We interviewed the humanist Deputy Tomás Hirsch to know his vision of the failure at the ballot box of the constitutional project plebiscited this Sunday in Chile, in an attempt to reflect as broadly as possible on the matter.

Why the triumph of the rejection?

I think it is still very difficult to carry out a thorough analysis with certainty, especially with regard to the reasons for this result. What is clear is that it was a very heavy defeat for the “Apruebo”, for those of us who aspired to have a new democratic Constitution that would guarantee rights in our country. And it is certainly a result that hurts.

At the same time, and I have to say this from the beginning of this interview, for those of us who have fought for more than 40 years to have a democratic Constitution in Chile and leave behind the legacy of Pinochet, those of us who were arrested for this struggle during the years of the dictatorship, those of us who threw away Pinochet’s Constitution in our presidential campaigns, having to continue promoting this social demand for another year or two will in no way immobilise us. The tasks, the struggles, the challenges of humanisation do not stop in the face of apparent failures. Silo’s words come to mind when he said: “We have failed but we insist, we insist because we fly on the wings of a bird called intent”. And it is not a simple phrase, but has to do with a conviction, with a life purpose that drives us to continue working to change a profoundly inhuman system.

Returning to the subject, as to why the triumph of the Rejection, I believe that it is a complex and multi-sectoral issue. From mistakes made at the Convention, when it started and generated a major disaffection. From the first day, when on the one hand we were moved by Elisa Loncón’s speech and on the other hand there was a spectacle of some Convention members not allowing the Convention to work. And another time when an audio of the Secretary of the Convention was leaked in which he asked the President “What are we going to do with this circus? Or the lies of Rojas Vade that had a very strong impact on the people, how that candidacy had been built on a lie, through the man who voted in the shower… well, in short, I don’t know if it’s worth going into such detail, but there were clearly situations in the Convention that generated distance.

Secondly, it has to be said, from day one there was a campaign by the political elite, and above all the economic elite, by the powerful in this country, by those who have controlled the process in Chile, a brutal and intense campaign to discredit, disqualify, the possibility of having a new Constitution with rights in Chile, and this took hold because they used all the means at their disposal: the media, social networks, with a campaign worth millions. In fact, while we are giving this interview, there are US congressmen who are demanding that the CEOs of Facebook, Twitter and other networks make a statement about the disinformation and fake news campaign that was carried out in Chile.

On the other hand, I believe that the vote was more a vote of feeling than a vote related to content, even though there are factors in the content that generated doubts and fears that were heightened by this disinformation campaign: that people were going to lose their homes, that they were going to lose their pension savings, that they would not be able to travel freely, that they were going to be judged under a different system, all issues that are absolutely false, but that nevertheless strongly affected certain fears that are atavistic for the people.

There is another factor, and that is that in some way there was a tendency to link approval with support for this government and if you look at the results, according to the polls, the President’s rating is around 37 or 38%, which is, millimetrically, the result of the approval rating. In other words, there is a direct correlation.

Another factor that can be taken into account is that this time the vote was compulsory, and because it was compulsory, millions of people took part who normally did not do so, who in general are the most uninformed, most disenchanted sectors, with the most rejection of the system and the living conditions in which they live, and therefore I am not surprised that with their vote they also expressed their rejection of a system in general and of the obligation, moreover, of having to go and vote.

So, I think it is the sum of these factors.

The most curious thing of all is that it seems to me that the text proposed by the Convention is a very good text that would benefit the vast majority of our country. And therefore, one can find the contradiction or incoherence that the sectors that were possibly benefited by the right to water, by the recognition of indigenous peoples, by gender parity, and by so many other issues, appear to be voting against it. And this speaks of a profound disinformation, associated with the neoliberal model, which installed the belief that one is going to lose what one has, which is quite illusory, but is part of what operates in this model.

In the face of this overwhelming phenomenon, all the polls fell short, with a Rejection that is almost like a new and different “outburst” of conservatism. What consequences do you think it will have?

First of all, I do not agree that we are facing an “outburst” of conservatism, we are not facing an “outburst”, the outburst was the awakening of an entire people, of a country that rose up against injustice, against mistreatment, against the lack of dignity and that demanded a profound change in our country in October 2019, which was synthesised in the demand for a new Constitution. So, it is not an outburst what we are living and neither is it conservatism, because it does not correspond to a demand for a more conservative system, with fewer transformations. What we have here is a lot of misinformation, fear, individualism based on false threats. That is what has been most present, a lot of misinformation regarding the content of the new Constitution and, what there was, was more of a feeling. A feeling that operated and not a rejection of this or that content, by no means that was also present, but I believe that what operated was a generalised feeling in relation to the Convention process.

Taking this into account, I think it would be a huge mistake if any political sector were to try to remove it as an advantage in relation to this result. The right wing would be very wrong to claim victory. It should not be forgotten that for the Rejection to triumph, they had to hide all the emblematic figures of that world, from their presidential candidate, José Antonio Kast, to former President Sebastián Piñera, and the entire right-wing political leadership was completely hidden and camouflaged with the staging of people who came from the centre-left world, from the ex-Concertación, but who we know were part of what was known as the Party of Order, that is, those who maintained and deepened the neo-liberal model over the last 30 years. I think we have to be careful when trying to assign the triumph to a particular political sector because that was not the case.

This does not mean that those of us who aspire to profound changes in the model that exists here do not have to reflect, to be self-critical about how to connect, how to communicate, how to get closer to the heart of broad sectors, especially the popular sectors, the rural world, the indigenous world and the different worlds of workers, etc. … to whom we clearly did not manage to reach with our message.

There will be the problems of the media, the fake news, the billions of pesos that the right wing had and the rejection, but regardless of that, we have to make a self-criticism and an evaluation, without beating ourselves up, without pointing fingers or blaming each other. But we can learn from this situation to see how to face future processes, because what I have no doubt about is that this process continues.

How do you foresee the continuity of the constitutional transformation process in Chile?

The constitutional process has to continue and will continue. Because the 1980 Constitution is dead. Today, although it is still in force from a legal point of view, it has lost all validity. The Nobodies no longer recognise it as a framework for the future development of our country.

Secondly, because the commitment made afterwards was to move towards a new Constitution. Eighty per cent of the voters said they wanted to have a new Constitution and they also said that it should be drafted by a 100% elected Convention.

That is why we are now saying that there is going to be a new Constitution, it has to be generated by a Convention, it has to be 100% elected, it has to be with parity, since we will never again allow processes in which there is not absolute gender parity, there has to be participation of the native peoples, since nobody in Chile can accept that they should be excluded, and there has to be participation of the independents and the diversity of our country.

We will have to define practical questions, dates, how many members of the Convention, how they are elected… in short, there are many questions that we are already discussing among the different political parties and social organisations, but what is clear is that the process will continue until we have a new Constitution.

Although the new process has to begin with a blank sheet of paper, I have no doubt that the text that came out of the Convention that has just ended is an excellent input to take up the many rights that were established and that will surely be taken up.

In short, what has happened is that this process is going to take longer than we would like, it is going to take one or two years, but I have no doubt that in Chile we are going to have a Constitution generated in democracy, with gender parity, with the participation of indigenous peoples, and which establishes that we have a State that guarantees rights for all.