The Remedy is Struggle and Organization/El Remedio es la Lucha y Organización

Yesterday in Valparaíso there was a massive rally and march of health workers and others. It began at the Hospital Carlos van Buren where doctors, nurses, and other health workers massed in front of the hospital with a huge banner. The crowd doubled in just 30 minutes and roared when four ambulances pulled up in formation to show solidarity. In a massive spirited march through the main streets of Valparaiso, everywhere people were hanging out windows banging pots in the incessant protest rhythm of the cacerolazos.  The march was an outpouring of repudiation of the injustices of the system, here focused on the health care system. The message, as the banner proclaimed, was “El Remedio es la Lucha y Organización” [The Remedy is Struggle and Organization].

The same seems to be happening across Chile. There were huge peaceful assemblies in Plaza Italia and Plaza Ñuñoa in Santiago with acrobats, dancers, puppets, and of course cacerolazos. The enormous outpouring of people of all walks of life made clear, as Jorge Sharp, mayor of Valparaíso said on Monday, “it’s not about 30 pesos, it’s about 30 years.” 

After the march, there was an asamblea, a popular assembly of civic organizations, social movements, and ciudan@s, organized by Mayor Sharp in a public school—closed for the day because of the state of emergency, but opened for a popular assembly. The goal was to generate proposals for a popular program for Valparaíso, that would be presented to the national government. This would help build a popular democratic alternative to the right-wing neoliberal policies that govern Chile. Although we didn’t understand everything, each person, young and old, put forward proposals for education, women, health, children, wealth distribution, work—all aspects of social life. After about two hours of inviting anyone who had a proposal to speak (there were 33), Sharp explained the mayor’s office will combine them into a document– a draft people’s program. He also said he would be meeting with the fisherpeople, who are the historical backbone of Valparaíso, and who have been decimated by national laws enabling corporate fishing [see our earlier post]. But Sharp said the real work is to organize. “We are clear. We in this room are clear, but we need to talk to our children, our neighbors.” It was proposed, and he agreed, to use the public schools as space for local public discussions of the people’s program. 

In Valparaíso, we think we are witnessing the collaboration of the local state and popular mass organizing towards building a new Chile. As Marta Harnecker, the Chilean political theorist wrote, as “practice has demonstrated…you can use this inherited state and transform it into an instrument that collaborates with building the new society” (though she was clear in stating that we cannot rely on the state by itself, even a progressive municipal one like Sharp’s, for many reasons). This is an important moment, and this week we will be attending one of the meetings in our barrio. 

Leaving the assembly we were overcome by tear gas, residue from some recent assault by the military. Shoppers, students, marchers, and people walking on the street were wearing masks, some carrying lemon to blunt the gas. Including us. Again last night, the cerros (hills) echoed with the steady protest rhythms of the cacerolas

Then President Piñera came on TV about 10 pm. He said, “we’ve heard you loud and clear,” and proposed several measures that he would introduce in the national congress to address people’s demands (including pensions, minimum wage, health, congressmembers’ salaries, and utility costs). But our compañer@s explained that these proposals continue to follow the same neoliberal logic of privatization and accumulation by dispossession that will only enrich those already benefitting. For example, the cost of medicine will be frozen, but the pharmaceutical companies would be subsided through public funds to make up for the difference. And while Piñera said they would increase taxes on high income individuals, there is no provision to stop them from getting out of paying taxes altogether. 

And he reiterated that democracy and liberty depend on public order—as the curfew continued in cities and towns throughout Chile, and military patrolled the streets, guns drawn, and in tanks, beating, arresting, and shooting people. Over 15 have been killed, and many more wounded by the bullets of the armed forces. (Interestingly, CNN-Chile has begun to show the military brutality, highlighting sympathetic portraits of five young men killed by the military.) CNN also reported 2643 detained, as of October 22. Social media showed military going into a house in Santiago and dragging out and detaining three people including a student leader. 

Today the response to Piñera’s proposals to end the crisis is even more massive demonstrations in cities across the country. 

Schedule of events today in Valparíso

The CUT (a Chilean union federation) called a general strike, and there’s a massive, peaceful demonstration in Santiago. In Valparaíso, an incredible march of thousands (that looks to be more than a mile long) is marching from Valparaíso to Viña del Mar along the heavily travelled highway between the mountains and the sea that connects the two cities. There are several other marches today in Valparaíso. A general strike has been called to get the military out of the streets: “Milicos Fuera de las calles!” More to come…

“Military Out of the Streets. No More Pension Board, No More Water and Resource Theft”

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