The 1987 Philippine Constitution provides that sovereignty resides upon the people and it is the WELFARE of the people as the center of governance. This is the essence of genuine democracy. BUT look at what is CONTINUALLY (systemic) happening in Philippine system of governance:
Research group IBON calls the proposed 2011 National Government (NG) budget submitted to Congress an austerity budget to be able to keep repaying debt, adding that the proposed budget is not consistent with long-term economic and social development.
The PhP1.645-trillion National Government budget for 2011 is a PhP104.4-billion or 6.8%-increase from the proposed budget for 2010. However most of this increase is accounted for by the large PhP80.9 billion increase in interest payments on debt to PhP357.1 billion. This is the largest absolute increase in interest payments in the country’s history and, at a 29.2% increase from the year before, is the second largest percentage increase after the 32.6% growth in 2000. The government is proposing to pay for this by retreating from its responsibilities in key areas.
IBON noted that there is a large drop in the budget for economic services which falls by 9.5% from PhP398.9 billion in 2010 to PhP361.1 billion in 2011. The budget contractions are particularly large in the sectors of: agriculture and agrarian reform (falling by PhP23.1 billion or 26.0%), communication, roads and other transportation (PhP7.9 billion or 5.2%), water resources development and flood control (PhP4 billion or 21.4%), and power and energy (PhP3.4 billion or 65.5%). This alarmingly creates the justification for the further privatization of critical public infrastructure, even as diminishing government engagement undermines its capacity to regulate.
In social services, the already insufficient health budget falls even further by 3.5% from PhP40 billion to PhP38.6 billion. Government is not even able to approach the same level of real per capita health spending that reached its peak in 1997. The budget for housing meanwhile is barely changed with only a weak PhP273-million increase in its budget to PhP5.7 billion. There is however a welcome PhP31.1-billion or 12.9%-increase in the education budget which supposedly goes to building much-needed new classrooms and hiring of additional teachers.
Yet despite austerity the government still finds the funds to wage war – the budget of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), which has been accused of serious human rights violations, increases by PhP10 billion or 17.9% to PhP65.8 billion in 2011. It is also possible that part of the likewise large PhP6.6-billion or 13.2%-increase in the budget for the Philippine National Police (PNP) goes to its forces engaged in counter-insurgency.
The government has used its fiscal crisis – invoking revenue constraint – as an excuse to shirk its larger responsibilities to use the national budget, among other policy tools, to direct the country’s social and economic development. Yet it is possible for it to begin putting in place a progressive revenue system that taxes those with the greatest ability to pay and direct spending to those most in need. In the absence of this, its debt will continue to rise and its budgets will fail to meet the people’s real immediate and long-term needs.
State Universities and Colleges will Experience Drastic Cuts
State universities and colleges (SUCs) will experience drastic cuts in their budget if Congress approves the Aquino government’s 2011 budget proposal. In the budget proposal submitted by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) to Congress last August 25, the combined budget for 112 SUCs is cut by 1.7% from P23.8 billion in 2010 to only P23.4 billion this year.
Among those with the biggest budget cuts are University of the Philippines (-P1.39 billion or 20.11%), Philippine Normal University (-P91.35 million or 23.59%), Bicol University (-P88.81 million or 18.82%), University of Southeastern Philippines (-P44.39 million or 20.03%), Central Bicol State University of Agriculture (-P31.65 million or 15.91%). Huge cuts are proposed in the budget for maintenance and other operating expenses (MOOE) of all but 15 SUCs, some by more than 50%. The combined total operations budget for SUCs will be cut by P1.1 billion, or by 28.16%.
These education budget cuts will surely lead to further increases in tuition and other fees in state-run schools, a trend that has intensified in the past years under the past administration. In 2006, UP hiked its tuition fees by 300%, pegging its tuition rate at more than P40,000 per year per student, even higher than tuition rates of some big private schools. This signaled increase in fee rates in other state universities in the country. Last March, a plan to increase the tuition in Polytechnic University of the Philippines (PUP) by 2000% was met and was successfully blocked by mass student protests.
As it is, obtaining a college diploma is already an impossibity to many poor Filipinos, with only 14% of those who enter elementary being able to finish college. 40% of college students are studying in SUCs; this percentage is growing as many are not able to afford the skyrocketing tuition rates in private schools.
It should be noted that budget cuts as huge as these are historically unprecedented. No other president has cut the operations budget of state schools as much. The planned budget cuts this year send a clear message that the Aquino administration intends to continue the policy to further commercialize education and abandon government responsibility in funding SUCs. This is as Aquino claims that his 2011 budget is anchored on “reform” and is “biased to the poor and vulnerable.” Aquino offered no apologies for the budget cuts even as this policy is contrary to what the constitution sets as government’s responsibility to provide accessible and quality education at all levels. In his budget message, he even indicated that there is more to come, as his government aims “gradually reduce subsidy to SUCs” to “push them toward becoming self-sufficient and financially independent.”
“Increasing” DepEd’s budget
The Aquino spinsters claim that the 2011 budget is an “education budget” as it prioritizes the Department of Education (DepEd). In the proposal, the agency received a 18% budget increase from 175 billion pesos to 207 billion. This budget, however, is around P300 billion short of the UN recommended education budget equivalent to 6% of the GDP.
The budget increase for this year will also not be enough to address the shortages in facilities and stop the deteriorating condition of our schools. The government aims to acquire only 18,000 new classrooms out of the 152,000 needed, 10,000 new teachers out of 103,599 shortage, and only 32 million new textbooks out of 95 million shortage.
It should be considered that the increase in the budget is intended to fund the widely opposed plan to add two more years to basic education. According to initial pronouncements, gov’t plans to add P100 billion in 5 years, P20 billion every year. This means that whatever shortages the additional budget will cover will be offset once the government starts adding years to education.
On the other hand, the budget for debt servicing gets a boost. According to Ibon, the government proposal contained the largest absolute increase in interest payments in the country’s history, adding P80.9 billion to the budget in interest payments making it P357.1 billion. Including principal amortization (which is not included formally in the budget), total debt payments amount to P823.7 billion.
Ibon also notes the increase in war budget despite calls for austerity. The Department of National Defense (DND) also gets an increase from P96.2 billion to P104.7 billion. Budget for the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), despite cases of human rights violations, will increase by P10 billion. The P6.6 billion increase in budget of the Philippine National Police (PNP) will also most likely be channeled to counter insurgency.
Despite the Aquino gov’t promise to curb corruption, Ibon also notes increases in patronage and corruption-prone funds such as the pork barrel, which increased from Php10.9 billion in 2010 to Php24.8 billion, dole-out funds which was alloted Php29.2-billion, and lump-sum funds for “Public-Private Partnership Support.”
The fight is on
The education budget cuts will surely anger the students, teachers, school administrators and parents. The Aquino government’s plan to further deny the people and youth of their right to education will be met by protests, mass actions and school walk-outs.
Hundreds of youth groups are now gearing-up for a nationwide walk-out this month. Protest activities and mass campaigns are being launched in schools nationwide. Student leaders are set to troop to Congress and Senate to pressure representatives to reject the proposed budget cuts.
A major battle between the youth and students and the Aquino administration is looming.
A POLITICAL think thank hits President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III for not prioritizing social and economic welfare programs in the proposed P1.645-trillion budget for 2011. IBON Foundation noted that the Aquino administration has backpedalled in its promise in providing basic social services by setting aside P357.1 billion for interest payments alone. IBON said that even if the budget was increased by 6.8 percent from last year’s P1.541 trillion, the government’s plan to increase allocation for interest payment defeated the purpose in addressing gaps in social services for the poor. “This is the largest absolute increase in interest payments in the country’s history and, at a 29.2 percent increase from the year before, is the second largest percentage increase after the 32.6 percent growth in 2000,” it said. The group noticed the budget cuts in the following sectors: agriculture and agrarian reform (falling by P23.1 billion or 26 percent), communication, roads and other transportation (P7.9 billion or 5.2 percent), water resources development and flood control (P4 billion or 21.4 percent), and power and energy (P3.4 billion or 65.5 percent).
IBON also noted a 3.5 percent decrease in the budget for health, from this year’s P40 billion to P38.6 billion. The government however countered that the proposed allocation gives P2.5 billion for expanded immunization program, P5.7 billion for maternal and child-care facilities and P1.5 billion for potable water supply in waterless communities. “This creates the justification for the further privatization of critical public infrastructure, even as diminishing government engagement undermines its capacity to regulate,” IBON said. Earlier, the Department of Finance (DOF) sets P322.2 billion for capital outlay, or 3.6 percent of gross domestic product, for 2011 as compared to this year’s P318.2 billion or 3.8 percent. Infrastructure spending was set at P249.7 billion, or 2.8 percent of GDP for 2011, from this year’s P247.8 billion or 3 percent of GDP.
Meantime, the group welcomed the P31.1-billion or 12.9 percent increase in the education budget, which the government said will be used for the construction of new school buildings, purchase some 32.3 million textbooks, hiring of 10,000 teachers, scholarship programs, among others.
The 2011 budget allocated P206.3 billion for basic education from this year’s P172.9 billion, which the National Union of Students of the Philippines (NUSP) said is P100 billion short of what is needed to address the current problems.
With this, IBON urged the government to put in place a “progressive revenue system” that taxes the rich and direct spending to the poor. “In the absence of this, its debt will continue to rise and its budgets will fail to meet the people’s real immediate and long-term needs,” the think thank said. The Aquino administration targets a lower budget deficit on 2011 at P290 billion or 3.2 percent of GDP from the projected P325 billion this year as it pointed out the plugging of tax leaks and revenues from public-private partnerships as ways to rein in the deficit.
In his first State of the Nation Address (SONA), President Benigno Aquino III used the various cases of misuse of public funds by the Arroyo administration as a pretext to promote the so-called Public-Private Partnerships or PPPs. According to Aquino, PPPs will address the lack of resources due to a depleted government budget for the country’s many needs. Incidentally, PPPs were among the legacies of the first Aquino administration. It was during the term of Noynoy’s mother, the late President Cory Aquino, that the first PPPs in the power generation sector were implemented. In 1987, she issued Executive Order (EO) No. 215 that allowed private corporations to construct and operate electric generating plants. Cory’s privatization formed part of a wide-ranging package of structural reforms pushed by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank to supposedly address the country’s fiscal crisis in the late 1980s.
Meanwhile, together with transnational corporations (TNCs) and other foreign firms, the country’s richest families who are also perceived supporters of Aquino like the Lopezes, Ayalas, Cojuangcos and Pangilinans among others have been aggressively investing in PPP projects including in energy, water, toll roads and other vital infrastructures.
‘Progressive and creative’
Aquino said in his speech that he remains upbeat despite a budget of just 6.5 percent of the total with still six months remaining as private investors have expressed renewed interest and confidence in the Philippines. In fact, according to Aquino, one investor is proposing to construct an expressway connecting Manila and Cagayan Valley at no cost to the government. Another investor is proposing to lease the lands occupied by the Philippine Navy headquarters along Roxas Boulevard and its Naval Station in Fort Bonifacio, disclosed Aquino. The unnamed investor will foot the bill of the Navy’s transfer to Camp Aguinaldo, immediately pay US$100 million, and share a portion of profits from businesses it will establish on the leased lands.
“Sa madali pong sabi”, said the President proudly, “makukuha natin ang kailangan natin, hindi tayo gagastos, kikita pa tayo”. Aquino identified the most pressing needs of the country as education, infrastructure and health, as well as the needs of police and military personnel. He described PPPs as a progressive and creative way to raise funds and address the country’s age-old problems.
Aquino’s PPPs, however, are neither progressive nor creative and as pointed out, simply a continuation of the neoliberal policy pushed by the IMF-World Bank and implemented by Cory. PPPs are simply a mode of privatization implemented through the build-operate-and-transfer (BOT) and other similar arrangements between the government and big private corporations. EO No. 215 was expanded and reinforced by Republic Act (RA) 6957 which introduced BOT and build-and-transfer (BT) schemes in the country. This law, passed in 1990, authorized the financing, construction, operation, and maintenance of infrastructure projects by the private sector. Like her son, Cory used the grim fiscal situation left behind by the Marcos dictatorship to justify her privatization/BOT program that was later expanded (in 1993) by the Ramos administration through RA 7718. This legislation introduced other BOT schemes such as build-own-and-operate (BOO), build-lease-and-transfer (BLT), build-transfer-and-operate (BTO), contract-add-and operate (CAO), rehabilitate-operate-and-transfer (ROT) and rehabilitate-own-and-operate (ROO).
These schemes allowed the biggest foreign and local corporations to invest in infrastructure development and operate or own strategic facilities that are “normally financed and operated by the public sector”. These facilities include power plants, highways, ports, airports, canals, dams, hydropower projects, water supply, irrigation, telecommunications, railroads and railways, transport systems, land reclamation projects, industrial estates or townships, housing, government buildings, tourism projects, markets, warehouses, solid waste management, information technology networks and database infrastructure, education and health facilities, sewerage, drainage, dredging and other infrastructure and development projects.
Among the notable examples of and biggest PPP projects in the Philippines are the privatization of the National Power Corp. (Napocor) and the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS).It is actually ironic that while championing the PPP, Aquino cited the P200-billion debt of Napocor from 2001 to 2004 as among the examples of wasteful and flawed programs of the Arroyo administration. Aquino claimed in his SONA speech that the state power firm’s debt ballooned because it was forced to sell cheap electricity at a loss presumably for electoral reasons. What Aquino did not mention was that Napocor’s financial bleeding was caused by PPP initiatives implemented by past administrations.
Napocor’s debt soared as government assumed all the project risks related to building and operating a power plant in its rush to attract private investors. Thus, Napocor agreed to pay for 70-100 percent of generation capacity of independent power producers (IPPs) even if electricity is not actually produced (take-or-pay). The state power firm also consented to pick up the tab for the IPPs’ fuel needs (fuel-cost guarantee). Without these guarantees, private investors would not take interest in the country’s power sector which has a relatively small market.
Similarly, while Aquino criticized the MWSS officials’ many abuses, including P160.1 million in questionable allowances and benefits, he did not mention that billions of pesos in taxpayers’ money had been used to save the failing privatization of water in Metro Manila. In 2004, Malacañang bailed out the Lopez family, one of Aquino’s perceived political patrons, to the tune of P8.3 billion by temporarily taking over the heavily indebted Maynilad Water Services Inc. The bailout was meant to preserve the integrity of the country’s water privatization program.
In short, PPPs may provide immediate fiscal relief but actually burdensome in the long-term for the perennially bankrupt government. These types of projects are often heavily funded by foreign debt, including official development assistance (ODA) and require practically no equity from private contractors. Thus, while Aquino claimed in his SONA that government will not shell out a single peso in these PPPs, the reality is that government would assume the risk of the foreign debt and pass on the burden to the people through taxes.
The private sector builds and operates roads, hospitals, utilities, etc. not out of altruism but out of expectation to earn profits. Thus, PPPs in infrastructure development often result in exorbitant user fees including tolls, fees, rentals, and other charges – burden shouldered by the people on top of paying taxes to government. Consumers of power and water, for instance, have been forced to shoulder fluctuations in inflation, foreign exchange, fuel prices, etc. In the case of power, households are forced to pay for unused electricity and bear monthly increases in rates while water bills in Metro Manila have soared by 449 to 845 percent since MWSS was privatized in 1997.
Furthermore, starting next month, motorists plying the South Luzon Expressway (SLEX) will have to endure an increase of 233 percent in toll fees imposed by the private operator. Power, water, toll roads are all charged with the onerous 12 percent value added tax (VAT) along with other basic commodities and services in the Philippines. In his SONA, Aquino also criticized the over-importation of rice by the National Food Authority (NFA). Before the SONA, Cabinet officials have announced that NFA rice subsidies would be scrapped because they are prone to pilferage and abuse. These moves set the tone for the implementation of the longstanding plan to privatize the NFA, which the Department of Finance (DOF) said is in deep debt worth P125 billion. Note that corruption, mismanagement, and indebtedness were the same reasons used to justify the privatization of Napocor and MWSS.
Aquino’s promotion of PPPs and privatization in his SONA has further reinforced the view that his administration is incapable of introducing new policies that will reverse the old pro-business, pro-market neoliberal policies of the past administrations, including the Arroyo administration.
THE VALUE OF ONE PESO NOW IS ONLY 53 CENTAVOS AND BASIC COMMODITIES HAVE INCREASED TO 36%
The last family living wage estimate of the National Wages and Productivity Commission (NWPC) was in September 2008 when it was already P917 in the NCR at a time that the minimum wage was only P382, or a wage gap of P535. Across regions, the nominal wages were on the average only 32% of what the NWPC estimated as living wages. The NWPC figures did not yet include the newly created Regions IV-A. IV-B and Caraga where the majority of the population were considered poor in 2006. The minimum wage in the NCR increased by just P154 over the entire duration of the Arroyo presidency. This amount has been greatly eroded by inflation to only Php5 in real terms (based on 2000 prices) compared with a P82 increase over the first Aquino administration, Php16 under Ramos, and P22 under Estrada. The last nominal wage increase of P22 in NCR was announced at the tail end of Arroyo’s term and, in being so low, only reminds Filipino workers how wages have been frozen and depressed over the years. In the country’s regions, the highest wage rate in the non-agriculture sector is only P320 (Region IV-A), and rates elsewhere can go as low as Php196 (Region V). In agriculture, the legislated rates vary from P295 (Region IV-A) to as low as Php198 (Region IV-B) in plantations and from P275 (Region IV-A) to P178 (Region IV-B) in non-plantation.
These nominal wage rates are unfortunately often violated. For instance, around 15% of inspected establishments in the country do not give the mandated minimum wages. In agriculture and in the rural areas, farmers face under pricing. Small sugar farmers usually bring home P59.33 a day which sometimes falls to as low as P20.50 a day. Rice farmers who own land may earn as much as P366.17 but those who simply rent take home P130 a day, while those who rent and owe some money incur a deficit of P365.96 a day. In Southern tagalog, male farm workers are paid Php180, females earn P80, and indigenous people are given Php30 or just something to eat.
Non-compliance with legislated wage rates and under pricing of workers and farmers are the norm and not just an aberration, which is not surprising in an economy dominated by informal jobs. The NWPC estimates that 2.8 million workers are directly benefited by wage orders, which represents only 15% of the number of wage and salary workers. An additional 3 million workers are benefited by correction for wage distortions which, if added to the 2.8 million workers, accounts for only 16% of the total employed.
Spiraling prices and fees
The other source of super-profits, which completes the puzzle of economic growth and also explains the shift from the productive base to trading and other services, is monopoly pricing. Prices of basic commodities have increased tremendously since 2000 with the consumer price index (CPI) for all. Commodities across income classes increasing by 65.9 percent. The CPI for fuel, light and water registered the highest increase at 114.5%, followed by services (88%) and food, beverages and tobacco (65.8%).
|Consumer Price Index By Commodity Group, May 2010 (2000=100)|
|Commodity Group||Consumer Price Index|
Food & Beverages
Housing & Repair
Fuel, Light & Water
INCREASE IN PRICES 2008
|Well milled||P25 to P34|
|Raw milled||P23 to P31|
|NFA||P18 to P25|
|ELECTRICAL RATES since 2001|
|WATER RATES since privatization in 1997|
|Oil prices since deregulation in 1996||139 times or every two weeks|
REAL WAGES : 1986-2010
|Period||Daily Minimum Wage||Real Minimum Wage||Increase in Real Minimum Wage|
The real value of one peso is now only 53 centavos. The buying power or purchasing power is the amount of goods and services a person can buy with P1 using a base year as point of comparison. This means that P1 can now only buy 53 centavos worth of goods and services and some commodities have increased by as much as 36%.
Family of six
The definition assumes that a family has six members on the average and that two family members are earning. The NWPC website has stopped issuing its quarterly and annual computations of the family living wage. Latest data from the agency is P917 for Metro Manila as of September 2008. A statement from Sen. Ramon Revilla Jr. in April this year said the daily family living wage in the metropolis was P764 but it did not say where the data came from. Based on 2000 prices, the minimum wage in Metro Manila has been reduced to P235 due to inflation and is worth less than the minimum wage of P250 in November 2000.
“By now the family living wage is likely already twice the daily minimum wage and a P125 increase will not even make up for inflation that has eroded real incomes over the last three years”. Because the minimum wage has been unchanged since September 2008, Filipino workers were, in effect, bearing the burden of adjusting to the effects of the global economic crisis. Minimum wages in the rest of the country have also been unchanged since 2008. These range from P196 in the Bicol region to P320 in the Calabarzon region that includes the provinces of Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal and Quezon.
Contractualization and unionism
Citing data from both government and labor sources, wrote that between 1995 and 2005, the number of contractual workers in the Philippines soared from 65 percent to as much as 78 percent of the country’s employed labor force.
Companies in the Philippines started going on an orgy of contractualization in the years following Department Order No. 10 of the Department of Labor and Employment (DoLE), which was issued in 1997 by then Labor Secretary Leonardo Quisumbing.
The Labor Code devotes only a small section to provisions on contractual employment, and gives the Secretary of Labor the leeway to restrict or even prohibit the contracting-out of labor to protect the rights of workers.
But the apparent shift of government policy from its bias towards regular employment, as reflected in the Labor Code, to flexible work arrangements can be seen in the issuance of one whole department order, DO No.10, for the purpose of legalizing and legitimizing contractualization. DO No. 10 reads, “Contracting and subcontracting arrangements are expressly allowed by law”.
DO No. 10 also declares, as part of its guiding principles, that flexibility for the purpose of increasing efficiency and streamlining operations is essential for every business to grow in an atmosphere of free competition
While DO No. 10 professed to protect workers’ rights, including the right to self-organization and social benefits, the experience under a regime of contractualization has been that contractual employees are barred from joining unions and are denied the social benefits that are supposedly due them even under DO No. 10.
DO No. 10 opened the floodgates to the mass lay-offs of regular workers, which included the dismantling of unions, and their replacement with contractual workers.
DoLE DO No. 3, issued in 2001 by then Labor Secretary Patricia St. Tomas, revoked DO No. 10 but honored all contracts entered into during its effectivity. The Department’s DO No 18-02, issued the next year also by Sto. Tomas, practically restored DO No. 10.
The prevalent practice of contractualization has been the main culprit in the reduction of union membership on a national scale.
Contractualization is one of the policies of Globalization to further hasten more profit (extract more profit from the fruit of labor of the working class) and its domino effect is exploitation of the working class. Monopoly capitalism (or imperialism) is not a policy of capitalism. It is capitalism itself in its highest stage and no policy on heaven and earth can reform capitalism. The only alternative to capitalism is socialism.
The Income of the Poor versus the Income of the Rich Class in the Philippines
The total income of the rich class have reached 53% while the over-all income of the poor people is only 14% or P177 billion which is only equivalent to half net income of the three richest people in the Philippines like Henry Sy, Lucio Tan and Ayala-Zubil family. The unpaid labor power (surplus-value) created by the entire working class and the claimed to private property ownership over mother-nature and the means of production by the capitalist class makes the later the richest people in the world. The longer the labor time spent and the infusion of technology to production makes the profit greater while wage of the working class is fixed. This is how capitalism as a system exploits the entire working class.
THE BOURGEOIS ELECTION AND THE ROLE OF THE LEFT MOVEMENT
Marx and Engels on the state, parliament and elections
Throughout their political lives, Marx and Engels always argued that the working class–whatever its size and state of development–must organize itself independently as a class “and consequently into a political party,” as they wrote in The Communist Manifesto.
Just months later, during the revolutions of 1848 that swept across Europe, Marx and Engels, as leading members of a small group of socialists in the Communist League, participated in the revolution in Germany as the far left wing of the radical bourgeois-democratic movement. With only a few hundred members across Europe, the League was simply not big enough to assert itself as an independent force. But in the course of the revolution, it became clear to Marx that, due to the cowardly and tentative nature of the radical middle-class elements, it would be necessary for the working class to organize independently to safeguard its own class interests.
In his March 1850 “Address to the Communist League,” Marx recommended that in the future course of the revolution, the workers’ party “‘march with’ the petty-bourgeois democrats against the faction whom it aims at overthrowing,” but that it oppose “them in everything whereby they seek to consolidate their position in their own interests.”
In addition to arming themselves and organizing centralized and independent clubs, the workers’ party should put candidates up for elections in Germany in the event of the creation of a national assembly as a result of revolutionary upheaval.
Even when there is no prospect whatsoever of their being elected, the workers must put up their own candidates in order to preserve their independence, to count their forces, and to bring before the public their revolutionary attitude and party standpoint. In this connection they must not allow themselves to be seduced by such arguments of the democrats as, for example, that by so doing they are splitting the Democratic Party and making it possible for the reactionaries to win. The ultimate intention of all such phrases is to dupe the proletariat. The advance which the proletarian party is bound to make by such independent action is indefinitely more important than the disadvantage that might be incurred by the presence of a few reactionaries in the representative body.
The argument for voting against left-wing or socialist candidates on the grounds that they can’t win and are therefore helping the right wing into power has, of course, been a time-worn argument in the U.S. against bucking the two-party system. Engels, in an 1893 letter to an American colleague, pointed out that in the U.S., the formation of a workers’ party is hindered by the “Constitution…which makes it appear as though every vote were lost that is cast for a candidate not put up by one of the two governing parties.”
Marx’s March circular was shelved after revolutionary upsurge ebbed. But Marx and Engels lived to see the formation of the first mass socialist workers’ party in Germany that was able to use the German parliament, the Reichstag, to advance their cause. The SPD in Germany was formed in 1875 out of a merger between two different parties–one influenced by Marxism, the other based on “winning reforms through a compromise with the Prussian state.” But as much as they came to consider this their party, Marx and Engels were from the start critical of what they considered its political shortcomings and always fought any attempt to dilute its working-class character.
As early as 1879, Marx and Engels wrote a circular letter to party leaders in which they asked if the party had not been “infected with the parliamentary diseases, believing that, with the popular vote, the Holy Ghost is poured upon those elected.” The circular letter also attacked an article written by, among others, Eduard Bernstein. The article applauded the idea of a socialist movement led by “all men imbued with a true love of mankind,” and attacked those who “trivialized” the movement into a “one-sided struggle of the industrial workers to promote their own interests.” The article called upon the party to be “calm, sober and considered” in order not to scare “the bourgeoisie out of their wits by holding up the red specter.” It also called for “educated” men to represent the party in the Reichstag.
Marx and Engels attacked the authors, arguing that they should leave the party if they intended to “use their official position to combat the party’s proletarian character.” For Bernstein and the others, the program is not to be relinquished, but merely postponed–for some unspecified period. They accept it–not for themselves in their own lifetime but posthumously, as an heirloom for their children and for their children’s children. Meanwhile they devote their “whole strength and energies” to all sorts of trifles, tinkering away at the capitalist social order so that at least something should appear to be done without at the same time alarming the bourgeoisie.
For almost 40 years we have emphasized that the class struggle is the immediate motive force of history and, in particular, that the class struggle between bourgeoisie and proletariat is the great lever of modern social revolution; hence we cannot possibly cooperate with men who seek to eliminate that class struggle from the movement. At the founding of the International we expressly formulated the battle-cry: The emancipation of the working class must be achieved by the working class itself. Hence we cannot cooperate with men who say openly that the workers are too uneducated to emancipate themselves, and must first be emancipated from above by philanthropic members of the upper and lower middle classes.
Engels lived long enough to witness the growing electoral votes of the German party. In 1884, the year after Marx’s death, the party got more than a half a million votes. By 1890, their vote doubled, doubled again in 1898, and again by 1912 to more than four million votes. The Anti-Socialist Laws, in effect between 1878 and 1891 and aimed at curbing socialist influence, actually enhanced social democracy’s reputation as the opposition party. Engels was effusive over the party’s successes, seeing in parliamentary elections a brilliant means for the party to extend its political influence and membership. In his 1895 introduction to Marx’s The Class Struggles in France, Engels summed up the significance of the use of the Reichstag elections by German social democracy: “If universal suffrage had offered no other advantage than that it allowed us to count our numbers every three years; that by the regularly established, unexpectedly rapid rise in our vote it increased in equal measure the workers’ certainty of victory and the dismay of their opponents, and so became our best means of propaganda; that it accurately informed us of our own strength and that of all opposing parties, and thereby provided us with a measure of proportion second to none for our actions, safeguarding us from untimely timidity as much as from untimely foolhardiness–if this had been the only advantage we gained from the suffrage, it would still have been much more than enough. But it did more than this by far. In election propaganda it provided us with a means, second to none, of getting in touch with the mass of the people where they still stand aloof from us; of forcing all parties to defend their views and actions against our attacks before all the people; and, further, it provided our representatives in the Reichstag with a platform from which they could speak to their opponents in parliament, and to the masses outside, with quite a different authority and freedom than in the press or at meetings. Of what avail was their Anti-Socialist Law to the government and the bourgeoisie when election campaigning and socialist speeches in the Reichstag continually broke through it?”
In short, Lenin made it very clear that the engagement of socialist organization to bourgeois election is a form of tactics and a small part of revolutionary activity:
(a) Propaganda and expanding membership- the spread of revolutionary platforms of the working class interest. In election propaganda it provided the revolutionary organization with a means, second to none, of getting in touch with the masses of the people where they still stand aloof from us, of forcing all parties to defend their views and actions against our attacks before all the people and it provided our representatives/candidates with a platform from which they could speak to their opponents in parliament and to the masses outside, with quite a different authority and freedom than in the press or at meetings.
(b) It allows the revolutionary organization to determine its numbers and influences- that it accurately informs the revolutionary organization of its strength and that of all opposing parties.
(c) It safeguards the revolutionary organization from untimely timidity as much as from untimely foolhardiness.
(d) It also sees that electoral success was engendering a tendency for party leaders to abandon long-term goals for immediate gains.
According to Lenin, the workers party work: it meant using the election campaigns to conduct propaganda among masses it normally did or could not reach. And, for the party members who were elected as deputies, it meant using the Duma (parliament) as a platform to disseminate propaganda, to expose the right wing and the liberal bourgeoisie and to assist in the organization of struggles outside the Duma (parliament). Socialist deputies could use their parliamentary immunity to conduct propaganda that outside the Duma (parliament) would normally be considered illegal. They could make Duma (parliament) speeches that reprinted in the party and non-party press could reach a wider audience than other types of party propaganda, and they could use the Duma (parliament) rostrum to expose, in the form of “interpolations,” the various abuses of the system against peasants and workers.
Lenin was clear that revolutionaries considered participation in elections as only a small part of their activity, and that the struggle in the workplaces and streets was far more important.
And that the organization of open political party of the working class must be distinct and independent from bourgeois parties. The open political party must be composed of working class, must be embodied with the platform of the working class, it must use the electoral and parliament to disseminate propaganda, expose the right wing and the liberal bourgeoisie, and assist in the organization of struggles outside of parliament. Its candidates must conduct their campaign tactics different from that of bourgeois candidates.
Socialist politicians? Lenin regarded this as a dangerous mistake. The party should use elections to gather support and spread its message. It should be completely different from the usual breed of privileged politicians. They should be working class, and go to the Duma dressed in their ordinary clothes, treating all the ceremony and show of parliament with contempt. They were to use their position as a platform for exposing the Tsar and calling on the workers outside parliament to rise up in struggle. These what makes the open political party of the working class independently from bourgeois parties.
Engels also could also see that electoral success was engendering a tendency for party leaders to abandon long-term goals for immediate gains. The more or less smooth growth of electoral support from year to year, the expansion of the German economy, combined with many years where the class struggle remained at low ebb, tended to reinforce reformist tendencies inside the party. This was particularly true among the upper strata of trade union leaders, parliamentary representatives and party administrators, who saw in “precipitate” action the possibility of state repression that might jeopardize the organizations they had so painstakingly built. The German party leadership, in their desire to bolster their own opportunism, censored Engel’s “Introduction” cited above, removing, for example, a paragraph that argued, in place of the old revolutionary tactics of street fighting around barricades, the need for “the open attack.”
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.