By Mercedes Petit, leader of Socialist Left /IWU-FI, Argentina 5 November 2019
There are always debates on the left about the use of this slogan. In Chile, the demand for a constituent assembly is very much felt by the masses and is present in all mobilisations. This is logical since the 1980 constitution imposed by Pinochet’s dictatorship is still in force. The governments never repealed it, neither by those of the right nor by those of the “Concertation”, of the Christian Democracy and the Socialist Party, which in the last government added the Communist Party.
The MST, a section of the IWU-FI in Chile, raises it among its most important slogans to promote mobilisation. It proposes it linked to other demands that are driving the mobilisation, where the primordial one is «out with Piñera!” united to the need to fight for a government of the working class and the popular sectors, to promote the fundamental changes (see declaration in El Socialista 442, http://www.izquierdasocialista.org.ar/)
Also, bourgeois sectors and left-wing parties such as the PC and the Broad Front (FA) take up the claim of the Constituent. But neither the CP nor the FA raises the slogan of the masses. They are only proposing a parliamentary impeachment to the president. Some sectors of the government even speak of a “new constitution” or a reform. The president of the Senate, Jaime Quintana, an opposition employer politician, said: “We are in a constituent moment” (La Tercera, 26 October 2019). We cannot even rule it out that, to decompress, they accept a partial constitutional reform or even an election of constituent deputies. This shows that a just democratic demand as a constituent can also be a trap for the mass movement. The parties of the regime can use it to paralyse or divert the revolutionary mobilisation that wants to put an end to Piñera.
Therefore, amid a popular rebellion like the one that exists in Chile, it is wrong to propose a constituent assembly as the main or “strategic” slogan. The central one is the struggle for a government of workers.
Unfortunately, once again, sectors of Trotskyism, as with the PTR/PTS, fall into that error. With the signature of Juan Valenzuela (PTR), in La Izquierda Diario (LID, the web publication of the PTS and its groups), he proposes:
“At the same time as we develop coordination and self-organisation so that the working class becomes subject to its destiny, we raise the slogan of a free and sovereign constituent assembly. And its final proposal is conclusive: “We propose it to throw out Pinera’s government and replace it with a constituent that assumes legislative and provisionally executive functions”.
And although Valenzuela mentions the “government of the workers” in his text, they leave it aside to synthesise his “strategy” in “self-organisation and constituent”.
His explanation is little new: “However, we understand that even most workers do not think a new state can emerge from their self-organisation, a government of workers. Then, as the majority does not believe in the workers’ government, the PTR/PTS proposes the “strategy” of self-organisation and constituent assembly. This is an opportunist capitulation to the illusions in bourgeois democracy held by that majority of workers.
The method used by the PTR/PTS to elaborate the programme and the slogans is the opposite of what Trotsky taught us. He said that a revolutionary party: “In the first line give a clear honest picture of the objective situation, of the historic tasks which flow from this situation irrespective as to whether or not the workers are today ripe for this. Our tasks don’t depend on the mentality of the workers. The task is to develop the mentality of the workers” *
The strategic slogan in Chile, as in any acute revolutionary process, is not elections for a constituent assembly but to fight for Out Piñera and a government of the workers and the people.
Impelling, as the MST does, the social demands (salary, retirement, health, education, etc.) And the elections to a Free and Sovereign Constituent Assembly and developing the neighbourhood, student and union assemblies to build an alternative of workers and popular power.
*Trotsky, “The Political Backwardness of American Workers”