Chile in revolution?

Ricardo Israel.

“Revolution in Chile” is one of the best-selling books in the country’s history. It was published in 1963 by Guillermo Blanco and Carlos Ruiz-Tagle, who satirized by describing the visit of a supposed American journalist (Sillie Utternut), who misinterpreted everything she saw as part of a revolution.

Is something similar happening today? The truth is that until the issue of power is resolved, we cannot speak of a revolution, but of a process that can get there, and that for now is the product of both a generational and cultural change, and of the political defeat of those who made the transition to democracy and took turns in power until the election of Gabriel Boric.

A narrative of change has been imposed, but it is not a revolution, at least not yet, and this will depend largely on what happens with the constitutional proposal and what the electorate decides, with approval or rejection in the plebiscite that will take place this September 4.

That outcome will determine whether Boric’s government will be seen in the future as one of transition to a new political regime or simply one more that failed to change the system. Chile had not experienced a pre-revolutionary juncture since the Popular Unity of the last century, although Salvador Allende never had the possibility of changing the constitution and, therefore, the rules of the game.

Chile has had an explanation that has done it a lot of damage, that of its supposed exceptionality. The truth is that there is none of that, and what is happening is smaller, the rediscovery of something always part of its history, the speed with which new elites adopt fashions, both from the first world and from Latin America itself.

The legitimacy comes from a Convention, a consequence of great street violence in the month of October 2019 for some, but it was also for others the result of a political agreement that led to a constitutional reform, where the president, deputies and senators handed over the constituent power to 155 elected people, in gender parity and with seats reserved for indigenous peoples, which was approved by 78% in a plebiscite.

We are witnessing the golden double principle of democracy, that the results where the people have expressed themselves must be respected, as well as those countries must take responsibility for the decisions taken on their behalf. For the same reason, the legitimacy of origin can be lost by the exercise of power, of all power, and this includes those who define the norms of the fundamental law.

In the last two years, the Chilean electorate has spoken out on different occasions, and has delivered different results, electing in one case the current coalition, but with a tie in Congress. Even more striking is the fact that the majority of the Constituent Convention were new forces that were in favor of a profound refoundation of what has been understood by Chile, that is, not only the legacy of Pinochet, but in various points, which has been the evolution of the country since its independence in the nineteenth century.

With what has already been approved by 2/3 of the convention, clear definitions are already part of the draft constitution. Can anything be changed? Of course, but it will not be easy. Strong promoters of the process such as the media and former presidents such as Frei, Lagos or Bachelet have expressed their concern about the course taken, but at the same time there is a majority in the convention in favor of reinventing the country, that is convinced of an opportunity for the refoundation of Chile that may not be repeated. The coup of 1973 wanted to affect the democratic character and the economy of the country, but the current radicalism also wants to modify the republican history of Chile itself.

Several provisions are an experiment, that is, without previous experience in Chile or other countries. It is refoundation, with the marked characteristic of being one of the first constitutions that can be defined in its central thread of postmodern, and when refers to identity, the draft recalls elements of Critical Race Theory and Black Lives Matter, only replacing race with the ethnicity of native peoples.

Not only in equality and citizenship, the political success of anti-politics, historical victimization and social movements over political parties has been reflected in the opposition to globalization, in the questioning of foreign investment and in the granting of rights to nature.

Within this vision a particularity predominates, what is known as Decoloniality, that emerging movement in Latin America that criticizes modernity with a theory that rejects all inheritance received from Western civilization and the entire process known as the Enlightenment, thus going far beyond the critique of representative democracy. It is an updated representation of the Marxist proletariat, and where the characteristic of purity as a pure collective subject of history is embodied in indigenism.

It is a cultural revolution, which unlike the Maoist one that questioned Confucius, here it is made with a matrix that in the case of indigenous peoples comes from the colony, with a republican independence that only perpetuated those inequalities, and a globalization that has distributed it throughout the world.

Discourse is critical of rationality and focuses on the emotional and collective debts, advancing far beyond the center-periphery scheme of the theory of Dependency of the last century.
This strong representation of decoloniality in the Chilean Constituent Convention, was totally unnoticed in the process of its election, and has only become evident to the extent that articles have been approved for the draft to be plebiscite, once it is reviewed by an internal commission for the harmonization of norms.

It has been quite a novelty the strength of this vision that used to be marginal or limited to universities, which has surprised by advancing without compromise. As they have exceeded the demanding two-thirds standard with which the congressmen mistakenly thought of protecting themselves, in this convention this view has united with that of the most radical left yielding to each other’s requests to achieve the threshold. Even adherents of Carl Schmitt’s theses have also joined, which does not seem to bother some influential ideologues who follow this author, despite –whether they know it or not – his link with Hitler’s Nazism.

A consequence in Chile of the collapse of the center and traditional political sectors is that the search for agreements or broad consensus has had little importance, which has contributed to the fact that, in the draft constitution, Justice has been replaced as a power by a kind of public service and the Senate has been eliminated, that is, elements of counterweight to the predominance of a circumstantial majority have disappeared.

In conclusion, as in other Chilean experiences of the past, there is no consensus but imposition in this project, as well as absentia from the vision of the constitution as a construction of national unity and a State that transmits a sense of shared purpose and destiny.

Ruled out the possibility of building a constitutional text that reflects the idea of the country as a common home, the decision of Chileans in September will be doubly important for the purposes of finally resolving the issue of power, corresponding to them to define not only the type of constitution they prefer, but also if this pre-revolutionary situation will or will not become a revolution.

“The opinions published herein are the sole responsibility of its author”.