Philippines socialists:

Capitalism cannot be sustainable

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‘Capitalism, a global system that puts profits before people, has brought us to the brink of a climate-induced catastrophe that can destroy humanity.’

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The following statement was issued by the Philippines socialist party Partido Lakas ng Masa (Party of the Laboring Masses) on September 24. In December 2013, the PLM began a public discussion of a draft document that outlines the party’s political orientation, which it calls ‘bayanihang sosyalismo.’ We are also publishing that document, which has much in common with the ecosocialist perspective that C&C supports.


Climate Action, Not Words!
Capitalism Has No Solutions!
For a Socialist Alternative!

President Aquino concluded his United Nations speech by posing the question: What more can we do? The question is rhetorical, even hypocritical, as the President very well knows what needs to be done: to address the demands of the mass movements, which he has heard, but not heeded.

We have been campaigning for an end to coal-based power generation, for example. How has the President responded? By dramatically increasing coal power generation. His actions are completely contrary to his statements. We are confounded not by the inaction of the President but by his sheer hypocrisy. Time after time his government has shown utter disregard for the mass movement demands and demonstrated where its real interests lie. Not with the people and the environment, but with sustaining corporate profits, such as that of Meralco and the mining companies, and sustaining capitalist interests AT ALL COST, whatever the social cost.

We need to develop the energy sector based on moving to 100% renewables. This has to be consistent with our social and economic program, which is based on community ownership and control. Large centralised systems are prone to corruption and serve the interests of the big corporations. The smaller, decentralised systems are more conducive to community ownership and control. They are also far more effective in responding to climate change impacts.

During typhoon Yolanda, solar-powered lanterns were the most practical and quickest way to provide lighting and protection at night in the affected communities, especially for women and children. It also became apparent that if the generation and distribution systems were decentralised minigrids, they could have been operational in a matter of days. These systems are not “high-tech”. The technology exists, such as solar PV technology. The costs keep declining. They require very little routine operation and maintenance. Such systems are ‘smart’ because they can benefit the people, not corporate and corrupt political interests. What does not exist is the political will to move in this direction, in a determined and comprehensive way.

It’s capitalism, a global system based on prioritising profits over people, which has brought us to the brink of a climate-induced catastrophe that can destroy humanity. There is no ‘sustainable capitalism’. There’s ‘disaster capitalism’, which epitomizes capitalist greed for profit, at any cost.

And this is happening before our very eyes. In the Philippines, we go through one climate crisis after another, with the loss of thousands of lives. And the class issues don’t recede, but come to the forefront, because it’s the poor who are the most vulnerable, while the rich flee in their helicopters, as we witnessed during Typhoon Yolanda.

Now they are coming back, like vultures, to make profits out of the disaster and human misery. The PNoy regime is completely wedded to preserving and serving these neo-liberal capitalist interests. It is the architect of ‘disaster capitalism’ in post-Yolanda Visayas.

We understand that this is a global challenge and the industrialised countries bear a historic responsibility. While we demand that they are made accountable for their climate debt, we also believe that a national government which is not wedded to capitalist and elite interests can play a crucial role in responding to the climate crisis and in saving and protecting lives. This is demonstrated by the actions of the socialist government of Evo Morales in Bolivia. The government of Evo Morales is attempting to move Bolivia not only in a post-extractivist, but a post-capitalist direction, by helping foster the communitarian sector. It shows what is possible in a small country, when a government is prepared to break with the capitalist neoliberal agenda and follow a socialist path.

An alternative path to the neoliberal-capitalist development model is needed: a 21st century socialist alternative. This is no time to tinker at the edges, pleading for minor changes. The capitalist system must be dismantled and a socialist system must be constructed, one that is based on social and economic solidarity and the power of the masses – a ‘bayanihang sosyalismo’ for the 21st century. There is no capitalist sustainability. A 21st century socialist alternative gives us more than a fighting chance to address the climate crisis.


Bayanihang sosyalismo

Discussion paper:

Introduced for public discussion among left and progressive movements in the Philippines by the  Partido Lakas ng Masa, December 2013.

* * *

1. The word bayanihan means community assistance or “communitarian” in short. It means the coming together of the entire community to assist a member of the community who needs help. The spirit of bayanihan means assistance given voluntarily and without any monetary consideration by a member of the community.

2. Bayanihan also means solidarity (actually a more correct term than fraternity, which is based on family and clan). The term bayanihan or solidarity is broader compared to family or relatives’ helping each other.

3. Bayanihan is a term usually used today to mean farmers assisting each other during the planting or harvesting of palay (rice), or in moving a house of a community member (literally carrying the entire house on stilts borne on people’s shoulders). This is the common image that comes to mind when one says bayanihan.

4. In the unremitting outbreaks of calamity experienced by the people today, the word bayanihan has become popularly associated to mean mobilising support and assistance for our people in need.

5. In the old times, bayanihan (or whatever term was used then) means the communitarian spirit that fuelled people’s relationship during the communal period. It was the norm before the feudal days (when the people were grouped around families, clans and the feudal estate). Under Spanish colonial rule in the country, bayanihan was superseded by the polo system, which means compulsory labour (tax-in-kind) given to the Spanish crown and the friars. However, the spirit of bayanihan continued as a natural system of assisting each member of the community during planting and harvesting seasons, in the moving of houses, digging of wells, building of irrigation system and other needs of the community.

6. Under the capitalist system, bayanihan was replaced by labour that is paid for by money, by competition among the ranks of workers and community members, by individualism, by venerating capital and private property, and in the later period, by continuously privatising what has remained of public properties and services for the common good of the community.

7. Our objective is to promote today the original spirit of bayanihan, and to integrate it to our description of the new socialism of the new time.

Solidarian socialism

1. Bayanihan socialism is not alien to the spirit of socialism. This is what other socialist thinkers call as “solidarian socialism” (Michael Lebowitz, The Socialist Alternative). Solidarian socialism believes that the core of socialism is human development.

2. Solidarian socialism emanates from the explanation by the founder of scientific socialism himself, Karl Marx, who said that what we aim for in the ultimate is a society where “the free development of each is the condition for the free development of all” (Communist Manifesto). This society will be the antithesis of capitalism or other exploitative system where the development of individual is at the expense of others, or is based in the exploitation and oppression of others.

3. Marx also said that the alternative society to capitalism and other exploitative system is the society of “associated producers”, “a society of a society of free individuality, based on the universal development of individuals and on their subordination of their communal, social productivity as their social wealth”.(Grundrisse)

Socialism in the 21st century

1. Bayanihan socialism is the socialism of the 21st century. For us, this is a means to mark socialism with local colour. Bayanihan socialism can be ranked with “Bolivarian socialism” in Venezuela, the “communitarian socialism” in Bolivia, “buen vivir socialism” in Ecuador, and its likes. These are attempts to give local colour to the socialist system based on the particular history and characteristics of the countries concerned. In Venezuela, Bolivarian socialism is the spirit of socialism earlier advanced by their national hero Simeon Bolivar almost in the entire region of Latin America. The communitarian and buen vivir socialism in Bolivia and Ecuador are also based on the solidarity experiences of Indigenous communities there.

2. The socialism of the 20th century, or what is now known the old socialism, has collapsed because of its failure to put the people in the centre of its development. The old socialism focused on the expansion of the productive forces (machinery and the people in production) or the pursuit of material abundance that will provide all the capacity to consume the products of society based on their needs. This emphasises rapid industrialisation that has also led to the depletion of natural resources and the massive destruction of the environment.

3. In the new socialism, the focus is on supporting each other, based on the recognition that national and human development should not be based on the oppression of others. Hence, instead of a community composed of self-oriented individuals and groups based on the family system, the new socialism envisions a society where each individual feels obliged to assist others based on their capacity to support.

4. The goal of old socialism is measured on the volume of material production that keeps abreast with (or aims to surpass) the material production of the capitalist world. Instead of this, the new socialism is measured by the social services and gains that it provides to the people, including decent housing, free health care, free education, free public transport, electricity, water, food and other people’s needs. These also require the empowerment and mobilisation of the people in every aspect of implementing and expanding the social programs .

5. Bolivarian socialism is being advanced through the formation of social missions (Misyones) at the community level. The Misyones organise and mobilise tens of thousands of people to decide on and attend to their own needs in their own communities. These include the Misyon Robinson, Ribas and Sucre aimed at eradicating illiteracy and to ensure higher level of education for the population; Misyon Mercal to distribute cheap rice, food and basic products in the community; Misyon Barrio Adentro to build comprehensive community health care; and many others.

6. Bolivarian socialism also calls for the building of democratic, participatory and protagonistic (proactive, changes initiated through “affirmative actions”) society. This is a manner of stressing another major difference between the new socialism and the old one.

7. Under the old socialism, instead of a society where there is genuine democracy, the system is characterised by totalitarianism and anti-democratic tendencies in many aspects and issues (Stalinism has become an anti-democratic norm pursued not only in the Soviet Union but in many socialist countries). Instead of a participatory and protagonistic socialism, the old socialism has become bureaucratic, state-centred, staid and reactive.

Bayanihan socialism

1. Bayanihan socialism aligns itself to the new socialism, the socialism of the 21st century. It reaffirms the importance of class struggle and the leading role of the working class in liberating society. Included among the working class is the broad and increasing ranks of the urban poor and the so-called “informal sectors” of society (the non-industrial sectors). The broad ranks of the urban poor and the informal sectors are a more recent phenomenon brought about the decline and decay of the capitalist system. Those constituting the working class stake their fate to the termination of the barbaric capitalist system and the establishment of a free socialist society. The Communist Manifesto referred to them as the broad ranks of the proletariat, the broad section of the population who have nothing to lose in the struggle for a new system but the chains of slavery that bind them.

2. Bayanihan socialism stands for the advance of all social and human rights of the people.

2.1. One of its pillars is women’s liberation. The colonisation of society and the imposition of class rule overthrew mother’s right in the old society. This, according to Friedrich Engels(Origin of the Family, Private Property, and the State), signals the “world historic defeat of the female sex”.

This was also the case in the Philippines. The concept of gender equality already existed in Filipino culture and the Filipino woman in pre-Hispanic times was proof of this. Most women before the Spanish colonisation had decision-making powers in the community side by side with the men. They played an important, even central, role in economic activities. Women worked in farms on agricultural and other duties, were in charge of weaving, making pottery, or trading their own products. They were also political leaders in the community, with the same rights and privileges of the males. A popular example is the “babaylan”. Even today the name is associated with strength and power. Most babaylans in pre-Hispanic times were women.

Bayanihan socialism promotes the women’s liberation movement, the feminist movement and the movement for gender equality. This includes the movement to defend and extend the rights of the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender).

2.2. A central pillar of Bayanihan socialism is the preservation of the environment and the ecology, which is of crucial importance today because of the wanton destruction of the planet due to the untrammelled greed of the capitalist system. The abolition of imperialist domination and the establishment of a system that protects and preserves the ecology, while responding to the needs of the people (also called eco-socialism) is a major foundation of Bayanihan socialism.

2.3. Another pillar of Bayanihan socialism is the advancement of the rights of the Indigenous people. It also recognises the right to self-determination of the oppressed and exploited nation and the minority, including their right to national liberation and independence.

3. Bayanihan socialism is inclusive and non-sectarian. It relates to all other movements and forces that are advancing the needs of humanity in varying aspects and areas. Bayanihan socialism believes that the future socialist society will base itself on the gains and achievements of the society over the years and only the rotten ways and systems shall be discarded.

4. Bayanihan socialism therefore has a natural link to the past and continuing struggles waged by the masses to liberate the country and the people. The new socialism will not only be tempered by the international experience of the working class in its struggle to build socialism, but it will include the experiences of struggle of our own heroes and martyrs which represent the continuing march of humanity towards liberation.

4.1. Ranked among those whom we get inspiration from for the new society are the heroes and martyrs – women and men – of the Philippines from Lapu-lapu, Andres Bonifacio, Jose Rizal, Gabriela Silang, Tandang Sora, the heroes and martyrs of the 1896 Revolution; the heroes and martyrs of the Philippine War Against Imperialism; those who founded the first socialist movement in the Philippines during the time of Isabelo delos Reyes; the worker leaders of the trade union movement who founded the first communist movement in the Philippines, such as Crisanto Evangelista and his comrades; the peasant leaders and guerrillas of the Hukbalahap and the Hukbong Mapagpalaya ng Bayan; and the young men and women who fought against the Marcos dictatorship; and their likes.

4.2. On the international front, we view as leaders of socialism those who founded the ideas and philosophy of scientific socialism (Marx and Engels); the Russian Bolsheviks under Lenin; the socialist leaders of Europe, such as Rosa Luxemburg and her comrades; the analytical and critical socialists like Antonio Gramsci and others; the Cuban revolutionaries and today, the new generation of socialists who are raising the banner of socialism in the 21st century in many countries in Latin America.

5. Bayanihan socialism should also draw distinction from the “SocDem” type of socialism or the type being promoted by social-democratic groups, which merely aim to reform capitalism and the bourgeois state. This type of thinking is the foundation of opportunistic politics as represented by the socdem groups and its continuing collaboration with every ruling “trapo” (traditional politician) leader or party in the country.

6. Bayanihan socialism believes that the capitalist system is inherently barbaric and will not be reformed by merely appealing to the morality and decency of the so-called “reforming bourgeoisie” in the country. Bayanihan socialism believes that the current state and its instruments (executive, Congress, judiciary and others) have been perfected by the elite classes to suit their rule and cannot be reformed by merely installing a number of representatives from the people. They have to be replaced by alternative institutions (such as the People’s Congress, and people’s assemblies at the barangay, municipality, city and provincial levels) that will represent the political power of the masses, and the self-organisation of the masses outside the institutions controlled and dominated by the trapos and the political dynasties or political clans in the country.

Popular socialism

1. The launching of Bayanihan socialism is also a means to provide a popular discourse and projection of socialism in the country. In many countries, socialism has been vilified as an evil, defunct or alien system. In the Philippines, the most vilified term is “communism” due to a long history of subjection to anti-communist and anti-socialist hysteria launched by imperialist governments and their puppets in the country. But the bad connotations associated with communism also includes the flawed character and the errors made by many communist parties in many parts of the world. There is more opening in renewing the term socialism and re-establishing the socialist movement in the Philippines rather than reviving the term communism associated with sectarian and Stalinist practices of communist parties here and abroad.

2. In the early surge of the socialist movement during the early part of the 19th century (1840s onwards), there was a need for more theoretical exposition of socialism. This is because the more widespread proponents of socialism at that time were grouped under so-called utopian socialism, a socialism that was based mainly on logic and reasoning, without much scientific or material foundation. Friedrich Engels himself put “theoretical struggle” as one arena of struggles that socialists had to put up to advance socialism. It was up to Karl Marx and Engels to propagate socialism under concrete and scientific bases, both in terms of the class who will be its prime mover (the “leading class”), the movement that has to be built and some concrete measures to initiate socialist transformation.

3. The socialist movement has gone through a long period of theoretical struggle to clarify its aims and methods in the advancing socialism. And there was also a longer period where the working class and the oppressed masses spearheaded the socialist movement and later won the first socialist states. This has been followed by a period of collapse and the dissolution of the first-established socialist societies (“actually existing socialism”). And now, the socialist movement has risen once again, has renewed itself, and is advancing in Latin America under the aegis of the new leaders, mass movements and governments in Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador, and others. The socialist rising in Latin America cannot be detached from the experiences shared by Cuba, which has greatly influenced the socialist projects in the neighbouring countries.

4. On the other hand, it is apt to call global capitalism today as barbarism, the prediction made by Rosa Luxemburg on the fate of this system more than 90 years ago. We are now experiencing under capitalism an unending and unrelenting economic and political crises where the only law is “each to his own” and “survival of the fittest”. We are also experiencing climate havoc and a planetary deluge that threatens to lead to planetary obliteration due to capitalism’s unlimited and remorseless destruction of ecology and environment.

5. Under this situation, Bayanihan socialism believes that in renewing socialism, the focus is not mainly on the theoretical level to explain the supremacy of the socialist system, but on the need to popularise socialism in order to mobilise the largest number of people under the single idea that the only solution to capitalist barbarism is the establishment of socialism in the Philippines and in the world today.


1 Comment

  • This is very interesting.

    There seems to still be a large amount of debating whether or not Stalin’s U.S.S.R. and Mao’s China (which I believe were some of the more authoritarian socialist countries this group is talking about) have anything of value for todays movements.

    Some people seem to defend them and their actions, while other groups try to distance themselves from them as much as possible.

    I’m still not sure where I fall on this issue. I know the U.S.S.R. and Mao’s China made huge leaps in industry and education, but from what i’ve heard/read they were totalitarian, and ecologically speaking extremely destructive.