Anti-proletariat

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

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Father’s Day for a political prisoner (from High Blood, Inquirer)

By Alan Jazmines | Posted by poldet on June 17, 2012 | As Father’s Day comes and I remain a political prisoner (at present in the 16th month of my third imprisonment and the 115th month of the total time I have been behind bars, or almost 10 years now), I recall the close to four decades that I have been greatly distanced—physically, at least—from my sons, Carlos Andres (Dimpy) and Arthur Victor.

Barely a year after I gained freedom in late 1977 from my first martial law detention, I could not help but notice the state’s continued surveillance of me. I observed, for one, that on the second floor of an apartment unit across the street, there was a mounted camera constantly trained at our house in Sampaloc, Manila. The windows were newly heavily tinted, but in the early morning and late afternoon when sunlight was oblique and its reflections weak, the mounted camera could be discerned behind the tinted windows.

I thus decided it would be safer for me and more fruitful for my work in the national democratic revolutionary movement if I no longer remained aboveground and an easy target of foul play, especially with the unremitting extrajudicial killings and other fascist acts.

Having noticed early on that we could engage in intelligent discussions even in their tender years (Dimpy was then seven, Arthur five), I talked intimately with my sons. I explained to them the ongoing war between the rich and the poor. I told them that the army of the poor and miserable would require my full-time work, and that my problem with the army of the rich and powerful required me to become unavailable as their target.

They were serious in our talk, and seemed to think deeply about what I was saying. They asked incisive questions, such as what was the difference between the rich and the poor, and I responded in the simplest terms I considered they could understand. I shared with them the cause for which I have been fighting and sacrificing so much.

I could see from their questions and in their eyes that they understood what I was explaining, appreciated my work, and respected the step I was taking.

I did not realize how deeply their understanding of what I am and what I am doing had sunk until sometime later, when one of them vehemently objected to his grade school teacher’s writing on the blackboard “Rebels are bad.” My son stood up in protest and walked out, saying loudly: “My father is a rebel, and he is not bad.”

Sometime later I made an unscheduled visit to my sons at their Lourdes School in La Loma, Quezon City, and chanced upon the teacher in the classroom. It was break time and the boys were not in class. I introduced myself to the teacher, who expressed surprise at my surprise visit, and very eagerly helped look for my sons until we found them having a snack at the school cafeteria. She smiled happily at the family reunion.

I eventually heard the whole story from the boys’ mother. Right after my son’s protest at what was written on the blackboard, the teacher arranged for a meeting with the mother to discuss the incident. The mother explained what was behind the boy’s objection, and the teacher was able to understand his behavior. This was apparently why she was glad and helpful when we met in my son’s classroom and subsequently joined me in looking for the boys.

For a number of years hence I would visit my sons once in a while, except when I would stay quite long in a distant countryside. But for more than a dozen years before my latest imprisonment, I was unable to see them. The most I could do was to send them letters, even if replies were few and far between.

It was because members of my family were under very close surveillance, with their telephone lines bugged. A younger brother, since departed, recalled that when he was going home to our family residence in Parang, Marikina, at 2 a.m., he saw a pair of intelligence agents posted at a jeepney stop nearby. My mother noticed that she was constantly trailed whenever she went out. An adopted nephew was even abducted, tortured for a couple of days, and just dropped on a street, with red, black and blue marks all over his body due to the severe beating he received.

The fascists wanted to know if I had at any time met with the family. They could not make him talk, not only because he is deaf-mute but also because I had in fact not met with the family for decades.

Someone told me in a letter that Dimpy’s reading of our message at the opening of our exhibit, “Painting Freedom,” at the Sining Kamalig art gallery on Dec. 8, 2011, was “a stupendous, oratorical delivery” that made a strong impact on those who were present. I was also told that at the celebration of my mother’s 91st birthday, it was Arthur who read my letter to his  lola, which touched her a lot.

It is only now, in this current imprisonment, that I have been able to see my sons and other family members again.

But because of work and other circumstances (one is living abroad), my sons are not able to visit often. Still I am very grateful for the respect, love and support that they continue to give me even after decades of my being an absentee dad.

This feeling serves as an oasis in the midst of the repression and hardship that I and more than 350 other political prisoners continue to suffer under the prevailing unjust structure that needs to be radically changed into a liberated, democratic, modern, pro-people and progressive system.

We remain resolute in our struggle for radical social change for the sake of the fathers and mothers and their sons and daughters.

Alan Jazmines is a peace consultant of the National Democratic Front and is detained at the PNP Custodial Center in Camp Crame.