Chileans went to the polls Sunday amid a political crisis characterized by sharp class polarization and the short-circuiting of parliamentary mechanisms. This is the significance of the rise of the fascistic candidate José Antonio Kast on the one hand, and the possibility of the coming to power of the pseudo-left-Stalinist coalition headed by Gabriel Boric on the other.
The center-left parties that dominated the transition to civilian rule from military dictatorship three decades ago have all but collapsed. In the 22 November parliamentary elections, which coincided with the first-round presidential poll, neither the right coalition nor the parliamentary left coalition won a majority.
In the 155-seat lower house, the rightist Chile Podemos Más coalition lost 19 seats. The Independent Democratic Union (UDI), which was created by civilian aides to Gen. Augusto Pinochet’s military dictatorship, is close to abandoning ship and going over to Kast’s fascistic Christian Social Front, which gained 15 seats. The People’s Party (PDG), recently set up by right-wing populist Franco Parisi—who placed third in the presidential elections without setting foot in the country—won six seats.
Within the New Social Pact (ex-Concertacion), the Christian Democrats, the Socialist Party and the Radical Party lost 5, 6 and 4 deputies, respectively. These seats were picked up by Boric and the Communist Party’s Apruebo Dignidad, which increased their seats by 10. The lower house will now be roughly split down the middle between the coalition right (53) and fascistic right (15) and the PDG (6) on the one hand, and the parliamentary left (37) and pseudo-left (37) on the other, with independents who could swing either way.
In a testament to the hatred towards the parties of the transition, Fabiola Campillai, a 36 year-old worker at a food processing company, won more votes than any other individual candidate running for parliament. Campillai became a symbol of police state brutality after special forces fired a tear gas canister into her face on the evening of November 26, 2019, leaving her for dead.
The same electoral rout of the old parties occurred in the 50-seat Senate, with the same split down the middle. In Chile, two-thirds majorities are required to enact substantive reforms, and a constitutional court also deliberates to frustrate any fundamental changes.
Stagnant economic growth is predicted for the coming period, which will only deepen recession-level poverty and social inequality. This is combined with a continuation of the present government’s criminally negligent COVID-19 policies that have already caused mass death and infection. A parliamentary stalemate would threaten to exacerbate to a fever pitch political and social tensions, surpassing those that exploded to the surface in the mass protests at the end of 2019.
It is under these conditions that an immense effort is being exerted by the Chilean parliamentary pseudo-left, aided by a plethora of left-nationalist formations, to prevent the working class and youth from drawing the necessary conclusions and definitively breaking with bourgeois parliamentary democracy. With appeals for “unity of the left” and even the bringing together of “democratic forces,” they have applied maximum pressure to secure votes for Boric in the December 19 second round.
Leading the charge is the Stalinist Communist Party, which in Chile has historically been the most conservative organization to once dominate the labor movement. It bore responsibility for the political theories that led to the strategic defeat of the 1970-73 Chilean revolution—the two-stage theory of revolution and the bankrupt concept of a “peaceful parliamentary road to socialism” through Popular Fronts, based on the national exceptionalist conception that Chile’s state institutions, its police and armed forces, had a legacy of adherence to democratic and constitutional norms. The idea was exploded with the fascist-military coup that overthrew the Popular Unity government of Salvador Allende on September 11, 1973.
Today, the Communist Party is posturing as the guardian of bourgeois democracy, with Guillermo Teillier claiming that Boric “is the only one who today can bring together a broad movement that will lead the people of Chile to prevent the neo-fascism headed by Mr. Kast from coming to power, and here we say to him: Mr. Kast, you are not going to change our democratic process, you represent the opposite of what our people want, therefore, no Mr. Kast, you will not pass.”
Another slavish proponent of popular frontism is Manuel Cabieses Donoso. Cabieses, 85, is cofounder of Punto Final, a journal that played an important role in disorientating masses of radicalized youth from 1965 to September 11, 1973, when it was shut down and its editorship persecuted by the military junta. Like all Latin American centrists, Cabieses promoted the coming together of the so-called “left.” For eight years, his journal used revolutionary and Marxist-sounding phraseology to promote the reactionary non-proletarian politics of the Castroite, guerrillaist, Maoist, petty-bourgeois and bourgeois nationalist and Pabloite varieties.
Learning nothing and forgetting nothing, Cabieses promotes today the same popular front political perspective: “The democratic presidential candidacies… should raise an anti-fascist front and seal the commitment to unite in the second round,” he wrote in October, calling on Boric, Christian Democrat Yasna Provoste and the Progressive Party’s Marco Enríquez-Ominami to form “a single bloc to close the way to fascism” and to protect the bourgeois constitutional convention as “the most important democratic conquest of this century.”
The other proponents of this pernicious perspective are Pabloite and Morenoite revisionist groups in Chile, which slavishly subordinate themselves to the union bureaucracy and to the Stalinists and the pseudo-left Frente Amplio that control it.
Irrespective of their claims to be Trotskyist, all reject basic Trotskyist principles, having decisively broken with the Fourth International in the 1950s and 1960s based on the conceptions advanced by Michel Pablo and his Argentine disciple Nahuel Moreno that non-proletarian class forces could lead the socialist revolution without the construction of Bolshevik-type parties in advance. Stalinists, Social Democrats and petty-bourgeois and bourgeois nationalists, they claimed, could become “natural Marxists” in response to the pressure of objective events, thus bypassing the need to develop and educate Marxist cadre in the leadership of the working class.
In its 70 years of existence, Pabloism/Morenoism has sown illusions in bourgeois nationalist caudillos such as Juan Domingo Perón or bourgeois reformists of the Salvador Allende type. It has swung from backing petty-bourgeois Castroite guerrillaism to entering Popular Front-style coalitions with Stalinists, all with disastrous results.
The chief objective of this deeply pessimistic movement was to keep the working class subordinated to bourgeois nationalism and the capitalist state in Latin America. In the 1960s and 1970s, it did this by pushing radicalized students and young workers into guerrillaist outfits that resulted in the devastating liquidation of thousands of courageous and selfless revolutionary men and women and led to bloody defeats time and again.
Today there are no less than five Pabloite/Morenoite organizations operating in Chile ready to thrust radicalized youth into another political dead end. This includes the International Workers Movement (MIT), the Chilean section of the Morenoite International Workers League-Fourth International (LIT-CI); the Revolutionary Workers Party (PTR), which belongs to the so-called Trotskyist Fraction-Fourth International (FT-CI) led by the Socialist Workers Party of Argentina; the Socialist Workers Movement (MST), the Chilean section of the International Workers’ Unity—Fourth International; Revolutionary Workers’ Current (COR), the Chilean section of the Tendency for the Reconstruction of the Fourth International; and Revolutionary Socialism, the Chilean section of the Committee for a Workers’ International (CWI).
The most striking feature of their line is its complacency in the face of the extreme crisis of bourgeois rule and the absence of a revolutionary leadership in the working class that is nourishing the rise of fascistic forces. They insist that Kast represents not the threat of fascism, but merely an authoritarian reaction of the “old regime” and a defense of the Pinochetista constitution.
The PTR claims that Kast is a “Piñera reloaded” and insist that he is not a fascist phenomenon “since we are not talking about the deployment—still—of combat detachments of (fascist) sectors to crush the rise of the workers and the revolutionary left.” The MIT claims that “today even Kast is trying to make a move towards the center, moderating part of his discourse to dispute the vote of ‘democratic’ sectors of society.”
The World Socialist Web Site noted at the beginning of the year that this political tendency aims to anesthetize and politically disarm workers who face an international threat of fascistic dictatorship.
The Argentine Morenoites downplayed the January 6 coup attempt by Trump, making the extraordinary assertion that the bourgeois “establishment—from the Republicans and Democrats to the military… united against Trump and the far right,” implying that these counterrevolutionary war criminals could somehow play a progressive role.
The Morenoites assert that the Apruebo Dignidad coalition is also returning to the past. “Boric today represents another type of restoration, which is that of the reconstruction of a center-left and a social-democratic path to ensure governability,” writes the PTR.
Cruder is the MST’s call “on the workers, the people, women, dissidents, territories and native peoples to vote massively for Boric to defeat Kast in the second round as an urgent and necessary step,” falsely claiming that “the defeat of Kast is an obligatory step to end the constitution and the Pinochetista model, for the freedom of political prisoners, the demilitarization of the country, the end of repression and the dissolution of the carabineros and the self-determination of the Mapuche people.”
The MIT goes as far as to promote Apruebo Dignidad’s supposed “program of reforms with several progressive points that come from the social and popular movement: the end of the AFPs, the increase of pensions, the reduction of the working day, the right to abortion,” albeit lamenting its “negotiating with big business and respecting the current institutional framework.” Nonetheless, the MIT concludes that “a victory for Boric could generate a bigger social movement to pressure the government to fulfill its promises and to win more gains for the working class, despite the strategy of the PC and FA.”
The Morenoites’ calls for the unity and mobilization of “workers, unions, coordinators and social movements, women and dissidents, social and territorial organizations, relatives and organizations of prisoners and Human Rights” etc., etc., is an attempt to resuscitate the era in which middle class protest politics dominated, when it is long dead and buried.
The Morenoites are not merely elaborating an erroneous assessment of the present period but are consciously seeking to lull the working class into a false sense of security. Their aim is to maintain the straitjacket of the capitalist state and parliamentary democracy by sowing illusions in Apruebo Dignidad. These organizations, like the old bureaucratic apparatuses that they orbit, are organically tied to the moribund capitalist national state system and have no connection whatsoever to the struggle for socialism.
In Chile, and internationally, the present crisis poses a real threat of fascism and dictatorship, as well as military conflagration, climate catastrophe and pandemics, alongside deepening social inequality and class polarization. Globally mobile capital, which dominates every corner of the planet, cannot be reformed but must be overthrown. The International Committee of the Fourth International is laying the foundations to construct sections of its revolutionary movement in every country and continent, confident that the most class conscious workers and radicalized youth will be drawn to its decades-long principled fight to delineate the independent class interests of the working class and help it to emancipate itself.