After the Social Explosion: An Interview with the Anarchist Federation of Santiago

FAS graffiti: “The electoral route failed. The only path: memory, struggle, and organization”

In the wake of the rejection by Chilean voters of the proposed “right-wing” constitution (17/12/2023) – the country’s second constitutional referendum in just over a year, with the previous referendum (04/09/2022) ending with the rejection of a “left-wing” constitution, thereby preserving the Pinochet constitution of 1980 -, we share an interview with Chilean anarchists conducted by members of the Black Rose Anarchist Federation (12/12/2023) on the eve of the referendum.

In 2019, significant segments of the dominated classes of Chile gave shape to what is now known as the “social explosion”, a popular uprising of national proportions. The social explosion produced a profound political crisis which forced the resignation of then president Sebastián Piñera and initiated a process which sought to overturn and rewrite the country’s dictatorship era constitution.

In this interview with Black Rose/Rosa Negra Anarchist Federation (BRRN), members of the Santiago Anarchist Federation (FAS) offer a number of criticisms and alternative proposals to the constitutional assembly process. Members of the FAS also speak to the role played by both the left and institutional forces, as well as factors that have contributed to the rise of far right and neo-fascist elements in Chilean society.

This interview was conducted and translated by the Black Rose / Rosa Negra – International Relations Committee (IRC).

Black Rose / Rosa Negra (BRRN): FAS has put out a number of critiques of the constituent assembly process, but also offered alternative proposals on how to move forward after the 2019 uprising. What criticisms did the FAS put out and what alternatives did it offer?

Anarchist Federation of Santiago (FAS): Our criticisms can be classified in both form and content. In the first place, our critique had to do with the political accord that gave rise to the process, which was led by the most diverse sectors of institutional politics, ranging from the traditional right to progressivism headed up by Boric. This accord was developed while street mobilizations remained relentless, and while State terrorism was dramatically felt. In fact, on November 15, the day in which the negotiations of the political parties were sealed, giving rise to the “Agreement for Social Peace and a New Constitution”, Abel Acuña died in Santiago, through brutal police repression, making it clear that the peace of the bourgeoisie was the death of the peoples in struggle.

Secondly, as anarchists we believe that advances in the demands that are achieved must be within the framework of direct action. Therefore, from the first moment we warned that this constituent process was a political solution of the ruling class to crush the popular movement and institutionalize the conflict, replacing the class struggle with democratic dialogue, thus seeking to give oxygen to a weakened institutionality. From this standpoint, we prefer to characterize the above as a “Restoration Process”, which aims to restore legitimacy to the state apparatus by updating the limits of domination. We have been clear in pointing out that the original issues of the class struggle cannot be resolved in a legal-institutional framework, hence, the task of the process was to beautify and soften the social contract that oppresses us.

Regarding our alternatives, at that time we proposed four tasks:

  • Contribute toward building the revolutionary self-management power of communities.
  • Contribute toward the united construction of a statement on communities in struggle.
  • Develop a self-defense policy for the territories.
  • Contribute to strengthening a new popular subjectivity.

Through these tasks, we saw the possibility of resisting the institutional co-optation of the social revolt and extend what was achieved in those moments beyond the situation itself. In order not to elaborate in a tedious way, I invite you to review our web page, where you can find the booklet “Proceso Restituyente“, which goes into more depth on what has been expressed here.

BRRN: What is FAS’ assessment of the results of the recent election of the constitutional council?

FAS: Given the failure of the first constituent process, which had a constitutional body dominated by social democratic progressivism, the political parties insisted on a new constitution, and therefore, a new body was elected, but this time the absolute majority has been obtained by the extreme right, particularly the Republican Party, led by José Antonio Kast, who represent the ideas of Pinochetism, neoliberalism, conservatism, nationalism, and a long list of nefarious positions.

This result is not surprising, especially for two reasons. The first is related to the fact that the extreme right was the only political sector within the institutional apparatus that had a position against initiating this new process, an issue that represents, in general terms, public opinion, which is totally fatigued by the constant elections that have taken place and the lack of concrete improvements in its day-to-day life. Therefore, in view of the generalized apathy about the process, the institutional sector that is most critical of it, benefited electorally. The second reason has to do with the fact that after the social revolt and its transformational drive, the discourse of order began to position itself, and from there a conservative restoration has been launched. This agenda is precisely the core of the program of the extreme right, where we find proposals such as giving huge powers to the police, dehumanizing migrants while blaming them as the origin of crime and drug trafficking, and building an authoritarian regime as a solution to all the problems afflicting the population. Unfortunately, this has been echoed by the population, since, in the ideological battle, the extreme right has gained considerable ground.

BRRN: What is FAS’ analysis of the current situation based on the recent constitutional process and how the extreme right wing controlled the drafting of the new proposal?

FAS: The new constitutional proposal emanates from the extreme right, and as such, represents a major setback in several areas. Those threats cannot be confronted with suffrage. Democracy and its tools are completely ineffective as a way to destroy neo-fascism. Therefore, we are invested in popular struggle and organization as the only effective instruments against the project of pinochetism.

Social democracy will make a call to the polls, and according to preliminary measurements, it is possible that the constitution of the extreme right will be rejected. But beyond that, an electoral process will not corner the reactionary agenda, communities developing popular power will. Therefore, our organization believes that our energies should be concentrated in strengthening social organizations, in deepening the commitment to Community Management (a concept discussed below), and developing tools that allow us to advance in the ideological struggle.

Finally, on our website and social networks, you can find our “Opinion Letters“, where we are constantly offering analysis of the current situation and organizational proposals for struggle. There you will find further material on characterizing the constitutional process in particular, and the situation in general.

BRRN: Have your proposals changed at all since the plebiscite took place?

FAS: The proposals we elaborated at the end of 2019 and the beginning of 2020, rather than changing, today unfold in a completely different terrain. Therefore, their content remains in force, but the mechanisms we use to carry them out have certainly been modified.

But we would also like to mention a proposal that began to be elaborated in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic and its catastrophic effects on popular sectors. This proposal is “Community Management”, which aims to be a prefigurative alternative for the oppressed class in the face of the false dichotomy between State and Market. During the constitutional process and the pandemic, a debate arose regarding the public-state dimension of the economy and in the management of social services, pointing toward social democracy, and that there would be a guarantee of access and better living conditions for the popular classes. For our organization, this is an illusion, due to the fact that the old “Welfare State” makes no sense in the current crisis, and this would depend on exacerbating the pattern of capitalist accumulation, which translates into the plundering of our territories and the deepening of exploitation. In short, our lives would become even more precarious.

From the above diagnosis, we have positioned “Community Management” as a tool that allows social organizations to assume greater responsibility for their social and environmental circumstances, in order to advance territorial control. For a deeper understanding of this idea, we have available on our website, the booklet entitled “Community Management“, which is a first draft of the proposal. We hope to publish an update of this perspective soon.

BRRN: What has been the relationship between the Chilean left and the institutional apparatus throughout the different phases of the Social Revolt, both during and after?

FAS: The Chilean left has historically been conservative in its political positions, hence its most radical expression was the government of Salvador Allende, a political project that sought the implementation of socialism while respecting the margins of bourgeois institutionality, renouncing the armed path in the midst of the “Cold War”, and we already know how that ended.

For this reason, the historical project of the local left has never proposed a total rupture with the capitalist order, and they stick to a developmentalist project. In line with this, the Chilean left tried to hinder the development and impact of the Social Revolt, with a strategy of institutionalization, which promised profound changes at political, economic, social and environmental levels, in exchange for all the discontent expressed in protests, territorial assemblies, and various forms of struggle and organization, to be channeled into electoralism. In this context, they became part of the November 15 agreement that initiated the constitutional process, and subsequently raised the presidential candidacy of Gabriel Boric.

Once Boric won the presidential election, all those promises vanished, giving way to one of the most nefarious governments in living memory. This government arrived talking about the Wallmapu and restitution of lands to the Mapuche people, but a few weeks later, the called ancestral territory “Macro South Zone” in a clear military discourse and they have militarized it, an issue that continues to this day, and no government has ever used it as intensely and constantly as the current one, where there have been more than 500 days of deployment of army and navy troops in the Mapuche territory. On the other hand, this government declared itself to be ecological, but shortly after taking power they enthusiastically collaborated with the deepening of extractivism in our territories, going to look for investors from Canada, China and the USA, so that they could destroy our ecosystems. Finally, this government promised to put an end to the terrorist institution of carabineros, “los pacos”, militarized police that have historically murdered the oppressed class with impunity. Instead, it has given them more powers and resources than the Pinochet dictatorship itself, guaranteeing their continuity and impunity.

For this reason we want to warn: reformism, social democracy and progressivism are enemies of the emancipation of the oppressed class, no matter how much they dress themselves in critical, radical and transformational garb. They are representatives of the historical project of the ruling class. Neither Boric, nor Sanders, nor any of these timid ones are part of our struggle.

BRRN: How does neo-fascism present itself in Chile? What are its dominant characteristics? How does it align with the agenda of the ruling classes in the Chilean national context?

FAS: We want to start by saying that it is tremendously necessary to define what we mean by “neo-fascism” and not only on a local scale, but globally. The movements, groups, parties and leaders to whom we give this nickname do not necessarily correspond to that historical fascism of the 20th century, which aspired to corporatism and had strong workerist components. Therefore, defining what is “neo” and what is fascist in this phenomenon is fundamental for crafting a correct tactic, which will allow us to crush them on all fronts. For the time being, we believe that we are up to this task, and it is urgent that  anarchism and the revolutionary movement more broadly stresses these categories for a correct reading of the period.

However, we can point out some of the characteristics of the above in our territories, since nationalist, xenophobic, racist, sexist, and authoritarian positions have been strengthened. Now, in the territory dominated by the State of Chile, there is no clear organic referent of neo-fascism, that is to say, an organization that groups, directs, and represents in a clear and mass level way its death project, a matter that could change in the short term, since at a subjective level its ideas have gained significant ground in the popular sectors, where its slogans, especially the racist and xenophobic ones, are quickly incorporated in the middle and lower strata of the population. This neo-fascism that is being incubated comes to the fore in actions such as the eviction of Mapuche community members from the municipality of Curacautin in 2020, and the burning of migrant camps in Iquique in 2021. Racist and xenophobic speeches encouraged both of these events respectively.

Although neo-fascism does not have a clear referent at the political level, today the Republican Party is the one who, at the institutional level, represents its agenda the most. This has been able to take shape at the constitutional level, because this party has controlled the process, some constitutional articles have embodied the fascist project, especially around migrants, which establishes their immediate expulsion in case of entering the territory dominated by the Chilean State in an irregular manner, putting at serious risk the international law on political refugees, and equal access to a fair trial. Also, in constitutional matters, they have rolled back the right to abortion on three grounds, preventing the free choice of those who get pregnant, an issue that was already extremely limited in this territory. Therefore, the institutionality of the ruling class has been totally permeated by the ideas and anti-values of the new and old fascists.

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