Presentation at the Webinar on SONA & THE POLITICAL SITUATION: SOCIALIST ANALYSIS
By Sonny Melencio, Chair, PLM (Partido Lakas ng Masa)
A. STRATEGY OF THE DUTERTE REGIME
1. President Rodrigo Duterte’s penultimate Sona on July 27 did not even touch on the main concern of the people, i.e., the direction and trajectory of the government’s campaign to win the battle against the worsening case of pandemic in the country. Duterte’s Sona was “business as usual”, proclaiming the continuation of the drug war, coupled with the reintroduction of death penalty, the repression of press freedom, the opening up of the the economy for foreign (Chinese) investments, and the preparation for the 2022 elections (with Bong Go in tow).
2. The strategy presented in the Sona has not changed since Duterte took over the presidency.
3. Duterte’s economic strategy is the continuation of the neoliberal policies pursued by previous elite administrations. One difference though is the plan to develop the economy with the help of Chinese capital, a strategy imparted to Duterte by the previous administration of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. This explains Duterte’s inutility, out of his own admission, with regards to the West Philippine Sea issues. Duterte’s cornerstone project called Build! Build! Build! aims more at propping up his cronies (like Dennis Uy, San Miguel Corp, Davao capitalista group) rather than propping up the economy. In the Sona, he stepped up his attack against the oligarchs in the telecom industry, but only in preparation for his cronies’ takeover of the industry. Duterte announced the further opening up of the economy, despite the escalating number of Covid-19 cases in the country, upon the prodding of his economic and capitalist czars (Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez and DTI secretary Ramon Lopez).
4. Duterte’s political strategy has also remained the same.
a. This is a strategy of creating strawmen and scapegoats to hide his inability to solve the country’s problems. So the drug war, whose main victims are the poor sections of society, will continue. He recently the ‘terrorist’ strawman, but his war on terrorism is primarily designed against those critical to his administration.
b. Duterte is continuing with the strategy of controlling and weakening of the legislature, the judiciary and LGUs. He was bribing them with money and choice positions, and for the LGUs, the promise to implement federalism where he will share power with the local warlords and despots.
c. The bolstering of the relationship with the police and military. He puts a big number them under his administration and in charge of major projects. In 2018 alone, Duterte has named 46 former military and police officers to key civilian posts in government, including ten Cabinet and Cabinet-level positions. They included the DND (Lorenzana), DENR (Roy Cimatu); DSWD (Rolando Bautista); DILG (Eduardo Año); DICT (Greg Honasan); National Security Adviser (Hermogenes Esperon Jr); MMDA (Danny Lim); HUDC (Eduardo del Rosario); TESDA (Isidro Lapeña); Presidential Peace Adviser (Carlito Galvez Jr).
d. With regards to the ruling classes, Duterte does not really mean to ‘rock the boat’ or dismantle the oligarchy. There have been showcases of attack against old oligarchs, like the Lopezes and their assets (ABS-CBN). But he had shown leniency to others, and in fact, had asked for forgiveness from the Ayalas and the Pangilinans for saying bad things against them. This is a double-sword strategy because he is out to maintain most of the old oligarchs while deposing only those whose businesses his cronies are ready to take over. Duterte’s threats and rantings against SMART and Globe telecoms during the Sona meant that Uy’s telecom company is getting ready for the grabbing.
5. What Duterte is doing now is reminiscent of Marcos’ ascent or descent to dictatorship before the declaration of martial law in 1972. Marcos was trying to control the judiciary and the legislature, especially the Constitutional Convention, around that time. He was bribing the police and the military to do his bidding. He was carrying on a rivalry with the Lopezes too; Eugenio Lopez was the vice-president then. During this time, Marcos published a book titled Today’s Revolution: Democracy where he declared that he was leading a revolution from the center against the oligarchy on the right and communism on the left. These were Marcos’ scapegoats for declaring martial law on September 21, 1972.
B. THE BOURGEOIS OPPOSITION AGAINST DUTERTE
1. The liberal bourgeois opposition against Duterte are composed of the so-called Dilawan, the Liberal Party, Vice-President Leni Robredo, et al. They have been very cautious in their movement and are seemingly waiting for the right moment to publicly attack Duterte. They are not really leading the struggle against Duterte. They’re more involved in conspiratorial actions rather than mobilization of the people.
2. The Church institution is also a potential bastion of protest against Duterte. But it’s leaders have been divided, with many supporting or giving consent to Duterte’s repressive actions, and only a few bishops openly critical of Duterte. However, the latest report is that Caloocan Bishop Pablo David, an outspoken anti-Duterte bishop, is taking the helm of the CBCP after its former head Davao archbishop Romulo Valles had a heart stroke recently.
3. It is important to have some kind of a linkage with these opposition figures and institution because they have a strong influence among the middle class or the small/petty bourgeoisie who can tip the balance in the fight against Duterte.
C. SOCIALIST STRATEGY
1. According to Josef Stalin, strategy is the determination of the direction of the main blow of the proletariat at a given stage of the revolution, the elaboration of a corresponding plan for the disposition of the revolutionary forces (main and secondary reserves), the fight to carry out this plan throughout the given stage of the revolution.
2. For Vladimir Lenin and Leon Trotsky, strategy is a plan of action or policy designed to achieve socialism. For the latter, revolutionary strategy refers to a combination of system or process of actions which by their association, consistency, and growth must lead the working class to the conquest of power.
3. The direction of the main blow is clearly the Duterte regime. Stalin’s concept of the ‘direction of the main blow’ is stilted as he had used the term to refer to a group or a class whom the proletariat should attack in order to clear the ground for the resistance against the main enemy. Hence, Stalin considered the Social Democrats then as the group who should receive the ‘direction of the main blow’ over the main enemy of Fascism. Clearly, the term should refer to the main enemy of the working masses as it should be the center of the attack to advance the working class’ struggle.
4. So how would the working class attain power through the fight against Duterte?
5. There are a number of tactical issues now, like what we raised during the Sona – the anti-Terror Law; our demand for expanded social and economic welfare; etc. – but it seems we have to await for a call that could mobilize millions of people and pose the socialist solution, especially in terms of highlighting the need for an alternative government composed of and led by the working class and the masses.
6. The strategic issue then would be the call for the downfall or ouster of the Duterte regime, but not for the regime to be replaced by another form of elite rule, with another group of elite clans in power, but for a gobyerno ng masa. This is akin to Lenin’s call during the prelude to the 1917 Revolution for the downfall of the tsarist regime and the convocation of the people’s constituent assembly which later on led to the call for Soviet power (a workers’ and peasants’ government).
7. I know it’s hard to picture the situation this way because we are still in a situation where the radical turns are still not around the corner. The radical turns in terms of class relationships exhibit the following characteristics:
a. One, intensifying class struggle or class war.
8. The class struggle (or the class war) today has not intensified to the extent that we can make a call for ouster now, or for a revolutionary transition government (TRG) or a gobyerno ng masa to take over. Right now, it’s still the organized forces of the Left that have been leading the fight. There are spontaneous actions but not to the degree that they might erupt soon into a prolonged, concerted action or an uprising.
9. We know that the intensification of the class struggle is important, as it is only in practical direct actions of the masses that they can learn from experience the need to overthrow elite rule and replace it with genuine people’s power. It is only through the intensification of class struggle that the vacillations and dealings of other factions of the ruling class, the liberal opposition for instance, and the vacillations and weakness of the petty bourgeoisie can be full exposed
b. Second, that there will be a deep political crisis that will expose the rottenness and inutility of the ruling class and the capitalist system. It can be a constitutional crisis, an open rift among the factions, and the likes. There is none of it right now. But this is not to say that things are building up this way.
c. Third, that there will be a shift in the balance of forces or a breakdown of ‘consent’ to the ruling power. It can be in a balance of power between the center (the national bureaucracy) and the grassroots power base (as in the barangay level). Or it can be a rift in the military, which can open up the floodgates for people’s resistance.
10. These do not exist YET.
11. So how do we see the situation unfolding and how do we prepare for it? Comrades are already talking of a new generation who are defying even their trapo parents for supporting Duterte. The mobilization that broke the fear of pandemics to register their protests against Duterte and the anti-terror act came from the ranks of the youth and studentes. So will there be another youth rebellion as in the First Quarter Storm that railed against the impending Marcos dictatorship in the early 1970s? Or another military rebellion cum people’s power uprising as in the two EDSAs?
12. Right now, the student movement is weak. It has no immediate capacity to mobilize ala-FQS but we do not discount that possibility. The problem now with the pandemic is how they’ll be able to mobilize when there are no schools.
13. With regards to EDSA, the military is still under the pockets of Duterte and there are no clear signs of a split against the regime like the first EDSA or the second EDSA.
14. But this not saying that there will be no spontaneous, prolonged, concerted actions of the masses. Even in the Russian Revolution of 1917, Lenin said the Bolsheviks and other revolutionary groups had no inkling that there would be an eruption of an uprising after the defeat of the 1905 Russian Revolution.
D. WHAT IS THE SOCIALIST LEFT GOING TO DO AT THIS STAGE?
1. I think we should develop strong and consistent propaganda work. And I mean revolutionary propaganda among the masses, not the type of articles and statements covered by Rappler and the media. Coming from a Maoist tradition, whose main concern is guerrilla warfare, the Left group has not managed to build strong propaganda centers. There are opportunities inherent in the social media that will allow us to undertake 24/7 propaganda work among the masses of workers and youth who have access at least to cellphones.
2. We are developing a socialist platform and I think it’s good. In terms of various issues, we point the need to have a socialist perspective, like on the ABS-CBN issue and others. We have to continue this.
3. We have to develop ourselves as an alternative opposition to the liberal bourgeoisie. And we have the opportunity since the liberal bourgeoisie or the liberal elite is unable and unwilling to lead an opposition against the Duterte regime.
4. In order to fast track the development of a Left alternative opposition, we should unify the fractious ranks of the Left at every possible situation. In uniting with various fractions of the Left, we have to be aware that for a long period of time, there have been forces in the Left which are sectarian and would impose their thinking to other sections of the Left. There are sections of the Left which are also used to making deals with the ruling power to advance their ultimate agenda. I guess we have to find unity where it is possible while explaining to our ranks the twists and turns of developing Left unity.
5. It would have been clear by now than these tasks can only be carried out by a revolutionary party. A party whose existence is a preparation for the working class and the poorer sections of society to seize political power. A party which can respond to tactical issues, fight for immediate reforms, while raising the level of the working class’ and the masses’ consciousness to that of understanding the need to overthrow capitalism, establish socialism, and build a genuine government of the working class and the masses.
6. The liberal bourgeoisie, especially with Robredo, are tactical allies in our fight against Duterte. There will be a need to join forces with them, while maintaining our initiative and political independence. We have to be clear at once that we can be together with them in the overthrow of the Duterte regime, but we are not with them in building a new elite type of government. We have to be aware that they are not consistent and strategic allies and they are used to conspire and to undertake divisive actions even within a tactical united front. The working class has to prioritize its alliances with the urban and rural poor, the farmers, women and youth, and the lower rung of the petty bourgeoisie.
7. At every opportunity, we should point to the need of a new government that will be composed and led by the masa. Our strategic goal lies with the empowerment of the working class and the masses. #