Chile: Inspiring challenge to shock doctrine


There were amazing scenes in Chile on August 21 when 1 million people marched in Santiago chanting: “The people united will never be defeated!”

These were awe-inspiring scenes of mass mobilisation.

The acute trigger is the privatisation of the education system. The underlying trigger is relentless and ever widening social and financial inequality.

If the people know about neoliberal policies, it is the Chileans.

Naomi Klein's influential critique of capitalism, Shock Doctrine, starts the history of neoliberalism with US economist Milton Friedman and the economic shock therapy implemented based on his ideas in Chile after the 1973 military coup.

The model was a success for the cold heart of capital accumulation and “free” markets. 

In Chile, it is clear that enough is enough.

A key leader of the rebellion is Camila Vallejo, a 23-year-old, geography student at the University of Chile  and president of the Student Federation.

An August 23 article said she “has  become the most popular and inspiring leader of the current and massive student movement that have brought to its knees, for the last 3 months, Sebastian Pinera’s right wing government.

“Even opinion polls carried out by media supporters of the current government can’t ignore the truth; Camilla is the most popular activist/politician in Chile with nearly 70% approval.”

Vellejo is the daughter of Chilean Communist Party members who fought against the dictatorship installed in the CIA-organised coup that overthrew the elected government of president Salvador Allende.

Allende intended to  address inequality, redistribute wealth and opportunity by nationalising industries and implementing agricultural reforms to promote small and cooperatively owned farms. 

The protesters are not interested in compromise. Government officials will have to find real solutions if they want to restore relative calm. 

There are ongoing hunger strikes and a call by the largest workers’ group in the country for a general strike.

It seems fitting that, as neoliberalism was first imposed on Chile, it is the Chilean people that are now bravely showing the rest of us the meaning of people power ― and that with sincerity and hope, together we can change the system.

It is also clear that Allende's final words ― before his murder by the coup plotters ― have not been forgotten and his “sacrifice will not be in vain”.

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