The dictatorship/democracy alternative is a dead-end

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For several weeks now, we've seen the emergence of numerous social movements in several countries on different continents: Lebanon, Iraq, Ecuador, Bolivia, Haiti, Guinea, Algeria... Although these mobilisations have their peculiarities, they all express a reaction of protest and anger faced with the effects of the economic crisis which has shown a further descent these last months. We will treat these international mobilisations in a more global manner on our website soon. In the meantime, we are publishing below an article written by our comrades in Latin America on the subject of the present movement taking place in Chile. Some analyses drawn up in this article are applicable to other current mobilisations. All these movements, by their inter-classist and popular nature, as well as the democratic illusions in which they are imprisoned, lead to a fatal dead-end and constitute a trap for the world proletariat. Consequently, this raises the great responsibility incumbent on the proletariat of the central countries of capitalism, the most experienced when it comes to the traps laid by the bourgeoisie, and the only force capable of showing the way towards the autonomous struggle of the world working class.

What’s happening in Chile flows from the international economic crisis which is manifested in this country through budget deficits that has been dragging down the Chilean state for several years. Organisations such as the World Bank, the IMF, the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) show a progressive reduction of growth during the last three or four years. Despite its efforts to diversify its economy, Chile is essentially dependent on copper, the price of which, as a manifestation of the crisis, has fallen heavily. The measures taken to increase metro fares was an attempt to respond to the situation of deficit by the Chilean state. At the global level, we are seeing the first stages in an important economic upheaval and, as in other episodes of the capitalist crisis, the weakest countries are the first to be hit: Brazil, Turkey, Argentina, Ecuador and now Chile. The idea that Chile was supposed to be an "exception" in Latin America through its economy or the so-called "well-being" of its working class is exposed as a lie. President Pinera has had to swallow his triumphalist proclamations that "Chile was an oasis of peace and prosperity in Latin America". The truth behind this smokescreen is: average wages of 368 euros a month, generalised precarious working, the disproportionate cost of food and services, shortages in education, health and pensions which condemn retired workers to poverty. This is the reality which shows the growing degradation of living conditions of the working class and the whole of the population.

The explosion of troubles

The Pinera government underestimated the level of social agitation. An apparently anodyne attack, the increase in Metro fares in Santiago, unleashed a general anger. The response however was not posed on the grounds of the working class but in a context that was unfavourable and dangerous for it: a popular revolt and expressions of minority violence, the action of the lumpenproletariat, which could be utilised by the state. Profiting from the weakness in the social response, the government launched a brutal repression which, according to official figures, left 19 dead. A state of emergency was decreed for more than a week and the maintenance of order was left to the army. The return of the torturers took us right back to the worst times of Pinochet, demonstrating that democracy and dictatorship are two faces of the same capitalist state. The eruption of the lumpenproletariat with its vandalism, pillage, arson and the irrational and minority violence typical of capitalist decomposition [1] has been used by the state to justify its repression, sowing fear among the population and intimidating the proletariat, diverting its attempts to struggle onto the terrain of a nihilist violence that leads nowhere[2].

Union mobilisations to demobilise and demoralise the workers

The Chilean bourgeoisie understood however that brutal repression wasn't sufficient to calm the discontent. The Pinera government made a mea culpa for this reason. The usually arrogant President adopted a "humble" pose, declaring that he "understood" the "message of the people" and he would "provisionally" withdraw the measures and open the door to a "social accord".  That can be translated into: attacks will be imposed by "negotiation" around a "table of dialogue" where the opposition parties, the unions and employers all together "represent the Nation". Why then this change of attitude? It's because repression is not efficient if it isn't accompanied by the democratic deception which includes the trap of national unity and the dissolution of the proletariat into an amorphous mass of the "people". The economic attack required by the crisis necessitates repression but above it necessitates a political offensive. The proletariat, although going through a situation of great weakness in Chile and the rest of the world, remains a historic threat to the maintenance of capitalist exploitation. The proletariat of Chile, one of the most concentrated in Latin America, has a certain political experience. For example it was involved in the mass strike at Iquique[3] in 1907 and suffered terribly under the Allende fraud (1970-73) which paved the way for the brutal dictatorship of Colonel Pinochet (1973-1990). The political offensive of the bourgeoisie opened up with the union mobilisations calling for a "general strike" more than a week after the protests. What cynicism! When the government hiked the price of Metro tickets, the unions called for nothing. When the government deployed the army in the streets they kept their mouths shut. When the army and carabinieri muscled in they didn't lift a finger. And now, they call for "mobilisation". When the workers have to fight, the unions paralyse them. When the workers go into battle, the unions stand in their way. And when the workers haven't the strength, the unions call for "the struggle". The unions always act against the workers, as much as when they oppose spontaneous strikes as when they call for a fight when the workers are weak, confused and divided. The unions demobilise the workers' actions and then mobilise only when they aim for a stronger demobilisation still. The groups of the left, Trotskyist, Stalinist or Maoist, complete the trap by proposing their "unlimited general strike", a parody of workers' self-organisation where instead of assemblies and elected and revocable strike committees, they want to set up a "coordination" composed of unions and leftist groups. Their political alternative is to get rid of Pinera. Why? In order to replace him with the Socialist Party's Michelle Bachelet who, during the course of her two mandates (2006-10, 2014-18) did the same or worse than him. They ask for the setting-up of a "constituent assembly". Behind the facade of their radicalism and their speeches "in the name of the working class", the leftists defend capitalism because they trap the workers on the terrain of the defence of democracy and with the constricting method of trade union "struggles".

The political offensive of the Chilean bourgeoisie

The second phase of the offensive has been the entry onto the scene of the opposition parties (the New Majority, the Stalinist party and the Democratic Front) which appealed for "negotiation" and "consensus" and saluted the crumbs given by Pinera as a victory. In liaison with the government and the army[4], the Chilean bourgeoisie has provided itself with a framework for delivering a new ideological blow to the consciousness of the proletariat, in order to dissolve any tendency within the latter towards acting as an autonomous class and to attach it to the chariot of the nation, to the ideologies of the enemy class, the ideology of democracy in particular. Important demonstrations were organised for the week-end 25 - 27 October with the following axes:

- National unity: thus, at the time of the demonstration of Santiago where a million people were assembled, the slogan was "Chile wakes up". That's to say it's not a matter of a class confrontation but a so-called struggle of the "entire nation" against a minority of corrupt and thieving individuals. During Allende's time the slogan was: "The people united will never be beaten". What we have to remember is that behind this once-fashionable slogan lies the truth that "the proletariat diluted into the people and the nation will always be beaten".

- the demand for a "new constitution": There's a claim for a "constituent assembly"; it is a dangerous trap. In Spain 1931, the "new constitution" affirmed that Spain was a "Workers' Republic". It was a Republic that assassinated fifteen hundred people in the repression of workers' strikes between 1931 and 1933. In 1936, Stalin proclaimed that the USSR had "the most democratic constitution in the world", at the same time as he initiated the Moscow show trials where he liquidated the last of the Bolsheviks and intensified the most ferocious terror. The Weimar Republic repressed the attempt at proletarian revolution (1918-1923) and paved the way for the legal growth of Hitler and the Nazi terror in 1933.

- This orientation aims to dissolve the proletariat into an indistinct and malleable mass of the "people" where all social classes "come together" in the body of the nation. On the Italian Square of Santiago, a large banner proclaimed "For the dignity of the people, protest in the street without fear". The fashionable slogan infesting the Chilean media talks about a "transversal movement". This phrase signifies that there is no class struggle but a "movement which cuts across everyone" in which even the children of the wealthy residents are included. President Pinera sent a tweet saying: "The massive joyful and peaceful march of today, where Chileans demanded a fairer and more equitable Chile opens a grand vista for the future and gives us hope. We have heard the message; we have all changed. With the help of God we will make the development of this Chile better for all". This response is packed with obvious cynicism but it also gives us the measure of the political manoeuvre of the bourgeoisie. Even the boss of the Santiago Metro proudly displayed photos of his daughter taking part in the protests!

The bourgeoisie imposes misery, barbarity and death under the flag of democracy

We denounce this democratic manoeuvre of the bourgeoisie. Democracy is the most perverse and twisted form of capitalist domination. The worst massacres have been perpetrated in the name of democracy. Looking at Chile alone, we can see that at the time of the mass strike of 1907, 200 workers were killed during a massacre at the school of Santa Maria. The "champion of democracy", Salvador Allende, brutally repressed the miners' struggle against increases in productivity and the lowering of wages. "In May-June 1972, the miners were again mobilised: 20,000 went on strike in the mines of El Teniente and Chuquicamata. Miners at El Teniente demanded a 40% wage increase. Allende put the provinces of O'Higgins and Santiago under military rule saying the paralysis of El Teniente ‘seriously threatened the economy’. The ‘Marxist’ leaders of the Popular Union expelled workers and replaced them with scabs. Five hundred carabiniere attacked the workers with tear gas and water cannons. Four thousand miners protested in Santiago on June 11 and were violently attacked by the police. The government treated the workers as ‘agents of fascism’. The CP organised some processions in Santiago against the miners, calling on the government to show ‘firmness’[5]. All the factions of the bourgeoisie, particularly those on the left, closed ranks in order to defend state capitalist "democracy". In November 1970, Fidel Castro came to Chile to support the anti-working class measures taken by Allende and reprimanded the miners, calling them agitators and "demagogues". At the Chuquicamata mine, he stated that "one hundred tonnes less each day meant a loss of $36 million dollars a year"[6]. Allende sent the army to repress the workers, but worse still, during a meeting in front of the Moneda Palace in June 1972, he applauded Pinochet as "a faithful soldier to the Constitution". The re-establishment of democracy in 1990 has brought no amelioration to living and working conditions in Chile. The different presidents (from Alwyn to Bachinet, including Lagos and the first mandate of Pinera) have preserved and strengthened the political economy promoted by the Chicago School which imposed the dictatorship of Pinochet. They haven't at all improved a retirement system which condemns the retired to get a pension lower than the minimum wage and who have to continue to work in order to survive, with jobs here and there until they are 75 years old. This is a system which refuses any future pension to numerous youngsters condemned to precarious employment. Chile today is one of the most unequal countries in the world and the inequality is aggravated by democracy: "When we got democracy back, the military government which had also been bad on the economy, left a poverty rate of 4.7%. Today our GNP has more than doubled and we are several times richer than before. But the percentage of poor has risen to 35%"[7]. The left acted as the favoured voice of the bourgeoisie, calling upon us to support democracy and consider dictatorship as the supreme evil: as if dictatorship had the monopoly on repression and the spoliation of the proletariat, its slogan being: "No to dictatorship, yes to parliamentary democracy". All this propaganda caused a great deal of damage to the working class because it made it think that it was "free", that it could "choose", that with the vote came "power" and, above all, it atomises and individualises the workers, wiping out feelings of solidarity and unity by pushing them into the mire of "look after number one", "the survival of the fittest" and of "get out of my way so I can take your place".

The methods of working class struggle

The workers and their most conscious minorities must reject the trap laid by the bourgeoisie and methodically prepare the ground for the emergence of real workers' struggles. This perspective is still very far away and won't unfold through a sum of events in each country but from an international dynamic in which the role of the great concentrations of experienced workers in Western Europe will be fundamental[8]. The working class of Chile and the entire world must reappropriate the real methods of workers' struggle which have appeared in numerous significant combats throughout history (May 68 in France, Poland 1980, the anti-CPE movement in France in 2006, the Indignados movement in Spain in 2011). These are methods of struggle and organisation which are radically opposed to those of the unions:

- The mass strike which is unleashed by the workers themselves through their own decisions and outside of legal and union strictures.

- General assemblies open to all workers, active and unemployed, retired, students, future workers, immigrants and native workers, ALL TOGETHER.

- The direct extension of struggles through massive delegations.

- The coordination and unification of struggles of struggle assured by elected and revocable delegates.

Some clear conclusions are established:

- Faced with such brutal attacks as those in Chile or Ecuador, the response is not popular revolt, pillage or minority violence but autonomous class struggle.

- The struggle must be controlled by the workers themselves against union sabotage.

- The workers must unite against repression and defend themselves through solidarity and a firm and combative response. Prolonging the fight and reaching a class unity is the best defence possible.

- As we saw earlier with Ecuador and then with events in Chile, the national flag has been waved throughout. It is the flag of exploitation, repression and war. It is the flag of capital.

- Capitalism's descent into the world crisis will cause yet more suffering and misery and that will be accompanied by new imperialist wars and the destruction of the environment.

- The problem is global and there is no national solution. The only global solution is one that comes from the international struggle of the workers.

We know that this perspective of combat is going to be costly. Numerous struggles, numerous defeats, numerous painful lessons will be necessary. However, we have the lessons of three centuries of experience, which, elaborated by marxist theory, provides us with the theoretical, organisational and political means to contribute to this combat. The international communist organisation is the organism which defends this historic continuity of the proletariat. Its programmatic, organisational, political and moral principles are the critical synthesis of this global experience of three centuries of class struggle. Build the organisation, defend it, strengthen it: this is the best contribution to the fight of the proletariat. Today, this is mainly aimed against the current of campaigns for national unity around the defence of democracy, but tomorrow it will be a key part of the renaissance of the international struggle of the proletariat.

ICC, November 1 2019.

[1]  See “Theses on decomposition”,

[2]  The proletariat will need the recourse to class violence but this has nothing to do with and is opposed to the terror of the bourgeoisie, the terrorism of the petty-bourgeoisie and the random violence of the lumpenproletariat. See "Terror, terrorism and class violence" in International Review no. 14 and the resolution on this subject in no. 15.

[3]  On our Spanish internet site "The workers' movement in Chile at the beginning of the 20th century.

[4]  The National Defence boss, the military man Iturraga Del Campo, contradicted his head of state who had declared that it was "at war", saying "I'm a happy man; the truth is that I am at war with no-one".

[5]  See "Thirty years after the fall of Allende: dictatorship and democracy are two faces of capitalist barbarity"

[6]   Idem.

[7]  See in Spanish: "Chile: es la desigualdad, estupido" on the internet site,

[8]  See on our  website the Resolution on the International situation from the ICC's 23rd Congress


Social Movement in Chile