Reports from Argentina
from Santiago to Neuquén
Posted: Feb. 26 2003, 15:54I spent my last few days in Santiago doing tourist stuff. Chile doesn't have a mass political movement (neither millions of angry young people protesting against global capitalism, as in Europe, nor millions of angry poor people demanding jobs and their savings, as in Argentina) which meant that I had more free time than usual. In Argentina, every day you can go to a huge demonstration, attend a political assembly, visit an occupied businesses, etc. In Chile, in contrast, you are pretty much limited to reading and getting into endless political discussions with your comrades.
So to to create some occasional breaks in the discussions, one day we climbed to the top of the San Cristobal hill in the middle of Santiago. We spent over an hour climbing up the dusty trail, with the sun burning our backs and the smog burning our lungs, to get to a giant white statue of the Virgin Mary which overlooks the city. At the top we discovered there was a cable car on the other side which could have carried us up in three minutes. But that didn't bother me too much, since the view from the summit was absolutely incredible.
When people told me that Santiago was completely surrounded by mountains, I had taken this to mean "there are a lot of mountains." But no, Santiago is quite literally surrounded by mountains on all sides. The distant ones tend to fade away into the smog, but you can still make out their fuzzy outlines. Santiago is just like a miles-wide salad bowl with a city in the base!
On my last day we made an excursion to Valparaiso, a costal city an hour away from Santiago. Since the name means "paradise," I was expecting some kind of a tropical beach resort, but in reality the city was chilly and completely covered with fog. But it was still amazingly beautiful. As I said, Chile is just a single long mountain range, so Valparaiso is packed on a thin strip of land between the foothills and the sea. Brightly-colored houses covered the hills like moss, rising up from the beach straight into the clouds.
Valparaiso is also home of the Chilean parlament – the military dictatorship decided to locate the parlament outside the capital to reduce the danger of terrorist attacks by its opponents. Terrorist attacks were so common back then that gas stations are still referred to on the street as "gasoline bombs." [I swear I am not making this up!]
In summary, my week in Chile was not the most exciting week of my trip, but I learned a lot from the Chilean comrades. They are not as action-oriented as ¡NO PASARÁN! or REVOLUTION, since the movement to support such actions simply does not exist in Chile. Instead they have much more theoretical work: they publish two Marxist journals, one for university and one for high school, and intervene a lot in university politics. They might not have the same style as us, but they are valuable comrades when it comes to analyzing the world political situation or comparing Rosa Luxemburg to Antonio Gramsci.
Now I am in Neuquén, home of the Zanon ceramics plant, a factory occupied by three hundred employees over a year ago that is run under the democratic control of a workers' assembly. These guys are constantly fighting for the revolution in Argentina, the vanguard of the vanguard of the Argentinian proletariat.
I'd write more but I'm meeting some comrades to go to Zanon in two minutes. Look forward to my next report!
– Dzhon Rid
p.s. check out the message of solidarity from REVOLUTION Berlin to the workers of Zanon that I published in my second report. I'll be handing that over today!