Neoliberalism ends

Another end of the world is possible

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In her book »Revolte in Chile«, Sophia Boddenberg describes how the laboratory of neoliberalism could become the laboratory of its overthrow

From Alix Arnold

Anyone in the German-speaking world who is interested in the uprising in Chile, which began in October 2019 and has just returned to the streets with force after a pandemic-related break, will certainly have read articles by Sophia Boddenberg. She reports as a freelance journalist from the capital Santiago de Chile and has the advantage over the other correspondents of the major media that she is on site and herself involved. Sophia has lived in Chile since 2014; From her experiences, conversations, research and reflections, she has now made a booklet with many beautiful photos, which provides comprehensive and compact information about the revolt and its background. It invites you to look to Chile: "For perhaps the laboratory of neoliberalism will become the laboratory of its overthrow."

Sophia takes us into the uprising as a first-person narrator, from the first day when the students jumped over the metro turnstiles because of the fare increase, drove en masse without a ticket and thus the start signal for the estallido social, the social outbreak, gave. She tells of the first spontaneous gatherings on the street, the burning barricades and the mixture of joy, anger, but also fear. Because for the first time since the end of the dictatorship, the military is back on the streets with tanks.

With the dictatorship, neoliberalism was implemented in Chile. The devastating effects on the population are currently being discussed everywhere: impoverishment, indebtedness, inequality and the constant stress in the "market society", the massive depressions. Sophia also traces the history of ideas of neoliberalism as well as the complicity of theorists such as Friedrich Hayek and Milton Friedman, who defended the coup generals despite torture and murder and advised them on the implementation of the »shock therapy« they had developed. The Chicago Boys - Chileans who studied neoliberalism in the United States - were involved in the 1973 coup that violently ended Chilean road to socialism.

After the end of the dictatorship, the Concertación party alliance continued neoliberal politics. Against this, there was always resistance in the past few years, before the revolt. »The revolt 2019 draws its strength from this accumulation of experiences.« In 2006 the schoolchildren and in 2011 the students took to the streets against the privatized education system. In 2016 the movement against the privatized pension fund AFP arose. In 2018, the »Feminist May« campaign against sexism in education and on March 8, 2019, protest marches took place in Santiago, in which more than a million women took part.

The revolt has no leaders; the party system is discredited.

In the meantime, "Chile has woken up," and the broad revolt is no longer about individual reforms, but about a different society. “We don't want to return to normal,” is a common opinion. The masked people, who act as Primera Línea in the front row against the Carabineros military police, are no longer criticized as violent criminals, but celebrated as heroes. Without them, the mass rallies with all their creativity and street art would not be possible. Unfortunately, there is also a chapter on repression that reports on more than 30 deaths, 460 eye injuries from gunshots with rubber bullets or tear gas grenades, and political prisoners.

The chapter on the struggle for land and water contained in the book refers to the harmful consequences of extractivism and free trade agreements. The water is also privatized; more and more avocado plantations are exacerbating the water shortage. There has been resistance to this for years, and the Mapuche in the south of the country have been fighting against colonialism and capitalism for centuries. In the revolt they became a role model. Your flags are omnipresent.

The revolt has no leaders; the party system is discredited. The people organize themselves in assemblies at their place of residence "far away from the state institutions". This is where solidarity is organized, the campaign for a new constitution is promoted and a different society is discussed. Perhaps this rather unspectacular part is one of the most important achievements of the revolt.

»Climate change and the numerous revolts that shaped 2019 make it clear that the ecological and social problems cannot be solved under capitalism. But in contrast to the prevailing doom and gloom, the Chilean revolt gives us hope: otro fin del mundo es posible, another end of the world is possible, it says on a wall in Santiago. ”And so the book ends. The revolt continues. Pay attention to Sophia's reports.

Alix Arnold

belongs to the editorial collective of the magazine ila, Latin America Information Center.

Sophia Boddenberg: Revolt in Chile. Departure in the model country of neoliberalism. Unrast Verlag, Münster 2020. 144 pages, 14 EUR.