t a time when Left politics is being discredited across the globe, the victory of 35-year-old Left-wing leader, Gabriel Boric, in the presidential election of Chile marks a watershed moment in that country’s politics and holds out new hope for the Left movement globally. A product of protest movements spearheaded by students and youth, Boric is to become the youngest President ever of Chile when he assumes charge in March of 2022. His opponents campaigned that his inexperience in governance disqualifies him as a future leader of the country. He countered his adversaries with his new mantra of ‘burying neoliberalism’ and building an alliance of social democrats and communists. In fact, his sweeping victory winning 56 per cent votes against his rival Republican Party’s José Antonio Kast’s 44 per cent shows how Chile has changed from being one of the bastions of the free market economic model to a Left leaning society. For over two years, it has been witness to protests against inequality and corruption that thrived under a regime that openly supported the rule of the US-backed military dictatorship of General Augusto Pinochet, who had toppled the socialist President, Salvador Allende, in 1973. Pinochet’s regime collapsed in 1990, but the state apparatus he built and the Constitution he introduced have survived. The victory of Boric is in a way a reflection of the mood of the country which is rewriting its Constitution through an elected Constituent Assembly to end Pinochet’s influence.
Boric has pledged to fight the ‘privilege of the few’ and tackle poverty and inequality, while opposing big-ticket mining projects as part of his climate protection plan. He has ambitious goals to raise taxes by 8 per cent of GDP, abolish the unpopular private pension funds, shorten the working week from 45 hours to 40 hours, raise the minimum wage and create a universal healthcare system.
It will be a stupendous task for Boric to implement his electoral promises as his alliance does not have the numbers in the Parliament. The Senate is split between the right and the left, and in the 155-member Chamber of Deputies, his coalition has only 37 MPs. To revive the economy ravaged by the COVID-19 pandemic and corruption, he needs a huge flow of funds that can be obtained through a new tax regime that will hurt the 1 per cent super rich controlling the country’s 25 per cent resources. Nosediving growth and high inflation would be a limiting factor for the new government’s spending agenda. If the new President carries out his promised tax reforms and raises taxes on the corporations, abolishes private pensions and announces a waiver of student debt, the private capital and the old political establishment would, not unexpectedly, put up the stiffest resistance possible. But, the young leader has already announced he is ready to take the plunge and weather the storm. Analysts also say by simply ensuring compliance of existing taxes, he would be able to mobilise much needed funds. Tax evasion is a major malaise in Chile, like in many other countries.
An interesting development in this presidential election is that the voter turnout was noticeably high among women and young Chileans. This is explained by the fact that Boric has consciously and in a calculated manner built an openly feminist platform. Young people clamour for transformation of the country’s development model and Boric has paid attention to their voices. This is one of the main reasons for his meteoric rise.
This is not limited to Chile alone. In neighbouring Brazil, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, a former President and a known Leftist, has garnered huge support and is expected to topple Bolsonaro. If one wishes to look, the left movement has started rolling of its own accord across the world. Today, the Left is no more bound within the writings of Engels, Marx, Lenin or Mao. The current trend is a desire of the common people, maybe born out of acute social and economic inequality, to confront the lies and mischief being spread by the Haves and the global super rich.
Worldwide, people’s wish to opt for a change stems from their vision of their own future. Not based on some social and economic ideology of past political philosophers who were outdated within their own lifetime. The new Left, therefore, seems to be pro people. Not favouring any political establishment and the thoughts it espouses. It too will get corrupted and deviated, no doubt, but it will usher in a change for now.