A Few Thoughts on Socialism

Originally posted in my Facebook on May 2, 2009.

Recently, I have seen and heard of much talk online about “socialism”. Not only because yesterday was Labor Day, but because of what’s happening in the whole world. And I don’t mean the swine flu pandemic.

With the International Labor Organization saying that 50 million people worldwide will lose their jobs this year, even the mainstream media is now paying attention to groups and people saying “Socialism is STILL the answer”. With the myth of individual hard work as a recipe for success out with the trash, people are now looking into the “solution” which they have been raised to fear.

THE PROGRAM

How exactly can we tell if a country is socialist or not? Rey Casambre of the International League of Peoples’ Struggles gives the following definition:

1. Nationalization of industries
2. State mobilization of financial recourse for the use of the majority
3. Central economic planning
4. Peaceful, independent, and internationalist foreign policy
5. “Socialist democracy”

#1 means the State will take ownership of vital industries such as oil, power, public services, and basic industries like steel and chemicals. This also means the State will confiscate the monopolies of foreigners and the local big bourgeoisie. Private ownership meanwhile will be tolerated in non-vital industries and small enterprises.

#2 means the State will take command of all forms of financial recourses, such as the banks.

#3 makes the first two possible. This means that the State will highly become highly involved in the economy. By taking command of the economy, the State can direct production of, say, agriculture to the crops needed such as rice, instead of export crops. This would make such basic goods both plentiful and affordable to all.

By owning public services, it can make those services cheaper by simply doing away with the concept of profit and only charging the amount needed to maintain these services.

By doing away with the concept of profit, the State also targets the very source of workers’ exploitation: the wages. Now, the workers can either have immensely higher wages and shorter work hours.

And by taking over banks, the State can now have funds for which to finance the construction of socialism in our country, instead of just letting it be used in the likes of the Legacy scam, or to have it wasted like the GSIS foreign investments.

#4 helps us overcome the gigantic difficulties we would encounter in the face of a hostile U.S. We could tap into trading with other anti-imperialist countries, like Venezuela, Cuba, the other Latin American countries, Iran, Libya, etc. Something unnoticed by most people in the Chip Tsao controversy is that it is indicative of how many countries dislike us because we are perceived to be very much pro-U.S.

By being internationalist, we would also pledge all forms of support to other revolutionary movements in other countries seeking to establish socialism.

#5 simply means we will have a democratic system. Unlike what U.S propaganda tells us, in socialism there would still be a Parliament, the right to vote, and other human rights.

One difference however is that we also emphasize democracy in the “economic aspect” by allowing the basic sectors to have the same opportunity to get rich as with the other sectors, that is, through hard work.

Another difference is that while we would respect human rights, we would not let be used as a platform to be used against socialism. We draw the line when they use their freedom of speech to advocate the return of capitalism in our country, for example.

Most importantly, no force should ever be used to “persuade” the people, only education. Force must only be used when elements of “counter-revolution” are using force themselves.

THE METHOD

Let’s make one thing clear: we can’t rely on GMA to bring about socialism in the Philippines. Nor for that matter, any other traditional politician, or electoral politics in general. V.I Lenin in his “State and Revolution” makes it clear that the entire “State” is a means of repressing the people. You can’t enter that institution and expect to change it from within, it’s like putting your head in the Lion’s mouth.

Why? Because it is a State of the “ruling classes”. As Mao said, everything and everyone carries the “stamp” of his social class. That includes our ideology, or, thinking. If we held our breath expecting the capitalists in government to give workers in due, or the landlords to give land to the farmers, we’d die of suffocation.

To achieve socialism in a country, we must emulate countless historical examples, starting with the Paris Commune in the 1880s. In other words, the oppressed classes themselves must take power by replacing the existing government with a government of their own.

An example is the Communist Party of Indonesia (PKI). In the early half of the 60s, it was the largest Communist Party in the world that was not in power. It had 3 million members and led organizations with combined memberships of tens of millions. It was different among other CPs is that it subscribed to “working within the system” to bring about socialism. In 1965, it was powerless to stop a U.S-sponsored military crackdown. In three weeks, almost the entire membership of the PKI was slaughtered.

THE PARTICIPANT

If you are reading this, then the you are most likely a member of the “petty bourgeoisie”, or the social class who lives on their “intellectual capital”, such as students, teachers, doctors, lawyers, scientists and technicians, other professionals, etc. Any “Petty-b” who aspires for a socialist society must first grasp the following concepts:

First, it is the basic masses/sectors who will be the main engines of change. For one, they are the most numerous in our country. No small group of individuals has ever won a revolution without the support of the masses. Lenin and the Bolsheviks would never have overthrown Tsarism if they didn’t win the workers and peasants to their side. Nor would have Mao, Che Guevara, Ho Chi Minh, and others.

Besides, it is the basic masses themselves who are responsible for bringing about the wealth of any society. It is the farmers who make the land bloom, it is the workers who transform raw materials into actual products. There are only two ways of making an economy “work”, either by oppressing/enslaving the basic masses, or by having them work willingly under a fairer system. Capitalism is the former, we choose the latter.

By recognizing this, we should then recognize that our contribution to bringing about socialism entails “working” with the basic masses. How? We might think that commonplace NGOs and charities “work” with the masses, but the only thing they do is “command” the masses. Instead of having their consent and willingness to cooperate, they are simply told to do so, and they comply because they are intimidated by the volunteer with a diploma from UP or the Ateneo.

Only by having their consent and willingness can you have them work and sacrifice for such a long-term mission as the mission for socialism.

So what is the aim of our “working with the masses”? Simply, to have them replace the existing government, which is a government of the oppressors, with a government of theirs. And this starts by having them form their mass organizations: trade unions in the factories, peasant and fisherfolk organizations in the countryside, urban poor associations in the shanties, and women’s groups all over.

In fact, this was one thing that the youth activists during the Sixties (the so-called Golden Age of activism) did but isn’t well-known. They didn’t just go to rallies, shout slogans, and hold study groups. They went to rural and urban communities to form the mass organizations. These MOs were, and still are, the weapons used by the basic masses in their struggles: when the urban poor are defending their homes from demolitions, when the workers are demanding for higher wages and better living conditions, and when the farmers are peacefully occupying the land that rightfully belongs to them.

In short, these organizations are the “embryo” of the “government of the people” which is necessary for turning society socialist. Socialism is not something that will fall from the sky, or from the good will of the likes of GMA.

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