On September 4, 1970, the world's attention was focused on Chile, because the conditions were in place for Popular Unity (UP) presidential candidate, Salvador Allende Gossens, to claim victory in the election.
For the first time, a Marxist candidate, in a free and democratic vote, under bourgeois law, would govern the nation. But, September 11, 1973, dramatically interrupted the process, which, to this day, continues to have relevance.
It was only possible to overthrow the government by violence, crime and betrayal, because there was unconditional support of the people for the program of transformation being implemented.
What followed were 17 years of civic-military dictatorship, four governments with a progressive tendency, and two on the right, where little to no progress was made, and where they continued to blatantly exploit and abuse a people who deserve a better destiny.
In 1980, Dictator Augusto Pinochet submitted for vote a constitution written by a selected group led by right-wing academic Professor Jaime Guzman. The plebiscite was held with the people living in fear of the armed and ruthless military dictatorship. Though controversial, the Dictator’s constitution was voted up and enforced.
The struggle that commenced on October 18, 2019 is a consequence of the rights and rules established in the 1980 constitution.
For example, the constitution guarantees the freedom of teaching, which enabled the funding of private schools and universities, creating the current market-based education system, which students from all across Chile have been opposing in the streets for decades.
This “freedom” is imposed over the rights of those who are taught, and their families. Derived from the founding of the market-based educational system, are the access barriers this implies, forcing many working-class families to go into debt to allow their children to undertake higher education.
A credit scheme with the private bank was created, to further open the private sector to the lower- and middle-class population. The loan scheme, known as CAE, has proven to be useless, with young professionals paying off the high interest and seeing no progress on the payment of their debt.
Another key reason for the social phenomenon triggered last October is the current pension system, founded during the dictatorship and perfected under the “alien” social democratic government that followed it.
The model, similar to the Australian superannuation model, is based on individual capitalisation of funds, which are deducted from workers’ wages and put into the market through different entities to make profits. A share of these profits is then delivered to workers as payments throughout retirement.
Though the company that manages these funds shares the gains in profit made in the market, workers bear the losses when market values drop. When the system was created, the same year in which the constitution was adopted, it was promised that, by 2020, workers would be retiring on 100% of their last salary. Today, the system delivers around 25% to those on the lowest incomes.
A great deal of anger has accumulated during the decades since the dictatorship murdered its way to power, anger that is proportional to the enrichment levels of the wealthiest. Chile has the highest per capita income on the continent, but the worst distribution of that income.
Chile also has the highest paid parliamentarians in the world, in a country where thousands of families live on A$500 a month. In Chile, basic groceries are sold at international prices, electricity and oil are more expensive than in Australia, but wages and salaries are five times lower.
Last October, in the midst of all these injustices, a social uprising took place, started by mostly young people, which shook the entire country. They had just demands, postponed for decades; but couldn't be held back any longer.
That day, Chile began to burn, and the only people responsible for all this were the government, which intended to continue strengthening a neoliberal system that is dying worldwide, and which has demonstrated its total ineffectiveness in solving the basic problems of the great majority of people throughout the world.
Those responsible were the owners of large companies with workers on starvation wages and inhuman working conditions. They were the pension funds administrators, who enriched themselves with workers’ retirement savings. They were the millionaires who embezzle state organisations. They were the owners of Chile’s privatised water system, who left the peasants without water to feed the people or irrigate the land.
On October 25, Chile will hold a historic plebiscite. Thanks to that social outbreak, for the first time, the people will get rid of the current constitution, which was made during the dictatorship, and served the dictatorship and the theft that surrounded it. The people will also elect representatives who will write the new constitution.
On October 25, the people must rise, triumph and continue building that just and egalitarian society that began to be built during the UP government.
Today, the Chilean people are not on their knees, as their class enemies wanted them to be. Today, the people do not fear their enemies, because they know they are capable of achieving that better future.
Today, Chilean people have in hand the right weapon that can put an end to the legacy of the Pinochet dictatorship on Chilean society, and bury, once and for all, the system that was imposed and that has brought nothing but illusive progress, debt and socioeconomic stagnation.
For these and other many reasons, we Chileans living in Australia this 25th of October will vote Apruebo! (Approve!)
[For more information visit facebook/Yo-Apruebo-Sydney.]