people who believe that changes have to come from below and outside the institutional framework. We want to become a relevant subject in history.
NP: We emerged as an instance of articulation that aims to overcome the idea of the mere coordination of organisations, in order to collectively develop a policy and a tactic to confront the exit from above the elite that took shape in the so-called Agreement for Peace and the Constitution on 15 November 2019. We want to contribute to the construction of the people as a political subject.
RP: We are for the people to become a political actor that puts forward its position on a general level, and that marches towards a congress of the peoples in struggle. We think that the best of the Social Revolt, which was consolidated in the self-convened popular and territorial assemblies, should be combined with the pre-Revolt experiences that had been working and intervening for a long time. The Revolt was certainly a milestone that connected with the social struggles of the 1990s. The Estallido brought the new youth, the new precarious, the new feminist, the factors that demand the struggles present in our territories. The RPS is a possible form of the people who deliberate, who do not delegate their deliberation, who then resolve and act accordingly.
-RPS is a signifier whose meaning seems to be in full elaboration, like an unfinished instrument?
RP: Indeed. We are an endeavour that we must first give ourselves content in real terms. In other words, first we have to build forces, an identity, and then we will come up with a name in accordance with that construction.
NP: The aim is also to break with certain logics installed by capitalist social relations, where the commodity begins and ends as a “brand”, and contains nothing. The aim in this respect is to break with marketing-politics, where what is lacking in social forces and coherent politics is filled with publicity, social media, etc. What we are interested in today is to build a political practice of articulation, a praxis of sharing.
-Does the RPS have any guiding principles, any distinctive features?
FC: The starting point of our process is to take a position on the institutional exit above 15 November 2019 in order to interrupt the development of a period of political destabilisation provoked by the social and popular movement, whose potential is dangerous for the interests of the established order.
The Social Outburst was not an anomalous phenomenon if one considers the accumulation of processes of struggle that for decades have been offered in a fragmented manner. There we find social struggles against extractivism, indigenous resistance, labour strikes, large student and feminist movements, etc.
However, we do not believe that in the Social Outburst the people were on the streets to demand constitutional change, nor to rotate the faces of the candidates of the same oppressive regime. The popular pains that were expressed were about the crisis of public health, water, education, land. That is why the formulation of a new referent has to collaborate with the participatory, democratically direct self-management of social rights by the communities themselves in the different concrete territories. And we propose this far removed from any form of welfarist statism.
RP: With a criterion of reality, the RPS met in July where we provisionally concluded that we are not yet in a position to draw up a political strategy. Why? Because if today we are trying to constitute ourselves as a people, we have to face two important efforts in organisational and programmatic terms. Although each of us has a project for society defined in our heads, we cannot be irresponsible enough to “skip” the collective process that such a task requires. This does not mean that we will stop pulling towards the strategic debate, of course. But at present, the RPS is proposed as a tactic to confront a given period, characterised by an open crisis from above.
Obviously, as we did at our second meeting, we are already launching the debate around our programmatic axes. But not as a list of demands, but by contributing the functional elements to become a people during the same dynamic of intervening in the still unresolved crisis from above.
NP: For example, with regard to feminism, we are at the moment of analysing this second feminist wave (the first one we situate in the 1990s), and how it has undergone a phenomenon of institutionalisation. We still have to define together the strategic guidelines on this dimension and the others.
-Do you or do you not feel part of the traditions of the popular left?
NP: It couldn’t be otherwise. Many of us who are part of the RPS come from diverse activism and previous militancy, but all associated with the history of popular struggles, with the long-standing history of glimpses of autonomous popular power. Naturally, this does not mean either uniformity or even less unthinking obsession with previous experiences. There is a profound critique of the errors we tested in that tradition, as well as the rescue of those passages of struggle that were obscured.
And in fact, for the new commemoration of the coup d’état of 11 September 1973, we called for the annual march, forming a distinguishable bloc.
-What do you mean by “outside institutionalism”?
RP: Outside institutionalism is the way to explain the struggles of the students, the dockers, the Mapuche resistance, in the immediate past and throughout the country’s history. That is, to explain the way in which a more organised sector of the people breaks through the siege of what is legally permitted in the struggle for their rights.
We also say ‘outside’ to signify our critique of the delegation of power. So-called representative democracy has not solved any of the key problems of those at the bottom. So we make the critique, but at the same time, we start to solve our own needs ourselves.
Thus, gradually, we begin to prefigure a society, which, although we do not have it defined in all its determinations, in practice is based on social relations of solidarity and mutual support. And what we are saying is as concrete as the alternatives we are exploring socially so that popular children do not fall prey to drug trafficking or to the state.
NP: We radically distrust the movements that take place within the institutional framework. And we don’t believe that it is possible to build a people with one foot outside and another foot inside the institutional system, because time and time again the foot inside the system ends up taking precedence, the same foot that subordinates and hinders the development of the creation of a people that is the protagonist of its own history.
-And how can one participate in the RPS?
RP: At our second meeting we discussed the issue. We are well aware that there are other efforts, assemblies and collectives similar to ours. For that, and in the meantime, we proposed alliance policies. But we believe that the procedure of unity must be, precisely, from below and in the concrete practice of the daily life of organisation and struggle with others.
NP: Along these lines, and in the framework of our Campaign for a New Springtime of Peoples in Struggle, we also have some media: https://twitter.com/referente_rps, https://www.instagram.com/referente_rps/, https://www.facebook.com/Referente-RPS-108000584919969 for those who want to be informed.