IS THERE A PEASANT MOVEMENT IN THE PHILIPPINES?

First and foremost, is there a peasant class nowadays in the Philippines? In answer to such provocative question, let us go back to Mark and Lenin in their definition/characterization of Feudalism:

(1) The direct producer is possession of means of production necessary for his/her subsistence;

(2) The predominance of self-sufficient natural economy;

(3) The peasantry tied to the soil as its accessory, their personal dependence to the landlord class, i.e., feudal bondage in its real sense.

With the above requisites presented by Marx and Lenin, we will now compare and contrast the actual and concrete condition of the Philippine society.

Capitalism is characterized by:

(1) The direct producer is expropriated and deprived of the possession of his/her means of production. According to Lenin, the methods of obtaining the surplus product under feudalism and under capitalist economy are diametrically opposed: “the former is based on the producer being provided with land, the latter on the producer being disposed of the land”;

(2) Self-sufficient natural economy is eroded, dissolved and replaced by commodity, cash, and market economy. According to Lenin: “The production of grain by the landlords for sale, which developed particularly in the latter period of the existence of serfdom, was already a harbinger of the collapse of the old regime”;

(3) Surplus-labor is appropriated through economic mechanisms, through the exchange of equivalents but resulting in surplus-value. According to Lenin, in elaborating Marx’s “order than economic pressure” description of feudal appropriation: “If the landlord had not possessed direct power over the person of the peasant, he could not compel a man who had a plot of land and ran his own farm to work for him”;

(4) The “peasantry” is liberated from the soil, transformed a “free man”, and becomes a proletariat. According to Lenin, “the separation of the direct producer from the means of production, i.e., his expropriation” signifies the transition from simple commodity production to capitalist production.

In addition, Lenin stated that the socialization of labor by capitalism is manifested in the following processes:

(1) The growth of commodity production destroys the scattered condition of small economic units’ characteristic of natural economy and draws together the small local markets into an enormous market;

(2) Capitalism replaces the former scattered production by an unprecedented concentration both in agriculture and industry;

(3) Capitalism eliminates the forms of personal dependence that constituted an inalienable component of proceeding systems of economy;

(4) Capitalism necessarily creates mobility of the population, something not required by previous social economy and impossible under them on a large scale;

(5) Capitalism constantly reduces the proportion of its population engaged in agriculture and increases the number of large scale industrial centers;

(6) Capitalist society increases the population’s need for association, for organization, and lend these organizations a character distinct from those of former times.

Two Types of Capitalist Development in Agriculture: Prussian and American Paths of Capitalist Development (Lenin, Collected Works).

Some countries transformed from feudalism to capitalism through peasants’ revolution or American Path while others transformed through a “peaceful economic evolution” or Prussian Path.  But what are Prussian Path and American Path?

Prussian Path

The feudal transformation to capitalism by having big landlord economies at the head, which will gradually become more and more bourgeois and gradually substitute bourgeois for feudal forms of exploitation.  In this case, feudal landlord economy slowly evolves into bourgeois, Junker landlord economy.

This was possible due to the following factors:

= The emergence and development of commodity economy, which simultaneously eroded the foundation of feudal mode of production

= The social division of labor is rapidly expanding

= Intensified contradiction between the old relations of production (feudal relations) and developed productive forces (representing the new mode of production) which the former fetters the further development of the latter

= Contradiction between the old and new forces and relations of production

= There are widespread peasants’ uprisings led by the bourgeoisie

A struggle went on between the landlords and the peasants over the method of carrying out the reforms.  Both stood for conditions of bourgeois economic development, (without being aware of it). (Lenin)

American Path

The feudal transformation to capitalism through peasants’ uprising (bourgeois revolution) is called the American path of development to capitalism.  In this case, there is no landlord economy, or else it is broken up by revolution, which confiscates and splits up the feudal estates.  In this case, the peasant dominates, becomes the sole agent of agriculture, and evolves into the capitalist farmer.  The main content is the transformation of the patriarchal peasant into a bourgeois farmer.  (Lenin)

The Philippine agriculture has evolved from feudal to capitalist through a “Junker type” of development. In the first case feudal landlord economy slowly evolves into bourgeois, Junker landlord economy, which condemns the peasants to decades of most harrowing expropriation and bondage, while at the same time a small minority of “big peasants” arises. In the second case there is no landlord economy, or else it is broken up by revolution, which confiscates and splits up the feudal estates. In that case the peasant predominates, becomes the sole agent of agriculture, and evolves into a capitalist farmer. In the first case the main content of the evolution is transformation of feudal bondage into servitude and capitalist exploitation on the land of the feudal landlords—Junkers. The feudal transformation to capitalism by having big landlord economies at the head, which will gradually become more and more bourgeois and gradually substitute bourgeois for feudal exploitation.  In this case feudal landlord economy slowly evolves into bourgeois, Junker landlord economy.

This was possible due to the following factors:

Þ    The emergence and development of commodity economy, which simultaneously eroded the foundation of feudal mode of production.

Þ    The social division of labor is rapidly expanding.

Þ    Intensified contradiction between the old relations of production (feudal relations) and developed productive forces (representing the new mode of production) which the former fetters the further development of the latter.

Þ    Contradiction between the old and new forces and relations of production.

Þ    There are widespread peasants’ uprisings led by the bourgeoisie.

A struggle went on between the landlords and the peasants over the method of carrying out the reforms.  Both stood for conditions of bourgeois economic development (without being aware of it). (Lenin)

Let us then take a brief look to our Philippine society. The commercial activity of the Chinese and English was the very seed of capitalism in the womb of feudal system in the Philippines. The opening of the Port of Manila and later on the Suez Canal which facilitated a much faster global trade, and signaled the country’s integration into the global market and European Capitalism. Such integration led to the transformation of the encomienda system into the hacienda and plantation system producing such crops as sugar, coconut, abaca, tobacco and indigo for export. This then gave birth to the regionalization of agriculture in line with the export crop and even in the production of rice. Philippine agriculture, even before the coming of American in the Philippines started to become and today has totally become a commodity-producing branch of the economy, a distinct industry, a highly commercialized, commodity-producing industry integrated with the total economy.

The “peasant” produces not for his own self but for the market and has become totally reliant on the market. The industrial centers provide the means of production and the means of consumption of the agricultural sector while the latter provides the raw materials needed by industry and the agricultural consumable products needed by the towns and urban areas. The rice farmers produce primarily and almost exclusively for the market, and even buys the grain their family consumes from the market. In Central Luzon for example and other densely-populated and highly commercialized provinces, even the firewood that the “peasants need must be procured from the market. The vegetables farmers grow have become so very specialized than their other requirements needed for subsistence they must now be bought from the market.

Our second point- the growth of the urban, industrial population:

The growth of the social division of labor and the supremacy of commodity economy in the entire society inevitably leads to our second point-the growth of the urban, industrial population at the expense of the rural, agricultural population. The past three decades saw the continuous separation of an ever-growing part of the population from agriculture. This is the law governing all developing commodity economies, and more so, capitalist economies. Today, more than 40% of the entire population has migrated in the urban areas, and this does not include those in what the government classifies as “economic zones.” This is due to the hardship of the “peasantry” and their separation from the means of production due to the growth of commodity economy that created the compelling economic, material conditions for their migration (movement) from the countryside to the cities. This could mean the break-up of feudal natural economy as a mode of production and the emergence of a capitalist commodity economy gaining complete sway and universal prevalence though hampered and aggravated by feudal vestiges and imperialist dictations.

The ever-growing increase in the commercial and industrial population at the expense of the agricultural population is unimaginable under a feudal mode of production, and conceivable only under capitalist economic system.

According to Lenin: “the formation of industrial centers, their numerical growth, and the attraction of the population by them cannot but exert a most profound influence on the whole rural system, and cannot but give rise to a growth of commercial and capitalist agriculture.”

The most decisive and most devastating impact in agriculture of this growth, the deepening of the social division of labor, of this prevalence of commodity economy, and the formation and numerical growth of industry and commercial centers is the ruin of the small producers in the countryside –the ruin peasantry as a class.

Our third point: the differentiation of the peasantry as a class and the growing proletarianisation of the working people in the countryside.

The Filipino “peasant” is completely subordinated to the market, on which he is dependent as regards both his personal and consumption and his farming. Inherent in every commodity economy are all those contradictions that are now manifesting in the socio-economic relations among the peasantry: competition, the struggle for economic independence, the purchase and renting of land, the concentration of production in the hands of a minority, the forcing of the majority into the ranks of the proletariat, their exploitation by a minority through the medium of merchant’s capital and the hiring of farm laborers, the technical progress of farming.

Lenin said: “The sum-total of all the economic contradictions among the peasantry constitutes what we call the differentiation of the peasantry. The peasants themselves very aptly and strikingly characterize this process with term ‘depeasantising’.  This process signifies the utter dissolution of the old, patriarchal peasantry and the creation of new types of rural inhabitants.”

Who are these new types of rural inhabitants? They are the rural bourgeoisie, the rural petty bourgeoisie, the proletarians and the semi-proletarians whom we commonly call the rich peasants, middle peasants, the poor peasants and the farm workers. These are social forces no longer belonging to the old feudal mode and epoch but existing and operating under a new mode of production.

The differentiation and disintegration of the peasantry is an important factor in the process of the formation of agricultural capitalism and this can be affirmed even by a purely theoretical analysis of this process as Marx did, according to Lenin, in Vol. III of capital, chapter 47 (“Genesis of Capitalist Ground Rent”).

According to Lenin: “The differentiation of the peasantry, which develops the latter’s extreme groups at the expense of the middle ‘peasant,’ creates two new types of rural inhabitants. The feature common to both types is the commodity, money character of their economy. The first new type is the rural bourgeoisie or the well-to-do peasant. These include the independent farmers who carry on commercial agriculture in all its varied forms…, then comes the owners of commercial and industrial establishments, the proprietors of commercial enterprises, etc…The other new type is the rural proletariats, the class of allotment-holding wage-workers. This covers the poor peasants, including those that are the allotment-holding farm laborer, day laborer, building worker of other allotment-holding worker.”

We acknowledged the fact that feudal remnants (i.e., landlordism and tenancy) are still in the Philippine countryside. But this is one side of the coin. The other side is the continuous development of capitalism in Philippine agriculture in varied forms and scale, despite the survivals of feudalism. They are survivals of feudalism expropriated by capital to further intensify the exploitation of the working people.

Lenin said: “The relics of medieval, semi-feudal institutions…are such an oppressive yoke upon the proletariat and the people…And he further declared: “Undoubtedly, they must definitely be abolished- and the quicker and more radically, the better- in order, by ridding bourgeois society of its inherited semi-feudal fetters, to untie the hands of the working class, to facilitate the struggle against the bourgeoisie.”

Marx explained in the Communist Manifesto, “Of all the classes that stand face to face with the bourgeoisie today, the proletariat alone is a really revolutionary class. The other classes decay and finally disappear in the face of modern industry; the proletariat is its special and essential product. The lower middle class, the small manufacturer, the shopkeeper, the artisan, the peasant, all these fight against the bourgeoisie to save from extinction their existence as fractions of the middle class. They are therefore not revolutionary, but conservative. Nay more, they are reactionary, for they try to roll back the wheel of history. If by chance they are revolutionary, they are so only in view of their impending transfer into the proletariat, they thus defend their present, but their future interests, they desert their own standpoint to place themselves at that of the proletariat.”

The second question, is there a socialist led peasant movement in the Philippines as defined by Lenin? According to Lenin (Collected Works, On Land Question and the Fight for Freedom, Vol. 10; The Proletariat and the Peasantry, vol. 10). A socialist led peasant movement must be directed towards the abolition of landed estates (landlords, the state, the church, the monasteries, and the imperial family), including confiscation of all privately- owned estates. It has no business in putting up with any partial concessions and handout; it means reckoning not on a compromise between the peasantry and the landlords. It means no matter how this compensation for land is arranged, no matter how “fair” a price may be fixed for the land, no matter what regulations may be drawn up on paper providing for purchase the land will in practice remain inevitably in the hands of those who are able to pay for it, hence the compensation scheme will strengthen the rich peasants at the expense of the poor. The compensation scheme is bait held out to the more prosperous section of the peasantry. Paying compensation for the land means paying ransom to be freed from the struggle for freedom; it means bribing a section of the fighters for freedom to desert to the enemies of freedom.

Even though the so-called “peasant movement” will call for universal and equalized land tenure and even equal use of the land, still it is impossible so long as the rule of money, the rule of capital exists. No laws on earth can abolish inequality and exploitation so long as production for market continues and so long as there is the rule of money and the power of capital.

The overthrow of the power of the landlord and the bureaucrats will not abolished exploitation. Complete abolition of private landownership too will not do away either the rule of capital or with the poverty of the masses. Even on land belonging to the whole nation, only those with capital of their own, only those who have the implements, live stock, machines, stocks of seed, money in general, etc., will be able to farm independently. As for those who have nothing but their hands to work with, they will inevitably remain slaves of capital even in a democratic republic, even when the land belonging to the whole nation. The idea that “socialization” of land can be effected without socialization of capital, the idea that equalized land tenure is possible while capital and commodity economy exist, is a big delusion.

Exploitation can be completely abolished only when all the land, factories and tools are transferred to the working class, and when large-scale socialized and planned production is organized (socialism). The fight for socialism is a fight against the rule of capital.

The above explanation taken from Lenin, the so-called “peasant movement in the Philippines” (granting it exist just for the sake of argument without admitting) is a futile cause with hopeless end. To add salt to injury, the so-called “peasant movement in the Philippines” has turned to be the milking cow of some few left opportunists. This is a sad reality that cannot be denied by an honest political analyst.

What happened then to those who were given land under agrarian reform program of the government? In the book The Political Economy of Permanent Crisis in the Philippines by Walden Bello, he made mentioned that land conversion is continuously being done. The so-called development projects like housing units, golf courses, and resorts encroach on farmlands. Between 1987 to 1998, 67,466 hectares of agricultural lands had been legally approved for conversion or a conversion average of 6,133.242 hectares annually. Around 52% of the total number of cases had been approved under the Department of Justice Opinion 44, which allowed for the exemption (and legal conversion) of reclassified lands from CARP. Moreover, these figures do not reflect illegal land conversion rates. Several illegal land conversion cases had been brought to the attention of DAR. Even more alarming was Morales’s own admission that some DAR officials actually facilitated these conversions. Zamora, Estrada’s executive secretary, had ruled in favor of converting agricultural land. Zamora approved the conversion of 53 hectares of prime agricultural land in Rizal into a golf course. He also turned the 108 hectare Hacienda Sapang Palay in Bulacan into industrial estates despite reports that the land was well irrigated and highly productive. The issuance of Administrative Order in 1999 only made matters worst which allowed the departments of agriculture, trade and industry, and tourism, as well as local government units (LGUs) to identify certain sites for commercial and industrial use. It was a pretext for land conversion.

As of 2008 report, only 4 million hectares are left out of 9 million hectares due to continues land conversion from agricultural into commercial and in effect rice shortage. Farm workers are also force to sell their lands because they cannot afford the high cost of production (domination of commodity economy in agriculture).

Also, Walden Bello made mentioned about the “Bigay-Bawi” (give and then take it back) which had become such a common practice. In 1998 the DAR confiscation figure had reached 20,000 Certificate of Land Transfer (CLTs), 2,500 emancipation patents (EPs) and affecting 25,000 farmers. The figures does not included those “bigay-bawi” not reported to DAR.

According to the Department of Agrarian Reform’s (DAR) own Agrarian Reform Community (ARC) level of development assessment (2000): “Over 80% of agrarian reform communities have average household incomes below the poverty line, and for rice, corn, and coconut, and over 80% have productivity levels below the national average” (Walden Bello, The Political Economy of Permanent Crisis in the Phils., p. 81)

According to Ed Quitoriano (Researcher and Executive Director of Guava Dynamics, Inc) in his email conversation with Walden Bello: “CARP beneficiaries cannot show proof that they are better than the majority of poor in this country” (Walden Bello, p.81)

According to Ka-Ronie (former member of Armed Unit Propaganda of CPP-NPA-Negros and former Secretary of Bacolod Provincial Party Committee): “My experienced in Negros told me that majority of those who benefited from land distributions under CARP were and are losing their lands due to lack of capital, in fact, you cannot see them now owning the land. The farm inputs needed in production are commercialized (high cost of production); the lack of tools (carabao or machineries) in production and the daily need for survival is more important than anything else pushed the CARP beneficiaries to sell their lands.

The DAR claims that farmers in the Agrarian Reform Communities (ARC) earn a monthly average of P1, 736.25. However, farmers still have to pay for high costs of production. They are forced to borrow money from lenders who charge high interest rates soaring to a maximum of 18% per semester. They still have to pay irrigation fees ranging from P600 to P1, 500 per hectare and pay for amortization dues of their land. The DAR offers other so-called market-oriented schemes (capitalist-oriented) such as voluntary offer to sell, voluntary land transfer and leaseback arrangements. These capitalist schemes reduce CARP to real estate transactions in which the government, through the DAR, serves as the agent, and through the Landbank, as the financier. The landowners serve as the seller while the poor farmers play as the buyers. ARCs are export-oriented. They intensify contract growing and other similar arrangements in agricultural production. Once they are formed, the DAR opens them to foreign and local agribusiness interests using these arrangements, i.e., contract-growing, joint venture arrangements, and lease arrangements. In fact, through the ARCs, landowners are assured of reconcentrated landholdings and high returns on real estate values. Like the TNCs, they are able to expand their business by riding high on government’s export promotion strategy. On the end, the farmers lose from these arrangements.  The agrarian program of the government from Magsaysay regime to the present, it all designed to further intensify capitalist development in agriculture and to appease rebellion. The agrarian program of the government was more on political rather than addressing the economic problem of the masses.

In 2006, the agricultural sector contributed only a little (18.70%) to our Gross National Product (GNP) and registered a 3.85% growth. In fact, the so-called “peasant movement” in the Philippines is nowhere to be found; their class is continuously decaying and disappearing as this was already explained by Marx.

The issue at hand is not the “peasant movement” whose significance in the Philippines has already become a bygone due to the capitalist development in agriculture but the working class (proletariat) – the only liberating class in human history of class struggle and their fight against capitalism and the overthrow of bourgeois state as their immediate task onward the building of socialism as their ultimate aim.

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