In many of our articles we have referred to the implacable struggle that the Chilean ‘political elite’ is waging against the national community. It may seem surprising and even illogical that political organisations created precisely to defend the interests of the great national majorities should, over time, change their mission and end up protecting only the private interests of their members as their own. And yet this is the case. The following case is a dramatic illustration of this tendency. Let us try to explain why this is the case.
DEMOCRACY AS A FORM OF GOVERNMENT WITHIN THE CAPITALIST SYSTEM
The capitalist system has a form of government which is representative democracy, a premise that is often forgotten. Because, when democracy is mentioned, the reference is to the form of government proper to the capitalist system.
This form of government requires, in order to be such, firstly, the separation of the so-called ‘powers of the State’ (Executive, Legislative and Judicial, plus the Comptroller); secondly, the existence of political parties, as organised currents of opinion; and finally, periodic elections of representatives of the community, elections that must be free, secret and informed. Democracy is thus a social structure peculiar to the capitalist system. It presupposes the existence of parties through which the opinions of the inhabitants of a social formation are channelled. It follows that parties are the form of organisation adopted by the citizens within the capitalist system to constitute the command structure which, on their behalf, will govern the nation.
However, parties do not always preserve the essence of their declaration of principles because, together with their constitution, they give rise to an odious separation into three strata: the leadership, the militancy (the led) and a periphery known as the ‘electoral clientele’. Thus, the conditions are ripe for them to turn from supporters of the democratic system of government – within the capitalist mode of production – into ‘pressure groups’, and for their leadership to become a ‘political elite’, i.e., a group of individuals whose aspiration is to gain access to the best paid public posts within the state or those where they can exercise greater quotas of power and thus obtain economic benefits. Corruption, therefore, finds a favourable environment in which to establish its dominion in this society. And since those who dominate a society materially also dominate it spiritually, the political organisations that decided to organise themselves to defend the interests of the great national majorities acquire the habits of the classes whose hegemonic leadership they intended to dispute. Then, the adversary changes its name: it is no longer the antagonistic social class, the class that dominates, but the independent, the community that does not take ‘sides’, that does not register as a militant of any political organisation. Thus begins the formation of the ‘political elite’. The concern to build a better society gave way to the need to place the ‘electoral clientele’ and unemployed militants in government posts. And, also, the friend, the relative, the brother-in-law, anyone who can help us to hold on to the position we have obtained. Nepotism is imposed. Corruption is installed at all levels.
As a general rule, constitutions do not establish electoral provisions but simply state that a law will regulate these acts. However, the laws that are passed in this regard do not always allow individuals to participate in elections on the grounds that the way to exercise representative democracy is through parties. In such cases, by implication, the independent subjects become antagonistic to the parties, and ‘partycracy’ becomes present. This is what the ‘political elite’ needs to break through, because political representation forgets its intention to change the system and begins to dispute with the dominant sectors how best to administer the very system it sought to abolish. To do this it needs to select its candidates, its programmes, its finances; the national community becomes an obstacle for it and its business.
In Chilean legislation, as we pointed out in another of our works, the reference to the exercise of democracy is contained in art. 5 of the constitution, according to which:
“Sovereignty resides essentially in the Nation. It is exercised by the people through plebiscite and periodic elections, and also by the authorities established by this Constitution. No section of the people or individual may claim to exercise it”.
However, not all those who make up the ‘people’ can exercise sovereignty through the vote, but only those who have the status of citizens who, according to Article 13 of the current constitution, are
“Chileans who have reached eighteen years of age and who have not been sentenced to afflictive punishment.
Citizenship confers the right to vote, to stand for elected office and any other rights conferred by the Constitution or the law”.
The form of exercising sovereignty is latently established in the so-called General Elections Law or “Constitutional Organic Law 18700 on Popular Voting and Canvassing”, which gives Congress the power to dictate norms.
A SURPRISING STORY
In 2020, both the government and Congress, spurred on by citizen protests, and obliged to call elections for constituent convention members in accordance with the Peace Accord, agreed to include independent sectors that would organise themselves into lists, assuming that the conditions established for this would make any attempt to challenge their power useless. But this did not happen. The old ‘political elite’ was defeated by a citizenry that wanted nothing to do with it.
That is why, when candidates were to be elected to fill the vacancies for deputies and senators in 2021, Congress did not act in the same way. On the contrary: it flatly refused to accept the independents to present lists with their candidates. The ‘political elite’ was desperate. Despite this, the independent Fabiola Campillai was elected senator with the highest vote in living memory in the annals of the Republic. And, although the law was passed in open violation of the current constitution, no one filed the corresponding appeal of inapplicability on the grounds of unconstitutionality.
AN INTEGRATING PROPOSAL
In order to prevent a similar situation from arising in the future, a group of members of the Constitutional Convention presented a proposal in the form of an article to the Commission on the Political System, Government, Legislative Power and Electoral System of the Constitutional Convention, which regulated the participation of sectors not affiliated to political parties, and whose text was as follows:
“Persons not affiliated or adherent to political organisations may present candidacies for popularly elected positions at national, regional and local levels, being able to group themselves for this purpose in programmatic lists”.
It could be assumed that the self-described ‘left-wing’ parties would support the proposal, given that its aim was to broaden the representativeness of parliamentarians and of the democratic system itself. However, this was not the case. On Friday 01 April, a group of constituents affiliated to political parties – and some independents linked to those parties – took it upon themselves to reject the proposal. People from all political currents (communists, socialists, militants of the UDI, of Renovación Nacional, independents committed to political parties, militants of the Frente Amplio parties, etc.) voted against it, confirming, with that simple circumstance, their strict adherence to the advice given to the wise men by the writer of the treatise ‘Turba philosophorum’:
“But know well that, whatever we say, we are all in agreement”.
Advice which, in Chile, wisely sums up the old saying that ‘between oxen there is no goring’.
It is possible that the plenary of the Convention will overrule the Commission’s resolution; it is possible that it will not. In any case, it is well worth knowing the names of these characters who put the interests of the ‘elite’ to which they belong before those of the community: Marcos Barraza Gómez (Communist Party PC), Bárbara Sepúlveda Hales (Communist Party PC), Ricardo Montero Allende (Socialist Party PS), Pedro Muñoz Leiva (Socialist Party PS), Maximiliano Hurtado Roco (Socialist Party PS), Fernando Atria Lemitre (Frente Amplio FA), Constanza Schonhaut Soto (Convergencia Social), Fuad Chaín Valenzuela (Christian Democratic Party DC),Guillermo Namor Kong (Independent), Patricia Politzer Kerekes (Independientes No Neutrales), Hernán Larraín Matte (Evolución Política EVOPOLI), Raúl Celis Montt (Renovación Nacional RN), Marcela Cubillos Sigall (ex-militante Unión Demócrata Independiente UDI), Renato Garín González (ex-militante Revolución de Democrática RD), Constanza Hube Portus (Demócrata Independiente UDI), Cristian Monckeberg Bruner (Renovación Nacional RN), and Luis Zúñiga Jory (Unión Demócrata Independiente).
AND… SOMETHING REMARKABLE…
In the last days of March, the organisation ‘Movimientos Sociales Constituyentes’ (Constituent Social Movements) issued a declaration, which was not replicated in the media, calling for the raising of ‘Apruebo Nueva Constitución’ commands in all territories and for a Virtual Plurinational Meeting of Constituent Social Movements to be held on April 9th.
The declaration, while recalling that the National Meeting of Constituent Social Movements took place on 28 February, where an agreement was reached to create Territorial Commands for the Approval, states in two of its parts:
“As social organisations, territorial and feminist coordinators, movements, trade unions, collectives and assemblies, we have mobilised, participated and accompanied the ‘constituent process underway to put an end to the Pinochettist Constitution and move towards a new plurinational, feminist, ecological and dignified Chile.
In the last few weeks, we have seen how the sectors that have administered policies of impunity and precariousness for decades have tried to install their mistrust of the ongoing process in the media. It is not surprising; the Constitutional Convention is the unprecedented result of a body formed on a parity basis, with seats for indigenous peoples and with a very broad participation of popular sectors. This has made it possible to advance in transformations that seek to dismantle the authoritarian and neoliberal scaffolding of the current institutional framework”.
When attacks against the Constitutional Convention are increasing, when surveys are beginning to show a drop in the public’s perception of the effectiveness of its work, when its own president is forced, by a journalist, to recognise that the corporation’s communication work with the community is deficient, it is regrettable that such pettiness is present, precisely among those who should be directing their efforts in a certain direction. Even more so when the Government spokesperson, Camila Vallejo, does not hesitate to point out that the Executive is not going to explicitly support the Apruebo motion in the upcoming plebiscite:
“Our programme is one of transformations and goes along the lines of guaranteeing universal social rights, and this is directly linked to the constituent process. Now, that is different from saying that public campaigns are going to have a position on an explicit call to vote. What we want to do is to work so that information is available, so that the citizens, the people of our country when they go to vote, because voting is compulsory, know concretely what they are voting for and that is a priority because if you are not informed it is very difficult to cast a vote as responsibly as possible according to your own convictions”.
And, of course, also because authoritarianism, always present in Parliament, has made voting compulsory in the plebiscite to be held on 4 September next. What explanation will be given to those who will go to vote, reluctantly, in circumstances where they would have preferred not to take part in this type of dispute? With such an attitude, is this electorate not being predisposed in advance to vote for ‘rejection’ and, consequently, to perpetuate, in this way, the Pinochet constitution?
Finally, let us say that it is tragically sarcastic to note that the first to take to the streets in defence of the new constitution are the independents – precisely those who are being marginalised by the ‘elite’… – while the political parties remain accusingly silent about their actions. It could be thought that, perhaps, they avoid criticism because they are convinced that they hold some divine mandate to guide the ‘people’ to their destiny, a reflection that Augusto Pinochet also had of himself and of his time.
 Emphasis added.
 The underlining is ours.
 Cisternas, María Luisa: “Ministra Vallejo: ‘Políticamente, la ciudadanía votó por tener una nueva constitución'”, Radio Universidad de Chile, 06 April 2022.