Private property ownership is a state of mind

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MAURO GIA SAMONTE

Part 2
“THE best strategy for the revolution today is to frustrate the next presidential elections,” I told Ka Jun, or how NPA chief Rolly Kintanar was known to us his subordinates in the special intelligence unit of the New People’s Army.

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Ka Jun and I were discussing by the window of the house from where we were training our eyes on the rustic surroundings consisting mostly of natural foliage that served to frame the very sparse human settlements in the area. I had in mind the situation at the time, when Cory was administering a revolutionary government, a shaky setup that had been wracked by six coup attempts, the last one having almost succeeded but for the intervention of the United States.

“If the next presidential elections take place,” I continued, “that would consolidate the otherwise disunited ruling class.”

Ka Jun appeared to weigh my words, then spoke.

“When will the next presidential election be?”

“1992.”

The glint of cocksureness in his eyes was affirmed by the smile that broke out when he declared, “Panalo na tayo nun.”

Torment of a property owner
I sort of heaved a sigh of relief. Until then I had been having this torment. Some modest fortune I had already invested in the land and friends had been counseling me to have the property titled. But I was into this movement which was advancing the abolition of social classes, and part and parcel of that objective is the abolition of private property. Why would I have to title my land when eventually it will be abolished?

Once, the town mayor, with whom I had developed a close camaraderie, asked me on a trip to a mountain community, making an offer any man would grab at instantly.

“Sama ka sa akin sa bundok, Direk,” he said. “Bigyan kita ng lupa.”

Land for the taking just like that. And yet I wasn’t enthused. I could not get out of that mindset that what I would get privately would be negated once the revolutionary political takeover took place.

But recalling that talk with Ka Jun now, I realize that he also said, “Ang dapat, kumuha ka ngayon ng lupa na 25 years to pay. Pag nanalo na tayo, wala ka nang babayaran. (You should buy land today on a 25-years-to-pay basis. Once we win, you won’t have to pay for anything anymore.)”

Wasn’t ka Jun contradicting himself? He devoted his entire youth and energy to fighting for the attainment of communism, and yet here he was talking about procuring private property now for preservation in the communistic setup. Then wasn’t Ka Jun in fact talking about what private property ownership would actually turn into even under communism?

How they do it in China
During my visit to Shanghai last August, clarifying this topic was foremost in my mind. If China had truly become communistic, then private property must have already been a thing of the past among Chinese.

The overall view of the architecture from the bus that I took from the airport to Shanghai city proper indicated no sign at all of any private homes as is characteristic, for instance, of Makati or Mandaluyong where the skyline is made up both of high-rise buildings for commercial establishments, individual homes in exclusive subdivisions, middle-level residential houses and informal settlers’ hovels. The Shanghai landscape consisted mostly of modern structures – in most cases, a monotony of uniform designs – showcasing nary an individuality of existence of families as to evidence a measure of privacy, and therefore ownership of abode. A representative from the Shanghai Media Bureau would explain at one point in our tour of the city that those structures we saw on our way from the airport were tenement houses for the city population, each family occupant of a unit being allowed to live there for 70 years, and then to relinquish it to a new occupant after the lapse of those 70 years.

As far, therefore, as owning a home in Shanghai is concerned, private property has become a controlled concept, calibrated to last no more than 70 years.

“What happens to the occupant after the 70 years lapse? Throw them out into the streets?” I asked our guide. The guy shrugged and quipped, “Nobody has yet gone past ownership of those homes for 70 years.”

The People’s Republic of China was established in 1949, so the most that anybody could have exercised ownership of a home under the scheme is 68 years. So, in two more years, those tenement houses of Shanghai should experience a mass exodus of tenants – one batch coming in, the other going out. In any case, China has become so prosperous that providing homes for those who will be going out surely won’t be a problem.

On the whole, the concept of private property ownership in China has undergone large alterations. But such changes still don’t quite measure up to the yardstick enunciated by Karl Marx and his followers: its total and absolute abolition as a prerequisite for the abolition of social classes. China’s development on the issue has shown that the optimum of economic growth may be attained by a society without having to follow the strictures of Marxism on the acquisition of private property.

In Shanghai, the Liwayway Holdings Company Ltd., the Philippine-based makers of Oishi snack food, occupies a compound measuring several hectares, privately titled in its name. The company has established branches in strategic areas of China, including in the mountainous regions, and parts of Southeast Asia and Africa. As such, Liwayway Holdings contributes immensely to the economy of China.

On the issue of private property ownership, what does China’s development show? That it is a concept capable of being molded according to the prevailing social conditions. While the Chinese workers contribute their share in the growth of the Chinese economy, such share is broken down individually as to be commensurate to their individual share in the ownership of private property, that is, a unit in a tenement house, theirs to own for their individual lifetimes calculated at 70 years.

On the other hand, big capitalist entrepreneurs are allowed ownership of hectares of land appearing to be commensurate also to their overall contribution to the development of the nation’s economy.

Private property ownership, therefore, as shown by its development in China, is a concept contingent upon the question of what is good or not for the nation.

(To be continued)

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