Frente Amplio: An alternative for Chile
By Matías Vallejos J.(Autonomous Left and Frente Amplio activist - San Antonio, Valparaíso, Chile)
Chile has been a country of abuse and inequality. Without the guarantee of basic social rights by the state, we have become one of the poorest countries of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). Our university education is one of the most expensive and lowest quality in the world. Political and economic power has dominated our lives, deepening inequality and taking away citizens’ desire to live. Chile has the second highest OECD suicide rate, surpassed only by South Korea.
This is the result of the collapse of civil society during the dictatorship, in addition to the deepening of the neoliberal model in the period of transition 1 and the discriminatory exclusion of social movements. This situation has changed recently and several social movements have understood that mobilization is the key to being heard. An example of this is the student movement, which in 2006 and 2011 mobilized the great majority of the country, fighting for a free and quality education for all. Frente Amplio (Broad Front) is a political party based on the demands of social movements and understands it must be governed with them, promoting their autonomy as fundamental actors in the social transformation of politics. Our party was formed in advance of the November 2017 presidential and parliamentary elections to challenge the neoliberal status quo born out of dictatorship and maintained through the past 27 years even after the establishment of formal democracy.
Before the military dictatorship, in 1970 the first democratically elected socialist government was formed in Chile, presided by the Chilean doctor and politician, Salvador Allende Gossens. Allende’s main objective was changing Chile’s capitalist economic system to a socialist one. To do this, it had to nationalize natural resources (mainly copper) and advance a state guarantee of social rights (e.g. health, education and housing). These rights were guaranteed under the government of Salvador Allende.
However, the Chilean bourgeoisie with U.S. support limited these resources to the few that could afford it. The Chilean bourgeoisie with the help of the United States – mainly the CIA – initiated a campaign of economic and social destabilization, starving the country from vital resources to its development. After plunging the country into misery and a scarcity of goods by the Americans, the Chilean military commander – Augusto Pinochet, led a coup on Sep. 11, 1973, which ended with the death of Allende. A military dictatorship was instituted and leaders and all who opposed the dictatorship were persecuted and assassinated. A few went into political exile. Without an opposition, the dictatorship was able to deepen the capitalist and neoliberal model that remains until now in Chile.
Although formal democracy arrived in Chile in 1990, the transition governments continued deepening the model established in the dictatorship and expand the Chilean market, producing low quality jobs and poor working conditions. If the governments of the traditional left and the opposition promoted a policy that excluded social actors from politics, that situation has been gradually countered since 2006 and 2011.
These social actors who lived through the contradictions of the Chilean neoliberal model, today, struggle to participate in a narrow political debate dominated by the political elite and, above all, colonized by the social interests of the business community. Frente Amplio represents for its various political and social organizations the realization of a new political effort that marks a milestone among the emerging forces of 2011.
In Frente Amplio, we see the possibility of mobilizing political forces – formed in the heat of recent social struggles – to confront a market that has colonized nearly every aspect of our lives. Frente Amplio is a vehicle to bring the demands of social movements to the political discussion, always fostering their autonomy as primary actors in the transformation of the social character of politics. It is an opportunity to build a left with critical capacity, to create a crisis in the current political status quo and end decades of neoliberal reforms. This process can maintain a transformative character only by mobilizing new actors excluded from politics and coming from different struggles.
Within this panorama, we are putting forth candidates that embody these new social struggles. One of our parliamentary candidates is Camila Rojas Valderrama, leader and former president of the student movement in 2016. Furthermore, 12 political and social movements will put forth parliamentary candidates for Frente Amplio. Our goal is to built build a parliamentary bloque for social rights and institute a space for social movements. Our intent is not simply to occupy positions of power but to create a space of ideas to contest a politics of transition that has become more of the same repackaged. We work to recover our lives, our education, health, retirement, housing and natural resources from those who today profit from our rights. We believe in a Chile for all, respectful of the environment and where social rights form the basis of a full democracy. This society is only possible by overcoming the current neoliberal economic model and generating unity amidst the diversity of forces for change with a participative, democratic and pluralist vision capable of acting independently from business powers. Our challenge is to create a broad political and social movement to bring together, in its diversity, all the efforts and will to democratically change Chile’s unequal structures of power. A political force with a real option to govern and legislate for the benefit of the majorities.
And the current political landscape offers a historical possibility: Ahead of the 2017 November presidential and parliamentary elections, the political class and its institutions are undergoing a deep crisis of legitimacy, aggravated by corruption, but ultimately the result of a deep disconnection between politics from society. Our undertaking will not be without criticism or disagreement. The historical demobilization of Chile’s left, reflected in the inability of the new forces to reach agreement, threatens the anti-neoliberal agenda. Therefore, the candidates put forth by the Frente Amplio, both presidential and parliamentary, must focus not only on the recovery of social rights but also on providing a transformative vision and policies while preserving the autonomy of the organizations built in the heat of recent mobilizations both in form and substance.
Frente Amplio must be a moral and cultural alternative. This requires a constant critical reflection to quickly correct and prevent mistakes. We must be rigorous with our actions and not become what we criticize. We must continue working to consolidate ourselves as a major political force in Chile and inject the demands from social movements in our government and parliamentary programs.
To fulfill these objectives, we must generate a transformative political and social force that is an alternative to the duopoly of the Right (opposition) and the New Majority (conciliation or transition government). We want to build the program and foundation for a new country: to uphold the rights for all, with a new development model that respects the environment and involves the massive participation of civil society and the organized forces of change. Our invitation is that we organize a political and social force capable of creating a country for all and where the recovery of our rights forms the basis of a new democratic society and so continue what began in 1970 with Allende.
- While dictatorship ended and formal democracy began in the period of transition, the governments during this period continued deepening the neoliberal policies of the dictatorship.