Making history: millions on the streets of Chile for 8 March denounce state terrorism

On 8 March, an epoch-making march filled the streets of Chile to mark International Working Women’s Day. According to the organisers, around 2 million marched in Santiago alone, and the national figure was around 3.5 million people.

A two-day “Feminist General Strike” was organised for 8-9 March by the 8M Feminist Coordination committee. The call is in particular against state terrorism. Women are on the frontline of the rebellion initiated in October, both physically and in advancing far-reaching demands for social rights, and against violence and the impunity of state forces.

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This 8 March follows the “Chilean October”. It is also possible to establish a continuous thread of women's mobilisations, which in part lead to the national uprising initiated by the mass fare-dodging protests of secondary students in the week of 18 October 2019. For example, the formation of gender secretariats in universities in 2016 (in the heat of the ‘Me Too’ movement worldwide), through the Feminist May of 2018, and the massive and historic march of International Women’s Day in 2019. Hundreds of thousands of women have demonstrated for years against harassment, femicides and machismo. The international character of the women's movements has been on display, with the “Ni Una Menos” slogan that has crossed Latin America and the mobilisations in favour of abortion rights. The viral performance "A rapist in your path", promoted by the Collective "The Thesis", unites women in all latitudes against sexist violence, against the state and the police. In this historic demonstration of IWD 2020, the demand for the resignation of President Piñera was heard loud and clear.

With the end of the summer vacations, March brought back to the front line of struggle two of the most-combative sectors in the fight against the government: women and youth. The return to classes unleashed a “Mochilazo” (wave of school student mobilisations) that caused the closure of more than 20 metro stations and led to protests in several cities in Chile, with female high school students taking the lead.

“Piñera Out”

The 8M Feminist Coordination (CF8M) and the School Students’ Coordination Assembly (ACES) withdrew from the Social Unity. This body initially grouped hundreds of social and workers’ organisations, leading to the convening of the massive general strike of 12 November – the largest in decades – which put the regime against the ropes. After the so-called "Agreement for Peace and the New Constitution" of 15 November between the government and opposition parties (with the exception of the Communist Party and sectors of the Broad Front), the Social Unity was increasingly blurring its role in the opposition to the government, without ever seriously considering the most-popular demand of the protests: "Piñera Out!" The CF8M and ACES denounced the conciliatory role that some leaders of the Social Unity Trade Union Block adopted in front of a government that literally declared war on the workers and the poor. Until then, neither repression nor false concessions managed to placate the tremendous revolution unleashed in Chile. But the hesitations of union leaders and the left gave a vital respite to the regime in its moment of crisis. The 15N agreement seeks to channel democratic aspirations and better quality of life within an institutional framework supervised by Congress through a referendum on a Constituent Convention. The agreement does not touch the privileges of the capitalist class; it does not touch the AFPs private pension funds, nor the private business in health and education; it does not speak of justice for human rights violations, nor about the release of more than 2,000 political prisoners.

It is just after the deceptive agreement that the performance of The Theses gave a new impulse to the protests. They remind us that there can be no forgiveness or forgetfulness for the human rights abuses committed by the police and military during the Chilean October. We have already endured 30 years of “democratic transition”, agreed on the basis of impunity for the crimes of the Pinochet dictatorship and the continuation of the capitalist economic model. Can the Chilean people now accept this “Agreement” of 15 November, again on the basis of impunity, and without touching the economic power of the owners of Chile? The international media had to echo the viral phenomenon of “A rapist in your path”, but watering down its contents and simply explaining that it is a performance against sexist violence in general. The performance, of course, denounces the oppression of women, harassment, femicides and disappearances, but also does very specifically denounce the agents of the state. In the context that Chileans live in, the chant struck blows directly at Piñera's criminal government and the violent normality they want to impose.

The IWD march of this 2020 presents women not only as victims of abuse who are demanding rights from the State, but above all as protagonists of their own lives and the centre of the historical moment. Históricas (Making History), said a large banner on the march. They are also reclaiming a fundamental method of the struggle of the exploited and oppressed – the strike, which raises the question of who really makes society function. The “Feminist General Strike” draws attention to domestic and care work, the labour of social reproduction that women mostly carry out. In turn, the precarious conditions of work, wages and pensions most severely affect women: the most exploited sector of the working class. After the epic Sunday on 8 March, Monday was mainly about the strike. Javiera Manzi, spokeswoman for the CF8M explained:

"Today, we are on strike throughout the territory, throughout the country. The denial of history on the part of those who deny human rights, the violation of Human Rights as the Minister Plá merits a strike , the educational debt deserves a strike, about half of the women in our country earn the minimum wage worthy of a strike, the femicides merit a strike, the repression we lived through yesterday's day merits a strike. Go out and shout for another life."

For a national strike!

The Social Unity Trade Union Bloc announced its support for the mobilisations of 8-9 March, but without making any concrete plans, just a general solidarity appeal. For the anniversary of the Piñera government on March 11, they announced a strike at 11 am – for 11 minutes! Perhaps in tune with the "performative" approach of some feminist groups, but completely disconnected with the spirit of the mass marches that strongly demand the resignation of Piñera, the end of impunity, and social rights for the people. The government has again lost the initiative after 8 March. Once again, as has been the case historically, the mass mobilisation of women reconfigures the relationship of forces in favour of the working class as a whole. The rank-and-file organisations must go beyond the limits imposed by the agreement, which is a farce that will continue to add to human rights abuses. The feminist and women's movement should have issued a call to the union leaderships, appealing to the workers to organise an active strike in the workplace through convening mass assemblies.

The marches have been tremendous, but that is not enough to bring down the regime of the owners of Chile. After the 2008 crisis, and the slowest recovery in history, global economics suggest a recession. Any accidental event could cause a depression. The bosses intend for the workers to pay for the crisis. The capitalist minority clings to its wealth, and there is no room for manoeuvre to provide real concessions to meet the needs of the people. Throughout the world, so-called democracies are only facades that begin to fall, showing the authoritarian character of the dictatorship of capital. All those who propose solutions within the framework of capitalism, private property and national borders, are destined to fail and will be accomplices in deceiving the masses. In Chile, the situation of wages, pensions, unemployment and indebtedness does not seem to be improving. No matter what it does, in the eyes of all, this government will be responsible for the coming economic, political and social debacle.

A large national strike must be organised by the rank-and-file organisations to show that it is the workers who allow the economy and society to function. Women and youth in the streets set the example that together we are more powerful than alone.

For a National Assembly of the Working Class!

For a Government of Workers, to take over control of resources – such as Water, Copper, Lithium and the wealth of the ocean!

Ejecting the armed forces and forestry companies from the Wallmapu, Mapuche ancestral territory!

Down with Piñera and his capitalist regime!