Sepúlveda Allende, a grandson of Chile’s legendary socialist President Salvador Allende, spoke with Ben Norton about the historic May 15/16 elections in which left-wing and independent candidates won two-thirds of the seats for a convention to rewrite the constitution, which dates back to the military dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet.
Allende described the political situation in Chile after the fall of Pinochet's brutal regime. This is an interesting period because it proves that what happened in the entire West, happened in Chile too.
As he pointed out:
When the dictatorship ended, there was a kind of alliance made between the parties that historically had represented certain parts of the old left, like the Socialist Party of Allende.
Another that was newly formed in that moment, which had not existed before the coup, called the Party for Democracy, which had (ex-President) Ricardo Lagos, and had a lot of power in that moment.
There is also the Christian Democracy party, which has always been centrist. The center has sometimes historically gone to the left, or center-left, and sometimes to the right. It has been like a pendulum.
But after the end of the dictatorship, there was an agreement made by the right-wing parties, to maintain the model and constitution of Pinochet, with a series of requirements to not touch certain areas, like the privatized state companies.
In fact the governments led by the alliance known as the Concertación, including the Socialist Party, Christian Democracy, and Party for Democracy, which describes itself as “center-left,” continued governing with the neoliberal model, with its structural bases in Pinochet’s constitution, of 1980.
And in fact they continued privatizing public services, public state enterprises, and the copper, which is Chile’s main source of wealth. So the Socialist Party, it had policies that were not even social democratic, they were clearly neoliberal.
The only difference between the right and the “center-left,” the badly named center-left, because it is not actually left-wing economically, but rather just on cultural issues like divorce and abortion, like legalization of marijuana and marriage equality – things that, yes, should be defended, but they are more civil liberties, they are not economic, they are cultural issues, and obviously they are important, but that is the only way they are different.
It is a bit similar to what Spain’s Socialist Workers’ Party (PSOE) has been. And in fact the transition to democracy in Chile is very similar to the transition in Spain (from the Franco dictatorship), So the Chilean Socialist Party and the Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party have been like copies of each other.
In fact historically, the Socialist Party and Communist Party were allies, and it was thanks to that alliance that Salvador Allende won the presidency in the 1970s.
But when democracy was restored, the Socialist Party broke that alliance and allied with the Christian democratic forces, making up what we call the party of the neoliberal order, which is like one party, with a monolithic face, which is the concertación alliance and the right wing.
In our 2019 article Brexit: let there be blood among capitalists and may the real Left finally win, we briefly described the corresponding situation in the US as the Democrats offered a selective progressiveness to their base. The part of progressiveness that would not harm the neoliberal order that has been imposed by the capitalist class. Democratic party had no problem implementing policies in favor of women's rights, LGBT community, other minorities, etc., to maintain its Leftist facade and therefore, its progressive electoral 'customers'. This has become today's official Left in America, which, of course, in reality, is a pseudo-Left.
The scenario was almost identical for the United Kingdom and it happened almost at the same period. It began with Margaret Thatcher in the late 70s, where the Conservative Party adopted a nationalist form of neoliberalism, attracting the most conservative part of the British society. And when Tony Blair took power, the Labour Party was already fully neoliberalized too.
At the same time, almost the entire Europe fell into the neoliberal trap by adopting, to a great extent, this Anglo-American 'model'. The European political duopoly became dominant through the complete neoliberalization of the two major political forces in the last decades: the popular right and the social democrats. The full neoliberalization of the European Union institutions was inevitable.
It's remarkable that the neoliberal doctrine was fully institutionalized and became mainstream throughout the entire West, Chile, and other parts of the world, almost simultaneously and at the same period. This fact depicts the enormous amount of energy that mainly the US corporate establishment spent during the 70s, in order to shape the entire culture, not only of the American society but also of large parts of the world.
The 2008 global meltdown was critical for the beginning of the destruction of the neoliberal deceptive facade. There were some attempts globally for the revival of the real Left and the struggle continues until today. We now see a Pink Tide 2.0 ready to take over Latin America and it seems that the US empire finds it increasingly hard to dictate the desirable policies in its backyard.
This is quite evident if we consider that the Pink Tide 1.0 was only partially stopped by US-backed conservative governments during just the second half of the previous decade. And it should not surprise us that a Pink Tide 2.0 is already taking place if we consider the achievements of the first Pink Tide in favor of many Latin American peoples.
Some of the initial results after the first pink tide governments were elected in Latin America included a reduction in the income gap, unemployment, extreme poverty, malnutrition and hunger and rapid increase in literacy. The decrease in these indicators during the same period of time happened faster than in non-Pink Tide governments. Countries like Ecuador, El Salvador, Nicaragua and Costa Rica experienced notable economic growth during this period whilst Bolivia and El Salvador both saw a notable reduction in poverty according to the World Bank.
Although the conservative wave weakened the Pink Tide and restored right-wing governments across Latin America throughout the 2010s, some countries have pushed back against the trend in recent years and elected more left-leaning leaders, such as Mexico with the electoral victory of Andrés Manuel López Obrador in the 2018 Mexican general election and Argentina where the incumbent right-wing president Mauricio Macri lost against center-left Peronist Alberto Fernández in the 2019 Argentine general election. This development has been strengthened by the landslide victory of left-wing MAS and its presidential candidate Luis Arce in Bolivia in 2020 Bolivian general election. A series of violent protests against austerity measures and income inequality scattered throughout Latin America have also recently occurred including the 2019-2020 Chilean protests, 2019–2020 Colombian protests, 2018–19 Haitian protests, 2019 Ecuadorian protests and the 2021 Colombian protests.
It seems that Chile is ready to join the Pink Tide 2.0 as the popular protests (which occurred at the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic), resulted in a political victory of the Leftist forces who have the opportunity to take the power for the first time after many decades.
As Allende says:
And the Communist Party of Chile, well, it has always continued working within the institutions, including after the restoration of democracy, but always with a critical look, always denouncing all of this, always defining itself as anti-neoliberal, always taking a much more dignified position, and much more against the establishment.
And now, after the social uprising (of 2019), it is the only party that has continued to keep growing. All of the other parties have been shrinking, except the Communist Party, well and the Broad Front, recently revived in alliance with them, regaining the force that they had at first, which they later lost during the social uprising in 2019.
But now they are gaining force again, now more clearly aligned with the left, because before they had been hesitating and leaning toward an alliance with the center-left, or with traditional politics.
And so now, in the Socialist Party, these days, there is actually a fierce internal debate going on, about whether they are going to break that historic alliance that they made during the past 30 years with the right-leaning political and economic elites, or if they are going to move toward the left-wing, anti-neoliberal pole, which includes the Broad Front and Communist Party.
... this weekend (May 15 and 16) was practically the death. It was the death of Pinochet’s constitution, with this electoral victory, against all the odds. against all the predictions to the contrary.
In fact the richest candidates that were funded by powerful economic interests, by multimillionaires who put a lot of money into right-wing and centrist candidates, to try to have seats there, they weren’t elected.
And very poor candidates, but with a very important communicational strategy, which is what the List of the People did mainly, they were able to get themselves into the convention having 100 times fewer resources than the well-funded candidates of the establishment.
As the Left wins big in Chile, neoliberalism is about to suffer another decisive blow in the country where it has been tested for the first time under a brutal, fascist regime.