I started writing this analysis on Sunday 19 December. I thought that a good analysis should not be affected by the conjunctural situation of an election. The atmosphere was expectant. Problems of locomotion to go to vote and a confrontation was expected in the counting of the polling stations; at midday there was silence, the atmosphere became as if Boric was the winner and the government was doing all sorts of things to reduce the distance between the candidates. At 7 pm we already knew and at 9 pm the percentage of 56 to 44% was announced in the election with the highest turnout in the history of the country.
I recognise our idiosyncrasy of feeling that every time we are in these political inflections, we are not only risking the history of Chile, but of the world. But that’s how it seemed to me; we were deciding something very important. Many of us were uneasy, the darkness of the times of the dictatorship threatened us, the normalisation of anti-values, the cynicism of saying one thing knowing that another will be done, and violence justifying violence.
The first round of elections was a bucket of cold water. The results showed us that we know almost nothing about social processes. What happened between the social revolt and this election that seemed more like a counter-reform? The first round of elections broke the trend that had been going on since the outbreak of 2019, the plebiscite of approval and the election of the constituents. In between, a pandemic occurred and the Covid-19 virus produced changes in behaviour that we are still assimilating.
Noted international artists and politicians were cheering us on for this election. What was so important? Everyone felt the need to take a stand, no one believed in neutrality. Everyone supported Boric. I never saw artists supporting Kast and my children explain to me that this is how social networks work. Their algorithms lock me in a digital bubble and provide me with only the information that makes me feel comfortable and that I want to believe.
Before I was taken by the vibe and joy of the youth that invaded the squares of Chile in celebration, I was able to point out the global context in which this election was taking place.
We are facing global conflicts such as pandemics, climate change, immigration, poverty and inequality, but nation states do not seem to have the awareness or the will to coordinate in earnest. On the other hand, wealth is concentrated in fewer and fewer hands, and they manage to corrupt governments, or place their employees in public office to adjust legal mechanisms in their favour. These are global problems, not problems of this country. The coming technological change is of such a magnitude that it is dizzying. Soon human reproduction will no longer depend on women’s wombs, robots and artificial intelligence will overtake us in many of our jobs, in addition to the psychic control already being attempted with big data algorithms. Of course, the rise of China to displace the United States as an economic and military power is leading to new global alliances and unchecked spending on sophisticated weaponry and research for destruction.
In this whirlwind of history, a political and social phenomenon is occurring in Chile, which until a few years ago was the guinea pig of the neoliberal economic model.
The revolt of 2019 was a psycho-social phenomenon that tuned in to the population who demonstrated with creativity and poetry; it managed to put in check the established system that was forced to negotiate a constituent convention of parity between men and women, with the participation of indigenous peoples and with independence from political parties. There is much discussion as to whether it was violence or social poetry that brought about this achievement; it is not the case to justify my point of view now, but I make it transparent. Violence to counteract economic or political violence in social processes is retarding and only helps the elites to continue their scheme of domination. It never (and I stress never) helps the people. What moved the history of this people was a poetic and spiritual impetus, which analysts try to obscure by confusing it with the outbursts of violence that occurred simultaneously.
This momentum of history is embodied by a new generation that is arguing with the generation that lived through the dictatorship and built post-dictatorship Chile. They, more precisely they, are in the feminist movements for the liberation of women and gender diversity, in the ecological sensitivity that rejects a way of life that prioritises profit over the care of nature and the common good, in the movements for the vindication of indigenous peoples, in spontaneous political movements that reject the “political class”, and in different social movements that are self-convening without trusting leaders.
The particular case of the political ensemble we know as the Frente Amplio is worth a double click. We already admired them in the student revolt of 2011, when they challenged profit in education. Some of them were elected as MPs. But in 2017 they broke the binominal logic of Chilean politics and a mob of young people entered parliament. Until then, we still believed that this was a traditional political process with some anomalies. Nothing foreshadowed the current scenario.
The social uprising of 2019 is coming, Chile is paralysed by the people in the streets, in the marches, in the protests. A psychosocial harmony unites millions. The “peace agreement” was signed, which promised to create a new constitution, a new framework for social relations. And one of the main signatories was Gabriel Boric. We all knew what these agreements were, negotiated between the leaders to deceive the people once again. He signed it without the permission of his party, suffering the split of some conglomerates of the Frente Amplio. It was clearly a trap of the establishment and he fell for it. To many of us it seemed that Boric was joining the club of traditional politicians.
Then came the plebiscite in which 80% approved a convention that would create a new constitution. Eighty percent! That was a comforting shower of pessimism. But even so, the 2/3 required to pass any constitutional norm was a stumbling block whereby the powers that be would secure control and we would get a constitution worse than Pinochet’s. But the election of the constituents was not a simple matter.
But the election of the constituents threw out all the objections to the process of change, and lists of independent convention members emerged who ensured that no one, no power group, had control over the convention.
Many of us had to say, humbly or not: Boric was right, I was wrong.
But this “being right” needs to be broken down a little. He signed an agreement with the enemy. He saw something we didn’t see. Today, the convention is what the revolt of 2019, which could have remained just chaos and been diluted in the pandemic, was all about. It could have gone wrong, it is true, but it went well. It sensed and acted accordingly. He followed an inspiration, he reasoned from the future.
The constituent convention, with its 155 members, is a new germ that could reconstitute the fabric of the Chilean community and that is what was at stake in this election: the continuity of the constitutional convention, or its discrediting to the point of destroying it.
And at the risk of falling into our autochthonous chauvinism, I believe that this convention process has an importance that transcends us, because if it goes at least minimally well, it could serve as a demonstration effect for other peoples in similar conflicts.
Returning to the issue of the momentum of history, let’s look at: the Frente Amplio’s decision to run a presidential candidate at the last minute and achieve the 35,000 signatures needed to legalise a political party in just a few weeks; then winning the presidential primary at the last minute against the leader of the communist party, Daniel Jadue, the favourite; finally, when it seemed that the statistics of the first round favoured an ultra-right wing, young people went to vote as never before in this country, turning the election in their favour.
All these milestones seem to me to be manifestations of something new, an unknown force, a new sensibility that is being represented by the Frente Amplio groups, which today are coming to political power. But this force of history is being interpreted not from an ideological point of view, but from an affective one. We older people see how our children are beginning to occupy the social centre, but without the radical confrontation with which we confronted our parents at that age. They are very intelligent and argue their ideas vehemently, but ideas are not used to hide fragility. They live a human parity not only between sexes, but between generations, social classes, and in any sociological cut we make, parity will stand out.
They are not exempt from resentment, that disease in which I blame my frustrations on the other person and do not take responsibility for my life. This disease of revenge has been around for thousands of years with the establishment of patriarchy and is perhaps the most difficult hangover from the past that they will have to face.
The interpretation of the social moment from an affective point of view is the contribution of this new generation; a contribution of feminism in which women and gender diversity colour the social landscape. A phenomenon that shows the change of era, “never again without us”. And they are colouring life in multicoloured tones. The political expression of this new generation is knowing how to interpret and translate it into action for change.
A very important factor in the second round was the incorporation of Izquia Siches, known for standing up to male power to defend the health of the people. She says that, looking into the eyes of her newborn daughter, Kala, she knew exactly what she had to do in a moment and resigned from the medical school and joined as Boric’s campaign manager. To look into the eyes of her newborn daughter is to look into the most beloved part of her soul. And from there she makes a decision that will compromise her entire life and, at the same time, influence a social process that today has a young man as president of the nation.
We all saw when Boric, before going out on the stage of the electoral triumph to face the million people who were waiting for him, took a breath of air to find his inner peace.
This generation that is coming to power makes decisions from a place that is not just intellectual, calculating or reasonable. They seek inspiration, their own soul, and make decisions that affect major social processes. They put aside the personal and decide on a path that is in tune with the whole.
The second round of elections “confronted fear with hope”. This verse summarised a few hours after the defeat in the first round, a political and sociological analysis that could have taken months. What had happened between the social outburst and the first round of the elections? A pandemic; death around the corner, debts showed the fragility of family economies, the delegitimisation of the police and a criminality that seems unchecked, human hordes crossing borders and a total misrule that is not known whether it was due to ineptitude or intention. Fear grew and had a candidate. But the realisation that this was being faced with hope, with friendship, with affection and with a future, once again struck a chord that made history vibrate.
And we have reached the present moment. The young people are happy, they feel that they are the protagonists of the times and they are going to play the game. We adults are thrilled with our children and we will support them, we will help to clear the way and we will learn from them that affectionate, inspired and hopeful way of living life.
In a future article we should project this way of acting from hope and inspiration to see how to support this moment. How social cohesion is achieved in the face of the onslaught of cynical power that is ready to gore. How to confront violence with decentralisation, with new economic and financial logics, with creative and artistic mobilisations, with the convergence of the most diverse diversity imaginable. Until dignity becomes culture.
Researcher at the Punta de Vacas Park of Study and Reflection
Originally published in the recently launched Ciclos Magazine