Alex Magno’s May 1 column in the Philippine Star titled as “Proletariat”, is nothing but an out-and-out attack on the proletariat. It is as much anti-proletarian as it is at the same time a through-and-through apologia for the prevailing elite establishment that since the turn of the 20th century, has come under monopoly capitalist hegemonic rule in the international order, propped up by puppet regimes in comprador capitalist enclaves and semi-colonial, semifeudal adjuncts such as what we have in this country.
The article completely distorts proletarian analysis of the international and national socio-economic situation and proletarian revolutionary theory, and makes these appear too naively and dogmatically simplistic and blind to the many nuances of real society and to as many complexities in socio-economic development and class struggle.
For one, it is not true, as Magno’s article implies, that proletarian social analysis has reduced classes in modern market economies into just two: capitalist and proletarian. Class struggle, that has been intrinsic to human society ever since primitive communal society developed into increasingly class-differentiated ones, and became more and more complex as human society prospered from one social system to higher, more modern and economically productive, but also more exploitative ones. In the process, class divisions intensified, ruling class domination became more and more complex to the point of their needing to link and combine their struggles against the combination of reactionary ruling classes in particular as well as common settings. This, as more exploitative ruling classes with accompanying more complex ruling apparatuses developed one after another, conspired with the remnants of surpassed previous ruling classes and made the mass of the people, especially the various sections of the toiling masses as well as the middle classes suffer more and more elaborate systems of class domination and forms of oppression, all to be able to push through more and more intense exploitation of the mass of the people.
Magno’s thesis — that because “social structures became more complex, social classes mutated and the class struggle increasingly subordinated by the politics of identity” — is borne of shallow and subjective perception and does not reflect reality in depth and with objectivity.
While Magno makes such a big hullabaloo about it, the fact that some new multi-billionaires (including college dropouts who made billions from new computer and internet technologies and fads), have replaced some old robber barons in the Forbes ranking of the world’s richest, has not at all significantly changed the character of the ruling international big bourgeoisie and the modern capitalist system. And their alliance with and puppetry of big landlords, big compradors and big bureaucrat capitalists in their semicolonial, semifeudal adjuncts have tightly remained as is.
The neoliberal policies of monopoly capital, including labor flexibilization and contractualization, have caused massive movements in numbers from the proletariat and even from the peasantry and the petty bourgeoisie towards the unemployed and underemployed ranks of the semi-proletariat, especially in the semicolonies of monopoly capitalism. The battered sections of the petty bourgeoisie and the toiling masses maintain their particular issues and struggles, unite with the issues and struggles of the mass of the people, and support that of the proletariat. Especially as they are gravely affected and threatened by monopoly capitalism and its local accomplices, they remain the closest allies of the proletariat in the fight against exploitation and oppression and for a just and liberating new world and national order. The conditions for proletarian revolution have become more and more excellent with the persistent current crisis in the country, and it will not be long before proletarian-led struggles, participated in by these closest class allies would be qualitatively advancing in our country and in many other countries.
In describing how societal development has been taking place in the world and in various countries, Magno states that “the pattern of development of each national economy followed no universal rule… The grounds for social revolution evaporated in a cacophony of voices, each with its own drummer.” Again, this is a very simplistic and shallow view of the varying particularities, given the different conditions, phases and histories amid a clear, general pattern of societal development that has been taking place in various countries of the world. Magno presents the situation as if each people are going on their own, as in a chaos situation, their crises and struggles unrelated at all to those of others.
Magno totally ignores the systematic stage-by-stage conduct and progress of the various “scattered” (but actually much related to each other) ongoing and brewing class struggles. The poor and middle peasants and farm workers allied with the proletariat against feudal exploitation and oppression; the small and middle bourgeoisie against the big foreign and local bourgeoisie; the various from lower and middle classes and allied patriotic elements from higher classes of the nation against domination of the nation by foreign big bourgeoisie and their local elite class collaborators; the mass of the people of various lower and middle classes and enlightened elements of higher classes against rotten and oppressive elite rulers of the country; the peoples and nations of the world against the world’s hegemonic monopoly capitalist powers. All these will eventually dovetail to the final and decisive struggle of the proletariat and its allies among the rest of the exploited and oppressed classes and middle classes against monopoly capitalism and its foremost power wielder and allied local big comprador and remnant big landlord classes.
Reduced to pure empiricism and totally bereft of essential facts, science and history, Magno jumps to the conclusion that “the grounds for social revolution evaporated!”
He goes on with further arguments against social revolution. Accordingly, the socialist objective of setting up “an industrialized state-managed economy driven by a disciplined proletariat — simply dissipated with the rise of information society, the economics of critical consumers and overpowering dynamic of financial intermediation”. For him, socialism and centrally planned economies have already been made impossible because of the rise of shopping malls, smart phones, i-retailing. For him, Marxism has been defeated by the Facebook. He implies further that there is no more need for social revolution as anyway “software… paved the way for social interaction independent of class, color and nation.”
For Magno, as it was for Fukuzawa when the revisionist regimes collapsed and revealed their capitalist colors, the End of History has now been reached, culminated by consumerism, computers, internet and the like. And so, what for is there a need to wage a social revolution? After all, the system being pushed by the world’s monopoly capitalist powers (“the unavoidable conditions of open trade and global competition”, in other words, the imperialist-dictated policies of global neoliberal “free market”, denationalization, privatization, deregulation, labor flexibilization — in sum, “free-wheeling” capitalism under monopoly capitalist domination), is it!
Magno accepts all this hook, line and sinker, so that instead of blaming the foreign economic oppressors and invaders and their local big comprador, big bureaucrat and big landlord collaborators, he blames economic nationalism for supposedly distorting the national economy.
And in reverse of celebrating Mayday, he goes to the extent of taking the reactionary, anti-worker line of the puppet regime and berating trade unions that continue to believe that all wage-workers share homogenous interests: A strategic one, calling for a new world order that would give power to the working class. And a tactical one, demanding politically negotiated wage increase on the strength of union power.
As to the strategic agenda, he repeats that the workers now only “celebrate a dead idea.”
As to the tactical agenda, he terms it “most anachronistic in an economy like ours.” Initially, he describes some details of the Philippine economy fairly accurately: a barely existing manufacturing sector; a service sector constituting the bulk of economic activity; consumption fueled by hefty remittances from expatriate workers; an unregulated informal economy employing over half our workers; small enterprises employing the bulk of our wage-workers; self-employed people dwarfing the number of workers in large and medium manufacturing enterprises; seasonal agricultural workers. But, instead of using these facts to critique the whole rotten pro-imperialist, anti-national, anti-people and anti-toiling masses system, he blames the economic protectionism of the past and the relatively high wages that highly organized labor unions won in the past, for making the Filipino consumers now suffer costly locally made goods of inferior quality. He even blames the “overpriced” labor in the country for the “migration of jobs from our economy”, without mentioning that in countries to where Filipino workers migrate for jobs, wages in those countries are far, far higher (which is precisely the reason they migrate there for jobs in the first place).
Magno further berates the labor movement’s demand for legislated wage increases, claiming that it is not the proper role of government to set wages, and stating further (like President Aquino) that if the government does so, “we will only be creating unemployment and ballooning poverty.” Arguing with a purely pro-capitalist frame, Magno claims he just wants the economy to be more efficient so that, even with low wages, the purchasing power of the workers may be improved. He totally ignores the truth that the unbridled capitalist-worker relations he considers more efficient tend to keep pushing workers’ wages down while the capitalists reap all the surplus value that the workers create, leaving the workers less and less of what they need to barely survive, much less than what is necessary for a decent life for them and their families. And this is exactly what is now happening to the Filipino worker.
And so, for Magno, Mayday should not be an occasion for the proletariat to call for a new world order and at the same time demand higher wages. For him, Mayday should mean nothing at all for the workers.
by ALAN JAZMINES | National Democratic Front | consultant for Socio-Economic Reforms | detained at the PNP Custodial Center, Camp Crame