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Philippines: The meaning of the `Noynoy' Aquino presidency

Senator Benigno Aquino III ("Noynoy" Aquino) campaigns in Manila.

By Reihana Mohideen

(Based on interviews with leaders of the Philippines left, Frank Pascual, Sonny Melencio and Ric Reyes.)

June 13, 2010 -- On June 9 Senator Benigno Aquino III ("Noynoy" Aquino) of the Liberal Party, the son of former President Cory Aqunio, was proclaimed president by the Philippines Congress. Noynoy was a former senator “with little legislative record to speak of”, according to the Philippine Daily Inquirer newspaper, which nevertheless campaigned hard for Noynoy Aquino’s presidency, soon after Cory Aquino’s death in August 2009.

Paradoxically, with the restoration of the Aquinos to the presidency, the elections have also resulted in the restoration of the Marcoses to national politics, with the former dictator's son Bongbong Marcos being elected to the Senate, Imelda Marcos winning a seat in Congress and her daughter Imee Marcos winning the governorship of their political bailiwick, the province of Ilocos Norte.

Almost 25 years after the fall of the Marcos dictatorship and the installation of Cory Aquino’s "revolutionary government" in 1986, what does the Noynoy presidency mean for Philippines politics?

Mass expectations

According to a Social Weather Station survey conducted in March, the number of registered voters who are optimistic that their lives will improve in the next 12 months has increased across all classes. The survey confirms what we already knew: the expectations of the masses have increased as a result of the Noynoy victory.

This is in a context where mass expectations had been crushed under the insatiably corrupt presidency of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo (known as GMA) and the people, especially the middle classes, demoralised by the regime's ability to hold on to power. Hence people's expectations are now rising, but from a state of very low expectations. The sullen hatred of the people for the GMA regime and their desire for an honest government are the key political factors that led to Noynoy's victory. This is also what Nonoy has promised: an end to corruption and for a clean government. For a people who expected literally nothing from the GMA government, who were demoralised and even fearful of the prospects of GMA prolonging her rule, this promise alone was enough.

As Sonny Melencio points out:

“Noynoy’s victory is a confirmation that the main issue in the election was the high-handed corruption of the Arroyo regime. People voted for Noynoy because they were sick and tired of the never-ending cases of graft and corruption involving the Arroyo family and their sycophants. Noynoy’s campaign slogan `Kung walang corrupt, walang mahirap' [No corruption, no poverty] may not be true (as poverty emanates not mainly from corruption but from class exploitation and class rule) but it rings a bell and has attracted a broad number of people to support Noynoy in the election.

“During the campaign, it was not only Noynoy who represented the people’s ire against Arroyo. ‘Erap’ Estrada [former president ousted by people's power in 2001] also thrived on it, and the fact that he landed number two in the count despite his perennial number-three status in the surveys proved the validity of the anti-Arroyo sentiments.”

Melencio also points to the media support for Noynoy:

“What Erap lacked was media support -– the support of some of the media moguls -- and it was this support that catapulted Noynoy to a very early lead in the surveys and in the people’s minds. The media campaign for Noynoy started immediately after Cory’s body had been laid to rest on August 5, 2009, or nine months before the elections. After this, almost not a day passed that Noynoy was not mentioned in the media, or graciously featured in the ABS-CBN TV stations that supported his presidential campaign to the hilt.”

Unifying the ruling class

A key agenda of the Noynoy presidency will be to unify the hitherto badly fractured ruling class. The Estrada camp has already publicly declared it's willingness to make amends. Even the Marcoses are putting out feelers, and according to newpaper reports Imee Marcos and Noynoy Aquino have been exchanging "text" messages. Given that the Liberal Party is a minority in the Senate, there is pressure on Noynoy from the Liberal Party machine to bring on board senators from other elite factions, including Bongbong Marcos. The possibility of compromises with the Arroyo political clan and its trapo [traditional politicians] backers, who still have substantial clout in the new Congress, should not be ruled out either.

Nonoy also has the backing of big business, represented by the Makati Business Club. He has the support of the governments of the United States, Europe and Japan, as indicated by the "courtesy calls" paid by their ambassadors even before Noynoy was officially declared the winner. Their message to the Filipino elite was clear: He's the man and make sure that the result is proclaimed without any disruptive bickering.

According to Frank Pascual:

“While the Liberal Party, historically a party of the landlord class, is a major player and the biggest faction influencing Noynoy, there are other forces, including extremely conservative forces around him, such as big business… Noynoy has also earned a lot of good will from Western nations: the same pheonomena as during Cory's time. This is an indicator of renewed big business confidence, as the previous regime was very difficult to deal with, even in bourgeois terms.

“For the ruling class, Noynoy is the best choice, especially after GMA. Reducing corruption can be good for big business, but whether it translates into benefits for the people is another matter… The Cory presidency was installed by a different phenomena [a mass upsurge against the dictatorship]. Noynoy does not have that kind of flexibility to pursue the peoples agenda.”

Of course Cory Aquino herself compromised with Marcos cronies in order to stabilise elite rule. She compromised with Marcos' generals, for example, several of whom are still in place. As a result of this she was unable to bring the perpetrators of her husband's assassination to justice, as this would have involved challenging the military hierarchy. The same dilemma haunts Noynoy Aquino.

While various factions of the elite have indicated their willingness to smoke the peace pipe, for the moment, it is extremely unlikely that this will continue beyond the initial phase of the Noynoy presidency. Major divisions will continue to persist and right now the issue of bringing GMA and her cronies to justice for corruption and plunder needs to be resolved. Meanwhile the unresolved historical legacy of the Marcoses, will continue to persist, even in the background.

The Marcos revival: a Cory legacy

According to Frank Pascual:

“The Marcoses have never been out of power in Ilocos, but at the national level it's been a different story. Powerful political clans such as the Escuderos of Bicol [who were former Marcos cronies] are aligned with Noynoy, but brought along Bongbong Marcos in their campaign. This is classic elite politics as they wheel and deal within their own class.”

Sonny Melencio explains:

"The crony system put in place by Marcos was restored by Cory with a liberal-democratic façade. This system continues today. The assets of the Marcoses and their cronies were not confiscated and their economic weight was never comprehensively undermined. Even their political space, especially in their local bailiwicks tied to land and trapo politics in Ilocos, was not seriously contested. Cory placed some local government officials and administrators in Illocos who continued to make deals with the Marcoses. There were real possibilities that opened up to undermine elite rule, but Cory never acted on this and it was never her intention to do so. This and her legacy of the system we have today, shows the serious limitations of the Cory revolution.”

This troublesome Cory legacy is poignantly described in an open letter to Noynoy by F. Sionil Jose, a well-known author and publisher, who writes, “Prosecute the crooks. It is difficult, thankless and even dangerous to do this. Your mother did not do it –- she did not jail Imelda who was the partner in that conjugal dictatorship that plundered this nation. Watch her children … heirs to the billions which their parents stashed aboard. Now the Marcoses are on the high road to power, gloating, snickering at our credulity and despicable amnesia.”

In times like these, it pays to have a long memory.

There can be no trapo politics without corrupt trapo elections, and the May 10 elections witnessed some of the biggest vote-buying in election history. The election of a popular president, who won by a landslide, has obscured the level of the election-related corruption. The media and the Catholic Church hierarchy praising the election process has also made it harder to expose the extent of vote buying.

While Noynoy was elected on an anti-corruption platform, ironically, the two most honest elected public officials in the entire country, governors Grace Padaca (in Isabela) and Ed Panlilio (in Pampanga), were voted out as a result of a sustained campaign against them by the political clans in their respective provinces. It is estimated that some 1 billion pesos was spent against Grace Padaca in Isabela with P500 and P1000 notes being distributed like leaflets.

Prospects

According to Ric Reyes:

“We can expect Noynoy to run after GMA and her cohorts who are responsible for all those gargantuan corruption scandals which marred the latter's presidency. His chances of success? Fifty-fifty is my estimate given GMA's continuing clout in Congress, the Supreme Court and the Ombudsman.

“We can also expect Noynoy to take steps to rationalise the bourgeois state's functions and operations in accordance with the demands for `transparency and accountability' -- a major plank of the agenda to modernise the Philippines state, the same agenda espoused by forces which supported him like powerful sections of the big bourgeoisie, namely the Makati Business Club and one or two media moguls and which gained currency among the middle classes. This is also the agenda being pressed on those at the helm of the Philippines state for years -- the US, European and Japanese governments and global multilateral agencies which lost no time in recognising his victory. I can also see a 50-50 chance for him to succeed here in the face of the resilience and stubbornness of the rentier capitalists and semi-feudal warlords and politicians who comprise a significant section of the national elites and who dominate the local elites.

“As to the national dream of deliverance from poverty for the majority and the huge social inequity of wealth and opportunities, the Noynoy presidency has more limitations than the watch of his mother, Cory Aquino, to accomplish anything significant in this direction. For one, he studiously avoided making any tangible promise to solve the Hacienda Luisita agrarian reform case. He did not touch the labour contractualisation issue. His promise to provide decent jobs to the millions of unemployed and underemployed simply cannot be realised without a radical departure from the neoliberal framework of the Philippinea state, without industrialisation and strong social justice measures, all of which he never touched in his campaign. The huge votes he got from the masses are unorganised and are not reflective of working-class power and clout.”

To end poverty the poor must be in power, to paraphrase Hugo Chavez, president of the revolutionary government in Venezuela. The result of the May 10 elections has been to deeply entrench elite rule. Both houses of Congress are dominated by the traditional political clans who have held sway over Philippines society and politics for decades. They have reproduced themselves through newer generations of sons and grandsons, daughters and granddaughters, who now sit in Congress. The expectations of the masses do not aspire so high that they believe that the Noynoy government will eliminate poverty.

Corruption

What about corruption? Will the Noynoy government be able to eliminate corruption, which is what it has promised to do? Noynoy himself, unlike GMA, will no doubt attempt to set an example of an honest presidency, but what about the rest of them? Corruption has been the essence of elite rule, of the trapo system, in this country. To get rid of corruption Noynoy has to confront the system of elite rule itself. To believe otherwise will be a fundamental error.

This will require a revolutionary government, not of the Cory type -- which was declared a revolutionary government but did nothing revolutionary -- but of the Latin American type, i.e. that of Bolivia and Venezuela. These governments have not only put in place new constitutions with substantial political reforms, they have also rejected outright the neoliberal economic agenda and have implemented economic programs that massively increase expenditure on social welfare programs, such as health and education, and have also taken a series of measures that have increased the standard of living of the working class and the poor, including through the granting of substantial wage increases. Presidents Evo Morales and Hugo Chavez openly espouse the need for an alternative economic and social system based on socialist principles. Noynoy’s record as a senator gives us very little confidence that he is a Morales or Chavez or even a Lula de Silva [president of Brazil]. And the Liberal Party is a far cry from the Workers' Party of Brazil, both in terms of its origins and political record.

As the author F. Sionil Jose states in his open letter to Noynoy: “To succeed you have to betray your class.” There is no reason to believe that Noynoy is prepared to do so and any such "hope" will be dangerously misplaced.

Given the forces around him –- the Liberal Party, the Makati Business Club and other secret and less-secret factions of the elite –- his best shot is more likely to be an attempt to -- in the words of the infamous Romula Neri, the former National Economic Development Authority director-general and GMA ally -- “moderate their greed”, i.e. to modulate the worst excesses of plunder and corruption of the system of elite rule.

With the prospects of a more united ruling class and perhaps a more moderate and less rapacious exploitation of the masses, does this mean that we are now facing a lengthy and stable period of a renewed and more benign Philippines capitalism?

Frank Pascual argues that this is not the case:

“Noynoy still has to spell out for the ruling class how exactly it will benefit from his rule. And given the sorry state of the Philippines economy, there's not much to divide up among the greedy elite. The Philippines economy will also suffer from the crisis of the capitalist system as a whole and this will be a problem faced by the Noynoy government in trying to stabilise the system. After a brief honeymoon period, the usual infighting among the elite will start again.”

In weighing up the relationship of forces that will impact on future prospects, it must be acknowledged that a progressive coalition partner of the Noynoy presidency is Akbayan, which could be in a position to influence the new government. However, the Liberal Party is refusing to back measures to ensure the election of an Akbayan senator. This is a problematic start and does not bode well for the progressive forces around Noynoy. Ultimately, Akbayan's ability to shift the relationship of forces in a progressive direction will depend on the strength of the independent mass movement.

The mass movement and the left

What are the prospects for the mass movement under the Noynoy presidency? And what is the character of the mass movement that we need to develop in the period ahead? These will be some of the key questions and ongoing challenges that will have to be addressed by the left, specifically in the context of a honeymoon period of a popular president.

An important starting point for the left and the mass movement is how to relate to the raised expectations of the masses? Raised expectations can be a double-edged sword for the left, because it simultaneously represents the misplaced illusions of the masses in bourgeois rule, but also indicates their increased confidence.

Sonny Melencio points out:

“Higher expectations can be a positive factor for the left. The left needs to build on these mass expectations and at the same time develop them. The character of the mass movement that the left needs to develop today is one that will challenge the Noynoy government to keep its promises, however vague these might be, but as interpreted by the mass movement, and at the same time extend it to include the more substantial demands of the masses.

“For example, the masses expect that Noynoy will go after GMA and follow through with the cases of plunder against her. The mass movement must ensure that this takes place, but also put demands on the Noynoy government to go after the corrupt practices of other trapos and big business. He is also replacing some GMA appointees in the military, such as General Bangit [the chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines], but the mass movement must also demand that this be extended to get rid of other corrupt generals who plunder the economy, carry out the cheating for the trapos during elections and who are responsible for extra-judicial killings.

“A joint declaration of labour unions was also made with Noynoy, which is extremely weak and full of motherhood statements about benefits for workers. It does not include any concrete demands. The workers' movement needs to mobilise to concretise these general policy statements into demands for the repeal of anti-strike and anti-union laws and against contractualisation.”

According to Ric Reyes:

“There will be plenty of issues -- social, economic, political, cultural, globally linked, which can objectively rouse mass movements among the working classes. But as shown by the experience of the past two decades, such mass movements can never rise to significant proportions, much less become a successful challenge to the bourgeois state, without a real political vanguard -- a class-conscious, immersed among the people, competent, effective leading force that can connect with the aspirations of the people and the new standards of contemporary politics and culture. Without this vanguard, popular resistance and mass outbreaks can only become captives of reformism which will get more hype from the bourgeois media, the churches' hierarchy and the NGO movement, which has become more of a movement for palliatives than anything else.”

A problem that is posed is the cooptation of the mass movement and the left. It will be a major problem if left leaders accept key positions in the Noynoy government and become responsible for implementing neoliberal policies. In general, however, Philippines capitalism is too weak to be able to co-opt large sections of the progressive movement. i.e. a Western-style, social-democratic agenda, is not viable in the Philippines setting. Mass movements and parties with integrity will stand by their demands and programs and maintain their independence from capitalist governments, including those of the Noynoy variety. If they don't, there is no middle road for them. They will have to join the elite and become a part of the system of elite rule, as has been the case with social-democratic formations in the Philippines.

There will be no turn around of the objective situation under a Noynoy presidency. The economic and social crises will continue. The masses will continue to be beleaguered by grinding poverty in their daily lives. The real question is the capability of the left to respond. The left is preparing to mobilise around the state of the nation address in July. The capability of the left will also be strengthened to the extent that it can unite its forces in the streets.

[Reihana Mohideen is a socialist feminist, and is chairperson of Transform Asia, Gender and Labor Institute and editor of Socialist Dialogue (a journal to be published later this year).]

Comments

AKBAYAN AND ALAB KATIPUNAN: THE NEW MENSHEVIKS?

The 2010 national election where AKBAYAN and ALAB KATIPUNAN actively and visibly supported Noynoy Aquino makes them part and parcel of the new regime in terms of responsibilities and accountabilities to the Filipino people and whatever happen in the administration of Pnoy, AKBAYAN and ALAB KATIPUNAN shares the major burden of accountability.

IDEOLOGICAL BANKRUPTCY AND OPPORTUNISM

Ideologically, AKBAYAN and ALAB KATIPUNAN are supposed to take the role as open-legal vanguard, catalyst for genuine change and as conscious organizations to guide the masses towards seizure of bourgeois political power as the primary aim of the working class under a capitalist state. But can they seize power by making their leaders part of the capitalist system? The key leaders of AKBAYAN and ALAB KATIPUNAN are appointed by the Pnoy reactionary government to take part in the executive branch and it logically follows that they will implement the will of the chief executive and it is elementary to those who studied Lenin (State and Revolution) that the president of the country under a capitalist state becomes the chief executive of the ruling class and therefore, the members of the cabinet and every national government agencies under the office of the president serves as the implementing arms of the chief executive (implementing arms of the ruling class). Nobody from the office of president including the president himself and all national government agencies under his office can go beyond and contrary to the 1987 Philippine Constitution and this Constitution as the fundamental law of the country is by nature is the “legal and fundamental” expression of the rule of the capitalist class. It means, the key leaders of AKBAYAN and ALAB KATIPUNAN who are now part of the capitalist system has no power to change the system but instead, they become instruments and agents of the system to carry the interest of the ruling class.

Shall we say they are inside the bureaucracy to facilitate the release of basic social services to the people and expand their influence among the masses. Again, it is basic to the teaching of Leninism that genuine social services can never happen in a capitalist state and that Engels said that the question of delivering social services cannot be achieved through a policy of reform.

Engels said:

“As long as the capitalist mode of production continues to exist, it is folly to hope for an isolated solution of the housing question or of any other social question affecting the fate of the workers. The solution lies in the abolition of the capitalist mode of production and the appropriation of all the means of life and labor by the working class itself”.

Engels’ central point was that the revolutionary class policy of the proletariat cannot be replaced by a policy of reforms- because “it is not that the solution of the housing question simultaneously solves the social question, but that only by the solution of the social question, that is, by the abolition of the capitalist mode of production, is the solution of the housing question made possible.”

Engels boldly emphasized the necessity to capture political power as the immediate aim and the building of socialism as ultimate aim of the working class. This so-called facilitating the delivery of social services will only develop further the state of illusion (deceive the masses) among the masses that under capitalism their lives will be better and this socio-economic projects will develop the culture of economism and in the long run will further derail the political consciousness of the masses. The “economic struggle” does not promise palpable results, because it produces little that is ‘positive” and because economic struggle is merely trade unionism. What can awaken the working class from slumber is comprehensive political exposure. There is a need therefore for propaganda, agitation, and education.

Lenin said:

“A basic condition for the necessary expansion of political agitation is the organization of comprehensive political exposures”. “Class political consciousness can be brought to the workers only from without, that is, only from outside the economic struggles, from outside the sphere of relations between workers and employers. The sphere from which alone it is possible to obtain this knowledge is the sphere of relationships of all classes and strata to the state and the government, the sphere of the interrelations between all classes” (Lenin, What Is To be Done?).

Political exposures and training in revolutionary activity in no way except by means of such political exposures can the masses be trained in political consciousness and revolutionary activity. Hence, activity of this kind is one of the most important functions of the revolutionary party. For even political freedom does not in any way eliminate exposures; it merely shifts somewhat their sphere of direction. The working class consciousness cannot be genuinely political consciousness unless the workers are trained to respond to all tyranny, oppression, violence and abuse, no matter what class is affected-unless they are trained, moreover, to respond from a revolutionary point of view and no other, says Lenin. Now, are the working class trained to respond to ALL tyranny, oppression, violence and abuse, no matter WHAT class is affected? Seldom we can find them now in the different Left movement in the Philippines except among the groups led by the CPP-NPA. Most if not all of the political rallies against the state are financed and sponsored by the other faction of the ruling class, the very reason why it is not serious of taking political power in the hands of the working class. Many people joining the political rallies are paid and therefore, political consciousness of the masses has diminished and it is now hard to hold political demonstrations if no money is involved. This is the worst style and method of the Left movement in the Philippines that needs immediate rectification.

Lenin said:

“Political exposures are as much a declaration of war against the government as economic exposures are a declaration of war against the factory owners… political exposures in themselves serve as a powerful instrument for disintegrating the system we oppose, as a means for diverting from the enemy his casual or temporary allies, as a means for spreading hostility and distrust among the permanent partners of the autocracy”

POLITICAL INSIGNIFICANT

Politically, it is therefore impossible for those key leaders of AKBAYAN and ALAB KATIPUNAN who are under the executive branch to conduct political exposures neither their organizations because if they will do that, the reactionary government that appointed them will terminate their services in the bureaucracy. To make the long story short, the masses cannot expect that AKBAYAN and ALAB KATIPUNAN to be more militant under President Noynoy administration. If this will be the case, politically, they become insignificant and this will again further intensify the rule of the ruling class and weaken the class struggle.

THE STALINIST AND MENSHEVIKS ERROR: THE SAME BLUNDER OF THE LEFT IN THE PHILIPPINES

Marx and Engels mercilessly unmasked the cowardly, counter-revolutionary role of the bourgeoisie, and emphasized the need for the workers to maintain a “policy of complete class independence”, not only from the bourgeois liberals, but also from the vacillating petty bourgeois democrats.

Stalinist bureaucracy instead of pursuing a revolutionary policy based on class independence, as Lenin had always advocated, they proposed an alliance of the Communist Parties with the “national progressive bourgeoisie” (and if there was not one easily at hand, they were quite prepared to invent it) to carry through the democratic revolution, and afterwards, later on, in the far distant future, when the country had developed a fully fledged capitalist economy, fight for socialism. This policy on non-complete independence of the working class and alliance with the liberal bourgeoisie and the national progressive bourgeoisie that the Stalinist bureaucracy made according to Lenin was a complete break with Leninism and a return to the old discredited position of Menshevism. The same error committed by the Menscheviks is what is happening now in the Philippine Left movement both the RA camp and the RJ.

The inter-classist movement in the Philippines is initiated by the leftist Maoist movement. This is one of their “three magic weapons” for their bourgeois national-democratic revolution. Its concept of revolution is the Stalinist “bloc of four classes” (i.e., alliance of workers, peasants, and petty-bourgeoisie and national bourgeoisie). That’s why it is part of its basic principles the tactical alliance with the faction of the ruling class. But this Maoist strategy is also practice by the anti-Maoist leftists in the Philippines. This only means that frontism of whatever type is inherent to all leftist currents to derail the proletariat to achieve its own class consciousness.

When the proletarian movement integrates itself to the struggle of the non-proletarian classes especially with the faction of the capitalist class, it weakens itself as a class. In 1986, the relatively strong militant workers movement was weaken due to the united front policy and armed guerilla actions of the Maoist CPP. In 2001, the already weak proletarian movement was further weakened by the inter-classist “People Power” to oust Joseph Estrada. Now, once again, all factions of the bourgeoisie and the unions are calling the atomized and demoralized workers to participate in the struggles led by its class enemy.

What happened in Latin America is also what happened in 1986 and 2001 in the Philippines: “The fact that significant parts of the proletariat have been sucked into these revolts is of the greatest importance, because it marks a profound loss of class autonomy. Instead of seeing themselves as proletarians with their own interests, workers in Bolivia and Argentina saw themselves as citizens sharing common interests with the petty-bourgeois and non-exploiting strata.” (ICC, ‘Popular revolts’ in Latin America: Its class autonomy is vital to the proletariat)

Thus it is not surprising that the Right and Left of capital expressed the same sentiment on the outcome of the inter-classist movement last February 29. Both the Right and Left of the bourgeoisie have the same task: DERAIL THE DEVELOPMENT OF PROLETARIAN CLASS CONSCIOUSNESS.

The masses will have more frustrations in Pnoy administration as the saying goes: “With great expectancy so with great frustration” because for sure the system (capitalism) cannot and will never bring about real progress and worker’s emancipation and no Marxist in his right mind will have an illusion of good governance and progress under capitalism. The current Left movement in the Philippines is divided and is continuously dividing and can no longer lead tens of thousands of masses in the streets without the power of money or money from other faction of the ruling class. The Left is losing their integrity and independence. The masses saw the Left how they supported the trapo politicians from Cory Aquino regime until Noynoy coming into power and nothing has changed. Under Pnoy administration, some of the key leaders of the Left are now holding key positions in executive departments. Are they going to destroy the chief executive representative of the ruling class inside the bourgeois state apparatus or become part of the state machinery in strengthening and protecting its rule? The Left movement under Pnoy will further lose their strength!

CAPITALISM: IT CANNOT BE REFORMED

We must clearly understands that the system (capitalism) can’t be reformed, that it must be replaced. Or, as one of the priests interviewed in the film puts it, “capitalism is evil, and you cannot regulate evil; you have to eliminate it.” However, it seems that Moore is still unwilling to draw the necessary conclusions – or at least he is unwilling to state this openly. The entire whole world is under the period of counter-reform and no policy reform can reform capitalism, even President Noynoy and his appointed key leaders of AKBAYAN and ALAB KATIPUNAN. No laws on earth can abolish exploitation as long as there is the rule of capital. Therefore, any hope for social change in the “relation of production and forces of production” is an illusion and to convince the masses that there is hope and better life under capitalism is a big deception.

In truth, the role of democracy is not to let us ‘have a say’ in how society is run. Rather it is to disguise the dictatorship of the capitalist class. It is this class and this class only that ‘has a say’ and it organizes its rule through the power of the state. Democracy simply serves to present this state power to the working class with an egalitarian gloss. But whoever is elected to manage the state has to defend the national capital, increase profits and improve competitiveness on the world market. It can only do this by the continued ruthless application of state control over all areas of the economy, whether this is overt (as in the case of Stalinism and Fascism) or concealed but just as extensive (as in the case of neo-liberalism).

In a period where the economic crisis is the driving force in the development of society, this state will have no choice but to attack the working class. The attacks that are carried out against the working class by the bourgeoisie and its state are not the product of bad leadership, or the wrong party being in power. They are the products of the inexorable economic crisis which has no solution within the capitalist framework. In other words, whoever the workers elect will immediately exercise state power to defend the economy – and it will be the working class that has to pay.

Neither can this fundamental reality be altered by reforming the existing state apparatus with schemes to make it more responsive to the popular will. This is why Marx said, concerning the Paris Commune: “I say that the next attempt of the French revolution will be no longer, as before, to transfer the bureaucratic-military machine from one hand to another, but to smash it, and this is essential for every real people’s revolution on the Continent.” (Marx to Dr Kugelmann, “Concerning the Paris Commune”, 1871.)

What is to be done?

The working class conscious organizations must rectify this major error if it still wants to pursue the glorious mission of the working class. Under a capitalist socio-economic formation, the working class has no political ally. It must rely on their strength alone under the guidance of the working class vanguard. The CPP-NPA entered into an alliance with national bourgeoisie, peasants and other marginalized sectors because they viewed Philippine society as semi-feudal and therefore, it is consistent in their strategy and tactics to wage a bourgeoisie national democratic struggle and ultimately building a coalition government but for those who viewed the Philippines as capitalist, there is only one road and that is socialist revolution (socialism) and the working class has no other political ally and that they should and must rely on their own class consciousness and their class strength because Lenin made it clear that to make the revolution successful, it must not rely on conspiracy, it must not rely on the party vanguard but it must solely rely on the class consciousness and class struggle of the working class and the development of objective conditions and the subjective forces.

THE FUTURE OF THE PROGRESSIVE LEFT UNDER PNOY

The Philippines, Pnoy and the Left Movement

No real changes after the elections but worsening of the situation. Can the successor of Gloria Arroyo do something for the people?

The dominant ideology of society is the ideology of the ruling class. And electoralism and parliamentarism are one of its manifestations in the era of imperialism. Basically the platforms and programs of the candidates and parties are the same. There is no difference between the Administration and Opposition for there is no third ideology, it’s either proletarian ideology or bourgeois ideology. The ideology of the ruling classes both Administration and Opposition is bourgeois ideology. The only choice is either bourgeois or socialist ideology for there is no middle course for mankind has not created a “third” ideology. This ideology in order to be considered alive, it must be translated into their form of organization and this is where political parties and other form of organization came into existence. Political parties carries an ideology-a class ideology and moreover, in a society torn by class antagonisms there can never be a non-class or an above-class ideology, therefore, it is necessary that the revolutionary working class must have an “independent party, independent political stance and platform” which are far different and far opposite to political parties of the bourgeoisie and trapos and to turn aside from socialist ideology in its slightest degree means to strengthen bourgeois ideology.

Reading and listening their campaigns and platforms, they shouted for reforms and anti-corruption but the “essence” is the same: defend national capitalism and the government will do all it can to make national capital survives under the very intense competition within the rapidly saturated world market. This means: cheaper labor-power (wages) to make the Philippine products competitive in the world market, maximization of labor-power, more widespread contractualization, increase taxes and government’s debt. In the next 3-6 years, toiling masses will suffer more because world capitalism is in its permanent crisis and the state is completely bankrupt.

For the first time, the Left openly support big bourgeois opposition parties against the Arroyo regime. In the past, they were ashamed to openly support and just secretly campaign bourgeois candidates and parties. This is a clear manifestation that the only difference between the Right and Left is the language used and the formulation. But “essentially”, they have the same interest: “develop” national capitalism, in which in imperialist epoch and permanent crisis is impossible to happen. “Development” means worst sufferings and intense exploitation on the people. The masses and the Left, they viewed corruption in GMA’s administration as mere abused of power or breached of laws instead of seeing this corruption as part of the capitalist system. I will discuss this topic on capitalism and corruption later.

The two biggest Left factions (Maoist CPP-NPA and Akbayan) are also supporting the two oldest bourgeois parties in the country – Nacionalista Party and Liberal Party – and to the two strongest contenders for the presidency in the last election (Manny Villar and Noynoy Aquino).

If the other factions seems silent (Sanlakas, Partido ng Manggagawa, KPD, atbp) on the bickerings of NP and LP, this is because they are not against in allying with them. It so happen that the Maoist Bayan Muna and social-democratic Akbayan sealed the deal first.

And since it is certain like the rising of the sun that the new president will be the spokesperson and defender of the capitalist-haciendero classes, there is a strong possibility that after the elections, the Left will immediately stand as “opposition” to the new administration to evade the anger of the people, and once again fool the masses that they are for “social change”. If Villar won in the last election, Akbayan will be the first to be in “opposition” but since Aquino won, the Maoists will be the first to act against as the “opposition”. It will be easier for the “silent” other factions of the Left to ride the opportunism as “opposition” on whoever wins since they are not openly endorsing them. Currently, the role of the Left in the Philippines is: an “opposition” to the Right to divert the workers away from the revolutionary road and imprison them in the mystifications of reformism using radical language like “armed struggle”, “revolution” and “system change”.

On the other hand, as in the past, there will be an exodus of politicians of the Right to the party of the new president. The ideologies “everyone for himself” and “one against all” will intensify more within the various factions of Right and Left. Allies before elections will be enemies again; enemies will become friends again; all depends which is favorable to maintain and advance one’s self-interest.

However, conscious workers will not forget the open endorsement and licking the Left on the asses of the big bourgeois parties of the exploited classes whatever the outcome of the elections. What the Right and Left did is the fertile ground for the raising of class consciousness against all factions of capitalist-hacienderos.

THE REAL CONDITION OF THE PROLETARIAT AND THE CHALLENGE

At present, the proletariat in the Philippines does not trust anybody even itself. It does not trust the administration, opposition, leftist organizations and the unions. It does not yet trust its own solidarity and unity. That is why both the administration and the different forces of opposition have difficulty to mobilize the workers in accordance to their own agenda. To advance the workers’ struggles towards system change, the class must understand that: “The autonomy of the proletariat in the face of all the other classes of society is the first precondition for the extension of its struggle towards the revolution. All alliances with other classes or strata and especially those with fractions of the bourgeoisie can only lead to the disarming of the class in the face of its enemy, because these alliances make the working class abandon the only terrain on which it can temper its strength: its own class terrain” (Point 9, Platform of the ICC).

The inter-classist movement in the Philippines is initiated by the leftist Maoist movement. This is one of their “three magic weapons” for their bourgeois national-democratic revolution. Its concept of revolution is the Stalinist “bloc of four classes” (i.e., alliance of workers, peasants, and petty-bourgeoisie and national bourgeoisie). That’s why it is part of its basic principles the tactical alliance with the faction of the ruling class. But this Maoist strategy is also practice by the anti-Maoist leftists in the Philippines. This only means that frontism of whatever type is inherent to all leftist currents to derail the proletariat to achieve its own class consciousness.

When the proletarian movement integrates itself to the struggle of the non-proletarian classes especially with the faction of the capitalist class, it weakens itself as a class. In 1986, the relatively strong militant workers movement was weaken due to the united front policy and armed guerilla actions of the Maoist CPP. In 2001, the already weak proletarian movement was further weakened by the inter-classist “People Power” to oust Joseph Estrada. Now, once again, all factions of the bourgeoisie and the unions are calling the atomized and demoralized workers to participate in the struggles led by its class enemy.

What happened in Latin America is also what happened in 1986 and 2001 in the Philippines: “The fact that significant parts of the proletariat have been sucked into these revolts is of the greatest importance, because it marks a profound loss of class autonomy. Instead of seeing themselves as proletarians with their own interests, workers in Bolivia and Argentina saw themselves as citizens sharing common interests with the petty-bourgeois and non-exploiting strata.” (ICC, ‘Popular revolts’ in Latin America: Its class autonomy is vital to the proletariat)

Thus it is not surprising that the Right and Left of capital expressed the same sentiment on the outcome of the inter-classist movement last February 29. Both the Right and Left of the bourgeoisie have the same task: DERAIL THE DEVELOPMENT OF PROLETARIAN CLASS CONSCIOUSNESS.

The masses will have more frustrations in Pnoy administration as the saying goes: “With great expectancy so with great frustration” because for sure the system (capitalism) cannot and will never bring about real progress and worker’s emancipation and no Marxist in his right mind will have an illusion of good governance and progress under capitalism. The current Left movement in the Philippines is divided and is continuously dividing and can no longer lead tens of thousands of masses in the streets without the power of money or money from other faction of the ruling class. The Left is losing their integrity and independence. The masses saw the Left how they supported the trapo politicians from Cory Aquino regime until Noynoy coming into power and nothing has changed. Under Pnoy administration, some of the key leaders of the Left are now holding key positions in executive departments. Are they going to destroy the chief executive representative of the ruling class inside the bourgeois state apparatus or become part of the state machinery in strengthening and protecting its rule? The Left movement under Pnoy will further lose their strength!

Behind the question of running for executive office stands the fundamental counter-position between reformism and Marxism: Can the proletariat use bourgeois democracy and the bourgeois state to achieve a peaceful transition to socialism? Or, rather, must the proletariat smash the old state machinery, and in its place create a new state to impose its own class rule—the dictatorship of the proletariat—to suppress and expropriate the capitalist exploiters?

The Fifth Conference of the International Communist League in 2007 adopted the position of opposition to Marxists running for executive office in the capitalist state—e.g., president, mayor, provincial or state governor—as a matter of principle. This position flows from our understanding that the capitalist state is the executive committee of the ruling class. At its core this state consists of bodies of armed men—the military, police, courts and prisons—which function to protect the class rule of the bourgeoisie and its system of production. Communist deputies can, as oppositionists, serve in the U.S. Congress, parliaments and other legislative bodies as revolutionary tribunes of the working class. But assuming executive office or gaining control of a bourgeois legislature or municipal council, either independently or in coalition, requires taking responsibility for the administration of the machinery of the capitalist state. The ICL had previously held that communists could run for executive offices, provided that we declare in advance that we don’t intend to assume such offices. But in re-examining this question, we concluded that standing for election to executive positions carries the implication that one is ready to accept such responsibility, no matter what disclaimer one makes in advance. For self-proclaimed Marxists to engage in such activity only lends legitimacy to prevailing and reformist conceptions of the state.

The Left can regain sympathy of the masses if they will do away with their opportunism, economism and reformism and rise as an independent Left movement with independent class stance and go back to class struggle and do away with their so-called social movement or civil society movement with no class struggle. In fact, the opportunists and reformists would love for class struggle to just be considered an “old-fashioned” notion from the past but for Marxists they believed that class struggle is the key to social progress and this struggle is the very heart of the capitalist system. It explains how it works and where it is going. History of human kind is a history of class struggle and class struggle is the prime mover for social development, according to Karl Marx.

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