Monday, January 16, 2017

Original but not fascist

1. Duterte is not a fascist. He is a reactionary or, as Walden describes him, a counter-revolutionary (to the “EDSA revolution”). But he does not fit the bill of being a fascist.
Walden’s 4-point definition of a “fascist leader” only describes an authoritarian, extreme right-wing leader but misses what is unique to fascism. What is specific to fascism as a political phenomena is its ability or aim to organize a mass movement of the discontented middle class and semi-proletariat (ie, unemployed). It is this mass movement with a charismatic/authoritarian figure at its head which is used to intimidate and suppress, including by violent and armed means, its political enemies. Thus fascist movements are necessarily armed or, at the very least, advocate the armed repression of its political rivals.
This definition is by no means original. David Renton, author of Fascism: Theory and Practice, stated that “fascism was best understood as a specific form of reactionary mass politics.” The key notion here is the “mass” characteristic to fascism.
Gramsci too, summarizing his first hand experience of the rise and triumph of the very first fascist movement, argued that the novelty of Mussolini was the organization and mobilization of the dispossessed middle class into a mass movement to rival and destroy the labor and socialist/communist movement.
In Duterte’s case, there is no mass movement that advocates for his right-wing agenda. Unless you believe that the EJK’s are actually done by civilians who have armed themselves to salvage addicts because they were inspired by Duterte’s agitation that drugs are the principal scourge of society. But we all know that the killings are done by the police, whether in or out of uniform, wearing masks or not.
Duterte has a troll army but no mass movement. Mobilizing in the streets to defend “Tatay Digong” is qualitatively different from voting for him. We have not seen any of that. Unlike Walden, I don’t think Duterte won on the crest of an electoral insurgency but that is another point altogether. Organizing into a fascist DDS (the fans club not the death squad) is quite a level up from merely sharing Mocha’s posts on FB or bullying millennial students on social media. An ex-comrade friend opined that there is mass hysteria but no mass movement. Obviously mass discontent is a necessary ingredient to building a mass movement. Yet the hysteria has not led to any form of movement. It is worth remembering that before fascism came to power, it was a militant mass movement first that viciously fought its way to political supremacy.
Kilusang Pagbabago is clearly an attempt to organize a pro-Duterte people’s movement. KP can indeed be built but only on the basis of patronage politics. There is no critical mass that is willing to fight and die for Duterte. There is yet no social crisis that can generate such level of political polarization.
KP will have to contend with the same difficulties that progressives have been facing in organizing workers, the poor and peasants in a period of political ebb. Government funds will solve some organizational problems for KP but it will also create others like opportunism. Despite discontent among the working masses, their fighting mood has been dampened by the utter disappointment of people power uprisings and the failures of mass struggles to win decisive victories. Thus in recent years, there is hardly any spontaneous actions among working masses. And if it does arise, it will be spurred on by basic economic issues and not inspired by a call to defend Duterte.
In one article, Renton avers that it is better not to use the term fascist to describe the various authoritarian leaders of today like Trump and Putin since the context is vastly different from the world of the 1930’s. [See Renton at https://socialistworker.org/2016/12/12/do-comparisons-to-the-1930s-help and also this Jacobin article https://www.jacobinmag.com/2015/12/donald-trump-fascism-islamophobia-nativism/]
Whether we believe Duterte is a fascist or not, or which definition of fascism is correct, at the end of the day, what truly matters is the relevant and practical question of what is to be done.
2. If Walden, or anybody else, really believes that Duterte is a fascist then they must follow the logic to its conclusion. They must advocate for armed struggle against Duterte’s fascism. The only proper way to fight fascism is an armed response. Yet Walden is utterly silent on this urgent task, if indeed “fascism is already in power in the Philippines.”
An anti-fascist front is a necessary but insufficient strategy to combat the threat or reality of Duterte’s fascism. Armed struggle is a key component to fighting fascism, if this term is to have any practical meaning at all. At the very least, Walden, must propose the formation of armed self-defense units in the communities to fight the police and death squads. But again nothing about this.
So we can argue all day at Starbucks about Duterte’s fascism, but unless someone advocates for an armed answer to it, then we just enjoyed our coffee but nothing practical was reached.
To make it clear. I don’t believe Duterte is a fascist and thus I don’t advocate for armed struggle against him. The task at hand is the forging of the broadest possible front against Duterte and his policies, the war on drugs, the death penalty, lowering of the age of criminal liability, endo, etc. To organize an armed struggle now will just give Duterte a pretext to curtail civil liberties and even impose a dictatorial rule.
3. Arguing whether Duterte is a fascist matters less than the threat of a Duterte dictatorship. Is martial law or an outright dictatorship just mopping up operations or a walk in park for Duterte as Walden argues? This is the most contentious part of his article. Walden overestimates the breadth and depth of mass discontent and the level of ruling class unity for a Duterte dictatorship and underestimates the sources of support in defense of democratic rights.
A Duterte dictatorship is not a done deal. Indeed there is a clear and present danger that Duterte will swing to an authoritarian rule. He may want to impose one-man rule. But it does not mean he indeed will. Or that the balance of forces will permit him to do so. Materialism theorizes that history is the interplay and interaction of social forces and is not dictated by the will of heroes or villains. Duterte will have to unite the ruling class behind such an authoritarian project, sustain passive support from the people for it, and defeat all organized and spontaneous opposition.
While bourgeois democracy in the Philippines is really brittle and can easily be replaced by authoritarian rule, at this conjuncture there is no compelling motive for the ruling class to demolish the existing political system and replace it with a dictatorship. The costs of such a shift outweighs any possible benefit since there is no credible threat to the ruling system. Why would the elite rock the boat? Unlike the situation before 1972, the Philippines is not sitting on a social volcano.
Can there be a significant opposition to Duterte? It was hard to imagine that before. But since the outrage led by millennial students against the hero’s burial for Marcos, this has been settled. The burial protest has broken the terror of Duterte, barely six months into his rule.
There is in fact a reserve army that is able and willing to mobilize against Duterte. Walden acknowledges the opposition from civil society. In class terms, this is the petty bourgeoisie. So the petty bourgeoisie is split, one section passively supports Duterte, and another politicized section has shown it is willing to fight against his policies.
There is no reason that the spontaneous opposition to Duterte cannot be mobilized in a campaign against death penalty, lowering the age of criminal liability and EJK’s. These are in fact even more material and urgent issues for millennials compared to the crimes of Marcos. Surely, the politicized middle class will mobilize even more vigorously against any threat of restriction of civil liberties, declaration of martial law or imposition of a new dictatorship.
4. Walden and of course everybody on this side of the Facebook fence welcomes the mass protests against the burial of Marcos. There is probably agreement that it will serve as the starting force for building the broad front against Duterte.
I differ with Walden on his view that the progressives have hegemony over the millennials that participated in the protests. It is wishful thinking on Walden’s part to say that progressives are the leading force.
Instead the “yellows”—the liberal bourgeoisie—are the most politically influential among the crowd at People Power Monument. Even though Leni, PNoy, Mar were not at PPM, it is enough that the prevailing mood there is defense of liberal democracy against the threat from the Marcoses and Duterte. If opinions were canvassed at PPM, most protesters there would accept Leni replacing DU30.
Given the petty bourgeoisie’s vacillating character, it will either follow the lead of the liberal bourgeoisie or the radical proletariat. Unfortunately we have to honestly admit and not gloss over the fact, the left does not have the strength to compete for leadership. At least not for now. We don’t have to elaborate on the weaknesses of the different progressive groups, and the working class and other sectoral movements to make this point clear. The question is, how can the working class overcome its limitations so that it can compete for hegemony against the bourgeoisie over the petty bourgeoisie and win the people over to the slogan of system change not regime change? It is a herculean job that falls squarely on our shoulders.
So while the task is to build the broad front against Duterte and unite with the yellows in this, we fight them for political leadership. The tried and tested formula of course is to march side by side without merging. But there is no ready-made recipe for how we can shift from under the shadows of the yellows to the forefront of the struggle.
For the working class to have any chance of moving to the head of the fight against Duterte, it must concentrate on organizing, mobilizing and winning the struggle for urgent demands on jobs, wages, housing, etc. while participating in broader campaigns in defense of democratic rights. As Walden posits, Duterte is weakest on his promises on social programs which no doubt will all be broken on the altar of neoliberalism. The working class must take the lead in challenging Duterte on these demands and exposing him along the way.
It must also be said that we have a lot of house cleaning to do, to disabuse a significant number within our ranks of their lingering illusions on Duterte. It can’t be done by waging a war on Facebook with Mocha (although its part of it). The best way to educate our own mass base and the rest of the working class is by mobilizing them in struggles to challenge Duterte on his promises.
A frontal assault on the issue of EJK is too difficult at this time but must be waged nonetheless. But flanking maneuvers that target Duterte’s promises on ending endo, increasing SSS pension, tax reform and such must be pushed to its limits. And even as we want to expose and oppose Duterte on these campaigns, we must also aim to win and for the movement to claim those victories as the product of struggle. For too long, we have been fighting and losing, and that has been a major factor in the demoralization and disillusionment of the working class. Despite their discontent over the hardships of daily life, the baggage of past defeats weigh like an albatross upon the consciousness of the workers. Nobody can say if the workers can arise in time and in unison with the students. So here’s hoping we do a better job in 2017 than in previous years.
Maria Manggagawa
January 8, 2016

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Cavite workers continue months-long picket as garments brand admits it didn’t cancel orders


As their labor dispute entered its third month, workers of the biggest garments factory at the Cavite economic zone vowed to win their fight against union busting. They have maintained a picketline outside the main gate of the factory Faremo International Inc. since 1,000 workers were laid off last October 27, 2016.

“Faremo shutdown allegedly due to lack of orders, a claim that has been debunked by the admission of its major client, the global garments brand Gap, that purchases have in fact been increased. We are not on strike and want to work but have been locked out. We have sustained a 24/7 picket at the factory to guard against machines being taken out of Faremo. We have survived Undas, Christmas and New Year on the picketline and we are ready for the Chinese New Year,” explained Jessel Autida, president of the Faremo workers union.

Gap made this public statement last November upon inquiry from international labor rights groups that are waging a solidarity campaign for Faremo workers. Faremo’s other customers, US-based companies JC Penney and Kohl’s, did not respond to letters. Faremo is owned by the Korean multinational Hansoll.

Autida insisted that “Since Faremo’s reason for closing has been exposed as lie, it is now obvious that the motive is to bust the union and destroy the collective bargaining agreement (CBA). The CBA was concluded last June and just after four months the factory was shutdown.”

He explained that they formed a union in order to improve pay, benefits and working conditions and stop mistreatment like verbal abuse. Workers at Faremo, despite years of seniority, receive just the mandated minimum wage of P356.50, well below the daily cost of living which PM estimates at P1,100 per day. Pioneers at Faremo, who have worked since the factory started in 2003, receive just P1 higher than the rest of the workers.

“Faremo workers are paid so cheap they cannot buy the clothes they make yet Hansoll is a billion dollar global company. Hansoll declared USD 1.27 billion revenues in 2016 and targets a net profit of 10%,” Autida elaborated.

He added that “We also suspect that another garments factory in the Cavite ecozone is the runaway shop of Faremo. Both before and after Faremo’s closure, truckloads of machines were taken out and we know these equipment are now being used in this factory. Most of Faremo’s former managers have also transferred to this company.”

“Faremo’s spiriting way of machines is in violation of an agreement reached during mediation meetings called by the National Conciliation and Mediation Board and also of a Philippine Economic Zone Authority board resolution,” Autida averred.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

A national bank, strategic employment program needed in place of Bumbay system


They make a killing in doing their trade, but motorcycle-riding ‘Bumbays’ give life to enterprising Pinoys who are in dire need for cash.  Their existence, therefore, has become socially-compatible over time compared to the hooded riding in tandems who roam communities to kill their targets.
 
Yet we agree to the plan that their usurious loan practice is put to an end.  But an alternative to 5/6 system must be formed or less the Duterte administration is just creating new problems to replace the old ones.

We believe an alternative program can easily replace the 5/6 system.  A national bank or a national lending program that cater to the needs of the poor can surely take its place. Without this needed replacement, the government will only push the system further into the black market where more notorious financial sharks operate.
 
Furthermore, an elaborate national employment program must be organized to bring down the number of workers in the vulnerable sector of the economy.
 
The Bumbays operate without permits and we have the anti-usury law that prohibits the system. But this is the kind of arrangement that flourishes in the mainly underground market that dominates the Philippine economy. They make small loans to small people. This is the practical economic reason why the system gained mutual agreement in poor communities where a big number of unemployed and underemployed members of the labor force are in desperate struggle for sources of livelihood. 
 
For where should you go if you need a small, quick, and hassle-free loan to jump-start or sustain a small, unregistered enterprise like a sari-sari store, carinderia, a repair shop, among others?  Definitely you are not welcome to any commercial bank that imposes stringent requirements for a loan, including collateral.  And here comes a friendly Bumbay in the neighborhood who has the solution.
 
Of close to a million registered businesses in the country, more than 90 per cent are considered micro-enterprises or those with capitalization of less than PhP 3 million and employing not more than 10 people.  The government has no data on how many are actually involved in the underground economy--the vulnerable families who fall victim to financial sharks that are not exclusive only to the Bumbays.
 
As of October 2016, 60.8% of the labor force is considered wage and salaried workers. The rest are either unemployed or working on own account or sariling sikap. Underemployment is at 18 per cent.

11 January 2017

Friday, January 6, 2017

Protests stop issuance of employer-backed DOLE Order on endo, workers seek Presidential audience


PRESS RELEASE
NAGKAISA
06 January 2017

Worker protest undertaken by NAGKAISA labor coalition during the holiday season derailed the passage of DOLE Department Order 168 spoiling premature employer celebrations that they would no longer have to regularize millions of contractuals. 
Under DO 168, “endo” and other contractuals would be regularized under the manpower supply agencies rather than in companies where they work. The suppose new arrangement follows the "win-win" solution proposed by DTI Secretary Ramon Lopez.
But in a dialogue with convenors of the NAGKAISA labor coalition last Thursday, DOLE senior officials led by Secretary Silvestre Bello announced to the group that no new Department Order was issued before the end of the year.  Said Order should have been issued as planned last December 28, according to Labor Undersecretary Dominador Say in a separate media interview Thursday.
NAGKAISA had launched mass actions and made appeals to President Duterte to reject the draft department orders circulated last month which apparently would allow an army of non-regular, contractor-deployed "seasonal" and "project" workers to supplant the despised "endo" system of contractualization.
President Duterte had made a campaign commitment to end contractualization within few weeks upon assumption to office.  He reiterated this commitment during a year-ender interview with media. NAGKAISA warned that the supposed DO would perpetuate the contractualization policy that the President promised would be stopped. 
Bello said he was willing to listen to the workers comments in crafting a fresh DO. The Secretary directed all his Undersecretaries to come out with separate drafts which will be consolidated by the DOLE into a new version on January 13.   Said version will then be referred to the National Tripartite Industrial Peace Council (NTIPC) for consultations and will be issued as DO 1, series of 2017 when approved.
However, despite the suspended status of the new rules, NAGKAISA said workers face the same question on whether endo will be finally ended or the promise to ending endo is dead-ended by strong capitalist lobby or held hostage by economic managers.
During the dialogue NAGKAISA formally requested Sec. Bello to set up an audience with President Duterte where workers can air their appeal for the passage of an Executive Order that will serve as a stop-gap measure to proscribe contractualization until a new law amending the Labor Code is passed.
NAGKAISA further requested that the President certify as an urgent Administration measure House Bill No. 4444 (Rep. Raymond Mendoza, TUCP Partylist). HB 4444 seeks to prohibit all forms of short term employment contracts and the criminalization of such offense. 

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Advisory: In first protest of 2017, workers call on Duterte to nix draft order on endo

MEDIA ADVISORY
January 3, 2017
Contact: Rene Magtubo @ 09178532905

In first protest of 2017, workers call on Duterte to nix draft order on endo
WHAT: Nagkaisa labor coalition to call on Duterte to junk draft DOLE order re endo 
WHEN: Tomorrow, January 4, 9:00 a.m.
WHERE: Assembly at Morayta then march to Mendiola