Re-Writing The Rules of the Game: Where Chile is Leading, Can Aotearoa-New Zealand Follow?

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THE EYES OF THE LEFT, all around the world, should be on Chile. Over the next twelve months a Constituent Assembly, comprised of 155 elected Chilean citizens, will draft a new constitution for their battered and abused country. New constitutions are not written very often. South Africa, post-apartheid, wrote one – to world acclaim. So did Venezuela – and the rest of the world ignored it. Undaunted, the left-wing Venezuelan President, Hugo Chavez, had the Constitution’s key provisions printed on milk cartons, so every citizen, even the poorest, could know their rights.

Chile’s new constitution, however, is being written from scratch, an exercise that has not been attempted in a well-established nation for more than twenty years. What’s more, with the Constituent Assembly dominated by the Left (in New Zealand, they’d be branded “Far Left”) the constitution which emerges from its deliberations will likely break new ground. Already, the members of the Constituent Assembly (MCA) are committed to ensuring that the rights of Chile’s indigenous people (roughly 10 percent of the population) are constitutionally protected.

The legislation establishing the Constituent Assembly mandated an equal number of male and female members. Interestingly, so radical was the popular mood that considerably more women ended up being elected to the Assembly than men – requiring the men’s numbers to be topped-up! Clearly the rights of women – in all political, economic, social and cultural spheres – will constitute a central pillar of the new constitution.

Given Chile’s tragic post-1973 history, it is also widely anticipated that the new constitution will explicitly repudiate the neoliberal tenets embedded in the constitution imposed upon the Chilean people from above by the military dictator, General Augusto Pinochet, in 1980. Chilean political commentators are predicting the inclusion of a slew of “social chapters” restoring to the state its key responsibility for maintaining the welfare of the people. The privatisation of key utilities – most particularly the water supply – may well be reversed as constitutionally untenable.

Essentially, Chile is engrossed in an extraordinary exercise aimed at reimposing the status-quo ante. Taking the nation back to the point it had reached under the socialist Popular Unity government of President Salvador Allende immediately prior to the military coup d’état of 11 September 1973. Allende died in that coup, and thousands more Chileans were murdered in the months and years that followed.

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In the early 1970s, Allende’s government had been one of the most progressive in the world, making it that most dangerous of things – an example other peoples might feel inclined to follow. The USA, in particular, was terrified that Allende’s brand of democratic socialism might spread across Latin America. US President, Richard Nixon’s National Security Adviser, Henry Kissinger, summed-up the Administration’s position when he declared: “I don’t see why the United States should sit back and watch a country turn communist due to the irresponsibility of its own people.”

With the Left crushed, Chile became the proving ground for the neoliberal theories of Professor Milton Friedman. All the measures with which the rest of the world would soon become agonizingly familiar: deregulation, privatisation, regressive fiscal policies, abandoning economic protectionism and opening the economy to foreign investors, dismantling of the welfare state and destroying the trade unions; were tested out on the politically defenceless Chilean people.

Although a measure of democracy was restored to Chile in 1990, it was heavily circumscribed by the point-blank refusal of the political class in general (and the armed forces in particular) to countenance the slightest attempt to dismantle the neoliberal order Pinochet had so firmly established. It required nothing less than the global Covid-19 pandemic to generate the massive popular rising necessary to force the Chilean powers-that-be to sanction the calling together of a constituent assembly to re-write the rules of the political game.

There are a number of lessons here for Aotearoa-New Zealand – providing its progressive forces are ready and willing to learn from the Chilean example.

The first of these is that ending neoliberalism requires massive and militant action on the ground. Between 2019 and 2020, the young and the poor made Chile ungovernable. Engaging in running battles with the Police and facing-down the army’s bullets, they rendered the political class and its mainstream media mouthpieces increasingly irrelevant to what was happening in the streets, offices, shops, factories, schools and universities of the nation. In the course of making this uprising, the young and the poor learned “on the job” how to conduct their own politics – independent of the political parties which had traditionally represented their interests. (In the elections for the Constituent Assembly, the ruling right-wing party received fewer that 30 percent of the votes, and the equivalent of our Labour Party was outpolled by a combination of communists, anarchists, feminists, indigenous Chileans and environmentalists.)

The second lesson to be drawn from recent events in Chile, is that changing the rules of the game – i.e. drawing up a new constitution – is not something to be left to elite theorists meeting behind closed doors. New ideas, revolutionary ideas, cannot be imposed upon the population from above and remain progressive ideas. (Never forget that Rogernomics was a revolution imposed from above – with disastrous results for workers and beneficiaries.) If what the radicals and revolutionaries who pulled together the He Puapua Report are proposing is any good, then the young and the poor will make it their own. When that happens, all the rest will follow. Demand the election of a Constituent Assembly to write Aotearoa-New Zealand’s bi-cultural constitution. Let the young and the poor chose their own candidates. For the first time in decades give them the chance to cast a vote that matters. Throw an additional 700,000 votes onto the electoral scales – and see what happens.

There’s a third lesson to be drawn from Chile’s experience. Not, this time, from its recent experience, but from the experience of 1970-1973. And that lesson is: Make sure you have someone watching your back. Because who, in the end, can protect the work of Chile’s Constituent Assembly from the same forces that destroyed the work of Salvador Allende’s Popular Unity government? Who will stand between the people and the armed forces – guided and resourced by the United States? That’s not just a question for Chileans. Were the young and the poor of Aotearoa-New Zealand to successfully outmanoeuvre their own political class, where should they look for protection? Australia? The United States?

In the end, it’s the question that all revolutionaries must be ready to answer: “Having made our revolution, how do we keep it?”

 

26 COMMENTS

  1. Chris, you didn’t mention the stimulation of those who disagreed via electricity applied to delicate tissues or the sightseeing flights to Rapa Nui that only got a few kilometres off shore before the passengers were invited to practice swimming with weights tied to their ankles.

    The thing is, fascism -the melding of government interests with the interests of corporations and banks, and backed by the military- got bad image during the 1930s and 1940s, and had to be rebranded: thus Neoliberalism.

    Still the same agenda of the melding of the interests of corporations and banks with government interests, and backed up by the military. But now with that lovely-sounding name. What could be nicer than being liberal and allowing liberation?

    Only it wasn’t the debt slaves and wage slaves that were liberated. It was the maniacs of the looters-and-polluters club.

    Thus, the LINO government of Adern and company works jolly hard to facilitate the short term interests of banks and corporations whilst wrecking everything else.

    Daily CO2 (CO2.earth)
    Jun. 8, 2021 = 419.66 ppm
    Jun. 8, 2020 = 416.53 ppm

    So, we’ve now got about 11 or 12 years before we hit the ‘magic’ 450 ppm, at which point the Earth becomes largely uninhabitable for humans.

    Anyone under the age of 70 is going to have their life terminated prematurely. Indeed, a lot of 70-year-ollds are going to have their lives prematurely terminated.

    But who cares? after all, we’ve got corporatised sport to watch for a few more years and KFC, McDonalds etc. to poison our bodies.

    The Chileans had better watch out; the US is still capable of attacking defenceless nations and bombing them into the stone age.

    No such worries for NZ; NZ is so far up America’s arse only the toes are protruding.

  2. The hardest task I found was engaging with the 90%. There goals must be our goals, and our goals must be there goals. There are some evolutionary change but its more like 1 step forward, 3 backwards but thats exactly how you sustain revolutionary change kiwi style. You just keep going at em, at every institution and demand better standards of living for all and the system won’t be able to take it. Once everyone realises that these guys are no good and we can’t get the results from either Labour or National after trying everything to get change, then we will have brought the 90% together.

    The woke, The Standard, are more dangerous to New Zealand than people like Weka can even comprehend. They’re just a bunch of tactical fucking geniuses. D
    God dam it, aww fuck, that’s it. Finished. Yup big tent stuff.

    • …’Once everyone realises that these guys are no good and we can’t get the results from either Labour or National after trying everything to get change, then we will have brought the 90% together’…

      —————

      For once, not only can I understand you, I can agree 100%.

      Good post.

  3. And how did Chavez’s socialism work out?
    Bankrupted the country, he nationalised all industry and put his lackys in charge, guys with no clue about running a company and even less about business, the ones at the top got rich (socialism the world over)
    Hell, just look at Bernie Saunders speeches from 6 7 yrs ago and his berating and hatered for millionaires, then he became a multi millionaire himself and his berating and hatred changed to billionaires lol
    I love how socialist leaders decry people with wealth, millionaires, and say they should give it back to the poor etc as pure greed to have so muchi…unless of course said socialist leader is a millionaire lol
    Last I checked Bernie has not given away most of his wealth and has 2 fabulous houses that he flies between regularly…and I wont even mention Al Gore, the climate hypocrite. (bugger the climate, do as I say not as I do)

    • I would concede a few points there, but you are only bolstering what those of the center left/ Keynesian politico/ economists have been saying all along. There is no taste for ‘tribalism’ or ‘partyism’ here. Or even ‘individualism’. Its more along the lines of common sense and what does well for the community also does well for those business enterprises. It is the way human beings thrive best. In the community’s best interests. We never were a species that does well out on our own.

      We do best as a species that uses the collective, as we are a communal species, much like wolves.

      Pack Of Wolves Hunt a Bison | Frozen Planet | BBC Earth
      https://youtu.be/8wl8ZxAaB2E?t=21

      • I agree with you. None of us wants to be hijacked by extremists of either stripe. We just want a fair go for all New Zealanders in a culture or respect for all peoples and all points of view. I dont think the government we have is working well for most of us but there is also in the Chile situation the danger that those who shout largest and strongest get heard the most to the detriment of all those in the quietly Kiwi collective!

        • All I ever wanted to see, …was the contented workers wife taking pride in her mans efforts as he worked and she looked after her young family.

          I grew up around such people, and she and him were proud and solid people. They were good and dependable types, the salt of the earth.

          I want my country back.

          Its that simple.

    • More fuckwittery from Im right!

      Hate to break it to you but with Sander’s nett worth of about $2 million, you are probably worth more than he is if you happen to own a house in Auckland, a modest holiday property and a few modest investments. As for his hate of the wealthy, another fallacy. He, like most hard working people of modest means everywhere despise tax dodging free loading wealthy bastards who you seem to admire.
      https://www.townandcountrymag.com/society/politics/a31437248/bernie-sanders-net-worth/

      If you don’t like the idea of socialism (which you clearly don’t understand anyway), that’s fine. At least do some research of reliable sources before you start ranting and stop just make shit up! In the meantime, watch what is happening democratically in South America with the erosion of the duplicity and myriad US illegal interventions, including coups, theft of resources and sanctions, are being rejected.

  4. The last question you ask is the critical one.
    Obviously the working people must be armed. This was Allende’s great betrayal – along with the Stalinist parties – that of opposing the arming of the working people.
    Venezuela and South Africa are also not evidence of a successful radical constituent assembly succeeding.

    In both cases a new bourgeoisie, the Boli-bourgeoisie and the Black Bourgeoisie, took power still dominated by imperialist powers, with the result there was no significant progress.

    If Aotearoa follows this same path it cannot pin its hopes on the success of a constituent assembly since the political expression of the will of the big majority does not remove the real power base of the ruling class- the military, the bureaucracy and the judiciary, and the paramilitary forces that always arise to defend private property in revolutionary situations.

    As the Russian revolution showed, once the majority is mobilised to change, it must have dual power, that is its own power, to defeat state power BEFORE a revolution is possible. Short of that, the most radical constituent assembly is a half-way house, that allows the ruling class to gather its international resources and smash the revolution.
    Once that trap is avoided and the revolution succeeds, then it must spread and become global so that it is not isolated and destroyed, as was the Russian Revolution, even if it took 70 years.

  5. Stafford Beer is best known for his work in the fields of operational research and management cybernetics. The socialist government of Salvador Allende, used him for advice on applying his cybernetic theories to the management of the state-run sector of the Chilean economy with the never-completed Cybersyn project, which aimed to use computers and a telex-based communication network to allow the government to maximise production while preserving the autonomy of workers and lower management. The Cybersyn project was cancelled.

  6. Well this is an interesting article, I was not even aware of what is taking place in Chile, so thank you. And good on the people of Chile and it certainly raises lessons , possibility’s and a blueprint here in NZ. Are we communally minded enough? Have we gone through what the people of Chile have as the impetus for radical change? There’s something dreadfully stoic about us that always seems to not want change unless prodded, ie , world wars, great depressions etc,…though we do have our moments.

    Michael Joseph Savage was one. As was Kate Sheppard. Norman Kirk was another.

    Maybe we can do this.

  7. Our own mainstream media mouthpieces have made themselves increasingly irrelevant. I was hoping that the Adern government would have seen and realised the wasted opportunity that was Helen Clark’s government, which caved in at the first signs of ‘opposition’. Attempts to invest in state housing met with the so-called ‘winter of discontent’. Tinkering with employment laws soon stopped. The lack of action there allowed many of the negative indicators to accelerate, not withstanding the extra impetus given by the Key government. The revolution in NZ would be the current goverment levelling with the people. The thirty year experiment has left the state unable to do anything except commision services from third parties. This has meant a loss of control over provision and cost, usually leading to further cutbacks as costs ‘blow out’. We used to run a successful mixed model of provision in NZ which worked and left the government in the driving seat. There needs to be a realisation that the market cant fix problems which are a demonstration of the market working as intended. Why would an organisation build profitable housing for people who cannot afford it? When we last built housing a on a large scale we had a more vertically integrated pipeline for materials and skills. There were state forests growing timber, state departments which ran apprenticeships. Provision of social services was seen as the common good, not returning a profit to the state. BTW, the equivalent to the 40,000 houses per annum in 1974 would be closer to 100,000 today. The revolution here would be less third way triangulation and more putting the entire state into disaster mode trying to rebuild the social capacity which has been lost. Perhaps it will require a further time in the wilderness for Labour to undertsand this.

  8. Oh, fuck’n hell Chris! You’ve let the cat out of the bag! The yoof in NZ have been in training …. on the internet in their bubbles!

    This shits going to go Woke Big Time!

    • Tell us more about tribalism, and the globalist machinery that is neo liberalism, or lasses faire, Hey ! c’mon! lets hear it from Milton Friedman and Friedrich Hayek and the Mont Pelerin society crack heads as well,…. screw you too , btw.

      New Right Fight – New Zealand. Against the political New Right.
      http://newrightfight.co.nz/http:/

      I like Sister Janet Mead and her humility as opposed to your greedy piratical neo liberalism hands down. I would defend lovely people like her down to the ground with my life.

      Sister Janet Mead ~ The Lord’s Prayer ~ 1973

      And this:

      Joan Armatrading – – – ” Down To Zero ”
      https://youtu.be/Brp8Va8XVQw?t=26

    • Please tell us more, about that earthly paradise during apartheid South Africa, Tell us more, please do !

      From the Gunn clann to the McMahon’s lets hear it, you right wing snivellor. Lets hear it from the boys, lets hear it from the lads, you English sycophant … what have you got to offer. What did YOUR CLANN do in defense of the Highlands, you snivellor?

      Absolutely fucking nothing.

      And you carry on like your ancestors doing absolutely nothing for the people of NZ today.

  9. The answer to your last question, Chris, is “Take your time. Don’t do it too quickly”.
    Build those new institutions slowly.
    Let them be tested.
    A constitutional convention is like gathering a hundred architects in one place for a couple of weeks to draw up the plans for a skyscraper to be built in the next couple of weeks.
    What could possibly go wrong?
    Build a house.
    Live in it.
    See what works and what doesn’t.
    Change the design as needed.
    Build the next house to the modified design.
    The Daily Blog or even Bowalley Road could be the platform for a new house.
    You would have to make a few changes to the current tikanga of course.
    And you would have to want to do it.
    You would have to want to make that change from everything that you don’t particularly like but which you do know and understand and with which you have learned to cope reasonably well.
    Over to you, if you really want to follow Chile … or even do better.

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