A couple of days before the parliamentary election, La Tercera published a bigdata analysis ranking each of the 155 current parliamentarians into left, centre and right, according to all their votes in the last four years. According to this ranking, humanist Tomás Hirsch is the most left-wing MP in the ENTIRE current parliament. On the other hand, the results of the parliamentary election show that Tomás Hirsch is the only opposition deputy elected in the 11th district (Peñalolén, La Reina, Las Condes, Vitacura and Lo Barnechea), the so-called district of rejection and which concentrates the largest vote of the right and ultra-right in the whole country.
In other words, in the most ultra-conservative district, the cradle of the extreme right, no DC, PPD or PS deputy was elected, but the most left-wing deputy in Chile belonging to the humanist side of Apruebo Dignidad was elected.
How to explain this apparent paradox, any communications advisor would have suggested that in this district it would be necessary to moderate the language, move away from any “leftism” and make gestures towards the centre to show “governability” and “statesmanship”. But Tomás Hirsch did the opposite during his parliamentary term, he strongly expressed our conviction to free the prisoners of the explosion and our rejection of the anti-barricades and anti-captivity law. We were an active part of each and every one of the accusations against Piñera and all his ministers and we strongly supported the mobilisations of the evicted settlers of Cerro 18, the defence of the foothills and the housing committees of Peñalolén and La Reina and – last but not least – we supported all the human rights groups in their efforts to maintain the memory and do justice.
Another important fact, very useful to better illustrate our view of the current social moment, is that Tomás and our entire team publicly opposed the November 2019 Agreement because we understood that it was a mistake, not because it was a “betrayal of the revolutionary moment” that Chile was supposedly experiencing at the time, but because it was signed behind the back of the so-called social movement. A heterogeneous and diverse social movement, with a lot of social energy but which was far from being a revolutionary movement.
The social outpouring of October 2019 brought together on the streets unemployed and professionals, wage earners and shopkeepers. There were the young people indebted by the CAE, the adults who cannot take care of their sick parents and the old people who survive on miserable pensions, the sexual diversity discriminated against together with the medium-sized businessmen suffocated by the banks. But there were also the organised lumpen, the drug trafficking networks and the infiltrators of the carabineros, investigations and perhaps some other extreme right-wing group acting in the shadows.
And here we come to the heart of the matter: to understand what happened with the electoral triumph of the ultra-right-wing Kast, it is necessary to understand what happened in that October of the so-called social awakening. My personal reflection is that during the last 30 years the majority of the people have not been asleep, but very awake and active, although following the neoliberal model of consumption, filling the elegant Malls and also the so-called Chinese Malls. Some to buy refined clothes, to go on holiday outside the country or to buy the latest Apple model, others to collect coins and buy 120 lucas trainers, to plaster the car or to buy bling bling to show off at the next party. Both coincide in their over-indebtedness and their determination to work tirelessly from dawn to dusk to finance their personal or family consumption weekends. On the other hand, a different segment, which does not have access to a salary or an informal income, is beginning to approach a culture, not yet fully understood, which has permeated the depoliticised popular sectors. I am referring to the narcoculture, those who live in or on the periphery of the narco world, who even have their own successful singers in a unique artistic circuit, and who we have denied their existence but who surprise us daily with their defiant fireworks or ostentatious funerals.
By the way, there are also growing groups of young people who do not coincide with this pattern of consumption, who are concerned with building an alternative model and who disbelieve in neoliberalism and want a model of direct democracy, I am referring to young cleteros, feminists, animalists, sexual diversity and vegans. These groups of young people converge with the yearnings of those 1980s youth frustrated by the democracy inherited from Pinochet and deepened by the Concertación.
Whoever woke up the day after the elections wondering what happened in this country, which yesterday demanded a Constituent Assembly and today ends up voting for Kast or Parisi, then they probably thought that the October outpouring was made up only or mostly of this group of lucid young people and that the construction of a socialist paradise or the emergence of a new sensibility was just around the corner. The political sectors that romanticised the front line or those who validated the looting must be the most perplexed by yesterday’s election results, as they are only just discovering that behind Parisi’s inexplicable vote are many of the voters of the People’s List and that Kast’s vote penetrates the popular sectors that see how the narco advances without anyone doing anything. “They are all narcos” they say in the popular sectors and that “everything” includes anything that smells of institutionality, be it from the right, but also from the left, although the ultra-right has skilfully positioned itself as an outsider actor, in the style of Bolsonaro or Trump.
I am not minimising or downplaying the importance of that Chilean October that shook the world, I am just saying that it is necessary to characterise it well. That October was a very heterogeneous social outpouring, of unusual social energy, but very far from a revolutionary moment. It was mainly a demand, a great catharsis of collective anger, the result of the fact that many felt marginalised from a 30-year-old party, a party attended by a few and where they also wanted to be. That was the majority demand: “we also want to be at that party”, something very different and far removed from the understanding that it is necessary to change the party, an understanding that would be the seed for a truly revolutionary phenomenon.
So what was common to the millions of Chileans who took to the streets that historic October: the feeling of anger and weariness at the injustice, marginalisation and abuse perpetrated by all the institutions (parties, churches, press, football, Armed Forces, etc.) and which is present in the depoliticised popular sectors, the professional middle classes and even the medium-sized businessmen. So when a public representative sincerely differentiates himself from this abusive institutionality, clearly denounces injustice and corruption, and abandons the privileges that his own position can bring, it is not necessary to call himself the people or the left for people to recognise a sincere attempt at a new way of doing politics.
And that is what Tomás Hirsch has tried to do in District 11, he has not moderated his discourse or his actions and in his task of representation he has sincerely connected with that feeling of abuse present in the depoliticised popular sectors, the impoverished middle class, the indebted professionals and the medium-sized businessman asphyxiated by the banks. And this message, expressed with clarity and firmness, also resonates and summons that group of young people with a new sensibility, who want to build a new Chile but detest violence.
Between the 18 October of Santiago in flames and the November summit agreement signed in the late-night kitchen, there was the march of a million people on 25 October. An absolutely peaceful march, without broken windows or looting. That million people could well have marched a few blocks to storm the Palacio de La Moneda and no one would have been able to stop them, but in a collective intuition, in a tacit synchronicity, they did not, because they were not willing to confront violence against violence. It was a clear demonstration of the power of nonviolence against repression, a reminder that “you have the power, but at any moment you can lose it”. To romanticise looting and violence as revolutionary, beyond the infiltrators that also exist, is to misdiagnose, it is to cunningly force reality to make it look like the romantic desires of some, it is to give the “good life” to fascism because the common people want to live in peace and that good life does not include justifying or turning a blind eye to the looting of neighbours’ businesses or complicity with criminal networks or drug traffickers.
And this misdiagnosis of what the Chilean October was really about is not trivial, it is not a simple and inconsequential mistake, on the contrary, it is huge and very dangerous because humanists know very well that when you force something towards an end you produce the opposite, so why should we be surprised by the rise of Kast and the far right?