I arrived in Santiago yesterday. The first few people I talked with were not very enthusiastic. One, just a passerby in the street, commented to me about “the fanatics” who are marching. And I did see that the few people out already in the morning were all very young. I started to think, “oh, no. This is just like the tiny crowds of ultra that we see at some events in Oakland.”
Then things changed.
I walked about an hour down a busy boulevard. Every single wall, almost, was covered with political graffiti. Many of the small shops had notes posted on their front windows saying they supported the protests. In Oakland, during times of protest, we see something similar, but there they do that in the hopes that the protesters won’t break their windows. But here, I didn’t see a single broken window.
In the evening, the protests started. One thing: There is an absolute hatred for the police. There are no illusions that they are part of the 99% or anything like that.
There were thousands and thousands out in the streets. The police were shooting a water cannon. The water is laced with some sort of tear gas, and let me tell you, that stuff is powerful.
From what I understand, the main drive of the established parties is to hold a constitutional assembly. This is about the Chilean constitution, which was written under Pinochet and is not very “democratic”. But there seems to be very little confidence in that process.
As one would expect in such an extremely politically heightened situation, there are local assemblies in many neighborhoods. Or this is what I’m told. There seems to be a drive for a National Assembly. From what I understand, something similar has happened in France arising from the Yellow Vest movement.
One last thing: In the US, the closest experience to this that we have had recently was the Occupy movement. In that situation, however, the right wing libertarians were able to infiltrate the movement to some extent. It was a very limited extent, but they were there. From what I’ve read, something similar happened during the Yellow Vest movement. This did not make either of these movements right wing movements by any stretch of the imagination, but it did show the confusion. Here, that is not the case. I am having the impression that the fact of the coup and the role of Pinochet has a powerful effect on the consciousness here. A “red-brown alliance”? Nope. Not here in Chile I don’t think.
However, I am told that the propaganda associating “socialism” with Maduro has had an effect and that there is some confusion about socialism.
Another difference: During Occupy Oakland, the official line was that “there is no leadership; we are all leaders.” In fact, that was untrue. There was a small group of anarchists who were the leaders. I know,. In the later days of Occupy Oakland, this group joined forces with some of the left groups to help the “progressive” wing of the union bureaucracy gain influence. Here, I am told that, in reality, the protests really are entirely spontaneous.
But some sort of leadership has to develop somehow. When, where and how I have no idea.