Bolivarian Revolution inspires Philippines revolutionaries

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PLM members.

By Sonny Melencio

April 15, 2013 – Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- The legacy of Venezuela’s late president Hugo Chavez has been overwhelming for revolutionary socialist organisations all over the world. In the Philippines, the Bolivarian Revolution led by Commandante Chavez inspired us in building a new political party that partakes of lessons and experiences that renews and revitalises socialism in the 21st century.

The Partido Lakas ng Masa (PLM or Party of the Labouring Masses) was built (or, precisely, rebuilt by various political parties and activist groups in the Philippines) in 2009. The concept paper that outlined the formation of the party examined the Venezuelan experience, the Bolivarian Revolution and the ideas of Socialism in the 21st century and made them the guiding light in our conduct of revolutionary struggle.

The main idea in building the PLM was to establish a political instrument that engages in mobilising the masses at the grassroots level, during revolutionary struggle and in periods of electoral intervention. This type of party building rejects the old Stalinist model of monolithic party formation and the dogmatic methods of waging revolution. The initial forces that formed the PLM had largely been of the Maoist tradition, so they had gone through a strategy that dogmatised the concept of protracted people’s war.

The Bolivarian Revolution in Venezuela opened up the possibility of other forms and methods of waging revolutionary struggle as long as they involve massive popular mobilisation and forms of struggle that promote the democratic participation of the masses. The Bolivarian Revolution showcased for us a restatement of the classic revolutionary idea that the emancipation of the working class has to be undertaken by the working class themselves.

From out of the experiences of the Bolivarian Revolution that started in Venezuela and swept through many countries in Latin America, Hugo Chavez conceptualised the new ideas of socialism in the 21st century. The new methods of socialist struggle reject the ultra-left method of pontificating to the masses a single absolute way of conducting the revolution, for instance, the protracted people’s war strategy in the Philippines.

Experience has shown us instead that the revolution advances by taking hold of the given situation of the masses, and from there providing them the necessary experience to advance step by step towards capture of political power. This means that in a situation of political impasse, where the revolutionary forces cannot capture state power at one go, and the reactionary forces cannot annihilate the forces of the revolution, other traditional forms of struggle such as elections become an important point in continuing and extending the march of the revolution. The Venezuelan and Bolivarian experience has both attested to this.

Socialism in the 21st century enhances the grassroots character of the revolution by ensuring the participation of all in the endeavour to change the system. The Latin American experience shows us that the revolution may not proceed in one grand sweep of cataclysmic proportions, like in the 1917 Russian model, but it develops through the combination of mass struggle and mass mobilisation (with popular uprising at its apex) and traditional avenues of struggle such as elections.

The PLM’s revolutionary strategy has been inspired by the Venezuelan and Latin American experiences. In this year’s elections in the Philippines, the PLM has called for transforming the electoral intervention into a mass struggle, especially in the barangay (barrio-level) elections slated for October 2013. It means calling on all its leaders and members to participate in the village elections by running as candidates or by forming electoral alliances at the barangay level. In the absence of an insurrectionary situation, this strategy will allow the PLM to develop as a political party that can contest the bourgeois electoral exercises through grassroots mass mobilisations and struggles.

Socialism in the 21st century also provides us a new revitalised concept of socialism, one that takes mass mobilisation and mass participation in the building of the rudiments of socialism as a main element. This is not socialism that is merely state directed, but socialism with popular participation and pursued under the mechanism of participatory democracy. Socialism in the 21st century has its main component the provision of extensive social welfare services for the people, something that puts it in direct opposition and as a clear alternative to neoliberalism that characterises decaying capitalism today.

The PLM’s platform of government, which explains in detail the program of government that the PLM intends to pursue upon taking power, is inspired by the ideas of socialism in the 21st century, the Venezuelan constitution and the Venezuelan government program. Owing to the still undeveloped level of political struggle in the Philippines, the PLM platform is, however, transitional in character and focuses on the immediate economic and political reforms that the PLM intends to pursue once it wins representation in government.

Socialism in the 21st century also fuses the different aspects of national and social struggles that encompass today’s revolution – the struggle for sovereignty and independence, the feminist struggle, the ecological struggle, the LGBTI struggle, and others. The PLM recognises this by incorporating all these struggles as necessary aspects of the struggle for a new system, for socialism.

The Bolivarian Revolution under Commandante Chavez also showed us the need of attracting and mobilising the ranks of the “reactionary” army to serve the masses and change the system. This new orientation on dealing with the rank-and-file soldiers, and even with the middle-level officers, allowed the PLM to reach out and make contact with the radicalising layer of the military during the political crisis in 2009, when the “military rebels” called for the ouster of then president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and the establishment of a transitional revolutionary government (TRG) that would include the left forces. Although the military rebellion and the TRG failed to take off, the life of Commandante Chavez and the Bolivarian experience became an inspiration to the military rebels. The PLM assisted this by distributing reading material and conducting education sessions among some leaders of the military rebels.

We, from the PLM, also understand that Commandante Chavez’ advocacy of socialism in the 21st century includes the formation of a new International (the Fifth International) that will ensure the advance of socialist cause in various parts of the world, and the assistance of socialists everywhere to the struggles of the masses for sovereignty, social justice, peace and preservation of the planet. While its formation has been shelved for various reasons, including the increased threats and intervention of foreign imperialist powers against Hugo Chavez and the Venezuelan government, the consolidation of the Bolivarian Revolution and the advance of socialism in the 21st century continues in Latin America. The successes of socialist-led governments in Venezuela, Bolivia and Ecuador – and the persistence of socialist construction in Cuba – attest to the forward march of history.

The passing away of Commandante Chavez is surely a big blow to the advance of socialism in the 21st century. But the lessons he imparted have already inspired multitudes of socialists everywhere. His greatest legacy will be borne out by this new generation of socialists that adhere to the liberating concept of socialism in the 21st century.