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On Election Eve, Taking Inspiration from South America

NLF Highlights for November

As early voter turnout for the 2020 elections in the U.S. surpasses 90 million — more than two thirds of the total turnout in 2016 — we await the results, taking inspiration from the recent achievements of voter engagement elsewhere in the world. In Chile, after months of massive street protests had forced a plebiscite calling for a new constitution (to replace the one adopted under Pinochet), it looked this summer like COVID-19 might scuttle it. But protests renewed in early fall, and last week, on October 25, people turned out in droves to support the measure. This is a major victory: in 1988, 56 percent of Chileans voted for a “return to democracy.” Now 78 percent have voted for what can be considered a real democracy, one based on a popularly drafted constitution. Also unexpected this week was the victory in Bolivia of the Movimiento al Socialismo (MAS), the socialist party of Evo Morales, almost exactly one year after he was overthrown.
Included here is a feature article by René Rojas, called “Can the Chilean Uprising Survive the Pandemic” that appears in the fall 2020 issue of New Labor Forum. In it, Rojas analyzes the failures of successive post-Pinochet social democratic governments to revise this constitution and improve the lives of millions of working Chileans. Although the fall issue went to press while protests demanding a plebiscite were still inconclusive, Rojas’ article nevertheless describes the recurring mobilization – especially among women — and the coalition that laid the foundation for last week’s victory. In response to the plebiscite victory, the author remarked: “In 2014, 3.5 million Chileans voted for Michele Bachelet. Yesterday, 5.8 million voted against the entire political class. The mass, popular sentiment for throwing the post-transition regime in the ‘dustbin of history’ is overwhelming.” We also offer a close examination by Naomi Larsson of the Chilean women’s mobilization in support of a new constitution, and a BBC video that accompanied the breaking news announcement captures the mood in the streets. On the electoral victory in Bolivia, where socialist candidate Luis Arce led the MAS to triumph on October 18, we present an article by Pablo Stefanoni.
Table of Contents
  1. Can the Chilean Uprising Survive the Pandemic?/ by René Rojas, New Labor Forum
  2. Feminist History and Chile’s Social Uprising / by Naomi Larsson, Toward Freedom
  3. Jubilation as Chile votes to rewrite constitution / by Katy Watson, BBC News
  4. A New MAS Era in Bolivia / by Pablo Stefanoni, NACLA
  5. Reinventing Solidarity / Episode 4 out today!

Can the Chilean Uprising Survive the Pandemic
by René Rojas, New Labor Forum
The popular rebellion that erupted in Chile in October- November 2019 was unprecedented in its scale and intensity. It mobilized broad sectors of Chilean poor, workers, and radicalized students along with revitalized feminist groups. Its fury was relentless: as rioting expanded from the capital and central cities to the forgotten towns of the periphery, popular rage targeted businesses and public and private infrastructure. The non-stop looting, arson and destruction, staring down police repression, was the costliest and most disruptive collective action by Chilean poor and working people since re-democratization in 1988-90 . . .
Read the full article here

Feminist History and Chile’s Social Uprising
by Naomi Larsson, Toward Freedom
The women’s movement in Chile has waged a long and diversified struggle for decades. Women were systematically oppressed and violated during the dictatorship of 1973-90, and were written out of Chile’s state when the constitution was implemented in the 1980s, as such, the women’s movement has always been politicized.
Read the full article here

Jubilation as Chile votes to rewrite constitution
by Katy Watson, BBC News
With almost all the ballots counted, 78% had voted “yes” in a referendum that was called after mass protests against inequality.
President Sebastián Piñera praised the peaceful vote.
He said it was “the beginning of a path that we must all walk together.”
Read the full article here

A New MAS Era in Bolivia
by Pablo Stefanoni, NACLA
The polls in Bolivia closed at 5pm but as midnight approached with no official results, or even exit polls or quick counts, suspicions and tensions were growing. Then the night took an unexpected turn. After hours of delays and excuses, Unitel, the TV channel with the largest audience in Bolivia, finally made public the projected results based on the quick count by the Ciesmori polling firm. The results were explosive . . .
Read the full article here

Reinventing Solidarity – Episode 4
Confronting COVID: Workers & Unions on the Frontline
This episode airs on the eve of the 2020 elections, with nearly everything hanging in the balance – from our nation’s ability to withstand the COVID-19 pandemic to our already constricted democracy’s ability to survive the authoritarianism of the Trump Administration. On both questions: the need to strengthen our democracy and overcome the devastation of the coronavirus, labor unions have a major role to play.
Listen to the podcast here
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