Occupy Movement Hopes for New Lease on Life


"We don't want to improve the system a little bit. We want to change the entire system," she says. She raises her fist alongside her head.

Vallejo is a communist. She joined the youth organization of the Communist Party at the age of 19. She liked the structures and the clear answers the party gave her. Her parents, who are also communists, named their daughter after Camilo Cienfuegos, a Cuban revolutionary who fought alongside Che Guevara.

After overthrowing Allende in a coup, the dictator Augusto Pinochet transformed Chile into a model country for the neoliberal economic theories conceived at the University of Chicago, where economist Milton Friedman taught. Friedman believed that the state should leave the markets as much freedom as possible. Most of the men who rebuilt the economic system in Chile had studied at the University of Chicago. Known as the "Chicago Boys," they privatized everything they could, opened up the financial markets and abolished the right to strike.

New Ideas, Old Leaders

Vallejo grew up in a country in which neoliberalism had been ruthlessly implemented. Is she now supposed to move into a tent and muse over reforms at her leisure? In Germany, people are constantly asking her what she thinks about Occupy, and about all the new critics of capitalism who could be her allies. Protesting against the system is always good, she says. However, she considers the individualism that is so important to the people of Occupy and the Pirates to be a harmful consequence of the system, an "individualization." A loosely defined swarm in which everyone does as he or she pleases is not her idea of a decent political organization. She believes in "the collective," and in well-organized groups that need leaders.

They don't even have to be new leaders. In April, after her visit to Germany, Vallejo traveled to Cuba, where she met with Fidel Castro at his house in Havana. There is a photo of Vallejo standing next to the old man, wearing a floral-patterned summer dress with spaghetti straps. She is holding Castro's left arm and looking up at his face, which has become gaunt. Castro is still "a great visionary," she said after the meeting.

What is her idea for a better world? The general secretary of the youth organization of the Communist Party of Chile, who accompanied Vallejo to Germany, answers this question.

"Our ideal is a socialist state, later perhaps even a communist society, but we understand that we are still very far away from that," says Karol Cariola, the general secretary. Vallejo doesn't give any interviews on her trip without Cariola.

"To begin with, it's about the struggle between neoliberalism and democracy," says Vallejo. The first thing she wants, she says, is a government that pays for good schools and hospitals, and that guarantees good working conditions. If she didn't constantly begin her sentences with "to begin with," she could just as well be a German social democrat.

How does she feel about the social market economy in Germany?

"We don't believe in a humane form of capitalism," says the general secretary. Perhaps, she adds, Germans don't see "the exploitation of people by other people" quite as clearly. Fresh-Faced

The fact that Vallejo became the star of the 2011 year of protests was probably more of an accident than anything else. She is an attractive Chilean student, someone who calls for even more democracy in her tweets, and who comes across as contemporary and fresh.

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