Paths Written in Concrete: The Chilean student movement of 2011

Thousands of Chilean students marching through the street with banners and flags
Chilean Students mobilizing

This piece hopes to offer a brief and concise background of the Chilean student movement and an analysis of the strategies that pushed it along. Afterwards we provide an interview with Felipe Ramírez, member of the FeL (Federation of Libertarian Students) and 2012 secretary to the FECh (Federation of University of Chile Students).

Submitted by Moni_K on July 16, 2018

Paths Written in Concrete: The Chilean student movement of 2011
Mónica Kostas, Scott Nikolas Nappalos, & Felipe Ramírez.

It has been a difficult journey for Chile’s left to articulate resistance since the carnage of Pinochet’s mandate. Out of the ruins of a dictatorship’s legacy the Chilean student movement has managed to organize one of the most important mobilizations in recent years. Not only has the student movement garnered popularity due to their vast size in numbers, but it has also attracted international attention for the consistency and militancy of its student body. Looking back at its beginnings, Chile’s student movement rattled the shackles that hold education hostage in an environment of profiteering. The magnitude of the protests not only exposed the problems of the Chilean education system, but also gave light to a rotten network of systemic problems that affect all sectors of Chile. Students are still fighting today to meet their demands--their struggles have not been resolved, not even properly addressed-- but through their organizing they shook an entire administration causing a re-shuffling of the current conservative government of Sebastián Piñera, and a considerable drop in his approval rating.

This piece hopes to offer a brief and concise background of the Chilean student movement and an analysis of the strategies that pushed it along. Afterwards we provide an interview with Felipe Ramírez, member of the FeL (Federation of Libertarian Students) and 2012 secretary to the FECh (Federation of University of Chile Students).

History of a struggle

The struggle arises from a deep dissatisfaction with the Chilean educational system. Presently, only 25% of the educational system is financed by the State, the remaining 75% has to be paid out of the students’ pockets, which for the most part comes from loans. This model was set up during the 80’s under Pinochet’s rule. His desired trajectory of privatizing education culminated in the LOCE law (Constitutional Organic Law of Education) which he passed just four days before relinquishing power. This law left it up to the private sector to manage and finance education which allowed it to rapidly become a pervasive and lucrative business. Basically, “any group of people with the sufficient capital and space could employ a handful of professors and set up a university.” Even the universities that are officially public are financially supported by the private sector and therefore charge, per month, approximately the same amount as a minimum wage monthly salary.

In 2006, high-school students led a series of mobilizations between April and June, culminating in a call for a national strike to which more than 250 educational establishments responded, and between six hundred thousand and one million students adhered. These mobilizations dubbed “La Revolución Pingüina” (The Penguin Revolution, referencing the uniforms worn by these students) struggled against the LOCE and demanded the abolition of testing and transport fees among other claims. These struggles occurred not under the conservative government of Piñera, but under the presidency of Michelle Bachelet from the center-left Concertación coalition, the same electoral coalition that negotiated and won the present electoral system against Pinochet. As in 2011, the mobilizations of 2006 hoped to expose the need to restructure the impaired education system. These fights were met with heavy repression by Chile’s carabineros (military police), but the violence against the resistance marches failed to hold back the movement. After a couple months of the government moving slowly with the few reforms it had initially offered, the marches reactivated and successive strikes and mobilizations took place between September and October. The LOCE was eventually replaced by the General Law of Education in 2009 which served to attenuate the fights but did not really bring substantial changes.

Certainly, indignation among students kept building with the mobilizations of 2011 and 2012 demonstrating a clear sign that students’ patience had burst. The first protests of this heated period were called by the Confederation of Chile’s Students (CONFECh) which is a grouping of the student federations from the traditional universities (those created before the 80’s). These traditional and older universities have a history of student organization which still thrives today. For example, all students participate on some level through electing annual federation representatives through a mandatory and secret vote.

The mobilizations were called over issues of tuition financing, scholarship delays, and problems with student ID cards. During the first marches, the movement gathered large numbers throughout the main cities in Chile. On June 14th, for instance, the Ministry of Education announced that 184 schools were supporting the movement in some form of protest or another--122 schools were occupied, and the remaining 62 were on strike. They mainly demanded reforms to the educational system and an increased role of the state rather than relegating education to the private sector. After a month of various strikes, the government of Piñera, a right-wing billionaire whose initial fortune comes from introducing credit cards to Chile in the ‘70s, offered a deal to create a new educational fund and to facilitate access to student credit loans. The main organizations rejected the offer claiming that more profound changes needed to take place. The government continued to issue successive proposals to reform the education system in slight and vague ways such as promising to ensure quality of education, but the changes were too small, ambiguous, and questionable to satisfy the movement.

Though there’s much continuity with previous cycles of student struggles, some important features stand out. The violence of the carabineros against the students, which is frequent with protests in Chile, had resonance with the broad populace and spurred opposition to what was perceived as too close to dictatorship-era practices. Rather than being able to castigate students as greedy or privileged, the government was put on the defensive and the student struggles brought support from many sectors. One important example was the copper miners (representing the lion’s share of Chile’s whole economy), who struck in solidarity with the student struggles. A back and forth existed between the students and other popular struggles and created an explosive environment of combativity potentially uniting different sectors under a class banner. Likewise the students showed themselves to be creative in exposing and protesting the regime from widespread occupations, murals throughout neighborhoods and universities, flash mobs, large-scale demonstrations of public mass kissing, nudity, and any means available to maintain pressure. Centered around concrete demands with education, the protests kept radical messages at the forefront of Chilean society demanding both the immediate and the revolutionary, and constructing political forces and practices that mirrored their ideals.

Organized Forces of the Left

The most prominent leaders of the mobilizations come from the aforementioned traditional and organized universities, and thereby Camila Vallejo, the 2011 president of the FECh, gained ample recognition in the local and international media. As a daughter of Chilean Communist Party members during the dictatorship, Vallejo herself joined the Juventudes Comunistas “Communist Youth” while completing her geography studies at the University of Chile. She aimed to expose the lies about Chile being a progressive country, a place that had overcome a dictatorship, and a nation with a leftwing government--up until Piñera. Instead she intended to show that the old repressive society was, in many ways, left intact and that the response toward the student mobilizations was the same old repressive tactics from the past. Her compelling arguments and well-spoken statements helped leverage a lot of the numbers on the street (at its peak, the mobilizations were composed of around 200,000 students). Yet regardless of her political prowess, the media insisted to concentrate on her looks and portrayed her as a sex symbol.

Aside from the Juventudes Comunistas there are a few other major tendencies in the student movement. The right trade unionists have their own organ which was founded by a major ideologue of the dictatorship, Jaime Guzmán, largely in the Catholic University. One of the main center left trade unions is part of the Concert of Parties for Democracy or “La Concertación”, a coalition of left and center-left parties ranging from the Christian Democracy to the Socialist Party, who have been in power since after the end of the dictatorship until the victory of the conservative administration of Piñera. The National Student Union is a left force mostly known for rejecting the reformist tendencies of the Juventudes Comunistas, the Autonomous left, and the Concertación, however they are known for “a chronic incapacity of overcoming atomization, and cannibalism...and lack internal cohesion.”

The Autonomous Left, “Izquierda Autónoma” or more commonly called the “Autonomous,” are a grouping who come from the autonomous section of the now defunct Movimiento SurDa, or Left Movement, which was formed in the beginning of the 90s and had a revolutionary and pan-Latin Americanist perspective on left politics. It is a tendency that aims to be to the left of the Juventudes Comunistas, though in practice they are seen as falling more in the field of la Concertación. They support Latin American “progressive” countries, and have recently garnered a lot of attention when they snatched the presidency of the FECh from Vallejo through the leadership of Gabriel Boric. As he mentions in an interview “we don’t have a problem in saying that the left of the 20th century failed. Many of those who imagined a different world ended up building totalitarian ones”. Despite their strongest point being their denunciation of reformism of the more traditional tendencies, they are paralyzed by internal disagreements, and their work is mostly limited to educational struggle.

Another section of the revolutionary left is occupied by the FeL (Federation of Libertarian Students), of which we would like to provide a grander scope into its history since we henceforth emphasize its struggles and lessons. The FeL grows out of a lack of national groups that would weave libertarian theory and practice in a coordinated effort. Essentially, the late 90s saw ample resistance against government signed laws that severely harmed student’s education (such as the LOCE mentioned at the beginning of the text). Throughout these struggles, the organized student body became more radicalized in its ideals but was unable to come to coherent, and solid practices.

There was a frustrating dissonance between what the students wanted and the actions that took place. Out of this impotence comes the birth of a few groups that aimed to consolidate the radical talk with the radical walk. The Congreso de Unificación Anarco Comunista, CUAC (Congress of Anarcho-Communist Unification) was formed in 1999 developing activism in university spaces. In 2001, the Asamblea Coordinadora de Estudiantes Secundarios, ACES, Coordinating Assembly of High-School Students, was created with the goal of defending students rights and fighting for a free education. Around 2002, there was a visible growth in radical and libertarian militants with members of the CUAC getting elected into a few FECh positions. The lessons of CUAC, and in some cases key members, would prove a strong influence on the direction and formation of the FeL.

Eventually, a call for a national libertarian university student’s conference was made and this became the Encuentro de Iniciativas Anarquistas (Conference of Anarchist Initiatives). The conference brought several groups and other non-affiliated radicals together. Two clearly divided fronts emerged, one of which went on to become the FeL, and the other eventually formed the CRA, Revolutionary Anarchist Current. The major differences between the two was that the CRA wanted to focus on consolidating different left student groups and using anarchist propaganda to try to build support for the anarchist cause. The future founders of the FeL instead sought to focus on social insertion as libertarian militants within student struggles, however not limiting their activity either to the left or the student movement, and instead advocating a politics based on society in general. The FeL was then formally created in 2003, and the CRA later went onto create the Coordinadora Anarquista (Anarchist Coordinating Committee) which focused mainly on propaganda within the student left.

Social insertion is a concept from the especifista tradition of organized anarchism in the Southern Cone of South America, though today its influence has spread globally. The Federação Anarquista do Rio de Janeiro (FARJ) uses the concepts of social work and social insertion to elaborate an anarchist practice of struggle in movements of the exploited. In their text Social Anarchism and Organization, they write “the anarchist organisation has social work when it creates or develops work with social movements, and social insertion when it manages to influence movements with anarchist practices.” The focus on struggles of the exploited, and creating an anarchist praxis and militancy within those struggles was key for the militants who initiated the FeL, though not an especifista organization itself, but rather a broader intermediate libertarian coordination. Likewise, the objective to create libertarian practices not in ideas alone, but as a living material practice of the exploited was definitive of their orientation and struggles. To these ends, the FeL would set forth a series of experiments and interventions in student struggles, though in the broader communities of the exploited as well. FeL militants created groups of muralists in popular neighborhoods, practiced popular education to engage the exploited around issues of their own struggles rather than instructing or lecturing, and participated in the day-to-day struggles of students in protesting, occupying, and fighting for their interests.

The founding members of the FeL initiated and participated in a wide array of student organizing and struggles, spreading the libertarian coordination through the universities in Chile. As the FeL grew and refined its directives, this work led to them winning positions in various university federations throughout Chile from 2003 to 2006, and they progressively came to the forefront of the student movement based on their activity in student centers. In 2005, five student leaders were elected from the FeL in the CONFECh, and in the same year the high-school FeL was created (Frente de Estudiantes Libertarios Secundarios). This latter front played an important role in the occupation of a high-school which spurred the 2006 high-school student mobilizations--as previously mentioned “La Revolución Pingüina”. In the struggles of 2011-12, the high school student groups pressed on when the university struggles simmered.

In 2011, they created the coordination of student groups “Luchar: Construyamos universidad popular” (Struggle, let’s build a popular university) under the unity of direct action and democracy both within the fight and in the University. Luchar participated in the elections of the FECh, and they won enough votes to take the General Secretary position with Felipe Ramírez. In 2012, Luchar won the vice presidency of the FECh with Fabian Araneda and also occupied positions in several student federations along the country where it maintains its bases.

Learning from students

The trajectory of the Chilean student movement and the reflections of Felipe Ramírez seen in the following interview offer lessons not just to student movements, but also for liberatory struggles in general. In the case of Chile, it’s unclear where these struggles will lead in the near term. Far from dead, in 2013 the students have shown that they have not yet demobilized. Still, whether the movement maintains pressure or enters into a more dormant period, the students of Chile show no indications that these issues or fights are over. It is likely that the very same dynamics will continue to create new generations of militants in Chile, and new educational crises that will send the population into the streets.

There are a few elements worth picking out and evaluating. First, the objective context of Chilean society within the crisis played a central role in the rise of the student movement and specifically of the role of libertarians within those movements. Earlier battles with Michelle Bachelet set the stage for the explosions under Piñera, but it would be hard to understand the most recent cycle of struggles without looking at the global context of protests and disruptions that unfolded following the 2008 world financial crisis. As Felipe Ramírez alludes to, different periods in the struggle brought on different roles, problems, and proposals for student militants. The politics of the FeL grew alongside the trajectory of the student movement and the ruptures in broader Chilean society with the decomposition of the fights and forces of prior eras. Society has within it a series of accords and avenues for struggles to take, when they break down new possibilities emerge and institutionalized forces of the left can become either left behind or seriously threatened by more radical alternatives. Openings created by those breakdowns allowed space for students to disrupt larger aspects of society than otherwise would have happened. This created problems for the political forces integrated into that system and all it was based on. The Communist Youth for example both benefited from the legacy of their party and ultimately suffered from it. The Communist Party benefitted from its historic role in the Allende government, the repression, and the struggle against Pinochet. At the same time, the failures of the Concertación period both politically and economically, and the inability of the official forces of the left to offer a radical alternative was undermining in the context of the upsurges of action around the student struggles. This was true of the historic left in general, but particularly the Communist Party within the student movement which is seen to have faltered significantly in responding to the era of Bachelet’s center-left and Piñera’s attacks.

In times of pitched struggle and rupture then, often new potentials emerge for revolutionary agents that were closed previously. Likewise, the existing political divisions can begin to breakdown as the basis for their politics are shifted by the movements in the streets. Chileans sought answers and responses to their problems worsening day by day. Seeing the repression of the students, with resonance to the Pinochet era, stripped the regime of its moral credibility for many. While the left had its political programs and stances, the actions taken by students (and then correspondingly by workers and communities) exposed both their impracticality and their insufficiency to go beyond mere piecemeal Band-Aids. This pushed the FeL out of its cocoon. In a moment where popular forces were reshaping the left, the libertarians of the FeL were able to create in practice, through struggle, a politics rooted in the perspectives and struggles of the students and pose revolutionary alternatives to capital and the left. Here the libertarians were able to drive a wedge and put forwards concrete political proposals which at once pushed forward the movement, and exposed many dead-ends.

Second, the generations of student struggles in Chile provided a cultural memory which has allowed new militants to continue to advance over the mistakes of their forbearers. This point can be overstated, and too often in the United States and Europe there is a fetishism about Latin America which ignores the intense class and political contradictions at play, and the challenges to revolutionaries in all countries. It is not that there are not gaps, lulls, or large popular forces antagonistic to the left in Chile (there are), but rather that the organized minority of militants within the student movement have been able to create means to sustain their lifelong work and pass on their experiences. Chileans face many similar issues that we do in the United States. The culture of militants is distinct from our own however as their commitment to creating a material living anarchism within these fights and in other social sectors gives them strength to carry forward in ways distinct from the activist dominated world of North America. That reality and orientation shapes the experience both of radicals and students in Chile that gives life to their theories and practices. There are seeds of these very processes in the US as well, yet more embryonic and preparatory.

Lastly, it’s worth reflecting on the relationship between the politics and political struggle of the libertarians and the conjuncture of society as a whole. Here, we are in many ways in the early days of the FeL in which we think of our tasks in terms of the broad histories, ideas, and arguments as the motive of our path. Alienation from popular struggle is reflected in the thinking of the left in general in the United States, given the disassociation of the left and the state of popular communities. Through the student movement and the FeL, a different relationship is evident where the needs and potentials of the moment come to shape where the lines of political struggle are drawn. The contradictions of austerity, debt, and the Chilean state create a prism of material conditions, and the libertarians intervene through that prism reflecting their own images through the light of the popular breaks from normal politics. Any truly libertarian alternative is based exactly upon this; collective breaks from politics internalized within capital and the construction of revolutionary praxis in dialogue with those experiences. It is not imposed upon a situation, but constructed by organized minorities trying to trace emerging potentials and intervene to catalyze ruptures. In the United States, there are now more opportunities for this work than in any time in recent history. It is a profound lesson worth mulling over.

It’s worth remembering that the struggle did not achieve most of its core goals. Indeed many of the changes that occurred in the course of events ended up outside education altogether. The student struggle was however intensely embarrassing for the government (just as it was under Bachelet), and in fact was perhaps the key factor in reshuffling the government. Those fights and reopening the wounds of the Chilean ruling class provided space for workers and communities to both fight alongside the students and carry their own struggles further. In times of rupture we see this rippling effect often where destabilization in one sector can open up new potentials across broad sections of society. In this way the contribution of the student movement, and the FeL within it, has been critical to our time. Across the globe students, militants, and protestors looked to the inspiring struggles of the events of 2011 and particularly the actions of the students, mine workers, and Chilean protesters taking on a bankrupt regime. These circuits of resistance create new struggles, shift the ground under the feet of the ruling class, and provide us chances to build our politics by marching, as the FeL did, with our people.

Interview with Felipe Ramírez of the FeL by S. Nappalos, translated by Mónica Kostas - August 2012

SN: How does the system of representation function for students in Chile?

FR: Ok, we must make a distinction. The Chilean student movement is divided between high school and college. There are two organizations that tie the high-school movement. One is the ACES (Coordinating Assembly of High-School Students), and the other is CONES (National Coordinator of High-School Students). These two organizations have their own models of representation and structure. At the university level, the movement is unified by CONFECh (Confederation of Students of Chile) which is the larger federation of the student federations in different universities. Usually it gathers the more traditional universities, basically the ones that existed before 1981 which is when the dictatorship generated a new law for universities, and during last year, a series of private universities (that emerged after 1981 and did not have an official organization) have been incorporated. These federations have to make annual choices on direction and objectives in a democratic manner without the intervention of authorities from the university so that that there is transparency and respect for the autonomy of the student body at the time of choosing their leaders. It basically functions like that.

SN: And with 2011, how were the students agitated? For example: Was it a spontaneous fight or were there joint campaigns from different groups? Was it just some groups? How did it happen?

FR: I think that the mobilization of 2011 can be classified as many things except spontaneous. Not because political groups had been doing specific work that was dedicated to make this happen, but because the objective circumstances of the country were the conditions that made students come out to protest. On the one hand, it was a combination of the end of a retreat produced both by the defeat of the high-school movement in 2006 and the university retreat after the mobilization of 2005. Both 2005 and 2006 were very intense years for mobilizations, and then both defeats (and movements) converged in 2008, when a new law for education was approved. 2009 marked the lowest point in mobilizations and then in 2010, we started seeing important signals that the movement was waking up and that the circumstances were generating a more active student movement. Similarly, combined with the fact that in 2005, after the defeat of the student movement and the creation of equity loans, the first generation of students entering with those credit loans was graduating in 2011. That means that all the damage and all the debt that accumulated from the year 2006 with the new credit loans exploded in 2011 in examples like the debt of the CAE (the equity loans from the state), the debt of other credits that were borne out of this new system of financing like the CORFO credit, which had an interest rate of 8% and allowed family assets to be confiscated from students, expropriated as part of payment, etc. All this produced an environment that for anyone--it implied a social explosion. At the same time, the country was generating a mobilization; there were mass demonstrations in the Magellan’s area in the far south. Just at the beginning of this year there were massive demonstrations on the issue of power plants, environmental issues and so on. There was an atmosphere that allowed you to predict that 2011 was going to host a powerful mobilization. No one imagined it would be so strong, but overall we could see it coming. Within that environment, the different organizations tried to fulfill their roles. The leftist organizations of every stripe and color tried to position themselves and come up with certain guidelines as the year developed.

SN: There was a period where FeL was small, and a period where FeL grew and become very large. What changed? Was it only the objective situation, or were there different strategies?

FR: I think the most crucial thing for the growth of FeL and for the strengthening of the national organization was its political maturity. At first, the FeL was an organization that had very few political plans. Proposals toward the student movement emerged in a complicated context in 2003. There was a big mobilization against the financing laws that were being implemented. Overall, the financing issue that exploded in 2005 formed a powerful movement that ended up with the agreement between the heads of the student movement and the ministry of education to create the state run credit Crédito con Aval--the entry of banks to the finance system. Facing these situations, the FeL began to slowly start building the framework for its political line, its proposal to education and the funding issue--all of that somehow congealed in 2011. The mobilization caught us with an organization that was starting to grow along the heightening of the student movement and we saw high school students go on to college. These students were coming in with a history of struggle and mobilization already and they were interested in the left—that also allowed us to accumulate part of the growth process. The year 2011 forced the organization to throw the muddle, to understand that anarchism cannot remain a sum of values, a sum of nice words, or books that were written 140 years ago. It cannot solely be about moral principles, nor ethical ones. Anarchism has to be made into concrete politics, and without it becoming that, it dies. Faced with this dilemma, the organization thankfully opted for political discussion, and for the creation of concrete proposals to give to the movement; understanding that we are not fighting for the revolution in the short term, but for the specific conditions that accumulate towards a project of the working class. That has allowed us to grow and consolidate as a national structure and also carve out a place among the leftist organizations.

SN: In the press, we hear only about the big issues in the student struggle such as free education, privatization, and debt. Are there other smaller fights, where the FeL participates or other students are involved (for example if classes are canceled or similar things)?

FR: Well, that’s a big topic. On the one hand, there are structural issues, as in the structural models of Chilean education; on the other, there’s the concrete interaction of the educational structure within the institutions themselves. It is impossible to separate the internal conflicts, the curriculums of our careers, the precarious conditions, the lack of economic resources within each college, the educational policy of the Ministry of Education, and finally the role of the state, and the unlimited power of the private corporations within the educational system. Every college and every career has small struggles, they have local claims, but what really matters and where you actually define the future of education, is not in these struggles, but rather in the struggles around structural issues. Nothing matters if you lose the large-scale national struggle, that is to say, you can postpone the effects of structural policy, but not forever. There’s no simple solution to a problem that affects all universities equally.

SN: What happened with the struggles of 2011, and which battles are present now?

FR: Well, 2012 is characterized by the student movement having to confront that the conflict of 2011 is not over. There is neither an agreement nor a complete defeat. What eventually will happen is that the student movement will return to school without acknowledging a defeat and letting the summer holidays be a kind of ceasefire. In 2011, during the first semester until July what the movement tried to accomplish was to retake the demands of the previous year, considering that the government, the state, and the political parties had control over political initiative (through reforms like the tax reform, austerity measures like the ministry’s educational proposals, and so on). Basically what it ultimately sought was to disarm the regrowth of the student movement after the impasse of the summer. While that proved to be difficult during the first semester, right now, in this precise moment in August, we can see high-school students trying to appropriate their struggle. There’s already dozens of high schools taken all throughout the country, and we hope to see different universities generating mobilizations soon. We want the last half of August and the first half of September to allow us to see a much stronger movement than the one we've seen this year.

SN: How will the elections affect the student struggle? Because October’s coming soon...

FR: Sure, there are local elections coming up, and the reading we get is that the parties of the reformist left who play on the arena of municipal elections, and next year’s presidential and parliamentary elections, want to package the demands of the student movement toward institutionalization—the objective being to strengthen their own political alternative as a tool for conflict resolution. We think this is an illusion that is often created in any electoral path, especially with the big parties like the democratic one and so on, who are largely responsible for the current situation. Neither the state nor the political party system deliver basic conditions to the social movement or to the student movement in particular, to be able to see them as a solution. Of course, it all presents a problem because the idea that the elections are part of the solution will be presented with great force and from many sectors. Taking that in mind, we have to see how we are able to maneuver and prevent the social movement from being co-opted.

SN: What relations and exchanges are there between the student movement and other struggles in Chile, such as workers, households, etc.?

FR: I think starting from 2011 with the series of fights that I already described, the regional conflicts that developed both in Magallanes, as in Aysén, in the northern mining areas, the environmental struggles, the student struggles, and the different trade union struggles and mobilizations taking place, allowed us to understand one thing: Chile is a country deeply dependent on the capitalist periphery of the world. A place where resources are highly concentrated in a few hands--in a few families. The responsible ones for the environmental conflicts with thermal or hydro plants, the poor working conditions, the low wages, the extreme privatization that we already have in the education system, the debt problem, and having to pay quadruple the cost of rent, are all the same culprits. They are the same entrepreneurs, they are the same faces, and the same holdings—national or international, repeated again and again. So, the enemy is clear. It’s not a matter of values, not a matter of uniting the different causes due to some metaphysical reason, it is a concrete thing. We face an economic, political, and social system that is concrete, that has concrete and real expressions in our daily lives, and which deeply intersects with the different spheres of our lives. In that sense, the student movement as well as other struggles have been slowly trying to understand this reality and trying to articulate in some way or another a political alternative to deal with these facts. It is a long and very difficult process in a country that is just recovering from the defeats suffered by the popular movement. Chile is slowly rebuilding its organizations after the defeats of the years '88 and '73, when fear reigned massively. That fear was pervasive even up to 2011, so the social organizations are still really disarmed. We have seen some pretty encouraging signs however, some union sectors such as the miners or longshoremen where libertarians have a pretty important position, have organized sympathy strikes paralyzing labor, which is something not seen since the days of popular unity. So there are some encouraging signs that are positive though they’re isolated at the moment. These still allow us to believe that it is possible to move towards a reconstruction of the popular movement and they also allow us to slowly build a political alternative.

The University of Chile is perhaps the most politically significant university in Chile given the centrality of Santiago to the country, the age, and position of the university itself.
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