Philippines: Successful Asian regional conference discusses socialist strategy

Delegates and international participants. Photo by Macario Sakay.

By Partido Lakas ng Masa international desk

December 11, 2010 -- A successful "socialism conference" was held in Manila from November 27 to 28. The conference was organised by the socialist Partido Lakas ng Masa (PLM, Party of the Labouring Masses) and the socialist-feminist regional network, Transform Asia. The conference was attended by 100 delegates, leaders of the PLM from Metro Manila and other leading socialists of the Philippine left, as well as 13 international guests.

The international organisations represented were the Malaysian Socialist Party (PSM); People’s Democratic Party (PRD-Indonesia); Working People’s Association (PRP-Indonesia); Political Committee of the Poor-People’s Democratic Party (KPRM-PRD-Indonesia); Left Turn Thailand; Socialist Alliance (Australia); the Left Party (Sweden); the General Confederation of Nepalese Trade Unions (Gefont); the Vietnamese Union of Friendship Organisations; and the Centre for Environment and Community Asset Development (Vietnam).

Keynote speakers at the conference included the newly appointed Cuban ambassador to the Philippines, Juan Corrales. Greetings were also given by the representative of the Venezuelan embassy, Charge d’affaires Manuel Iturbe.

The aim of the conference was explained by the opening speaker Reihana Mohideen, chairperson of Transform Asia. “We need to go beyond anti-capitalism. We have no shortage of those criticising the horrors of capitalism today, including the capitalists themselves, such as George Soros and even former leaders of international finance institutions, such as Joseph Stiglitz… to NGOs, who are also critics of the system. [But] anti-capitalism is not enough today. We need to put forward alternatives to the capitalist system and we need to name these alternatives, as socialism. This is what this conference aims to do."

Conference highlights included panels and discussions on socialist strategy, the capitalist economic crisis and socialist alternatives to the environmental crisis. Sonny Melencio, chairperson of PLM, argued that “there’s no strategy for all seasons” and that strategy is “not something constant, fixed, once and for all”. “Strategy becomes a key question during historic turning points, when there is intensification in the class struggle and during political crises… [Otherwise] we face periods of protracted organising and the preparation of the forces of the working class.”

Melencio gave some examples of such historic turning points: “While Lenin did not use the term strategy, the question of strategy was posed in the 1905 and the 1917 Russian revolutions, when the capture of political power by the working class was resolved through insurrection… The second world war gave rise to national liberation movements and the strategy of Mao’s people's war or protracted people's war [emerged] in China… Gramsci put forward the idea of ‘war of positions and war of maneuvres’, which was in the context of the structure of the state in western countries.”

Melencio outlined the strategy pursued by PLM as a “combination of uprising or people's power action and electoral intervention”, also drawing from the lessons of the revolutions in Venezuela and Bolivia that involved insurrectionary uprisings and electoral victories.

Bui Ba Binh, from the Vietnam Union of Friendship Organisations, described the situation in Vietnam today under the "socialist-oriented market economy". He explained that the key features of this orientation was “to consider the market as a means to achieve social development objectives… to rationally use the market space… and to harmoniously link the market space with public, non-market, space in other fields.” According to Binh, the "socialist-oriented market economy" has brought about real positive changes in Vietnam.

The final plenary session included a discussion on socialist internationalism and the call made by Venezuela's president Hugo Chavez and the United Socialist Party of Venezuela for the formation of a Fifth Socialist International. Speaking on the proposal, Arul Arutchelvan, from the Socialist Party of Malaysia, explained the importance of the proposal. “Hugo Chavez and Venezuela have the moral authority to call for the Fifth International because of their commitment to building socialism in the 21st century. It’s also a non-sectarian position taken by Chavez. This is not a rigid [structure] it calls upon all left parties and anti-imperialist groupings to come together.”

The conference concluded with a performance by the PLM cultural group Teatro Pabrika and the singing of the "Internationale".

Philippines: Regional conference discusses socialist solutions

By Stuart Munckton, Manila

See also Philippines workers protest contract labour.

December 5, 2010 -- Green Left Weekly -- The successful 2010 Southeast Asia Socialism and Feminism conference was held at the University of the Philippines (UP) in Metro Manila over November 27 and 28.

The conference, organised on the theme of “Capitalist Crisis, Socialist Alternatives”, was organised by the Party of the Labouring Masses and the feminist group Transform Asia. It was attended by 100 PLM delegates from Metro Manila, as well as representatives from other organisations.

Many of the PLM delegates were workers and leaders of various unions or other mass organisations. There were delegates from the BISIG trade union representing workers at the Goldilocks cake and food company.

Goldilocks workers staged a heroic strike in March against the company’s attempt to smash the union by sacking 127 of its members as a prelude to replacing permanent workers with outsourced contract labour. Striking Goldilocks’ workers defied management-organised violence against pickets lines to win their demands — electrifying the Philippine labour movement in a context where it has been badly battered by the effects of globilisation.

Leaders of the Solidarity of Filipino Workers (BMP), which is heavily involved in the campaign against the growing use by bosses of outsourced contract labour, also took part. BMP president Leody de Guzman spoke on a panel on the role of the working class in the struggle for socialism.

A former UP student president addressed the conference on the struggle of university students against the government’s cuts to the education budget. Across the campus, flyers advertised the December 1 student strike strike against the cuts, and the walls of the campus’ cooperative shopping centre were sprayed with anti-cuts graffiti.

Other delegates came from organisations of the urban poor and women. Representatives of campaign groups such as the Freedom from Debt Coalition and the Institute for Climate and Sustainable Cities also spoke.

The conferences was attended by 13 international guests. Representatives came from the Malaysian Socialist Party (PSM); People’s Democratic Party (PRD-Indonesia); Working People’s Association (PRP-Indonesia); Political Committee of the Poor-People’s Democratic Party (KPRM-PRD-Indonesia); Left Turn Thailand; Socialist Alliance (Australia); the Left Party (Sweden); the General Confederation of Nepalese Trade Unions (Gefant); the Vietnamese Union of Friendship Organisations; and the Centre for Environment and Community Asset Development (Vietnam).

The newly appointed Cuban ambassador Juan Carlos Avencibia Corrales and the Venezuelan charge d’affairs Manolo Iturbe spoke to the conference about the revolution in their countries.

Topics discussed included the capitalist crisis and war drive; the environmental crisis and socialist solutions; the struggle of women for liberation; a socialist strategies; and international solidarity and Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez’s call for a Fifth Socialist International.

[Stuart Munckton represented the Socialist Alliance at the conference. He is co-editor of Green Left Weekly, Australia's leading socialist newspaper.]