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Philippines: Political crisis and the impasse of the Philippine left

Philippine police commandos unload body bags containing the remains of their comrades killed as a result of the "Mamasapano debacle".

For more coverage of the Philippine left, click HERE.

An important discussion is taking place in the Philippine left about its intervention in the 2016 elections, the revival of the mass movement and the coalition of a section of the progressive movement, the Akbayan party, with the governing Liberal Party.

Several leaders of Akbayan have called for an end to this alliance, including Walden Bello, who recently resigned as Akbayan's leader in parliament, former chairperson of Akbayan Ric Reyes, who has now resigned from the party after its congress in April voted to continue as a coalition partner of the government, and SENTRO, the labour organisation aligned with Akbayan.

The following paper is a contribution to the discussion. Other papers and statements can be found at www.lakasngmasa.wordpress.com.

* * *

By Reihana Mohideen

May 2, 2015 -- Socialist Feminist, posted at Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal with the author's permission -- While Walden Bello’s resignation as Akbayan Congress representative should be welcomed, it has also exposed the crisis and failure of the left and progressive movement to put forward a viable alternative to elite rule. Furthermore, it has exposed the failure of the pragmatic electoral politics of the Philippine left.

An important question which needs to be posed is, how can the left respond to this latest political crisis and steer it in a progressive direction, so as to benefit the masa (masses) and not some faction of the ruling elite? Given that the major elite factions are unable to present a credible alternative, this provides the left with a unique opportunity, to present and win mass support for a left alternative to elite rule.

Another feature of the current crisis, however, is the political crisis of the left itself. For several decades now the left has been facing a crisis of its own, unable to develop the strategy and tactics to win mass support for a progressive alternative to the crisis-ridden system.

The left’s electoral tactics based on a "win at any cost" formula, justifying the brazenly pragmatic deals with traditional politicians (trapo), has failed: from Bayan Muna's alliance with Gloria Macapagal Arroyo (GMA), when it was the official party list of the GMA-regime enabling it to win the largest number of seats of any left bloc in Congress, to Akbayan's alliance with President Benigino "Noynoy" Aquinoi and the Liberal Party. Bayan Muna and the Makabayan bloc have not been able to surpass its approximately 3 million voter "base" and break through to winning a seat in the Senate. Akbayan garnered less votes in 2013 and did worse in the Senate ratings, when it was part of the governing Liberal Party coalition, than in 2010.

Looming in 2016 is another potential electoral debacle for the left with some sections contemplating electoral alliances with the Binay dynasty, the ultimate trapo and even Duterte, a neo-fascist.

The opportunist electoral tactics of the left have been extremely damaging. It has prevented the left from effectively using the electoral arena to develop a left-progressive and anti-neoliberal political-electoral alternative in the country. It has also contributed to the demobilisation of the mass movement, the lifeline of the left. It has weakened the left as an effective political force, incapable of mobilising to the point of seriously challenging and making a dent in the system of elite politics in the country.

The left is therefore a part of the problem. It mirrors and manifests the political crisis we face today.

Inevitable failure of the Noynoy regime

The crisis facing the Noynoy regime has been brewing for some time now. The Napoles revelations[1] about the pork barrel scams exposes the entire political establishment  as being utterly self-serving and corrupt.

The pro-US foreign policy of the regime is exemplified by the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement, which some have argued concedes more of our national sovereignty, than even the agreements made by the Marcos dictatorship in the establishment of US bases.

The Mamasapano debacle[2] further exposes the extent of US intervention in our national affairs under the guise of the "war on terror", with the compliance of Malacanang, leading to an all-out war situation in Mindanao. It may have effectively derailed the passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) and any possibility of an interim peace in Mindanao.

While demanding that the president is held accountable, we should also demand that the Akbayan leaders in cabinet be held accountable and speak the truth!

Adding to this we have the climate crisis and various issues relating to the inadequacy of the government’s disaster response, massive unemployment, especially mass youth unemployment, the infrastructure and the energy crisis and the long-term critical problems facing the run-down public education and health systems.

Laments about the Philippines being the “basket case” of Asia meanwhile reflect the desperate poverty, hunger, malnutrition and homelessness that destroy an increasing number of the population.

When elected, many predicted that there would be a political crisis at some stage during the Noynoy Aquino presidency. This regime is a typical post-Edsa-type regime: committed to neoliberalism and unable and unwilling to take on the dynasties which control the political system. The underlying problems  of the system are simply perpetuated under the Aquino government. From the very beginning the competency of the presidency, now revealed for its bungling and ineffectuality, was also in doubt. The demobilisation of the mass movement, partly due to Akabayan’s coalition with the governing party, could have been a factor that staved off the crisis well into the president’s second term.

Mamasapano is the latest in a string of issues around which this regime has lost mass support. Mamasapano is not only a failure of leadership. It’s also an indication of the depth of the crisis of the entire socioeconomic and political system of Philippine capitalism. It once again demonstrates that no pro-elite, pro-capitalist regime in this country is able to provide any long-lasting solutions, or even put in place the first and necessary steps, to address the Bangsamoro quest for self-determination.

The failure of the Noynoy regime in this instance has also created a dangerous situation with the far right now on the offensive. This is a reminder to us that if the left cannot provide an alternative, there are others, such as the far right, who are waiting in the wings to seize the opportunity to do so.

The left at an impasse

The situation facing the left today is grim: a smaller and diminishing organised base; a demobilised mass movement; and no prospects of any significant electoral support in the lead-up to the 2016 elections. The left, in its current position, is unable to advance an alternative in the face of the political crisis facing the Noynoy regime and the elite opposition. The left is at an impasse.

How can we break through this impasse is the key question. There are no obvious and easy solutions. It will require a tremendous amount of political will and collective effort. It will require a far-reaching renewal, a transformation, of the left. It will require the formation of a new left political centre.

This will involve ongoing discussion and an honest assessment of the problems we face. It will mean being prepared to get rid of formulaic ways of conducting political work and activity. It will require a completely non-sectarian political outlook. We need to re-learn and learn new ways of conducting political activity, new forms of campaigning and being prepared to test things out. We have to be able to reach out to newly radicalising forces and foster and encourage the growth of new movements.

This is a very different approach to raiding them when they emerge and carving them up between various left factions. We have to conduct intensive and sustained awareness raising and educational activities, different types of propaganda activities. We will have to make a big push back to the streets, real mobilisations of those beyond our own base and the NGO funder-driven stunts that pass for “mobilisations" of the left today.

Key elements of an alternative politics have to necessarily:

1. Challenge the control of the clans/dynasties/oligarchy over our political system and the dictates of economic neoliberalism.
2. Place the revival of mass struggles and the movements at the heart and centre, such that they can pose a serious challenge and become a counterweight to dynasty politics and economic neoliberalism, and
3. Actively use the electoral arena to propagate an alternative politics, so as to raise the issues, raise people's awareness and steer the political terrain in a progressive direction.

The broad organizational form of this new political centre could be a political-electoral coalition of the left and progressive forces.

There are theoretical and even ideological implications in relation to the socialist aims of our struggle, that we will need to discuss. How do we understand 21st century socialism in the Asian and regional context? How do we popularise socialist ideas in the Philippines today and win over a new generation to socialism? What are the transitional demands that orient an alternative politics towards socialism?

Some of the lessons of the most advanced struggles against neoliberalism and for political alternatives today, such as those in Latin America and Greece, based on new political forces and the renewal of the left, need to continue  to inspire and inform our political course.

[Reihana Mohideen is chairperson of Transform Asia and a Partido Lakas ng Masa (Party of the Labouring Masses)  National Council member.]

Notes

1. The "Napoles revelations" refers to a major exposure of corruption and plunder of government funds earmarked for development assistance in local communities (or the Priority Development Assistance Fund), which implicated the Philippine Congress, Senate and top government officials and departments. Janet Lim-Napoles, an operator of fake NGOs, was involved in facilitating the scam and was ultimately made the scapegoat by the political establishment for "master minding" the plunder of the funds.

2. The "Mamasapano debacle' was a "war on terror" operation carried out in the town of Mamasapano, in Mindanao, to eliminate two suspected terrorists wanted by the United States government. It was master minded by the US government with the knowledge and support of the Philippine president. It ended in a fiasco when the Special Action Force of the Philippine National Police illegally entered the territory of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (the most significant of the liberation forces struggling for self-determination in Mindanao), ensuing in a military encounter between the two groups and the death of more than 60 people, including 44 police officers, members of the MILF and civilians. The incident has severely undermined the peace process between the MILF and the government of the Philippines.

Comments

CPP influence

Posted on behalf of Andrew P.

Thanks for posting the article, IMO it's really good and fits in a context of rethinking and realignment on the Philippines left which had been weighted down with the baggage of one of the most Stalinist parties still extant.
Unfortunately the CPP has influence here in the US, being in the lead of a couple community (mostly student) groups. And there's a small but obnoxious group at CUNY of ultra-Maoists who hold up all "protracted peoples war" parties as models.

See the links within the statement in the Links article (and don't miss the author's own blog at http://socialistafeminista.blogspot.com.au/ ); see also sentro.org, and articles here:
 
 

And Sonny Melencio's book is a must read.

Finally below is a piece I posted on Facebook:
-----------------------

The ultra-Stalinist line and practice of some latter-day Maoists is unfortunately manifesting itself in a few places around the US -- mostly, fortunately, on campus and not in the workplace where they might do some real harm. Still, better to educate the youth misled by this dangerous nonsense before things go further.
 
Below are a few examples of the bankruptcy of one of their model parties, the Communist Party of the Philippines, all just from the last couple weeks. My comments are in brackets and/or bold-italics. Just bold is used to emphasize phrases in the original text.
1.
NPA seizes 74 weapons from Monkayo mayor armory
Apr. 17, 2015 JOHN RIZLE L. SALIGUMBA
The New People’s Army claimed it seized a total of 74 firearms and other war materiel during a raid of a town mayor’s mining compound Tuesday night in Monkayo, Compostela Valley.
Francisco said they “punished Mayor Brillantes for his overt participation in the commission of various crimes against the people in the furtherance of his economic and political interest in Monkayo.”
He said “several persons, including ordinary farmers and residents who enter his mining compound, were missing as they were suspected of being victims of extra-judicial killings perpetrated by Mayor Brillantes’ goons.”
Meanwhile, Francisco said that Brillantes’ workers “have not received wages for several months now, and have not been receiving social benefits, medical assistance and other forms of remuneration.”
He said the attack “should serve as a stern warning against other warlord-politicians who deviate from civilian functions and use militarism to advance mining interest and economic gain.”
[The obvious problem here is that self-appointed saviors are enacting vengeance for the Mayor’s crimes, and the workers, farmers and residents are passive observers.
[What’s more, are they implying that employers following “civilian functions” in their operations, i.e. the “normal” advancing of “mining interest” for “economic gain” is OK?]
 
2.
NDFP@42 continues to win over the Filipino people to the armed revolution
By Fr. SANTIAGO SALAS (Ka Sanny), Spokesperson, NDFP-Eastern Visayas 
At this moment in history when the Filipino people are striving to oust the US-Aquino regime [presumably they believe a non-US regime but one which is not yet socialist is possible], we are all the more happier today in celebrating the 42nd anniversary of the founding of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines. The NDFP is the alliance of the clandestine revolutionary organizations of the basic revolutionary forces. It is thus the most consolidated part of the national united front and advances the national-democratic revolution [standard Stalinist stagist concept] through the people’s war. The NDFP is always open to link up and work with those who may not be ready to join it but are against imperialism, feudalism and bureaucrat capitalism [a typical Maoist mischaracterization of the economy in order to let the “national bourgeoisie” off the hook.]
The US-Aquino regime is extremely isolated and vulnerable to ouster through a widescale and broad democratic mass movement. Since 2010, the Filipino people have suffered through the regime’s aggravation of the semifeudal and semicolonial [see previous point]crisis in implementing the neoliberal policies of the US. With Hacienda Luisita as the glaring example, the regime has also worsened poverty and social injustice by refusing to carry out genuine land reform and national industrialization.
… Aquino has brought the rotten, reactionary, bourgeois and anti-masses politics to new lows with the continuing exposures of patronage politics signified by the large-scale corruption of the pork barrel.
Removing Aquino [and replacing him with what? Yet another in a long string of such regimes?] will be beneficial to the people and a just punishment for the corrupt, brutal and fascist puppet president of US imperialism and the local exploiting classes of the big landlords and bourgeois compradors. It will throw the reactionary ruling system into further disarray while further strengthening the democratic and revolutionary struggles of the people until they can ultimately seize power.
The democratic forces and organizations are at the forefront, exercising their independence and initiative, while applying united front principles in relating with other forces and groups in the broad alliance of the people. [a united front, really? ALL forces? This would include other parties and their mass organizations? Not bloody likely given the CPP's history.]
As a matter of course, the armed revolutionary forces do not participate in the urban struggles of the broad united front of legal forces against the US-Aquino regime. But the Communist Party of the Philippines, New People’s Army, NDFP and the organs of democratic power will certainly intensify the armed struggle in the countryside to further weaken the US-Aquino regime and support the ouster movement. The armed revolutionary forces are eager to see the advances and victories of the broad united front against the US-Aquino regime and the establishment of a transition council towards a new Philippine government, which should arrest and punish Aquino and undertake basic reforms. [what is to be the class basis of such a council? Are they proposing a Constituent Assembly or (more likely) some self-appointed venue for joint governance with the capitalist politicians?]
The struggle to oust the US-Aquino regime will certainly also strengthen the NDFP and give new opportunities to convince many of the patriotic and progressive contents of its 12-point program. In Eastern Visayas, we shall strive to arouse, organize and mobilize as many of the peasants, workers, women, youth and students, church people and other democratic forces as possible for the people’s war [which as they carry it out is boilerplate Maoist surround the cities with peasant forces strategy]. We also call on the NDFP member-organizations in the region to reach out to the military, police and paramilitary elements to convince them of the justness of the revolutionary struggle, to dissuade them from being used against the anti-Aquino broad united front, and to invite them to the revolutionary fold. [And just how to do such convincing – by mobilizing the masses (including armed workers’ and peasants’ defense squads), or by a substitutionist, self-appointed army with no organic roots in workplaces, urban neighborhoods, or even in rural area in which the NPA decides all military matters?]
Let us salute the NDFP for its continuing revolutionary efforts to win the people to the Philippine revolution. Let us support and fight to advance the people’s war to the new and higher level of strategic stalemate in the coming years! [“Strategic stalemate”? A most curious phrase; suggestive of carrying on the war to a point at which negotiations are on offer – a favorite tactic of Stalinists from the original through Mao and Ho and now to the CPP; Sison has repeatedly been this route.]
3.
Finally another example of their substitutionist politics rooted in disdain for workers:
NPA rebels raid rubber plant, disarm guard in North Cotabato
Edwin Espejo
Published 9:59 PM, Apr 20, 2015
Guerrillas belonging to the communist-led New People’s Army (NPA) on Monday, April 20, raided a rubber processing plant in Makilala, North Cotabato and carted away the company guard’s M-16 rifle, several 2-way radios and a still undetermined number of handguns.
But 2 civilians were hurt when the rebels exploded a land mine that narrowly missed a police car with officers sent to investigate the attack.
In 2013, armed men belonging to the same rebel guerrilla front swooped down in the same village and totally burned down the Pacheco family-owned Standard Rubber Development Corp. (Standeco), one of the biggest buyers of rubber in Mindanao.
More than P150 million worth of property went up in smoke.
Ka Efren, spokesman of the National Democratic Front (NDF) in the Cotabato provinces, said they raided Standeco for alleged violation of workers' rights and for failure to pay revolutionary tax. [Yet in neither attack were the workers involved, consulted, mobilized. But that’s OK, because once again we see the CPP/NPA’s real goal:]
 
Only over the weekend, chief NDF political consultant Jose Maria Sison said the rebels are open to a longer ceasefire during a time-bound peace negotiations.
 

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