POLITICAL economy is a subject matter I found myself familiarizing with in the course of my integration into the anti-dictatorship struggle in the 1970s. I didn’t know the topic from Adam, so to speak, but I had successfully organized KAMAO (for Katipunan ng mgaMakabayangObrero), a union of employees of the Makabayan Publishing Corp. at the heart of a business empire, the J. Amado Araneta enterprises, that until then had maintained its rabid anti-trade unionist stance. That activity instantly threw me into skirmishes with the 300-strong Araneta Center security guards, beefed up still by large contingents of Quezon City policemen. Those encounters sort of gave me the credentials for larger tasks in the struggle called the national democratic revolution (NDR), which I so gullibly swallowed like any youth activist at the time, hardly bothering to know what it was all about; I had this naivete to believe it was going to bring about the liberation of the working class.
As education department head of the party (CPP) group in the Katipunan ng mgaSamahan ng mgaManggagawa (KASAMA), the umbrella organization for the workers sector in the National Democratic Front (NDF), I was tasked to crystallize for workers the theory of surplus value which enlightened them on just how capitalists, by means of their political power, arrogate unto themselves the commodity created by workers. This is the core of capitalist exploitation of workers.
Marx’s investigation of commodity, as contained in his Das Kapital, led to the formulation of the theory of surplus value, but it was done in such an intellectual and scholarly manner that I would find it difficult to get it across to workers not given to high theories. So, in as simple a manner as possible, I devised a lecture encompassing details of Marx’s delineation of the creation of commodity solely out of the workers labor power, thereby rationalizing the need for workers to revolt in order to take back their creation. As the Internationale goes, “Manggagawabawiinangyaman(Workers take back your wealth).The lecture ended with a vociferous proclamation of Mao Zedong’s classic thought: “Political power grows out of the barrel of a gun”–actually a rephrasing of Marx’s more figurative and forceful fiat: “Force is the midwife of every old society pregnant with a new one.”
In cases where strikes, by force of circumstances, had to be called but without benefit of prior indoctrination on
the class struggle, the workers would tend to lose vigor easily. It was in such cases that elements of the organization department would rush to me to attend to the strikers gone unenthused. And I would, with a lecture on the theory of surplus value to the strikers right at the picket line, using the factory wall as blackboard. The approach never failed. After the lecture, the strikers would swell with renewed militancy–already asking for guns.
What a great heroic deed I was doing! I would exclaim to myself. To be able to mobilize into revolutionary action one whole great mass of proletarians was something I would not forgo for all the glories in the world.
But that was five years less than half a century ago. Until then, armed struggle remained to be the main trend in the world for bringing about social change. Lenin once said, “You learn more about fascism by spending a minute fighting the police out in the streets than by spending a year just reading it in books.” As Mao Zedong in turn intoned: “Learn swimming by swimming, learn revolution by doing revolution.”
But that’s precisely the problem here. The concept of revolution–insofar as it means bringing about social change–has undergone modifications so that while in the past revolution was synonymous to armed struggle, today revolution is a many-colored idea, depending on what social stratum is talking about it.
In another respect, cyber technology has given rise to the evolution of social media by which people get to release their grievances without having to mix it up with the police and thereby learn, as Lenin had put it, what fascism is all about. If then, people have learned to be no longer physically combative of state fascism but merely being vociferous about it through social media, all the more should they be scornful now of having to take up arms and bear all sacrifices endemic in armed class struggle
Have we ever paused and pondered why since the Castro Cuban revolution no armed anti-bourgeois struggle has succeeded? And that was more than half a century ago. The Maoist uprising in Nepal many years back is not at all an exception to this statement, because though it was armed and it succeeded in overthrowing the monarchy, it shortly struck up a coalition government with the Nepalese military clique which beat it in subsequent democratic elections.
Some readers would point to the Viet Minh defeat of theUnited States of America in the Vietnam War in the 1970s as a much more recent communist takeover than the Cuban revolution. But what they are forgetting is that prior to that war, the Viet Minh had already taken over North Vietnam way back at the end of World War II–a long consolidated proletarian state much earlier than the Castro triumph against Batista in 1959–so that the Vietnam War was not a proletarian revolutionary war for the overthrow of the Vietnamese bourgeoisie but a war for the liberation of the country from US aggression.
The nearly half century it has now taken the CPP/NPA/NDF rebellion, with nary a hint of success whether in the immediate or in the distant future, should be more than enough to convince anybody that armed struggle has long lost its charm for bringing about the liberation of society’s oppressed and exploited.
The view that the placement of several communist elements in the Duterte government signifies its leaning toward socialism is entirely mistaken. You don’t transform a bourgeois state into a socialist one by simply putting socialists in positions there–even granting that they are genuine and not bogus socialists. The laws, rules and regulations, policies, and other appurtenances of that state have all been crafted to serve bourgeois interests, and individual functionaries in that state are precluded from doing things not in accord with those interests. So, no matter that you are a communist, so long as the state you serve is bourgeois, your service is bourgeois.
Does this mean then that workers are forever doomed in their aspiration for a classless, stateless society. such being the end result of the establishment of the dictatorship of the proletariat. How can this dictatorship be established if the fundamental requisite for it–the armed struggle–has been rendered passé?
How can the dictatorship of the proletariat indeed still be established in the Philippines when its predecessors in Russia and China have all collapsed to pave the way for what has evolved into a brandnew kind of capitalism. State capitalism, calibrated capitalism, call it what you may, but capitalism nonetheless, and it continues to arrogate unto itself the value of labor which for the workers should be theirs.
Marx was correct in asserting that the bourgeois state must first be demolished and on its ruins build the dictatorship of the proletariat, and there was no doubt as to by what means should the proletariat do the crushing of the bourgeois state. He said it, to repeat, quite clearly, if figuratively: “Force is the midwife of every old society pregnant with a new one.”
Force, revolution by arms, the implication in Marx’s dictum was unmistakable. His reference to the Paris Commune as the paradigm of workers seizing control of political power allows for no danger of having his words misinterpreted.
But the year was 1848. That was the time when war was the universally accepted method of effecting social change, that is, from the old feudal setup to what was an emerging social system. The October Revolution in Russia, which actually was the culmination of the long process of overthrowing the feudal autocracy of the Romanovs beginning February 1905 was one such revolution: for transforming feudalism into the next level of advancement of the Russian society, which, as the October Revolution proved, was socialism.
It has been a mistake of educators in the national democratic movement in the 1970s to preach socialism, in the process of dialectical and historical materialism, as the synthesis of class antagonism between workers and bourgeoisie in a capitalist society. As the October Revolution showed, socialism was already the guiding ideology of the Bolsheviks and the Mensheviks when together with the Russian bourgeoisie they overthrow the reign of Czar Nicholas II. In this sense, socialism was not the resolution of the contradiction between workers and the bourgeoisie but between workers and the ruling Russian feudal autocracy.
In the Philippines, the Revolution of 1896 was on the road to achieving socialism for the Philippine proletariat had not Emilio Aguinaldo, the leading representative of the emerging native bourgeoisie, executed the socialistically inclined Andres Bonifacio.
Socialism is not the resolution of class conflict between workers and capitalists but between oppressors and oppressed. The breakup of the primitive communal system led to a succession of social setups where the means of production became concentrated in the hands of a few. Those few would form the rulers of society and their rule would be handed down to their heirs from generation to generation, consistently at odds with similar successions of working masses (from the slaves, to the peasants, to the wage workers) always desirous of getting back to that original social setup where humanity was one, no class antagonism among them, no oppressors, therefore no oppressed, man contending only with harsh natural vicissitudes.
By now capitalism has spread far and wide, becoming the dominant trend the world over. And big capitalists lord it over in the US, Europe, China, Russia, the world over.
Workers meantime certainly remain at the bottom of the social triangle. And with the armed struggle having been proven inutile in the face of a well-entrenched capitalistic rule, they seem resigned to a fate of eternal subjugation.
But the recent victory of Donald Trump in the US presidential elections just past has shown one interesting aspect of political economy: that you don’t have to be a politician to access political power; all you have to be is to be rich. He is valued at a net worth of between $3.9 and $10 billion. In the Philippines, Manny Pacquiao has done it too. He landed a Senate seat all for being a billionaire–oh, well, for being a world boxing champion, too, which is beside the point. If he didn’t have the billions no matter that he is world champion, he surely would not have won. Let Donaire try it and you’ll see.
Rather than continually pestering themselves with the problem of how to win an armed struggle for the attainment of their socialistic aims, workers should perceive one unmistakable clue from the Trump triumph: just seize the economy, the political follows.
How it’s to be done, I won’t tell here. It’s a matter of tactics for knowing only by the working class. But to venture just one hint, in 2009, the Lehman Brothers banking conglomerate filed for bankruptcy. Its total market value of $46 billion had been wiped out.
What brought about the wipe-out?
Widespread non-payment by US home buyers of their mortgages which had been bankrolled by the conglomerate.
The Lehman Brothers collapse shook not just the US economy but also that of the world, from the Artic to Europe down to Asia.
And yet how much was the Lehman Brothers value compared to the world assets at the time, estimated at $140 trillion? A near-insignificant percentage of 0.32.
It takes so little, indeed, to send capitalism crashing.
Workers of the Philippines unite. You have nothing to lose but your chains. You have the country to gain.
Such, in fact, is political economy, summed up in the phrase: economic power begets political power, political power serves economic power.