The day before yesterday Chile lived through what some are calling the biggest triumph of the right wing in its electoral history. Almost 62% of its population rejected the constitutional change project, which only two years ago was demanded by almost 80% of Chileans. The social revolt of 18 October 2019, which lasted non-stop for several months, keeping hundreds of thousands, sometimes millions of people in the streets, had as one of its main purposes to end the Pinochet Constitution. The day before yesterday a clear majority of the Chilean people did not want to change it.

The “I approve” supporters knew the great risk of losing that referendum. But even the right wing, which in every way called for a “rejection” vote, was surprised by the forcefulness of what it saw as its triumph.

Just a short time ago, the streets and squares of every city in the country surprised the world with crowds chanting “Chile woke up”, it was a people who for almost half a year resisted a brutal police onslaught and only a few months ago elected a government that represented their struggle for change of the neoliberal constitution. What happened?

In the coming days there will be much analysis, study and conjecture. This is a time of great social downturn and many visceral, sometimes very childish reactions that all the deluded people of the world tend to have when they become disillusioned. They curse, they kick, they still don’t believe it. But as social construction should be far above matters of faith and group psychotic effects, which override critical thinking, causing new worlds to fail, even before they are born, let’s look at some aspects that could be part of the reasons for the disaster, although I think this is not the word. The really disastrous thing happened much earlier.

The Chilean revolt of 2019 really was a genuine popular expression against neoliberalism, but its multiple protagonists, proud of its total horizontality, the absence of visible leaders and the spontaneous action of the masses, who enjoyed the poetry of the people in the streets, did not know how to give the movement the essential: an organisation and a clear political project that could be not just a series of memes or the unanimous rejection of Pinochet’s constitution. Unlike the people, the old and cunning Chilean political class, the right and the pseudo-left, which is the best neoliberal cadre factory on the continent, quickly rebounded and counterattacked.

When Gabriel Boric was still a charismatic former student leader, turned deputy, in the midst of social rebellion, on November 15, 2019 without having any authority for that, and to everyone’s surprise, he signed with the political parties the document known as “Agreement for Social Peace and the New Constitution”, the die was already cast. Perhaps this was the moment when the old representatives of an obsolete and unsalvageable political system, in order to defend, as Allende would say, “their own profits and privileges”, had no choice but to bet on some of the most visible representatives of a generation of “millennials”, still illuminated by the rays of revolutionary glory, and as we have seen, they were not wrong.

Due to the lack of a social project and a popular organisation to support it, the objective was successfully replaced by multiple secondary “social causes” that did not allow their protagonists to become a critical anti-capitalist force. A light version of revolution meant replacing Chile’s long and complex tradition of social struggles with a postmodern comic, where easy emotion replaced critical thinking, where the just struggle for the rights of women and sexual minorities became a mass spectacle with high levels of intolerance, where all intellectual thought was easily branded as conservative or patriarchal, where the defence of the land was totally disconnected from the class struggle and support for the Mapuche cause became a fashion, mostly uncritical and superficial, and so on. The young progressive rebel leaders replaced the old sages of the libraries who are leaving us by the laws of life. The movement had a surplus of imagination, but lacked wisdom.

Enzo Blondel

The model of the Constituent Convention was negotiated with the right wing and from its inception was far from the Constituent Assembly demanded by the people. Half of the conventionists represented the discredited political parties, which by all accounts was “semi-democratic”, like everything else in Chilean politics after Pinochet, and precisely the new student leaders, i.e., the future government, convinced the people to settle for little, once again, with democratic change “as far as possible”.

Next step: Gabriel Boric is elected president. Let us remember that many voted for him, not because he was their candidate, but to prevent the triumph of the Pinochetista José Antonio Kast. The new, very photogenic, feminist and progressive government, unlike its much-criticised Concertación predecessors, failed to maintain the illusions of its voters for even a couple of its first months. The government’s protection of the Carabineros, responsible for atrocious repression, torture and murder, the militarisation of Araucanía, a clear alignment in foreign policy with the Washington government and NATO, expressions of admiration for someone as grotesque as Zelensky and the shameful statements in the USA against Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua, were not “mistakes of political inexperience”, as some tried to defend it, but part of a project drawn up by the real powers long before Boric was allowed to win the presidential election.

The constituent project itself, rather improvised and full of its own incoherencies, was never perceived by the majority of the people as a political debate of its own. People accustomed to slogans, hashtags and performances did not have the capacity to read a 178-page text.

Yes, there was a beastly media campaign by the press, still in the hands of the usual people, against the new Constitution, but more important was the smear campaign through social networks, with thousands and thousands of bots reaffirming fear, lying and manipulating through classified algorithms. The only thing that could have countered this, on the part of the supporters of the Constitution, would have been a good civic education campaign and promotion of critical thinking, which was clearly lacking and perhaps not in the government’s interest either. The promoters of the “I approve” were a handful of the usual activists. Moreover, this “I approve”, actively promoted by the government, could not fail to generate a feeling of rejection among the many who were let down by Boric.

Very few mention that if all previous elections were voluntary, the constitutional referendum was compulsory. This means that if in the voluntary plebiscite of 25 October 2020, when 78% of the citizens voted for the constitutional change, 51% of the population entitled to vote took part in the vote. In the mandatory plebiscite of 4 September this year, 86% of all Chileans voted. The politically indifferent population, forced to vote under threat of fines, is more influenced by the press, as well as having a clear annoyance with the government that forced them to participate.

I really don’t think the result of the plebiscite is a great triumph for the right. It is a failure of the pseudo-left, which is once again managing the interests of the system. It could even be more of a step forward than a step backward, if we can learn from it.

And today’s latest news from Chile: a communist was appointed vice-minister of its interior. The right wing on social media immediately made a huge fuss about his tweets against the Carabineros, written when he was still a student leader in 2011. They removed it in two hours or even less.